Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You Close at What Time?

Los Angeles is a city of many things…traffic, actors, smog, plastic surgeons…you get the idea. When I came here three years ago I never thought I would be here for this long. I saw my move to the city of angels as temporary: a mere stop over in my journey of life. My journey of course being one of great magnitude which I hadn’t yet discovered, one which would undoubtedly take me to bigger and better things. Better things like cities with public transportation. Cities with bars that stayed open past midnight. Cities in which one could walk to a Pinkberry rather than get in the car, drive a mile, try to find street parking for twenty minutes, get frustrated, throw the emergency lights on, run in and order as quickly as humanly possible and then come out practically spilling the Pinkberry on the concrete while watching a meter man give you a parking ticket for $59 because you are in the city of Beverly Hills. My $4 yogurt suddenly turned into the cost for a tank of gas (and don’t even get me started on gas prices).

My point is that LA is severely lacking as a metropolitan existence. The other night (granted it was a Monday) I went out with a friend of mine to the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. It's like gliteratti meets paparrazzi. We spent well over $100 on a bottle of wine and some small appetizers (and by small I mean bite sized, this hotel caters primarily to actors / models / people who don’t actually eat) and yet by 11:30 pm were being shooed out the door. At a trendy "should be open later" hotel bar! With an entire bottle of wine in us and slightly intoxicated we decided that the evening could not possibly be over and went on the search for a new bar with which to have our fun night out. I kid you not, we visited seven locations…all which are thought of as considerably trendy, cool, West Hollywood hot spots and all were dead, closed or filled with staff members only. In fact, one bartender even wanted us to stay so badly that he said the new special was “buy one drink, get one free.” This was absurd, after completely sobering up and feeling rather disappointed at our lackluster city we called it a night. I trudged home feeling unsatisfied, humiliated and angry…it was like a bad date; only my date was with Los Angeles and I couldn't just "fade away" or answer texts with "I dunno, I'm pretty busy with work this week." I signed a lease.

This got me to thinking…what is wrong with this city (other than the several reasons I already mentioned)? Bars and clubs, by law in California, have to close at 2 am. So I get it, we will never be on par with New York City and the constant flow of energy that is Manhattan. Except bars here don’t close at 2 am, they start kicking you out at 12:45 pm or 1:00 am. This to me is so typically LA. Rather than stay open until the allotted time bars simply close when they want to. People here work basically as much as they feel like it. This absurd lack of nightlife and parallel to the absurdity of this city made me wonder what everyone in LA was actually doing?

I work at night, in a bar (that closes at 11 pm mind you on weeknights…clearly adding to the problem) and therefore I have my days to do other things, like write, or run errands, or sleep. When I do manage to wake up before 11 am and go outside during the day I notice an incredible thing…people are everywhere. I know that sounds like a ridiculous statement, but hear me out. My point (and reason for amazement) is that they are not in office buildings, but they are outside at 11 am on a Tuesday…people are running in Runyon Canyon, people are at the grocery store, people are walking around Rodeo Drive, people are littered on trendy Robertson Blvd. People are at the beach, the Gym, in their cars, and at the movies. They are literally everywhere. Does anyone in this town work? Does anyone (besides agents) actually sit at a desk and do work here? This city continues to astound me. It’s full of contradictions. No one works yet no one goes out? Can it be that everyone really spends all their time at Urth café and then goes home to watch another season of Dancing with the Stars while having food delivered in? How can so many people with irregular jobs – like artists, musicians, actors, producers, writers, costume designers, entrepreneurs, and bartenders live in a city where human interaction stops at midnight. Clearly the amount of daytime traffic, the allure of the beach and active lifestyle of LA suggests a type in inhabitant that would be one in search of culture, excitement and nightlife. So how can so many of these people live in this city and yet the city itself seems devoid of art, absent of beauty and chock full of strip malls?

Why is it that the inhabitants are so diverse, but the setting is so lackluster? In the 1920’s great American writers (like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and James…just to name a few), artists and poets fled to Paris to be inspired by the city itself. They were in search of glamour, culture, couture and beauty. A beauty that can only come from truly living in an environment that is breathtaking…a tangible sensation that comes from breathing the charismatic air, listening to the bustling streets, and seeking truth in the architecture and ambiance of the time. They knew then, what apparently we don’t know now: That to be inspired as an artist you must live in a city which is inspiring.

Los Angeles is none of these things. Sure you can watch the sunset in Venice and it’s a beautiful sight, but that is the power of nature and in no way attributed to what LA is. Los Angeles is a hodge-podge of neighborhoods, a mélange of trendy shops on residential streets, an hour of traffic just to get to Santa Monica, four story parking garages and outdoor malls. None of these things are worthy of the people that live here or what they are trying to create. So why do we all stay?

Which brings me to my real question…Why am I still here? After three years of wishing I was in New York, dreaming of moving to Paris, and starting every sentence with “I just moved here…” I finally have to admit that I do in fact live in Los Angeles. I am officially becoming “from Los Angeles”. What is the motivating factor?

For me it’s the dream of LA. This city offers something that few others can…the life of an artist. Whatever art that may be: writing, acting, filmmaking and so on. People put up with the strip malls, overcrowding, and lack of dishwashers in apartment buildings for one reason…to come here and not work in an office building. It’s for the opportunity to not answer one hundred phones a day and send one thousand emails (sorry agency assistants). It’s the opportunity to do all your business by your blackberry while sitting in traffic but on your way to go surfing. It’s the opportunity to sit at a coffee shop all day writing and get paid for it. It’s the opportunity to say things like, “I have a meeting at Fox Searchlight at 2pm” or “I have to catch a plane to China tomorrow because we are filming in Shanghai.”

Really LA is one of the worst cities to live in becasue it's not really a city, but a large over-populated suburban landscape. However, every time it drops below 60 degrees here I think to myself, “Man it’s really cold. Thank God I don’t live in New York.”

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