June 04, 2002

I had the sudden, horrible realization today that I've now lived in LA as long as I lived in Seattle. Up until recently I could almost get away with telling people that I was from Seattle, just down here for a little while, getting a quick BFA in photography and I'll be outta here in no time at all. It feels like a jail sentence now, and even though I actually bit the bullet and bought a house, I still tell myself it's temporary, a short blip in my life before I go back to living somewhere real.

I've lived here two years and I still don't know anybody, anybody at all. I see thousands of people every day, on the 210, the 134, the 10, the 110, some other numbers with "the" firmly attached to them - all pissed off and whizzing by each other in little hermetically sealed suv, sports, luxury, economy size compartments with wheels that want to go 90 miles an hour, even though we're stuck crawling by at rush hour, 30, maybe 40, all within 10 feet of each other, millions of us, all alone in our cars. When traffic is really slow, I like to look through the divider at the people stuck in traffic going the other way, and I make up stories about them. I wonder about the Armenian guy on the cellphone, the balding entertainment-exec-looking guy in the convertible BMW M3 with paper dealer plates, the woman driving a beat-up white Fiero who is polishing her nails in traffic, polish-bottle between her knuckles, the woman singing along to the music in her car. I only see them for a second as I pass going westbound on the 101 and they go east, and I wonder who they are talking to on their cellphones, who they're thinking about, what it would be like to meet them if I lived somewhere it was possible to meet strangers, like waiting for the bus, or in line for coffee in the morning. We don't do that here. We need to get back to our cars. No time for idle chatter, we've run to the parking lot, hit the button on the car key to unlock the doors, chirp-chirp, and we're driving away before there's any time to say hello.

The Angelenos don't like me. They let me know this, usually by alternating between cutting me off and flipping me off through the windows of their hermetically sealed cars. They let me know they don't like the fact I used my turn-signal before changing lanes, or the fact that I left enough space in front of me for an actual whole car to fit. I'm not Their Kind. I don't wear nice shoes or go out to fabulously trendy places with surly maitre-d's and expensive drinks or get manicure-pedicures or know about the latest industry gossip. I have nothing to offer in the way of movie deals, real estate deals, or business deals. I'm the daughter of Nobody Important. I'm not skinny. When I smile at them, the Angelenos glare back, as if I've invaded their personal space. How dare I try to connect. Don't smile. Look straight ahead. Drive. If you have to talk, talk into your cellphone. Drive like you have somewhere to be five minutes ago. Don't smile. If you're going to smile, at least have the decency to get your teeth done.

Living in LA has been like living a Twilight Zone episode where I have suddely woken up and found myself in junior high again, age 13 and so helplessly uncool, chubby and flat chested with glasses and unfashionable clothes and that bad poodle-perm my mom gave me. Only this time I don't have The Polish Girl and The Fat Girl to sit with in the cafeteria. Those people don't exist here. They've been exterminated - liposucked and nosejobbed out of existence, or at the very least, Los Angeles has made them so aware of their uncoolness they moved back to places like Oregon, or Iowa, where there are people who couldn't give two shits about Mahnolo Blahnik or getting into the Sky Bar. I resent that I even know about Mahnolo Blahnik and the Sky Bar. But these things can't be helped. I live in LA.

So I go out by myself a lot. I drive around aimlessly sometimes, picking some random street in the Valley, or maybe downtown, just looking at the storefronts and the sidewalks. This is the part of Los Angeles that I appreciate, its endless sameness and endless diversity, continuous wide streets that go on almost forever, Burbank to Woodland Hills, Venice to Malibu, Chinatown to Pasadena. Strip malls, warehouses, run-down bungalows, palm trees, spanish-style villas surrounded by high walls and gates and security systems, car dealers, burned-out buildings, dead lawns. The endless variety of decay and wealth fascinates me, the endless contradiction of this city that isn't a city, the crust of poverty that clings to the edges of those gated zip codes we've memorized off the TV. LA is a big puzzle to me, how this could have formed, really, in less than a hundred years, more like fifty. I wonder what happened to this city that everybody is in such a hurry to get somewhere, so I feel like I have to be driving somewhere, anywhere, even though I have nowhere to go.

I shouldn't say I live in Los Angeles. I live in my car, punctuated by brief moments when I set foot on the LA asphalt, but it's never for long. I have somewhere to go. And I was supposed to be there five minutes ago, I'm sure of it.

Posted by kia at June 04, 2002 11:52 PM

I never think of you as an LA resident, but more like an operative stationed there for a covert tour of duty.

Posted by: rebecca on June 5, 2002 10:37 AM

It sounds like you need this book, my friend: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312267231 . I don't know how often you get into Los Angeles proper, but I heard this guy on NPR and he's got an amazing way of talking about really cheap food. I really wish there were a book like this for San Francisco.

Posted by: forrest on June 11, 2002 02:30 PM

thank you for such a beautifully written, ACCURATE description of life in Los Angeles. I agree with everything you wrote....... I'm from the east coast and just 3 weeks ago I walked away from my entertainment job and swore NEVER to work in entertainment again! I never thought LA would get to me to the point where I would SNAP but I did. I woke up crying at 3:30 the next morning and couldn't stop crying. I hopped on a plane to the city I grew up in and ahhhhh, I could breathe again.. I could have a 2nd slice of pizza and not be in a panic worrying about the ramifications of perhaps gaining 1/4 pound.... I can look people in the eye and know that they are being REAL to me.... it doesn't matter that my shoes are from Macy's and not from a designer boutique... My 5'5" frame @ 120 lbs is JUST FINE here and actually I feel kind of skinny compared to others here.... I don't have to BE anything -- people are just interested in me for my company.. they like ME for ME, not because I work at an entertainment company and they may "need" something from me at some point..........ahhhhh. Meanwhile I still have my apartment in LA with my cat, car, and 9 years worth of stuff waiting for me in LA. I don't want to go back! I am finally at peace with myself and my body and my non-famous life...ahhhhh. It's so strange to be so unhappy living at a place that has so much beauty -- the ocean, beach, gorgeous homes, etc. etc. It really was fun when I first moved to LA.. had never been there, I was 22 and fresh out of college... it was exciting and I had some fun adventures. But then you settle into life and you realize that you are at a certain level -- money, beauty, your celebrity-connectedness, etc. And how does one deal with that?? ugh. Do you know what? Get this. My office had LOTS of people working there.. people stopping by constantly.. everyone knew me... I thought I was friends with everyone there.... but do you know what?? Since I disappeared suddenly 3 weeks ago, not a single person has bothered to send me an email or call just to say "hi, noticed you are not around, when are you coming back? we miss you!" NOT ONE. The office manager called (she pretty much had to -- one of her employees suddenly is "not available" anymore-- she had to find out... plus she's a good friend, too) But NOBODY else bothered to just shoot me an email (EVERYONE knows I have email) saying hi, we miss you, we miss your dog that you would bring to the office with you. What does that say about LA? I think it's a horrible, horrible statement.. I have 6 friends that I am close with and they have been good about emailing .. phew.. but as far as those other idiots? Ugh, good thing I realized just how phony they are and how much they didn't really care about me. I'm soured on LA now but whenever I say things like what you wrote about to the LA people, they look at me with glazed over eyes. They don't understand. They just don't get it. They don't see the shallowness for what it is. I bet they don't even know what real people are anymore. I, too, drive around and wonder about all the people I see on the road. Who are they? how did they get that car? Why are they so unfriendly? How do they pay their mortgage/rent in this expensive neighborhood? What am I doing wrong? I had a boyfriend 4 yrs ago who talked me into buying an expensive car. I bought into the whole LA thing. I'm so disgusted with myself! I have a car I can't afford, a fake chest, had lipo (and the fat grew back), and I live in a tiny, tiny room in a shared apartment. My bankruptcy goes through soon, and I owe $ on my taxes. I blame a lot of these problems on myself for being stupid and young but I also blame it on the whole stupid LA culture. Anyhow thanks again for your text. Glad to know that I'm not the only one who thinks these things about Los Angeles!

Posted by: LA girl on June 17, 2002 07:05 AM

Wow, sounds pretty dismal! It sure is a damned shame. You should take comfort (as I'm sure you do) that you are fighting the good fight, if you find yourself being lonely among a bunch of artificial assholes then it's a small price to pay to hold on to your common human decency. I've always felt that I'de rather have one real genuine friend and be a nobody in the eyes of society at large than be mr. popularity with a bunch of fairweather so called friends.I've heard plenty of crummy things about sunny L.A. over the recent years but I tended to regard them as a bit exagerated,I guess it really sucks as much as they say. I should explain that I once entertained the notion of going out there to make my fortune in the film FX field, but I (luckily as it turns out!) got sidetracked into the video game industry and as fate would have it I was transplanted from my home town of Chicago to Seattle, (which is pretty cool). In a way I never really looked forward to going to CA, ironically for the very same reason that most people would presumably find it appealling, I can't stand the hot,sunny climate! I'm sorry to hear that it is a miserable place in terms of the social climate as well. I have a friend who lived in L.A., a very talented,witty and intelligent artist who although not Tom Cruise is by no means Quasimodo either, he does have some very visible acne scarring however (which apparently is about equal to the plague+leperosy out there!), so anyway he once told me that one day he was out minding his own buisness when some dried out overtanned surgically altered old bitch walked up to him (a complete stranger mind you)in public and gawked at him in horror while exclaiming very loudly "Oh my gawd! what happened to your face?! You poor thing, you should kill yourself!". I guess she sincerely felt she was being a compassionate human being with that little bit of helpful advice! Anyway I really feel for you and any one else who has to live in a place that breeds and condones that kind of despicable shallow attitude, good luck.
P.S. I hope you don't mind me throwing my two cents worth in the hat, I guess it's pretty bizzare that I came across your site at random and just started talking to you out of the blue as it were,but if you never talk to strangers then you never make new friends, right?

Posted by: J.Ramirez on June 30, 2002 02:09 AM

Dear J-

Thanks for the nice note! Wow, I can't believe that woman said those horrible things to your friend who had some acne scars. That is so terrible but I totally believe that it happened. Uck! It's true, people have no compassion for any blemishes/scars there. I have a friend who is a talented actor/comedian and has acne scars. I think that's why he hasn't made it big yet.. I really do... he seems to get written off because of his skin but nobody will tell him that's the reason.

Anyhow it's been 2 months now that I've been out of LA and I'm so happy! Totally at peace. I'm surrounded by nice, normal people now. Phew! I have determined that 98% of my unhappiness in LA was due to my working in the entertainment industry. When I returned last week to move all of my stuff out of LA I saw the city in a whole different light - the ocean looked beautiful, the sand was soft and warm, the food was fantastic. So I'm glad I got out of working in entertainment... my mind is now at peace! Maybe for me LA is a great place to visit but I shouldn't live there..All the other problems I had are now not such a big deal and I can fix most everything in time. Anyhow thanks, it's nice to know that someone read my random post (how did I find this link anyhow?) and cared enough to respond. very cool. -not an la girl

Posted by: la girl on July 14, 2002 05:32 AM

My goal...actually my dream is to live in los angeles...is it really THAT bad there????

I mean seriously it cannot be worse than waking up every morning, and taking in a deep, fresh breath of... 'cow shit' air.

Coming from a town whose population is 1,500. I think it would be better to live in a city where no one talks to you or gives a shit about you, than to live in a small town where people constantly gossip about you, and the things you most regret doing in life, to every person and their dog.

I'm not trying to argue with you. I'm just trying to figure out if smelly cows, endless corn fields, dull land and nosey people, is really a better way to live life than in los angeles....with the beach, the ocean, and the sun..this city that I've so wanted to be a part of? -

Posted by: iowa girl on October 9, 2002 08:53 PM

Oh, get over yourselves. LA is beautiful and ugly just like anywhere else. Your insecurities run rampant and you would probably be complaining if you were in paradise as well. It's your own perspective that infirms finding a happy place.

Posted by: on March 28, 2003 11:05 AM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?

words and images are © copyright 2002-2005 kristen johansen or their respective authors. please do not reproduce without permission. send email to kia at bossanova dot com.