Making a U-turn directly into a street parking space.
Making a U-turn to get out of a street parking space.
Waiting for the second onramp to the 110 from the 101.
Using the “secret” third lane to skip the line of cars where Santa Monica crosses Wilshire.
Timing your arrival someplace at exactly 7pm, when the right lane changes from “NO STOPPING” to parking allowed. E.g., Umami on La Brea.
Parking in a yellow zone or green zone after 6pm or on Sundays.
Taking a speed bump at an angle, one tire at a time, so you don’t have to dip below 35 mph.
Alternate: taking a speed bump with the right two tires in the gutter, so you don’t have to dip below 35 mph.
Successfully getting on the Arroyo Seco at any of those suicidal stop sign onramps.
Calling it “The Arroyo Seco.”
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.
10. Cochinita pibil
9. Al pastor
8. Mole poblano
7. Carne asada
5. Pork belly
3. Korean short rib
Radio is more important to Angelenos (because of cars), but songs tend to have a tiny shelf life before they disappear and show up on an oldies station 15 years later. Good songs never seem to fall out of fashion on New York radio. In New York, you can walk into a deli and hear Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” or the first Vampire Weekend album playing on the radio but that almost never happens when you’re listening to the radio in your car in Los Angeles.
When you spend time in New York you realize how an Angeleno’s car is so much more than just a way of getting around. It’s a personal biosphere, an environmental bubble, subject to your complete control. 90 degrees outside? 62 degrees inside. New York is a very sweaty place.
New Yorkers don’t leave their office during the day. I think it’s because they’re air conditioned and heated. Angelenos regularly drive to lunch.
In your car-slash-environmental travel pod in Los Angeles, you are alone. Other pods are abstractions, “a thing causing me irritation” most of the time. You vent your id at people in their pods in ways you would never vent to a person on a Los Angeles street. New Yorkers vent their ids far less often. People are more often people than an abstraction. In this way, New York is friendlier than Los Angeles. When one New Yorker irritates another New Yorker, it’s usually in person and then it’s met with the same sort of invective, albeit more eloquent, as when Angelenos vent, unheard, in their cars. Angelenos may be more comfortable, but they’ve forgotten how to be irritated at other people.
New Yorkers cry in public, all the time, everywhere. On the subway. Just walking down the street. Angelenos cry in their cars.
New Yorkers have this remarkable ability to be alone in a crowd. They practice this skill constantly, probably because they have no other choice. It’s near impossible to be in a public place in New York and not be around other people. There are parts of Los Angeles where you can spend an hour and not see another human being. Certain trails in Griffith Park, the top of Temescal Canyon, almost anywhere in Mandeville Canyon. The streets in my neighborhood. Whole swaths of the beach, plenty of rocky breakwaters. The biking paths along the river.
New Yorkers drink far more alcohol —I calculated it, it’s more than double per person— than Angelenos. They smoke about the same number of cigarettes.
New York bars are astonishingly conformist. There must be hundreds of bars doing that whole iron and wood and Edison bulbs thing. Both New York and Los Angeles have their share of Irish pubs and dive bars, but Los Angeles has only a couple (I can actually only think of one) that are of that particular Mumford & Sons-chic. You would be hard pressed to find more than a handful of pairs of bars in Los Angeles that you could say are alike.
New Yorkers are just as flaky as Angelenos. People assume that plans might be broken up until a few hours beforehand, just as they do in Los Angeles. It’s easier to have a flexible schedule, however, in New York, because of the subway.
Rooftop parties are slightly more delightful than backyard parties.
Here’s a weird one: doorknobs. New York doorknobs break off in my hand, all the time. They’re all like a hundred years old, and people, like, don’t replace them. The newer buildings have these doors that are unlocked by keys that look like they were found by Voyager 1 at the outskirts of the solar system, and when you use one you hear the metallic clang of a magnetic force shield powering down so you can open the door. Other magnetic force shields are activated by electric fob. New Yorkers love their fobs. Several people I met carried multiple fobs on what I would call a keychain but what we’ll probably soon call a fobchain. Every doorknob in Los Angeles works like it’s supposed to; we all use normal keys that you can get copied at the hardware store.
The New York $4 umbrella is an amazing thing. They’re ubiquitous. They’re disposable. No Angeleno owns a disposable umbrella, because we don’t know where we would buy one.
Both cities have great ethnic food. New Yorkers scoff at eating pizza in Los Angeles but repeatedly suggest Mexican food to their Angeleno visitors. The “eggs on a roll,” available for breakfast at any of a million New York bodegas, is not something I understand how Los Angeles lives without. New Yorkers only think they understand hamburgers, but New York is objectively better at sandwiches. Coffee snobbery exists to a higher degree in New York, which is kind of hard to believe, because Los Angeles sets that bar really high.
“I’ll be there in 5.” — It will take me 10 minutes to get there, then another 5 to 10 to find parking, plus I’m not leaving for 5 minutes.
“I’m in traffic.” — I haven’t left yet.
“I’m around the corner.” — I’m in traffic.
“It’ll take me 20 minutes to get there.” — (irregular) It’ll take me 20 minutes to get there.
“The event starts at 8pm.” — The event starts at 9:30.
“The event starts at 8pm, sharp.” — The event starts at 8:30.
“Doors open at 8pm.” — The band goes on at midnight.
“Come early!” — (irregular) No really, come like 2 hours early, because this is going to be a clusterfuck.