I’ve only lived in Los Angeles for six days, but I already feel as if I’m home, having woken up from a long dream like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz. One of the problems of living inside a bubble is that you don’t realize you’re in it until you see what life outside it looks like. Then, even when you do see it, it can take a while before you comprehend what’s happening. “It’s sort of like an abusive relationship,” I said to a friend yesterday; “You keep making excuses for why you continue to tolerate it, but in reality you have the power to leave.”
I went out for drinks in Los Feliz last night with an old friend and he asked me: “What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between LA and the Bay Area?”
“Everywhere I go, I see two people standing still, talking to one another face-to-face,” I responded without hesitation. The day we moved into our townhouse, I looked outside my balcony window and saw two guys standing in the parking lot chatting. Driving down Sunset Boulevard yesterday, I saw people on the street engaged in motionless conversation. Shopping at Ralph’s last night, there were two guys hanging out by the deli sharing a laugh (one of them was Andrew Dice Clay, which put a big smile on my face). Why is that a big deal? Because where I come from, no one has the time to stop moving. Correction: no one makes the time. I think it’s been years since I’ve seen someone stand still whatsoever, let alone look another person in the eye. In Silicon Valley, everyone’s always on the go, multitasking, white ear buds inserted, talking to the air around them. Work comes first, and every else (which is nothing) comes after that. The hygiene has gotten so bad that it’s hard to tell anymore who’s a tech billionaire and who has schizophrenia.
Living in LA is like hitting the pause button. You can take a moment, have a drink, and focus on what’s really important: people and pleasure. It’s like breathing again. It’s like I was in a cult where they didn’t allow breathing, and now I’m running around, telling everyone I know: “Isn’t breathing awesome? Don’t you love breathing?!” Of course, people think it’s odd that I’m so obsessed with breathing, but that’s because they’ve never lived in a place where you’re not allowed to breath! Look at that guy: he’s breathing! And that guy over there: he’s breathing, too! That’s what it feels like to live outside the bubble. You have to reteach yourself how to integrate back into everyday life and do normal things that are routine for everyone else, while not getting too excited.
Life outside the bubble also means hope. While LA isn’t necessarily affordable compared to national standards, it’s still possible to start a small business here and follow your dreams. Take Sonoratown, for example, my newest obsession. Located near Skid Row on 8th Street downtown, it’s the type of small, specialty spot that could never exist today in San Francisco. Hand-made Sonoran style flour tortillas (made with Sonoran flour), mouthwatering meats, and grilled chorizo tacos that will bring a tear to your eye. My wife was pretty much in tears when we left, the food reminding her of her childhood—both because she’s Sonoran, and because she used to live in a working-class neighborhood where places like this were prevalent.
I was joking with another friend over drinks at Petit Trois this past Monday that we should start a sight-seeing tour of LA for Bay Area tourists, including things like: a restaurant that still accepts cash, women that still use make-up, and a businessman who still wears a suit.
“It’s amazing what you can get used to,” I said, half-kidding.