NYU Diaries: Dispatch from Los Angeles
Written by Bwog Staff
The past week was also NYU’s spring break, and our downtown diarist found himself on a cross-country sojourn to the City of Angels. He has since returned eastward with harrowing and enlightening tales of Southern California.
Probably we should all move to California. Not for the sun or a chance in Hollywood—if we wanted clear skies and hope we wouldn’t have come to New York—but for LA’s impossible size. To the students of NYU and Columbia, this unabashedly fake paradise could offer a dose of honesty. The city is hideous, yes, and any beauty or culture it may have had in the 1950s has been eaten away by the smog and covered up by plastic surgery. But its landscape of strip malls and concrete, punctuated almost ironically by the occasional bunch of palms, is infinite in a way that Manhattan isn’t.
It’s not so much a metropolis as a collection of medium sized cities, each washed out in its own way. Between the traffic and the town’s size it takes forever to get anywhere, but as consolation most of the places one goes are as dull as sitting in the car. Hurrying is impossible, keeping the youth of the city from pretending that racing down the steps of the subway is the same as being an embattled hustler.
The atmosphere of New York—that vaunted “energy” that is so often written about—gives ordinary young people an excuse to feel tough. At home in Nashville for break, reminiscing about Rubulad and the terrors of gentrification lets the speaker build himself into something he isn’t—something better than his home town—to feel tough even if those listening smell fraud. Living in a town that is comfortable with the banal would strip us of that privelege, forcing us to define ourselves as something beyond the city where we live.
It’s easy to hate Los Angeles because the people here are so keen to relax. Good God, they tan! They have A/C! They wear velour! How can they stand being so content?! Recent arrivals to New York are nostalgic for the danger of the late 70s and early 90s, when life and rent were both cheap, and LA is considered the opposite of that tough-as-nails fantasy. But the problem with living in Manhattan and loathing Los Angeles from across the country is that living in LA would be ugly and withering in a way we only pretend New York to be. From the dry canals to the overblown mansions of the hills, it’s a wonderful city in which to be truly miserable.
Anything cool in New York is quickly written off: first as tired, then as predictable, and finally a tourist trap. Los Angeles, meanwhile, is overflowing. There’s so much shit here, from ugly restaurants to half-dead bars, that some of it must be cool and much of it must be undiscovered. If you want to hate what’s around you, if you want to be left alone, there’s no better place than LA, which is as much desert as oasis. And there’s nothing over two stories, so there’s never anything towering between you and the sun.
– W.M. Akers