About two months ago I moved to San Francisco.
Wait, let me back up. Let’s get one thing straight first of all: I’m a California native. I didn’t move here from some pocket of Middle America looking to dip my toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time and try my hand at growing my white person hair into dreadlocks. I am FROM this bitch. And I have some straight-up California pride (can you tell?). I’ve spent about two-thirds of my life in the Golden State (including those formative first thirteen years).
Sometimes I forget that I’m from California when I tell people that I just moved here from Washington (where I lived for the past two years). I often like to qualify my California status by mentioning that I used to live here for a LOT longer than the two years I was just away. But then I realize that when I tell Bay Area people about my previous So Cal life, that doesn’t always legitimize my status as a “true” Californian. I think there are plenty of people up here who would happily break the two halves of this state apart and never think about anything south of Fresno again.
And it would be really dishonest of me to say that I’ve come in contact with tons of people here who hate LA, because that really hasn’t been the case. But I have met a few. This is nothing new for me—Washington State is full of LA haters (many of whom hail from California themselves). And some of the worst offenders of LA-related hate actually live within the limits of the very city they love to despise.
I think if I were to make a pie-chart of all the things I’ve said over the past ten years (that would be one freaking huge pie chart), a rather large piece of that pie would be dedicated to Explaining to LA and Non-LA Residents Why LA is Actually Kind of Cool or At Least Not as Bad as You Think. It’s like this conversation that never dies, and frankly, I’m a little sick of it. I feel like I could run seminars called Learning to Love La-La Land (a nickname that also sucks). I recently learned that California is the most hated US state, and Los Angeles is probably among the most hated of all the cities therein. But honestly, I just don’t understand why people waste their time hating a perfectly good state like California, or any state for that matter. Who are these people who boil with hatred for a particular state? Never in my life have I been like, “Oh that Arkansas….Fuck that place!”
I just read this article and the entire time all I could think to myself was about how those words could have come out of my mouth just as easily as the writer’s. [Side note: if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, just skip to the last two paragraphs which are amazing, true, and embody the spirit of LA.] Articles like this surface all the time, and I’m pretty sure that nobody reads them except for the small sliver of the population that actually, like me, has found a way to love LA. We read them and say to ourselves, “Yup, everyone else should totally read this and get on board!” And then no one does. They continue along on their same path of hating LA and everything that it stands for.
But what does it stand for? I think the problem people have with LA is that it doesn’t really stand for anything as a whole, except for the entertainment industry. (And by the way, unless you completely shun all forms of digital entertainment, maybe you should stop biting the hand that entertains you.) As the above article states, each individual neighborhood within the city limits has its own unique vibe, and that’s what makes LA cool. At first, I wasn’t crazy about LA either, but I grew to love it arguably more than any other city in the US. I often tell people that my LA life was very unlike what you see in the media. I never flashed my crotch to a paparazzo while getting out of a limo at Le Deux. For that matter, I don’t think I ever set foot inside “da club.” I think I had less than five struggling actor friends, and I probably went to two industry parties in eight years. I was fortunate that I always lived relatively close to my workplace—biking distance—and I rarely drove freeways. For a lot of the time I was there, I biked 3 miles to work every morning where I was a non-profiteer/dog walker by day and a pub quizzer, karaoke singer, fledgling foodie, and regular dive bar attendee by night. I did what I enjoyed and avoided the things that I didn’t. The best thing about a large city is that there’s plenty to pick and choose from. You don’t have to be a part of anything that you think sucks. And I’m gonna let you in on a little secret—there are a lot of people in LA that are living seemingly “non-LA” lives. And I, like they, could have led a very similar life in a multitude of other US cities that rarely get as bad a rap as LA.
Now don’t get me wrong: in the immortal words of Snoop Dogg, “I won’t play, I love the Bay just like I love LA.” I’ll be the first to say that moving to SF and emancipating myself from my car for the first time in nearly ten years feels amazing. Walking through the streets of a city that bustles with diverse, interesting people at every turn is exciting and fun. On the other hand, this place is windy as fuck about 80% of the time and you often have to leave the house with seventeen clothing options stuffed in your messenger bag to prepare for the multitude of micro-climates you’ll encounter in one 12-hour period. But that’s because different cities have different things that make them cool. There are pros and cons to living everywhere. My advice to anyone who wants to love LA (or any city for that matter): If you stop comparing it to other cities, you’ll enable yourself to just take in what you like about it, do those things, and avoid whatever that you think sucks about it.
Unless, of course, you enjoy being the kind of person who just hates on a place needlessly, constantly promoting a negative attitude towards a perfectly good metropolitan area to everyone within a 30-foot radius of you—in which case, by all means, continue being a hater, and let me know how that works out for you.