I Survived My First Year In Los Angeles

A little over a year ago, I decided to go “bi-coastal” and move my primary residence across the county from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Well, I survived my first year in Hollywood and I’ve learned a few things, the most important of which is that people who haven’t lived here don’t really “get it” about Los Angeles.

I will admit, being a casual visitor before moving here, I kinda hated it. The city is kinda grungy and it’s so big and spread out, getting around can be intimidating. Most visitors, like I once was, do all of the touristy things in Los Angeles, and that doesn’t really leave the best impression. To get to the meat of Los Angeles, you have to dig a little deeper.  Upon settling in, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well I have adapted and how much I love it here. I admit I do miss my friends, family, businesses, and charity work in Atlanta, but fortunately, I go back VERY often. Somebody joked that I was back and forth so often, I should just tell people I live in Atlangeles. I like that!

Here’s what this southerner has learned about lIfé in American’s second largest city so far…

People.

There is a misconception that people in Los Angeles are all self-centered assholes, but I’ve found the complete opposite to be true. People here have been very nice and welcoming. Perhaps the hint of a southern accent in my voice calms them. I don’t know, but folks here a so chill. Quite the opposite of New York where they will run your ass the fuck over. I also love the diversity in Los Angeles — as a white male, I am a minority here and being surrounded by so many different cultures  makes life  very enlightening. Everybody just seems to get along — you can do and be almost anything you can want or dream here in Los Angeles, and people support it.  los-angeles-2

One of the downsides to Los Angeles is that the amount of homelessness here is almost staggering and heartbreaking. There are homeless people everywhere and it’s not uncommon to see tent cities under bridges and on sidewalks. I guess if you are going to be homeless, Southern California is the best place to be, but it was startling at first. There is also a ton of “batshit crazy” here — it’s not uncommon to find shirtless guys strung out and dancing in traffic or crazy people yelling at street signs. Such is life in the big city.

It should also be noted that people out here are pretty. Very pretty. But, there is also a lot of fake beauty here. In Los Angeles, our hair, tans and titties may be fake, but we demand that our food be all natural and organic! Speaking of food…

Food.

With the diversity of the population here, you can get just about any authentic quisine you could want in Los Angeles (we have a Korea Town, Little Ethiopa, China Town, Little Tokyo, Thai Town, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, and a huge Jewish-Russian Community). You name it, we got it. Except for biscuits. There are no good biscuits in Los Angeles. They try to make them all gluten and fat free and shit. You wanna good biscuit, you gotta get your ass on a plane. Also, they will fight you over some kale and coconut water in this town. Angelenos put kale in everything.  I’m still not sure how a garnish got elevated to an $18 salad, but it did.  Sneaky weed.

Also In-N-Out Burger is as good as you have heard. Prepare to stand in line as they are busy all of the time and make sure to order it Double Double Animal Style. The only carbs many people eat out here is the buns on their In-N-Out’s and its totally worth it.  Also, the red velvet pancakes at The Griddle on Sunset will make you want to smack your mama.  You can also find some pretty damned amazing food trucks here in Los Angeles serving up just about anything you could want — Venice Beach and the strip on Wilshire in front of LACMA are great places to start your food truck tour of Los Angeles.

Weather.

The weather here is completely worth the price of admission (and the price of admission is HIGH). It can get quite hot here at times (and often at odd times like late October), but even when it is 90 degrees, because of the low humidity if you can find shade, it is comfortable. The average high ranges from about 64 degrees in winter to no more than about 83 degrees in summer. Even on warm days, the evenings are cool and a sweater is most always appropriate. Well, except for the valley, which is about 100 degrees hotter than Los Angeles most of the time. I try not to go the the valley. It’s like the third level of hell in the summer.

People in Los Angeles are pussies when it comes to the weather.  Anything above 70 is “hot” and anything below 70 is “cold.”   To fit in, you have to go with what I call the 20 degree swing.  Anything above 70, we treat is if it were 20 degrees hotter.  Anything below 70 is treated as 20 degrees colder.  If it is 65, people here act like it is 45.  Yes, you will see winter coats when it is 60 degrees outside!  And when it comes to rain we can’t even.

losangelesskylinesnowbackgroundI do miss rain and thunderstorms, though. It hasn’t rained here since 1998. Seriously, though, it has only rained (or at least what I consider a good rain) once since I’ve been here. On two or three other occasions this past year, we’ve got a 10 or 15 minute drizzle, but that’s about it. Southern California is dusty as fuck and I don’t know how any of the plant life here is still even alive! The extremely dry weather is why we have so many big wildfires.

When it rains here, people lose their minds, especially when driving.  The first drizzle I experienced in Los Angeles, I was on The 10 (in other parts of the country, that’s what you would call I-10) and people came to a dead stop and started pulling off the road with their flashers on.  It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen… until I tapped the breaks and almost slid into the back of a Prius (The Official Car of California).  Apparently, because of the lack of rain here, the dirt and oil collects on the road, so when a little water activates it, it can be like driving on ice.  Think of the way Atlantans act when there is a snow flurry, that’s how it is here in LA when it drizzles.  Thankfully, it only happens once every five years.

There are also earthquakes from time to time.  I haven’t felt anything significant in the past year, but we’ve had a few rumbles.  Someone told me a good rule of thumb is that if it lasts only a few moments, it’s probably a big truck rolling by.  Anything longer than that it’s probably an earthquake.  I’m not really worried about “the big one.”  I probably have a better chance of being run over by someone in The Official Car of California than I do of being squashed by my building crashing down on me in a quake.   In Georgia, you’re more likely to be killed by a tornado or hurricane or alligator attack or heat stroke than by be being sucked up by an quake in California.   I survived Georgia, I’ll survive California.  That said, I do have an “earthquake bucket,” well-stocked first-aid kit, several Army MRE’s, and a good bottle of scotch in a fire and crush proof case.  One can never be to careful.

Traffic.

Traffic is a bitch here, but that’s the case in most big cities. I don’t think it’s much worse here than it is in New York, or D.C., or Atlanta (actually, I think traffic in Atlanta is worse). It seems like about five minutes a mile is a good rule to use when planning your trip times. Google Maps or Waze can also help you find a quicker route — I don’t get in the car without firing up Google Maps and punching in my desty.  Traffic seems to actually be getting better here and they are expanding the metro, so in about 75 years I should be able to get rid of my car.

Making a left-hand turn in Los Angeles is also a bitch because there are almost no left turn arrows (except on major intersections). To make a left turn here, you wait for the light to turn red and then run the light!  Actually, it’s two cars per red light.   That’s totally illegal, but the only real way to do make a left hand turn (unless you want to make three right turns) and the police pretty much overlook it.  Inevitably, there will be a tourist who doesn’t know the unwritten rule of the left turn and hold things up, but they learn quickly. You should also NEVER run a red light here, because you’ll probably t-bone somebody. Oddly, the lack of turn arrows seems to help traffic flow better.  I have resigned myself to the fact that one day, I’m gonna get t-boned.  You gotta get aggressive to drive in this mess!traffic

Speaking of turning, in addition to the lack of green turn arrows, turning in either direction is almost always a bitch because there is almost ALWAYS someone in the crosswalk. People are never in any damn hurry to get out of the street, but those same people strolling across Sunset Boulevard will run your ass the fuck over when they are behind the wheel.

Also, parking is the worst! There isn’t nearly enough and it is expensive as fuck. If I know I’m going to have to park, I just take Uber or Lyft instead — it’s always cheaper. The parking signs (sign arrays) are also very confusing. You may see one pole with six different signs on it all saying seemingly different things. It’s just best to avoid parking if you can.

The Industry.

If you want to be inspired, Los Angeles is a cool place. You can’t turn a corner without seeing some iconic piece of television or film history. Think about driving to an audition on one of the studio lots with a view of the Hollywood Sign. You may be sitting in a room with people you’ve seen regularly on television. It can be intimidating in inspiring at the same time. Celebrities are also everywhere in Los Angeles and you’ll probably see somebody famous on the daily, even if you can’t quite remember their name. Last night, I was at a restaurant in my building and Spielberg was chatting with an actor I’ve seen in everything, although I can’t for the life of me remember his name (or even anything he’s done).unknown

They don’t really film a ton of big blockbuster movies in Hollywood these days (most of those have gone to Atlanta or elsewhere), but Los Angeles is the undisputed king of television, so if TV is your thing, this is the place to be.

There is also a ton of amazing training here in Los Angeles with some of the industry’s most iconic teachers offering classes here. But, there are no affordable classes to be found here in Los Angeles, so you really have to watch your cash to be able to train here.  There is also a lot of opportunity in Los Angeles, but also tons of competition (especially if you are younger). If you are a beautiful and marginally talented, the odds are against you. Beautiful and marginally talented is a dime a dozen in Los Angeles.  To compete here, you have to be really good or have something really unique to bring to the table. It also helps to have connections and a huge social media following!

I also think that making it in Los Angeles will take years (if you can hang in there that long). I hear so many people say, “I think I’m going to come out for pilot season” and it makes me cringe. You have to plan on coming for the long haul and get ready to work your ass off.  You’ll get beat up and knocked down and discouraged.  A lot of people become jaded and just give up.   You’ve just got to lick your wounds and keep going and be prepared to be in it for the long haul.

I’ve been fortunate in that there seems to be fairly good opportunity for a middle-aged guy out here, so I’ve booked some good stuff, but I did have a little heat coming out here too.  I’m also fortunate to continue to work regularly in Atlanta.  That said, I know that the “big break,” if it comes at all, is going to take some time and hard work!

The Weed.

All of Los Angeles smells like weed. Seriously. You can’t turn a block without getting a whiff of someone blazing up. Most anyone who is a resident of Los Angeles can walk into a “doctor’s office” and get a prescription. “Doc, I’ve been really stressed lately.” No problem. Five minutes and forty bucks later you’re walking out with your weed license in hand. Find a storefront with a little green cross (which are everywhere) and you’ve got weed. Recreational use of marijuana is on the ballot this November and I suspect it will be pretty much legal here without the hassle of having to see your “doctor” to be able to buy it. Maybe that’s why everyone out here is so chill.

The City.

Los Angeles is massive, but there is a neighborhood for everyone. It can take some time to find the place that speaks to you. The city can be very grungy. It is dirty. Lots of the buildings are run down and there is graffiti everywhere. But, there is also a lot of beauty in the ugly. I’ve actually grown to like the street art. It can be quite smoggy here at times but, oddly, it can also make for some pretty spectacular sunsets! There’s the beauty in the ugly again. Some days are clear and the air quality is improving in Los Angeles, so I hope the trend continues.   Obviously, there is a great film/television scene, but there is a ton of music and culture and diversity to be found.  It really is a world-class city, but sometimes you have to scratch beneath the surface and wipe away some of the grime to get to the good stuff.

Quality of Life.

The quality of life in any city is really what you make it — the things you do with your time and the people you surround yourself with is really up to you. Getting to know people can be hard and, at times, I’ve felt utterly alone in this city of 11 million people. It helps to have a job outside the industry to make connections and build friendships. It’s also good to make friends with others in the business as the right friendships can help lift you up because they know what you are going through. It’s all about balance.

For recreation, you won’t find a spot better than Los Angeles. We have some stunning beaches. We have mountains, desert, and everything in between. You can snow-ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon. Because of the industry, there is also TONS of entertainment to be found (and a lot of it is free) — I go to free tapings (like Kimmel and James Corden) and free movie screenings all the time! Yesterday, I had to decide between five different events.  So much to see and do and so much of it is free, which is good…

…because nothing is affordable in Los Angeles. Housing is ridiculous. If you are paying $1,000 for rent in Atlanta, expect to pay $3,000 for something similar in Los Angeles (or get ready to lower your standards). That beer you pay $6 for at your favorite watering hole in Atlanta will cost you at least $9 here. Everything is crazy expensive, so you have to look for deals and happy hours and have roommates!  You can make it work, but it takes work!

So far, life here has had it’s fair share of challenges. It’s not always easy, but there is so much I love about Los Angeles! There is also so much I adore and miss about Atlanta, too. As long as I can get back there often, I think I’m gonna stick around this crazy ass place for awhile. After a lifetime in Georgia, this adventure on the West Coast has been a great thing — I’ve grown so much as a person and have embraced so much diversity that I think I’m a better person for it.

If you are here in Los Angeles thinking about moving to Atlanta, I highly recommend it.  If you are in Atlanta thinking about moving to Los Angeles, I highly recommend it.

Affiliations