Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Myths of Los Angeles


Everyone who's never been to Los Angeles thinks they know Los Angeles. People who've visited Los Angeles think they know Los Angeles. People who live here... don't really care. Granted, all of this is true of most large cities, particularly one that has a presence in the media as large as Los Angeles.

Hell... quite a bit of the time, the "New Yorks," "Miamis," and wherevers you're watching on television or in a movie are actually Los Angeles.

But, so what?

Nobody really gets Los Angeles. Not the tourists. Not the shut-ins who've never been here. Not the people who live here. Not the people who grew up here.

And that's what's so god-damned wonderful about this place.

Someone you know complains about the traffic. Well, duh... there's not a person on the planet who wouldn't complain about L.A. traffic. Or L.A. smog. Or earthquakes.

Someone else you know complains about the fake people here. Yeah, well... there are fake people everywhere. But how much time have you spent in a diner in Studio City? Or a sidewalk cafe in Los Feliz? Or on the beach in Venice? Most of the people are as real as you think you are, or as real as the "someone else you know" thinks they are.

And how do people know the people out here are fake, anyway? Oh, that's right... they buy the gossip mags at the local supermarket.

I will be honest here. I do not like 75% of this city. That figure's probably closer to 90%, but I'm being generous. But the remainder? I fucking love to death. I can honestly say I'm living in the best neighborhood I've ever lived in my life, and I've lived in seven states and three countries.

That stated, I'd still rather be in San Diego... but only because driving to Padres and Chargers games isn't as big a hassle.

It's not easy to live in the city, no. It's not easy to break into Hollywood, no. It's not easy to do a lot of things in a lot of places, and Los Angeles is no different. But it's a great fucking town.

Why am I ranting about this? I dunno... I think part of it has to do with the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots. A scar this city wears to this day. My close friends know that I don't put much stock in anniversaries, but I had a bit of a profound moment this past weekend, when I went to a production of Twilight: Los Angeles 1992. After the show, the cast asked the audience to stick around for a Q&A regarding current thoughts of the riots. In the first round, they asked for people who were living here at the time. In the second, they asked for people who were not... and that's when I told my story.

See, I grew up just south of here, in San Diego County. I'd just moved to Northern Nevada before the riots starting. I followed the riots closely, still feeling that Southern California was my home (a sentiment I've never lost, even though I don't actually feel I have "a home")... but the one thing I recall the most about the riots? My dad walking in and saying to me, "The city's burning."

And burning it was... for all the wrong reasons.

I don't know what came over me, but something about the conversation prompted me to say - in front of a huge cast of fantastic actors (seriously... the IMDb resumes of these people are insane) - that "I fucking love this city."

It's true... I hate 75% of it... but I fucking love it. I've been to a lot of big cities in my life, and few have the personality that Los Angeles does. It's confused, lost, crazy, chaotic... and home to nearly 4 million people. Only one place in America has more... and it's nothing like this place. Oh, it's no better or worse (unless accounting for weather), but it's nothing like this place.

Anyway, I'm just being sentimental, I suppose. It's been a busy year, the phone's been off the hook the past few weeks, and I'm happy to say that my persistence in pursuing my career aspirations is paying off. Again, my close friends know that, despite that persistence, a lot of the credit in the payoff is due to this city. It's the right place at the right time. Who knew? I guess I did, really, but it's the arrogance of naivete that convinces people you can act the Roman when not in Rome. Look at all the film school graduates, including many of my friends, doing anything but making movies. They've never learned how warm and welcome this place can be. Never took the chance. Why? There are many reasons, obviously, but I'm willing to bet there's a fear of Los Angeles borne of those stupid gossip mags. If they only bothered to find out, it would only take a few months to realize how full of shit those admittedly full-of-shit publications and other media actually are.

Twenty years ago, this wonderful, weird, inspiring, and insane city was burning. Well, I got news for you... it's still burning.

Now, though, the reasons are better.

Hate this place all you want. Blame this place all you want. Just remember that, if you ever make it out this way, there's a part of the City of Angels that will always welcome you home. It took me some time, but I know that now.

Anyway, gotta run... three script deadlines this week. I fucking love this place.

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