Los Angeles Is For Lovers

I’m in California right now, so here are my thoughts on LA


Okay, huge disclaimer: I have spent about 1 week total in LA in my life. Between this trip and the trip previously, both of which together reflect the entirely of my time here, I understand that I’m not the most qualified reviewer. That being said, it’s just, like, my opinion, man.

TL;DR — I could live in LA, pretty sure. Maybe everyone says that but I doubt it, because even though my mom seemed to think so when I told her this, I have a hard time believing that everyone (and their mom) is cut out for any kind of “city,” LA or not. (Maybe she thought I meant “California?” No idea.)

That all aside: I dig LA okay. There are pros and cons, of course — things I like and things I don’t — but for the most part, I certainly like it more than lame-ass Chicago (which I hated from the very first weekend I ever spent there, after which I boarded my plane home thinking, “I could never, ever live here” — even though I later went on to do just that for five years.)

Here’s my breakdown:

The LA I like:

“LA Weather”

I mean, duh. Unless you’re one of those sad souls who prefers wet overcast weather or year-round winters, you obviously like southern California weather. And no, it’s no humidity (which I love), but clearly it’s nice enough, and I’m pretty sure this is 99% of what my mom meant when she said “everyone wants to live there.”

“Fresh AF LA”

I’ve never lived in NYC, but I’ve been to both cities. And while I could live in either one (especially since it seems every writer somehow lives in NY), NY always has this sad, obsolete feel to it, like everyone’s still pretending it’s the 70s or 90s (fashion or banking, respectively), and nobody’s ready to move on.

LA has not only moved on, but they’re compulsively “rightthefucknow.”

“Day Trip LA”

Not that I’ve taken any, but I can Google Maps.

“Motorcycle LA”

I mean, of course. As a “commuter rider” myself, who rides daily back and forth to work and whose only vehicle is my bike, these people are my people.

“Hipster health food LA”

Awww yiss… mothafukkin health food! As I’ve said, I could easily eat a salad twice a day for the rest of my life and be so happy, and if you can keep me ever-impressed with new salad shit, I definitely wouldn’t tell you no.

“Gritty-ass LA”

I stayed in the Arts District last night and went full “privileged romanticization” on that shit — all the industrial lofts and street art (duh.) I want to eat the Arts District, and my airbnb was the stuff of grittiness dreams.

And again, maybe everyone says that, but I doubt it, because if half the reviews left on the airbnb are any indication, it’s clear not everyone is “down home” with “rough around the edges.”

“Creativity LA”

Hells yeah, lemme see what you can do.

I’d never want to be a visual artist / designer myself, and I like to keep my time with them to strict, pre-defined 10-minute blcoks, but I’d be lying if I said they don’t manage to put out the coolest shit. (Of course.)

“Latin LA”

Oh, the laid-back masculinity of the Latin influence! Not just Mexican food (which I’m sure is fantastic, if I ate it) but an overall cultural and architectural influence that’s thoroughly delightful.

“Little Ethiopia LA”

Dudes, I love me some Ethiopian food — the way it tastes; the way it’s eaten; its simplicity and consistency around the world. 100% my jam, and definitely my favorite of “the world’s” cuisines options.

The LA I’m neutral on:

“LA Traffic”

Call me crazy, but idgaf about traffic — in fact, I find it kinda zen. (And I know, I know — true lunatic over here. Clearly I wasn’t hugged enough as a child or something. I don’t know.)

“Sprawl LA”

Where does LA even end, bro? No idea. Not even sure LA knows. It’s all LA.

“The Beach (?)”

Imma be real honest — I don’t really care. You’ll never see this chick fighting you for space on the sand or chugging salt water or whatever it is you people do out there.

The LA I could do without:

“Tourism LA”

One of my favorite parts about living where I do in the south is the utterly laughable lack of tourist options. (Seriously, they have “the airport” listed in the top five hot spots for visitors, and when my mom came to visit I had to drive her several hours to find something halfway interesting for her besides the mall.) And I love this. I love the “boringness” of the area. Keep away, everyone — nothing to see here!

And the opposite was true when I lived in Chicago — some days, it was just so clean and sparkly and checklisty and lame.

I bet if I lived here, I’d never once make it to see Hollywood, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be caught dead on some “celebrity sighting” tourbus like a twat.

“Superficiality LA”

I mean, not just Beverly Hills or whatnot, but the overall prissiness of it sometimes.

Yesterday I saw a porcelain-skinned chick (I mean, #skingoals, obvs, but that aside) with primped fingernails that were so long she could scarcely eat, and I thought “you’re probably wonderful, but I’m sorry, we could never be friends.”

Related: “Sensor LA”

On the Myers Briggs scales, LA is, overall, so loudly and unapologetically “sensor” (ATTRACTIVE!! FILM!! SPORTS!! SPORTS CARS!!!! MONEYS!!) that it goes full circle and is sort of adorable

“Old-Bro LA”

Dude, the amount of west coast skater bros (with long unwashed hair, big ole bro sunglasses and saggy pants) who are pushing 40 (or more??) is too damn high.

To be fair, this dude ain’t my type regardless of age. But it’s eerie and makes me feel sad a little.

“Elitist hipster LA”

I wish I could just eat all their food without enduring their stupid menu item names and overall way of life’ing.

“Asian Food LA”

Does this make me a dick? I don’t know why it should. I don’t think the Asian food industry is so hard-up for validation that they can’t afford an alternative opinion.

I’m just not that into Asian food. I don’t eat fish and all pasta / noodles bores me to tears. So…

“Donut LA”

Apparently they’re a thing here? Sadly, I think I’ve thrown down on like 3 donuts my entire life, and definitely never any of these overly-sugared monstrosities that all the cool kids are noshing on these days.

I’m not moving to LA

Mostly because I live in the South, have a good thing going, and have no real reason to leave.

But hypothetically. I like it more than most other US cities.


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Food Is Hard, Man

Here’s a post you never asked for


Like most all people in western society, sometimes I get onto these “food kicks” where I amp up my already-not-that-shitty diet and try to be more mindful of what I’m eating.

The first challenge is always deciding which “flavor of crazy” sounds best — there are more diets and plans than I care to keep track of (and you should feel the same.)

You start digging into one diet and it contradicts another diet you follow. You like some elements of this diet, or hate some elements of that one (and all of this is outside of the issue of “willpower” — don’t come at me with that. That ain’t what we’re here for today) and every time I think I’ve found something, I have to bump it up against everything else and why can’t someone just organize this for me already?

Here are my “always” rules:

Totally non-negotiable

Vegetarian

No, Saaandra, I don’t eat fish. Yes, eggs and cheese are okay. (Do you even know what “vegetarian” means?!)

As a total aside, even though I eat both eggs and dairy and we love to group them together, I don’t see them as the same. I love eggs like a crazy person (sometimes eating a dozen a day) and while I like cheese, I’m fully aware that the fat:protein ratio just ain’t all that.

(And DYK there are other terms for both vegetarians who eat eggs but not dairy, and those eat dairy but not eggs, but let’s quit while we’re ahead, shall we??!)

I AIN’T COOKIN SHIT!!!

Seriously, the minute one of these diets starts getting into “Delicious Recipes,” complete with photo albums of glistening glazes and garlic cloves spread about the counter just so, I click out of that shit faster than your Mormon mom tripping onto porn at the public library. I don’t care that it’s only 41 ingredients and only takes half my life. I am not here for it.

Because in case it wasn’t already clear when I mentioned “several things I do not want,” I. Do. Not. Cook.

It’s not that I’m bad at it — any dickhead can read and follow directions on enough “easy peasy” recipes to fill a calendar year.

It’s more a… “better things to do with my time” thing? A “holy shit why do we need 18 ways to heat some cauliflower?!” thing. A “why would I spend all this time fucking with my food and primping it like a poodle when I could just eat it??” thing.

Ain’t nobody got time for this!

I have nothing in common with people who “love cooking.” Every time someone says this to me, I’m already eyes-narrowed and sizing them up, because all I hear is “I have no idea what to do with my day, and I need novel ways to make a basic necessity take as long as humanly possible.” (I’m looking at you, Sandra!)

Even shit like French presses seriously piss me off. I once dated a dude who only had a French press and [the one that goes on the stove] at his place, and my sheer annoyance at having to work a damn farm and mill impatiently about the stove for 22 minutes just to make coffee in the morning was literally near-dealbreaker.

My threshold for “cooking” is heating water for tea or boiling eggs (because I don’t eat them raw — I’m not an animal!) And I have been known to make a decent frittata, but purely as a show of my love for eggs, and only during a strict “courtship” period with a new love interest, after which any mention of “frittata” is received with sworn ignorance of ever having heard of such a thing. (I’m kidding. I make them periodically. And by that I mean once a year.)

Also, I will not “meal prep”

I mean, that should probably go without saying after the above, but it might be worth calling out separately. These people who take selfies with all their carefully-portioned glass containers lined up like little soldiers for the week have a screw loose.

Here are my “often” rules

Unprocessed

I went vegan for approximately 18 minutes (read: 2 weeks) back in my mid 20s, and the only thing that convinced me to give a try it was when I realized “raw vegan” was a thing.

Because the biggest downside of being vegan? (Even worse than having to eat socks and losing all your friends?) All the bad, fake food. Some of it is both bad and fake (see: meat substitutes), and some of it is just bad (the sheer amount of fat and sugar in most vegan products; also, fries are vegan…) But then I heard about raw vegan and was like “oh now this is my jam!”

Pro: no scary star-shaped “chikken” cutlets made out of repurposed Barbie bodies (because for as weird as these people are about processed meats, it’s amazing how fast they wrestle to get their mitts on the vegan equivalent.)

Con: I was traveling as a consultant at the time and literally couldn’t eat anything (even roasted nuts are off-limits), trying to subside on mealy airport apples that had been thoroughly palmed by the general public until I finally lost it.

Real food please!

Not the same as “unproccesed,” because to me “real food” is also about cream over skim milk and eating the damn yolks. (No, Sandra, not all 12 a day (ffs), but 1 or 2? Hells yeah.)

Look, I’m not here to lie to anyone: I definitely eat some processed food from time to time. But given my preference, I freaking love fresh food. Like, I could eat a salad twice a day for the rest of my life and be so happy.

Problem? Most salads you find out in the wild are total garbage. I’m convinced that one of the major reasons most people think they hate salads is because most salads are sad sacks of sorrow, either all-styrofoam or half-wilt, the obvious “check the box” afterthought of a dildo chef / manager.

But good fresh foods are the shit, ride or die.

And thank god someone came up with some clever marketing for this!

So, paleo. Great. Seems simple on the surface, but then you dig in and… apparently no legumes? No black beans, peas or peanuts… No dairy (they didn’t have milk back then? How in the actual… just kidding, I get the logic — don’t @ me with it.)

Pro: finally having others rallied behind my personal disdain for corn and potato. (Those two poseurs are by far my least favorite “vegetables.”)

Cons: being the kind of person “doing paleo.” Go sit with the gluten-free fucks and vegans and think about what you’ve done.

Dude, that’s a lot of sugar…

Nobody should be eating that much sugar. Sugar should be called out — even the kind from fruit. (Do you guys realize how much sugar is in a single apple?? If not, look that shit up. I’ll wait.)

Paleo allows for honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, and coconut. Does anybody mention that these are all sugar? Not to mention fruit! My god, people! You all need bumpers on the bowling lane!

There’s plenty out there to read on sugar detoxes if you’re interested. Lots of mom blogs, but some legit ones too. In short: sugar is bad. It’s not even sort of bad, it’s always bad. There’s no nutritional value and, unlike fat, it can’t even aid the body in any way. It’s addictive, it causes all kinds of health problems, and part of the reason fat was made out to be the bad guy was because sugar had louder lobbyists.

Keto, technically. Great.

Pro: dat low-shuhgs lyf.

Con: keto breath is real. (Source: I dated someone who periodically did keto and it was pure roadkill within two feet of his face each time.) Also, the meat thing. Because, see requirement numero uno: I don’t eat it.

And that’s pretty much where I am for right now

No meat, no cooking, no processed shit, no legumes (?!), low sugar. Keeping booze to a minimum, passing on cookies, and only having a serious, for-real ugly-eat binge on a salad with dried cranberries like once in the last week. (Good on me, right?!)

I’m eating a ton of almonds (ideally raw, but I’ll take roasted), largely because they are widely available — i.e., every Starbucks has some.

And here’s where else I’m at right now…

Everything is sweet

The almonds are sweet. The dried cranberries I inhaled smelled sweet in passing for sure. The idea of beer sounds like drinking straight up syrup. And some greens taste “buttery.”

Coffee, however, is more fucking delicious than ever.

WATER OMG!

Nobody tells you (yes they do) that you will get insanely thirsty when you eliminate sugar (including or even limited to alcohol) from your diet.

I don’t drink alcohol for the first part of every year, and one of the biggest parts of that experience is how insanely thirsty I become.

Same with any kind of sugar, apparently. I am stupid thirsty. Like “pound an entire bottle of water and immediately feel like I want to down another” thirsty. Every day.

Also, cigarettes smell amazing (?)

I don’t smoke. I mean, I’ve smoked before, but I haven’t smoked for years, and even then it was that “social” bullshit so many of us do for funsies, at two different periods:

  • Once between sophomore and junior year of college, spanning from late spring (when I was also dating this hippie dude who was mediocre at both guitar and poetry but excellent at spending too much money on stupid shit, and went on to be a pro ski bum) to that fall, when I was studying abroad.
  • And another during the summer I got my first bike. (Damn. I should write about that summer I got my first bike…)

I definitely bought a pack or two of my own on occasion during those times, but I also carried them so irregularly that I had to buy a new pack and lighter any time I wanted to smoke one, so by the time I got over the smoking thing like three months later, I had like 27 lighters in my junk drawer. (Boyfriend at the time found them and was like, “can’t we throw some of these away?!” And I was like “not really, son — they all work.” But then we did anyway. Because we live in the western world, as I noted, and we do shit like that.)

Anyway, it’s been years since I’ve smoked — or even wanted to! And yet here I am as recently as today, for no discernible reason, cozying up to smokers outside buildings and striking up friendly conversation, busying myself with being positioned downwind and standing as close as possible without triggering “stranger danger” alarms.

Now, full confession: I like the smell of cigarette smoke, especially on a good summer afternoon. The reason for this is because my first experience with the smell was standing in line for rides at the amusement park, where my brother and I had season passes (and thus were, to my recollection, devout weekly park-goers.) I guess you could smoke in line (which seems crazy, right?) and now I associate the smell with that childhood bliss.

Oh, and what do “cigarettes” have to do with food? I don’t know — you tell me, bud! But the craving strikes a similar feeling as food.

Our relationship with food is fascinating

It’s amazing how infrequently I’m actually hungry when I go for something — “I’m here,” or “well, if everyone else is ordering” or everybody’s favorite go-to, the emotional eating “fuck you, crackers, get in my face!”

And maybe I’m the one with the screw loose, but I just don’t want to make food into this big that we love making it into. I don’t want to “love food.” I don’t want to poodle it up. I want to make it boring AF, because when it is, I can discern between actually wanting it and amusing myself with it.

It’s part of the reason I prefer “bad” coffee over fancy, “better-tasting” shit. I don’t want to ruin my palate for boring coffee. I don’t want to chase. I just want my coffee and I want to move on.

It’s become a game, if I’m being totally honest, breaking down appetite and desire; understanding what’s real — heyo! — and what’s not; understanding what I really want to eat.

Several Things I Do Not Want

And some I just do not care about


Fancy-ass kitchen and liquor shit

Real talk: one of my top reasons — not the top reason, because I’m not a lunatic — for not wanting to get married and have a big blow-out wedding (behind bigger, real reasons like a.) seems dumb, b.) seems real dumb, c.) I don’t wanna pay for this dumb shit, and d.) not even sure I wanna get married!) is that I think wedding registries are some of the tackiest-ass impediments to our modern society.

I know I could do the whole “your presence in our present” shit on the wedding site (tacky in and of itself, tbh — both the site and the statement), but I don’t trust people, and just thinking about the fact that many people in my life (i.e., my mother) would “lol” at my request for “no gifts” and then blow up my whole life with stupid “well, I had to get you something!” shit regardless of our request makes me want to throw a poodle at the wall.

My mom is a compulsive gifter. I feel for her kind of, because the woman’s love language is deffffinitely “gifts,” and she’s just trying to do what she can to show us she cares. But every time she gifts me something after I’ve made it clear for like 20 fucking years that I. don’t. want. anything., the message of “I love you!” starts to read a little like “I love myself.”

I’m just not into shit.

You know those “I’m trying so hard to be an adult; look at me over here Adulting so hard” motherfuckers, who use their first real paycheck to buy fucking throw pillows and multi-colored ceramic measuring spoons and then, inexplicably, the queer little liquor cart decked out with shakers, strainers, jiggers, muddlers, and daddy’s fucking crystal decanters? Yeah, I am not them. I’m not saying they can’t fuck with their house how they want — you do you, boo boo — but I have never once, ever, in my entire life eyed shit like that and been all, “you know what my life’s been missing? Some fancy-ass way to drink the cocktails I don’t even enjoy.” And it’s not enough just to have them — no, by jove, let’s put it all on display!

Nah. Pour me a beer and let’s move on.

A yoga studio

Dudes, call me a traitor to my generation, but I have no idea where this BIG DREAM of owning a yoga studio came from for so many of my peers. The idea of brick and mortar scares me — and actually, so does the whole thing with most yoga classes. Bitches be weird.

A brewery

I mean, I like beer and all, but I’ll be the first to admit that I have no place in a brewery, for several reasons:

One: it takes a hygienic, engineer type to brew. It’s all chemistry and process and malts and temperature and I’ve been on like 92 brewery tours and I still couldn’t tell you much more than the word “mash.” Moving on.

Two: lol, when I say “I like beer,” I mean I order beers by asking for something “drinkable.” (And I am totally delighted every time the bartender knows what I mean and pours it without judgment.) I don’t want an “experiential” beer; I’m not looking for a relationship here (and if I were, I’m not into “complicated,” needy shit.) I like my beer boring. I’ll drink the same shit day after day and not care. I only recently got into IPA, and even then I like the ones that taste halfway “lagered.” (No, that’s not real. I made it up.)

Three: I make beer terms up.

To run a marathon

I am convinced that 99.999% of people who run marathons just do it because they got off on saying “I’ve run a marathon” (or, more specifically: “I’m training for a marathon.”) I once worked with a girl, real post-sorority chick (not that there’s anything wrong with sororities but I think you know what I’m saying), who, to my great misfortune, decided to train for a marathon. Now, mind you, this girl was not a Runner. I think she mostly did it for the apps and new shoes. That, and the chance to tell me every. single. day. what route she ran, her distance, her time, updates on her injury (it was a toe), and days left until the race.

I don’t think I could have anticipated that marathon more if I’d been running it myself. (Just 27, 26, 25 more days of this blabber in my ear.)

When I was later in consulting, I had a year-long client in Boston, and had the life-altering experience of being there for The Marathon. The Boston Marathon is no longer a running event. “Getting into” The Boston Marathon is treated like getting into Harvard. Running it is received with Much Applause.

When people are genuine about something, they don’t go around needing to tell everyone about it. I’m not even sure they need sanctioned events (I mean, you people realize that you can run 26.2 miles whenever you damn well please, right?) And I know tons of people want to talk about all the fundraising and whatnot, but again: you realize you can donate whenever you want, right?

Also, as a total aside: I do not like running. And not only that, but I am terrible at it. I run like Big Bird. I once signed up for a 5K — at my friend’s urging, who swore up and down that the “Couch to 5K” was a program of easy-peasy bodily miracles — and even though I stuck to the program damnit, walk-running every day like I was prompted, about two weeks into it, I was like “yeah no — I’m walking that 5K.”

A massive closet

Totally silly and superfluous. I love living a life in which all of my clothing can fit in one suitcase (sans my five pairs of shoes, because boots and wedge heels are bulky, man.) If I had a massive closet, I think I’d probably go in there periodically and just stare at it with a combination of anxiety and anger, like “I’m paying $50 a month for you, you square footage money suck. Make yourself useful.”

Granted, I feel this way with most superfluously large spaces. I once lived in one of those massive renovated warehouse lofts with a big, cavernous “foyer” that ran more than halfway down its length until you finally got to the kitchen / living room area, and it truly unnerved me. I was never at ease in that space. I like my living spaces tight — my favorite place so far was 200 sq. feet, and I’ll happily live in places under 1,000 with a partner.

A drink or food menu item named after me

Oh dear. Excuse me while I slide down the front of this chair and army-crawl out the door. I didn’t realize you’d noticed I came here that much, and now I have to quietly amend this by never, ever coming back ever.

It’s weird AF. Like, are they still handing out Field Day ribbons somewhere, too? Maybe some adult-ass toys with meals? “I am special” star stickers? Please no.

Also, what if it’s something lame? What if it’s some stupid sugary concoction?

Or what if it’s meatloaf? What if it’s bad meatloaf?

Norah Ephron had a meatloaf named after her at Graydon Carter’s restaurant, the Monkey Bar. Because Ephron was a decidedly normal type of gal, she was obviously flattered, like most people would be — and immediately went to the place to try it out. I think it was good at first. I don’t remember. But either way, come a few months (and maybe a manager change or something?) Ephron comes back for her meatloaf again and realizes they’ve changed the recipe and it’s total garbage. She writes to them. Maybe they change it; I don’t recall — obviously I wasn’t that invested in this meatloaf story, even though I’m retelling it to you here — but I don’t think they did. And they finally just took it off the menu.

Dude. What if that happened?

The Number One Way To Make People Like Your Writing

It’s not about what you feel — it’s how you make THEM feel


For the last two Mondays, I’ve dropped into a local, weekly storytelling workshop.

I did it in the way I do many things: with a plan; a goal; an endgame in mind — I want to be better at storytelling. (Because we all could.) I want to be better at identifying and naming and validating my own emotions and experience (ditto.) And then I want to be better at channeling those, and storytelling is an okay place to start.

The first week was great. The group was friendly, we all did this queer “check in; check out” structure for introducing ourselves — which was… fine — and most of the stories were good. Which was great.

By the second week, though, I realized something: after every story, a few people would always give feedback, but we could’ve pretty much skipped it, because after the words “I really liked it” (which they always said), there was only one reason they gave for why, which was:

“This really resonated with me.”

(Or “I could relate to this” or “this represented me” or “[let me share this personal anecdote about how I’ve had a similar experience]” or whatever.)

And I realized:

“Relatedness” is the number one reason people like any writing. Or any writer.

Or anyone.

In the words of Heidi Priebe, who wrote every day for two years:

“People don’t want to see you in your writing. They want to see themselves in it.

People don’t really want to read biographies. They don’t want to read personal essays. They don’t even want to read think pieces about other people’s heartbreaks or triumphs.

They want to read something — anything — that they see themselves inside of. They want to feel smug reading your biography, because they didn’t make the same mistakes you made. They want to feel validated reading about your heartbreak because they’re feeling the same pain that you’re feeling. They want to feel moved by your inspirational essays, because they see how the lessons you’re preaching can apply to their everyday lives.

Readers need to find themselves inside of every single piece that they read — whether it’s as straightforward as adopting the ‘independent woman’ identity or as far-fetched as believing that if they were in Harry Potter, they’d have defeated Lord Voldemort as well.

But a piece of writing that neglects its reader is a piece of writing that will not succeed. No matter how eloquently it’s written.”

And it’s absolutely true.

The funny thing about this, of course, is that when I say “people want to see themselves in writing,” this obviously includes the author. Most writers — and especially most good writers — want to see themselves in their work.

So even as audience members told the storytellers how much their story “resonated” with them, the storytellers were just sitting there thinking about how, more importantly, it reflected themselves. And it was this hilarious, adorable standoff of personal emotions all tossed into the center of the room like some kind of “feelings” puppy play time.

And we call this thing “connection,” but really it’s just all of us doing what humans do best, which is bringing it all right back to ourselves.

And it’s fine. It’s fine.

But it might be worth considering how you tie the two together — your feelings, and whether others can relate to them. Because the story that people liked best weren’t the ones where the storytellers were the most passionate, or entertaining, or emotional, or authentic.

It was the ones that were most mundane, and most easily relatable.

Like the one about a dude losing someone he barely dated. The one about a woman on the phone with her mom. The one about a dude hating a school class. The one about siblings and family holidays.

They’re something to which everyone in the room could relate. And while he may have been the one who told it, we all repackaged it tidily as our own, and then thanked him for putting our own feelings into words.

Writers should write their experiences, sure. But beloved writers let the readers feel them as their own.