LA: the love-hate relationship, side 2

let’s be honest: it’s a little cliche to say that you love LA. it’s like saying you love the blondest, prettiest girl at school. hating LA, on the other hand — that never goes out of style, just as it never goes out of style to hate her sports teams. saying that you hate LA is a pretty quick and dirty way to connect with most people in the US. it’s as easy as hating that blonde, pretty girl — she’s an easy target. you hate her because she has everything, and when you’re completely honest, you hate her because you’re not her.

this is more or less what i’ve done for my 4 years of residence here, though perhaps a little less harshly. when asked how i like living in LA, i’ve generally allowed that i enjoy the weather and the beach but quickly followed with a list of all the things i don’t like about the city, along with a declaration of my intent to leave as soon as i’m free from the clutches of grad school.

recently, however, i’ve made two significant realizations:

1. refusing to like LA because it’s cliche is not being fair to the city, and it diminishes all that it does have to offer. and it’s pretty lame, because not only am i being dictated by the trend, but i’m also making my life more difficult, since i have to live here.

2. being painfully aware of a city’s problems does not mean that i have to hate the city itself. take detroit, for example. talk about cities with problems — the entire country knows about the tanking auto industry and economy, but there’s even more that they don’t hear about, like the racism and the horrendously-run education system (which i think is at the heart of issue). detroit is overflowing with problems. but i love detroit. i love its scrappiness and toughness. i love that it’s not a city for pansies. i love the giant baked potatoes from the potato place at cass and warren, the saganaki in greektown, the sweet potato everything from sweet potato sensations on lahser and grand river.

hence, i realized that if i can see detroit’s problems and still love it madly… then perhaps i could do the same for los angeles. and that opened up a whole new world for me — one where i could truly appreciate the city and not write off all of its benefits, which i experience regularly, as exceptions.

so. after 4 years of kvetching and resistance, i’ve come to a point where i can finally say that

i love los angeles.

this is a big step for me. it isn’t something i could have said even a month ago. but the aforementioned realizations have allowed me to see that LA is a phenomenal city. i’ve even cracked the door open to the possibility of staying long-term, something i’ve never considered before. and i’ve realized that, in the (more likely) case that i don’t stay, i will be very, very sad to leave, and i will live out my days talking about how great life in LA was.

***

so why exactly do i love LA? this is hard to explain in a few words.

i find that when people go to europe, the things that they love most about it generally aren’t the things they went to see. those things help, for sure — the eiffel tower and the colisseum certainly make paris and rome awe-inspiring — but the things that make people really fall in love with europe are the things the guidebooks don’t tell you about. the hole-in-the-wall cafe with the killer pasta and sporadic karaoke. the little alleys and courtyards filled with sunlight. the perfect cappuccino at the cafe off the beaten path.

so it is with LA. everyone will tell you about the weather and the beach, but the things that make LA truly fantastic are the things that don’t get nearly as much airtime. cases in point:

– the los angeles flower market. it’s the largest flower market in the country and second-largest in the world, trailing only the one in amsterdam. three giant warehouses with booth after booth of the freshest, most beautiful flowers you’ve ever seen, in every color imaginable — at a fraction of the cost of what you’d find in stores. (for example: the orchids on clearance for $7 that are nicer than any i’ve ever seen outside those walls.) the market opens at midnight on mondays, wednesdays, and fridays, and serve only retailers until 6am, when they open to the public. from then until noon, the place is bustling with people buying flowers for weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations. it’s an extraordinary experience, and one you can have only here.

– on any given night — weekend, weekday, no matter — you can find at least 10 decently-known bands playing at one of the city’s many music venues. every band or exhibit, no matter how big or obscure, will make a stop here, if not several. and it goes beyond that: the dodos played at the getty museum two weekends ago. bon iver is playing a 6am show at the hollywood bowl. the cultural experiences here are one-of-a-kind, and the boundaries between different mediums are always being pushed and crossed in interesting ways.

– the tapestries behind the altar in the cathedral of our lady of the angels, the mother church of the dioscese of LA, depict a street map of the city. inscribed are the words, “see, God’s dwelling is among mortals. God will dwell with them. they will be God’s people and God will be with them.”

– the variety of ethnic food. within a 30-minute drive, you can find any cuisine under the sun and find it cheap and delicious. chinatown, k-town, thai town, filipinotown, little tokyo, little india, little armenia — the list goes on and on. the importance of this cannot be overlooked, both because eating is very important to me, and because it points to the bigger issue of…

– diversity.

in the US, we talk a lot about being multicultural and diverse, about different cultures brushing up against each other every day and rubbing off on each other — but the reality of the matter is that most of the country isn’t like that. the number of places where that’s actually true are fairly few, and of those, none provides quite the mix that LA does. you see it in the kogi truck, but more than anything else, you see it in the people. no where else have i seen interracial friendships, relationships, and babies as taken for granted as they are in LA. no one thinks twice about it. i am almost never the only the minority in the room, which is not something i can say in most other places. i’ve never been anywhere where people of all races know how to order eel and boba. diversity is generally a given here. when people talk about the multiculturalism of the US, what they’re generally describing is LA.

which leads to something even more significant: no matter what your ethnicity, lifestyle, or taste, you can find a likeminded community here. if you’re asian, black, gay, orthodox, outdoorsy, coffee-loving, fire-juggling — or all of the above — you can be that with all of your heart and find a community of people who will support you.

it’s that last point, i think, that best captures what i love about LA. the city holds so much diversity; it contains so many different people doing different things, and allows them all to do so wholeheartedly. and that has allowed me to explore all of the diversity within myself — all of the different facets of me, with all of the complications and seeming contradictions — and hold it all together. just as it holds so many disparate pieces, LA has given me the space to embrace all of these different parts of me, and it is here that i have become the most fully myself.

and that is why i love los angeles. the weather and the beach are nice, certainly; but more than anything else, i love that this city allows people to fully be who they are.

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2 thoughts on “LA: the love-hate relationship, side 2

  1. another great post. even though i've never been to LA, i can appreciate the complexity of your relationship with it. and as i readjust to city living, your last point (about diversity) is one of the most salient changes. it's so foreign to me and i love it.

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