Oh LA. I have been here a little over a week, and for the most part it has been like a normal week in NYC (in that I have been working), but not like a normal week in NYC in that I have been catching up with lots of people I haven’t seen in a while. And in between the working and the catching up, while I am on my way somewhere or waiting for someone or working in some cafe, I have caught snippets of people’s conversations. And these snippets remind me of what it is like to not just be in LA, but to have absorbed and incorporated what it means to be Angeleno (and a part of The Industry). Consider:
(70-something, heavy set, in stained shorts, answering his cell in the supermarket) “Hi Sweetheart! What? Don’t you worry, Daddy is on it. No. No. I swear, really. Has Daddy ever lied to you? You got the audition. Daddy promises.”
(30-something, talking on his cell in convenience store while wandering the aisles in a much too tight suit)”…Babe, those headshots were insane! We gotta do something about your presentation. Those pics were insane, insane! I gotta run, in a meeting.”
(self-styled “alternative” filmmaker, at a coffee shop going on and on about how great he is) “…and we have this autistic kid, totally amazing and inappropriate, we are basing the whole thing on him and how uncomfortable he makes everyone around him, we are totally using him. That kid is a gold mine, we were lucky to find him, he is saving our shit on this project.”
The last few days have been filled with working (a bit) and catching up with old friends. In the past few days I have had lunches and dinners and drinks and exhibits and parties and coffees. I had almost forgotten how many great people I knew here, and it has been really nice reconnecting. One of the really interesting things I did yesterday was see the Hollywood Costume exhibit at LACMA. Beyond being a fascinating exploration of the creative process, the design of the exhibit itself was exceptionally innovative and engaging. If you are in LA in the next few months this is definitely worth a visit. After that, I drove to the west side to catch up with Jose and Sally (and then went to Sally’s birthday party at a local restaurant). It was a lot of fun and I ended up staying the night in my old apartment (where Jose still lives), which jogged a lot of memories for me, not least because almost all of my old furniture and decoration is still in place 8 years later. One of the things I really had not missed about LA is the driving. I have said it before, but I think driving turns me into a meaner person than I would otherwise be, and stresses me in ways that riding the subway, walking or hailing a cab does not.
I arrived safely in West Hollywood yesterday, after a flight from Caracas to Houston, a 2 hour layover, a flight to LAX, a trip to the Budget Car Rental counter, and a 30 min drive. I had a lovely reunion and dinner with my friends Dallas and Dimitri (with whom I am staying), and then passed out by around 9:30pm and woke up at 5am this morning. Now I am rather trapped at their place awaiting the UPS guy with my replacement credit card (which had its number stolen in Bogota and used for thousands of dollars in makeup purchases). But that is fine, I have work to do anyway. It is surprisingly warm in LA for this time of year, in the mid 80s today, but I hear it was much worse a few days ago and will be much hotter this weekend. Ah, global warming. Anyway, I am excited to be here and be able to catchup with a bunch of friends over the next couple of weeks. After that I head to SF.
I am in LA for a few days for a little business and a little pleasure. The car is always at the center of LA life, and I have some notes about it from this trip:
1. Renting a car is ridiculously cheap here. I feel like I can never get one on the East Coast for less than 40 or 50 dollars a day, but here I am paying 7…yes, SEVEN.
2. Now having had time to compare Apple’s vs Google’s turn by turn map directions I can tell you that Google’s wins hands down. And not just because of the data being better and clearer (though it is), but also the f-ing annoying way Apple maps only gives you a half-second warning to make your turn where Google’s timing feels much more natural and helpful.
3. My eyesight at night has seemingly gotten worse, and I had a lot of trouble reading some of the street signs last night while driving. But then I also realized that much of the time, when we know a place, we don’t really need to make out the signs perfectly, just enough to jog our mind into filling in the rest. I am not sure that my eyesight was all that much better 7 years ago, it could have been that my brain was filling in the failings (hardware) with this spacial familiarity (software).
4. The dirty open secret of driving at night in LA is that way too many people drive drunk. They go out to bars and drink 3 or more cocktails, and hit the road because they feel they have no other option (like not drinking so much or calling a cab or taking public transport). I would love to know what the DUI stats are here, it is terrifying (a state level comparison shows 3 times the DUIs in CA compared to NY).
5. Many people have told me over the past few years that I seem to be a fairly calm and centered person to them, especially compared with myself years earlier. I realize after spending a couple of days in LA traffic that NOT driving in it has a strong calming effect on me. Paradoxically, living in New York City is much more of a tranquil experience for me than LA because of my freelance schedule (never really have to take subway at rush hour) and my ability to walk or subway or cab everywhere and not have to look for parking or zig or zag my vehicle, or get gas, or pay insurance or parking or speeding tickets, etc etc.
The car culture, in short, is at the center of all that is bad in LA, a city that has so much going for it in so many other ways.
All in all, this short trip to LA has been really great. I reconnected with a bunch of old friends, visited some old haunts, ran into some people that had wronged me in the past and felt nothing but transcendence and happiness, ate fairly well, won a work contract with a new LA client, met with a New York client, snogged with a handsome guy, actually enjoyed driving a car through a bunch of familiar places, went on a hike in Topanga Canyon, and felt grateful.
Not bad for 4 days.
I am leaving on a flight early tomorrow for Denver. It has been almost a month here, and it has flown by. I leave LA with better feelings about this city than before. Whether it is because I am a changed man, or that I am not working (much), or that I am not looking for the same things in LA, the city has seemed much more welcoming and warm. The city has appeared less hard edged, less angry.
Could I ever live here again? Only time will tell. But the present moment is not ripe to make such determinations. I am off to take stock of a few more things, test a few more waters and gather a few more experiences. See you soon lala, and thanks.
Apparently there are fires in SoCal. Other than an ever-so-slight stinging in my eyes and hysterical calls from friends and family, I was unaware of this fact. LA is a really big place. You can drive for hours without crossing it all.