Advice for Friends Visiting Me in LA, pt 1

The heat is no longer funny. Not one of these suns are wearing sunglasses.

Depending on whether or not it is raining where you came from and in unbearable triple-digit temperatures here in L.A., my mood and general attitude toward my home city will vary drastically. You see, before you fly in from Michigan, Chicago, Portland, Boise, San Francisco, Texas, New York, or Maine, I will actually visit and check the conditions where you are, then check the 5-day forecast here, so I can be prepared to either a) gloat or b) apologize profusely for our beach breezes/sudden hail/destructive Santa Ana windstorms/ball-sweating piss-stench heat/picturesque pleasantness. My most clear joy is derived from the Christmas-day phone call, where I say something casually like “Oh, just going for a stroll in the park, might need a jacket for the chilly night, though,” and then we have a short conversation about the piss-drizzle in Portland on Christmas. But if you come for a visit to Southern California, the weather is only one aspect of my mercurial love for this city. Here’s a rundown of the mood swings I’ll have while you’re here:

“Fucking cars” / “Let’s take a midnight drive on Mulholland!”

Our proximity to both the 101 and the 110 make our home extremely convenient to most drivers. We’re even close to the 5. But we don’t have a car. Firstly, because they’re fucking expensive, and also because I tend to save most arguments for the car when both parties are embroiled in that hours-long battle to find one goddamn parking spot into which  you both agree the car will fit. I swear I’ve gotten into battles royale with just the mere mention of how we would handle moving the non-existent car on street cleaning days. In addition, with that proximity to the 101 and 110 comes extreme Jurassic Park vibrations. If you set a glass of water on our coffee table, you will get the impression that T-Rex is 100 yards away. Of course, he actually is, because he’s probably lain to rest in a prop house just down the street. Conversely, I fucking love riding in a convertible down Sunset. This has happened only a few times, but each instance left me with Randy Newman’s luded-out garbly L.A. ballad actually being voiced from my own lips in this kind of love-drunk naivete, usually until we get stopped at a DUI checkpoint and waved off easily with a “you girls drive safe” (read: you’re white females, so we’re cool here), while a horde of latino men are undergoing strip searches on the sidewalk, and then you’re like, “Oh, right, L.A.’s kind of racist.” Which brings me to…

“We’re so easily integrated here in L.A.” / “That Chinese guy just spit on me”

When I lived in Portland and Boise, I was like Home Alone shocked every time I saw a black person, and I just wanted to hug them or talk to them or buy them a drink, which became its own kind of racist fetishism. But I was just so starved for anyone who didn’t look exactly like me that even the lady bitching at people on a park bench became a new friend to talk to, until someone pointed out that if she were white, I’d be like, “Yo, that lady is pretty bitchy.” Anyway, I didn’t like what those places did to me. I function better when racial and ethnic diversity is seamless, not something I notice on a constant basis. Los Angeles, however, has recently become so diverse that latinos comprise over 50% of our population, meaning that white people are technically the minority, only they’re not at all. On a local level, the majority of my neighbors are latino or Asian, except for the people who live in our building, all of whom form a kind of white-person island on our street. But at no point has this become a problem, because we all like the LA Doyers (Dodgers), and we can all agree that Mexicali has great tacos, but most of the good Chinese food moved to San Gabriel Valley. We’ll also probably run into each other at the $5 yoga classes, because we’re all very cheap. And what I’ve found is that even our white people are diverse. Here, it seems like people fully embrace their mutt heritage in an understanding that being white isn’t as “pure” as most of the country would like to believe. It asserts an understanding that we’d all be mutant potato babies if that were the case (read: Prince William is not very good looking at all). Honestly, it seems strange to even be addressing how easily we’re integrated here, because it’s just not a thing, but I feel like I have to, because…

A Chinese guy definitely spit on me. And when my boyfriend got off the train at Union Station, after flying back from Portland, a Mexican guy lunged at him, screaming, “You fucking GRINGO!” Also, the LAPD is scarily racist, this having been confirmed by a friend’s South African father/veteran of the LAPD, who most definitely is racist and readily admits to his colleagues’ racist tendencies. That sucks. There are people who hold onto their prejudices here, but it feels more like a last-ditch scramble effort to protect a cultural heritage that may not actually exist anymore, and I can understand that struggle. But we are still seriously better off than New York City, because the  divide is often less apparent when you have every generation’s creative class flocking to the city, which is far more affordable than NYC. This is still a place where you can start with nothing and make it big, but the entertainment industry breeds its own problems. Not the least of them being comedy’s lazy love affair with white people parodying hip-hop hits in viral videos, but also…

“There are so many people who understand the kind of work I do” / “What do you do for a living, can it help me out in any way, and let’s whisper so people don’t steal our ideas”

People in the entertainment industry are fucking insane. They often do not have a life outside of work, because their work is their life. It can make for forced conversation, and whenever my boyfriend and I meet new potential friends at parties, we go to great lengths to avoid making our first question: So what do you do for a living? When people ask me what I do, I immediately find them lazy, and I cross them off the list. It’s my own form of anti-shallow shallowness. At the same time, going to parties is fucking amazing for networking. But most of Los Angeles is under the impression that if someone has chosen a similar career path to yours, then you will be fast forever-friends. Nope. And you know, this would be all good if anyone were allowed to speak their mind and just say, “That guy over there is a fucking douche,” but we can’t, because that guy could also get you some work next month, and we’ll circle this back around to the equanimity of work and life, meaning that if you call that guy a douche, you could potentially no longer have a life.

Never was this more apparent than the time I was invited to a writers soiree for a magazine I did some work for once. They invited a bunch of folks they knew and wanted to work with in the future, and in this room of about 20 people who all did what I did, the only person I felt comfortable talking to was the Russian lady who talked to me about her very real tendency to pass out in public, something her family thought was for comedic effect for 20 years until a seizure convinced them it was actually happening. She was kray in my fav ways. Everyone else I talked to was only interested in what publications I wrote for, and I began answering with aggressive questions for their questions, like, “Is that what you think is important?” or “Would you like half of this burger?” Plus, it was fucking hot in that tiny room, and I was sweating balls, which makes me impatient when you’re talking about your favorite celebrity encounters in a public pissing match. But let me help you out here, writers: those celebrities don’t give a shit about you, and you’re living vicariously through a perceived notion that what you do actually matters, but I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say that if another profile of Selma Hayek eating lunch didn’t exist, the world would not care at all. So I shy away from talking about work, partly because I don’t want to get in a situation where I can’t hate someone, and partly because I can’t fucking hear what you’re saying when you whisper. If I say you’re my friend or I do you any favors, it’s because I fucking like you, not because I’m networking. Unless you have a pool. I might fake a friendship for a pool.

“L.A. has the fastest-growing public transit system in the United States” / “I think our bus driver hijacked us and left us in the industrial district”

It’s very true: L.A. has a growing subway and light rail system that will soon connect all areas of the sprawling city, making it easier for families in Boyle Heights to get some beach time in Venice without spending $100 on the gas to get there. And it’s already opening up more job opportunities for low-income peoples in less central areas of the city, because they can more easily ride the metro to an available job in the Valley, for instance. Plus, we have a growing city-sponsored carpooling program, and bicycle ridership has jumped up almost 20% with the aid of the Mayor’s embarrassing bicycle accident and subsequent installation of many miles of bike lanes and legislature to protect bicyclists. That said, I will probably not see you ever if you move more than ten miles from my home in Angeleno Heights. I once took the 60 bus to a show, only to find that the bus driver was fucking pissed at a dude already on the bus for no reason, and to punish him, she sped through the crowded streets of downtown and refused to let anyone on or off the bus for several miles. She’d still stop at the bus stop, of course, but only to taunt the people who were banging on the windows to get on or off. I remember looking outside at the people waiting on 7th St., both our eyes were pleading, “Help me.” Eventually, we were let off in the downtown industrial district. Perhaps you’ve seen Nightmare on Elm Street 2. It was like the bus scene from that movie with a little less homoerotic denial. Good news, though, is that most buses are equipped with Metro TV, which features Kindergarten-level trivia questions to pass the time and remind you that you real smart, especially when the guy next to you says, “Shit, I shoulda gone with A, I should trust my gut more!” and you’re like, “Wait, did you seriously think the main ingredient in guacemole was nuts?”

“So many farmers markets and community gardens popping up” / “My grocery store is the CVS”

There are CSAs, urban farms, city chickens, new miles-long parks sprouting on top of freeways, and even a few health food stores that aren’t Whole Foods. Some of my favorite vegan restaurants in the world are here, mostly because of the large Thai and Indian populations who already have naturally catered to those needs. But, Jesus, my local grocery store is the fucking CVS. I even clip coupons for that place. I could ride my bike 5 miles up to the nearest Trader Joe’s or take the metro into Hollywood for the next closest TJ’s, but my back is fucked, and their parking lots are fucking terrifying. Then there’s always A-Grocery Warehouse, which I walk to often for my produce, attempting to ignore that every piece of lettuce they sell is caked in the stench of rotting fish, and the cashiers actively wish you would die. Most of the nation’s produce comes from within a 60-mile radius of where I live, yet there is absolutely no way to get it in my specific neighborhood. The only places with real grocery stores are wealthy Mercedez hoods, which is bullshit, because those people have cars already and could easily drive across town to pick up their bulgar wheat. The other day, I caught myself getting excited about the city’s first Wal-mart going in just down the block. Maybe it all has to do with how our city views nutrition, though. A latino friend of mine remarked the other day about how she was saddened to hear that her co-worker thought having three pulled pork tacos with creme for lunch was “dieting” in the latino world. Maybe L.A. isn’t so different from the Midwest…


7 responses to “Advice for Friends Visiting Me in LA, pt 1

  1. I know it’s a way ridiculous comparison, but I could never be friends with anyone who lives in Meridian, because I’m not fucking going to fucking Meridian. Not today, tomorrow, or ever.

  2. I love your reviews. I just love reading from you. Though my first read by you was about the privileged poor, since then I can’t stop loving you. Thumbs up.

  3. I just heard your story on snapjudgment, and then found this blog. Your writing is wonderful, and I greatly enjoy the lens through which you see the world. Thanks for writing.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Carrot Quinn! Just started following your blog. This from “Black Friday”: “I’ve got Icelandic chocolate and two warm Chihuahuas, and we’ve got a space heater that might, at any moment, burst into flames.” Just lovely.

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