Open Letter About LA
A friend of mine wrote this and I have to say, its pretty damn correct and awesome.
Congratulations! Your article, “L.A. is a ‘heavenly place,’” has been posted by about a dozen of my Facebook friends which means it’s probably gone viral. And, to most of those who have commented on it, the reaction has been a resounding “yes! This article gets it all right! THIS is why I love LA.” But I must respectfully disagree. Because your article is a cursory précis of everything that’s wrong with people’s ideas of LA.
In fairness to you, none of what you wrote is incorrect, per se; we do have great weather! you can surf and ski in the same day! and Los Angeles is diverse! But, really, who doesn’t know this?
My problem is that you criticize people for not scratching the surface of Los Angeles, but then make no effort to do so yourself. You extol the superficial but ignore the nuances. Los Angeles might look like a place of sunshine and smiles, but that’s not what makes it so wonderful, so unique, and so terribly addicting. Love might begin with attraction, but it is sustained by totally embracing the good, the bad, and every mile in between.
First, Los Angeles is not pretty. She is a hard-boiled city, an urban rebellion. At her core is the idea that anything goes. And, for most of her history, anything has. She is the last stop before the ocean. She is all that is left of the Wild, Wild West.
Los Angeles is a town of rediscovery and reinvention. A Mecca for transients. A place where nobody is who they really are because everybody is somebody new. And that’s okay. Let New York have her gilded past and Fifth Avenue legacy. Los Angeles really doesn’t care who you were, she cares about who you think you are today and who you might be tomorrow.
Los Angeles “is a valley of ten-million insanities,” as Ry Cooder once said. Where the homeless wear furs, and where Jesus drives a Mercedes and Charlie Chaplin takes the bus.
L.A. is the canvas on which Lautner, Neutra, and Gehry built their legacies. She is where Raymond Chandler met Phillip Marlow. Where Bukowski got drunk and Ellis got laid.
Here is Surf City, Tinsel Town, and Hotel California. The Sunset Strip wears its past like notches on a bedpost, and Olvera Street tells the story of the millions of immigrants who built Los Angeles. Every boulevard and avenue shows you the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the pretty and the ugly, all within a few miles, all from the safety of your Prius.
Los Angeles is a midnight traffic jam. A smoggy day. A lunch break car-chase.
This is where the gods are exalted and destroyed, all in an afternoon. Where cynics and dreamers can come to the same conclusion.
Los Angeles is the scars of racial tension, of brush fires, and earthquakes.
Here, the temperature is usually 5 degrees too hot or 10 degrees too cold, except for most of the time, when it is perfect.
Los Angeles is the orange grove that was replaced by a backlot, the backlot that was replaced by a city, the city that was replaced by a vision of the future.
Ultimately, Los Angeles is whatever you want her to be, except for what she isn’t.
The beaches and the weather and whatever … those are only the rewards for embracing Los Angeles’ faults and fault lines.
She gives you the peremptory gift of her superficial beauty, but then challenges you to not be defeated by the catch. Those of us who are strong can call ourselves Angelinos.
The rest either move home or, worse, remain here trapped in a shallow, salient bubble. Blithe but not enlightened. Content but not whole.
But even those people, in all their naiveté, are still a part of the fabric of the city. Because if Los Angeles is a place that embraces her imperfections, it means we’ll take them all, even you.
What do you think?