I moved to L.A. in the late 90’s. I had nothing but a Thomas Guide, my curiosity and a healthy sense of adventure as tools for navigating this crazy expanse; this sometimes-grid-shaped-then-abruptly-in-the-mountains-then-down-in-a-valley-then-dead-ending-in-a-desert-or-an-ocean expanse.
I drove all over because, fortunately, I had a car. I remember the first time I spoke to someone who wanted to give me advice about getting from Hollywood into The Valley. “Few people know this, but take Laurel Canyon. It’s a shortcut. And don’t tell anyone else.” Well, I took that as gospel until I later found out that the real secret to going back and forth between West Hollywood, Hollywood and The San Fernando Valley (“The Valley”), is Coldwater Canyon. And then some years later I found out that’s not the real secret, and so far I still haven’t told anyone.
Los Angeles is a sprawling city. Within an hour’s time from the center of it all you can find yourself in the mountains, in a valley, in a desert, in an ocean, in a vineyard, in the desert mountains, and in a National Forest. The landscape is so varied that you can literally find a million things to do. The landscape alone is worth living here. With so many possibilities it’s a veritable playground of possibilities. Have some money to spend? You can go to amusement parks and museums. You can take tours and go to car shows. Like people watching? Hollywood Boulevard is great for people watching, as is Venice Beach. Have little to no money (except for gas)? The downtown library is massive. You can get lost in it. It’s several stories above and below ground level, easy to navigate and has just about everything you could possibly want. Grab a mountain bike and find trails for miles in Santa Clarita right off the highway. Drive a little farther and you can go tubing and hiking. You can literally visit downtown L.A. and a National Forest in the same day. The L.A. Fashion District is home to blocks worth of shopping, and on a budget. You get some of the best deals on clothing and accessories there.
The food… The food alone is also a reason to live here. It’s diverse and has a rating system that is very stringent. The place can look like it’s about to fall apart, but if there’s a sign in the window with an “A” rating (assuming this system never falls to the never-ending stream of idiot human beings constantly looking for loopholes because they’re greedy and cheap), you are good to stuff your face there. My husband and I have a favorite thing to do and food to eat in any given area of this city. And we’ve not discovered every pocket there is to discover. I can safely say we never will.
The wine… Driving to a vineyard is, itself, gorgeous and pleasant. One minute you’re driving through rolling hills, the next you’re oceanside. Past Santa Barbara, you’re back in the countryside where some of the best wines in the world are cultivated. I am a Francophile. I love France and the French and just about everything about all of it, but California wines are my favorite. The land is perfect for growing grapes and yes, the alcohol content is higher in California wines, but that’s not it. They are delicious. Not all. One in particular – with it’s California location and French name – gave me one of the worst headaches of my life. They are not all winners, but many are, and affordable to boot!
The music… The music is diverse. And you can find several venues at any given time playing music you enjoy. From country to rock, L.A. has it all. The Sunset Strip still has a few iconic music venues available. The Whiskey, Viper Room, The Roxy. Kiss played at The Whiskey this year. The Hollywood Bowl is a gorgeous outdoor venue. I’ve seen comedy there (Eddie Izzard), as well as Dolly Parton and Florence and The Machine. There are stadiums and tiny little venues you wouldn’t know about but are great for live music.
The weather… (This winter notwithstanding.) We got a record amount of rain this year, which got us out of our drought, but was very Seattle-like. The weather is beautiful, and I can honestly say the sky is an azure you don’t see anywhere else. I’ve stared into the California sky more times than I can say. It’s a magical gradient you only wish you could recreate with sophisticated software. And the California sun seems brighter than anywhere else. Sunglasses are a must!
People complain about the traffic, but I’ve seen real traffic and it exists in places where there are only two lane options. Traffic gets dense here, but it moves. Six lane highways ensure you aren’t really “stuck” in traffic. And you learn which lanes to be in until you need to switch lanes. Too many people? Not really. You might experience the occasional rude person when you’re out, but the chances you will ever run into them again are slim. Pollution? It was much worse in the early 90’s. These days the technology has removed the dense layer of yellow that plagued the city decades ago.
It is expensive. But the cost of living is comparable everywhere you go. Your opportunities are greater in the city. Try living in a small town where you are completely dependent on the job market. You can get jobs in the city. A small town? Maybe not. Homelessness is nothing to joke about, and I’ve said out loud and many times in all seriousness, if I were going to be homeless, I’d rather be homeless in L.A. The weather! Would you rather be homeless where it’s hot or freezing cold? How can I know for sure, and still it’s sounds logical!
So, literally, I’ve gone over all the benefits of living in Los Angeles, from having a lot to having a little to having none. You can find the benefits of living anywhere, but L.A. is like no other city I’ve ever been to. All of my other favorite cities get really cold and don’t have the same proximity to various landscapes. What can I say? I feel a Randy Newman song coming on!