Was I prepared to hate LA, or what? Smog, driving everywhere, parking garages, sprawl, fake people. I imagined a city dominated by the things I hate.
But here I am, sitting on the beach just north of Santa Monica. The waves are rolling in, one after the other, crashing, in a never-ending variety of colors and patterns. Offshore I just spotted a school of dolphins and a seal. I’m watching the sandpipers in their futile-seeming pursuit of — whatever it is that they eat — as each wave recedes. The crashing waves just manage to drown out the sound of the cars behind me. Two hours pass in what feels like fifteen minutes as I soak in the sun and the salt spray. Ugh. I mean…wait…this is nice. Very nice.
I’m not sure of the exact moment that LA won over my heart. Was it the magnolias that were in bloom at the botanical garden (in January!)? Was it the fact that every single thing I ate (from at least ten different cuisines) was delicious? Or that the farmer’s markets are amazing, highlighting the fact that “in-season” is only a few weeks long in northern climates? Could be any of those things, or the mountain views, or the ocean proximity. It seems like you can live in a foggy dream world here, finding everything you want and avoiding the things you dislike.
LA is just like any other big city. It’s not an evil demon made of parking garages and plastic celebrities. There’s just too much going on to easily define it in a few words, or even a few paragraphs. It’s a lot like Chicago or New York or Miami, but at the same time it’s totally unique.
So, as it turns out, I actually love LA. But would I live in LA? Never. It’s not the earthquakes, per se, or the fact that you really do need to drive most places, it’s the water, the lack of fresh water, specifically. Perhaps it’s the byproduct of growing up with well water, but I can’t live in a place that is unable to directly supply me with drinking water, the most basic of resources. I may always love LA in my heart, but I can’t come to terms with it in my head.
Bonus, extra reading! I found a few interesting articles on the LA/general southwest water supply: one that shows where LA’s water supply comes from, and a couple op-eds from the LA Times about the serious nature of the water crisis (about the cost of localizing the water supply and about the future of the Colorado River).
Here are a few of the things that converted me to LA-visitor-love: