The Meandering Millennial: Pros and Cons of Living in Los Angeles (Especially as an Artist)
1 : The Weather
We may as well just start with the weather. It’s unbeatable. If there’s any big driving factor for LA, it’s most definitely the clear skies and warm rays of sun beaming down on you in the middle of January. As a girl from the frosty tundra of Minnesota, there are few pleasures greater than escaping the icy grip of old man winter. BUT, as the moody artist that I am, I must say that I find myself missing cloudy stormy days, and breezy cool nights. AND consistent weather fluctuations. It’s extremely off putting to be dressed for a 90° day, only to find that the night time is 35° cooler, and you’re suddenly terribly under dressed.
2: The View
The scenery is to DIE FOR. Yes, some of these views I’ve seen out here are so gosh darn breath taking, that for a slight moment I contemplated laying my life on the line as a tribute to the awesomeness that is the surrounding LA area’s natural wonderland. I had never seen mountain ranges before coming here. The beautiful juxtaposition of infinitely high peaks and dangerously low valleys is beyond intriguing. And have you ever see the sunset over a crystal clear blue ocean, as warm yellows, reds, and oranges cascade atop purple mountain majesties?! Yeah, neither had I. And it’s an experience I highly recommend to any and everyone.
3: The Connections
If you too, have undying aspirations to “make it big”, the not so subtle longing to immerse yourself in your art and make a name for yourself, LA is a great place to do so. You literally never know who you’re going to meet, and at what moment you could be standing behind your destiny in line at Starbucks. Everyone’s out here networking, everyone’s a photographer, or casting director, or model, or any of the other random jobs you could have in the entertainment and arts industry. Some people are faking it, and some people aren’t. You can never really be too sure, until an amazing opportunity is staring you in the face. So talk to everybody! It’s the perfect place to mix, mingle, and get to work! I actually haven’t even had to get a job since I’ve been out here. I’ve been fortunate enough to just freelance and gig, and make money on my own terms. There’s always someone in need of something out here, and Craigslist will quickly become your best friend.
4: Endless Possibilities
Everyone you run into out here is more than likely going to be from out of state. So if you thought you were going to be the only interesting little Los Angeles transplant, think again. That motif is more common than the cold in these LA streets. But it’s a good thing! Everyone came out here with the same aspirations as you, so everyone is ready to connect and get stuff done! Spending a little time as an adult in a smaller city (Minneapolis), that was my main issue as an artist. No one had any aspirations. No one wanted to think outside the box, or work on projects, or promote themselves! Needless to say, having a whole city full of millions of potential collaborations was a breath of fresh air!
5: Several Different Cities in One
There’s so much LA to explore. In my head, Los Angeles was going to be just one big epic city, where every area was crawling with people and things to do. However, Los Angeles is quite the opposite. It’s a huge city full of mysteries and secrets just waiting to be discovered. That’s mostly because it’s an insanely spread out mash up of a bunch of random little cities; only connected because someone decided to draw circle around it and call it Los Angeles. You’re going to find a different crowd, a different scene and sources of entertainment, and a completely different vibe no matter where you go. Santa Monica and Venice Beach may be extremely close on the map, but the grungy hipsterville that is Venice, is the black sheep little brother of the glamorous and slightly snooty Santa Monica. Koreatown, Downtown, West Hollywood, North Hollywood, Echo Park, Silver Lake; literally every one of these places has an entirely different experience just waiting to be unearthed.
6: Fresh Produce
One thing that I really appreciate about LA is the fresh produce! It’s so affordable, and so widely available here. In every other city I’ve lived in, whether it be the midwest, or Washington, DC; the pickings for fresh produce were slim, and ALWAYS expensive. Here in LA you can get a fresh bundle of organic Kale for $0.99! Yes I said ORGANIC, and yes, you can get it for under a dollar. All their produce is like that! 10 lbs of potatoes for $2, 5 avocados for $1, all at the convenience of your local grocery store. And it all comes fresh, and never pre packaged. Not to say you can’t still get pre packaged crap, because that’s always in abundance, but who would want to do that?
Also, a brief sidenote for other plant life lovers, Los Angeles has the highest grade and most affordable Marijuana you can find in the country. And . . . that’s all I’ll say about that.
1: YOU NEED A CAR!
Now, I can’t even tell you how many times I heard this statement before I moved out here, and how many times I ignored it and figured, hey, if I can get around in Minneapolis, DC, and New York, why can’t I get around in LA?! Believe me, it’s not the same thing. It’s not that you need a car because it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get around without one, it’s just that the headache of getting around without a car is NEVER worth it. Sure, you can get from Central LA to Venice on the bus, but it’s gonna take you 2 hours each direction. Sure, you can take the bus up to NoHo for that really fun event you heard about, but there’s a chance that by the time you’re gonna be headed home, the buses only run once every hour, so you’re likely to be stranded for a while. And when you do finally start frequenting all those sought after auditions and interviews, it’s hard to keep your morale as you sit on the bus for 3 hours, audition for all of 60 seconds, then hop back on the bus for that long awaited return trip. Then you repeat this procedure everyday. You lose interest in public transportation insanely fast.
2. You Can’t Sit With Us!
Now I won’t blame the inconsistency of LA’s public transportation system on their lack of knowledge or effort, I really do think they’re doing the best they can. But I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this is just a big mash up of lots of little cities. It’s a mission to get from place to place! In my experience here, I’ve found that most people live in a certain area, and that’s the only area they go out in. To me, the prospect of a million different neighborhoods all at my disposal sounds like a dream! But to citizens of LA, it’s treated like more of an inconvenience than anything else. Being that that is the case, you’re going to see the same groups of people when you frequent certain areas, which makes this big booming city drastically smaller almost instantly. The friends I made from Pasadena, were separate from my friends in Sherman Oaks, who were separate from my friends in the Hills. No one really mixed and intermingled, and everyone wanted to stay in their own little reality. Along those same lines, clique culture is revived in full force out here. I had hoped that the concept of cliques would have died out in the superficial wasteland that is a modern day high school, but in LA it’s like everyone’s a 17 year old angsty child all over again. Everything’s a secret. Parties are exclusive, anything fun is invite only, and you need to know someone who knows what’s going on in and around the city. I was invited to my fair share of “invite only” events, but I can’t say that I was impressed. They’re often rooms full of pretentious people just sitting around acting like they’re 10,000 times cooler than they really are. And being that it was an exclusive event, I was never allowed to bring any of my REAL friends. So I just sat around awkwardly wondering when I was going to start having fun. (Can’t say that I ever did…)
This brings me to the people and the city itself. Another big phrase that I heard when preparing to move out here was, “You’re not gonna like it, everyone is fake and superficial!”. Again, I ignored this advice and figured they just didn’t know what they were talking about. I figured I could get along with everyone, thrive in any environment, and scope out the real amongst the fake. I was indeed able to do so. The friends I did make here were super awesome, artistic, conscious, and great to be around. But needless to say, they were indeed the minority. A lot of people genuinely are annoying, snotty, pretentious snobs here. People’s first question when they meet you is often along the lines of, “What do you do? Who do you know? WHO ARE YOU?”. And if you don’t have a good enough answer, don’t be surprised if the conversation comes to a not so subtle screeching halt. But hey, that was to be expected. I was prepared for the snobbiness and judgmental attitudes..
But it doesn’t stop there. The superficiality goes deeper than that. It’s not just the people, it’s the city itself. Hollywood is a sham compared to what I’ve seen on tv. I thought it was going to be big, shiny, and brimming with celebrities everywhere. I thought everything in LA would just have this glow about it, like you could feel people’s hopes and aspirations in the air! In reality, the only thing you’re getting out of this air is smog, and the undeniable stench of urine. Seriously, this city smells. When you’re walking around the city, whether it be Downtown, Hollywood, or Culver City, you literally have to step over homeless people, and dodge piles (and I mean PILES) of trash as you try to make it down graffiti covered sidewalks. Then 2 blocks later, you’re in an area with lush green grass (during the worst drought California has ever seen), towering beautiful palm trees (struggling to even survive in the middle of cracked concrete) and fancy houses that are nice, but you can tell they’re probably paying way to much to live there. It’s just, this air of undeserved entitlement everywhere you go, where people feel entitled to live falsely successful lives, in the midst of some of the most depressing scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. Poverty in Los Angeles is REAL, waste and environmental abuse is REAL, unhealthy living conditions, mental issues, and drug abuse are REAL, and it seems like no one ever notices…For my overly sensitive artistic soul, this place is an extremely painful juxtaposition to have to bear witness to.
4: Lack of Fun and Culture
As could be expected in a city full of people lying to themselves on a daily basis, the culture is a spot on reflection of that mentality. The food here sucks. The night life sucks. Everything that there is to do out here, SUCKS. Now, I may be over exaggerating just a little bit. Ok a lotta bit. I’m sure there are some genuinely fun things to do, and I have had some fun since I’ve been out here, just not the amount of fun I was expecting to have. Coming from Minnesota, we may have brutal -40° weather, but we’ll make sure you’re well fed, so you can be nice and plump to make it through those unbearable winters. We know how to cook, and we definitely know how to eat! Coming from that to THIS, I was more than a little disappointed. Everything I’ve tried here was subpar, and waaaaay too expensive. I just can’t seem to justify paying $15 for a burger, that doesn’t come with a side mind you, just to have a mediocre burger experience. And that’s how I feel about everything! The “craft” beers are just ok, the clubs are just ok, the lounges, bars, restaurants; everything is JUST OK. And for the prices I’m paying to enjoy these things, I need a whole lot more than a “just ok” dammit!
I think the reason they’re able to get away with mediocrity is because no one tells the truth in this city. No one wants to admit to themselves that they’re not really having fun or not really happy, so everyone just acts like everything is the coolest thing they’ve ever done. And on top of that, there’s not as many people out to judge these places as you would think. This city is HUGE, and I swear I can find more people out on a Friday night in Minneapolis than here, and no, this time I am not exaggerating. My sleep cycle is beyond strange in this time zone. I wake up at 6am everyday, and when it gets dark around 5pm, I’m ready for bed! This city definitely reflects that. You can’t ever be fashionably late to an event, because chances are, by the time you get there, the event is over. When I imagined LA, I lumped it into the category of Miami and New York, just big amazing non stop fun and parties all night…But that’s most definitely not the case. Everything closes at 2 am, and chances are you won’t even be able to stay awake that long. This city is dead.
Now onto the actual reason you came to LA in the first place. No one really comes here just to hang out. As I mentioned, everyone you meet is out here to DO something, whether it be acting, producing, modeling, or music; if you’re out here, you’re out here to work. This was definitely just as much of a pro, as it is a con. If everyone is out here trying to do what you’re trying to do, it makes it a whole lot harder to do it. In MN I was a big fish in a small pond. That was awesome for my ego, but the ceiling was too low, I had no room for growth and expansion. In LA, the sky is the limit. The pond is huge and full of fish! But…all these fish look the same, and they’re all fighting for the same worms. For an awkward, hipster, eclectic black girl, this city has been beyond strange. I couldn’t find a job to save my life, and not for lack of trying. Every restaurant I interviewed at had a line of potential employees that stretched down the street: people from my age group in their early 20’s, to people in their 40’s! Everyone needs work out here, and sadly there just aren’t enough jobs to go around.
And the type of people to actually land these jobs? Cookie cutter images of what a successful American is supposed to look like. There’s no room for diversity in mainstream LA. There are certain areas made for the strange artist type, but I just hate the concept of isolating myself into a corner, and being forced to stay in my lane. Now, being that the concept of job hunting and working said job once you actually find one (good luck) is such a mission in itself, it’s very easy to lose your fun loving artistic side that you came out here to cultivate. My roommate is an amazing singer. She moved out here from Ohio to obviously dive into her art and make her dreams come true. But all I ever see her do is come home and pass out, wake up super early to go to her monotonous job at Nordstrom, then come home and repeat the process all over again. She’s cranky, irritable, and low key depressed I think, and it hurts my heart to have to see her creative soul suffer. And she’s not the only one. I’ve met countless people that came to LA to be one thing, but they got caught up in simply trying to survive, and that dream is now gathering dust on the back burner where they left it long ago. Some people aren’t even courageous enough to fully focus on their passion. They come out her and pour themselves into a lowly industry job, hoping one day they’ll get to rub shoulders with someone famous, and they can finally get the opportunity they’ve been dreaming of…although that day very rarely comes for most.
6: It’s Expensive
This is one thing I’m sure anyone could have seen coming: this place is EXPENSIVE. Food, housing, fun; it’s all gonna cost you. All the apartments we were looking into, for myself and my artistic partner, ranged somewhere between $900-$1200 a month. All of these options were shitty, run down, and TINY. Did I mention they often were advertising little studios with literally no kitchen, not even a fridge!? We ultimately ended up stuck in South Central (which isn’t as bad crime wise as everyone tries to make it seem) paying $950 for one bedroom in the 3br upper level of a duplex. This place wasn’t TERRIBLE, I mean it came fully furnished, free utilities and wifi, there was a kitchen and fridge, and it was close to a lot of public transportation. But it’s trashy, loud, there are literally chickens running around our yards, and everyone has a dog that’s trying to jump over the fence and tear you apart. We literally feel like we’re in Mexico, no one speaks English, all you can get to eat is hispanic food, and there’s no grocery stores, pharmacies, or convenient stores anywhere near enough to be considered convenient. Any places that were gonna be nicer than what we found were way out of our price range, or required a credit check, which as a struggling artist, was embarrassing to say the least.