Born and raised in New York, you grow up instilled with the visceral certitude that Los Angeles is a heaping pile of burning shit at the asshole of America, a place where everything processed by America’s gastrointestinal tract (the Midwest) eventually ends up before it’s shat out to sea. Every native New Yorker instinctively feels this way. I don’t know why. Maybe because of that whole ‘90s East Coast / West Coast beef; maybe because LA stole the film-making industry from us in the early 20th century. It doesn’t really matter.
The point is: New Yorkers hate LA. Native New Yorkers also don’t travel much (some of my friends from Queens and Brooklyn feel traveling to Manhattan is excessive — even haughty — and as far as I know, no one has ever left The Bronx), so chances are New Yorkers spend their entire lives hating a place that they’ve never been to and have no desire to visit even if they happen to leave their borough.
But, despite the odds, I managed to somehow overcome both of these handicaps and recently took the eight-hour flight to Los Angeles, to coast down palm-tree-lined boulevards, take in the bright, hopeful lights of Hollywood, and soak in the perpetual comfort of spotless blue skies and that generous Western sun.
And let me tell you: It fucking sucked. Here’s why:
People are Dumb
A friend, who is an LA native, explained it this way: “You gotta stay active or this city will make you stupid.”
The combination of year-round summer weather, plentiful Cali bud and air of crushed dreams seems to retard the intellectual capacity of everyone in LA who isn’t actively busting their ass to do something that requires thought. And it isn’t just that the average interaction with someone there is slower — that’s typical of anywhere outside of New York, where people don’t treat each other like sentient ATMs — but that those interactions summon the smallest amount of brainpower possible. My hotel clerk, for example, was a bedraggled stoner who sat at the front desk for hours doing literally nothing, not even dicking around on his cell phone or anything. Talking to him was like playing one of those old DOS computer games where you ask a character a complex question and it responds with a pre-programmed, completely useless answer.
It’s Fucking Dirty
Everyone who comes to New York is taken aback by how grimy it is. Even if you live here, returning to the city from beyond forces you to re-realize that there’s trash all over the streets and everything smells like piss.
Still, that’s nothing compared to LA. Despite having a population density nearly four times less than that of New York, LA manages to be so much fucking grosser. A ton of the buildings are in utter neglect, there’s dog shit covering the sidewalks, the water off the coast is so polluted that no one sane goes swimming there and the city itself seems to be the equivalent of Florida for retiring homeless people. One night, I saw a drunk Asian girl walking around barefoot. Pretty sure she has gangrene now.
Everyone Bitches About Traffic
Remember “Carmagedon?” Remember how overblown it was and how it basically passed without incident? That level of sensationalism, freaking out and bitching is the M.O. for how people in LA regard traffic.
I spent three days driving around LA, from Downtown to Malibu, at all hours of the day, including rush hour, and the traffic was no big deal. The worst congestion ever got was like 15 MPH on the 1. Plus, the drivers there are almost friendly, letting you pass even when you’re fucking shit up and cutting across two lanes to turn. Compared to New York’s alleyways and the two-lane Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the broad avenues and highways that connect LA are luxurious. The reason why you hear so much about LA traffic is probably only because everyone there drives, so griping about it is a bonding experience, kind of like how boring people talk about the weather.
Everything is Shady
Business is never casual in LA. Anytime you hand over money for anything, it’s as if the cops are listening in, just waiting for you to finish the deal so they can bust your ass. I’m not even talking about buying drugs; I’m talking about fairly routine things like paying for your hotel. The place I stayed was cash only and you had to have exact change because they didn’t have a cash register. “But then where did they put the money?” you might be wondering, and the answer is simple: in a fucking safe with a slot cut into the top. The hotel employees took your payment, put it in an envelope and dropped it into a safe.
Now granted, I stayed at a pretty shady hotel for the first night I was in town, but that’s not the only place where shit like this happened. Anytime I paid for anything, the clerk would take my money, put it into his pocket and then give me change from a wad of bills he had in another pocket. What the fuck is up with that?
No One Crosses the Street
If you need a sign explaining how to cross the street, you’re doing it wrong.
First of all, no one in LA walks. Because of this, their ability to cross the street erodes, like the way unused muscles atrophy or lesbians’ vaginas close up. This means that when it comes to crossing the street, folks from LA are just lost. No one jaywalks or simply makes their way across the street when traffic is clear; they just stand on the fucking corner for forever until the “Don’t Walk” sign switches off, like they’re giant first graders who need a crossing guard.
It’s Mostly Useless
It’s not that there isn’t anything of practical value in LA, it’s just that you have to actively search for it amidst a mess of bullshit. For example: 90% of the Hollywood strip is just blocks and blocks of wig shops and tattoo parlors (i.e. useless to anyone who isn’t a tranny or into cock rock). Neighborhoods are so wide and mixed with residential and commercial property that useful things, like a bank or a bar, are stretched out over such long distances that you’d think they were in different zip codes. And whereas any vacant piece of land in New York is almost immediately converted into something, buildings in LA will remain shuttered for what looks like years. For Christ’s sake, I saw more closed down movie theaters than open ones! How anyone in LA got shit done before the advent of GPS and smart phones is beyond me.
In N’ Out is Whatever
Burrito from a random Mexican joint: better than In N’ Out.
Before I got to LA, I had been told to go to In N’ Out approximately 37,000 times. Even New Yorkers were telling me to make sure I checked it out. And I did; I totally nixed my vegetarianism for like half an hour and hit up the In N’ Out in Venice, and you know what? It was alright. Just alright. Not mind-blowing and definitely not worth putting up with 746 people telling me that I hadto go there. It was a good burger, but it wasn’t like God had slaughtered a Hindu deity to create an orgasm on two buns, not like they used edible heroin for ketchup.
P.S. Secret menus are gay. Stop playing James Bond at McDonald’s and grow the fuck up.
People are Fucking Weirrrd
Now, all major cities have their large weirdo demographics: New York has the Village and San Francisco has, well, San Francisco. But let me tell you: LA is on some other level shit. Even the homeless people there manage to surprise you. Sometimes they have manners enough to excuse themselves when the belch loudly while walking down the street without any shoes, and other times they’re screaming about being persecuted for their sexuality by invisible homophobes — but will still stop to compliment your cute red jacket.
I hung out with some cool people while I was out there, but even they were out of their minds. Example: I met up with an ex-Vice writer for a few drinks. We were smoking cigarettes out on the sidewalk in front of the bar, and he was telling me a story about how he once threatened to stab all of the magazine’s execs. As he’s talking, he casually produces a dagger from the sheath he’s wearing around his neck, dips the blade into a baggie of coke from his pocket, does a bump and puts everything away without so much as pausing his story. Shortly after, he tore off on a test drive of some dude’s motorcycle. I was sure he was going to die, but he came back like ten minutes later, remarking that it was a pretty good ride.
So I guess that’s what it takes to live in LA: Drugs and the complete erasure of that line between routine and manic.
An alternative version of this was published on Pretty Real.