Escape From Los Angeles

The first American city I moved to in 1998 was Seattle. I was nineteen, and decided it was time to go claim my piece of the dot-com gold rush. And at the time, I felt like I’d moved to a huge city, one with suburbs and freeways and too many neighborhoods for me to learn and explore.

Obviously, eight years later, I see Seattle very differently. And it’s the couple years and change in L.A. that has altered my perspective most drastically. Los Angeles challenged me to learn a city bigger and more complicated than any city I’d known before. Seattle, by comparison, seems much more manageable and easily understood. It doesn’t have so many of the factors that complicate Los Angeles: racial tensions, sprawl, a convoluted and half-buried history, or as much extreme poverty and homelessness. And because it’s a smaller city, with less going on within it, there seems to be more of a city-wide culture, instead of the fragmentation within Los Angeles.

Being in Seattle for the last few days has been a real vacation. Part of that is because it is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous in the Northwest this week, but part of it is because it’s a bit easier, mentally, to be here instead of in L.A.

Since Los Angeles is a city of transplants (although some transplants take root & make it their own more than others), I know many of you reading this are also from other cities in America. How does your perspective on your former stomping grounds change when you go back?

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4 Replies to “Escape From Los Angeles”

  1. i grew up in new england, connecticut to be precise, and went to college in boston because i thought new york was just too much for me and even hated visiting because it was too overwhelming. after living in l.a. for almost four years, i find myself missing new york more than any other city, even thought it’s not really my hometown. i love the walking culture and the very different kind of density of the city than we have in l.a. when i go back to boston, i feel nostalgia, but i don’t miss it like i did when i left.

  2. I totally relate to your experiences with Seattle. I moved there from Spokane when I was 18, and I felt like I was finally moving to the “big city.” Then I moved to the Bay Area. Everything is so much bigger in California! It was overwhelming at first, but now that I have gotten involved in the San Francisco and San Jose scene over the past few years, I feel the same as you when I go back to Seattle. It does seem much more manageable and less fragmented there.

  3. she may be a city of transplants to some, but she’s also home to those, like me, who never truly left. i was born in the south bay, i went to university on the westside, i now live/work/play on the east side. i’ve thought about relocating (seattle, san francisco and boston are high on my list), but so far, nowhere has been diverse enough, warm enough, anonymous enough. quite simply, nowhere is enough.

    she’s in my bloodstream, and my life force. i can’t help but be in love with her.

  4. I’m from Paris originally, but have been an expat for years — mostly England, NYC and California, with a little bit of Berlin, Eastern Europe and H.K. My first reaction when I came to L.A. was immediate rejection.What an ugly city! Not even a city, no center, just a web of freeways with no life in between. A mere, uninspiring sprawl of commercial signs, cheesy dingbats and tacky Versailles wannabes. No culture. Nouveau riche “bling bling”. No soul. Agressivity. No human scale, whether physical or mental.

    Yet, it didn’t take me a year to get to love this city. It’s so diverse, so energizing! The culture is great because, as James Turrell said, “the great thing about L.A. is that it’s free from taste” (as defined by more established cultural places such as Paris/London/NYC). Hence a buzzing creative scene — with a lot of Christmas puddings but also breakthrough art and architecture.

    In L.A., anything is possible. You can invent anything, and reinvent yourself if you want. If you fall, it’ll hurt and no one will be there to help you get back on your feet, but it’s part of the experience.

    L.A. is a young, dynamic city — with an energy and freedom you don’t find anymore in the older stuffy/bigot cities.

    I’m always elated to get back to Paris, and get a deep snort of history, “civilization” and “raffinement”, but somehow I feel constrained. Same with London and NYC. I miss the physical and mental space L.A. gives. And nothing can beat the extraordinary ecology of L.A.

    Bottom line is: if you’ve lived in more than one place, you’ll never be 100% happy with any of them, because you’ll always make comparisons. I miss a lot from the other places I lived in, and there are a lot of things that annoy me about L.A. and the American culture in general, but for now, L.A. is home — and a happy one.

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