L.A. through the eyes of an ornery chicagoan
I moved to Los Angeles two years ago.
It was the beginning of January, and I was a Chicago native...
"Why are you guys in jackets and scarves? It's 60 degrees outside, I'm in booty shorts! Let's hit the beach!" Fast forward to two years later and here I am, writing this, draped in layers of clothing and it's probably just about 60 degrees outside.
Things in Los Angeles are different in a lot of ways but, almost shockingly, familiar in others. For one thing, kids out here smoke pot, they don't drink. I don't mean they don't drink as in nobody ever drinks any alcohol whatsoever - I mean they don't drink, as in kids in Chicago would probably be considered alcoholics if it weren't for the fact that they live in Chicago.
Out here, rich girls dress like pizza-obsessed aliens, and guys wear skirts and have samurai buns. You can't get away with smoking a cigarette on the train, like you can in Chicago, and the common-place slang for a cig is “stoge”(pronounced stogue). Evidently they don't refer to cylindrical shapes as "squares" like I so fondly remember the brutes of Chicago doing so.
If one is looking for something that feels a bit more like home, familiarity can be found in the warehouses of downtown LA, the rich community of grass-roots artists and galleries, and the DIY venues sprawled across the county, housing some of the best independent musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to or seeing. I’m proud to say many of these incredibly talented musicians are my friends.
Go to Griffith Park on a sunny day, or any day for that matter, and there will be a good chance you’ll catch several groups of people with drums and guitars playing together and building a communal buzz with smoke and beer and the collective noise that they make. I can say the same for Venice Beach, on the right day you can find yourself immersed in an abyss of people dancing and playing music. It’s on such a large scale that the cops inevitably end up showing, at one point or another, to break the whole thing up. That doesn’t really matter, though, since the drum circle always finds a way back.
Live music can be found almost anywhere on any day, but another great event I like to attend, when time permits, is the monthly art-walk. Many areas of Los Angeles do it on all different days. Shops will open up until the late hours of the evenings to showcase local artists and musicians, as well as their own products. Oftentimes, open shops will serve complimentary snacks and drinks, and of course theres always a taco truck or street-dog stand waiting somewhere for the buzzed to truly get their fill.
Oh, have you heard about the tacos and street-dogs out here? Can I say flavor-explosion? I can’t begin to describe the taco scene in LA - it’s off the charts and totally accommodating to all dietary needs. I can’t tell the difference between jackfruit tacos and ones with real meat, and almost every veggie or vegan I’ve met out here agree that El Pique, a taco-truck in Highland Park, has the best vegetarian burritos you could ask for (although it’s not really the burritos, so much as it’s the sauce. Always opt for red). Chicago’s definitely got LA beat when it comes to Italian, but there’s pretty much no point in trying to compare the two when it comes to Mexican food. And, for those that like to soak up their booze with something greasy and horribly unhealthy that ISN’T straight from south of the border, you can find a street-dog stand waiting outside any bar or concert venue. Street-dogs are hotdogs that are wrapped in bacon and covered in mayo, onions and peppers… and they’re fucking dangerous. How are you supposed to say no?
Fear not, for LA is also home to an enormous cyclist community, and there’s always a big ride going on somewhere for you to work your bad habits off. Last year on “Crankmas,” we all dressed up in costumes, road about 20 miles collectively throughout the night while making stops at random locations to drink and smoke (and set things on fire), and I kid you not there were hundreds of us and we straight took over the streets of LA. Rides dominate intersections and if you’re lucky enough to be in a car waiting at a light when one rolls through, prepare to wait until everybody passes - because they’re not stopping.
There’s so much to be said about Los Angeles, aside from all the fun and creative aspects that make it such a desirable place to live, there’s definitely facets of this town that make it extremely weird. Hollywood, for example, is not at all the bright and shiny fantasy-scape that people from out of town often assume it to be. You can’t walk the boulevard without being confronted by religious-radicals or costume-clad anons asking to take a picture for five bucks, but if you ask me, it only contributes to the true LA experience. And as someone coming from Chicago, the strange only makes me feel more at home.
On that note, I'll cap this synopsis with a brief introduction to a very important culture that is more alive than ever in the tightly knit, yet widely spread community of Los Angeles. In a place populated by such a variety of people, many of them coming and going, theres a wide array of different religions and rituals practiced here. Ideas are constantly buzzing within the minds of the strangers of LA that receive so much energy and attention that they can be found manifesting in collective knowledge and understanding. There is something going on here, something beyond popular media or religion, and it seems like almost everyone here is aware. This culture I'm speaking of caters to the believers of the occult, and California happens to possess one of the most highly concentrated populations of people that both study out of interest, and follow out of belief the things that go unexplained. In my time here, I hope to dive into this world and uncover as much information as possible as I've found it more difficult to do so anywhere else.