I’ve wanted to write this double-column for a while. And I feel like I’m qualified to do so. I have lived in Los Angeles for almost six years – in Marina del Rey (on the water), in Westwood (West Side), and in Studio City (the Valley). I have visited New York over 200 times since the age of eight and have spent well over a year there in total, mostly splitting time between Manhattan and Brooklyn (though I’ve been to all five boroughs), sometimes for months on end, replete with a mailing address. So, I’m going to write this in the first person for both entries. And speaking of persons, the sections describing the people of both cities must come with a massive disclaimer: any negatives may not necessarily be indicative of those indigenous to the region; after all, these are cities of transplants. OK, now I can go about properly pissing everybody off.
- Overall Statement
Why NY Rules & LA Sucks (6 Reasons that NY > LA)
“If I got to choose a coast, I got to choose the East.” – Notorious B.I.G.
New York City is the capital of the world. Nobody summed it up better than John Lennon: “If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today, America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself.” Done. Look at it this way… if aliens land and only see one city on the planet, which is it? New York City. And as Frank Sinatra said, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
NY is a melting pot; LA is a salad bowl. New York is where people from all over the globe come together to coexist. There is a sense that we’re all in this together. Why? Two reasons:
- In the ultimate irony, much of America despises Hollywood because there’s a sense that it’s too liberal. Hollywood isn’t liberal – it’s conservative. It type-casts people to reinforce stereotypes that will play in most of America. And this energy reverberates across LA County.
- New Yorkers are all in this together – we’re walking next to each other on the sidewalks; we’re all sharing a car on the subway. In LA, the vast majority drives. So, by definition, everyone who isn’t you is your competitor. And when somebody cuts you off in traffic, you go for the lowest common denominator because it’s what you can see… “See? Asians can’t drive!” “Does that Mexican even have insurance?” “Fat-ass!”
NY has so many smart and interesting people – folks who are actually doing things and not hoping ONE DAY to do things. You hear a lot about how people in LA are false and superficial and and self-absorbed. Because they are. There’s just such a sense of desperation. As comedian David Cross said, ~”They’re all gonna make it!” Even the LA River is fake and shallow. The only “real” you’ll experience is your loser friend waiter/actor’s reel. (And yes, he’ll be too vapid to grasp the concept of a homonym.) He’ll tell you, “I’m an actor.” What he means is “auditioner.” Seriously, now when people tell me they’re actors, I ask, “Really? Which restaurant?”
It’s like we’ve thrown in the towel sometimes. I saw a billboard not long ago that read, “That’s So LA.” Have we given up on creativity? Could we be any more Valley Girl than this? “That’s So LA.” Is this supposed to increase tourism? Honestly, this is a half-step above, “OMG. Justin Bieber Lives Here.”
New Yorkers get a bad rap for being rude. We’re not rude – we’re in a hurry. We have stuff to do. (Remember? We’re already doing things?) We don’t have time to sit around and debate whether Ashton is a suitable replacement for Charlie.
LA has no heart, no soul. I remember the night that Barack Obama got elected. My brother called me from St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan and said the police roped off thoroughfares so people could drink in the streets – there was so much joy that the authorities allowed people to break the rules to participate in arguably the biggest event in world history. When I went out on Wilshire to a crowded bar, only one guy walked up to me and talked about what had just happened. No groups intermingled. There was no air of celebration. The city is that self-absorbed. “Well, I didn’t just get elected President, so what’s the big deal?” was the apparent thought bubble of every person in that lounge.
Finally, there’s just such a multitude of Los Angeleno douchebags that you want to punch in the face.
Bust it. As soon as you arrive in NY, you just feel this electricity in the air. The City has an energy that permeates everything and everyone. Maybe it’s the number of live performances – Broadway… the Met… is there any doubt it’s the Mecca of standup? (I don’t want to dig on London, which has a strong scene, as well.) LA can’t even hold onto a football team. It had TWO. And now has ZERO.
Maybe LA’s creativity lies in its powers of imagination. Or at least exaggeration. What’s so miraculous about Miracle Mile? Maybe the fact that there are actually museums and centers of learning for these fools? Oh, and everything in LA has to be World-Famous. When I’m over in Calcutta in January, I’m going to ask ‘em if they’ve heard of Tommy’s Hamburgers. If not, take that stupid sign down.
NY has the greatest number of great restaurants. But beyond that, food is everywhere. It’s fast. And available – dining establishments that are open 24/7 and fruit within an arm’s reach. And affordable. And eclectic – Indian, Chinese, Irish, you name it.
Out in Cali, In-N-Out is good – no doubt. But it closes at 1:30 on the weekends. That’s too early for a late night snack, given that the bars let out at 2 am. What else? Hamburger Habit? Do we really need to call out the habitual nature of the penchant one might have for burgers? What are they going to open next door? A liquor store called The 12 Steps?
The City of Angels is a devilish place to drive. A lot of it was due to a concerted, behind-the-scenes effort to kill public transportation and keep auto sales high. (Yes, it took me a long time to figure out that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? had a devious theme and I was able to gain the point-of-view of the Rabbit’s voice himself – Charles Fleischer – when I interviewed him on my podcast.)
LA is horizontal; NY is vertical. Getting around NY is so easy. It’s one of the only subway systems in the world that runs all day and all night. It’s boss. And cabs are probably 40% of the vehicular traffic. (I’ve never actually seen “vehicular” without “manslaughter” after it. Hmm. That’s funny. About as funny as man’s laughter.) Everything in The City is close together. The island of Manhattan is only 7 mi x 2 mi. When it comes to neighborhoods, NY is an album; LA is a collection of songs. Dorothy Parker summed it up: “LA is 72 suburbs in search of a city.” No matter how cool a spot is, it sounds quaint. “Yo, you been to H-Wood yet?” “No, where is it?” “Behind Matt’s house.”
LA is so spread out. It’s Hell-A. You gotta drive everywhere. It took me six months before I even realized there was a subway. Nobody takes it. And Crash pointed out that only poor people take the bus. That’s mean. (It’s also true.) So, it’s really hard to have a great night out when you know you have to stay sober or sober up (OK, sober up) at the end of the night… which comes way too early. Bars can’t serve past 1:30 am in California, so just about everywhere closes at 2 am. That blows.
Of course, it depends upon your perspective, but assuming you’re from “back East,” as everyone in LA seems to be, Los Angeles is just far. There’s a sense that you’re “out here” when you’re in LA.
Yes, NYC is more expensive than LA. Maybe that’s because more people want to live here. Supply and demand, bud.
No doubt LA has better weather. Can’t argue that one. But people get tired of the lack of seasons. Here are two things few people tell you:
- LA does get cold. Because it’s a desert, there’s very little humidity. Humidity sucks when it’s sweltering out back East. But at night, it’s like a warm, wet blanket.
- You have as little concept of the years passing in LA as you do the hours passing in Las Vegas. Vegas, it’s because of the dearth of clocks. LA, everyday is almost the same so everything just seems to run together. Dr. Dre said it: “I love LA, because over and above all, it’s just another day.”
NY has beaches, too – and the Atlantic’s water is actually tolerable, not like that freezing Pacific. And don’t forget that awful smog in LA. Oh, and it doesn’t matter. Everyone knows the Big One is coming… a massive earthquake is going to wipe that city out, anyway.
Kramer in Seinfeld nailed it in The Trip (Part II) when he ventures (Ventura-s?) out to LA: “What do you want me to say? That things haven’t worked out the way that I planned? That I’m struggling, barely able to keep my head above water? That LA is a cold place even in the middle of the summer? That it’s a lonely place even when you’re stuck in traffic on the Hollywood Freeway? That I’m no better than a screenwriter driving a cab, a starlet turning tricks, a producer in a house he can’t afford? Is that what you want me to say?”
Yes, especially after your Waterloo, which happened in LA. Should’ve stuck to New York.
Why LA Rules & NY Sucks (6 Reasons that LA > NY)
“The West is the best.” – Louis L’Amour
Los Angeles is the ultimate embodiment of Manifest Destiny. The work/life balance is amazing; it just feels like a permanent vacation. Life is easy; life is fun. Once you’re here, you’ve made it.
NY has plenty of interesting and smart people – no debate there. And yes, the folks here can be pretentious. I’ve often said that Democrats are dumb and Republicans are mean. The same could be said for the LA/NY dichotomy. Maybe Los Angelenos ain’t that bright, but they’re also not that rude. I remember the first time I had an inkling of feeling like a New Yorker. I arrived in that huge city and was asking everyone for directions like a tourist – because that’s what I was. But then, one day, somebody asked me and I knew the answer and helped that guy out and felt so good. But the day I truly felt like a New Yorker was the next time somebody asked me for directions and I told him to go to hell. (In all honesty, I also think New Yorkers get a bad rap for supposed rudeness. I find them quite nice. But then, to be fair, Angelenos aren’t as stupid as we’re painted to be.)
People knock LA folks for chasing celebrity. They do, but let’s face it – social currency in each locale varies. In LA, it’s about the fame; in NY, it’s about the money. And money drives many of the decisions people make in NY. There is a sense that people are almost single-handedly chasing the mighty dollar back East. Everyone you meet in LA seems to be working in Entertainment. (Although people forget the largest manufacturing base is actually not in the Midwest but rather right here in LA.) Everyone you meet in NY seems to be zero or, at most, one degree away from Finance. And investment bankers are the greediest bastards on earth. The concentration of douchebags per office square foot is astounding. They love to brag about how industrious they are. Then again, so are models. These sentences have two different meanings: In NY, people get a lot of work done. In LA, people get a lot of work done.
IN DEFENSE OF MODELS: However, everyone seems intent on knocking models and actors for all the nose jobs, boob jobs, and Botox. But remember that the reason they stay thin and work so hard to look young is because the fashion industry and beauty industry (based in NY) print magazine covers and sell ads that promote attractiveness and thinness. Hey, I don’t want to watch an aging Harrison Ford or Meryl Streep either. Trust me – these folks stay as young as everyone wants them to look. Models aren’t puking their guts out to stay ten pounds skinnier than they need to be. Don’t blame LA culture. We should all blame ourselves. That’s what’s up.
Contrary to East Coasters’ belief, we do have good conversations in LA. Hey, we eliminate that go-to topic for small talk – the weather. What is there to discuss? “So… it’s 75 and sunny again.” “Yep.” In NY, it’s hard to go more than a few days without hearing New Yorkers talk about how legit New York is. They act like they built the place. They’re worse than Texans. Indeed, the main strike against LA seems to be that Angelenos won’t shut up, either – about how much LA sucks. Hey, if you’d stop talking about that, maybe it wouldn’t suck so bad. Just keep saying “good stuff” and “right on.” Ever notice how those are the go-to phrases out here?
Above all else, all you really need – especially as you age – is a handful of good friends. LA is the second largest city in the country. You’re telling me you can’t find five solid people with whom to build a relationship? In fact, I always joke that I came to LA to find the coolest people from the Midwest. Most of my best friends are from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, et al. People with the same values as I – grounded but adventurous. If you can’t find happiness in sunny LA, you may just not be capable of happiness.
Hey, Broadway, don’t look now, but more live theatrical productions open in LA than in NY. Sure, we don’t have a football team – OK. But maybe we’re focused on trying to make something of ourselves instead of watching people who already have. The Yankees consistently have the highest payroll in baseball. So, they should win every year. But they don’t. (Although in fairness I suppose I should knock the Lakers for this, too.)
And everyone can knock Hollywood for churning out crap, but the reality is that ours may be the only industry left in this economy that is exporting things Made in America that the rest of the world actually wants.
Hold it right there. LA has the best food in the world. And I can hear the collective gasp of you NYers. My Uncle has a theory and I agree wholeheartedly with it. Here are the three reasons why:
- Melting Pot: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I heard your argument about how NY is a melting pot. And I’ll see your analogy. LA is uniquely located in a spot that represents the convergence of three distinct cultures. We have the European influence of the settlers who moved West. We have the Asian flavor from the Pacific Rim, which is just west of our state, a.k.a., according to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “the edge of the world and all of Western civilization.” And finally, we are a mere two hours from Mexico and all of its Latin spice. This juxtaposition allows for a wider palette from which to choose for cooking.
- Salad Bowl: I’ll see your analogy and raise you. Our ingredients are fresher than yours. We don’t have to ship anything – myriad restaurants buy local from farmers’ markets.
- Culture: Californians have a sense of adventure and that is reflected in everything from our architecture to our clothing to our cuisine.
We’re just healthier. Sure, we have our cults and Scientology and various strains of craziness, but we do find ways to enrich not just our bodies but our souls, as well. LA is a place you can find yourself. We’re forward-thinking when it comes to the environment. We’re progressive. (OK, so New York legalized gay marriage but Iowa took us both on that one.) We do yoga. (OK, so I do like two poses every morning. But still.) You can self-actualize here, far from the noise and the haste and the madding crowd.
We have the best cars in the world for three reasons:
- Yes, we spend our lives in our cars. So, it makes sense that we would drop more on where we actually are.
- The weather allows us to not have to worry about winterizing, salt, the potholes caused by said salt, etc.
- We’re judgmental.
The LA formula really boils down to this: you trade traffic for weather. Our traffic is horrendous. But it’s awful in NY, too. And in LA, we’re on our phones and/or have the radio on, “crazy tunes hangin’ out the window” – oh, and our windows down. At least we’re somewhat experiencing the outdoors.
Admit it, NY. Public transportation – for all its convenience – sucks. Cruising down the 405, even at 5 mph, beats the heck out of sitting next to homeless people on the train. Everything in NY is epic because of the lack of a car. Grocery shopping is an adventure – and not the good kind. The bodegas are crowded and cramped. There is no room. And how do you get your groceries home? The last time we were at Target in Brooklyn, we hired a car for $10 (plus tip, of course). Then unload. Then trudge upstairs. Or take the elevator. Oh, wait – it’s always broken. Load your provisions in your tiny fridge or in cabinets. Don’t forget you had to buy the small portions of everything, so your bill is literally triple what it is at Trader Joe’s in Studio City.
Cabs are easy? Last month, we waited 40 minutes for a cab on the Lower East Side. Didn’t catch one. Had to grab the subway. Except the A train is running on the F line to Jay/Metrotech… and does the G train even exist? It comes around about as often as Haley’s Comet.
And don’t gimme that crap that people live close together so it’s easier to meet up. My friends who are throwin’ it down in Meatpacking never want to come meet me in the LES, let alone – God forbid – cross the Brooklyn Bridge. People stay in their locales. They are creatures of habit just like we are (even without the burgers).
Yes, our Cali bars shut at 2 am. But that’s because we value actually getting up the next day sans hangover and going hiking or surfing. Our entire social lives don’t depend on drinking. I will concede that in NY (or Chicago), you can wander into a bar and it’ll be fun. In LA, you need a tour guide. But once you have this, it’s a riot. And no, that’s not a callback to 1992.
As far as LA being far… a friend of mine put it in good perspective. Yes, it would cost you an arm and a leg, but if you really had to, you can hop a flight and be home the same night or the next morning.
In NY, if you drive and drive, you head into exciting, exotic places like New Jersey and Connecticut and Upstate New York. We’re 6 hours to Vegas; 6 hours to Phoenix; 2 hours to Mexico. And we have the Cali coastline… The United States without California is like India without Punjabis. It’s like “Harold Melvin without the Blue Notes.” Snoop Dogg, Snoop Dogg…
It is way, way more economical to dwell in LA. My friend pays $1500 for a Brooklyn studio. I have a 3BR, 2BA, with cathedral ceilings, balcony, parking spot, and a 15-minute drive to Hollywood/W. Hollywood for a hundred dollars more. Game. Time.
“It’s the economy, stupid.” I suppose we could simply state the same for LA. I mean, it IS the weather. And so what? Is there anything that affects our day-to-day lives more? It’s like music. It changes the entire tone of any setting. It just puts everybody in such a good mood in Southern California. The weather in all parts of the contiguous US that aren’t the Southwest pretty much blows if it’s not May, June, or September. In all other months, you’re either dying of the cold or the heat. You’ve got the beach in NY? Yeah, if you want to spend half your day getting there and back. The beaches are cold in LA? You can very much take a full dip in the water in the middle of summer. And you’re two hours from the ocean, desert, and mountains. Year-round, you could golf in the am and hike in the pm. A New Yorker friend of mine originally hailing (speaking of weather) from Ohio made the great point that in NY you truly experience the elements. In the rest of the nation, if you’ve got enough dough, you go from your heated home to your heated garage to your remote-start heated car to your heated place-of-work. In NY, you really feel the cold.
LA is cleaner than NY. The latter is synonymous with piles of garbage in the streets. You read that correctly. There are literally piles of garbage in the streets. And they reek.
We can rock just about any kind of clothing and go to just about any establishment. Spots with dress codes are few and far between. I suppose it’s because so many people are “somebody”s that they don’t want to turn away a star.
Smog? Nobody talks about it. It’s a non-factor. Even when it’s there, we have visibility of two miles instead of five. Like you have any in NY… even the chorus of “Empire State of Mind” admits it’s a “concrete jungle.” When you can look straight for yards at a stretch, chances are you are in a wind tunnel.
And yes, the Big One is coming – earthquakes are a way of life out here. But that’s sometime in the next 50 years. This only serves to keep the non-adventurous out of California. As far as the lack of seasons… gee whiz. We are really scraping the bottom of the complaint barrel here. It’s always the same? This explains why God created pain & suffering. Because constant joy must obviously bore people – yeah, I’m really getting sick of 75 and sunny – it’s a real drag. Can’t you just throw in a tornado every now and then? I mean, I moved here in May 2006 and it didn’t rain until December. It’s a desert. It was between 70 and 90 every afternoon sans a cloud in the sky. No humidity. Basically the perfect day ad infinitum. Do I miss the seasons? Oh, yeah – so much. I miss getting bronchitis in the fall, shoveling snow in the winter, and those lovely spring days when it’s 30 in the morning and 80 in the afternoon so you look like a douche rolling around in a sweater at 2 pm. People complaining about the lack of variety is the height (depth?) of being spoiled. Why would you get tired of the best everyday? It’d be like bitching about the bitches (I only did that for effect) at these Hollywood parties. Yeah, I get sick of these perfect breasts and asses. Can’t I get a saggy disheveled tramp every now and then? Ridic.
Here’s the thing: NY can’t change its weather. Once LA finally gets public transportation right – and it will – the city will drastically improve.
Kramer did say that paragraph above. But he also said to Jerry in The Finale: “Jerry, it’s LA. Nobody leaves.”
And that’s true. You never see any Dodgers hats in NY… maybe it’s the whole Brooklyn thing.
But you see a plethora of Yankees hats in LA. However, if we’re throwing out pop cultural references, I can just hit you with that Onion article.
Frank’s right. (As opposed to Frank White.) If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. But once you’ve made it to LA, you’ve made it.
So, what’s the answer? I don’t know. NY for people but LA for place? Hmm. Remember Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen? “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live ?in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” I’d say… Live in NY in your 20s. Live in LA in your 30s.
The one thing that unites us is our contempt for flyover country, a.k.a., the rest of the nation. We can bond over the fact that at least we don’t live there, right? But maybe I could meet somewhere in the middle. Should I just go back to Ohio?
Guess it depends upon my career path. NY is standup; LA is acting. In other words… in New York, I can be myself. In Los Angeles, I can be somebody. I just might have to be somebody else.
Rajiv Satyal is a standup comic who is trying to decide whether to stay in LA or move to NY… in his 30s. And who alternates writing about himself in the first and third person, so the standup/acting dilemma remains elusive.