Los Angeles Is the Void.
I’ve been to Los Angeles twice, and while I’ve always enjoyed my time there, I knew I couldn’t live there.
I hated how Los Angeles was so spread out and you needed a car to get absolutely anywhere. I hated how Los Angeles seemed to be controlled by stars, wannabe stars and their sycophants. I found the city dirty and loud, and epitomized it as the home of plastic surgery, pollution and cocaine.
Many of my initial musings were seen through the eyes of a visiting seventeen-year-old girl who was shocked — shocked! — that she and her friends received catcalls wherever they went. But even so, I never desired to live or even return to Los Angeles. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t functional.
Then a year ago, I came across an absolutely BRILLIANT post about Los Angeles written by Geoff Manaugh.
Here is an excerpt:
L.A. is the apocalypse: it’s you and a bunch of parking lots. No one’s going to save you; no one’s looking out for you. It’s the only city I know where that’s the explicit premise of living there – that’s the deal you make when you move to L.A.
The city, ironically, is emotionally authentic.
It says: no one loves you; you’re the least important person in the room; get over it.
Hearing his words, so eloquently describing something that is so difficult to pinpoint, made me want to move to Los Angeles immediately!
Some people argue that New York is a place where you can do anything, be anyone. But I feel that that’s not the case — in New York, there’s a degree of what you are expected or “supposed” to be, in whichever life path you’ve chosen, and if you fall short of those expectations, you’re in trouble.
Boston is much worse.
Los Angeles, by contrast, is a wake-up call and an antidote to entitlement.
Image: Greg Foster
Ever since reading this a year ago, I’ve been looking for good pieces that depict contemporary life in Los Angeles.
And then I found Californication. The Showtime series, not the Red Hot Chili Peppers album.
In the series, David Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a bestselling author living in Los Angeles. He went from being on top of the world — he had the perfect woman, perfect daughter, and professional success — to being alone, haunted by writer’s block, living in a city he can’t stand. And yet he’s still best friends and completely in love with his ex, who has found someone else. He spends his days picking up random women all over the city, with great success.
Take a look at the season one opening credits and you’ll see how Los Angeles is depicted:
Los Angeles is empty. Los Angeles is the void. Not just the cultural void, but the VOID.
To finish with another quote from Manaugh:
No matter what you do in L.A., your behavior is appropriate for the city. Los Angeles has no assumed correct mode of use. You can have fake breasts and drive a Ford Mustang – or you can grow a beard, weigh 300 pounds, and read Christian science fiction novels. Either way, you’re fine: that’s just how it works. You can watch Cops all day or you can be a porn star or you can be a Caltech physicist. You can listen to Carcass – or you can listen to Pat Robertson. Or both.
Have you been to Los Angeles? What is it that defines the city?