Lately it seems the question of the hour (especially given my recent cross-country jaunts) hovers indelicately around my feelings about the New York Exodus 2009, more specifically: Laurel, when are you going to move to New York?
After all, no less than 6 of my friends have moved out there since this time last year, a gestalt-y indication that the times are, indeed, a-changin'. So I'm trying to, ahem, prance somewhat delicately around the subject in a way that exalts the merits of Los Angeles County living while not simultaneously offending the East Coast portion of my friendbase. After all, NYC was glorious. It was as romantic and wounded as any song ever written about it. In short - it was exactly as it appears to be: a booming, glittery metropolis chockablock full of options, options, options. So no disrespect, NYC. I get it. And I miss my California ex-pats dearly.
But I feel as though people have forgotten about LA, and in this case, I can only dutifully remind them: I love this city. I understand this city (no small feat, and I realize I'm amongst the few and proud since many come and go before fully harvesting the fruits of their labor). For all its qualms and earth-quaking unpredictability, I've found a considerable amount of comfort in this city. (Yes, seriously.) For one, there's the weather. Practically perfect in every way, even despite the vicious jags of heat from August - September. Balmy and warm nearly every day, the seasons unfurl with a quirky, only-in-LA sensibility: Sun & mudslides in the spring. Sun & earthquakes in the summer. Santa Ana winds & fires in the fall. Rain (but mostly sun) in the wintertime. And then there's the light, a concept LAist's Carrie Meathrell discussed at length:
"Los Angeles has its microclimates of cool and warm air pockets that gardeners are attuned to when planting in spring. Unlike any other American city, it is also splintered into numerous subdivisions of light—apertures of sky that blaze, glow, glimmer, and dim, depending on season and landscape: the sad, failing light in October, the muzzy pall above the Valley that hangs like wet linen in November, the gin-clear fluorescence of April, the kaleidoscopic photochemical sunsets of July. Then comes tropical August, when under mackerel skies, light drops like periwinkle confetti across the city's expanse."
The underlying point here is that to live in LA is to develop a more acute sense of observation about the city itself. Anyone lives here - really lives here - must, if they want to experience the veritable bounty that LA has to offer, become somewhat of an anthropologist. The characteristics bolstering the neighborhoods and outlying cities that cushion LA's core certainly aren't a quick read, in fact, most people I've talked to have confessed to a number of years living here before truly loving it, if they ever learned to love it at all. But in the spirit of full disclosure, and as someone who has explored Los Angeles county like it's her job, here are the reasons, in no particular order, why I'm resolutely bound to the West Coast for the time being:
1. The foliage. Yes, the foliage. Dense thickets of eucalyptus, the nostalgic fragrance of night-blooming jasmine, patrician tangles of wisteria - I could wax rhapsodic about the romance inherent in LA's indigenous flora and fauna for days. Like the bohemian clouds of bougainvillea. Oh, the bougainvillea! Exultant poufs flanking the shoulders of countless chainlink fences who soldier on down the boulevards! Or a twilight sky marked by a cadre of open-faced palms, worshipful and adoring though they are, lonely icons unmarked by the mores of mortal trappings!
2. The dive bars. I love the way all dive bars smell damp and earthy like old dollar bills. I love that there are so many places in LA county to get a cheap drink. I love that there are tiki bars the size of closets and music venues so small the only components crammed into them are a postage stamp-size stage and two bars. I love these dark denizens of mirthful living; unpretentious and welcoming, bastions of a time when the concept dressing up and waiting in line to drink a beer was beyond absurd.
3. The drive. I loathe traffic as much as the next guy, but if I'm being honest, most of my fondest memories involve not point A or point B, but driving between the two. Windows down, music up, singing as loud as I please. Hair. Wind. Scenery melting onto my windshield. Flickering constellations zooming across a starless sky. Conversations shared with the bright altar of the dashboard. It's not that public transportation isn't convenient, but so much is lost when your eyes glaze over and all your vacant stare absorbs for an hour is the advertisement posted on the wall of the subway.
4. The space. I'm not craving the yawning chasm of the prairie or Alaska's hyperbolic tundra, but I do like my space, and I like to know that there are places I can go within a few minutes' driving time that provide solace in spades. I crave empty restaurants and roving expanses of grass and the kind of streets where I don't have to ride my bike as aggressively as I drive my car just to stay alive. And though some might complain that everything in Los Angeles is too spaced out, I might argue that there are significant stretches within that space wherein one can get lost, then found, then lost again. And I love the possibilities therein.
5. The people. What can I say? I am lucky to have a community that feels more like a family, and I wouldn't trade that in for all the Jade Island tiki drinks in the world.
6. The possibilities. Speaking of, one of the things I love the most about LA are the possibilities. To be intentionally trite: they are endless. There is always something more to discover, a restaurant tucked into a quiet neighborhood or an abandoned zoo or sunken city or a stunning view or a quaint lighthouse or a garden co-op or a sinuous road or a bridge to be crossed. It just takes a little time and a lot of searching, but what I love most about LA is that even though I've lived here for eight years, I've only just scratched the surface of discovery.
Which is why I'm not moving anywhere else anytime soon.
"C'mon strong winds, move on. You belong in the city, I'm wrong for the city. Switch on a sad song when I'm gone." - Islands, "Switched On"