Just got done readingPhil's post about Leaving LAand it made me homesick. The odd thing is, I'm in LA right now, on vacation with my family, sitting in the house I grew up in, visiting my momma and I'm still homesick, but I'm very happy because it's right outside my door, and when I get done I'm headed out into the sights, smells, and sounds of the city that I love.
If You Didn't Grow Up Here, You Might Hate It
Most people I know tend to hate LA, unfortunately most people I know come from Northern California and
no entiendo Los Angeles. My wife is one of them.
When we first started dating, I brought her down here to meet family and friends and I could see her, gripping her seat as if she were looking out at the burning fields of Gahenna.
She literally had a physical reaction (notably sweating, shaking, and the very typical NoCal reaction of pointing out how "LA just sucks"). The only thing to say in that situation is "trust me –
usted no sabe LA"
If You Give It A Day, You'll Love It
That night I took her out to downtown LA to a Russian Micro Brewery, and then hung out in Hollywood at the Cat N Fiddle, sitting outside under the bougainvillea vines and the jacaranda trees, full of bright oranges and purples.
It was midnight and the Santa Ana's were blowing, giving the air a crisp, warm desert smell and heating it to a comfortable 75 degrees. There were no yuppies with phone's attached to their hips, no "power clubbing" of the tech elite. It was wonderful, and my wife began to warm to it.
LA is one of the only cities I know, outside of New York, that has it's own sense of chic. People here like to dress well – and this is mostly because of Hollywood. Yes, they fill their bodies with plastic (which is silly), but by and large the fashion sense here is wonderful.
On day two I took my wife down to Los Feliz Boulevard and we hung out in Griffith Park. She thought we would be murdered, I told her
relajarse, this place is cool.
We drove up to the observatory and looked out over the city, which was relatively smog-free on this spring day, and admired the skyscrapers sticking out above the mass of humanity against the Pacific Ocean backdrop. I pointed out where "The OC" was, Santa Monica, Palos Verdes, Hollywood, Venice Beach, Malibu, and Olvera Street – a few of the many wonderful places to visit in LA.
We headed down to Melrose to meet a good friend of mine for lunch. She used to live on Beachwood, a very old street in the heart of old Hollywood, in an apartment building where Ingrid Bergman used to live.
These old Hollywood apartments are very distinct, built in the Mexican Hacienda
style full of bright beautiful bougainvillea vines and fragrant flowers, all clustered around a fountain in a central patio.
Her building was nestled up next to the Hollywood hills, and from her balcony you could see the Hollywood sign clearly. We decided to go for a hike (which in LA means walking up steep streets) to see how close we could get to the sign – and off we went.
Most people think LA stinks like car exhaust, which is very far from the truth. If you get a chance to "hike" on our steep streets, you'll be assaulted by the various types of sage that grow wild everywhere. It's a distinct smell, one I grew up with, and will always remind me of home.
As we ascended towards the Hollywood sign, the houses grew richer and richer, and views more astounding. This was the home of Hollywood power, where Spielberg, Tim Burton, and Brad Pitt call home. The flowers and trees grew more intense, and all of a sudden we were there, at one of the most visible of US landmarks. The only other thing that comes close to this sign is the Golden Gate Bridge.
LA Is a Freeway
LA is the only place I've ever encountered nine lanes on a Freeway. People take driving here very seriously, and there are usually 3 or 4 ways to get to a certain place, plus 10 or so shortcuts that you get to know over time. In fact if you spend any time here, you'll realize that people horde and covet their shortcuts like gold.
We left my friend in Hollywood and traveled up the Arroyo Seco Parkway-
the very first freeway built in the United States. It's the 110 that connects downtown LA to Pasadena, and is a wonderful historical highway that no one really knows about.
It's full of poorly planned twists and turns that snake languidly east, and the on and off ramps are almost like side-streets. It's quite dangerous actually, but that adds to the mystique of it all.
Each overpass is a wonderful work of art, done up in LA's distinct art-deco style. They haven't been kept up very well and to me, that adds some flavor to the experience.
The First Western Suburb: Pasadena
We make our way (slowly) "out" the 110 for about 20 minutes into downtown Pasadena. (Quick tangent – people in LA use "up" and "down" for north south, "out" for East or West, and always use time to measure driving distances – never miles since they don't really matter with various traffic clogs :).
People think of Pasadena as the home of the Rose Parade, but it's so much more. This place is steeped in early City of Angels history with wide streets, Art Deco buildings, and Spanish architecture and flowers literally everywhere.
The main drag, Colorado Boulevard, has some of the best shopping anywhere with a wonderful open-air marketplace, full of top-notch restaurants. The air is almost always 80 degrees at night, and the sunsets against the buildings is breathtaking.
LA Is Mexico
I grew up going to Catholic school and my class was 90% Mexican. I learned Spanish from a young age and to this day, even though I haven't been around it for a very long time, I can understand it quite easily.
In every city in Los Angeles, you're reminded that this place used to be Mexico. From the missions littered throughout the city all linked by El Camino Real, to the millions of Hispanic families that live and work here; the Mexican culture is vibrant and beautiful, and something I miss dearly.
If you ever visit LA, avoid the El Toritos that are everywhere. Instead, seek out the tiny little taquerias that are tucked into just about every street with bright red, white, and green lettering and pictures bulls and matadors. This is
comida autentico and, to me, the most flavorful of all foods.
When growing up I couldn't wait to get out of here. I had it with the smog, traffic, and weirdness. I've come to realize that every place has weirdness – and for what it's worth, I like LA's weirdness the best.
There is so much more to write about here… but I know I have probably already surpassed your tolerance for reading :).
If you come to visit, spend a day in Santa Monica on the Pier, stroll on the strand down to Venice, and enjoy the warm, ocean side fun.
Eat at a taqueria, learn some spanish, smell some flowers, walk along Melrose past the homes of the famous actresses when they were still unknown. Go to Griffith Park and re-enact the famous scenes from Rebel Without a Cause, buy some Horchata on Olvera Street, and perhaps hop a boat out to Catalina to see the "Riviera of California".
There is so much here that is good that I'd end up writing another opus (which this city deserves). So I'll leave it at that:
I love LA (Me Gusta Los Angeles).