Enough. At the very palpable risk —in fact, despite the certainty— of coming off cheesy and probably pointless as well, I am going to take on all your terrible notions about Los Angeles, all at once. They’re all wrong. Los Angeles is not some sprawling soulless metropolis. Los Angeles is a small town. It’s always ever been a small town, and the fact that three million people maintain a residence of some degree of permanency here does not change this fact. Here is my argument.
I grew up here, in a small house on Addison Street in Sherman Oaks. We had a milkman when I was young. His name was Kenny. Kenny was also the milkman who delivered to my preschool. When Kenny showed up he said hi to me by name. This made me the king of preschool.
Addison Street is one block away from Notre Dame High School. You knew fall was coming at my house because you could hear the Notre Dame Marching Band start practicing at dusk. Notre Dame was an all-boys school. One thing about all-boys schools is they attract a lot of girls. These girls played frisbee on my street and they had pigtails and wore tee-shirts and shorts and knee-high socks. The first three times I fell in love I was five years old.
Every winter my family cut down a Christmas tree. Out of a forest. That was maybe an hour drive away. The tree usually did not fit in the house and my dad had to shorten it with a hacksaw.
Every year Notre Dame high school had a carnival. The outdoor basketball courts filled up with games and the parking lot grew a ferris wheel and other rides. The frisbee girls all were there. They were homecoming dates. Some of them got submerged in the dunk booth.
Ten people I graduated with from high school married other people I graduated with from high school. That’s five couples from my class alone. Two of these couples have been together since high school.
The car I had in high school was an old car —a classic but still a clunker— that my dad had owned for years. Across the street from Notre Dame was the shop we took her to for repairs. The owner of the shop was a hardcore biker. He got arrested for road rage after kicking in the door of an Oldsmobile while speeding his motorcycle alongside it. The driver panicked and crashed the Oldsmobile into a pole.
When I was eight the local drug store announced it was going out of business. It was going to be replaced by a Rite-Aid. The whole neighborhood rallied and bought every single item in the store before it closed. The store was called Quigley’s and they sold everything. We ended up with a waffle iron.
During the summer I went to sports camp at Notre Dame. I walked there. There were soda vending machines alongside the gym, and the older kids knew how to work the machines so you could get Cactus Coolers for free. One day I somehow got bubblegum in my hair and one of the older kids cut it out with a Bowie knife.
My parents both worked in film. My grandfather worked in television. Perhaps the only difference between my childhood and someone growing up in Wisconsin was that every once in awhile I got to go to the Walt Disney Studios backlot, in Burbank, which was the most wonderful place in the world. It was before those tall Frank Gehry buildings came around; it was back when all the offices were these art deco single-storey bungalows, and messengers rode around on bicycles between them. I remember explicitly the one labeled, “Animation Building.” There was fog.
Sometime during a trip home from college a friend and I walked over to Notre Dame High School to play basketball. The campus now had a big fence around it. There were way fewer outdoor courts because the school had put up a lot of new buildings. After maybe fifteen minutes some guy came up to us —he looked like a coach— and told us we couldn’t play because campus was closed. I was surprised by this. “It didn’t used to be like that,” I said to him. “Used to be that we could just walk up here anytime and play basketball. There were, what, thirty courts right here? And a soccer field and a football field and a baseball field? This place used to be like a Big Ten school.” And the coach-looking guy, he got very quiet for a second. And then he leaned in to us, and he said, quietly, “Alright, you can play. But if anyone comes out of that room right there, where they’re rehearsing, and asks you to stop, then I need you to listen to them.” And I swear I saw a little bit of mist in his eyes as he walked away.
So that’s my argument. Anyone cynical about life here, I don’t know what to tell you.
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- choire said: MM HMM! Listen, when I moved to Hollywood at 18, on my first day while moving in I found out that these girls from junior high in Thousand Oaks lived downstairs. SMALL TOWN.
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