There are two types of people: those who have been to LA, and those who haven’t.
If you haven’t, then LA is the place in the movies, a place of inscrutable wealth and poverty, fame and obscurity. We came to LA as virgins, eager to understand whether it was somewhere we would hate (the driving! The endless driving!) or love (Silver Lake, Venice, downtown).
The truth is that LA isn’t one city, it’s many. In some of them we found beauty and a sense of belonging. We reenacted scenes from 500 Days of Summer at Angel’s Knoll, marveled at the view from the architecturally astounding Getty Center. We hipstered our way around West Sunset, hoping to catch a glimpse of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Aubert or the ghost of Anaïs Nin.
Other times we slogged through the endless suburbs and wondered how any city could be so vast, yet have no real heart, and as we crossed over the hills into the Valley, another new world opened up before us.
LA was the last stop on our California trip. We had started in San Francisco and Napa, places we knew, whose charms were already memories before we arrived. Then, on the drive down, we were prepared to be overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the Pacific coastline and we weren’t disappointed, but we also weren’t surprised. In LA we had to confront the unknown. Friends of ours were betting on whether we would like LA or not. Some said Melissa would, but Tom wouldn’t. Others said we’d both hate it.
Ultimately LA is about contradictions. If you live in Venice or Santa Monica you can walk to the beach, but you might have to drive for an hour to see friends a couple of miles away in Hollywood. We found ourselves alternately delighted and disappointed by the city, a pattern that seems to be mimicked by the fortunes of its aspiring inhabitants, waiting tables one day but with the hope of being plucked for stardom the next.
The final truth about LA is that we saw very little of it. We only strayed south of the 10 to go to the airport. It’s such an unimaginably vast city that it seems impossible to ever know it fully, even if you were born and bred. LA, it seems, will always be an enigma, but I’m sure we’ll be back to try to unravel a little more of it.