It’s LA. You Don’t Matter. You’re Free.


I’m San Francisco born and raised, but I don’t hate on LA. In fact, I like LA, and find the NorCal/SoCal rivalry kind of stupid.

I have yet to spend much time in the City of Los Angeles itself, but I plan on doing so. I’m fascinated by this place — by the driving, by the weather, the palm trees, the conservatives in Orange County, the boob jobs, Hollywood, the massive Spanish speaking population, etc.

Geoff Manaugh writes a blog about architecture and cities. He’s from LA, recently moved to San Francisco’s Cole Valley (where I’m from) for work, and was profiled in today’s LA Times. His post on why Los Angeles is the world’s greatest city is awesome (not because I necessarily agree, but for how he puts it) and I excerpt liberally below:

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.

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….

If you can’t handle a huge landscape made entirely from concrete, interspersed with 24-hour drugstores stocked with medications you don’t need, then don’t move there.
It’s you and a bunch of parking lots.

You’ll see Al Pacino in a traffic jam, wearing a stocking cap; you’ll see Cameron Diaz in the check-out line at Whole Foods, giggling through a mask of reptilian skin; you’ll see Harry Shearer buying bulk shrimp.

The whole thing is ridiculous. It’s the most ridiculous city in the world – but everyone who lives there knows that. No one thinks that L.A. "works," or that it’s well-designed, or that it’s perfectly functional, or even that it makes sense to have put it there in the first place; they just think it’s interesting. And they have fun there.

And the huge irony is that Southern California is where you can actually do what you want to do; you can just relax and be ridiculous. In L.A. you don’t have to be embarrassed by yourself. You’re not driven into a state of endless, vaguely militarized self-justification by your xenophobic neighbors.

You’ve got a surgically pinched, thin Michael Jackson nose? You’ve got a goatee and a trucker hat? You’ve got a million-dollar job and a Bentley? You’ve got to be at work at the local doughnut shop before 6am? Or maybe you’ve got 16 kids and an addiction to Yoo-Hoo – who cares?

It doesn’t matter.

Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it’s bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don’t matter. You’re free.

3 comments on “It’s LA. You Don’t Matter. You’re Free.
  • As a southern California native, my opinion is that the weather is so incredible that people just don’t care what others think about them.

    It sounds simplistic, but geography still matters. The region is such an outdoors-centric place – because the weather is so great.

    So when you hear New Yorker rag on La-La land, the only people not listening are the people IN La-La land – they’re busy living their lives the way they want to.

  • I’m going to have to agree a bit with the comment above from Don. It seems that the people that are ripping on LA all the time, are the ones that 1. Never have been to LA, 2. Spent an hour visiting the LAX airport and think they’ve “seen” LA. 3. Think that watching Beverly Hills 90210, the OC, or whatever other reality crap these days, is a true representation of LA.

    The fact is, the culture, dynamic, and environment in SoCal, is different from any other location in the world. The West is a melting pot for the entire world, and LA is a shining example of people who have left their birthplaces, looking for something “a little bit more”.

    I was born and raised in LA. For college, I went to PA and lived in a town of 30K people for 4 years. Then I tried Colorado, for another 4 years. Now I’m living in SF, and can tell you that Northern California, and Southern California should be split into seperate states.

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