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Old 08-08-2009, 12:31 AM
 
Location: New Jersey
4,085 posts, read 7,838,759 times
Reputation: 2655

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I apologize in advance for how long I know this will run, but I want to express everything and hopefully shed some light on attitudes so that anyone reading this can hopefully learn something, or have their beliefs confirmed, or at least be even mildly entertained.

My background - I grew up in Northern NJ and spent my whole life in the shadow of the Big Apple. I was born in Weehawken, NJ, literally right across the Hudson. From the street on which I was born you have probably the best view of the Manhattan skyline in the whole tri-state area.

I grew up in the 70's and 80's. Most of my impressions of both NYC and L.A. were groomed through this time, as well as into my adulthood in the 90's and beyond.

At that time, NYC was, quite frankly, a filthy pit. A hell-hole. A drug and crime-infested cesspool. Times Square was a collection of rundown flophouses, porn theaters, hookers, drug dealers, and criminals. Yes, the old Broadway theaters were in the area and survived the 70's, but going to them was not a pleasant experience as it is today. I remember my cousin and her boyfriend telling of going to see the show "A Chorus Line" and taking a cab from the parking garage to the theater, and STILL they were accosted by scary individuals. Even with a cop right there, it was not easy. The cop really earned his pay (probably the theater paid the city for him to be there).

We took our school field trips there and it was no better, vagrants and other shady types accosting us in front of the museum, Empire State Building, etc. We were supposed to go to Central Park one time but it was canceled because of a spate of crime that hit the park around that time. I was mugged on my way to see "Tears for Fears" at Radio City music hall when I was 17 (I got out of it OK though, wallet intact - I guess it was an attempt rather than an actual mugging).

What we saw on TV and in movies about NYC were things like Taxi, Baretta, All in the Family, Kojak, the Honeymooners, etc. - all set in filthy, grungy, poor, dirty backdrops and starring not-so-attractive stars. And having been to NY, I didn't think any of that was out of line; it was realistic. That was my view of NY as a kid - a cesspool and pit of filth and crime, not a nice place, you didn't go there unless you absolutely had to.

But what was I watching on TV, what were the HOT TV shows? Three's Company, Charlie's Angels, CHiPs, the Brady Bunch, Emergency!, and Adam-12. Everyone was clean-cut and fresh-faced on these shows, and always cruising around the sunny, palm-tree lined streets of L.A. or in one of the beautiful suburban homes of L.A. Even Lucy & Ricky Ricardo left their small, enclosed NYC apartment for a beautiful Beverly Hills pad with a view of Palm Trees off their terrace; even that show made the move to L.A. briefly and it was portrayed in a much nicer light than NY, which hardly figured into those episodes.

L.A. was also known to me to be the home of all the game shows, like Price is Right, etc., and Disneyland, and Knott's Berry Farm and Magic Mountain. I also heard how it was not cold and snowy there, but how CA had mountains so you could go from snowy mountains to beach in one day. I heard about and saw pictures of the diverse topography of the place and wondered what it was like to see a desert. I was disappointed that where I lived, in NJ, we didn't have everything they had in California, particularly Southern CA.

As I got older, into my teens in the 80's, I got more and more tired of feeling second-rate, and I turned my dreams of living in L.A. to a dislike for L.A., along with a new-found feeling to take stock in where I'm from. I became determined to make the best of NY/NJ and I became tired of the arrogant Hollywood-star attitude given off by people like Jack Nicholson (ironically, my fellow New Jerseyan) who gloated every time he went to a Laker's game. And he didn't gloat so much about the Lakers as he did about L.A., in general. That's how I saw it, anyway. So, I created the base for my hatred of L.A. It seemed to me I'd never go there in my lifetime, anyway, it seemed so far.

I didn't have to try too much harder to hate L.A. and build up NY in the 90's, though. All of a sudden, things shifted. Hollywood became exposed as a seedy, transvestite-prostitute ridden cesspool of drugs and crime. L.A.'s gang violence became widely known to be a huge problem. Their traffic was exposed, as well as their horrible smog problems. Everyone started calling L.A. "plastic" and "glitzy" and "phony". And NY was inversely proportionate in reputation; Giuliani cleaned up the crime in the city (albeit heavy-handedly) a TV show called Seinfeld popped up and made NY look pretty good. Soon a show called Friends poppedd up and made NY look even hipper and better. I was now able to go to NY and enjoy the heck out of it and crime or danger were not a concern. Even in NJ, a rundown, crappy town called Hoboken became a nightlife destination for my co-workers and me in '90-'92 (and beyond) because it was just starting a rebirth of sorts, and continued to blossom into the gentrified, overpriced, snooty city it is today.

So by the end of the 90's, it was second nature that L.A. sucked and NY was far, far superior to L.A. And people I knew who went to L.A. confirmed for me that it was a horrible, horrible place. Many told me to not bother going, because I would just hate it anyway. Many told me it was devoid of culture, arts, and "real" or "down-to-earth" people. And I believed it, easily.

THE TURNAROUND ------

Right around 2000, my job, which had me traveling mostly to Florida, started to have me travel more around the rest of the nation. In August, 1999 it started with my first trip ever to be further west than Dallas or Chicago, and that trip was to Vegas. It was our national department meeting, and I didn't get enough time to explore. In keeping with my "the west coast sucks" attitude, I figured that I wouldn't tack on personal days to that trip, as I did often with my trips to Florida, because in my prejudiced mind, "Vegas sucks!" I figured it was basically Atlantic City but in a desert, and I decided (before going to Vegas) that A.C. was much better, and I don't want to spend a lot of time in Vegas. Of course, when I got there, I was sold on Vegas almost immediately. It blew away Atlantic City in many ways; the only thing missing was an ocean, but their pools more than made up for it.

But what also caught my attention was the signs for I-15 all over Vegas - one sign always for North saying "Salt Lake City", and the other for south saying "Los Angeles". NEVER was the idea of going to L.A. so close to reality for me. It intrigued me, despite my prejudiced hatred of L.A. But, as I mentioned earlier, I had no time on that trip, because I flew in the day of the first meetings and scheduled an early flight out after the last day of meetings. Stupid, stupid me. Luckily I had an entire half-day on that trip to go out with co-workers, but it still left me completely wanting more and to return to Vegas.

Fast-forward to Dec. 2000 - we had another week-long meeting in Vegas. Dec. was a slow month for us, so I tacked on an extra 10 days to my trip, using some vacation time, so the airfare was paid by my company. I decided I'd go to L.A., drive through it so I could say I'd been there, then drive on to San Diego which EVERYONE told me was much better than L.A. (There was one exception, one of my best friends whose opinion I regard highly, told me I'd love L.A. and that it was better than San Diego; I did have this at the back of my mind, but still went with my plans to just pass thru L.A.) I would spend a few days in San Diego, then return to Vegas for a few days since I loved it and wanted to spend more time there to finish the trip.

When our meeting was over, I spent one last night in Vegas with my remaining co-workers. The next morning, I checked out and got a rental car from McCarran airport - Dollar Rent-a-car, I'll never forget how nice the woman was to give me tips about CA and gave me a free upgrade to a small SUV. I ended up spending much of the day in Vegas (just couldn't pry myself away quickly) and hit the road around 3 PM.

I remember driving thru the desert for the first time in my life; even at night, I was stunned! I had never seen such open, flat space like that! I remember talking to my parents as I approached Barstow, at around 4:30 PM (my dad loved to live vicariously thru me on these trips, he was a travel nut like me, I got it from him). I remember hearing commercials on the one radio station I could get for Del Taco, talking about the "original" one in Barstow, which is where I stopped for a very late lunch, at a real Californian fast-food place for the first time ever! It was actually exciting for me. From Barstow, I forged ahead, down I-15, through Apple Valley and Victorville. I was already full from Del Taco so I put off my one co-worker's tip to stop at In-N-Out in Apple Valley, where he used to live (later I realized it was a chain anyway).

I did not know where I was going. I had no hotel reservations. I only knew I had relatives (most of whom I had never met) in Glendale and Burbank and other towns in the valley and the rest of the L.A. area. I wasn't planning on seeing any of my many friends or relatives on this trip though. I knew that Glendale was full of Armenians, so, being Armenian myself, I figured that would be a good, safe place where I'd have a good chance of finding a cheap room for the night. All I had was a map from the car rental agency, so I roughly knew where Glendale was, and headed there.

As soon as I hit the L.A. area, it was like I had been there before. It all looked vaguely familiar. I realized then what it was - I had seen these highways on TV and in movies. The effect was stronger in the daylight the next day, but even at night this feeling got me excited and I was re-energized heading into L.A.

I ended up in Eagle Rock, and stayed in the Best Western there. I checked in, and originally I planned to hit the hay, but I was so excited I figured I'd take a drive around. I stopped off at a small Armenian grocery/convenience store and bought a map. I also had a bite to eat in a nearby Armenian kebab place. Then I found my way to Hollywood. I drove around, wide-eyed. I was going to just drive through, thinking that Hollywood was like NY's Times Square, a HUGE tourist attraction with noplace to park except for parking garages that charge $40 or more. Then I realized that you can park ANYWHERE, on the streets, for free! So I parked just off Hollywood Blvd and walked the sidewalks, looked at the stars on the sidewalks, checked out Graumann's, and just enjoyed the beautiful evening (SO unlike the freezing cold back home!). After walking for at least an hour, I decided to head back, but found myself going up a weird road called Laurel Cyn Dr. (I wondered what "Cyn" meant for days before I found out!) I then ended up on Mulholland Dr. and was treated to surprise views of the city and the valley that were amazing!

I ended up going to bed that night still excited, but dead tired. The next day, I awoke with a head cold. That sucked. I extended my stay another night. I went out for some OJ and vitamin C, took it and slept. Later that afternoon, I took a short ride into glendale to do a little laundry. Armenian laundromat, how convenient, lol. While the laundry was going, I tried a taco stand nearby. I will never forget it. I ate these tacos and said to myself, "WOW, THESE are TACOS!" I had the "real thing" and ever since then I am spoiled and can't eat tacos in NY/NJ without realizing how inferior they are here to L.A. tacos.

Next day, I was healthier, I checked out, went to AAA in Glendale and they gave me a whole slew of maps in a great little case, plus some other AAA Southern California swag, lol. I headed down to San Diego. San Diego was awesome, I went to Tijuana one day, my hotel was right near Old Town, and it was all wonderful. But I couldn't get L.A. out of my head. I was intrigued, I wanted to see more of it. I still believed I hated L.A., though.

I ended up staying in San Diego only 3 days instead of 4, and that was going to give me 4 days in Vegas. But I changed plans. I decided to do 2 more days in L.A. I went back to L.A. and just spent time exploring Pasadena, Venice Beach, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and all that area around mid-wilshire, etc. I went to the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Blvd.

One of the highlights for me was going to Santa Monica and seeing where they filmed the beginning of Three's Company, which was set in SM. I walked along the top of the cliff next to Ocean Ave. It is so beautiful and wooded with huge trees. In this area was a "visitor's information booth". The elderly lady working at this booth was a life-long Santa Monican. My excitement must have come across in my voice because she took to me very kindly. I told her my favorite TV show was set in SM, and of course she knew immediately it was Three's Company. She went on to tell me how John Ritter would often come by and that he was so nice. She also had seen them film the opening scene for show, when Jack bikes by a girl and goes off the path into the sand and falls off the bike, and she told me where that was! (It is where Venice Beach meets Santa Monica Beach, on the bike path; I went and recognized it immediately!) She gave me a great little Santa Monica pin that she said she doesn't give to most people, but she wanted me to have it since I had a good appreciation for SM (based on more that we talked about than just Three's Company). So nice! I checked out the pier, and then drove up to Malibu, also.

I just spent those two days soaking in L.A. I must admit, I was ill-prepared and did NOT hit the "spots" that visitors are told to hit. Well, I hit some of them, but everything I did was random. I found out that I can cruise around L.A. and just keep discovering things by stumbling on them. The ONLY other city that interesting is NYC. I was thoroughly impressed. I stumbled onto the Grove/Farmer's Market, Hollywood, Beverly Hills (OK I sought that out), Old Town Pasadena, Griffith Park (but not the observatory on that trip), and I cruised through the Valley, which, believe it or not, was very, very interesting! I stumbled upon Pink's (but didn't wait on line), and at the time a store called Aron's used CD's, just near Pink's (I think it's gone now). I bought a Red Hot Chili Peppers CD there since they are an L.A. band, and RHCP is now my soundtrack for L.A. and the desert.

I then headed back to Vegas; I still had 2 days left to spend there, and Vegas was just incredible to explore also. But during the drive back to Vegas, as I was somewhere between Barstow and Baker, after reviewing my visit to L.A. up to that point in my head, I finally realized something - I realized that there was no way I could deny that I ABSOLUTELY LOVED my visit to L.A. I also couldn't deny that I desperately wanted to go back and see more - MUCH more! I burst out laughing at the realization; I laughed at what an ass I felt like and how I was going to look like a complete ass when I told all my friends how awesome L.A. was, because they all knew me to despise L.A. prior to that trip!!! And I didn't care! I didn't care if I looked foolish, I would gladly admit that I was stupid to pre-judge L.A. and that I couldn't' have been more WRONG about the city!

To this day, it is one of my favorite destinations. I have been back to Vegas every year since then, usually several times a year; and on at least one of those trips per year, I take a trip to L.A. I have also been lucky enough to have been sent to L.A. for work, working in Cerritos, Culver City, and Glendale.

I am now one of L.A.'s biggest cheerleaders, especially when some NY transplant hipster is bashing me for being a "B&T" (Bridge & tunnel) from NJ. I love it when some ignorant person is talking about L.A.'s supposed lack of culture or art; it gives me a great segue into telling them about LACMA, the Getty, Huntington Library, etc.

L.A. is a truly great city, and most of the L.A. bashing that goes on is based on ignorance and prejudice based on negative stereotypes spread in the media. It's really, at this point, my favorite city, and I consider it on par with NY in most things, as well as seeing how it is ahead of NY in some things.

Los Angeles is truly a great, great city!!!
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Old 08-08-2009, 01:00 AM
 
Location: Declezville, CA
16,616 posts, read 34,683,174 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BergenCountyJohnny View Post
found myself going up a weird road called Laurel Cyn Dr. (I wondered what "Cyn" meant for days before I found out!)
Man, you were a tourist!

I read your post from stem to stern, and it's nice to see something positive about my home turf. So before the naysayers show up with their inevitable "you'd be singing a different tune if you lived here", I'd like to thank you for a well thought out post. I love the L.A. area and So Cal. It's been my home since I was born 54 years ago, and I have no plans to abandon it.

By the way, next time you're in So Cal and you find yourself at Pink's, you'll be standing IN line, not on line.
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Old 08-08-2009, 05:04 AM
 
1,465 posts, read 4,661,718 times
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That is quite a story, Johnny and I enjoyed reading it.

Some trivia for you, that girl Jack rides past before dumping in the sand was Suzanne Summers with a wig.
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Old 08-08-2009, 08:10 AM
 
Location: New Jersey
4,085 posts, read 7,838,759 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fontucky View Post
Man, you were a tourist!

I read your post from stem to stern, and it's nice to see something positive about my home turf. So before the naysayers show up with their inevitable "you'd be singing a different tune if you lived here", I'd like to thank you for a well thought out post. I love the L.A. area and So Cal. It's been my home since I was born 54 years ago, and I have no plans to abandon it.

By the way, next time you're in So Cal and you find yourself at Pink's, you'll be standing IN line, not on line.
I was a tourist, you're right! But I have been back to L.A. many times now and know the city much more intimately. I have seen many of my relatives in the area as well as many friends. So for the "you'd be singing a different tune if you lived here" crowd, I doubt that; and I may be proving it with a move in the not too distant future. I'd like to try living in L.A. for a year or two. If the economy improves I will probably try it.

It is a truly great area. The cousin I mentioned who was accosted w/ her boyfriend when going to see A Chorus Line on Broadway actually later married an L.A. native here in NJ; he was a professor at a NJ college. After living here many years they both moved to L.A. which was home for him. They love it there. I went to visit them a couple times, and they are the ones who introduced me to Huntington Library and Gardens, they even treated me to tea at the tea house, lol. Truly an amazing experience.

And, I did finally brave the line at Pink's. It was awesome. Then some Angelinos tipped me off about Carney's, so now I go there because there's no line. I've been to both studio city and sunset blvd locations. Lots of Angelino's say it's better than Pink's, but I think they just hate that Pink's is so touristy. I honestly thought Pink's was a better tasting hot dog, but just slightly; I think Carney's is worth it to skip a long line.

BTW - I have CHiPs on DVD, and now I really realize how much they showcased L.A. One episode opens focused on the Carney's sign, and pans down to show Ponch and Jon outside of the railroad car, eating chili dogs. Another episode showcased Griffith park and observatory. And of course much, much more of L.A. is showcased in that show.

L.A. is awesome!
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Old 08-08-2009, 08:18 AM
 
Location: New Jersey
4,085 posts, read 7,838,759 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DowntownVentura View Post
That is quite a story, Johnny and I enjoyed reading it.

Some trivia for you, that girl Jack rides past before dumping in the sand was Suzanne Summers with a wig.
Thanks Ventura, I'm glad you did!

Thanks for the trivia, also - but I actually knew that already, and almost directly from John Ritter's mouth! One of my best friends went to a broadway show some year's back that starred Henry Winkler and also featured John Ritter. My friend's connection was someone who knew Winkler, so they got to go backstage after the show. My friend met Winkler, then was standing around, and saw Ritter. Knowing what a HUGE fan of his I am, he approached John and told him. He said John Ritter was so friendly, genuinely flattered to hear about a fan, and he talked to my friend for several minutes. Before parting ways, my friend asked him to sign a Playbill for me, and he personalized it to me. As he did so, he told my friend, "Tell your friend here's some inside info about the opening of the show - the brunette I drive by and fall off my bike, that's Suzanne Somers. We didn't have another girl so they put a wig on her and showed her from the back, and it worked fine."

So, what you just told me was already corroborated by John Ritter's message to me via my friend, and your trivia corroborates what John Ritter told me thru my friend.

It's a shame he died, he was a great actor, hilarious comedian, and a great guy overall, and he was a native Southern Californian and Angelino.

I know I have that Playbill somewhere, tucked away, wrapped in plastic - if I can find it I'll try to scan it and post it.
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Old 08-08-2009, 08:26 AM
 
Location: Sherman Oaks, CA
6,318 posts, read 15,788,144 times
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I also think it's refreshing that you liked L.A. so much once you actually visited and spent some time here. What I like best about this city is that it can present many different facets depending on how you want to live, the lifestyle you prefer, etc. People who complain that L.A. is shallow have obviously only spent time with L.A. people who are shallow (and ironically, they probably came from other areas of the country to "make it big"). This is a metropolitan area comprised of 10 million people, and the diversity is unique.

I've lived here all of my life, too - almost 46 years. I can't say that I always love living here; there are always challenges, but I'd probably be living the same way somewhere else. I'd just be coping with worse weather.
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Old 08-08-2009, 09:32 AM
 
635 posts, read 1,612,990 times
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I've lived here my whole life, and I found your post to be very heart warming. I love Los Angeles as you do, and thank you for a memorable post. You are definently one adventurous tourist, keep it up. Rock on Los Angeles.
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Old 08-08-2009, 09:56 AM
 
10,630 posts, read 23,951,881 times
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Thanks for the post! I love LA, too, although I didn't think that I would. We moved from DC for a job, and before arriving I bought into all those stereotypes about it being one big suburb. I'm very much a city person - always figured I'd end up in NYC (which I also love) - but quickly realized that LA is so diverse that it offers almost anything a person could want. It's a fascinating place, and you can live in LA for years and still only scratch the surface. I understand why people would prefer NYC to LA, or vice-versa, to live, but I think the people out there who claim to love visiting cities but then profess no interest in seeing LA are really missing out on something.
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Old 08-08-2009, 01:26 PM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
74,960 posts, read 87,378,085 times
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great post, you sound like a professional writer. I am glad you have enjoyed visiting Los Angeles.

NIta
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Old 08-08-2009, 01:37 PM
 
Location: Mesa, Az
21,146 posts, read 38,124,179 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown_urbanist View Post
Thanks for the post! I love LA, too, although I didn't think that I would. We moved from DC for a job, and before arriving I bought into all those stereotypes about it being one big suburb. I'm very much a city person - always figured I'd end up in NYC (which I also love) - but quickly realized that LA is so diverse that it offers almost anything a person could want. It's a fascinating place, and you can live in LA for years and still only scratch the surface. I understand why people would prefer NYC to LA, or vice-versa, to live, but I think the people out there who claim to love visiting cities but then profess no interest in seeing LA are really missing out on something.
I too am a Wash DC native (born/raised) whereupon I would up in California in 1978. DC's ghastly winters (the one thing that that was not DC's fault) finally drove me away.

The SF Bay Area really did not do it for me (number of reasons) yet the first time I drove on the streets just N of Ventura Blvd near Sepulveda (Sherman Oaks) in 1980----------I felt that I came home finally. DC has never had that effect on me.

So yes; I can understand BergenCountyJohnny's feelings on a 'gut level'.
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