The first time I knew I was to come to Los Angeles
was in 1992
. It was my senior year
in High School
, and I had just been accepted to Harvey Mudd College
, a small city in the Inland Empire
valley to the East of Los Angeles. Shortly after I was accepted, I heard the news of a major earthquake
. Shortly after that came the Rodney King
riots. I was not looking forward to my move from calm (if cold) Madison, Wisconsin
I needn't have worried. Claremont was essentially dead, and we were kept busy enough at school to only make rare trips into Los Angeles for special occasions, such as seeing shows at the Ahmenson theater or various concerts. By the time I left Harvey Mudd in 1996, I hadn't seen much of the area at all.
I spent at year in Graduate School, then tried looking for a job in Silicon Valley by attending a conference held in San Jose. Ironically, none of the Silicon Valley companies were interested, but I got a job with an Israeli company that was just opening an office in Pasadena, so once again I got sent back down to Los Angeles.
Now, as I prepare to move away to take an exciting new job in San Diego, a city that I have always felt was superior to Los Angeles in several ways, I find myself saying good bye to quite a few aspects of the city that I have come to take for granted.
- You are at ground zero for Western Culture. This has two big advantages:
- There are more musicians per square inch in Los Angeles than pretty much any other city. You like Metallica? They play two or three times a year out here. Your tastes run towards Aimee Mann? She plays every week at The Largo when she's not touring. You prefer unsigned talent? This is where unsigned talent comes to try and get signed. Even if a musician makes their home in another city or country, they're still likely to make at least one stop in Los Angeles on their tour, simply because it's convenient to deal with the numerous Record Companies and Recording Studios we have. This advantage was driven home to me when I heard my fellow college students planning to go see Metallica the next week. If Metallica came to Madison, people would be planning months in advance to see them, and the week of the concert they would be on the front page of the local newspaper.
- You can see any film that is released in the United States in a theater, without having to go to Utah. The Emperor and the Assassin. Pi. Requiem for a Dream. One Day in September. Croupier. The Girl Next Door. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. Most of these movies I have seen at an (honest to god) Art Film multiplex that is just two blocks from my apartment.
- There are no real slums like you see in other cities. Even in the deepest parts of Compton and Watts, you can find numerous self-sustaining locally run businesses. People live in small houses with actual green grass in the yard! Compare that with, say, the Cabrini Green housing projects of Chicago, and you'll understand my wonder. I'd rather walk through Inglewood at night than south San Diego during the day.
- On a related note, LA is a good place to be poor. My experiences in chat rooms suggest that the Digital Divide in this city is nonexistant. In addition to the nice housing situation (of course, you'll need to actually get a house, which is indeed a problem), there is currently a big shortage of unskilled labor in the city, coupled with strong unions. This contributes greatly to the
- Much lower crime rate. Honest! Thanks to improving economic conditions and a bit of corrupt police work, and despite what you hear from Snoop Doggy Dogg, gang violence in Los Angeles has seriously petered out. A couple years ago, there was a news story on Party Crews here. These were groups of ex-gang members that decided to make their money by throwing big parties for their teenaged peers and charging admission, rather than through crime.
- An increased amount of racial tolerance. In the movie Bullworth, the title character suggests that "Everyone should just fuck everybody else, until we're all the same color". This strategy is currently being employed in Los Angeles, and it seems to be paying off. An ex-skinhead I went out with once put it to me another way: "I left the gang when I realized that I really liked my latino and black friends, and didn't want to give them up." This is probably due to the fact that there is currently no racial majority in the city. Whites, blacks, latinos and asians hold roughly porportional numbers of positions in both the government and the police force.
In my observations, even class differences are ignored. My best friends in Los Angeles were a budding Lawyer on the fast track, and a bitter linen store employee in Ventura that needed a car in order to get a job that could afford her a car.
- Drivers are actually curteous to each other. People wait out traffic jams without engaging in the type of self-serving behavior that makes traffic jams worse. Even the pedestrians wait for the walk light instead of just the green signal before they cross the street.
- Similarly, people themselves are polite towards each other. The stereotype of Los Angeles is that people are shallow and self-centered, but I don't think I've met anyone like this at all while I've been here.
- Even the smog is getting better. Two years ago, we had the first summer season without a smog alert since smog alerts were implemented.
- You get reruns of The Simpsons three times every week night: Once at 6:30, once at 7:30, and once at 11:30.
I'm sure I've forgotten a few other reasons. Maybe your experiences have been different. Please add them.