Los Angeles. No other city holds itself in such low regard. San Franciscans will correct you if you try to abbreviate their city to “San Fran” or “Frisco” – “It’s San Francisco” they’ll assert every time. New York may be short for the many Burroughs it holds like Manhattan or Brooklyn, but rarely is it N-Y-C. Chicago can be an affectionate Chi-Town, but only L.A. is abbreviated as if it’s original moniker weren’t good enough. As if the people of the Los Angeles can’t be bothered to go into full detail.
It’s a city contrived, obsessed with appearance, built on an illusion. Serving as the precursor to Las Vegas (which no one ever called L.V.) Los Angeles was more or less the first city of sin raised out of the desert in an impossibly large scale with its tentacles reaching far and wide to drain the essence from the surrounding geography. It’s that mirage that sits near the ocean living off the crumbs of bygone movie glamour, faded surf wax, and a tray of illicit drugs.
And yet this wild paramour leaves you feeling breathless and inspired with her free abandon. Her claws digging sharply into your back as the lust fills your loins with excitement. The pinch of your lip between her teeth and the iron taste of your own blood. Living on the brink, driving you wild while making you think somewhere in the back of your head that your lover could take your life like she’s done to others left for dead foaming at the mouth on the floor of their hotel suite.
For the places surrounding Los Angeles its gravity breeds contempt. Orange County which tellingly refers to itself with a similarly lazy two-letter abbreviation, “O.C.”, holds Los Angeles at arms length. With an upturned nose, clasping Los Angeles with two fingers as if it were a spent diaper, Orange County attempts to have it both ways: a distant suburban family wonderland and “just minutes away from L.A.” as travel brochures will tell you. This paradox is not lost on locals either. They poke fun at the marketing campaigns that claim that Disneyland is only short drive away when in reality The 5 (translation: Interstate 5) is a clogged artery that bends the space-time continuum to a crawl where thirty minutes becomes two hours. San Diego also finds itself in this marketing Twilight Zone that is like a rainbow that you always chase but never quite reach. Horror stories tell of four hour or even six hour drives from Los Angeles to San Diego when it should take maybe an hour and a half.
Despite the traffic, over population, pollution, and general insanity you find yourself drawn in by the mist. The people are beyond beautiful – genetically perfect is a more accurate description. Sure, there are ugly people here too, but once you leave here you start to notice an abrupt decline. And the food… while we may not be the bastion of pizza like Nueveo York or the undisputed champion of tubular meat like Chicago no one – I MEAN NO ONE – has Mexican style flavors as rich as we do. Sorry Midwest, but your peas and carrots Spanish rice is fucking weird. You might even argue that we have world class Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. Although, like the spoiled children we are, we might only notice once we leave here and see how poor the rest of the world eats.
With three hundred sixty-three days of beauty a year there is always something happening. A festival, and concert, and farmers markets, a day at the beach in winter, or refreshing summer day in the mountains. Travel ninety miles in any direction and you are in a completely different world far from the sprawl and noise.
People complain about Southern California and for good reason. When you have twenty million people crammed into a hot desert you’re going to have some problems. Yet once you get a taste you can’t leave. The main reason people keep lingering here despite the problems is because no place does it better. No one can offer this environment. And yes you pay a premium for that right, but if you play it smart you can get your money’s worth by exploring and hanging out and maybe *cough*, just maybe catching a cold every once in awhile and calling out sick. And once you leave her you start to realize that you crave her touch. That her craziness is infectious because it makes you feel alive. Soon you find yourself hopelessly addicted.
Photo credit William Langenberg
copyright © 2015 Robert C. Olson