I love Los Angeles. I really do! I’ve lived here since Fall 2004, and it has felt like home for a long time.
No, I haven’t seen “La-La Land” yet, but I did see “Hidden Figures” and it was really, really great! I highly recommend it, and it is rated PG, so it is ok for kids. They may squirm at the absence of cartoon characters, but just remind them it’s about sending real live people to outer space and that should pique their interest, if you’ve been raising good humans…
… but I digress! “LA Story” is the film that best encapsulates my love for LA, and if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and do so! Steve Martin at his early-90’s peak!
I moved to LA from NYC, and right away I fell in love with how colorful it is (New York is so gray-and-black chic, 24/7), and the weather was an easy sell, too. Stressing about money or recovering from a broken heart was just more pleasant while done in the sunshine, on the beach or poolside. Being able to jump in my car and drive anywhere made me feel more free than the self-reliance I had developed as a subway rider, as though escape was always an option with a car.
Not that I had a strong sense of wanting to escape, but I think everyone feels the urge to “get away from it all” once in awhile, and I believe LA is well-situated for doing just that. Whether it’s the beach, the mountains or the high desert, you can reach picturesque isolation within a few hours’ drive, and you have enough options of each type of terrain that you can keep escaping to new places for a long time before running out and starting over.
Obviously, if you hate being in a car, you won’t love Los Angeles. It’s a massive conurbation (one of my favorite all-time words!), and even with the new subway system that has sprouted in the 12 years that I’ve lived here, a car is still necessary to access all of the different areas. One could decide not to access different areas and just stay in one’s own, but, to me, that would cut one off from one of the main benefits of living in a city this large: enjoying the diversity!
Thankfully, ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber have made it possible for people to still get around to the less-transit-accessible parts of the city while forgoing the owning of a car. I myself was a Lyft driver in the very early days, and initially I loved it. It was still new and so everyone who was using it, both as drivers and as passengers, was excited about it, about the advancement of technology and the prospect of meeting new people.
I could go on at length about what changed, and when and why, but that’s not what this post is about.
In one of my early interviews for Lyft, I was asked to throw out ideas for a theme that I could have in my car that would make my ride unique and special for passengers. Since I was speaking with people who were visiting from the Bay Area, I got a little cheeky and said I wanted to do an “I love LA” theme. They were surprised, given their feelings of SF’s superiority, but they also thought it would make a great theme and encouraged me to develop it.
I went home and created a logo, and printed up some stickers on my home printer to hand out to passengers. I also decided to hang a string of battery-operated LED string lights that I had left over from Burning Man. I attached the battery pack to my grip assist handle (aka the “0h-shit” handle), and that gave me the option of stealthily turning the lights on after the ride was already underway.
This quickly morphed into my version of the show “Cash Cab”, which
I called the “Loot Lyft“, and I asked my passengers trivia questions in exchange for chocolate money. Between giving away my “i ❤ LA” stickers and playing the host of Loot Lyft, I was having a blast, and getting paid to do it!
There was even a little write up in the LA Times…
Before driving for Lyft, during and after, I have gotten a lot of pleasure from driving around this huge city. I listen to the radio (or sometimes CDs), and I run errands with the windows down, willingly going to other parts of the city to go to specific stores or parks or what have you. It helps having a somewhat flexible schedule- it lets me avoid rush hour traffic most of the time (not always). I take a LOT of pictures of street art, especially painted utility boxes.
When I first moved here, I used Thomas Brothers’ Guides maps to get around. They were my bible, my essential tool for finding my way after inevitably getting lost. If you’ve never seen one, they are wide and thick. Every block of every street, every on-ramp and off-ramp of every freeway in Los Angeles County is on those pages, neatly overlaid with a simple grid and indexed for frantic reference. I would have to get a new one every few years, both because they would become outdated with construction and road improvements, and also because my most-used pages would eventually rip or fall out, which would render the book somewhat useless.
Thanks to smartphones and Google Maps (or Waze, if that’s your thing), no one really needs these books anymore, yet many people still have one in their trunk, or tucked away in their garage. I’ve recently started re-purposing them: I glue a page to cardstock before printing my logo on it, thus producing limited edition upcycled art:
In 2014, to celebrate my 10-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles, I got a tattoo of one of my favorite pieces of local street art, from a friend I met through being a Lyft driver ~ funny how things come full circle. And then I posted about the tattoo and tagged the street artist, antigirl, and later I was interviewed for a documentary about her and street art! Possibly the most LA thing that’s happened to me to date.