Why do we love LA?

When I’m traveling, which I’ve been doing a lot recently, and people ask me how I like LA I always gush about how much I love it. I really do. And this surprises people usually and they ask for more which is hard to describe. I think a lot of it boils down to the reality and honesty which is LA, which is funny to say about a city with such a reputation for being fake. But we’re honest about the fakeness – We all know what is fake and we’re all OK with that – where as in other cities they don’t have any less fakeness but they try to pretend it’s real. But there’s more to it than that and I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on it exactly until I read this post on BLDG BLOG which might be the most perfect explanation of Los Angeles that I’ve ever read. Geoff starts off putting it on content by saying:

“There are three great cities in the United States: there’s Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York – in that order. I love Boston; I even love Denver; I like Miami; I think Washington DC is habitable; but Los Angeles is Los Angeles. “

Without going into individual city descriptions myself I’ll just say that since the first day I stepped foot here the fact that Los Angeles is so very Los Angeles is what sold me on it. But that’s the trivial part. This is where I knew he was really getting it:

“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.
What matters is what you do there.

Bingo. In other cities that’s partially true as well but everyone pretends it isn’t. In LA there is no pretense about it. When I lived in Chicago there were people who expected things because of who they were and assumed they would always be in that same situation, and there were people who made it very clear that no matter what you did you could only get to a certain level of social class because of who you were. Of course that was bullshit, but in LA the people who expect stuff because of who they are are all to familiar with the fact that tomorrow that could all be gone, and the people who are nobodies today can be the most important person in town tomorrow.


(Also, there is something amazingly comforting about all these parking lots. One of the biggest frustrations I’ve felt in other major cities – Chicago, Toronto, New York, Rome, Tokyo… everyone freaks out about parking all the time, but back to the point…)

Another Snip that totally nails it:

“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.

And it doesn’t need humanizing. Who cares if you can’t identify with Los Angeles? It doesn’t need to be made human. It’s better than that.”

Sure there’s a bit of Fight Club seeping through into this, but there is a reason it makes sense. You don’t mean anything until you prove otherwise. I love this post, I love this city. Almost makes me teary eyed just thinking about it. Well put Geoff, well put.

(thx for the heads up Xeni & Suzanna!)

16 thoughts on “Why do we love LA?”

  1. The more important part is that largely you can do your own thing and if you don’t bother anyone you can go about your business. It’s not as free as it was when I first got here, but its still one of the endearing charms of LA. Or is it L.A.?

  2. Thank you for that, Sean. I am always hard pressed to put into words why Los Angeles is “home” and why I love it here. This helps a lot.

  3. I am baffled about some of the attributes you’ve mentioned.
    I have a love/hate relationship L.A. (maybe more love than hate) but I would never consider this city to be emotionally honest. Ive always had the feeling that people are mainly fair-weather friends who can’t deal with people’s problems because they’re too focused on themselves. I don’t mean that everyone is selfish and greedy, just that the individual is prized over anything else. It creates an atmosphere where you can’t be too honest about what you’re going though. People are so busy and ambitious that they’re hard to be intimate with. I do agree people here seem very accepting and willing to let others do as they please, which is nice to be sure.
    I do love living in big cities, LA is no exception in that regard, but I do not feel “free” in them. Nothing about the short history of this city makes me feel the weight of time passed before me. Generally the feelings of freedom and insignificance comes being well outside of the city in the mountains or the desert.
    Its interesting for me to see how vastly different people’s perceptions of LA are.

  4. LA is like tofu… it takes on the flavor of whatever you bring to it.
    I can’t say enough that if you think LA is full of plastic people, its likely because of the type of people you’ve chosen to associate with.

  5. I think LA is honest–in New Orleans, you’re a writer if you say you’re a writer. Here, landlords want to see your WGA card, or your galley proofs. While that lessens the romance, it also cleanses the bs, just like the winds from the desert. And you get to start over. You might have been a homecoming queen back home in Dubuque, but here, you’re the next incarnation of Xene–if you’ve got the goods to back that up.

  6. If L.A. is “honest” then I guess I prefer dishonesty. Sorry to rain on everyone’s parade, but as far as I can tell, people in L.A. recognize only shallow ass-kissing as a valid form of human communication. Until that changes I don’t think I’ll be able to concede that happiness can be attained here without fully embracing one’s new life as a completely fake and soulless human being. And I have no day-to-day contact with the entertainment industry here; this is my impression of life here generally.

  7. When I read Geoff’s piece a couple of days ago, it made sense, but it didn’t feel right. Maybe that’s ’cause I grew up in the area and have never lived anywhere else. I also thought a lot of what he mentioned about LA was much more “Hollywood” and kind of devoid of the contributions of people of color to this city. However, I think even immigrants come here and taken down a notch.

  8. this is what I posted on BLDGBLOG:
    Were you born here? I was, and sorry, but I call shenanigans.
    It may be the way you say on the West Side. On the East Side, where the majority of people live, there is a LOT of love. People DID come here for the Sisyphean deal; ‘let me roll the rock and I’ll roll it a loooong way’. THAT’s what they love- that compact with your own ambition. Otherwise, people relate to each other as well as they do in Tokyo or Kansas. Why cast aspersions on our interpersonal relationships?
    Los Angeles is great because it doesn’t care who yer mom or dad was. Can you do what you say you can? Web designers from Oaxaca want to be the next Walt Disney. Some kid from Canada has a nice voice? Give him a guitar, let’s put on a show. It’s not braggin’ if it’s true, the old men used to say.

    I was going to print this out and put it on my classroom wall…but you’ve got some homework to do, first, Mister. Leave Brentwood. Come to Montebello.

  9. Nice assumptions there Jeff but mostly all wrong. Brentwood? hahahahah.

    Anyway, I’ve talked to a few other people who are live time LA folks and I think that’s the key here – All those people seemed to take the post as an attack, which isn’t – it’s a love letter. if you’ve never lived someplace else you don’t understand why all the things listed above are good things. I’ve lived in LA long enough, and enough other places to know that the above is true and that is exactly why I choose to stay here.

  10. Thats the thing about LA. There’s basically two kinds of people/perceptions here. The superficial/vain/entertainment denizens which get the most media and popular coverage and the others who have a broader understanding of what makes L.A. L.A.

    I knew you’d be the latter sean bonner when I met you two weeks from chicago and we ended up skating in some bank parking lot a little while later.

  11. what the hell is hahahahah?

    Welcome to L.A.
    For however long you stay.

    He (BLDGBLOG) says we’re not capable of being trusted in matters of the heart; that everyone here is a flake and it’s just accepted, enjoy the perfidy of others’ hearts.
    I say bullshit. I am as constant as the northern star. My friends are, too. He sees in L.A. what he sees in himself, perhaps. Maybe this is a playground where nothing counts for him. Fascinating perspective; did he just drive through, or did he stop for a burger?

    Not assumptions on my part; just facts. No facts in his paper, just opinions (but what well-parsed ones!)
    Enjoy your stay here. Eat a mango. Get a tan.

  12. “hahahahah” means I’m laughing at you. Right at you. And that mango/tan bit only adds to this. Most amusing, those wacky assumptions of yours and so completely wrong.

    The MAJOR point you are missing is this, we’ll see if you can get it – BLDGBLOG isn’t saying people are flakes in LA and it’s OK, but they are die hard and rock solid everywhere else – he’s saying they are flakes everywhere but in LA there is no faking about it. In other cities they pretend they aren’t, in LA people are honest, about the good and bad. I’ve lived in Los Angeles longer than any other city in my life and don’t ever plan to leave because of just that. So deny what ever you need to if it makes you feel better, I know what truths I see in this city, which is why I love it, and why it’s home.

  13. I just read that post. Though he does make some good points and observations, I agree with Jeff that in some parts of LA, people do relate to their neighbors and others like if it was a small town. The “nobody gives a shit” motto only goes so far; that makes sense if you only see yourself as a lone wolf trying to get by, but if you take on a more communal approach (as wolves tend to actually do) then you’ll notice how there is a sense of community in LA, you just have to be ready to see it. I get his point, it is a love letter to LA, but sometimes people can love it for the wrong reasons.

  14. Is there such a thing as an NYCNerd? A WindyCityNerd? Maybe that explains it all. We love LA because we have LACN.

    Stay Safe. Be Well,

    Brian Humphrey
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

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