Friday, May 2, 2008

Los Angeles

I’ve become increasingly attracted to LA – LaLa land, home of broken dreams and fabulous housing. I always preferred San Francisco since I was a teenager. I like the relaxed vibe, the cool, foggy weather and, most importantly, the wide open unpopulated northern coast to which San Francisco provides easy access.

But in the past few years, I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time in LA, largely due to the diaspora of many Manhattan friends to LA. And I’ve begun to appreciate the attraction. It seems to combine some of the benefits of San Francisco (nature, more relaxed) with the benefits of New York (size, jobs)

First, its slightly more affordable than NYC and San Francisco. At least you get more for your money. Instead of a cramped, dark, decrepit studio, you can get a sun-filled, newer one bedroom that actually seems livable.

Secondly, the natural beauty of parts of Los Angeles can not be compared to NYC. Being able to watch a sunset over the ocean, jog on the beach or hike in a canyon is a huge stress-release and life-grounding that you can’t get in NYC.

Finally, there is something to be said for the (admittedly superficial) pleasantness of everyday experience. Not quite the hippy-hugging love fest of San Francisco, but you’re more likely to encounter a certain new age-y friendly vibe that you just don’t get in NYC. There is a lot to be said for a friendly hello rather than the “get the fuck out of my way” hassle of NYC. In NYC, everyone wants to look busy and angry and overbooked. In LA people try to act more calm, relaxed and casual which helps to minimize reflected stress.

The downside, of course, is the car thing. Though I guess you can survive somehow without one, it defeats the purpose of being there. So a car is an extra cost and kind of a hassle. But the benefit is you get to drive to the ocean for sunset, go hiking in mountains, and shop at a grocery store.

The other downside from my perspective is the pressure to have more – a better body, a bigger house, a nicer car. The conspicuous consumption of LA can make you feel unaccomplished and unsuccessful and wanting more. In NYC, you can ignore a lot of it because the fabulous apartment or expensive restaurant is hidden behind a bland brick building. In LA, its hard to drive through Beverly Hills and not desire that wealth.

But you can also isolate yourself from both the too much and the too little. You can live a life that is filled with simple pleasures not centered around work.

Which is why I think age has something to do with it. I’m less concerned with quantity (of clubs, people, opportunities) and more focused on quality (of life, friendships, nature). While I’ve always considered that I might retire to San Francisco, LA seems like a happy medium between having opportunities and maintaining a simple life. Kind of a bridge between the hectic pace and excessive stimulation of NYC to the smaller town, know-your-neighbors, watch the sunset life of San Francisco.

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