Love and Hate in Los Angeles

Sometimes it's easy to hate Los Angeles.

There are too many idiots driving SUVs with off-road capability. This is all well and good except that these people consider driving next to a bus on Wilshire Blvd a major car maneuvering event.

When it rains everyone decides to crash into everybody else. I mean, the last rainstorm, we had about 280 car crashes in TWELVE hours. As I listen to rain falling outside on this stormy night, I know that somebody is crazily tail-gaiting some slow but safe driver. And then crazy'll rear-end the safe driver and send both their insurance rates through the roof.

Traffic and cars. So cliche, right? Well here's another one for you: We're the porn capital of the world.

If you find yourself wondering why Blu-ray won over HD-DVD, well wonder no more! The porn industry decided a year ago that they were only doing Blu-ray, the same way they chose VHS over higher-quality BETA years ago. Mmm hmm.

And you thought VHS got chosen because it had less letters than BETA. Sorry to disillusion you.

It goes without saying that we have bad schools. Of course, if you live in any city in this country, chances are the public schools aren't that great. But did you know that the Los Angeles Unified School District spent millions for a new payroll system that's SO messed up that in October my son's teacher got a paycheck in the amount of...drum roll please...$10 whole dollars!

Our mayor? Well, last fall it came out that Mr. Villaraigosa cheated on his wife with a Telemundo reporter. Needless to say, the wife left him and people aren't so sure he should run for governor anymore. Now he's not even with the reporter, leaving yours truly to wonder if a few nights of hot sex were worth it?

Ugh. Let's just list it out, a few other dreaded LA things:

-Homeless Capital of America.
-Annoying Westsiders slumming on the Eastside, which isn't really all that far east but they're too scared of Latinos to head into Boyle Heights or East LA.
-Housing prices through the roof.
-Overpriced valet parking.
-Slimy Hollywood types that firmly believe in the casting couch.
-Breast implants, extreme tooth whitening and orangish tans.
-Celebrities terrorizing the streets of Hollywood, WeHo, the Sunset Strip, general Beverly Hills area...basically all the places TMZ puts live webcams.

Yes, if I think about all that too much, I'm not too fond of this city.

But today, I'm not thinking about that. In fact, after today, I find myself more in love with Los Angeles than ever.

Why? Well, we had a break in our torrential downpours this afternoon so I went for a long walk through the hills around my house. I walked for at least an hour. Maybe two. I don't know since I don't wear a watch on these expeditions.

The time flies because I love my neighborhood. And I love to walk in my neighborhood.

This isn't a neighborhood thrown up overnight, Las Vegas style. Nope, there's no urban subdivision cookie cutter tract housing over here.

Instead, every house, every building is unique. A Spanish style apartment building next to a a Craftsman home, next to a very modern glass and concrete structure.

And it all works. It works because as developed as this city is, every once in awhile there's a section that looks like a wilderness. Who would have thought that nature would even begin to reclaim the cars left parked too long?

I live in a very hilly section of Los Angeles, so hilly that many of the streets in my neighborhood have 15% grades, which are challenging to walk up.

As butt blasting as climbing these hills can be, if I go a bit east to Echo Park, I can try to walk up the steepest street in all of California, Fargo Street with it's 33% grade. I haven't tried climbing Fargo Street yet, but one day soon I will.

But I don't walk just for the exercise.

I walk because it's beautiful and I want to drink that beauty in. I want to create a lifetime of memories, visions that will forever resonate in my head and my heart in case, by some strange twist of fate, I go blind in the future.

I can go outside any day of the year and see bushes blooming with flowers, hummingbirds sucking nectar from vibrant blossoms.

I see flowers like these every day, but so rarely do I stop and pick some. Today though, I just couldn't resist.

To any observer I must have looked bizarre, holding a bunch of flowers, leaning against a light pole, watching the world. But I was captivated by a thin river of rainwater running down the hill. It was the sort of thing I would have noticed as a small child, the sort of thing I've forgotten to "see" as an adult.

Hours later, I'm still thinking about where the flowing water was coming from since it was no longer raining.

I walked a bit more and saw an old man sitting out on a plant-covered balcony of a Spanish style duplex. A young woman was cutting his completely white hair. The distant traffic noises faded away as I listened to him complaining that she was cutting it too short. She only smiled affectionately down at his head and answered, "Yes, Papa."

I walked some more and eventually went to my neighborhood park. As I sat and read my copy of LA Weekly, I listened to one mother scold her children in French. Another in Spanish.

I looked around me and I thought about the racial diversity in this city. More Persians than any other place except Iran. More Koreans than anywhere outside Korea. More Armenians than any place besides Armenia. The most Thai people outside of Thailand.

And believe me, I don't think this diversity's a good thing only because of all the deliciously amazing food that those culture bring to the table.

No, it gets me excited because if we can achieve racial unity in this city, what a model we'd be for the rest of this crazy world.

Pull back the veil and there's a humanity to Los Angeles. That humanity has nothing to do with Hollywood or the vain imaginings the entertainment industry throws our way.

Yes, these are the things that make me fall in love with Los Angeles all over again. What about you? What makes you love or hate the city you call home?


Gunfighter said…
Washington, DC is often called "Hollywood for ugly people", because we have many of the same thjings going on here... except for the porn production, I guess.

What I love about this city (even though I live in the suburbs these days, damnit!), is that it is at the center of so many things in this country.

I love the buildings, I love that this city has real neighborhoods, I love the zoo, I love the museums, I love a great deal about Washington, DC that make me prefer it above all cities in this country.
Well you know how I feel about L.A. (ha) but your neighborhood is pretty special.

I am trying to be more postive in '08 so instead of trashing L.A. I will say, I have made some great friends here.

I loved living in New York City for it's energy, diversity, great public transportation, architecture, Harlem, The Bronx Zoo, Central Park, The Met, MoMa, The New York Public Library, Bergdoffs, Barneys, that it's the capital of so many industries, the creativity, New Yorkers and their sense of humor.
Jen said…
It's interesting for me to read this, because I've only spent two days of my life in the L.A. area and that was with 250 Soviets and 150 Americans during a "Peace Walk", so it wasn't exactly a normal experience. This gave me some different views of L.A.

I loved growing up in NYC. I don't love the crazy prices there now, nor could I afford to live there at this point. The great neighborhood I grew up in is also gone, replaced by plastic boutique and restaurant world.

I like Ann Arbor most days. It's been a good place to raise my son. I like the quiet and beauty of our neighborhood, combined with the fact that we can be downtown in five minutes. I don't like how over-the-top PC everything's become, especially in terms of city and school board politics. People talk and talk and talk the talk (to death) here, but they don't actually walk the walk. I'd like to see more real actions and far fewer words.
Anonymous said…
A great overview of living in LA, Liz. I guess most cities have a balance of good and bad. What I like about Belfast: the human scale, only 500,000 people, you can always get on a bus or train, the traffic still flows fairly freely; it's surrounded by hills and water and the Mourne Mountains are only 30 miles away; the people are very friendly and will chat about the most unlikely things; families are very close-knit and petty crime is still low; the city is still pretty and hasn't been ruined by too many soulless modern buildings; there's loads of culture from films to art to theatre; and if you're a parent, there are lots of excellent schools. The negative: sectarianism is still very common though no longer accompanied by all the violence; and religion fosters prejudice about abortion, homosexuality and individual freedoms. But that's not a bad balance sheet.
Unknown said…
I have family living in Mar Vista, Pasadena, Altadena in LA, but everytime I come out west I can't wait to get home. I'm not sure why. And it is not because my family drives me crazy, they really doesn't. But Chicago, despite the "Hawk" is pretty cool. I LOVE the lakefront from Jackson Park to Evanston and beyond. From my front window you can see the downtown skyline, the Sears Tower with the clouds cascading. And to hop on the "L" and be downtown in 5 minutes, to walk north on State Street to Michigan Avenue down the Magnificent Mile, well, what's not to love. A little below zero and then six months of June is what keeps me here I guess. Great topic! and your pics were awesome!
Jameil said…
can i come now? pretty please? at least just for a visit. this seems like a good post for me to write about pittsburgh. i don't consider it my home just my temporary residence. charlotte is home to me.
I like your city, too. Flip grew up playing in the Santa Susana Mountains, and the last time we were in L.A. together, we walked in a lovely small hidden park with mostly ferns and a creek. I love the beaches in your city.

But are you sure that Fargo Street is the steepest in California? Many of the ones in San Francisco are like roller coaster rides.

You asked what I love about my city. New York is my "real" city, but I would have to write a post in your comments to cover it. SF is my adopted city, and I love everything except the atrocious driving, the obscene housing prices, and the heart-stopping temperature of the ocean at our beaches.

And we have bougainvillea and jasmine here, too. :)
Sundry said…
I'm so glad you took the time to have this wonderful experience, Liz! And I love the photo of the flowers in your many great colors there, with the bench and your coat in the background. Nice!

I believe you about Fargo Street. My brother "Joe" and his wife used to live over there, and he told me he once saw a big moving van beached on the top of that hill! They'd tried to drive over and bottomed out, balanced up there. It took a long time to get it dislodged.

I love the diversity of L.A., too. I love that after 20+ years here, living and working in different areas, I can find my way around.

What do I love and hate about Acton? I love that it's very rural, but near enough L.A. that I can dip in when I want to, that people wave to each other, that the post office line is never more than 5 deep, that I hear horses, burros, coyotes, train whistles and the beat of the ravens' wings when they fly overhead.

What do I hate about it? Only that the developers are riding roughshod over parts of it and that some new residents don't respect the horse trails. Oh yeah, and that some people think it's fun to tear up the desert with their hateful off road vehicles.
Toni Campbell said…
The only thing I miss about LA is Roscoe's and the Fashion District. I live in Atlanta and the only thing I like about it is my rent is really, really, really cheap. I hate:
that it is so spread out
that it is not pedestrian friendly - in a lot of residential areas there are no sidewalks
that it takes me an hour to get somewhere on public transportation, when the same trip would take me 15-20 minutes in DC or NYC
that it claims to be a melting pot of sorts, but everyone seems to be clinging on to the sides of the pot and not mixing together.
katie e said…
You have hit the mark for me about LA.

I loved it there and hated it there. I hated exactly what you wrote about. But we lived in Silver Lake and it was BEAUTIFUL there. I, like you, would walk EVERY day just to soak up the nature, the sunsets, the hills, the culture. We also lived on the edge of Echo Park (this was years ago) so the hispanic culture was very dominant and very real. No pretentiousness (is that a word) there. I could really feel the spirit. On those walks I could feel the spirit so strongly my heart would fly. When we moved to Mt. Washington not too far away I had the same feeling on my daily walks too. And I would visit the SRF weekly.

I have to admit I greatly miss those walks. I haven't been able to find anything to replace that soaring and rejuvination I felt daily.

Alas, I/we would have stayed in LA, probably in Echo Park if the materialistic culture hadn't gotten to us in the end.

Anywho, enjoy those walks! I'm definitely with you in spirit!
none said…
I don't think a midwestern boy like me would do well in LA. I'm used to things being more slow paced and I've learned to love living among ugly people with big hearts.
LA sounds so fascinating. I grew up in Brooklyn, which was a fantastic place to come of age. I went to school in Manhattan and the whole of NYC felt like my playground.

I have lived in other places but no place, for me, has the energy, vitality and attitude of New York! I heart NY.
the joy said…
I love that there are more opportunities for liberal artists down here than in CT. I hate that people in the south think northerners are rude, but they always in your business or got advice you didn't ask for.

What is a "grade?" I assume it has something to do with angles, but I know 33 degrees isn't much.

Nice pix! I can see the peace in them.
Liz Dwyer said…
"Hollywood for ugly people"!!! LOL! Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose because many of these folks out here don't even look human any more. Everything's a little too perfect. I do love the embassies in DC and the Smithsonian. And of course, although DC may not be where the porn production takes place but the porn industry lobbyists surely exert their influence!

Probably if I didn't live over here I would hate this city like nothing else. I can't imagine living anywhere on the Westside. And my first year out here I lived in North Long Beach and just wanted to die because there was nothing but a Taco Bell and a Mobil in my neighborhood. There is much I love about NYC as well. All the places and things you named plus the Botanical Gardens make NYC so special.

So neat that you were here for a Peace Walk. That would definitely be a different perspective. Parts of my neighborhood have become that plastic boutique world -- that's such a good way to put it. My friend Jane lives in this cool co-housing place in Ann Arbor and it was such a neat thing to see. I wonder if something like that could really work here in LA, but other than that, I didn't get to see too much.

Belfast sounds simply lovely. Well, I tend to think all of Ireland sounds lovely so perhaps I'm biased! See, maybe I need to move there to take advantage of the excellent schools. I'll bet it's impossible to do so though. I also hope the peace there continues on because such sectarian divisions surely make all the beauty hard to enjoy.

See, my ideal would be to have a summer house in Chicago and a winter place out here. I miss Evanston and Rogers Park a whole lot. I miss the Double Door and Belmont and Sheffield. I miss driving all the way down 41 into Indiana, skipping paying that $2.50 Skyway toll -- but I love taking the Skyway back into the city, and then deciding whether I want to get off at Stony Island and take that over to Lake Shore Drive...or go around that intimidating curve where you then descend into the hell of the Dan Ryan. And of course, I miss riding the el and hearing the screech of the wheels against the track as the train goes around that S-curve at Sedgewick. But so much is changing there. It's not the city I remember... gosh, even yuppies moving into Humbolt Park! The place I met my husband in Evanston got demolished for a condo high rise.

Goodness, I feel you on the Chicago love, but for so many reasons, it's not the place for me right now.

I've never been to Charlotte before but I know folks rave about North Carolina in general. I will come over and see what you say about Pittsburg. Isn't it supposed to be one of those up and coming cities?

Apparently, Filbert St. in SFO is a 32% grade but both Eldred in Highland Park and Fargo in Echo Park are 33%. Go figure because LA isn't necessarily known for it's hills in the way San Francisco is! I do love San Francisco though. I think it has a romance that LA doesn't. Or maybe I've just watched "Vertigo" too many times!

I really like the combination of colors in that picture as well. That coat is my favorite right now. I'm wearing it nonstop in anticipation of when it gets too warm.

The first time I drove around here, I had no idea what I was in store for. Being from the midwest and a relatively inexperienced driver, I didn't really know what 15% grade meant! Thank goodness I was going slow enough.

Acton sounds beautiful. I want to come check it out sometime before greed taints it's beauty forever.

I used to work a couple blocks from the fashion district. Good for getting trendy sunglasses, that's for sure. I have never been a big fan of Atlanta. My first visit there in '92 I was staying at Georgia Tech and got attacked by flying roaches and I thought my clothes were mildewing because it was so humid! It was just too sprawly and too many streets with the word "peach" in them. I also think I also saw my friend's Freaknik videos one too many times. LOL!

Did you see Quinceañera? That is SO what's happened in Echo Park. There's still that spirit, but it feels less and less every year. Even over here where we are, many of the families have moved out...they're moving to Utah and Iowa. I would miss the walks as well if I moved away. And I know I won't live here forever so I must enjoy them while I can.

I often wonder how the materialistic culture has affected me. I'm sure it has. I'll have lived here for 10 years this August, so I can't be immune.

Of course, people with big hearts have the true beauty that everyone desires. I have always loved cities, but the pace of life is hard to keep up with. I've had to really make a conscious effort to just opt out of a lot of the madness. I do miss seeing cows grazing along the side of a highway and folks who are raising families and just living life without trying to be rock stars.
Liz Dwyer said…
Every time I visit NYC I love it and have such a wonderful time. That's another place with just captivating diversity. I just don't know if I could handle moving there now with my kids. If I had kids there and didn't know anything else, I would probably be just fine.

The Joy,
Yes, Southerners do seem to be nosy, but I like that since I am also nosy! :) I didn't know what a grade was before! It's the steepness of a hill over a distance. So a short but very steep hill is much tougher to get up than a long hill that rises gradually. A 10% grade is a challenging hill so 33% is VERY steep!
SheWhoLives said…
It sounds like LA would be a beautiful place to visit... as long as you went to the right places!

London and me definitely have a love-hate-love realtionship. But it's always been my home and where my family are so it has a piece of my heart forever really...
katie e said…
Hey Liz,
I haven't seen Quinceañera yet... sounds like a good one. I'll check it out.
I forgot to mention that we were pretty steeped in the materialistic thing cause of JB's work in the music industry. I think it got to me/us faster cause of that.
I ache for Los Angeles sometimes. Ache. All the problems that people complain about in LA are true everywhere in the country - everywhere. Denver's traffic is rated worse than LA - more accidents - etc. But the torrid, relentless beauty that burst from the cracks of Los Angeles - only there.

Can you tell it's snowing here?
Liz Dwyer said…
I'm trying to plot a trip to London (and Paris) for next summer, not sure if I can pull it off yet, but it always seems so beautiful. I think it's probably true that you have to go to the right places here. Hollywood Blvd is seedy and not that exciting and so many tourists just end up there and are disappointed.

Quinceañera is a pretty authentic movie. I really liked it. And I could see how the industry definitely can sour this city in a heartbeat. The majority of my life here has been spent in the rest of LA, the LA that is invisible to those in the industry, so I suppose in a sense I've been blessed to not be involved in it.

I feel you. I think I will miss this place when/if I don't live here. It's true that LA's problems are everywhere. I had no idea Denver's traffic is so bad. That plus snow??? No wonder you're aching.
Unknown said…
Well it's true L.A has its many problems...that comes with living in a metropolitan area with a lot of diversity. The traffic, the gangs, the overpopulation, on and on. But after awhile the traffic becomes an expectation, you get used to the hustle and bustle and you learn not to go to certain places by yourself at night. Once you get past all that it's not so bad..actually it's quite wonderful. When I think of L.A I think of that episode of Sex in the City when Sarah Jessica Parker was explaining why she loves New York like a boyfriend. I kinda sorta feel the same about this place. On any given day there's a museum to go to, a park to stroll in, or a concert, play, party, festival or presentation to attend. Artists and performers flock to L.A. And like you said we are a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. It thrills me to know I'm in the middle of it all. Though, as Sarah explained, on any given day the museum you want to go to is closed and you can get caught in a torrential downpour of rain. No matter though...this is still my city. Some days it gets on my nerves and other days I feel nothing but affection for it.
Anonymous said…
I used to call Los Angeles "home" until I had the opportunity to visit Oahu, Hawaii. What a beautiful city!! Blue skies, no smog, friendly people (who actually give up their seats on a bus for the disabled and elderly - what a concept! I was amazed when a woman who was pregnant (I'd say about 7 months in) was more than willing to do so!), great transit system - oh so wonderful!! At that point, I realized where I was meant to be. I'm pursuing a master's degree and decided will move there when I'm done. When I returned to L.A., I saw nothing but SMOG - where's the mountains..I don't see them! (I finally figured out the reason I would come down with chronic sinusitus/bronchitis - lends to this!!), overcrowding, pathetic freeways, rude, pretentious people, and no culture to speak of. It took me visiting and being away from this facade of a city - with its plastic people obsessed with outer appearance and materialism, to see I've been wasting my time here. So, I now hate L.A. and yearn for my time in Hawaii - true paradise.
Anonymous said…
Hi! It's me, anonymous again! Case in point - just experienced one of the "polite, kind, and well mannered" men in Los Angeles...who enjoyed a good laugh at my expense! As I was walking to get my dinner at a local restaurant, a truck pulled over to the curb where I was walking down the street (which was a scary experience it itself)....thinking he may need help/directions..I was about to offer my assistance (as they do in Hawaii)...BAD IDEA. The "gentleman" (and I use that term lightly) in the car wanted to inform me, the tag for my jeans was on my leg - which it was. He then proceeded to laugh and sped up. What a**hole!! That was great. Then I realized, the man had his wife or whatever it was, in his car with him! would I have felt if he was eyeing up another woman?! Must've have been checking me out (which grosses me out more)! SEE?!! This is how the men are out here - total jerks, no manners!! No wonder why I hate it here.

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