Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Los Angeles Is the Void.


Image: Trig’s

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.

Image: benyeh2

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.

Steve Martin’s Shopgirl was pretty good (the movie much more than the novella).  Entourage is great for showing the ridiculousness of Los Angeles, but from an affluent/famed perspective.

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?

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8 Responses to “Los Angeles Is the Void.”
  1. Colleen says:

    I totally agree. I have visited California 3 times in the last year and a half, and I found LA and San Diego pretty disgusting. I would never want to live in California. San Francisco was nice, kinda pretty….but LA was ugh, it made my skin crawl!!!

  2. Amy says:

    I totally agree with you on LA. I’ve been twice (once with Kelly Anne and once with Jay), and I was mostly underwhelmed both times. There IS awesomeness in LA, but it can be achieved in a couple days. Jay & I did dinner at the Chateau Marmont and saw about a dozen huge celebs: star-gazing, check! Kelly and I did a walking tour of about 6 square blocks of downtown LA that are filled with so much history of the film biz that I was super-impressed with both it and our awesome guide (getting to know the area: check!). Another must-see is the Kodak theater and an accompanying tour of the House of Oscar; plus I sat in the captain’s chair on the set of Star Trek: TNG at the Hollywood Museum (tours: check! nerd factor: check!). Really, that is all. And In & Out burger, haha. There’s your two days!

    Although I love Californication and how it depicts LA. LOVE IT. Plus it’s like falling in love with David Duchovny all over again!

  3. Russ says:

    I can’t vouch for LA, but I do live in San Diego. I am a New Englander to the core, born and raised in CT, and I’ve been in San Diego here for 10 years. But I do have to admit, there is something freeing about being in California. People are weird and crazy and stuck up and shallow, but at the same time you can do whatever the hell you want here. It’s really quite a contradiction. People come out here to be people, it’s where they think they will find their place, but really it’s just a mash up of people who all think the same thing and probably wouldn’t fit in if they went back home. Every day I think about leaving because it’s so hard to find real people out here, the type of people that you find all over in New York and Boston are impossible to find here; people with conviction, loud mouths who don’t care what people think of them. And the traffic and the sprawl and the parking lots drive me mad. But I haven’t left yet, the weather is great, there is so much to do, it just sort of draws you in. I think there are a lot of similarities between LA and SD, but there are also a lot of differences. Even people here love to say how they hate LA and could never live there. The worst part is that people here don’t realize that the rest of the country is not like here, that not everyone dresses up just to go out and grab a bite to eat or to run to Home Depot. (I really do see women in heels and make up and dressed to impress in Home Depot, hilarious!) People here act so plastic and they don’t even know they do it, they feel like they constantly have to impress. I catch flak because I wear sneakers, plain jeans and a tshirt to go out, where as when I’m back home in CT I fit in just fine.

  4. Ava Apollo says:

    I was born and raised in LA and honestly never want to live there again, mostly because of the traffic and completely ridiculous city layout that you mentioned.

    I agree with this: “It says: no one loves you; you’re the least important person in the room; get over it.”

    It’s very true and even a little humbling to grow up in a place with so many different people and so much going on. There truly is a place for everyone in this city. Almost nothing even shocks me anymore.

    Living in such a dynamic place with no real majority (both socially and ethnically) made me want to travel. It made me curious about other cultures and other people, because LA was such a melting pot. It’s a fabulous place and it’s home, but it’s not for the faint of heart. That much is for sure!

  5. Tom Richmond says:

    I think I have forwarded this article to 3 architecture and planning professors, 16 MA planning students and about 20 friends. I think that says it all. Really, the catchphrase is perfect: LA is the VOID. No wonder you do so well with the blog- you need to be in advertizing. Keep up the good work.

  6. Christina says:

    It’s funny to me that San Diego got brought into the comments because I was thinking the same thing while reading this – especially the urban sprawl and needing a car to go anywhere part. I just moved away from San Diego after 6 years and I could not WAIT to leave. I just don’t like Southern CA in general – can’t make friends because everyone is so fake, and to me, the weather is boring! It’s the same year-round.


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