Much of this blog has been dedicated to celebrating the new. A new place and a new life can sound a little like the convert’s song though – usually the loudest in the choir but maybe not the most genuine. So it’s time to look at the other side of the coin and maybe discuss what’s missing in the California sunshine.
Any markers of time passing at all: Californians make a fuss about their desire for “seasons” and I think this explains a lot of real estate speculation around Lake Tahoe and maybe Aspen too – i.e., places where winter can be purchased for the price of business class tickets. I think it’s a little different though. It’s not just about the snow; it’s about the sunshine too.
The blue skies here can be a lot like a casino floor. They never go away and it’s impossible to keep track of time. With 55 degree winters and 75 degrees summers, our yearly temperature changes are your daily temperature swings. Most of the time it’s great but there are days when you just want to see something change.
Hangovers: It’s not that hangovers don’t happen in Los Angeles and it’s not that they’re necessarily enjoyable anywhere else, it’s just that when you live in an East Coast city there’s a cheery romance to their inconvenience. A hangover in New York or Washington is a communal affair, usually spent knocking on your friend’s door, walking a few blocks to brunch, and returning to lucidity on the wings of Eggs Benedict and a coffee. Sunday brunch isn’t just about your re-animation; it’s about the city’s.
Not so here. The vastness of the ocean, mountains, and basin is invigorating in other circumstances, but a hangover in California is solitary confinement. There’s nothing charming about a jammed-up highway on the way to brunch in Santa Monica or parallel parking in the one open spot in all of West Hollywood while a gorilla bangs his gong inside of your head. That’s why hangovers here are usually spent alone in your bedroom, with the sound of the wind in the palm trees as a palliative.
Religion: Now I know this isn’t going to be popular with some of you, but hear me out. Religious people tend to walk with a purpose. Do business with a Texan and a Californian and you’ll see what I mean. It’s the reason why hospitals are built with crosses and Stars of David on their side and now that I live in a theological vacuum, I’m coming to believe that it’s a broader personality trait too. Purpose in anything requires something resolute to fasten to and well – fad dieting and yoga just don’t fill those shoes.
When you go to church on Sunday, you’re a part of every stage of life at once, from the crying babies to old folks on canes hobbling up to the altar. There’s nothing equivalently unifying here and if there is, it’s the me-first culture of Hollywood narcissism. There’s just no devotion to anything greater and I’m not necessarily even talking about God.
Any sense of what is reasonable: Let’s talk about the industries that built this town: entertainment, aerospace, and oil. I don’t usually think of actors, stunt pilots, and oilmen as reasonable or predictable personality types and I’m not saying that a whole city can be so easily pigeon-holed, but a city has to have a culture, right? I mean not everyone in New York is a banker, but “Wall Street” is eponymous with the other 99 percent. And when you see a picture of the Capitol, don’t you think of Washington, D.C. right away?
So it is here. People in LA dream professionally. They package it, market it, and sell it. It could be a movie or it could be a satellite, but in either case, you’re talking about a product that either produces or overcomes the absurd. It also means that the communal willingness to “take no for an answer” is hilariously unreasonable. People here just expect weird things.
Relief: Like all cities, Los Angeles is a failed experiment. But cities are like partners, you learn to take the good with the bad, and in LA’s case there’s a certain ennui to living somewhere so inescapably large. There’s practicality to why some people never leave: it’s just so damn hard to. Try and drive 50 miles just to find a freeway that isn’t overloaded with cars and elevated over tract homes that follow the plots of orange groves long gone. It’s not easy. And that’s when your life gets trapped in a box between “the 1,” “the 101”, “the 10”, and “the 5”.
But still, she’s lovely.