I've been in Los Angeles for 24 hours and already I want to run myself over with a car.
Before my plane even landed at LAX, I'd already met two actors, an actress and a screenwriter. Now, in New York, we call these people "waiters" but I guess things are different out here. The guy sitting next to me kept his sunglasses on during the entire flight. The other guy next to me seemed to be scribbling the next "Citizen Kane" on a cocktail napkin. And the actress across the aisle spent SIX HOURS reading a SINGLE issue of Nylon magazine. Pshaw!
Sitting quietly with my Sunday NYT crossword, the book review, and Haruki Murakami's latest collection of short stories, I felt like the world's biggest geek. My corduroy pants, white tube socks, and the cheerios stuck to my collar only solidified the feeling.
Things got worse by the time I got to my hotel. Little did I know that all the hotels here recruit their staff from the back pages of Variety. Everyone from the parking valet to the bartender has a SAG card and they all look like extras from Melrose Place. Who the hell has so much time to be working out and getting in shape like this? Everyone here looks incredibly attractive and so damn healthy. Sure, in New York, you see a lot of thin people but that's because most of us are stressed out and living off a diet of vodka martinis, double espressos, and cigarettes!
However, I have to admit that the people here are incredibly nice. In fact, their niceness practically belies their inherent naivete. It's a good thing they all live here and not in New York because I don't think many of them could survive in the wild. During my first 2 hours here, I talked my way into free upgrades on both my rental car and hotel room. Instead of the Volvo I'd rented, I'm now driving a gold-colored Jaguar convertible (which, as my LA friend Greg will attest, makes me feel like an 80-year old Jew from Miami.) And instead of my standard hotel room, I am now writing this from my enormous hotel suite that has 4 rooms and 3 televisions! This would NEVER happen in New York! However, niceness has its limits.
Two days ago, BossLady and I went to our neighborhood diner in New York. We were greeted by a surly Greek waiter who practically threw the menus at us while he yelled in Spanish at the Dominican busboys. I ordered the steak, egg and potato special where the cooks throw everything in a greasy pan and fry the shit out of it. When the smoke detector goes off, that's how they know it's done.
This morning in LA, I walked over to a local diner and ordered a plain omelet. Something must have been lost in translation because when my food came, the plate was covered in alfalfa sprouts, avocado, and tomatoes. When I brought this up with my waiter, all he could say was, "Dude, I totally know what you mean. I am SO allergic to avocado. Last time I ate one, I had to lie down for 6 whole hours!" What the fuck, Spicoli? Did I ask you about your fucking allergens? It's 7:00 am. I'm jet lagged and hung over. Do I look like I even want to have a conversation with you?
New Yorkers are a tough bunch. Having lived there most of my life, I'm used to the directness and coarse realities of human discourse. Conversations are quick, straight, and on-point. Here, I always feel like I have to make circuitous small talk just to make it through a meal. ("Good morning!" "Good morning." "How are you?" "Fine. You?" "Just peachy!" "Great." "Nice weather we're having." "Yeah, I guess." "Is there something I can help you with today?" "Yeah, how about a fucking plain omelet?")
What's the running joke? That the only difference between the two cities is that in LA they say "have a nice day," and they mean "fuck you." In NY they say "fuck you," and they mean "have a nice day."
Don't get me wrong. I love visiting Los Angeles. When I lived in Berkeley, I'd often jump in my car and drive down south to see friends for the weekend. When BossLady and I were dating long-distance, I found myself flying here almost every other week and loved exploring the city as a pseudo-resident.
Strip away the supericiality, get rid of most of the people, and there are a lot of truly great things that I love about L.A. I love going to old cinema houses like the Nuart and watching old movies. I love the great diversity of ethnic food available. I love hiking in Griffith Park, walking on the beach in Malibu, seeing concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, eating late-night soon do-bu at BCD Tofu House, driving up to Topanga Canyon, going to karaoke in K-Town, hanging out at the LA Zoo, or spending the entire day at the La Brea tar pits. And need I mention the weather? There's a part of me that loves the year-round "75 degrees and sunny" lifestyle.
But I don't think I could ever live here in Los Angeles. Personally, 36 hours is the perfect amount of time here. For me, the city lacks a heart and feels so centerless. They have lousy public transportation, a river with no fish, and enough smog to choke a horse. You can't get a decent slice of pizza here, you actually have to buy water at restaurants, and if I have to spend one more minute in the car, I'm going to kill myself. Everyone is entirely too optimistic and cheery, and they all make me feel incredibly unhealthy.
Besides, I left my sunglasses at home, a tragic faux pas that not only has me feeling completely naked but is also conjuring up old childhood nightmares where I showed up to the prom wearing only a jock strap and a catcher's mask.
I leave tomorrow morning for Colorado. Anyone know where I can get a decent omelet?
Apologies to all my L.A. blogger friends (Melissa, Rebecca, Marsha, Laura, Charlie & Nina, Amy, Weigook Saram, Tim, Sandy, Tony and everyone else.) Wish I had more time in LA so we could meet up for some Soy Iced Chai Lattes (or whatever it is that you people drink out here.) Perhaps next time?