April 6, 2008 at 8:00 am in 64 Worst
LA astonishes me in the ways that it is at once one of the most diverse and amazingly varied cities on the planet, and at the same time it’s a total conformity factory. The two biggest one-size-fits-all offenders in my book: flip-flops and chain stores.
I should begin by outing myself: I am a native Washingtonian, as in the District of Columbia, as in the most sartorially uptight city in the nation. I grew up in a city where flip-flops were reserved for beach wear, dorm showers, and tourists. In DC all women dress like flight attendants and there’s something vaguely obscene about open-toed shoes–toe cleavage and all that. Now, of course, I live in LA where open-toed shoes are a necessity because otherwise how could you show off the miniature last supper that was just painted on your thumb toe. I know I’m stodgy. I get that there’s still a fashion fascist inside me left from my youth. But people, people, flip flops are not work wear or gallery opening attire, or heaven forbid, first date footgear. And you unpedicured men with your gnarly, gross toes–buy some lace-ups!!! Spare us the sight of your chewed up, calloused feet and talon toe nails. If you must, for some unfathomable reason flip-flop your way through the day, please pay a nice pedicurist so that we can all catch a break.
And then there’s the Starbuckification of the landscape. While I can’t bring myself to actively boycott any of the monster chains except Walmart, I do refuse to call a “small” coffee “tall.” I just won’t do it. You have to draw the line somewhere. Why do we want the same shops and restaurants in Crenshaw and Van Nuys and Westwood? Don’t get me wrong, I eat the occasional Baja Fresh burrito and I’ve been known to have a Jamba Juice on a hot day, but it’s not like these culinary delights are so outstanding that they should pervade every cranny of LA. Yes, Target has great deals on ginormous packages of microwave popcorn and their panties are super cheap, but do we need one on every corner? I live eleven miles from work and I pass three Targets on the way home. Really we could live anywhere if that’s where we’re going to drop our cash. It could be Oklahoma. Or Kansas. Or Detroit. What makes LA great is not Restoration Hardware and IHop. Maybe that’s what makes Dubuque great, but I think we can do better. So what do you think…