Hey look, it’s me.
There was an orange and black neighborhood watch sticker on on the window next to the back door, in the laundry room of the house I grew up in. It featured the silhouette of some creepy guy with a popped collar and a fedora for some reason (gotta look out for those Baby Boomers, they’ll git’chya!). I thought it was just a limited issue thing, but then I saw this outside one of my favorite ramen restaurants (Daikokuya in Little Tokyo), and it made me wonder if this image was more highly distributed, and therefore better-known than I had previously thought.
Regardless, it was nice to see a familiar face 🙂
This guy is everywhere! A quick Google search for ‘neighborhood watch’ and this guy pops up all over the damn place (although occasionally he seems to be wearing a mask, and strongly resembles Homestar Runner).
Diminutive Roommate has been looking for a house for the past year and a half or so. She made an offer on a house Wednesday, and heard back Thursday that her offer had been accepted. I felt a stab of panic on Thursday. Today is Friday. I”m waiting for the stab of panic to fade anytime now.
In all seriousness, I’m pretty excited for Diminutive Roommate. We got to chat about the house for the first time tonight, and she’s (obviously) feeling overwhelmed, and worried that we’ll stop hanging out (note to self: harass Diminutive Roommate endlessly for the next three months, or until she gets sick of me). I let her know that she would have my weekends for a while to help her get situated, and at the very least get the place in order so it can feel like a home and not just a new space to store herself.
Meanwhile, this is the perfect time to move out of our apartment for me. I have good credit, but apparently it wasn’t good enough for me to not need a guarantor when we moved in here. I was furious and embarrassed. My dad signed on with much grumbling. He and Mom didn’t seem to understand how angry and ashamed I was to have to ask for that kind of help at age 27 until they were delivering yet another lecture about how they didn’t like having to do this kind of thing at my age, and they hoped I understood the implications of blahblahblah, and I burst into tears and went on a tirade about how much effort I had put into being fiscally responsible and how mortified I was to have to do this in front of my friends, in front of my family.
Fast-forward ten months later, and Diminutive Roommate’s sudden escrow looks like an escape route for my parents who are financially on the hook until this lease ends with finality. Plus, boyfriend and I have been talking about moving in together, but that’s all contingent on the approval of his family, who owns the house he’s been staying in rent-free for almost two years. Plus the logistics of where my stuff would go in a house where they have expressly forbidden Boyfriend from doing anything as extreme as moving the furniture around (how would they ever fix such a permanent change?!). So where would my stuff go? How much rent would I be expected to pay? How long would I be safely housed there until we got booted out because they suddenly decided to sell the place?
Then there’s the possibility that they’ll just say no outright. Where would I go? Would I stay here? Would my parents take me in? They let Sister live there for a while before she couldn’t stand it for another second (that was explosive exit).
I’m expecting the panic to subside anytime now. Yep, aaaaaanytime.
Side note: It’s Saturday now, and I’ll be going to see Diminutive Roommate’s house this afternoon. I’m pretty excited. She said there are two cats that come with the place, lol. I wonder what she’ll do with them (adopt, obviously). More as this story unfolds. Back to you in the studio.
I was reminded recently that I’m hyper-sensitive to people criticizing Los Angeles. I met a neighbor who lives in my building last week, and our smalltalk led to the standard “Where are you from?” When I said LA, he joked, “Oh, I’m sorry.” He and my roommate had a good chuckle while I grinned and thought to myself, “Thanks, asshole. I’m sorry that you feel forced to continue to live in such an awful city.” What came out was, “I love LA.” He backpedaled a bit and said he liked it here, at which point I decided his opinion was worthless, since what he had said could basically be summed up as the following:
“I pity you for being forced as a child to live in a city where, as an adult, I have chosen to reside. How sad for you. No, I don’t want to move away. Why do you ask?”
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard this totally meaningless opinion: I hate it here, but I choose to stay. This is the thought pattern of a crazy person. Luckily, I’ve found a solution of all those live-in haters: go away. This remarkable breakthrough is the solution to the following common complaints:
–Traffic is awful– Because apparently no other major city in the world has traffic, people who come to Los Angeles are just shocked that a city with a population of almost ten million might have a few too many cars on the road.
Solution: Leave. The people on the road aren’t a bunch of yahoos with nothing to do. They’re people like you who came from somewhere else and decided to stay and complain rather than learn how to take a bus, stay off the road at rush hour, find an alternate route, or leave.
–It’s unsafe– Because apparently no other major city has similar crime rates, reading the LA Times makes people fear for their lives daily. And unnecessarily.
Solution: Leave. LA’s murder stats are almost five times lower than Baltimore, Maryland. Chances are you’ll live through the day, and as major cities go, there are far worse places to get stabbed. If you don’t feel safe in a city, move somewhere you’ll feel safe. Fresno is nice this time of year.
–I don’t know my neighbors– Because apparently every other major city is full of people who have become best friends living side-by-side, people who come to LA are just appalled that their neighbors don’t bring over cake and lasagna to welcome them to the neighborhood. I have never encountered a neighbor who was opposed to stopping in the hall or on the sidewalk for a quick chat. My parents introduced themselves to our new neighbors growing up. Getting to know your neighbors takes a little bit of courage and time, neither of which the people complaining have in spades.
Solution: Leave. Or introduce yourself to your neighbors, you anti-social shut-in. Most of the people who log this complaint have never even knocked on their neighbor’s door to say hello.
The point is this: All these LA-specific complaints are not LA-specific, they’re big-city specific. Here are some legitimate problems with LA:
Public transportation- I know, I just said people should learn to take the bus (I did between ages 12-20 all the time). And yes, loads of people take the bus and *sigh* metro all over LA, but our public transportation system just sucks out loud. It’s slow, unpredictable, crowded, and it just gets more and more expensive without any real improvements.
Bike lanes- Where do I start? There are not enough significant bike lanes in LA to get around on a bike without being afraid for your life, and if there were, it would take a long time for the drivers here to get used to sharing the road. Biking the streets of LA is a life-flashing-before-your-eyes experience.
Hollywood- If every waiter/waitress that was trying to be an actor/actress just picked up and left LA, the city’s population would be cut by 10% overnight. Now take all the people trying to become models or stunt doubles, and their agents, and there goes another 10%. Now remove all the tourists who want to see the Hollywood sign (2.5%), and the illegal immigrants who don’t pay taxes (2.5%), and there’s another 5% right there. I’ve cut our population by a quarter. Yes, our economy would slow way down, and there would be no one to serve that thing you like at that restaurant you just discovered, but it would make the city a manageable size again, and make the remaining residents’ experience of the city exponentially better.
I’m not saying only people born in LA should live here. That’s just ridiculous. What I would like to see is more people who want to be here, people who enjoy living here instead of those who stay only because that’s what their industry demands. Those of us who actually do love LA would love it even more if it weren’t overpopulated with unhappy people who trap themselves in a city they hate for no (or few) good reason(s)!
If you live in LA but you hate LA, the solution is simple. Leave, or find something to love about it. There is so much to love. But seriously, gtfo.
I did my second freelance job in Palos Verdes today, so I was worried that I’d have to bike 15 miles down there and be all tired and gross when it came time to teach the class. It sounds like I’m going to book another one, too. I’m not making huge money, but getting paid five-to-ten times more per hour than I usually do is pretty sweet.
On the drive home I saw this really nice message on a freeway sign:
People chuckle when I call Los Angeles my hometown, but that’s how it feels. Being raised here makes it feel small, even cozy despite how spread out everything is. Nothing feels very far away, even though getting anywhere usually involves between one and four freeways.
It’s a difficult city to get to know, not only because it’s so spread out but because it’s so unpredictable. Nice neighborhoods become rundown, unsafe and unkempt within a block. The border of Hancock Park, a neighborhood full of multi-million dollar mansions, started just one block north of where I was raised. But two blocks south of my house was a park where we would go to play during summer days, and where drug dealers would meet at night. Two blocks south of that is Pico, and Los Angeles High School just to the west. I used to run on their track in elementary school, and one afternoon we got trapped on campus during a lock-down; there had been a gang-related shooting on campus.
My parents did a good job of making us understand that there was danger around without allowing us to feel threatened by it. I wonder sometimes how they did that in a city like LA. It probably helped that the LAPD Chief Willie Williams (the first black LAPD Chief) lived next door to my family for a short time while I was six. When asked by the LA Times why he chose to move there, he said something about “the neighborhood’s green lawns.” Mom had a good laugh when she read that, and went outside to turn on the sprinklers that morning. A small detail of two or three body guards would pick up the Chief every morning. My mom would occasionally send me or my sister out with a gift of Girlscout cookies (we were both Brownies). Once I gave one of them a drawing of a badge tucked into his hip next to his hand, thumb hooked into his pants. He told my mom I was already an accomplished artist if I was drawing details instead of people at age six. I remember my mom telling me about that, and realizing it was a genuine compliment. And not just that, but a real compliment, from a total stranger, who was an adult AND a police officer? I must have been glowing for a week. Mom said my drawings always had the subject falling off the page. She was right, and seemed really proud of me for that, which in turn made me feel really good about myself.
My folks (especially Mom, who had also been raised here) educated us about Los Angeles at every turn. She would take the scenic route to wherever we were going to point out local landmarks, who used to live in which house, what “used to be there,” and her personal memories of the city. She’s known in our family for saying stuff like, “This is why people come to Los Angeles,” or “This is why people came to the west coast,” to which my sister once responded, “I’m pretty sure all these palm trees and the Hollywood sign weren’t here for the pioneers to see.”
I’m currently driving a 1998 Ford Explorer, a car that was caught in the pocket between a time when CDs were the shiniest music-storage format, and when the iPod bulldozed the market. There is no tape deck and no mp3 connectivity. I’m not about to lug all my CDs down from my apartment (one whole flight of stairs!), and the car might just eat them anyway. So I’ve been listening to the radio, which in Los Angeles means I change the station from rap, to hip hop, to top 40, to more hip hop, to classical (always on commercials), to top 40 before I give up with a loud, “Ugh, spare me!” The on/off button often gets stuck, so sometimes I’m forced to turn the volume all the way down and endure the ongoing disaster that is Los Angeles FM radio at the level of a whisper. It’s maddening.
Most of the time I do manage to turn the fucking radio off, and I end up driving in silence as a result, which leaves me with only my own pulsing brain to entertain myself. Often I sing songs that would shame me to sing in front of others (Mariah Carey, The Dixie Chicks, N’Sync, etc). Mostly though, I talk to myself… constantly. Rather, I talk to whomever I imagine to be there. Here’s how it breaks down:
Ex-boyfriend– It’s so weird how you needed a ride from the airport and none of your friends could pick you up! No, I’m not sorry we broke up, are you? Wow, really? No, I don’t want to give us another shot. My life is beautiful now, and you’re fatter than ever. Here, let me remind you why I was always right about everything…
That one jerk– Things are good for me, actually, thanks for asking. I’m working really hard, having fun with the kids, getting my Master’s, learning Kung Fu, dating a great guy, everything’s going right! Oh yeah, you have lost a lot of hair. I wasn’t going to say anything. Maybe it’s because you’re so depressed over your totally foreseeable divorce. You’re right, it was your fault.
Family member– Look, you can’t expect me to give you all my lottery winnings. I have charities to donate to, trust funds to set up, and I think half a million is more than enough to get you out of debt and on your feet. No, I don’t think a nanny would be a good idea. What will I do with all my free time? I’m thinking of doing watercolors and finishing my zobo novel.
Member of the press– Y’know, I saw the gun and I just reacted. There was no time to think. My natural instinct has always been to help others, it’s no surprise that I would move toward danger instead of away from it, especially with the kids around. I mean, that guy was already shooting, I had nothing to lose. Don’t get me wrong, a bullet to the shoulder hurts, but it’s a small price to pay for paralyzing some maniac with a semi-automatic. Yes, a flying side kick is something I learned to do over years of training, but I never thought I’d use it, especially on someone’s neck. I mean, what are the odds? No, I don’t plan to keep all the reward money for his capture. Most of it will go toward my parents’ mortgage, and my sister’s school costs. I’m a giver.
I’m not making this shit up. This is how my brain works. I’m a hero, a savior, the one that got away (and sometimes a superhero!). The car has become my fantasy pod. Car-travel has become a magical state that allows me to transform into a glowing, powerful, courageous ball of wealth-shedding light. And if all that fails to entertain me, or if traffic is especially stressful, I look at my rearview mirror and pretend that all the cars behind me are my armada, and we’re traveling in formation toward our future conquest! Yes, we may die, but the battle will be glorious. Stand tall, comrades! They will sing our songs and call us patriots of the motherland for a thousand generations!