In the holiday spirit, and in the spirit of the year drawing to a close, K suggested I write a list of 10 Things I Love About Living in This Town. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, I had trouble keeping the list to just 10 things (apologies to fellow contributors/comment-makers Dahoud and Mr. N, both of whom are probably having a fit right now that anyone could find 10 things to love anywhere). It's late and I've been nipping at the old nog a bit, so I might delve a bit deeper than our loyal readers are used to going, but bearing with me holds its own rewards:

1) The Light. Much has been said of our sunsets, but to me, the light in LA is wondrous all the day long. We all need a good healthy dose of Vitamin D every once in a while. But in LA, the daily UVA is delivered in such gorgeous golden tones as to inspire an entire industry (see: film), multiple essays, theories and odes to it. It's incredible. Anyway, 2008 marks five years of my repatriation as an Angeleno. I've learned that the light here has ruined my ability to live anywhere else for any extended period of time. See: S.A.D. Chalk it up to latitude, the special refractory bowl that is the LA Basin and the curve of the coast, or just magic, but I can't live without it.

2) The Landscape. The following anecdote is also closely related to my above reason for loving LA, and it wouldn't be possible were it not for our unique geography. I was heading east on the 210 freeway a few days ago to visit the extended N clan just before dusk. Somewhere around Monrovia, I noticed the gorgeous glowing oranges of sunset in my rearview mirror. And to my right, the fantastic salmon tones of the mountains, reaching clear across the horizon, so sharp and so close. I could even see snow bouncing the last rays of the day from the slopes of Mt. Baldy. I looked back in the rearview mirror to see palm trees outlined in orange. I looked forward to the open highway heading east, and the now purple mountains. I looked back to the palm trees. I looked forward to the mountains. I looked back. I looked forward. I almost slammed into the car in front of me. That's how stunned am I sometimes by the sheer beauty of where we live. We got the city, we got the beach, we got the mountains. It's pretty awesome. Granted, we got the valley and the traffic and the smog, too, but on a clear winter day, there's not much that can get me down.

3) The Food. Forget the frozen yogurt wars (the cognoscenti all know that regardless of whether your berry is pink or your cupcake is sprinkled, Scoops has the dessert market cornered in this town), I'm talking about street food: the grandmothers selling tamales from shopping carts in West LA, hot dogs wrapped in bacon on top of trashcans in Hollywood, and chili-pepper corn in East LA. Also, the sheer variety of places to eat, regardless of your budget, and the hard-working families who make those places so special. You know my love for Bombay Grill, but I also love that ethnic food isn't ethno-centric in LA. Where else can you find restaurants with Mexicans serving Indian food, Koreans serving Mexican food, and Guatamalans running the floor at a Jewish deli? Diversity isn't just for your stock portfolio, people--it tastes damn good, too.

4) The people who sit in coffee shops all day on their laptops. We all know they're just checking email and updating their Facebook pages while appearing to write the next big screenplay, but I love them. And I love that a stellar screenplay, novel or blog post probably does live in their hearts. This is the land of dreams, and it takes a lot of creative people wishing, wanting, and doing to attract the muses. Bring it on, I say. No one in LA is just a waitress, or a bookkeeper, or a Pilates instructor. Plenty of cynics will rehash how cliche and annoying the cafe layabouts are, but I find them refreshing and inspiring. And we're not all actors, BTW. Some of us are aspiring commercial airline pilots and ninjas in training, so there.

5) People who actually watch movies without talking, using laser pointers, answering their cell phones, standing up to stretch, throwing things, or generally stinking up the place. I've been subject to all of the above disrupting my favorite two hours of the week, but never in Los Angeles. Maybe it's cuz I'm a snob and stick to places like the Arclight where the above behavior is not tolerated, but I also like to think it's because so many of us here, working in the 'biz or not, simply respect the medium and all the work that went into it (see #4). Then again, now that tickets cost $14, you gotta respect something.

6) Canyon shortcuts. Traffic sucks, especially trying to get anywhere on the other side of the hill. But I never tire of driving over the canyons. I love these little enclaves of precipitously perched homes, scenic vistas, and clutch-burning climbs. Whether swinging around blind curves on Beachwood Canyon only to meet the Hollywood sign face to face, gunning through rock n'roll history on Laurel Canyon or avoiding the madness of the central Hollywood fun-zone on Outpost (shhh-don't tell) to Mulholland, I never tire of the thrill found in escaping up and over. It even helps soften the blow of landing in the Valley, because at least I know I can always go back the way I came. The 101, or the 405, however, is not as certain, but that leads me to my next favorite thing about living in Los Angeles:

7) Freeways. Yep, I said it. I was born to drive, and am probably better suited to the Autobahn than LA's freeways, but apparently the Germans have adopted speed limits and it's just not the same. For those of you who know me, and know my love of public transporation and deep-seated shame at not having a better option for my morning commute than spending an hour to go 10 miles in my car, this may seem a rather strange favorite thing--AND YET. I drive surface streets at rush hour, but given the alternative, I always choose the freeway. It's sick and strange, I know, but freeways make me feel secure. Whenever I'm lost, if I can find a freeway onramp, any onramp, as soon as I climb onboard the concrete trail, I know exactly where I am and where I'm going. There's nothing like the endless stretch of asphalt into the palm-laden horizon to get my juices going. We'd be better off without them, I know, but sometimes you've gotta love the one you're with. I just wish there were more murals along the way. Like the Olympic-era murals on the 10/5/101 interchange downtown. Can we revive those?

8) My friends. Anyone who says LA people are stupid and (we hear it lots) fake are ignorant fools. Some of the finest folk in the world live here. Get out there and meet them.

9) The music. As diverse as the food, any night of the week. For more details, check out LosAnjealous.com . I think those folks go to a show every night and they're always in the front row (just look at the pics). Seriously, so many venues, so many artists and occasional rock stars to choose from, and so little, little time.

10) Pico Boulevard, duh.

*Special thanks to photog Lloyd Prudhomme for letting us use his gorgeous pic of the LA skyline above. Check out more of his work here.

Happy New Year, People.


Dahoud said...

A grumpy reply to your 10 things you love is forthcoming. Beautifully written (as always). If only L.A. were half as beautiful as the words you used to describe it.

N said...

Ah, sweet! Thanks, D. Looking forward to plenty of your grumpy witticisms in '08.

Katie said...

Oh N,
You actually made me want to visit LA! I haven't been back there since, uh, 2004? And on that quick trip I saw John Clease at Shutters on the Beach. Score! Really though, some of my fondest memories are of our annual trek from NorCal all the way down to the grandparents in Vista, and how excited my sister and I would get once we could tune into Z100 or 96NRQ (right?) Thanks for sharing. I do miss the light in Cali. (PS, have you been to Tito's tacos on Sepulveda? Kinda under the freeway. Very, very, very tasty.)

sufferwords said...

This local would like to quote a NorCal on this California Uber Alles

N said...

Katie, by Vista, do you mean that cute little neighborhood wedged between Mar Vista and Playa Vista and Culver City? Cuz I work, like, RIGHT THERE. Crazy. Tito's is a highlight of my days there. Then again, it's taco heaven in those parts, just about every block. Crazy.