You are going to Reseda
To make love to a model from Ohio
Whose real name you don’t know
The dentist is in Reseda, and every time I go there, I die a little more.
It is 5am and you are listening to Los Angeles.
The local anesthetic wears off completely in the wee hours, giving me pain instead of numbness. I didn’t bite the inside of my cheek this time. I made sure not to bite the inside of my cheek.
And the radioman says
It’s a beautiful night out there in Los Angeles!
I hear the distant hum of cars on the freeway, crickets and nocturnal birds that all sound like doves or owls. I listen to this song like I always do when it’s 5 am in Los Angeles and I’m awake.
I don’t turn on the radio.
We are all in some way or another
going to Reseda someday
Male didn’t die in Reseda. He died several thousand miles and one time zone away. He would have smiled at the notion of dying in Reseda. This was one of his favorite songs about his city. I should spread some of his ashes in Reseda at 5 am.
Los Angeles beckons the teenagers
To come to her on buses
Los Angeles loves… love
It was 5 am when I first drove into Los Angeles, when my belly went flip-flop at the enormity of it. I passed Reseda, but I didn’t stop there.
I am going to Los Angeles
To build a screenplay about lovers who
Murder each other
Los Angeles loves love… and murder.
I am going to Los Angeles
To see my own name on a screen
five feet long and luminous
Everyone who says they don’t want that, wants that. Even me.
It is 5 am and the sun has charred
The other side of the world
And come back to us
The sun isn’t up yet. It’s still so dark.
And painted the smoke over our heads
An imperial violet
There is no violet; only a smoggy orange.
It is 5 am and you are listening to Los Angeles.
Random thoughts brought to you by Soul Coughing and Los Angeles and 5 am.
With the exception of terribly inclement weather or illness, I take my dog to the off-leash dog park every night. I do this because I don’t have a yard, and other than walking her five miles a day (which I’m not likely to do because I’m lazy and who has time for that?), it’s really the only way she gets any exercise. Plus, the social interaction is important, since dogs are pack animals. Also, I’m a total sucker. Around 5:30 pm on any given day, my dog starts pacing. She won’t stop pacing until we go to the dog park.
Below are the rules posted on the gate of my dog park. They might as well be in Sumerian for all they’re read and adhered to. Today’s list of dog park people deals with violators of these rules.
DOG DEFECATION IS TO BE IMMEDIATELY REMOVED BY OWNER.
There are many people who break this rule since navigating the dog park is like navigating a mine field where the mines are piles of crap instead of incendiary devices. Sometimes, your dog poops and you don’t notice it. It happens. This is when the people I call the Poop Patrol step in. They will let you know all about your dog’s poop. There always seems to be one member of the Poop Patrol on duty at any given time.
There’s one Poop Patroller at my dog park who speaks with a thick eastern European accent of some sort; possibly German, but I don’t want to presume. It seems she spends most of her time scanning for pooping dogs. Mid-poop, she will let you know you need to clean up after your dog by saying “You dog take a crap.” It sounds a lot like “you dowg tik a crep,” and then she’ll point to where the offending pile is. If you don’t immediately move to clean it up, she’ll repeat “you dowg tik a crep” until you do.
ALL DOGS OVER THE AGE OF FOUR MONTHS SHALL BE FULLY VACCINATED AND LICENSED. DOGS MUST WEAR COLLARS AND TAGS.
This one is probably the single most broken rule on the list. About half of the dogs at the park at any given time don’t have collars on for whatever reason. Out of the ones who are wearing collars, over half of those don’t have ID tags or licenses on them. I reckon less than 10% of all dogs that go to the dog park actually wear collars with license tags. My dog is part of that 10%.
One day, there was a dog loitering outside the gate without a human. Someone let him inside, because it was safer than having him wander the streets. He was wearing a collar and a leash, but there was no tag or license. What is the point of putting a collar on a dog if there’s no identifying information on it?
Almost an hour later, his owners showed up. They were moving from one apartment to another and had tied the dog to the fence, whereupon he Houdini’d his way loose.
If they had put an ID tag on him, we could have called and they would have had their dog back immediately. Instead, they drove around frantically looking for their dog for almost two hours.
ALL DOGS MUST BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many dog balls I’ve seen at the dog park. I’m sure there are a lot of female dogs who haven’t been spayed at the dog park, too, but they’re harder to spot what with the lack of dangly balls.
The reason for rule #6 is that a lot of times, spayed or neutered dogs don’t take kindly to dogs with balls. It riles them all up, and that’s how some dog fights start. Can you really blame them?
Anyway, bringing a dog with balls into the dog park is against the law, but people do it all the time. They don’t fix their dogs for any number of reasons. Often, it’s expense, laziness or ignorance. Sometimes, they intend to breed them, because we totally need more amateur breeders in the world.
A lot of times, they’re waiting for their dogs to get old enough to neuter them. The people in that last category think you shouldn’t neuter a dog until they’re at least a year old or older. I don’t know what the correct procedure for ball-choppage is, since it’s been a very long time since I had a male dog, but I know many male dogs who were neutered before a year old and their heads didn’t explode or anything. The animal shelter spayed my dog when she was a month old, which by all accounts is far too young, and she’s fine, too.
In any event, whatever your opinion on the right age to spay or neuter, please, do. Also, please, don’t bring your intact dog to the dog park, for his or her own safety, if nothing else.
IN THE EVENT OF A DOG BITE OR INJURY, OWNER/GUARDIAN MUST EXCHANGE CURRENT TAG INFORMATION AND PHONE NUMBER.
Pffft. That’s funny.
My dog has a best friend who is almost her doppelgänger. Every time they’re there together, they play and they play hard. If you don’t know the dogs, you’d think they were actually trying to kill each other, but they’ve been playing like that for over two years and they love each other.
One day, my dog and her friend were playing when a stupid little Boston terrier decided he didn’t like their shenanigans and wanted to break it up. My dog is 70 lbs. Her best friend is over 80 lbs. The Boston terrier was small even for a Boston terrier. I’d say he wasn’t even 20 lbs. Derp.
So, this little shit went up to my much larger dog and bit her hind leg. My dog never starts a fight, but she’ll damn well finish one, so she went after the little shit. Look here, sir, I don’t appreciate you biting my leg when I’m playing with my friend. Kindly put your tiny head into my mouth, please.
In the process of trying to separate them, this happened:
That’s the back of my ankle sporting a rather large bite wound from a little shit of a dog. That fucker bit me! That bite was through a pair of jeans. Thankfully, I was wearing jeans or it would have been a lot worse. He might have ripped my Achilles tendon instead of my pants.
Owner of little shit 1) didn’t even ask if I was alright, even though I was clearly bleeding 2) refused to exchange information with me 3) refused to prove that her dog was licensed and therefore, current on his vaccinations and rabies shot (of course, the dog wasn’t wearing a collar) and 4) ran the fuck away!
Quite literally, she scooped her dog up and ran away like the sissy girl with the sissy dog that she is. One of the dog park regulars ran after her and took a picture of her license plate. Ha!
Fortunately, my sister is a nurse, so she kept a close eye on it until it healed. It did leave a lovely scar. By the way, I was the only one injured in that fight.
ABANDONING ANIMALS IS PROHIBITED.
This is the saddest rule that gets broken. I can think of at least three dogs who were found abandoned at the dog park.
One of the poor creatures had three broken legs. They figure someone dumped him on the street near the dog park–not even in, but near–and he got hit my a car. Fortunately for him, he was found by a really nice lady who fixed him up and kept him. He had to have major surgery and he will always walk with a limp, but he can walk, he’s still alive and he landed in the best possible home.
Two other dogs that I know of were adopted by dog park regulars who found them when inhuman scum dumped them there. I guess people are too afraid or lazy to drop animals at the shelter, so they leave them at the dog park. I suppose they reckon that people who come to the dog park are dog lovers, and therefore, they’re likely to take care of them, which as it turns out, is true, but that doesn’t make it right.
Either we’ve got a biblical-style apocalypse coming on slowly or I am causing things to die with my funereal presence, since in the last two days, I’ve dealt with more death of woodland critters than I’d care to.
Yesterday morning, my dog and I were on our morning constitutional, you know, the walk where I anxiously wait for her to stop sniffing things and actually do her business so I can get some much-needed coffee in my gullet and make my inexorable way to work.
Anyway, as dog was busy sniffing and not businessing, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye followed by a THUNK. I looked to where the thunking happened and saw a dead bird in the middle of car hood. This was not a freshly dead bird who did its death spiral out of the sky before me. This dead had been going on for a while. The little dead bird had definitely seen better days, sometime around a week ago I reckon.
Naturally, I looked up to see where a not-recently-departed bird might have fallen from, but there were no trees or even power lines above the car. It’s a mystery! The only conclusion I can come to is apocalypse.
Or perhaps a crow–notorious for eating pretty much anything–decided that old meat was still meat and was carrying little dead bird back to its lair for a snack, when halfway there, it said, screw this, I can get only slightly fresher meat at 7-11 and dropped it on the car hood.
I felt badly for whomever’s car that was. When they came outside to find a dead bird squarely in the middle of their bonnet, they probably assumed that someone in the neighborhood was trying to send them a message. I thought about leaving a note saying, “I saw this bird fall on your hood from nowhere. No one hates you (or at least, if they do, they didn’t express that hatred by leaving a dead bird on your car, because that was all nature and shit),” but I didn’t have pencil and paper on me.
Last night on our evening constitutional, I killed a snail. I’m ashamed to admit, it wasn’t the first time I’ve murdered a snail. One of my neighbors waters his lawn entirely too much for a drought (I’ve thought of dropping a dime on him, but I don’t know who to call). There are a ridiculous number of snails in his yard because wet. His sprinklers go off almost every night before I normally walk my dog. The snails in his yard, being all “Wee! It’s dark and wet!” go on their constitutionals around that time, too.
If you’ve never really encountered a snail, they’re a dumb design. They move so very slowly that they can’t possibly duck or dodge anything, they are just about the same color as a wet sidewalk and their tough exterior shell is really not tough at all. I am always wary of snail steppage when I walk at night, because like I said, I’ve crushed one underfoot before and I like to avoid unpleasant experiences whenever possible.
Last night, I zigged to avoid one snail only to find another: zig, zag, CRUNCH, crap! Poor snail. I really need to get a flashlight.
On this morning’s constitutional, I thought all was going well; I avoided the area where I had murdered the snail the night before, so I hadn’t run afoul of any carcasses. We had done all of our morning sniffing and business and were on the way to the dumpster to deposit said business, when in front of my garage, I spied a suspect object. Jesum crow.
It was a large rat curled up in a rather fetal position. I hoped maybe it was sleeping. It wasn’t. I thought of leaving it there and making it someone else’s problem, until I realized that it died smack dab in front of my garage. I did the calculations in my head and found that I would run it over when I backed my car out in about twenty minutes. Well, shit.
Meanwhile, my dog, who is as picky about meat as a crow or 7-11 customer, was trying to get at the thing. I don’t know much about nature, but I suspect that letting my dog snack on a dead wild rat probably isn’t the best idea. I would have a hard time prying it from her mouth and prying a dead rat from my dog’s mouth first thing in the morn is not something I’d generally like to do.
I’m not afraid of rats. In fact, I’ve had three of them as pets: Race, Plague and Fink. Still, there’s a world of difference between the domesticated kind of rats you keep as pets and the wild kind of rats you find dead in your driveway.
I decided to dispose of the thing. I pulled out another poop bag and cursed that I don’t have a pooper scooper, which would have made the whole affair much less personal. Keeping my dog at the end of one arm and with a poop bag over my other hand, I picked the thing up by the tail. It was cold. I carried it at arm’s length without looking at it the twenty feet to the dumpster. Then I went inside and frantically scrubbed my hands with antibacterial soap like a crazed germaphobe to get all the bubonic plague off. I can still feel its cold little tail between my fingers. Ewww.
I don’t live in the country. If I did, those unfortunate vignettes might be excusable, even commonplace. No, I live in Los Angeles, the megalopolis of glass, concrete and steel where green is an afterthought called landscaping. If I go home tonight to find another dead animal, I’m moving to the country where things like that don’t happen.
I survived the onslaught of parents, only a little worse for wear. I’ve walked a million miles, seen a million tourist attractions that I normally ignore and spent all my money. I’ve also packed on about three hundred pounds since we’ve been eating very, very well. Much better than I’m used to.
I’ve been up this coast and down that one. I’ve seen this amazing view of Los Angeles and that one over there. I’ve been to this museum and the other one, too. I saw almost two thousand-year old things and outlines of people buried in ash from Pompeii and wondered how awful it must be to have your entire civilization wiped out in not even twenty-four hours.
The Pompeii exhibit is at the same place where Endeavor lives. I really wanted the space monkey last time I was there to see Endeavor, but I couldn’t justify $20 for a stuffed monkey. Well, this time, seeing as I’ve been spending money like an heiress anyway, I said what the hell, and bought the space monkey.
So, now I have a space monkey of my own, complete with NASA spacesuit. Badass, bitches.
I’ve been to Las Vegas, the Getty Center, the Science Center, The Griffith Observatory and all manner of Hollywood attractions. I’ve seen a lot of touristy things this city has to offer, which is a ton. I’ll never see all the touristy stuff in this city and I’m okay with that.
I decided something while traipsing all over hither and yon; I don’t want to live in this city anymore. For fifteen years, I’ve driven these streets and seen the sights, and it’s coming time for a change. Driving around Los Angeles just makes me sad. The potential and hope that was once around every corner is gone; now, only ghosts of times and people passed exist.
Come tonight, the parental units will be away on a plane, back from whence they came to the frigid northern climes. My mom will cry, because she always does. My dad will leave California for most likely the last time.
My dog with miss them and in a way, so will I, but I’ll also be happy not to have a queen size bed in my living room, to stop spending money like a drunken monkey and not to have to go to tourist traps anymore. There is definitely something to be said for having your space to yourself.
And, on the 15th, I await the arrival of Male, but I don’t have to entertain him nor really clean my house.
Entertaining people is exhausting business. How were your holidays? Did I miss anything?
Most people I know from back east wonder why it is that I live in Los Angeles of all places. LA has a lot of preconceived notions about it. More than a lot of other cities since a lot of it is on film.
Where my parents live in conservative northern Michigan, it’s called the land of fruits and nuts. This is a not very clever double entendre on the fact that California exports a lot of fruits and nuts. Fruits and nuts also refers to people who are not conservative.
When people outside of Los Angeles think of Los Angeles, they think of beaches or the film industry or fake, superficial people. All of that can be found here if that’s what you’re looking for, but there’s so much more to this city.
So, this is a personal list of the best and worst parts of living in Los Angeles. Let’s start with the bad parts first.
The constant teeming masses
Los Angeles in the largest city on the west coast of the United States, both in population and geographical size. Because it is so vast, it is also very populous. As of 2013, there are 3.884 million people within 503 sq. miles (1,302 km²). That’s just the city of Los Angeles proper. The Greater Los Angeles Area has an estimated population of over 18 million. That’s 18 million people milling about in my way, and those are just the residents. That’s not including tourists.
The film industry
There was a time when I thought the film industry was neat. They make movies here! Cool! Most new residents of LA think that way until the first film shoot inconveniences them personally.
Film crews take up a lot of space. They park trailers not quite on the side of the road so it’s hard to get around them. They close streets and freeways at will. Their awards shows effectively shut down all of Hollywood.
While the film industry is LA’s bread and butter, non-industry people who’ve lived here longer than a month, like me, are generally more annoyed by the inconvenience than wowed by movie magic.
Los Angeles traffic is world famous. Lucky us. I used to have to commute to the valley from downtown LA (DTLA) every day, from one black star to the other and back, about 30 miles one way.
It doesn’t look that bad of a commute until you realize that it essentially takes you through all of Los Angeles north of downtown, including Hollywood. It sucked. The longest it ever took me was 2 hours and 45 minutes. That commute is the main reason I moved away from DTLA. I couldn’t take it anymore.
People don’t generally think of LA as a cultural hub, at least, not like they do New York or some other large cities, but they’re wrong. There are a ton of museums here, and a billion little independent art galleries and theaters. LA is still not only the film industry capital of the world, but it’s also the music capital.
Bands still flock to LA in the hopes of being discovered. This means that there are multitudes of amazing artists and musicians performing here all the time. If you’re very lucky, you might even catch the next big thing before it happens.
Because LA is so populous, we’re always included on tours. Right now, there are a few art exhibits that are only touring for a short while and LA is one of only one or two stops in the whole of the US. I never miss anything here.
People come to LA from all over the world and they bring their culture with them. You could probably get food in Los Angeles from every single culture on earth. There are restaurants here from countries most people have never heard of.
It’s two in the morning and you have a craving for sushi? No problem. You could probably even get it delivered. Sometimes, all you have to do is walk outside to find a gourmet food truck. You can walk outside your house in any direction and find amazing Mexican food within a few hundred yards.
The lack of real winter is what brought me here. I absolutely adore Los Angeles winters. It’s chilly enough to wear a coat and boots, but rarely does it ever get cold enough to snow, not that it ever does (except in the mountains). And our winters are almost always sunny. About one or two nights a winter, it might get down to 20°F (-6°C), but that’s as cold as it ever gets.
The summers, on the other hand, can be brutally hot with several days in the neighborhood of 110°F (43°C), but even that doesn’t last long. If I had the money, I would buy a house on the ocean where it rarely ever gets above 90°F (32°C).
The best part about Los Angeles though is that, if it’s really unbearably hot or cold where you live, if you drive only an hour or two, you will find entirely different environs. From where I currently sit, depending on which direction I chose, in an hour, I could be at the beach or in the mountains. Within the month or so, there will be snow-capped peaks.
Really, the best part of LA is that no matter what you’re looking for, whether it be stereotypes, movies stars, multicultural offerings or pristine sandy beaches, you can find it here.
What’s it like where you live? What do you love and hate about it?
I live in Los Angeles. It’s currently 64 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for fifteen years. I didn’t move here to become a movie star. I moved here to escape the miserable winters I was forced to deal with my entire life. I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan and I lived in Boston, Massachusetts for four years. I moved from one side of the country clear to the other to avoid winter (and the abusive monster who tried to kill me, but that’s a story for another time).
I’ve lived here long enough now that when Male sent me a text message the other day saying that it was -20 windchill where he is, I had difficulty remembering what that’s like. It seems the rest of the country is experiencing an unseasonably early cold snap called the Polar Vortex, which makes me think of a Christmas wormhole instead of -20 windchill in early November.
So, I thought I’d gloat and tell you some awesome things about not having to deal with real winter anymore. Here are 8 of them.
No winter coat
When I was a kid, every fall, my mom would take my sister and me shopping for our winter coats for that year. It was an item that you were stuck wearing for the next six months, so it was very important that you get it right. They were big, bulky things that made you look like the Michelin Man:
I recently bought a parka to wear to the dog park, because I’m outside for an hour in the dark every night, exposed to the frigid 60°F weather. Brrrr! (yes, I know. I’m a sissy.) I uncreatively call it my dog parka. I bought this parka… in Los Angeles… when it was 90° outside.
Hats, gloves, scarves and boots are accessories instead of necessities
These are just a few of my hats. Bask in their awesome glory:
Other than the ushanka (the flap hat, top left), which I bought in Los Angeles to take to Michigan last time I went in winter, none of those are winter hats. They’re just hats. Yay hats! I have actually worn the ushanka here when it gets really cold (like 40°).
I don’t need to winterize my car
I don’t need special tires, antifreeze, tire chains or a bag of kitty litter in my trunk just in case I get stuck. I don’t have to do anything in particular to my car at all when winter comes around.
I remember buying my first new car ever and springing for the special under coating to keep the salt from rusting it out. I don’t need that here. My car is a swaddled and spoiled California car. There is no rust on it at all.
No ice scraper needed
The worst part of driving in winter, aside from, you know, the black ice and dangerous driving conditions, was having to scrape my car since I never once had a garage when I lived back east. I’d go out to work in the morning with a broom to brush off the loose snow. I’d start my car, turn the defrosters on full blast and grab the ice scraper. Then, I would laboriously set out to clear my windows of ice. It usually took a while.
The worst, was when I lived in Boston and actually had to dig my car out of a snow bank before I could even drive it. The roads there were narrow and the snowplows would bury your car under an avalanche.
When I moved to California, I clearly remember ceremoniously throwing my ice scraper out. That was a good day.
Being outside can’t kill you
As I was walking my dog this morning in brisk wintry 60° weather, I thought to myself that, if I lived back east, there’s no way I’d have a dog without a yard to throw her ass into. That selfish thought is actually what prompted this post.
Every year back east, you’d hear a news story somewhere about someone dying from exposure, because just the simple act of being outdoors can kill you. That’s a crazy thought when you get down to it. Screw that. I’m all bundled up in my dog parka when it’s only 60°.
One of the many benefits of living in California is fresh produce year round. The middle of this state is all verdant farm land and they grow things all the time. If you walk into a grocery in January, you can find freshly ripened tomatoes and strawberries. True, they’re better in the summer, but having freshly picked strawberries in January is pretty neat. The farmer’s markets here are year round.
You can take your fresh produce and grill it up in January, too. This past summer, I bought a little gas hibachi grill. I love it.
Grilling my food myself is still somewhat of a novelty for me, so practically every weekend since I bought it, I have marinated some chicken and grilled it up on the weekend.
My parents are coming out from Michigan for Christmas this year and when I told them we could grill some food, my mom turned away from the phone and yelled to my dad, “We’re going to grill food… outside… in December!!!”
If I turn to my right, this is my view:
Do you know what that is? It’s sunshine. And, yes, it’s mid-November and that is an open window. I enjoy fresh air.
When I lived back east, I had seasonal affective disorder. I couldn’t enjoy fall because it meant that winter was right around the corner. Everything would turn gray and die and I’d be stuck inside with no fresh air for months. Since I moved to California, my SAD has all but disappeared.
That’s enough gloating for one day. I’ll go ahead and be thankful that I no longer have to deal with this:
A long time ago, I lived downtown Los Angeles in what is now the downtown arts district, but before it got gentrified, it was just one of the many shitty parts of downtown at the ass end of skid row. The only thing that separated me from the bums was that I paid rent for the inside of walls, while they got the outside of them for free.
Around the corner from my house (which wasn’t really a house at all, but part of an old factory) was a dive bar called Al’s. Picture the diviest dive bar you’ve ever been in and make it even sleazier. Add graffiti on all the walls inside and out, cigarette butts everywhere and the smell. Ugh. The smell of cheap piss, a by-product of cheap beer, because it was safer to pee outside in the alley than to risk your life using the bathrooms.
Al’s was positively glorious and my favorite bar in the world. There is so much music history contained within those walls that the day Al’s Bar closed, it might as well have been the day the music died.
Anyway, while Al’s was still Al’s and not some tame, bullshit place where suburban people feel safe and “like a part of something, you know?” a band named Green Jello played there. Green Jello is now called Green Jellÿ (still pronounced “green jello”). Kraft Foods sued them because they’re greedy corporate assholes with no sense of humor. Green Jellÿ will always be O to me. Anyway, Green Jello is a ridiculous band with puppets and a very strange stage show. They are hella fun.
After the show, they invited us to a party at their place in Hollywood. We decided to go, because why not and beer.
It was at a big building on Sunset, three or four stories high and a block long, which in Los Angeles is damn long. There was a huge party at one end. My friends and I explored the building to look for Green Jello and wandered into a private performance by Cypress Hill. Well, alright then. In a room with a few dozen people is still the only time I’ve ever seen Cypress Hill perform. And I still don’t really like this song:
We milled around and talked to some people. I met a boy. We ended up talking all night. Still, we couldn’t find Green Jello.
Eventually, as things always do, the boy and I got around to talking about music. He was in a band that had the same manager or promoter or something as Cypress Hill. How do you know Cypress Hill? I don’t know Cypress Hill other than I just wandered into a room where they were performing, and apparently, I’m drinking their beer. Oh.
We were at the wrong party. It turns out that Green Jello was on the other end of the building completely, which seemed about half a mile away.
We walked down there and found a much mellower party at the coolest studio space I’ve ever seen. It had a huge papier mâché tree in the middle with a tire swing hanging from it and more colors than the rainbow everywhere. When the sun came up, we had pancakes at IHOP with assorted people from both parties. And that’s how Cypress Hill met Green Jello.
The Hollywood rehearsal studio was torn down not long after. The giant block was chopped up into bite-sized pieces. The part that was Green Jello’s is one of those designer shoe warehouse things now. There is no papier mâché tree or tire swing. There’s hardly any color at all.
Legendary Al’s Bar, where countless bands got their start, is now a yoga studio, because suburbanites are assholes who think there isn’t enough yoga in Los Angeles like there’s not enough coffee in Seattle. I moved away from downtown LA, partly because I couldn’t stand all the yoga-touting, latte-drinking, rich suburbanite assholes milling about my smelly neighborhood bragging about how they were there before it got cool. Their presence caused my rent to skyrocket.
Now, I live in another arts district that’s slowly undergoing the same miserable latte transformation. There’s a place around the corner that charges $9 for a piece of dry ass pie. Fuck you and your dry pie. Get off my lawn.
The boy and I dated for a while, which proved to be yet another example of why I shouldn’t date musicians. During which time, he was awfully fond of telling people the story of how we met at the wrong party. He thought it was kismet that brought me to Cypress Hill’s place that night. Maybe it was, but I’m more inclined to believe it just turned out to be the wrong party and a good story.
I live in a big city. I live in the largest city on the west coast of the United States and the second largest in the country. Millions of people live their own lives in close proximity. We don’t talk much.
I enjoy the anonymity of living in a huge city. I could go to one of the thousand stores in my area and not have Mrs. Brown tell Mrs. Spalding that I was buying dirty magazines. Not that I’ve ever bought dirty magazines, but if I ever did, no one would care. They don’t know my name, where I live, where I work or who my parents are. Other than my friends, no one knows me here.
When I was in high school, my parents moved us from Detroit to the suburbs under the guise of “a better education.” Really, my mom just wanted to show off to her friends that my dad, a blue-collar working man, made good money. He did make good money; over a hundred thousand a year as a specialized lithographer, a press man. There were only two presses in all of Detroit that were capable of printing high-resolution, large-scale art prints and my dad operated one of them.
My dad made good money, but he was also blue-collar, a fact that my mom knew when she married him, but that seemed to make a difference to her later in life when all of her friends’ husbands worked in offices. My dad didn’t have an office and he came home with ink-stained fingers every day.
I liked the fact that my dad didn’t work in an office. I absolutely loved visiting him at work. The sound and smell of the large presses was awe-inspiring to me as a kid. My dad beamed with pride as he showed my sister and me what this did and what that did. He gleefully showed off “my girls” to his coworkers.
My dad never cared about money. He never cared about the latest and greatest. My dad, like me, will drive a car into the ground. As long as it continues to go from point A to B, who cares how new or expensive a vehicle is? My sister is like my mom. They have to have new and shiny with lots of buttons. My sister just traded in a perfectly good car because it was a little old. I’m not sure where that came from, but I’m very glad I take after my dad instead.
Anyway, we moved to the suburbs when I was in high school, because Detroit wasn’t new or shiny enough. I hated every single minute of it. We left the hustle and bustle, and anonymity of the city to live in a small town, over a half an hour from Detroit. The suburb we moved to was awful. They had stupid rules about billboards and signs not being more than six feet off the ground or larger than ten feet across. Everyone spied on everyone else. It was truly like living in a fishbowl.
One night, I was hanging out with some friends at Dairy Queen, because it was one of only three places for high school kids to go. I was smoking a cigarette. When I got home that night, my whole family knew about it. So and so saw me, who called some other busybody who then called my mother and told her that I was at the Dairy Queen smoking a cigarette practically as it was happening.
As soon as I turned eighteen, I moved back to Detroit, back to the city where I could live anonymously and freely. I swore that I would never live in the suburbs again and I haven’t. My mailing address in Detroit was actually Detroit proper, Boston was Boston and Los Angeles is Los Angeles. I have always lived in the city and I always will.
Living in the city and not having everyone know your business is a trade-off. It means that I don’t really know any of my neighbors. I see them in passing and greet them, but I don’t know them, which is why it’s so surprising when something happens that forces me to get to know them.
This morning, I walked my dog and there was a woman standing outside the building across the street. I vaguely recognized her as someone who lives there. I walked by with my dog and came back, and she was still there. I thought it was odd that she was still there since people don’t loiter outside their buildings much, so I asked if she was okay. It seems that she went out for a walk only to come home and find that she was locked out. I asked her if she wanted to borrow a phone. She said thanks, but in the days of smart phones, she doesn’t actually know anyone’s number. I don’t either. I barely know mine.
She asked if I had a ladder. If I can just get over this fence, I can get in. My front door is unlocked. I know how shitty it is to be locked out of your house and I have a stepladder, so I went and got it. Her building, much like mine, is a row of townhouses with individual doors and a spiky wrought iron fence around the whole property.
There we were in daylight with my stepladder trying to breach the perimeter. We tried three different places and my ladder wasn’t quite high enough. Finally, we discovered that if she climbed the fence of the building next door, which is much lower, she could easily climb the fence separating the two properties. We both cheered as she made it in and she thanked me profusely.
In the time that we were plotting the Great Daylight Breaking & Entering, we exchanged names and talked about assorted tidbits of our lives. We had a real conversation simply because we live across the street from each other and circumstances allowed. We shared both defeat and triumph. I know one of my neighbors.
We won’t be friends or inviting each other over for tea, but I don’t expect that she’ll call my mom if she discovers I did something of which she wouldn’t approve either. In this great big impersonal city, I experienced a moment of personal connection and I did my good deed for the day. It was very neighborly.
That’s what I am, though I don’t much feel like it. My Levi’s, always a little too long, drag on the ground in back since I’m too tall for medium height and too short for tall. My Converse All Stars, caked with mud from kicking tennis balls at the dog park. My ubiquitous t-shirt and black hoodie–I have a closet full of them. These are hardly what The Doors had in mind.
I am just another lost angel–city of night.
I’m not what the rest of you have in mind when you think of L.A. either. You’ve all seen the Hollywood version of me. The glowing skin, the big tits, the blonde flowing hair and a smile. That smile. I don’t have that smile. I have a smile, but it’s not the smile you know. It’s not the smile the rest of the world sees. I am not on the billboards. You won’t see me in the glossy magazines.
I try to remember what I thought of those shimmering images before I saw the truth. I haven’t always been an L.A. woman. I was a Boston woman before that and a Detroit woman, too.
I try to remember my impression of L.A. and L.A. women before I became one, but it’s all so hazy. It was too long ago; it’s not new or fresh anymore. I’ve lived in L.A. long enough that it’s a part of me. If I ever leave this sprawling city, I will still be an L.A. woman, at least for a little while, until I become something else.
L.A. isn’t much like the movies, but it never has been. What you see isn’t what you get. There is a reason it’s called movie magic after all.
There aren’t many Raymond Chandlers or Charles Bukowskis in Los Angeles anymore. They left a void of booze, brawls and busty dames that we just cannot fill, even though we try. Sometimes, I wish I lived in Chandler’s Los Angeles, even if it means wearing heels, a hat and doing nothing all day but practicing my smoldering look like Lauren Bacall:
The little girls in their Hollywood bungalows.
I don’t think of myself as an L.A. woman, but then, I don’t often think of myself as a woman at all. My gender doesn’t define me. Really, I only consciously categorize myself as a woman if I’m filling out a form or searching for a public bathroom.
I’m the one with the A shape. That’s where I need to go. That’s as much as I pigeonhole myself.
After a brief fifteen-year temporary arrangement, L.A. still isn’t my city and it never will be; I was not born here. But, we’ve reached a détente. We don’t fight each other anymore. We accept each other as we are. Even though neither the city nor you see me as the type of woman who moves clear across the country to Los Angeles, that’s just what I am, muddy Converse and all.
I live in Los Angeles, a city with miraculous blue skies and more sunshine than entirely necessary. We are hugged on one side by the vast, blue Pacific Ocean’s perfect sandy beaches and roaring waves. The rest of the city is fenced in by mountains. Depending on your idea of beauty, it’s a beautiful city, one of the biggest in the world, with more to offer than you have time to explore.
Los Angeles is not perfect. There is the ever-present smog, kept captive over the city by the mountains, causing an orange fogginess most days unless it has rained recently.
There’s the oppressive summer heat where, for at least a week, usually two or three, it never dips below 100 degrees (37.7 c) during the day. They say it’s a dry heat without humidity, as if that makes 100 degrees more bearable. 100 degrees still feels like 100 degrees, humidity or not.
There’s the ongoing drought that most property owners tend to ignore when they plant their emerald-green lawns. Los Angeles likes to pretend it’s not in the desert.
There’s fire season where hundreds or thousands of acres burn. During fire season, it rains ash. The sky is grayish-brown obscuring the sun. It’s impossible to breathe and your eyes get stingy and red.
There are the Santa Ana winds that come barreling through the southland with gusts that will knock you over. I’ve written about them before. They topple trees and power lines, and spread fire. They are an uneasy kind of wind. Whenever they come, and they come several times a year and last for several days, they spread a vast net of anxiety over the city. Everyone is a little more on edge and a little quicker to snap. The winds howling through any crevice and crack in our homes make it just that much harder to sleep.
At the other end of fire season, during the rainy season, those barren hills ravaged by fire slide down into swimming pools, taking houses, power lines and whatever else they find down with them to the bottom, like a muddy avalanche. People rebuild their homes on the same spot expecting different results this time.
Yet, those are external threats. They come from the atmosphere. The worst threat, the most dangerous, the one most Angelinos avoid thinking about, even more than the drought, is the next big earthquake.
There was an earthquake this morning. It woke me up, which is saying something since I take sleeping pills. I heard a sonic boom like a thousand claps of thunder at once. Everything started rattling, then shaking, then jumping, then nothing. As quickly as it came, it passed, leaving me wide awake in the dark with my heart pounding.
I don’t like earthquakes. In the fifteen years I’ve lived here, I’ve only experienced a handful and none of them have been all that much bigger than this morning’s which was a 4.4 on the Richter scale. That’s considered a mid-size earthquake. The last earthquake to do major damage in Los Angeles was the Northridge quake in 1994, only a few miles from where I currently sit.
Whenever there’s an earthquake in LA, the Northridge quake usually comes up. “Do you remember The Northridge?” I didn’t move to Los Angeles until five years later, so I don’t remember it, but people who were here then certainly do. They’ll tell you where they were and how much damage they got.
Earthquakes are a funny thing in Los Angeles. Whenever there’s a quake, that’s all we talk about. The usual “How was your weekend?” is replaced by “Did you feel it?” I asked my coworker that this morning. It woke both of us up. This morning’s quake, which did very little damage and therefore, won’t even get a name, will be the talk of the town today. Experts are on the radio talking about earthquake preparedness and what you should have on hand.
By tomorrow, it will be forgotten.
We have to forget. We don’t have another choice. We cannot live with a constant threat. We would drive ourselves insane if that’s all we thought about or talked about. So, we go out and buy some bottled water and maybe a first aid kit, we put it in the hall closet and then forget about it until the next quake.
There will always be a next quake. Here’s hoping it’s not the big one.