L.A. can be tough for transplants. There are the winding freeways to get used to, the hour-plus commutes and the regular appearance of palm trees. For the first year after moving here, many of us find ourselves a bit dazzled by the sunlight, shielding our eyes from it like vampires emerging from coffins.
But after a while, we start to adjust. The light becomes soft and nurturing. We figure out the best routes around town. The phrase "the industry" becomes something that we toss off casually. And in the first five years of living here, there are at least 15 other things that you will learn, like them or not.
Here they are:
1. You have three choices when it comes to traffic. Unadulterated rage, complete mental transcendence, or moving to another city. Yes, traffic is the most despicable thing about living in Los Angeles. There is nothing to be done about it. Check out, listen to KCRW, go abjectly L.A. Confidential, or leave.
2. L.A. residents give exactly zero fucks about what the rest of the country thinks of them. Not in an angry, adolescent way, but in a real, profound lack of caring way. We accept your anger and judgment, and reflect it back in love, light, and then apathy.
3. Culture won't come to you, but that doesn't mean it's not here. Between street art that constantly changes, galleries stuffed in spaces next to Jiffy Lubes, and amateur plays that are actually good, you'll realize that L.A. forces you to dig for cultural experiences - but they're worth it. Suddenly massive museums like The Met look like stoic, overbearing grandparents who are completely out of touch with organic creativity.
4. The Grove is a mystery and always will be. It's an outdoor mall. It's beautiful, but horrible. It's clean, but somehow too clean, and why isn't too clean a good thing? Why do tourists love it so? Spend too much time there and you will enter into a crisis-level existential conundrum even as your body is ping-ponged about by the shopping masses. Enter at your own risk.
5. "Just take Fountain" is an adorable relic of the past. It makes a fair point about the wisdom of avoiding the main thoroughfares in the city - why take Wilshire when you can take 6th? - but honestly, never take Fountain.
6. Announcing what neighborhood you live in is a shorthand way of divulging everything relevant about yourself. Are you a young hipster who desires locally sourced coffee before all else? A struggling actor who is content sweating nearly to death in a cookie-cutter apartment? A yoga mom? Be prepared to stand behind your neighborhood as you would stand behind your very kin.
Turn the page for more things you'll learn, including the customary L.A. greeting and its proper response.
7. You should never pick a fight with an L.A. cyclist about cycling, because you will lose. Short of just coming right out and saying, "IT'S BECAUSE I'M FUCKING LAZY," there is literally no way to win an argument in which your whole point is that you prefer isolated, smog-generating drives to environmentally sound, community-friendly bike rides. Also, cyclists get mad.
8. Cherish the city's old people, for they have stories to tell. That greying dude with the porkpie hat who sat next to you in the Frolic Room? He lived with Marlon Brando when Brando was waiting tables in Los Feliz. That couple you saw at the bar at the Dresden? That was fucking Marty and Elayne. It is well worth your time, young one, to stop and ask for a yarn.
9. The customary greeting in L.A. has nothing to do with work, school or the weather. It's either a) what part of town do you live in? or b) where are you from? Any answer should be met with an, "Oh, cool."
10. Never make assumptions about the person you're talking to. That Playboy bunny has a graduate degree in engineering. Your Pilates instructor was a lawyer in a past life. The downtrodden, unemployed looking fellow at the coffee shop in the middle of the day is Lars Ulrich.
11. Hating on the industry is a fool's errand. It's impossible to escape the entertainment business here, and besides, you don't really want to. It's great that so many smart, creative people have settled here. And when you get all smug with out-of-town guests, casually informing them, "People in Los Angeles don't really care when we see a celebrity"? That's not scorn for Hollywood. That's a humblebrag.
12. At the same time, you'll realize that the industry is but a tiny drop of water in the sprawling ocean that is Los Angeles. Whether you came here with a pilot in your hand or a snow shovel at your back, you likely had no idea how much other shit that there is to do in L.A.
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13. Hating on aspiring actors says more about you than it does about actors. You'll spend your first year or two snorting and scoffing when people bring up their screenplays and their auditions. But somewhere around year two-point-five, you will have a shocking and humbling realization, which is that you are the asshole. You will then respectfully cease to belittle people's dreams.
14. Scientology never gets less scary. It literally never does. It's just always going to be weird.
15. L.A. is not what you thought it would be. You will stop believing that Hollywood = L.A. You will find things to love about the city and hate about the city that have nothing to do with the beautiful view from Malibu or, alternately, the shallow people on the Sunset Strip. You will try to explain this to your family at home. You will fail. And then you'll realize this: You don't care what they think.