There is a certain pervasive image of Los Angeles (and by extension, California) as some sort of glittering plastic fairyland where everyone is beautiful and sips martinis all day by the pool with nubile young starlets and no one has any real emotional depth or problems beyond hair care and their beauty regime. Yes, this Los Angeles exists. I live in the a city where my classes at Occidental College were regularly disturbed by television tapings (90210 used my school for exterior shots) and film crews. Snakeboy can regularly see Sarah Michelle Gellar make doe-eyes and Freddy Prinze Jr. in the food court of his mall. We know people who manage to insert a famous name into any line of conversation, and people who actually are famous. We've danced with beautiful buxom Swedish girls wearing cowboy hats at chic clubs. But it's important to remember that that Los Angeles isn't all of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles isn't all of California.

This is the same city where I was jumped by skinheads when I was seventeen. This is the city that burned for a few horrible days in 1992. This is the city where the ongoing corrupt police scandals take a back seat to celebrity breakups. This is the city that condemned its original Chinatown to make way for its train station. This is the city of Raymond Chandler detective stories and Easy Rawlins mysteries. It's the city where Cesar Chavez became an activist; the city where landmark buildings disappear; the city founded by Catholic missionaries;the city where Scientology has it headquarters. It's a great, ugly, wonderful, sprawling nightmare of a city. And it has a soul, and its people have souls. But it's not California.

Los Angeles is not the lumberjacks of the far north, or the country music listening truckers who bring goods from the central valley. It's not the silicone valley nouveaux riches or the aging birkenstock-wearing hippies near Berkeley. L.A. isn't even really Disneyland. California is all of these things and more. So let the rest of the world snicker at us and call us shallow and soulless. The people who live here know better.