I didn’t take many photos in Los Angeles because, honestly, the place is rather ugly. It’s all big buildings and smog and lots of people crushing each other in the streets. Not exactly screaming for photo ops. There is a lot of concrete and a whole bunch of roads and the occasional smattering of potted plants or jacaranda trees (which are so beautiful that it almost makes up for the lack of vegetation elsewhere, but doesn’t). So, instead, I’m going to include non sequitur pictures I took at the North Carolina Zoo!
It probably didn’t help my case that the day I was moving around Los Angeles it rained, and then quickly became clear and heated up, making any walking miserable regardless of when you try it. Adding to my difficulties was the fact that I got confused when trying to read my stops for the day, and ended up with an hour walk from the metro stop to my first destination and then another hour back. Obviously, I got to experience plenty of that unpleasant weather.
But, really, I’m griping about the wrong thing. Sure, they city is rather ugly and has that horrible metal-and-concrete-everywhere-you-look thing going on, but so do quite a lot of cities. What those cities don’t often have is an overloaded population of self-obsessed, pretentious citizens. I spent about eight hours in L.A. on my first day there, and it was way more than I would have liked. Even in the streets of New York, I’d never had so many condescending glances shot my way or so many near collisions with self-important types mauling their way through the crowded sidewalks, screaming violently to the bluetooth in their ear. It was a near-constant barrage of big-headed bravado that pushed me to the verge of shaking a random stranger awake to remind them that fetching Starbucks for movie stars DOESN’T MAKE YOU A MOVIE STAR.
My frustrations came to a head at one of the stores I visited. Now I had usually been greeted with cheerful smiles or, at worst, polite indifference when I showed up to write feature articles about these stores. And when I made my scheduled appointment at this store, things went smooth and I was almost thinking I had been too harsh in forming my initial opinions of L.A. I concluded the interview, shook hands, and went to take pictures of the store. And that’s where things went awry. I was minding my own business, taking a shot of one particular part of the store when a customer comes up to me and says “HEY! Did you just take my picture? I DON’T want anybody taking my picture.” I explained that No, of course he wasn’t in that photo, I would have asked him before just grabbing a shot of a customer; but he didn’t seem to believe me. Propping his feet up on a bench, he gave me a sideways glance and reaffirmed that “Yeah, well, just don’t try to take my picture man.” I was trying to wear my professional hat, so I hit him with a smile said something other than “Shut your stupid face, nobody knows who you are and nobody would care if you ended up in a picture,” and continued on my way.
Click, click, click, I’m back on track, almost done with the photos when I line up a shot at the empty register. Moments after the picture is taken a rather bratty employee rushes in front of me, arm outstretched and hand over my lens, to rudely inform me “Woah! You can’t take pictures in here, you gotta leave.” My impression of L.A. blazed back to the forefront and I’m relatively certain my eye started twitching as I glued a (probably maniacal) smile on my face, reminded myself that I’m a freelance writer doing a job, and explained why I had the camera and that I had already talked to his superiors, etc. By the end of my spiel I was talking to the back of a t-shirt, because who has time to apologize to people they’re rude to? So I’ve reached my boiling point and I’m ready to get out of the city, but I need one more picture. I line it up and snap it, just to be confronted again by not-a-movie-star-just-some-egotistical-random-stranger telling me “Look, I really don’t want to be in a picture.” My brain started shooting off words that I won’t repeat here, but I was able to find my happy place and let my face fall to slack-jawed mush before promptly leaving without another word to guy who thinks he’s famous.
Now, I don’t hold anything against the store. It was beautiful, the managers I met with were kind and the employees who weren’t sticking their hands on my camera were quite intelligent and really funny. But, my experience in the store was a perfect microcosm for L.A. It has the same high-brow arrogance that you’d find in New York but with the added bonus of smog, constant traffic, blistering temperatures, no picturesque views, and the movie star “Everybody is always looking at me.” syndrome. Obviously, I’m talking in generalities here. I stayed with a friend who lives in L.A. and is a straight-talking, kindhearted, modest guy and doesn’t fit the mold I described in any way. But, you’re going to find more people that fit the pompous figure than any other kind in this delightful town. Honestly, unless you think you’re cooler than sliced bread, I’d not recommend spending much time in L.A. Get in and get out.