A Case of the LAhs

by | Oct 18, 2007

“Throw out them LA papers and that moldy box of vanilla wafers. Adios to all this concrete. Gonna get me some dirt road back street.” -Guy Clark

Image couretsy of Flickr user Matt Logelin

I stumbled across this strange, but well writtern, BLDGBLOG post about the city of Los Angeles, after following a link from Dooce’s sidebar. Geoff Manaugh, the writer, is interested in architecure and urban planning and he LOVES L.A. (more than most).

L.A. is the apocalypse: it’s you and a bunch of parking lots. No one’s going to save you; no one’s looking out for you. It’s the only city I know where that’s the explicit premise of living there – that’s the deal you make when you move to L.A.

The city, ironically, is emotionally authentic.

It says: no one loves you; you’re the least important person in the room; get over it.

What matters is what you do there.

So, it’s some kind of extreme version of America meritocracy? I’m not so sure. I think appearances, contrary to Manaugh’s arguments, do matter in L.A. But I will concede that it’s far, far away from the East Coast aristocracy (where the fact that your great great grandfather went to Harvard matters immensely).

In the comments to his post, a person known only as Steve, has some great insight and reactions. Steve–who says he lives across the street from Manaugh in San Francisco–invites Manaugh to return to the City of Angels.

I’m sick to death of ambitious people moving to San Francisco and complaining the whole time about how it’s not L.A. or New York, and whining about how it’s not whatever it was they expected, which usually boils down to “I thought San Francisco would give me X, but it’s not doing that!” …as if the good to be gotten from a city is what you can take from it, rather than what you can add to it.

San Francisco doesn’t need any more people lecturing it about how it should feel inadequate because it’s not somewhere else. It needs its own heroes: people who are committed to making it great here and now by doing and making stuff that leverages the city’s unique beauties, and forming fertile collaborative bonds with other people who live here — like everywhere; like you would be in L.A.

One thing that’s not up for debate—place fosters culture. And being in the right place is central to one’s happiness.