My L.A. Story

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I’ve just returned from a long weekend in the City of Angels and am bursting with New York-L.A. comparisons, although they’ve been done to death. But it’s my blog post and I’ll be redundant if I want to.

The weather. Balmy temperatures and lots of sun have long been an argument for why L.A. is better than New York. Not this weekend. It was fuh-REE-zing, as low as 45 one morning – while it was 55 in New York – and into the 30s at night. While the sun did help to warm things up, that in combination with the cold, desert air did a number on my skin.

Traffic. Legendary in L.A. While New York isn’t immune to back-ups, even at 5:30 in the morning on the way back from JFK when you’re really tired from the red eye and you have to go to the bathroom, because everything is so spread out in Los Angeles, you’re more often in a car and more people are on the road, and for someone who gets easily carsick, that’s not so fun. I for one am glad to be back in a walking city with excellent mass transit and don’t plan on stepping into an automobile for a very long time.

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Food. While there’s no denying the incredible restaurants New York has to offer, finding them without a Zagat’s is a crapshoot. But everywhere I went in L.A. the food was amazing: fresh, tasty, and good for you. At Leaf Cuisine in Sherman Oaks, I had a mind blowingly good blueberry smoothie made with almond milk and dates. At Hugo’s I had a delicious egg white omelet with fresh veggies and mozzarella cheese, and finally at the Cow’s End in Venice Beach, I had the best frigging cup of organic mocha coffee EVER. And to think we almost stopped in Starbuck’s.

Culture. “Back east” wins hands down. While L.A. has some cool museums, like the Getty, New York has far more in a concentrated area. Where else can you find the Guggenheim, the Met, the Frick, and the Whitney within a couple of square miles of each other, not to mention the many smaller exhibits outside of the Museum Mile. As well, you can’t beat the plethora of shows and plays, on Broadway as well as off-off-off.

Friendliness. While I’m adamant in my defense that New Yorkers are not all jerks, I was surprisingly pleased again and again by my encounters with Los Angeleans. Everyone from the guy behind the coffee counter to the girls in a boutique to the parking garage attendant was smiley and friendly. Or maybe they were just normal. That’s what happens when you get accustomed to constant surliness from those getting paid to help you.

Rent. The two people I talked to each pay less than $1,000 for large one-bedrooms with real kitchens and parking spaces, and apparently you can get a nice two-bed/two-bath for as little as $1,500. Of course these places are not centrally located, but then everyone has a car. I guess if you add $500+ monthly car payments, it all adds up to about the same. But it was killer to look at my brother’s place and think that my entire apartment could fit in his living room.

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Geography. I’m afraid L.A. has us beat. Drive less than an hour and you’ve got the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Swimming and surfing? Check. Hiking, mountain biking, and skiing? Check, check, and check. Not so for us.

Shopping. I’d have to say the two cities are neck and neck. Some areas are overrun with chain stores, in others you can find cool boutiques. The only upside New York has is that there’s no sales tax on clothes, which is actually a pretty good up.

Award shows. For better or for worse, Lala Land is the epicenter of self-congratulatory displays. I left on Tuesday, which was the night of the Golden Globes. It’s one thing to watch it on TV; it’s quite another to have to think about what streets will be closed off, having the option of camping out and trying to catch sight of someone famous, and knowing exactly how very cold the anorexic actresses in strapless dresses must feel.

Celebrity sightings. Speaking of seeing the famous. While I’ve had my share of celebrity sightings here, that doesn’t compare to L.A. In my last three trips to the left coast, I’ve seen, respectively, Jessica Simpson inquiring about a lost wallet at The Standard, Mila Kundis on my Jet Blue flight to Long Beach, and just missed seeing Barry Williams at the Cheesecake Factory in the Valley (my brother saw him and he almost took my seat at the bar – that counts, doesn’t it?). This time I saw D.B. Sweeney, early ’90s B-list heartthrob of Cutting Edge fame, and Julia Campbell, one of the mean girls from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. That’s two in four days as opposed to one here (Keri Russell) in several months.

Who’s the winner? Hard to say, what with the weather being a draw and depending on how you feel about award shows and celebrities. I for one take Manhattan. I treasure walking and the museums, and the non-desert air. But, to tell the truth, I could really go for a blueberry smoothie from Leaf right now.

9 Comments so far

  1. jillian (unregistered) on January 17th, 2007 @ 6:37 pm

    Hey – I just posted about your comparison over on MetBlogging Los Angeles. Please stop by & comment if you like; otherwise, we may have suggestions for the next time you come through here :-)

    BTW, people do exist without cars here – they just live centrally, and use transit and bikes. LA’s trending towards re-urbanization again.


  2. ~dana (unregistered) on January 17th, 2007 @ 11:38 pm

    Hey Doris, I think it’s a pretty good comparison and I think it’s pretty obvious that you belong here in NYC and we are happy to have you! While we’re on the topic, I don’t understand the LA / NYC rivalry. This is not directed at you at all Doris, just a very general observation on the thread about this on the LA site. I say, live where you want and where you think you belong and don’t feel the need to smack down other cities. It’s so hard to form a real opinion about a city unless you have lived there for at least a year, sometimes longer, anyway. Why all the hating?


  3. angela (aka doris) (unregistered) on January 18th, 2007 @ 9:06 am

    thanks, jillian!

    dana, i know what you mean. i consciously didn’t title this post “new york vs l.a.” although my other city comparisons are titled as such (new york vs japan, new york vs canada).

    and if you tally up my “points,” l.a. is ahead of new york! what can you do.


  4. Noah (unregistered) on January 18th, 2007 @ 10:39 am

    Yes, I agree Dana! The biggest culprits seem to be the rap community, but clearly it is happening everywhere. On that LA blog, people get soooo firey ripping NYC based on nothing. Everyone should just live their life!

    The one exception here is Boston. I lived in that city for 4 years, and it defines the word “suckfest.” Simple-minded and “meadheady,” the majority of the city seems to have a serious inferiority complex and feels it necessary to rip NY at every single gathering. I once heard an impromptu “Yankees Suck” chant while shopping in a mall… true story!


  5. angela (aka doris) (unregistered) on January 18th, 2007 @ 10:46 am

    noah, so true about boston. i lived there for 3 years and totally agree about the, um, small town mentality and feeling insecure in the shadow of new york.

    a coworker told me about an impromptu “yankees suck” story too. it was at fenway – but the yankees weren’t even playing! and another time my friend’s husband got yelled at for wearing a yankees cap. were they in fenway? no, they were at the MFA!

    hmm, how did this turn into an anti-boston rant?


  6. Noah (unregistered) on January 18th, 2007 @ 10:53 am

    It might have!!! hahaha

    The worst one was when I heard a Yankees Suck at a Counting Crows concert… I mean, the band is from San Francisco, for christ’s sake!


  7. wyn (unregistered) on January 18th, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

    Angela, that was a fascinating comparison between NYC and LA. It’s interesting because in Canada, people who revile Toronto say it’s a wannabe New York and the people who hate Toronto the most are possibly Vancouverites who are guilty of recreating a California mecca here. It’s nuts! So there are definitely things you say about each city that rings true for their northern “counterparts.”

    I think the Eastern cities have an edge but it really depends on what kind of entertainment and lifestyle you value the most. And the people who live those dicotomous lifestyle will struggle against each other forever onward! =P


  8. ned (unregistered) on January 19th, 2007 @ 4:55 am

    I think of NY and LA as two sides of the same coin. NY holds America’s roots and urban tradition while LA is the site of America’s cultural innovation and experimentation. NY faces Europe, the source of America’s traditions while LA faces Asia, the destiny of our interests. NY controls the world’s material wealth while LA controls the world’s cultural ether. Sure NY has more curated art in the form of museums, but LA is where contemporary art lives. It’s also the creative capital for popular culture, constantly influencing what the world thinks of itself and of America. The interesting thing about LA is that it is the only other city in the country which can claim to be it’s own center of the world. Angelinos don’t have an inferiority complex like Bostonians because they’ve never really had to look toward NY for anything. I think that’s what makes the rivalry so fun. LA and NY are simultaneously dictating what it means to be American, with neither one emerging the undisputed winner.


  9. Eric Molinsky (unregistered) on January 19th, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

    Okay, I have to jump into this conversation having grown up in Boston, lived in LA for ten yeas and now settled in New York. I absolutely agree with Ned’s post. I find that New Yorkers and Angelinos have much more in common than other parts of the country. I didn’t realize how provincial Boston was until I lived in LA and NYC. Both LA and NYC are places for people who realized that where they used to live wasn’t going to help them achieve their ultimate potential. I actually found LA to be more diverse than NYC, I met people from Alabama, Montana, Nebraska and Hawaii in LA but I tend to meet northeasterns in NYC. I’m also shocked how often New Yorkers associate LA with Jessica Simpson on a red carpet. That was a very small part of the city that most Angelinos ignored – it’s like equating all of New York with Donald Trump. I found in both cities that the stereotypical people weren’t the ones born there. The native born Angelinos were just as smart as anyone I knew in the East Coast – and many of them went to California state schools. The only difference I found is that they were less likely to be therapy, they had that Western boot-straps attitude. The hippie-dippie New Age girl at the drum circle on Venice Beach talking about her past lives was from Wisconsin. Also from somewhere else are the snobby New Yorkers who say they “loathe LA.” I find the people who grew up here aren’t jerks, they’ve very curious about California. But I have to add, LA only seems like a paradise from November to May. When the Santa Ana winds die down and the smog returns, you’ll need to walk around with Sun Block 40 and an oxygen mask. And while New York has great high end and low end food (especially pizza and bagels), L.A. has New York beat hands down in the category of great meals within the $8-20 price range. It’s the town where everybody does lunch — so there’s a lot of competition. God, I miss those tacos at Sharky’s on Sunset and Vine.



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