Much like its signature palm trees, not much is real in Los Angeles.
Cobblestone side streets, paved with gloss, cover the abject poverty just miles down the road. Nearly every motive leads back to self. My worth measured in Facebook likes that you didn’t give until other people started to deem me “important.”
“Oh, she’s flirting with success. I guess she’s someone who I should want to know now. Then once she’s made it, she won’t forget me.”
People show up at their convenience and never follow through. They’ll throw you under the bus without hesitation, then run you over with the back wheels so they can get to where they need to go. You think, “This person could be my best friend!” then a month later, they’ve already moved onto the next, their only remnant bound in an Instagram post you’ll come across in a few years and chuckle at ironically, thinking, “Oh, if I’d only known…”
This is LA, who sells you with glamorous panorama shots of the Hollywood sign in the Hills, and then you show up to find that it’s actually saturated in smog. LA, who boasts of its oceans and beautiful sunbathers, but you stick your toe in to find that the water is always too cold, and the pretty will only look at you if you’re as pretty as them. Where you cease to be human, but just an image that you edit and filter obsessively until it matches the right kind of aesthetic that people want to share.
LA is bullshit.
LA is the greatest.
LA is what you make it.
LA is silhouetted palm trees in the waning golden sunlight, set against houses in the distant hills for a view that never, ever gets old.
LA is the low-key karaoke bars that don’t look like they’d ever belong in the city, where strangers celebrate each other, and the drinks are startlingly cheap and the night ends with the sturdy and steady lingering remnant rushing the “stage” for the last song, to sing and dance together, with smiles that can’t be wiped off.
LA is ending the night at a taco truck when you’re still a little bit tipsy and nothing has tasted better in your life, and you’ve never loved anybody more than the people beside you.
LA is when your Lyft driver lets you rule his radio and takes 7 of you home, even though he can really only fit 6 in his car, and when “Hot in Herre” by Nelly comes on as he pulls up to your house, you and your friends pile out to have a dance party at 3 AM in the middle of your street, and your driver lets himself be pulled out to join y’all for 4 unforgettable, glorious minutes.
LA is the hidden haven up the road that curves into a path by one of the more impressive parts of the city’s otherwise pathetic river, just as you hit your stride during your neighborhood run, and you become enamored as water flows to your right and a train sits to your left and cars speed on the freeway up ahead, just in front of the mountains - a perfect blend of city meets nature.
LA is morning matinees by the beach, and the stretch of the shore just out of the reach of the tourists, where you just sit, watch the waves and think, or where you end up having a fun “best friends photoshoot” on a random evening with the person you’ve been through it all.
LA is dancing along to the street performers on the Venice Beach boardwalk then turning around to see that Vanessa Hudgens is doing the same, exact thing.
LA is starting the day on the Santa Monica sand and ending it on a rooftop in Los Feliz with a distant view of the downtown skyline.
LA is stepping into your backyard and seeing the most glorious array of homemade fireworks spiral across your neighborhood’s warm skies on the Fourth of July.
LA is the view of the city from the Griffith Observatory at sunset, but it’s also the Rite Aid a mile away where you and your friends eat their ice cream in the parking lot before having a spontaneous dance party so that it’s “twerking in a Rite Aid parking lot” that becomes more synonymous with LA than any tourist hot spot ever could.
LA is legalized medical marijuana - not as a habit, but, you know, as a treat every once in awhile.
LA is the mutual acquaintances you met in passing 3 years ago during one of the worst times of your life, who ended up unexpectedly becoming some of the most important people in your life.
It’s always having a friend who will want to spend a day making a piece of art with you and only needing a camera and a little bit of gumption to do it.
It’s the litter of tiny feral kittens hiding in your backyard and the gutsy neighborhood cat who will march right into your house like she belongs, then leave you behind just as you’re starting to get used to her.
It’s grilling veggie dogs on the fire pit in your backyard with people who somewhere along the way stopped being just your roommates and turned into your best friends.
LA is a Saturday afternoon in North Hollywood with your absolute best friend in the world, her boyfriend who’s become your good friend too and their kitten. You laze about on their couch as Netflix turns their TV screen into an aquarium and Kendrick Lamar plays on vinyl. You cry laughing, watching the stupid videos you and your best friend made together 7 years ago. You let your egos soar, watching the hilarious videos the two of you made together 4 months ago. So much around you has changed, but who the two of you are with each other hasn’t.
The boyfriend fondly rolls his eyes and the kitten naps as you two talk - tongue only a little bit in cheek - about how obsessed you are with yourselves as an entity, as these goofy, ridiculous, but determined best friends with dreams enough to propel them across the country and land them at that very moment. And still, you two keep dreaming of what’s to come.
As you drive home, you think about how it’s exactly one week until the anniversary of the day the two of you moved out here, five years ago.
LA is the quaint, 3 bedroom house in the northeast corner of the city, tucked away from the quiet, but colorful family street, that you return to that evening, where you eat vegan cheese and drink red wine with another best friend while binge-watching a British fantasy series on Hulu.
Before bed, you think back on the day and realize that LA is the greatest, if only for the beautiful friends you’re so fortunate to have alongside you.
LA isn’t grand milestones towards fame and success, people knowing your name, the perfect outfit for a night out in WeHo or finally consistently getting double-digit likes on your Instagram posts.
LA is small, meaningful moments with the ones you love, in a city that finally feels like home.
LA is what you make it, and what you refuse to let it make you.
God did something real good, putting this dream in me 11 years ago. Did something real good indeed.