“I’m shocked by anyone who doesn’t consider Los Angeles to be anything less than a bozo-saturated hellhole. It is pretty much without question the worst city in America. The reason “Walking in L.A.” by Missing Persons was the most accidentally prescient single of 1982 was because of its unfathomable (but wholly accurate) specificity: Los Angeles is the only city in the world where the process of walking on the sidewalk could somehow be a) political and b) humiliating. It is the only community I’ve ever visited where absolutely everything cliche proved to be completely accurate.
I don’t care if 85% of Los Angeles is stupid. I can deal with stupid. My problem is that every stupid person in Los Angeles is also a) unyieldingly narcissistic and b) unyieldingly nice. They have somehow managed to combine raging megalomania with genuine friendliness.” – Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman, like most of America, hates Los Angeles. People here are, I think, eager to equate these strong anti-LA sentiments with jealousy regarding the weather. I can see their perspective. LA isn’t a terrible place, and the weather is hard to dislike, especially during winter.
Despite being a Los Angeles native, I am inclined to agree with Klosterman. Today a friend and I decided we should “exercise” and so walked, literally, a bit less than a mile to travel from one outdoor shopping mall to a different outdoor shopping mall.
This really shouldn’t have been difficult. It was. There were stretches devoid of sidewalks. We were honked at. And then some dudes yelled, “hey! we went to high school with you!” It was indeed both political and humiliating. Political because by merely “exercising” we were somehow making some sort of statement about our need for attention (we weren’t) and thus, again, it was humiliating.
And then the other thing he says about people being unyielding nice but also completely narcissistic. It seems true, but I can’t support this one with a specific anecdote. Instead, the existence of this man seems to be enough:
Every male in Los Angeles is Matthew McConaughey. (Not really.) But it seems to be true enough. I don’t mean this as a good thing, either. Matthew McConaughey is a great enough person, I’m sure. I bet you could spend a whole three hours with him without getting too sick of him, even. But multiply this smarmy, egotistic, charming personality by all ~5,000,000 douchebags that exist in LA, and things get hairy.
Now, I don’t mean to stereotype LA, even though I am. I know regular people here. A lot of my family is into the wilderness and stuff, and by wilderness I mean mountains and cabins and bears. My best friends here don’t have blonde hair (mostly). I have met people who, in fact, are not aspiring actors. Instead they want to be something fairly normal, like a pediatrician.
But I also grew up in the suburbs, which is sort of a different animal. Get into the heart and soul of this city and things seem to fit that stereotype that Chuck Klosterman hates even more.
The best example of this, I think, rests in LA’s crazy population. NYC is definitely notorious for its fair share of drunks, homeless, and otherwise “mentally insane” members of society who, for no reason, dress up as boba fett and play the accordian.
I was never, personally, a big fan of this aspect. I am easily intimidated by the uncaged eccentric. Or, worse, when you are actually caged with them in the subway.
But these people mean no harm, and more often than not they add to the “diversity” and character of the city that is NYC.
LA often seems devoid of this rough-around-the-edges charm. Everyone here is just wearing Ed Hardy shirts, but not ironically. Parties are really just networking opportunities. And networking opportunities are really just chances to get laid.
One man, however, seemed to defy these seemingly unfortunate truths. As far as I knew, he had no name. But I did know that he danced on Robertson Blvd., 24/7. Literally. Dances. If I go there right now, he will be there, and he will be dancing. He is homeless as far as I know, but this seems irrelevant. Robertson is his home, and dancing is his life. And when I say dancing is his life, I don’t mean that he is passionate about dancing, or practices a lot, or wants to be a professional dancer, or any of that. I literally mean that this man does nothing except breathe, possibly eat, and DANCE. Literally.
(Proof can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhJJauyvxXQ)
It seems to be an extraordinary feat. Who is this guy? He is literally crazy, most likely. Drugs? Mental disorder? Eccentric? Indifferent? Robot? NYC wishes they had this guy. But he couldn’t exist in NYC, because of the weather. LA allows him to be himself, and his existence in LA is even greater because he juxtaposes his setting. He is the honest-to-god human who really doesn’t give a shit. Everyone else in LA gives a shit. But not him. He is the one guy who is genuine, maybe. The one guy who represents the unafraid, uncontrived, original homeless-person-gone-crazy.
Or so I thought. Upon googling this guy (robertson homeless guy dancing) I discovered something unfortunate.
His existence has become merchandise. LA exploits everything. Even the one person who was seemingly too bats to fall prey to its superficial ideology, is now a t-shirt. A t-shirt sold at places like Kitson no less.
If this weren’t bad enough, the man himself is endorsing this profitable iconization:
What is real in LA? Maybe not much. Even the one crazy fuck who seemed not to give a shit… really does give a shit. Or at least, enough to support the pursuit of fame via clothing labels.
And thus, therein lies the charm of NYC. The people who don’t care… really don’t care. You only have to go once to know this is true. A million anecdotes support this notion, thus making any one specific story indistinct. This is why people hate LA. It’s fake, and unapologetically so. They don’t hate it because they are jealous of the good weather. They don’t hate it because everyone in LA is famous and happy and they wish they had that, subconsciously. They hate it because most things here are contrived. They hate it because the chances of meeting a real, genuine person who doesn’t want something (especially fame or fortune) from everyone they encounter is pretty fucking hard.
I don’t hate LA. I couldn’t. When I’m in New York all I talk about is how much I love and miss LA and it’s good weather and laid-back attitude. I like the palm trees and the beach (even though I hate the act of going to the beach) and the food and some of the people and the architecture.
There are a lot of great things here. In fact, I could write another post, probably, on what makes this city not as terrible as it is made out to be.
But today, I can see why it is made out to be so terrible. And sometimes I think if this city could be a little more down-to-earth, then it really would be the best place in the world, without a doubt.
(I compare LA to NY because those are the only two cities I have really spent any time in, so as far as I know the USA is comprised entirely of these two cultures.)