Until a few months ago, I had lived in New York City my entire life, nearly 32 years, until a new job pulled me out of my corroded, cement cosmopolitan bubble and propelled me to the West Coast, where the people seem happier, relatively speaking, and you’re always at least three hours behind the rest of civilization, no matter what you do. Am I spoiled as a result of spending my formative years and the solid decade of small messes and mayhem that followed (ah, youth) in Manhattan and Brooklyn? Of course. Jaded? That, too. Is this list totally subjective? Pretty much. But it’s also 100 percent true.
1. Think in terms of miles, not blocks.
This is a tough one to get used to. Walking .07 miles to the nearest pharmacy feels a lot longer than walking a few blocks. That’s because it is. Everything is spread out in Los Angeles, more of a semi-urban sprawl of mini-towns than a metropolis. To quote Dorothy Parker, “Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city.” Discounting areas of Brooklyn and Queens, New York City, on the contrary, is a high-rising, jam-packed grid where everything is pretty close to each other. Some people hate that. “Too many people in New York!” they bemoan. “Ugh, too crowded!” Some say overcrowded; I say convenient. L.A. is overcrowded, too. Just look at the freeway.
2. You will never see your friends again.
I used to have friends. They would jump on the L train from the East Village to visit me in Williamsburg or hop in a cab from Greenpoint or just walk on over from wherever. Not here, where unless you live a few doors down from the person you’d like to see, nothing is a jump, hop or walk away. With every neighborhood in L.A. its own enclave, unofficial divides are formed and cliques are established. Traveling from Hollywood—or worse yet, Silver Lake—to Venice is like going to the Hamptons from Manhattan: It’s a bitch that’s only doable on certain weekday afternoons or in the middle of the night. Living here requires making plans, which has never been my strong suit. That’s why I’m not changing my habits. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. So I’m changing neighborhoods and moving to West Hollywood. (I know.)
3. Chipotle is acceptable.
I did not know this. Maybe I’m wrong, but in New York, most sane people tend to avoid Chipotle, ever since that E. coli outbreak in 2015, the one that spread across nine states. And that norovirus outbreak in Boston. And that shutdown by food-safety regulators at a Seattle location. In January 2016, Bloomberg news reported drastic sales declines for the chain. Then I learned people, normal reputable people, actually frequent Chipotle here. The Beverly Hills location sees a packed house midday, Monday through Friday. I don’t judge. I just didn’t know it was a “thing.” It smells good; there’s no denying that. But at the risk of sounding like a snobby douche, I just can’t be someone who eats Chipotle.
4. People who work in high-end clothing boutiques are friendlier and will also maybe give you drugs.
It’s true! Gregarious girls who work in designer clothing stores will give you their unwanted Adderall pills and other nuggets from their prescription pill stashes if you are friendly back and buy a few investment pieces. So I’ve heard. Half of them are walking pharmacies. I’ve never seen anything like it. Unfortunately, I can’t name names.
5. Abandoned shopping carts abound.
Most of them are from Costco, since those abound, as well. Or Ralph’s. (Even more of those around.) Sometimes they look sad, like when they’ve been orphaned near someone’s lawn in broad daylight. One I saw this morning in the “incorporated community” of Beverlywood looked particularly dejected. Sometimes I wonder how they got so far from their mothership, if any of that rolling was on their own volition. Sometimes, when I’m drunk, I have the irresistible urge to climb into one and make whomever I’m with push me around for a few moments.
6. Everyone is even fuller of shit, apparently.
A big part of life that comes with being in Los Angeles is listening to people talk about how full of shit everyone is in Los Angeles. Which makes me wonder if those people, too, are full of shit. I’ve been told the “bullshit quotient here is so refined, it feels like honest conversation.” Sure, that seems to be true. While sitting in a coffee shop on Abbott Kinney recently, I overheard a young-ish gentleman saying, via Facetime: “I just love Venice. I love the lifestyle here. Beautiful people, a great scene, great fresh juice places. I’ve eliminated all meats and carbs from my diet. Just fresh greens and vegetables. I’m feeling great.” After hanging up, he reached for a plastic bag on the table in front of him containing a Styrofoam container and proceeded to take down two soft carnitas tacos. This takes us right to Number 7:
7. People lie about the weather.
All I’ve heard, my entire life, is how sunny, dry and perpetually 70° it is in Southern California. Lies! Since I arrived here, it’s rained so much I made the funny joke, “I think I accidentally moved to Seattle.” Twice. The temperature has hovered around 50-odd degrees for days at a time, too (which is great considering it is February, but that’s not the point). I have no problem with rain, especially when it alleviates a dangerously long-running drought. What I do have a problem with is people bragging about their weather just to make you feel bad about the frigid lows, face-whipping winds and wet sleet in your own city, as if you don’t feel bad enough already. Of course, the weather here is better than it is in the Northeast. The whole point of L.A. is the weather. Admittedly, it’s usually pretty gratifying.
8. I need to learn how to drive a car.
Enough is enough. If all these idiots out here can do it, why can’t I? Over the years, I’ve had the urge to get behind the wheel a handful of times, only when I envision myself in a sleek, sporty convertible or bouncy monster Jeep, music blasting and hair flowing in the breeze. But it’s time I carry an ID that’s a license, not a “state identification card,” which doesn’t even sound official. Besides, contrary to my New York-grade bitching, I really like it here and want to stick around for a while.
Santa Monica image courtesy of the Santa Monica Tourism Bureau. New York image courtesy of NYC&Company/JulienneSchaer.