Living in Los Angeles means not being from Los Angeles. Even if you think you grew up in Los Angeles, in actuality you grew up in the Valley. The Valley, with its endless, interchangeable and bizarrely beautiful array of strip malls, car washes, and Paul Thomas Anderson film shooting locations. The Valley, so close geographically and yet so far away in time, its cul-de-sacs and Elks Lodges harkening back to another era. The Valley, with its abandoned storefronts and whitewashed Mexican food restaurants and pie-eyed transplants who thought, when they leased their apartments sight unseen before arriving, that they were moving to Los Angeles.
Living in Los Angeles means crawling through ceaseless, inescapable traffic — the kind that’s inspired millions of rushed apologies and commiserating conversations. Passing the time by singing along to Top 40 or rapping along to old-school hip-hop or talking via Bluetooth about work during nonwork hours. Laughing at the sight of an exasperated Jay Leno as he impotently stands alongside his broken down 1930 Duesenberg SJ during rush hour on the I-5.
Living in Los Angeles means crawling to Malibu on the PCH but feeling the opposite of stressed about it. The slower you go, the easier it is to stare at the waves. Smell the air. Forget how long it will take you to get home.
Living in Los Angeles means eating your $14 salad alfresco as you watch cars slowly inch down Melrose. It means needing a headshot in order to secure a job serving people $14 salads. Being a have, or a have-not; being on the outside looking in, or on the inside looking down. Knowing that power dynamics, however, aren’t the only objects at play. Money does not directly equate to happiness. Poverty does not directly equate to misery. Home is a crumbling stucco apartment building or a McMansion renovated to look like the interior of a Cheesecake Factory. Both have their faults. Both have their charms.
Living in Los Angeles means getting coffee for someone or telling someone to get coffee for you. It’s waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting to rise up the ladder. Waiting to be the next mailroom success story. Waiting for the next audition. Waiting to become SAG eligible. Wondering if it’s all for naught. Making a go of it anyhow. Having your mother ask for the millionth time if you’re still making a go of it out “there.” Responding in the affirmative. Knowing it will, no matter what the outcome, be worth the effort.
Living in Los Angeles means watching the successes of your friends play out on social media — their relationships, their job opportunities, the photos they post of themselves living it up in hillside mansions, attending parties you weren’t invited to and are unspeakably upset you won’t be attending. It means posting your own successes and making someone else unspeakably upset. Or, more likely, happy for you.
Living in Los Angeles is being told never to reveal your age, and doing everything within your power to stop the hands of the clock. Going out for Disney Channel roles when you’re pushing 30. Being told you are a type, and either accepting or changing it. Los Angeles is a place of transformation, both good and bad.
Living in Los Angeles means knowing the best bookstore in town is nuzzled within the confines of the Sunset Strip, next to ancient rock clubs that still, in spite of it all, continue to book leather-clad bands like the ’80s never ended. Drinking with Lemmy at the Rainbow Bar and Grill and telling your friends all about it.
Living in Los Angeles means defending your city — its literacy, its culture — against a tidal wave of East Coasters who assume vapidity, while knowing the best bookstore in town is nuzzled within the confines of the Sunset Strip, next to ancient rock clubs that still, in spite of it all, continue to book leather-clad bands like the ’80s never ended. Drinking with Lemmy at the Rainbow Bar and Grill and telling your friends all about it.
Living in Los Angeles means learning that Armenian people exist, and either choosing to view them as human beings deserving of respect or making them the butt of cologne-and- body-hair-based jokes in spite of the fact that you would never consider yourself racist. It means that, if you tell people, “Actually, Kim Kardashian has done a lot to bring light to the Armenian Genocide,” the response will invariably be riotous laughter. Nevertheless knowing she has done a lot to bring light to the Armenian Genocide.
Living in Los Angeles means talking about how hard it is to date in Los Angeles. The only thing harder than dating in Los Angeles, it seems, is shutting the fuck up about how hard it is to date in Los Angeles. Happiness is tantalizingly close, a screen away from a swipe on an iPhone. The awkward first and last dates with film majors who matriculated at Emerson, made easier through the consumption of overpriced craft cocktails prepared by men in bow ties and suspenders. Knowing the more you try, the higher your likelihood of success. Being emboldened by friends who found love in a hopeless place (aka OkCupid) and now share a maddeningly adorable Los Feliz apartment.
Living in Los Angeles means begrudgingly accepting that the Teacup Yorkies carried in handbags by entitled rich women are not oversized rats but rather "emotional support animals." It means knowing they, despite being canines, probably have better health insurance than you. It’s trying not to let this realization ruin your day.
Living in Los Angeles means living in a town that used to not respect its (brief but storied) history. It means the Brown Derby, which has been painted pink and rests atop a strip mall in Koreatown, now sits across the street from the demolished Ambassador Hotel, home of the Cocoanut Grove and the scene of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. It means knowing that Huell Howser and Ralph Story, two people who cared about the city’s landmarks, are dead. It means loving the people who carried on where they left off, renovating old movie houses to halt their demolition and reminding us of the important grandeur of old Hollywood.
Living in Los Angeles means drunkenly hitting up taco trucks at 2 a.m., and soberly hitting up their more graphically designed companions, "food trucks," on your lunch break at the office. It means thinking Mexican-Korean fusion is not only a good idea, but an idea worthy of paying $10 per entrée. It means eating standing up, letting the juices of your kimchi taco run down your palm and soak the paper plate before taking an enormous swig of Mexican Coke.
Living in Los Angeles means knowing some Spanish, or knowing only Spanish. It means being cognizant of the fact that you live in a bilingual city, one where billboards may or may not be printed in your mother tongue. It makes going elsewhere and seeing everything printed in English disorienting. It makes you wonder why the rest of the country hasn’t caught up with us.
Living in Los Angeles means staring at the fog that rolls in thrice yearly, making the city look like a Raymond Chandler novel, and wishing it could always be there. In fog, even the Yoshinoya on Santa Monica looks majestic, taking on an almost cinematic quality. Fog brings mystery and glamour. Fog makes you feel like the faux fur coat you bought at H&M is real.
Living in Los Angeles means waking up bathed in the light your mini blinds can’t restrain, knowing a return to slumber is impossible. Forcing you to get out of bed and do something with your day. Making you feel like sadness and complacency are impossibilities.
Living in Los Angeles means drinking outrageously strong martinis at Musso & Frank Grill, where the far-too-talented-to-be-a-screenwriter novelists drank away the pain of having to work on yet another wrestling picture. It means fixing your lipstick in the same restroom Dorothy Parker threw up in and, if you drink enough martinis, throwing up in it yourself.
Living in Los Angles means hiking Runyon Canyon if you crave attention, and hiking Elysian Park if you don’t. It means taking an Instagram photo of the sun as it sets below the hill you triumphantly climbed in your Lululemon running tights. It means taking an Instagram photo of the lilies in the newly renovated Echo Park Lake, former home of bootleg DVD salespeople and current home of women pushing jogging strollers.
Living in Los Angeles means going home for the holidays. The years you don’t go home, it means eating Chinese food and marveling at the majesty that is an uncongested highway. It means wishing every day was a holiday or, at the very least, that the city had a decent public transportation system, which would certainly clear up the congestion. Being comforted by the thought that, one day soon, this hope will become a reality.