Sunday, April 27, 2008


Theme song: the Decemberists, “Los Angeles, I’m Yours”
('Cranky' being the operative word...)

I hate LA.
Let me qualify that: I hate driving in LA.

Last time I was here, I came with intent of doing my work and using my few free hours to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers and getting some desperately needed sun. Problem is, instead of chilling with Gram Parsons, I ended up wanting to break plate glass with my head to a soundtrack of Norwegian black metal. Leaving Santa Monica, I got stuck behind some Malibu trophy wife in a Porsche Cayenne who appeared to be trying to wrangle a toddler, talk on the phone, and drink a Frappucino all at the same time. Slamming on your brakes every 500 feet on a road without a passing lane is not relaxing, even if the scenery is beautiful. The Cayenne had a large dent in the back hatch, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain: someone else in greater LA is even better acquainted with this person’s crap driving.

This, fundamentally, is my problem with LA: Driving. It’s possibly more of a car town than Detroit: you’re forced to drive everywhere, but it takes 45 minutes to get anywhere. Doesn’t matter if you are going one mile or twenty. Every trip is the same: ridiculous traffic, vacuous drivers, vacillating speeds. Even if you like to drive (which I do), it’s hard to get any pleasure out of being on the road in LA. Being a nice Motor City girl, I like to open up the throttle and go. Not going to happen in LA.

That being said, LA has its charm. 70 degrees and sunny skies in mid-February ain’t too shabby after a month of sub-zero temps in Mpls.. SoCal kitsch has its moments: googie architecture, aging starlets’ laughable plastic surgery, Kim Fowley. There are some decent museums, and certainly interesting musical history. There’s current music worth seeing at various venues. The mountains and canyons are pretty… when they’re not on fire.

I shouldn’t be so cynical, but I love to hate LA. I’ve hated it since I first visited at age 10. We flew to LA, went to Disneyland, and drove up the coast to San Francisco. In Disneyland, my Dad uttered his defining quote, when he determined we weren’t getting enough value for his dollar out of the Magic Kingdom: “You will have fun and you will enjoy it!” This was not a suggestion. Mickey Mouse has been on my shit list ever since. Disneyland: the only ride that wasn’t lame was Space Mountain, and that was still pretty pallid next to anything at Cedar Point. Later, when we went to Universal Studios, we found out that the Red Sea Moses parted in “The Ten Commandments” was a foot high. A pattern formed in my reptilian preadolescent brain: LA epitomized style over substance.

Of course you can’t paint every Angeleno with that broad brush. One of my dear friends from high school, Tommy, has found his home there, and if he loves it, it must not be all bad. There are a ton of musicians I respect that have made their home there, from Adolph Rickenbacker to the Rademaker brothers. My buddy Pearl lived in LA for years and she is truly an old soul -- and she just moved back there this week. But first impressions count a lot, and mine have been warped by that first visit and reinforced by subsequent ones. This visit, we saw a guy walking down the street in Newport Beach looking like a complete tool in a saggy but expensive suit and Gucci loafers covered with an enormous pattern of jacquard “G”s. Last time, we saw a crew filming a documentary about celebrity assistants in a pet supply store. The subject of the documentary was buying a custom-made cashmere sweater for a dachshund. This sweater cost more than my plane ticket.

Three visits ago, my buyer and I went to dinner at the Ivy, and found ourselves surrounded by middle-management film industry dudes discussing their recent plastic surgeries in wretched detail. They all had that creepy George Hamiltonesque quality that makes you want to top them off with embalming fluid.

The only qualification I have is that my dim view of LA only seems to apply to the area from around about West Hollywood in the north to Orange County in the south. Anything outside that, I can manage. In a perfect world, California would be two separate states: everything north of Pasadena (gerrymandered to exclude the Valley) and everything south. That would make so much more sense.

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