Even I, as a diehard New Yorker, need a little hiatus from life in the big, red glossy apple from time to time. Changing coasts and removing myself from this world so familiar can put everything in perspective.
When I was 19 years old and on my first trip out West, I fell in love with Southern California. The landscape was like no other that I'd ever seen, the weather was paradise-like, and the people were sun-kissed. This is how I remember Hollywood in 1985.
Since that first visit, I've wanted to return to Los Angeles. Would I still love it like I did so many years ago? Would I still have the desire to live there? Could it be a more suitable place for me than New York City? After a few short hours by the pool in our West Hollywood hotel, I can honestly say, "No." "Definitely, No." And, "Are you kidding me?"
Californians are spoiled by the perfect weather, which is usually 85 degrees and sunny with low humidity. The scenery is stunning — mountains, palm trees, lush landscaping, and wide sugar sand beaches. Television and movies glamorize it though, just like those filmed in Manhattan, not all of it is pretty and perfect. (We already knew that about NYC.) There are parts of LA that look no different than some of the suburbs of Atlanta in traffic (less the palm trees).
LA is another classic example of the urban sprawl, the dying American city that has expanded to practically include a neighboring state (or in this case, Mexico). Californians spend hours in traffic just navigating to work or to the grocery store, not to mention the beach which took us 90 minutes to travel a mere 12 miles.
We stayed in West Hollywood at a froufrou hotel — the Mondrian. It's such a beautiful, chic spot, and the room was larger than most New York apartments. They upgraded us to a suite, which we didn't request. It was the first time that I've nearly lost my husband in a hotel room. We decided that we could easily live there with Bogey and Mimi. We'd just need to install a sliding wall to the bedroom and a few appliances and we'd be set.
We lounged by the pool and moved on to the Skybar for the world's most expensive cocktails, (suddenly Manhattan looked cheap). The crowd was interesting but too sophisticated — business-types, Hollywood-types, French women with peek-a-boo bikinis, and after dark, that's when the real acting began.
The scene went something like this: Droves of long-haired girls in six-inch stilettos and ten-inch mini skirts posing and looking (who walks in high heels around a pool?), boys in their baggy jeans and untucked shirts circling with cocktails in hand while also looking. Looking for what? Looking at everyone and everything. I guess that's what people do in LA. Look. Meanwhile, Mike and I plopped on a seat and found ourselves looking, too. I think we were the only middle-aged married couple there, and probably the only ones not getting the looks, which made us feel relieved, and well — old.
In New York, we're in our own little world, not so absorbed in ourselves or everyone else. We may look every now and then, but it's usually at the M86 a few blocks away, or at the Chrysler Building because we never grow tired of staring, or maybe the occasional celebrity playing with their kids next to ours at the park. We look differently and we look at different things. The New York life is 2,500 miles away of different.
The highlight of the LA trip was getting standby tickets to see Louis CK, one of my favorite comedians, as he tried out new material. Funny — we had to travel across the country to see someone who lives in our own neighborhood. Mike even "almost" met him twice. I'm sure their paths will cross a third time on the Upper West Side.
Louis brought down the house for one hour while trying out his new jokes. We were the oldest people in the audience. Louis even asked who was over the age of 44. We raised our hands proudly until we looked around the room. There were only three of us. I guess LA is young, too.
You may ask, what about the beaches? We went to Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach. Both were beautiful, sandy, sunny, and with the ocean (of course). But we agreed there was nothing so unusual or spectacular about these beaches as compared to the Long Island beaches, those on Fire Island or some others along the East Coast, except maybe the skateboarders at Venice.
We toured the Hollywood Hills, walked down Melrose on "Fashion Night Out," (yet another scene of a scene — was someone filming?), and ate some fantastic food. So what did I really think? "Eh." It was just that. I found no character, no energy, no wow factor, and no real reason to return. It was just nice. Who wants nice? As Michael says, "You love dirt." I think what he meant is, "I love real."
Sorry LA, you just didn't do it for me. You are clean, lovely, warm, and a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live my life with you. And I'm kinda glad. Moving is out of the question. I hated the traffic, and New York was my first love anyway.