daily life travel

Give the Pacific my love.

What’s it like, being from Los Angeles? It isn’t. You’ve always wanted to go? Of course you have.

Los Angeles exists only as rivers of head-lights and veins of brake-lights. Not a proper city, no center at all, nothing but a sprawl of strip-mall liquor stores and beach-front property twisted around freeway interchanges, highway overpasses, and motorway numerals. LA is movement, jerky traffic. Los Angeles is inhabited by cars driven by an enternally late, under-caffeinated, “Nearly-out-of-gas, lost-the-phone-number, forgot-the-directions, can-I-call-you-back?” simulacrum of a being that has been consumed by his or her vehicle’s need to be in constant motion. Snail-paced motion.

Sure – they’ve designed a stretch of Sunset and put aside a bit of Hollywood, for the tourists’ sake. You can see the sign. Look at the closed gates of the back-lots. Line up at a Starbucks and hopefully stare down the sun-glassed baseball-capped profiles. Drive the PCH to ocean and lay on the beach. You’re in LA. Just – don’t stop moving. Hold still, sit down, and you’ll lose the city. Just ask the locals – the newest batch of them. There’s one over there. The low-level suit with a crew-cut. He just moved his family here from Wisconsin. And his friend, that balding one with a paunch, he’s from Iowa. He’d had plans of a mini-mansion and regular weekend get-aways to Vegas but three kids and four mortgages later and he still can’t explain to the in-laws why they haven’t moved back. The weather’s nice; sunny, after all, with that coastal breeze. Can’t be beat.

You’ll be lucky to find a pocket or two of that real LA – the one the songs talk about, the one that you’ll never be able to leave, the one that you’ll struggle to define after you’ve left, the one you’d been promised, with the calling voices and up-and-comings. When you do stumble into the sunlight land you were looking for, you’ll know it. Everyone’s pretty. The women are all blond. The men are toned. Cleavage is in; cleavage has always been in, always will be. Legs go in and out with the season. Social order is measured in body mass index. Thirteen year old girls could pass for twenty-five, late-twenty-somethings are playing high-schoolers but look like they’re pushing thirty; anyone over thirty-five has had some work done. Let’s not even discuss the fringes; suburbia is worse. Silicon valley of over-sized mammary glands, carefully streaked hair, and plastic noses.

You want to go deeper? Keep asking around. This is an insider’s town, baby. You’re going to need a tip or two.

The waiters are all out-of-work actors waiting for the next casting call – although, they’ll tell you in mock confidence as they squat down (the tray set on your table, their weight on their arms resting across it, chins on their wrists to look you dead in the eye), although, what they really want to do is direct. The bartenders are writers – screenwriters, sorry – and the girl who serves you coffee wants to be a journalist. Maybe a shrink. To the stars. The Chinese restaurant is staffed by Mexicans. The Mexicans on the corner near Home Depot are from Guatamala or Puerto Rico; big men, back in the home town, the money they send is building a home big enough for six families. They might make it back, one day, or just start another family here. The streets have Spanish names – pronunciation is a litmus test of the gringos. The Latina girls have nails and hair, not to mention a laugh laced with glass and aimed at you. They don’t give a damn about any of it, though, really. The Cambodian woman who does nails in the salon next to the doughnut shop owned by the dark man in a turban does – she’s going to night school to be a nurse and has two kids in preschool. The doctors are Chinese and the engineers are Indian – but they don’t really live in LA , since they’re willing to commute. Neighbourhoods have seceded, after all. And go with it, dude. Go with the flow.

Just get in your car. Change your area code and your clothes and become a new person. You can only be seen by your ilk. Invisible to anyone not your kind. Get in your car and drive, babe, drive it off. You’re not supposed to linger. Don’t think this is where you meant to be. You’re on the wrong side of town – and always will be. Get a move on. Nothing to see here. You’re running late and the sig-alert on the 405 isn’t going to help.

Take surface streets? Sure. Just act casual.

You’re only half an hour away.

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