an open letter / by laurel

Dear Los Angeles,

I know, I know. So much has already been written about you, where would I even start?

Well, I'll start with the obvious. People don't really like you, it seems, L.A. Even people who live here and suck you dry of all your veritable offerings, they bitch and moan and complain about how much they haaaate the atmosphere and the traffic and the trash and the fake people. 

I know, right? 

So it seems one of people's favorite pastimes is to move to Southern California, and then whine about it. "I hate L.A.," they'll proclaim with a sneer, and launch unceremoniously into a bitter diatribe about how there are too many cars, too many buildings, too many people, not enough air and nature, and certainly not enough self-righteous indignation to go around. They'll lambast the weather because it doesn't snow and rarely rains. They'll bemoan the garbage and the smell and the endless sprawl. They'll turn their noses up at anything resembling "culture," and complain about how everything that isn't "cultural" is fake. The thing is, most of these people don't actually live in Los Angeles proper, do they? Nope, they live in the suburbs. They rock the suburbs, just like Quiet Riot did.

At any rate, I imagine these people who hate you, L.A., would fancy that wherever they came from was wholly unlike you. Searching for clues in their angry verbal missives, I'd reckon that they grew up in trees and ate nothing but honey and berries for breakfast and started having sex when they were very young. You know, typical bohemian wood nymph stuff. 

Well, I know better. I know you aren't as evil and heartless as they make you out to be, Los Angeles. Sure, you have your stretch marked freeways and your scarred walls and your bloated suburbs, but don't we all? If I had to sit down and make an itemized list of all my physical flaws, starting with the top of my (prematurely graying) head and ending with my (oddly shaped) toes, I'd not only want to use the list to make paper cuts along my jugular vein, but it would take minutes, hours--days, even--to list all the ways in which far shallower people should be repulsed and even disgusted by innocuous little me. Thankfully, we're not all that shallow, are we, Los Angeles? Not even you, despite your reputation suggesting otherwise. Therefore, I take your flaws--your traffic, your trash, your damaged atmosphere--and I embrace them as I embrace you, because there's no greater love that can be shown to a city than to live there, to travel its highways and byways, to see the good and the bad, and to unabashedly proclaim in spite of it all, Los Angeles, I'm yours.

The Fashion District, home to the inimitable Michael Levine's

The photobooth at my favorite LA dive bar: Bar 107

Santa Monica, late afternoon

You might be hot during the summer, but let's be frank: Your weather is unparalleled in its uniform and breezy excellence. I rarely need a jacket. I don't have to wonder whether my outdoor soirée will be rained out. I have never had to shovel my driveway. In short, I'm lazy as hell, and Los Angeles, you cater to my hedonistic ways. I want sun and I want blue sky and a high of 75, and you lovingly provide it with nary a judgmental or disapproving glare to the contrary.

There might be traffic, and those labyrinthine freeways are intimidating to be sure, but it just takes a little extra work to traverse those gnarled arteries, and once you've gotten the freeway system down, you can avoid a good amount of the traffic you once loathed. And what's a snarl of traffic? Sometimes if you want your cake, you have to wait in a little bit of a line first (and nowhere is this better exemplified than at your many cupcakeries. Los Angeles, thanks for the cupcakes.)

At Pie n' Burger in Pasadena, home of the best pies n' burgers this side of the 91

With the bad comes the good. I can immerse myself completely in the world of music with the confidence that whatever band I'm into will play at a venue within driving distance to my house, for less than $30, at that. And you know what? Sometimes, they'll even play for free as I experienced at the Getty on Friday when I saw Dan Deacon whip the hipster crowd into a joyous frenzy under the pinkish red sunset.

If I'm into art (which I am), I can pick a gallery (any gallery) and see some of the best art the world has to offer. Up and coming artists, old favorites, relative unknowns--anything, everything, all at once. I can hear orchestras or see Broadway shows. There is no movie, no matter how obscure, that doesn't play somewhere here. It's all at my fingertips, a cultural well just waiting to be tapped.

A view from gallery row in Chinatown, also home to the best Dim Sum in town

Wine, picnicking, and music under the stars. And $5 tickets. Did I mention those?

And despite the smog, there are clear days, as you well know, Los Angeles. And on those clear days, when I crest the onramp between the 710 northbound and the 60 westbound and I see your thriving core, the Hollywood hills beyond, the fabled white sign, and the sky stretching on for infinity, I'm filled with hope for you, Los Angeles, and the possibilities of what you hold. 

So naysayers be damned. I will take the junky air and the rising homeless population and the decaying buildings and the endless sprawl in stride because at the end of the day, L.A., I'd rather be here than anywhere else.

Hopelessly devoted,