Why did I come to Los Angeles?


What do I do? Why did I come to Los Angeles!

Everyone here talks constantly about stuff they saw and not stuff they did, because no one is doing stuff. At least not the people I’ve come into contact with. People here talk about movies as if watching a movie is the same thing as having written and directed it. No one has a sense of irony and so many people are fake.

I know this is a stereotype, and having grown up here, you would think I would have known this. But my childhood friends were different. They’re great people. Unfortunately for me, they are all spread out and moved away and married and stuff.

I enjoy the access to culture in LA, but on a day-to-day basis I feel uninspired. I wanna come home. To Portland.

So… How did you cope with LA? You were here for a bit.

Help Me.

Dear Help Me,

I did indeed spend a few years living in Los Angeles. And like you hope to do, I eventually returned here to Portland.

And while I was lucky enough to find people who were not fake and had finely attuned senses of irony, I also spent a lot more time talking about doing stuff, and pitching stuff, and trying to sell stuff, than actually making stuff.

So let’s address that first and foremost.

There are people in Los Angeles making stuff. Not just movies, but plays, and art and dance pieces, and all that other good stuff that sometimes you forget about in Los Angeles because everyone is talking about movies.

Find those people. Figure out how is making stuff that might inspire you and go to the places they are showing off what they make. Go to Chinatown the night all the galleries stay open late, look at the fliers in window of Skylight books for an interesting sounding theater premiere, and figure out when the hipster communes in East LA open their doors. Maybe you make friends, maybe not, but at least you confirm people are making stuff and start to get inspired.

Meanwhile, find some of the tens of thousands of other creative people in Los Angeles who aren’t making stuff but are similarly frustrated that they aren’t making stuff. You are not alone. This is a common refrain of people who came to Los Angeles to make stuff. So find some like-minded folks and start making.

Pick a night, find a place be it a café or your apartment and host a making night. Make zines, or greeting cards, or posters, or clothes, or costumes out of cardboard box. Start a writer’s group, create a low stakes improvisational dance collective, or organize a parade in the name of something ridiculous. Start by making a big sign for your first meeting “Talking about ideas you’re not actually going to do is strictly forbidden.”

You need to do these things with a sense of urgency. Why? Because you’re not staying there, that’s obvious. Los Angeles is a temporary situation for you, so live like it is.

Live every day like it might be one of your last in Los Angeles.

When I was in Los Angeles, I knew it was temporary, and yet I didn’t act it. I lived like I lived there. You should live like you’re on a working vacation. Yes you have a job to go to. But weekends and night should not be about establishing roots, getting into a routine, or relaxing with leftovers in front of the TV.

Because you’re leaving soon!

How soon, how knows? Maybe days, maybe months, maybe years, but you are leaving. Which means there are a lot of things you need to do before you leave.

You need to visit the Getty, LACMA, MOCA, and the Jurassic Museum of Technology. Visit them again if you already have, and then again in a few months, shows change often.

You need to go swimming on the roof of the Standard, visit Clifton’s and stroll down the oldest street in LA eating tacos.

You need to visit Griffith Observatory and explore every inch of the park. Ride the merry-go-round, visit the zoo, play tennis and hike the trails.

You need to get a pass at the farmer’s market to see a test screening of a movie on a studio lot where they strip search you and treat you like cattle.

You need to see a Dodger game, visit Santa Anita wearing your Sunday best, and crash a pick-up basketball game at Pepperdine University because that’s where all the celebrities who live nearby go to shoot hoops.

That just off the top of my head, and I barely scratched the surface of Los Angeles in my two years down there. There are all kinds of gems.

Have you been to the police academy diner? It’s awesome. You get awful service because you’re the only table there not full of officers in training, but the food is good and the experience one of a kind.

Have you been to the see the biggest painting in the world? It’s inside a museum inside the Glendale cemetery? Go see it. You sit in the dark for 20 minutes seeing bits of pieces of the painting as you hear the story of Jesus before the entire thing is revealed in all it’s glory at show’s end.

Have you gotten drunk playing par 3 golf at the course just half a mile away on your way back into Los Feliz? The one across the street from the Indian market that serves insanely huge lunch portions for five bucks?

The list goes on and on.

And that’s just inside Los Angeles.

Start thinking of the place you’re vacationing as anywhere within a few hours and you’re looking at Palm Springs, the thrift stores of Ventura, Catalina Island, Joshua Tree, Mexico and Vegas.

So make your list. Take out 4 pieces of paper and number each of them from 1 to 25 along the left side. And fill them in with stuff along these lines. If you get stuck reach out to your friends who live in and have lived in Los Angeles. I bet you can’t stop after you’ve filled up those 4 pages with 100 things you need to do.

Next, get cracking. We got a long weekend coming up so you should be able to knock 2 off at least.

You’re on working vacation! Act like it!

As someone who is on a working vacation you should spend at least an hour every Monday planning out the coming week and weekend. Bare minimum. Come up with a plan and invite people. Organize expeditions. Let those spread out old friends who are married with kids know you’re coming to their neck of the woods and they’re invited on the adventure you have planned.

Sure, people will cancel last minute. They’ll flake. You might eat the occasional theater ticket, or dine on sushi alone. But people in LA are so damn friendly you’ll end up having a spirited conversation with the person next to you about how their agent won’t send them out for parts ten years their junior.

Look, we’ll see you back up here eventually. We both know that. But have some fun in the meantime!

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3 Responses to Why did I come to Los Angeles?

  1. Yours Truly says:

    Great advice!! Solution-oriented and fun to boot. Makes me want to move back to Los Angeles! (Not really)

  2. cheerio says:

    It’s weird seeing this perspective… I’ve been in Portland and moved close by in Oregon away from my hometown of California/Los Angeles area, and I wouldn’t even think twice about moving back. Interesting contrast. Feels wrong to diss either city, each one is somebody’s home–you just weren’t meant to be there.
    There is beauty in all places, try to find it. I’ve found some in Oregon even through the lostness i’ve felt away from California…In 4 years I’ll be moving back to Malibu and attending Pepperdine University, yay!
    Just look around you and find beauty!

    • Briana says:

      I know my comment is really late, but I just found this.

      Anyway, I just wanted to say how right you are! I hail from the NYC area, and that to me will always be my first home (though of course I know people who hate it), but post college I was feeling worn out and tired of the Tri-state, so I decided it was time for a major change. I trekked across the country and, upon determining I could not afford San Francisco, headed down to LA and settled there. I planned not to stay long and was a little wary because of everything I’d heard about it, but years later I am still here and loving life! I have some great friends and love the diversity and culture of the city, as well as the surrounding nature (beaches, mountains, forests, deserts– all within easy access). And I’ve never grown tired of the palm trees and the lack of snow! And while I myself don’t work in movies, I gotta admit that as someone who loves them, there is definitely something magical about having them be made so close. Like every place in the world, this one isn’t for everyone, but for some of us, it is where we belong.

      My brother, on the other hand, ended up settling in Boston. I do like that area a lot, and I always enjoy my visits there, but I just couldn’t do it permanently. But again, there are pros and cons to every city, but there is definitely beauty and fun to be found everywhere. In the United States we’re especially lucky to have such diverse options. I hope to visit all of the major ones at least once in my lifetime!

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