I’ve called southern California my home for over 5 years now as well as birthed a child here, so I think I’ve earned the right to call myself a veteran resident. Practically everything I know about this city, I’ve learned the hard way. So for all you LA newbies I’ve compiled a list in hopes that you don’t have to makes the same mistakes that I had as a wide eyed hopeful. These are the things that long time residents of LA know but are keeping mum about:
1. Hollywood Boulevard is disgusting and should be avoided at all costs. Unless of course you’re a celebrity attending the Academy Awards or a movie premiere at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre… Other than that, one trip to the Boulevard is enough trips to figure out you should probably never go back. Unlike what you see on TV, there are no high end shops or even a single decent restaurant located between the cross streets of Ivar & La Brea Ave. There are however plenty of stripper accessory stores (I didn’t even know there were so many strippers living in LA), an ancient Ripley’s Believe it or Not that holds a record of the thickest layer of dust sitting atop old exhibits, innumerable terrible Hollywood tours, and very entitled homeless. Which brings me to my next point…
2. If you absolutely need to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame DO NOT LAY DOWN ON THE STARS. I don’t give an ish about how much of a free spirit you are with your Coachella knit top, or how much you just love Michael Jackson (who by the way has 2 stars but 1 is for a radio personality, and a lot of people visit the wrong one), I’ve literally observed a man pull down his pants and take a poo on the walk of fame because a restaurant wouldn’t let him use their bathroom. And he wasn’t even homeless. You don’t even want to know what homeless people do on these 5 pointed life achievement awards. If you’re okay with never feeling fully 100% clean again, by all means put your face on the ground, otherwise your best bet is doing a quick squat, take a normal photo, and be on your way. It doesn’t mean you love MJ any less. In fact I think you’re honoring him more by respecting the LA resident code of decent human sanitation. Also, not to mention that it never ever rains out here so what gets put on the walk of fame, stays festering on the walk of fame. Side note: If you happen to see an older gentleman missing the bottom half of is legs and scooting from star to star with a bucket, shoot a quick “thank you!” He’s been cleaning the stars for free on his own volition for years and it makes me sad how quickly his hard work gets trashed .
3. You’re not cool if you jaywalk. In fact, you’re an idiot that will most likely end up paying a hefty $300 fine. This isn’t a joke, it happened to a friend of mine. Also, as a newbie in LA it makes you stick out like a sore thumb. This isn’t New York or Boston, where people just cross when and wherever they feel is right with the risk of an oh-so-serious $1 fine.
4. Read every. single. parking. sign. in the area that you’ve parked and do it religiously like your life depends on it. If there’s a meter, check it 3 effing times. Take a picture of the parking signs anywhere near your car and NEVER be even a minute late to refill the meter. Take a picture of how far away you are from the red do not park line until you learn exactly how far away you need to be to avoid a ticket. Meter maids are not the pleasant people mentioned in Beatles songs here, they’re determined employees being pushed to meet their quotas & make the city as much money as possible by giving you a minimum ticket of $68 for any parking slip ups you may make. Take it from someone who racked up countless dollars in parking tickets within the first year of living here (by the way they double and then triple in price if not paid within a short period of time, a fact in which I was NOT aware of). And never ever ever trust a friend that tells you “Oh, it’s totally cool to park here”… What are you 5 years old? You just listen to what people tell you to do without checking it out yourself? Don’t be stupid. If your friend is wrong and earns you a ticket, guess who has to pay it? You do. And unless they’re a really down friend, they’re not going to pay it because even though they act like money, they’re probably just as broke as you are. They do not give a damn because that ticket is in YOUR name.
5. Celebrity sightings are a dime a dozen. Don’t get too caught up in the hype of trying to catch a selfie with the lead jerk from a reality tv show JUST because it’s the first “celebrity” sighting you’ve made since you landed here *cough guilty cough*. After a while, you start to realize that LA is a sort of safe haven for most celebrities to still be able to do a few normal every day things whilst just simply wearing a baseball cap to get away with it. It’s much cooler to just treat them like everyone else and let them get on with their day. You start viewing them as normal people because that’s what they are, just with a butt load of money. If I can lock eyes with Drew Barrymore (I mean come on, she’s so effing cool) inside a hole in the wall ramen joint in Little Tokyo without losing my cool, anyone can. Although looking back I have absolutely zero regrets about freaking out and taking a picture with Dan Aykroyd or Nestor Carbonell (Richard Aplert from LOST) in my early LA days. So I guess revising my original rule, enjoy the newness of celebrity sightings when the celebrity is worth it. Eventually that newness will wear off and you’ll come to just be grateful that no celebrities are shooting a new movie near the route you take to get to and from work everyday.
6. Venice Beach is best left explored during the day time and with a good friend. The place is like a twilight zone as it is, but you definitely don’t want to be caught there after sunset. It’s scary.
7. 50% of the things people say to you will NOT be genuine. This number is higher if you’re an aspiring actor/model/singer/performer. This may either be the result of a bad intention or just flat out fakeness followed by a trash talk session within 5 minutes of you walking away. Trust me, practically no one is as nice as they appear to be out here… But DO NOT let that deter you from all the abundance that LA has to offer. Eventually you learn how to trust your gut and you also learn how to see through others intentions. The amount of time that wisdom takes to accrue is shorter for some than others. As you build a good core group of people surrounding you and a solid strength in who you are, that 50% decreases and less & less people are flat out lying to your face… Because your vibe attracts your tribe. If you allow it to, LA makes you tougher, stronger, and wiser. As cliche as the saying is, it holds true: The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. No matter where you come from, we all show up wide eyed and naïve in one way or another. At times it will feel like this city is trying it’s very best to break you when in fact this city continues to stay the same. You can let it define you, or you can define it. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
8. Always choose the apartment with parking. I don’t care if that means getting a smaller apartment just to get a space, the amount of time and money you save avoiding tickets and looking for a spot to park your car late at night after work, is invaluable. Not to mention, having to park 6 blocks away just to wake up at 7 am the next morning to move your car for “street cleaning” (I put this in quotes because the number of times I’ve actually seen a street sweeper is TWO) and yet again be unable to find a spot because everyone else is also having to move their cars while half awake, is literal hell.
9. Get renters insurance and up your car insurance policy. Just do this and don’t even question it. I don’t care if your landlord requires it or not, renters insurance is cheap and so worth it. I can’t stress this point enough. Same for upping your car insurance… So so worth it, for so many reasons. Aw you think this is a boring bit of advice? You won’t when you get hit by a driver with no insurance or your apartment gets broken into and everything you schlepped to LA is now sitting in someone else’s house or being pawned… These things happen every single hour in LA, don’t be the idiot that didn’t take my advice and is crying about it on the curbside.
10. THREE years is the breaking point in which you can fairly decide whether or not you belong here. This city is certainly not for everyone. At times I’ve absolutely felt like it wasn’t for me… But then I remember that where I come from nothing was handed to me, so why should I expect that to be the case in LA? This city doesn’t owe you or me a goddamn thing. What you want from it, you need to work hard for. Culture shock and a sense of failure are the two top reasons that people don’t last here… But do you want to know who stays? Successful people who have gone through numerous failures. They stay. Driven people. They stay too. People who see the abundance that this city has to offer and decide that they favor that over the draw of home or the loneliness LA holds within it. If you’ve only given Los Angeles six months to a year to decide whether or not you belong, guess what honey, you never did. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Eventually being able to comfortably call LA your home is a right that is earned because you fought hard to get that feeling of ownership in this city of Angels.
Chime in guys. I’d love to hear what you Angelenos consider the things you wish you knew from the beginning? Comment below.