Over Labor Day weekend, I made my fourth trip to L.A. It was my second trip as an adult free to do as he pleases. Every time I visit this city, I learn and experience something new. Like any city I have visited repeated times, I try my best to get further and further away from the normal tourists' experience. Whether we were stuck in traffic, driving across the vast landscape of L.A. or experiencing one of those travel moments I crave, I had a great deal of time to contemplate on my impressions of our second biggest city. Below, are some thoughts after a trip to Los Angeles, CA.
On this trip to L.A., I stayed with a couple of friends in Long Beach. They were friends of mine who had just moved to Southern California, because a certain airplane manufacturer in Seattle continues to be a jerk. The newness of their home and city has yet to wear off, so we were all free to be tourists. Their home sits right on the water and is a short walk from the Pacific. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to live in L.A., I would without a doubt choose life down by the water. Maybe life on Alki Beach in Seattle has spoiled me, but I adore beach life. The sand, the ocean, the views (both physical and nature related), the sights and the sounds all calm me. In Southern California, there is an added benefit of life being much cooler near the water. As someone who lives in a part of the country that rarely gets above 85, this was so very welcome.
My first two trips to L.A. were with my family to the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland. When I was a child, I remember it seeming big, but it never seemed like an all consuming region unto itself. Needless to say, a lot has changed since my Freshman year of high school. Disney seems to have doubled in size. Beyond that, it seems all of Southern California is built with tourists in mind. The whole place seems like one big giant amusement park. I have often wondered how people who live in Las Vegas make a home out of a place with such a transient population. Driving across most of the county, I couldn't help, but think the same thing about L.A.
In L.A., you spend a lot of time stuck in traffic or walking. Marketers know this. Everywhere you look, you are confronted with advertising. Billboards dot the highways like the trees of the Pacific Northwest. Every bus, bench, store front and place you look screams, "Give Me Attention!" I found it overwhelming. While L.A. is not the prettiest place in the world, all of these moments of attention whoring had a way of making the landscape even less attractive.
My friends and I spent some time on the beach and in West Hollywood. Both places left me with a single thought, "these people are beautiful." Maybe it is the bronze skin color everyone seems to carry or maybe it is the fact that everyone in Seattle seems to be pale and paper white, but I stared a whole lot. Forgive me.
The Sunday before Labor Day my friends took me to a backyard cookout in Pasadena. At first, I couldn't get over how ungodly hot it was (90, I know I am spoiled), but soon all my complaining was put to rest. As we ate and drank, conversations became more real. We laughed. We got serious. I found myself in the midst of really great people and really powerful conversations. These are moments I cherish. This is the reason I travel.
How does one learn to drive in Southern California? Aggressively and with landmarks. Everywhere you look, is some famous building or hill or place or restaurant that you've seen a thousand times in movies and shows. All of which is necessary. I am not kidding about the traffic. You will need something to look at.
This brings up another thought; life dictated by traffic. Traffic is part of life in every major city. There are moments I wish I could hire hitmen to get out Seattle traffic. Don't even ask what I would do during a downpour, but in all the time I have lived here, I have never allowed traffic to dictate my life. If I wanted to go somewhere and do something, I did it. Traffic is rarely so bad here that it holds me back. This is not the case In L.A. I didn't accomplish half of what I wanted to do on this trip, because the big "T" is menacing.
Finally, I am always curious to discover what brings people to a place they call home. Four million people call Los Angeles home. I imagine many came for jobs, a fresh start or chasing the loves of their lives. A lot like New York, L.A. carries an allure of dreams and fantasy. If you're driven by fame and power, I totally understand the need to scratch the itch that is America's two biggest cities. More than once in my life I have felt the itch. Hell, I feel it as I am writing this. So, in no way am I holding fault against those who want these things. I understand wanting to be where the action is. My point here is this; we give these cities a lot of our attention. We sometimes walk around with a thought that says if it isn't happening in L.A. or New York it is a non-event. This is simply not true. There is life between those two points on a map. There is a huge world beyond our shores. The goal here isn't to make L.A. or NYC matter less. It is about expanding the conversation. It is about being proud of where we are from or where we call home. It is about dividing some of the attention. Attention to things that should matter; family, friends, work and the power to do real good for your fellow man.
Thanks for entering my world,