Forever L.A. 21
We open in Sarasota, Florida:
The middle-aged cashier at the bargain outlet store looks like she has fallen on hard times more than once – like she's faced her fair share of struggles throughout life. And my presumptuous self guesses that she juggles more than one job. Checking out customers at a place full of discontinued hand soap and discounted candy isn't her sole source of income, and yes, I don't like that I have unfairly assigned her a certain socioeconomic status either. For all I know, that white Tesla parked outside on the cracked pavement of the desolate parking lot could be hers – but really, folks, it's probably the 1997 Saturn with the missing bumper.
Anyway, shortly after waddling over to her register and ringing up my bag of sour cream and onion potato chips (for stress-eating purposes who are you to judge me?), she asks if I want to "sign up for a store card." I politely decline without a full explanation of what that actually is. Do I earn an expired Glade Plug-In for accumulating ten hole punches on it? Would I be subjected to weekly emails alerting me to the rejected shampoo and plastic lawn chairs that "just arrived in store"? I tell her I don't live in the area and wouldn't get much use out of it.
"Oh? Where you from?" she asks. I quickly note her teeth, particularly the ones that are missing from her mouth.
"Ooh. How is it out there? Must be bad, huh? With all them people sleeping on the streets?"
She's gonna go there, isn't she? I think. I can only imagine how this woman receives information about the world from a certain cable news network.
I reply defensively, "Well, you get that in pretty much any major city." I imagine myself quickly following up with: "If you ever visited a city, you meth-mouthed redneck."
This wasn't the first time I've gotten this reaction when I tell people where I live, and at this point, after residing in the City of Angels for twenty-one years now, my tolerance for such passive aggressive comments and overall city-bashing has reached an all-time low. Don't tell me L.A. is filled with phonies, fakers, and rampant homelessness. Don't tell me it's at risk of burning down in the Next Great Wildfire. Don't tell me it's too expensive, with its unaffordable housing (and smoothies). Don't tell me you couldn't live here because you can't take the traffic and smog (We did away with most of the smog more than a decade ago, thankyouveddymuch).
Instead, I suggest you take a look at your own life and then take a moment to understand why thousands upon thousands of people keep moving to this city every year (despite those pandemic-driven migrations of 2021 and 2022). Take a moment to understand why some Americans feel compelled to leave their old lives behind and make the journey west. Understand why they still feel drawn to the promise that L.A. – or any popular metropolis – still offers.
I feel like I have spent the last decade defending Los Angeles more than I have before. Just like any New Yorker who has grown tired of convincing outsiders that Manhattanites are not a bunch of rude, hey-I'm-walkin'-here grumps, I have moved past the point of trying to justify my continued admiration for L.A. – especially whenever my Los Angeles Anniversary comes around, prompting personal reflection on my time spent here. Yes, I still enjoy avocado toast. Yes, I believe electric vehicles are the future, and I will probably purchase one within the next ten years. And yes, I am still filled with just the right amount of glee when I wear shorts in January while watching my East Coast brethren dig themselves out of blizzards. But living in L.A. has been more than that. My time here has been made more valuable by the people I've met and keep close to my heart. At the risk out sounding sickeningly saccharine and trite, they are my everything.
That said, my life in L.A. has been thankfully scandal-free and relatively stable, so don't expect anytime soon a tell-all book about some of the shit I have witnessed over the years. Like that time a coworker of mine made out with a famous married comedian at a holiday party...Or when my friends and I got drunk with an underage Shia LeBeouf at Movieline's Young Hollywood Awards afterparty (ha, remember Movieline? That's how long I've lived here)...Or that time I produced a promo in which I forced a future Bravolebrity douchebag to dance in a choreographed flash mob in various intersections throughout the city...
The truth of the matter is that there are more crazy stories I could probably share, but most of them I am forgetting as I write this in a coffeeshop where I am distracted by the reality star who just strolled in, scratching his crotch before ordering a matcha latte. Perhaps I'll save those stories for another post...
However, the question remains: What keeps me in Los Angeles after all these years? It's simple really – I can't imagine myself living anywhere else. It's the cradle of creativity, and I still have plenty of fuel in my tank. (Sure, the Emmy sitting atop my bookcase keeps me inspired, and it hasn't lost its luster since I received it three years ago.) And of course, there are the dreams of owning homes in places like New York and London, but my roots remain so firmly planted here – literally half of my life now belongs to this city – I don't see myself trading it in for anywhere else.
Thanks for the continued memories, Los Angeles.