A Short Rant about Los Angeles
It was 85 degrees in Los Angeles yesterday with blue skies and a slight breeze off the ocean. I hate Los Angeles….
Most of what I hate about LA is the fact that it's so quintessentially American culture. Car culture, fast food culture, corporate culture. Of course, I don't hang out in the exciting places of LA, but when we talk about the 'cool places' they aren't really Los Angeles, per se. Hollywood and Beverley Hills come to mind, or Santa Monica… Not LA Proper.
Don't get me wrong, I actually like the people in LA. Although there's a migratory feel to the town, folks are still relaxed Californians who are friendly. I don't even mind the people when they're in their cars -- there's a flow to LA traffic that makes sense, unlike, say, Salt Lake City or Phoenix where you take your life in your hands when you put your hands on the wheel.
No, it's the lack of culture in Los Angeles that bugs me. I shouldn't judge so harshly because the main reason I ever go to LA is for business, and part of my problem is that my clients all seem to work out of light industrial or office parks in large, squat buildings with no windows. But, then, it bothers me that that doesn't seem to bother them.
A decent lunch in these industrial neighborhoods can be found, but it's all brand name food with set dressing to make it feel like you're somewhere else, or at least feel that the food is from somewhere else. There's your New York bagels at Noah's, PF Chang's 'Asian' cuisine, the sounds of Italy drifting over the sound system at Romano's Macaroni Grill… Even Starbucks feels like it's trying to be in Seattle when I'm in LA.
The lack of trees is even more striking because I live in a town filled with trees. The area around LA was never forested the way Portland was (or 'Stumptown' as it got nicknamed in the late 1800s). And the climate is obviously different -- the warm breezes seem more unreal in the middle of January after our spate of freezing and flooding in the Northwest.
Los Angeles is groomed in a way that Portland never can be. Too many volunteer plants make Portland yards and streets unruly; too much cold, wet weather make Portlanders cover up in layers of wool and fleece.
It may be that Los Angeles feels designed by Corporate America because it's a clean slate, and it stays clean (despite the smog). Fashion, restaurants and offices can all be the same, every day, because the weather and the vegetation don't get in the way of the ideas doodled on a whiteboard.
And in one sense, I shouldn't be so hard on the town. One of the things I do like about traveling is finding the differences in places. And LA sure is different, even in its sameness.