The day I decided to leave LA, I was stuck in traffic on the 405 frontage road. I went on the frontage road to get away from the 405 but there I was — stuck — and I could see all the cars above me on the freeway were stuck, too, and I got this overwhelming feeling of dread as I realized that I was locked in a canyon with no way out for god knows how long and I thought, ‘This is fucking ridiculous and I’m not going to keep living here anymore. I’m going to get the hell outta here just as soon as I can.’ And then I went back to sitting in my car for another three hours.
Now I am back here visiting for a week and it’s the same. I don’t know how people do it. The only things different are that the food is more expensive, eyebrows are more pronounced, and everyone is skinnier and more stylish than me but I don’t give a shit.
On the positive side, I will say this. People here are actually way friendlier than I remember. And I mean genuinely friendly. Even the seemingly superficial ladies at the makeup counter at Nordstrom’s seem very caring underneath all of the gobs of makeup. I shit you not.
I still can’t handle people walking up to you as soon as you walk into a store and hounding you nor can I handle the fake ‘Oh you look so wonderful in that sweater’ comments from the sales people who work for a commission, but those are pretty universal experiences. [I should have used the word ‘ubiquitous’ instead of ‘universal’ because ‘ubiquitous’ is a word that hardly gets used enough stage time these days. Fancy words are a dying breed. I say we resurrect them not to be snooty but simply to make sure we don’t start finding words going extinct in the English language.]
But when two frozen yogurts add up to $16 plus dollars at the mall, I go out of my fucking mind and there is no way in hell I am going to leave a tip. Now, at the time, I felt terrible that I didn’t want to rub my finger on the screen and accept the preordained tip that the machine told me to give her. Instead, I picked ‘No tip’ and then hung my head in shame while the LA yogurt lady gave me the stink eye. When she wasn’t looking, I pulled out a $1 from my wallet and then waited for her to turn and watch me insert it into her tip jar but I could tell that, by that point, she had lost all faith in women who definitely are not skinny nor fashionable enough and who are CLEARLY an out-of-towner since I appeared to have no knowledge of proper tipping etiquette.
Still there are certain things I can say with certainty that I enjoy about LA (hard to say ‘love’ but I can say ‘enjoy’ without feeling inauthentic). I love the breezy way you can spend most of the year outdoors with just a sweater at most to keep you warm. There are endless people to watch and study wherever you go. Even the snazziest, best dressed, most put together upscale dude who looks, at first glance, COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY superficial can surprise you by having genuine manners to boot. I was waiting in line at a coffee shop and – surprise surprise – this guy, who could have clearly stepped in front of me, let me go in front of him simply to be polite. I was floored. I probably wasn’t skinny enough or stylish enough for him to ask for my number, but still. At least he had manners! I was impressed.
No, I know. I’m being pretty harsh about this town but still… I do think the sun brings out the best in people here despite the focus on money and glamour that abounds. LA may be mostly about money and fame and working out and eating out at expensive ass restaurants (and I’m the first to admit that I do relish a good ‘eating out’ at a fancy ass bistro…no puns intended), but it also has an openness of heart that I like, and miss. Sunshine opens up people’s chakras in a very nice way indeed. And I miss it.