The craigslist ad for my apartment said it was in the Westlake district, so I started doing all my research on that area of Los Angeles and telling all my friends about it and blogging about it, and getting it into my head that I’m moving from quasi-suburbia (I can see through you now, Los Feliz) to a real urban neighborhood.
Well, that’s exactly what I did, but not quite in the way I expected.
I live in an old building on a short block just within walking distance of the Vermont/Wilshire Metro Station. One thing I noticed on the night I moved in is that there’s always people on the street. In the street. Hanging out and loitering all hours in big gangs and small ones. One afternoon I saw a Hispanic family set up a folding table on the sidewalk in front of a vacant lot and have a picnic lunch. Just yesterday a couple of teenage girls played a game of tetherball using the small tree in front of their building instead of a pole. Produce and vehicle repairs are peddled out the backs of trucks. I watch as rows of cars double park with their hazards on up and down the block. People gather around them, talking, shooting craps, drinking, laughing, whatever. All of these things are taking place within about a hundred yards of each other.
What’s interesting about my new neighborhood, and what’s drastically different from my old one, is that I want to meet these people. Not because they’re “colorful” or “interesting” per se (they very well could be), but more because I know they’re there. In Los Feliz and Silverlake, people generally don’t hang out on the sidewalks or in front of their buildings. Usually, you can catch all the hipsters you want walking their dogs or down at Fred 62, but never just hanging out. No one seems very accessible. Before I moved, I’d been living in the same place for two years, and I rarely if ever spoke to the people in the apartment next to mine. Maybe we’d nod as we passed on the driveway, but other than that, everyone just kept to themselves.
Right now I’m just another aloof hipster in a very open, very un-hipster neighborhood. I’m looking forward to feeling right at home some day.