On my seventh anniversary of moving to L.A., I attempt to understand the city.
Tomorrow marks my seven-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. That means I’ve spent a full quarter of my life in L.A., which just feels so insane to me. I feel like I’ve been here forever, and barely at all. (You know, the usual generic thing people say on milestones like this one.)
Anyway, for today and tomorrow, my lists are going to focus on things I’ve learned about L.A. since I moved to L.A. That’s right. I came up with 22 things. And, since it’s only fitting, the first seven will all be about L.A. car culture…
1 | So, how ’bout that traffic?
Seven years in, I will attest that the traffic is just as bad as advertised, if not worse. (The smog doesn’t seem as bad as people say, but I’m not that observant of things like that.) The crazy thing is: L.A.’s freeway system is, in theory, awesome. During times when there’s no traffic, you can get from one end to the other end of L.A. — one of the world’s most sprawling cities — in 20 minutes.Unfortunately… those times when there’s no traffic consist of Saturday and Sunday mornings, most days between 9:30 P.M. and 5:59 A.M., non=barbecue/family/beach holidays like President’s Day and the one day a few years ago where all of the Mexican immigrants in L.A. decided not to drive and hold a rally downtown. That day was amazing.
2 | Everyone talks about routes
As a result, people in L.A. LOVE talking about how to get from one place to another. A few years back, my friend Adam was here for New Year’s and commented that “all L.A. people talk about is their routes.” And it’s so true. Co-workers talk about how they got to work. People at parties talk about how they drove to the party and how long it took. Friends whisper the name of drivable back streets to friends like they’re disclosing nuclear secrets.
3 | Public transportation?
Also, people in L.A. are shocked — SHOCKED — whenever they hear someone took public transportation to get somewhere. I was at a charity walk/run thing four years ago and a girl I know told me she’d taken the subway to get there. I must’ve asked 15 follow-up questions, like an anthropologist or something.
4| Driving to a party
The movie Swingers gets a lot right about L.A., but they nailed one thing more than any other: If five people go to a party, they’re usually taking five different cars. I’d say the standard average at any given party is about 1.25 people per car. Just Sunday, me, Paul and Gabe — three roommates — all went to a barbecue in the Valley. We all arrived within 45 minutes of each other and left at the same time — yet, because we all had errands and failed to communicate properly — we all had our cars.
5 | Why you don’t take cabs
Somehow, as a result of L.A.’s car culture, L.A. cab drivers suck. Maybe they’re bitter that people don’t rely on them like people rely in cabs in other cities… or maybe they’re bitter because they spend 8+ hours a day fighting L.A. traffic… but they suck. They’re rude, they take forever to pick you up, unlike cab drivers in every other city they don’t know or don’t choose to take the best routes… and, for some reason, 100% of them bitch you out if you try to pay with a credit card.
6 | The paralyzing effect of rain
Just two more points about cars, then we’re moving on. People in L.A. are absolutely scared to death of rain. And they should be: The city’s infrastructure is woefully underprepared to handle rain. The sewers aren’t set up like midwest sewers, so streets flood, get slick, become very difficult to drive. Rain takes the country’s worst traffic and makes it even worse. I’m still waiting for the day that global warming brings snow to Los Angeles and people literally panic so much that they all get out of their cars, lay down on the streets and start spinning in circles like they’re in a Three Stooges sketch.
7 | Everyone’s a victim of car crime eventually
And finally on cars… back in the summer of ’06, I was on jury duty. They asked the 20 or so people in our jury pool if we’d had any experience dealing with the LAPD. And everyone… EVERYONE… had a story about their car getting broken into or stolen, and how the cops didn’t really do anything to help them out. I couldn’t believe it. With as many cars as their are in this city, how had this random sampling of 20 people (except me) all had a car theft issue?Of course, fast forward to March of this year, when my car got stolen off the streets of Beverly Hills. I guess it just proves a fact of life in L.A.: If you live here long enough, your car is going to get stolen.
8 | Seasons
A misconception about L.A. I hear a lot from people elsewhere: We don’t have seasons here. We do have seasons. There’s the colder period, which runs from mid-September to mid-March, and the hotter period, which covers the rest of time. Just because we can’t call those seasons ornate names like “autumn” and “spring” doesn’t mean they’re not real. So stop being elitist. We’re so impressed that the leaves on your trees change colors and you get snow.
9 | The wrong number axiom
Whenever you dial a wrong number in L.A., the person who answers only speaks Spanish. Whenever you get a call from someone and it’s a wrong number in L.A., the person who called only speaks Spanish.
10 | Fair weather fans versus die-hards
People in L.A. LOVE the Dodgers… but they’re IN LOVE with the Lakers. They couldn’t care less about the other teams. (Although when the Angels made a World Series run and the Ducks made a Stanley Cup run, it piqued their attention for a few weeks. Man did I hate that goddam Rally Monkey. I am yet to hear anyone express any interest in the Clippers.)
11 | Personality diversity
You can find any kind of person here. The most common thing I hear from people in other cities is “I couldn’t handle living in L.A., isn’t everyone so shallow?” And the answer is… no. This is the second-largest city in the country. There is everything here. Everything. Sure, I know shallow people. I work in entertainment and encounter all kinds of vacuous types at parties. But I have also met hundreds — and I do mean hundreds — of good, real, normal people. Half of my friends aren’t in the entertainment industry (or, as they say here, “the industry”) at all. You can find whatever scene you want in L.A. and find plenty of people you legitimately like within that scene. That’s one of the beauties of this city. Everybody comes here. Yep… eventually, everyone comes here.
Edit: Here’s part two.