What I like about LA

When I was growing up, people would say, “You don’t want to go to L.A.—it’s a horrible place! It is dangerous, stinky, and pretentious. It’s a place where your dreams get shot down.”

I took that to heart until just a few months ago when my boss said he was going to open an office in L.A.

These words fell out of my mouth: “I’ll go to L.A. and open the office for you.”

Many strange looks later and some severe questioning from my friends about what the hell I was doing, I find myself sitting in a hotel room in Torrance, California, with a sunburn, a wireless computer, and a rocket stick, sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup. Pretty awesome— and I mean that!

What I like most about L.A. is what I was told to fear and expected to be turned off by.

The traffic here is entertaining: You can drive really fast through most cities and do these little sprints between traffic lights .

The boulevards are fascinating and great for the directionally challenged. If you can find a boulevard, you can pretty much get to where you need to go—or damn close to it. My boss bought me a GPS, so now I am fearless about getting out and about in L.A.

The 405 is an amazing freeway and a great place to people-watch at peak hours. Where else are you allowed to engage in a race with a gorgeous cop down a freeway… (I have not actually done that.)

There are a lot of lanes to keep you busy and interested in what is going on: fast cars, loud music, motorcyclists in flimsy t-shirts weaving the proverbial death wish through traffic. I even saw a fancy white drag car with my favorite number 12 pulled over on the side of the freeway by one of those amazing looking cops.

Yesterday I took a little trip to Venice Beach, a funky little space on the ocean that has been the source of inspiration for many writers, photographers, sketch artists, and hell-and-brimstone sermons. I think it would be fun to create a theme party based on its charm and lack thereof.

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There is something about listening to Rod Stewart that just fits with the apocalyptic palm trees, fire engine sirens, helicopters, cop cars, and first aid trucks all mixed together with rollerblading beauties, 60-year-old men flexing at muscle beach, strung-out junkies curled up next to the tattoo artist, skateboarders, medical marijuana facilities, and Feng Shui hole-in-the-wall shops. Bob Marley and Jim Morrison permeate the air and help to sell all manner and color of paraphernalia.

Where else can you witness this shift in paradigm: flawless people walking around with an exhausted expression that clearly says, “I am so sick of being beautiful” and those who have been dealt a few physical oddities in life walking with the confidence of Anthony Robbins.

Venice Beach is like Star Trek’s Quarks bar on the promenade.

The odd mixture of people, street vendors, trapeze artists, and activities clash so perfectly that it takes all of your senses and questions the reality of any sort of order that might have existed before approaching its path.

I come from a very small town, so the vastness of L.A. is fascinating to me. There are so many great little restaurants and places to see, and the best are often tucked away in scary-looking neighborhoods.

So what determines scary and why?

I took a chance the other day and challenged that question. I asked myself what was so scary about a particular area, lifestyle, or architecture of a neighborhood Was there anyone around doing anything that was actually corrupt or threatening? Was it scary because the people were not like me? Did they fit someone else’s story about what is scary?

My answers were not even my own; they had been passed on to me from the opinions of others.

So I decided to do my laundry in a “scary” little neighborhood. Attached to the laundromat was a great little Asian restaurant where the people were so kind, the food was great, the prices were reasonable, and it wasn’t scary at all.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t be alert to possible danger, and yes, there are some bad neighborhoods, but I think it is important to ask ourselves what we’re afraid of, and if the answers are laced with prejudice, religious preference, expectations of how others should live and dress, or how much money they have or do not have, and if our fears are based on someone’s belief system that is not even our own, we are going to miss out on many very cool encounters, experiences, insights, smiles—and some really great food.

Here’s to diversity and the spirit of discovery and to the likes of Quark who inspire the mingling of oddities and perfection.

Much Love from L.A.