|Photo by Daniel Hallorann|
This past March, I moved back to southeastern Pennsylvania after twelve years of living in Los Angeles. When I went to the bank to transfer my account, I told the teller I'd moved here from Los Angeles. He said, quite seriously, "I'm so sorry." A couple of weeks later I was in a salon having my hair cut, and during the conversation I mentioned that I had just moved here from Los Angeles. The stylist said, and again, she was completely serious, "Why would you do that?"
There are many good things to say about living in Los Angeles. If you're a fangirl, there's no place like it. When I first moved there in 2001, I was in the grip of a powerful obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my favorite show ever. I visited way too many Buffy locations and went to several autograph events. I even went to a political fundraiser thrown by Joss Whedon and Hercules T. Strong that included many of the actors from Buffy, Angel and Firefly. It was practically orgasmic. I talked with nearly everyone.
I also got to see Buffy shot on location in the streets. Once, I stood five feet away from Sarah Michelle Gellar, who avoided eye contact and pretended I wasn't there. (Can't blame her. Even though I think I appear innocuous, I probably had "crazed Buffy fan" written all over my face. But hey, Nick Brendon talked to me. I couldn't have looked that crazed.)
It wasn't just Buffy fangirl stuff, either. A friend who was writing an article for a sci-fi magazine took me along to Paramount near the end of the run of Star Trek: Enterprise, and I got to assist while she interviewed Scott Bakula. He scolded me. How many people can say they were scolded by Scott Bakula?
Let's face it -- if you're not in Los Angeles, it's a lot less likely that you will drive home from work, glance over, and see Beau Bridges driving the car in the next lane. Or see Helen Hunt at the next table at a museum café, Hudson Leick from Xena in a coffee shop, or Don Cheadle at Trader Joe's. Once at work there was extensive shooting for a movie, but they didn't let us get close and didn't tell us what the movie was, and I eventually forgot about it. Months later, I was watching a sci-fi movie in a theater and suddenly I was at work, and I practically jumped out of my seat.
It's more than just TV and movies, of course. The weather on the west side of Los Angeles might be the best in the world: pleasant and sunny nearly all the time. People in other places talk about the weather, but people in Los Angeles talk about the traffic because the weather is nearly always the same. And there's a joke -- okay, more of an expression -- that there are four types of weather in southern California: earthquakes, floods, landslides and wildfires. It's nice in SoCal nearly all the time, but when it's not, boy howdy. Seeing and smelling wildfires is terrifying. If there are rain storms, the city grinds to a halt and the local newscasters act as if the world is coming to an end.
Newscaster: "And what a surprise this weekend when the weather turned unseasonably low. Here's Harris Telemacher, our wacky weatherman, with a report."
Harris: (interviewing a man on the street) "And when the weather dropped down to 58 degrees this weekend, how did you cope?"
Man: "I went to make sure all the windows were shut."
Harris: "And, what about your pets? Were they outside? What happened?"
Man: "Well, the cats were out till around ten. But it got a little too cold for them and they came in."
Harris: "The cats were out till around ten. But it got a little too cold for them and they came in! Well, that's how L.A. coped with that surprise low of 58 degrees that turned the weekend into a real weenie shrinker."
(from the movie L.A. Story)
There's so much other non-Hollywood related stuff to see and do, too. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I made a list of everything I'd always wanted to do while living there, and I did nearly all of them. My favorite place in Los Angeles is the Griffith Observatory, and I'm probably going to do a separate post about it. There's the beach and the Santa Monica Pier -- that pier has been in countless movies and TV shows. Even Fred and Gunn made it there.
Sara: "What did you have in mind?"
Harris: "Well, I was thinking of taking you on a cultural tour of L.A."
Sara: "That's the first fifteen minutes. Then what?"
Harris: "Some of these buildings are over twenty years old."
There's the Hollywood Bowl. There's Mulholland Drive and Topanga Canyon -- I loved Topanga Canyon. There's Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, if you like that sort of thing. There's the incredible Pacific Coast Highway, a ten hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which is absolutely breathtaking. There's all the Hollywood stuff, like the Chinese Theater. There are world class museums and amazing concerts. The local conventions manage to get great guests because most of the TV and movie people live in the area. I never did get to Comic-con in San Diego, though. And I always intended to do the Academy Awards red carpet someday, but never did get around to it. Oh, well.
Trudi: "He said it's the first day of spring."
Harris: "Oh, shit! Open season on the L.A. freeway!"
I'm sure there are places where the traffic is worse, but L.A. has to be in the top ten. Construction has been snarling traffic on the 405 freeway pretty much eternally. If a president or world leader comes to town, and they often do, streets and freeways are closed down, occasionally during rush hour. I once spent two hours trying to drive the seven miles from work to home; I think that was George W. Bush's fault. During my second to last week in L.A., they found a dead body on the 405 freeway at three in the morning and the lanes were closed. During my last week in L.A., Netanyahu was in town and everything ground to a halt.
For some reason, there are no dedicated left turn traffic lights on the west side, and there is rarely a break in the stream of cars. If you want to make a left turn, you have to inch forward into an intersection and hope that you can sneak through as the light is turning yellow. This strategy isn't as successful when a lot of people want to turn left; you can sit at a light waiting to turn left through cycle after cycle of traffic lights. It's ridiculous.
But if you're a car enthusiast, L.A. is sort of amazing. I mostly can't tell one car from another, but even I'm aware enough to notice the famous, expensive ones. I've sat in traffic next to a Rolls Royce. I got stuck behind a purple Masarati once when I went to my doctor, whose office is in Beverly Hills. And there are tasteful black limos everywhere. Every time I saw a limo in traffic, I'd wonder who was in the back seat. You can't tell, though. Darn those tinted windows.
(I once saw a stretch limo sitting in a parking lot with a "for sale" sign on it. That doesn't happen in the real world. My car pool partner and I joked about buying it. How much does a limo cost? Where on earth would we park it?)
Harris: "You know, you're really nobody in L.A. unless you live in a house with a really big door."
Do I miss Los Angeles? A little. It can be a fun place to live. I miss the weather, although it's certainly nice to have rain now and then. But I don't miss paying a fortune for a shabby one bedroom apartment, and a lot more for food, gas, insurance, pretty much everything. I don't miss the pollution and the eternal black grit that dusted everything.
Although I sort of miss, and this is weird, the billboards. In Los Angeles, nearly all of the billboards are movie or television-related. Right before the sixth season of Buffy, billboards with the words "Buffy Lives" were all over town. Did that happen anywhere else?