The Sane Person's Guide To Los Angeles
So you did it. You transplanted from somewhere else far away to the glittering City of Angels on the sunny west coast; full of wonder, bluster, and hopey-changey stuff. You read three hundred Reddit threads and fetishistic digital blog articles about the 10 things you need to know, only to realise they were more about the authors elevating themselves than any useful information.
It's a bit different to what you expected, isn't it? Being from the east coast, Europe, or anywhere else is a bit like fighting for your sanity every evening.
"The physical shapelessness of Los Angeles is reflected in the moral anarchy of its people." (Richard Gilbert)
Welcome to LA. You've discovered the secret to a desert city: marketing the mirage.
Nobody Tells Anyone to STFU
There we have it. The secret to understanding California, in a nutshell. Just like no-one has told celebrities the word "no" in the last twenty years, no-one in California has had ever heard those important words....
"What the fuck are you talking about? Shut the fuck up."
Unlike where you came from where they told it like it is, criticism is taboo here.
It's been extremely successful in helping creativity and experimentation flourish to extraordinary levels; risk-taking and exploration has been encouraged and rewarded. However, the other side of the coin is the full-of-shit-o-meter no longer functions correctly.
And it goes without saying, you don't go on the online psychiatric asylum known as Nextdoor, or the paranoid Mad Max map known as Citizen. Or as we know them - karen.com and Armageddon.net.
Wow, Is It Really This Ugly?
Yep. It's worse, in fact. LA is one seriously ugly town, and the day you realise it is when the sun goes in and it clouds over. No-one would live here if the weather was shit. They can barely cope when it rains.
"Los Angeles? That's just a big parking lot where you buy a hamburger for the trip to San Francisco." (John Lennon)
No rational person would live here if Hollywood, Malibu, or Santa Monica didn't exist.
Why is it ugly? It wasn't, originally. LA was grazing land a century ago, which was converted into residential family lots, beach towns, and suburban neighbourhoods. As any traveler will tell you, when a city is in disrepair, there's only one reason why: corruption and bribery.
LA is the only city where it's a major event for a co-working space to plant an indoor forest, or the state to plant trees to hide the sides of the highways.
The miracle? Imagine the talent and genius it takes to turn that into the most glamorous place in the world.
It's A Seasonal City In A Fucking Desert
Deserts get very cold at night, and they have no humidity because there's no water or cloud. You'll be wearing a sweater after sunset and feel really, really chilly. The sun is brutal like the desert sun is, but it doesn't feel like it because it's next to the sea and has a perfect breeze.
If you've ever been there, it looks exactly like Israel.
Yes, LA has seasons. Not like New England, Canada, or European seasons because of its latitude and position closer to the equator. It's not hot or cold: it's the perfect middle, every day. It used to be Mexico.
- Spring: sunny but cold in the evenings
- Summer: really fucking hot with firenadoes and the same stupid fucking forest fires which nobody deals with properly
- Autumn: sunny, but windy and leaves falling
- Winter: some sun, but cold from the wind, and rain occasionally overnight
There's a lot to be said about waking up every day to the sun without fail. It does make people cheerier.
You Don't Need A Fucking Car
Whomever told you this forgot the last three words... "to fit in". You need a car to fit in here. Then almost certainly went on a deranged rant about "climate change", which everyone else BUT them should do something about. It's not eccentric, it's pure lack of self-awareness.
And none of them can drive. None of them. If they're not texting, they're driving AT people as they cross. The sheer amount of car accidents every day is staggering.
Cars are a class structure: poor people take the bus; middle class people lease a car they can barely afford to avoid the drug addicts on the street; rich people won't walk, because its hot and hilly.
Uber and Lyft work perfectly well here. The only date who won't drive between cities is one of those idiot digital magazine writers trying to ingratiate themselves as a part of their imagined aristocracy.
If it's less than a few miles, get your fat ass on a fucking bike.
And yes, there's a subway which no-one can extend, no-one uses, and goes nowhere anyone wants to go. It's like the bus.
It's what everyone does, because everyone else does it. Which leads us on to...
Trendsters Move In Brainless Herds
Completely individual, but entirely the same. The sprawling nature of the city goes some way to explain the curious batching and grouping. But you can't avoid it: it's Basic Bitch town. The slang, clothing, popular restaurants, and beach overload correlate to an absurd level.
- Got a small dog who is your "child"?
- Obsessed over some over-priced fruit cereal at a shit coffee shop (Urth)?
- Grown your hair and shaved it underneath, bruh?
- Do you just LOVE Sushi?
- Looking up surrogacy costs for when you're 52 and childless?
- Wow, something is happening at the Farmer's Market!
Queues of painfully-trendy hipsters line Melrose to brag about vinyl records they don't listen to, and clubs nobody cares they're in, all for the "vibes".
Vacation weekends empty the city; the same weekdays are quiet when events are on; 6pm is small-dog-walking-while-posing time.
We know them as The Herd. They are extremely helpful in showing you what and where to avoid.
Being Ghosted With The LA "Yes"
You make plans to do something or go somewhere. Your friend seems enthusiastic about the whole idea. It's on. At least you think it's on.
A week later and the thing is tomorrow. You check back with them. No reply, they've forgotten, raincheck, or not interested anymore.
"Yes" in LA-speak is translated as follows:
"In my current mood i am enthusiastic and tentatively agree. However, my mood or plans on the day may be completely different so you should consider it will be a 'no' nearer the time."
This irritating behaviour is a form of unavoidable social ADHD New Yorkers in particular find insufferable.
You know it's bad when you start doing it. It's not flakey, it's lazy. Because it's sunny.
Filtering Out, Like, Excruciating Self-Help Lingo
Sorry, i checked out there. Sorry i wasn't being present like my therapist encouraged me to be so i attract positivity into my life. My psychic said it could be because Mercury is in retrograde near SoCal.
It's extraordinary to experience the breadth of the lexicon dedicated to euphemisms covering absurd, dysfunctional, or childish behaviour children in a classroom would be disciplined for.
There is no getting around it. Californians sound like idiots when they talk. They are renowned across the whole world for sounding vapid.
If your friend is seeing a therapist, it's because they are insufferable or mental. If she's over 30 and not married, no-one will put up with her shit. If they are not "present" in your conversation, it's simply because they're ignoring you, daydreaming, checking their phone, and being a c**t.
The Dating's Not Too Bad If You Leave Out, You Know, The Dating Part
Despite it attracting the most beautiful people, LA has a bad, bad rep for dating. Scientists would call the whole "friends with benefits" thing transactional sexual intimacy or sequential impersonal gratification. Good for now until something better comes along; nice to ride out until you "catch feelings".
It's nice for tonight. Or when required. A person has needs. It could be FOMO next month.
If you're younger, the choices are Fuckboy vs Thot. A decade later, it's failed model/actress vs startup bro.
This, of course, all has a name: social climbing or hypergamy.
The good ones do the activities, like hiking. Or go to church.
People Keep Sane By Leaving Every Month
Have you been to Lake Tahoe? Omygaawwd it's SO beautiful. What about Napa? Of you HAVE to go to Napa. Were you at Joshua Tree? We LOVED it.
One thing you'll notice is how frequently people get the fuck out of the city. They'll tell you it's about nature, but sooner or later they'll confess the real reason: they feel like they're going insane.
Insane from the late-night helicopters and illegal fireworks; the relentless homeless zombies; the late-night street racing; the Mayor's latest stupidity. Then the rest of the list, which typically ends with the daily feeling the entire world is about to experience a planet-changing apocalyptic event any time soon.
Where do they go? Anywhere they can which doesn't involve that disaster of an airport. Because the city should have at least two other international airports by now.
- Lake Tahoe
- Napa Valley
- San Francisco
- National parks
- Palm Springs
- Joshua Tree
- Salt Lake City
How do you keep your sanity? Take a road trip. You can brag about it to your friends afterwards, too.
Oh My God, You Don't Have An iPhone?
You backwards weirdo! Why wouldn't you have a $1000 ADHD device for Instagramming your naked Snaps to your cult bot-followers and denouncing capitalism? How am i supposed to leave you on read if the text is SMS green instead of iMessage blue?
How do you live? Can you even download FaceApp to digitally deceive your FBW on Tinder?
Yes, it's true. It's completely bizarre to not have an iPhone, even if it means having health insurance instead. With a cracked screen. Which fell in the toilet last month.
Buy a fucking Android and tell them it's a beta of the next iPhone.
Early To Bed, Early To Rise, Kinda
You might be used to your fancy New York ways of eating out at 2am after finishing work. Over here, we eat at 7pm latest, before samosas over the pool for sunset. Restaurants close at 9pm, and bars don't really like staying open too late. You don't want to drink and drive; well, you don't want to get caught.
The younger Tik-Tok crowd are more interested in smoking weed while driving around in fashionable vintage cars anyway.
The honest truth is only bloggers describe this place as somewhere for "foodies" because they find food markets kitsch, veganism is a fashionable way to stay thin for auditions, and there are areas named Koreatown and Little Ethiopia. If you've ever been outside the US, you'll quickly realise the food really isn't that good.
No, screenwriters: In-n-Out Burger isn't special. It's fast fucking food. It's not the Champs-Elysees, Milano, or Lima.
A lot of the time you're better off ditching kale and quinoa for Mel's Diner or Fat Sal's.
Besides, the golf course opens at 5am, and yoga in the park is 7am. Your annoying small dog - sorry, your "child" - needs to be pooped before that frothy latte to fend off the MDMA headache.
Finding Your Favourite Spots
This isn't Manhattan or London. You have to work to find places that don't suck and you like. It's a sprawling armageddon where your oasis hides in a terrible shithole street in downtown Hollywood. It'll be nice simply because none of the Herd go there.
You'll need time to do the tourist stuff. Hopefully that will give way to the historical parts of town the Herd find boring.
"Los Angeles is a large city-like area surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel.”
Any serious person is going to need a pub (tavern), a speakeasy (whiskey bar), a dive bar, and a cocktail bar. When you find them, you're gold. You'll really appreciate them.
- Cat and Fiddle (Melrose/Highland) or Tom Bergin's (Fairfax/San Vinc.)
- Roger Room (Oakwood/La Cienega) or Seven Grand (7th Street)
- Backstage Bar (Culver City Blvd) or Rainbow Bar n Grill (Sunset Blvd)
- Taylor's Steakhouse (8th Street) or Musso & Franks (Hollywood Blvd)
Where don't you go? Anywhere the Herd recommend to you where they think people are seen, or with a serious risk of sidewalk violence. That means: rooftops (EP/LP), "secret" bars, most of Melrose and East Hollywood, Sunset Tower, Chateau Marmont, etc.
I'm Not Religious, Apart From All The Pagan Stuff
Astrology. Yoga. Scientology. The Universe. Meditation. Vibes. Pansexuality. Spiritual Energy. Psychedelics. Psychic readings. Tarot cards. Polyamory. Cross-dressing. Hashtag BLM.
Californians are hilariously convicted they do not behave religiously at all, despite their ubiquitous curiosity about cult-like neopagan mysticism.Even the so-called Christian churches with Influencer pastors recruit for their "services" with emotionally-charged self-help content.
The magical thinking nerve and extensive imagination which blesses creative people blends entirely into normal life like an uninterrupted pseudo-reality. That said, it's also home to a few of the best churches anywhere in the world.
At Least We're Not Like Those Republicans
You get what you vote for. California was straight red Republican until the late 1980s, when immigration became a hot issue and the demographics changed. This land of plenty gave us Ronald Reagan and Arnie the Governator.
Beverly Hills, with its Persians and Jews, was the epicentre of the pro-Trump movement.
But we're the NICE people who are sunny and kind to everyone and so open-minded our brains are falling out.
The vote here is 60/40 liberal/conservative. Orange County and north CA are hard red. Any native will tell you the coastal cities are a blue strip in that world of red. The kids love Bernie and AOC. But what you'll find is there are many, many, MANY more conservatives that you expect. Again, the Herd.
- Uneven, broken roads
- Stultified planning and construction
- Nuclear power banned
- Chronic water shortages
- The worst homelessness in the US
Politically, we're talking some form of Stockholm Syndrome. Voting for the same people every single time and getting the same results, which only seem to get worse, because it's a kingdom where DNC people are appointed and crowned by their party. Who are skimming off construction projects as they hold back their radical environmental fringe pressure groups.
Yeah, Well, I, LIke, Decided Against Acting
No, you didn't. You never really did any auditioning, and gave up because it all seemed a little too hard to get the instant acclaim and recognition you thought would be thrown at you off the bus after those three acting classes.
Ten years later, and some of them are still waiting for their career to take off. Their claim to fame was the guy who got fired before the guy who made it.
This town is full of "actors" who never get round to studying or starting, and "writers" who get ripped off or can't write. People who think "Poetics" is a misspelling of "poem" or a topic in sociology.
"Hollywood is where they shoot too many pictures and not enough actors."
At some point Chad, you're just going to have to realise you're not memorable, you can't act, or you didn't prostitute yourself hard enough at The Abbey for the Pink Mafia.
Few dreams survive contact with reality.
Helicopter: The Only Way To Catch Perps
It's 1am. A massive explosion outside. Is it a bomb? Is that a zombie outside in the street or the same faeces-covered drug addict zombie from last night? Time check Citizen or Nextdoor to find out it's another set of M-80s or just the street racers mounting the sidewalk. Last week, it was someone firing a gun out of their car window at the intersection near the school.
Before you know it, seventy decibels of rotor blades are flying over your roof.
For the fifth fucking time.
It's 3pm. An LAPD chopper is stationery, overhead. A booming voice emerges from a tannoy instructing residents to stay inside. Yes, some lunatic is being chased by Los Federales for shooting up a liquor store in broad daylight - probably for a gang initiation.
Don't they do this in other cities without flying military-grade helicopters 100ft from the ground?
Why Am I Getting Healthier?
Whatever you liked before, you will find more of here. If you want to be a raging drug addict, you'll find a pharmacy waiting for you. If you liked sleeping in, you'll get paid to do it. There is one strange fact about California:
Summer all year tends to be so pleasant all the bad coping mechanisms you picked up before start feeling redundant.
It's not going to rain, so a walk or a run is guaranteed to be lovely. BBQs with healthy green stuff better than junk. Working hours are more relaxed so last minute convenience food isn't necessary. The sunlight means tanned, radiant skin with better psychological effects and increased vitamin D. Temperature means lighter, more attractive clothes you want to improve your appearance for.
Cigarettes and hangovers interfere with hiking and morning walks. It's too pretty to stay inside in the dark. The sunset's less beautiful if you've pre-gamed.
Life is disturbingly pleasant.
The Best Advice: Ignore The LA Advice-Givers
Don't bother with Reddit, Vox, Buzzfeed, Vice, LAist, or any of it. 99.9% of the authors are self-appointed wannabe trend-setters or social-climbing, gatekeeping know-it-alls who are more keen on you being awed with their apparent fashion forwardness. They identify themselves with the glamorous dream of the city, and elevate themselves falsely as one of its wardens.
These people go the Farmer's Market, soapbox about craft beer, consider themselves food critics, have a terrible screenplay they want to drop names about, pretend they are in "Sex and the City", use FaceApp, and change their profile pictures for pansexual BLM day. They are not the people you want to spend time with or take notes from.
If you're transplanting to LA, know this: all cities have their good and bad. All of them have their problems. LA is no different at all. In fact, the nature of the place makes many of them more pronounced. It's about which problems you want.
The city is a shithole. It's always been. It has some amazing little spots between the cracks, and some extraordinary people (think the Magic Castle, Adventurers' Club, Sunset Strip etc).
Yes, it's possible to rent at a reasonable price here, but it's a city. You need to get familiar with areas before you jump, and have a deposit. Yes, apartments come with fridges and laundry. Any move to anywhere means you need $10k in the bank. Get a roommate, and not off CraigsList.
Yes, you should have a job before you move. You wouldn't chance it in NYC, so don't here.
No, you do not need a car.
Yes, dating really is several years of aggressive screening. Where isn't?
No, California is not a communist utopia. It's government is corrupt, and also bribes its DNC base with its own tax money.
No, you do not need to join Scientology. Nobody goes there.
No, you will not end up in porn if you don't want to.
No, you shouldn't go to mansion parties put on by washed-up celebrities.
Yes, you need to understand music publishing.
No, you do not need to earn $150k to live well. The median is $45k.
Yes, you need to go to drama school to learn the craft. Would you hire a plumber who had never been to plumbing school and just looked nice?
No, you do not need to live in LA to write movies. You do if you want to write TV, because you need to go to the office.
No, auditions are not a numbers game. The director has a picture in his/her head of what he/she already wants. Dye your hair.
No, you don't need to have gone to film school. But filmmaking means spending a million dollars a day in some cases. Make a short film; did you do it right first time?
Yes, your screenplay really does suck. You need an editor, as a novelist does. Read Poetics.
No, nobody is going to pay you $4M for it. Look at the spec sales tracking data.
Yes, you will fail hard if you think you can find a job in a cafe and get discovered. You need an actual profession while you pursue a creative career, and the discipline to make sure it doesn't subsume your goals.
No, success is not about your intrinsic worth as a human. It's about your pain tolerance, outlasting others, and resilience. Hollywood's slogan is the cream rises to the top.
Yes, Babylon is worth it. Do it. Just don't be a fucking idiot.