17 Things to Know About LA... From a Dude Who's Been Here 5 Months
Moving to LA from NYC five months ago was a huge decision for me, one that could have been helped by, like, a guide book. Not like a guide book guide book that tourists use, but one that told you about parking, and how traffic actually works, and the whole 2am bar-closing situation. Well, five months and lots of guide book-less lessons learned later, I’m gonna go ahead and relay all the things I wish someone had told me when I first got here.
Take heed, young Angelenos, or suffer the dire consequences.
1. Where you live matters... a lot
When you’re first looking for an apartment, you might GPS a potential building’s proximity to your friend’s apartment and say, "Oh, it’s only like 20 minutes away. I’m sure this is fine." Spoiler alert: it’s not fine. If you live in Hollywood and your friend lives in Venice, while it's not geographically that far, he/she might as well be living in Singapore. Being able to walk to a friend’s apartment makes the city feel much smaller.
2. The food delivery situation is an absolute travesty
As good as it is in NYC, that’s how bad it is here. I’ve ordered a couple of times from Seamless from a variety of restaurants (there aren’t many options), and haven’t had a single dish make it to me warm. I’ve also never waited less than an hour for it to arrive. Most of these establishments aren’t even that far from me, it’s just that everything is so spread out and nobody uses delivery, so restaurants haven’t bothered to make perfecting it a priority. I’ve had to leave my apartment and face the real world much more than I would care to.
3. You're gonna Uber everywhere if you want a social life
From what I hear, pre-Uber people used to just factor DUIs into their yearly expenses (Jesus), but the car share service and its competitors have really changed the social landscape in this town for the better. Public transportation is practically non-existent, so if you plan on going out, at all, you’re gonna be Uber-ing everywhere. If you’re one of the lucky few who doesn’t have to commute far to work, it’s not inconceivable to not get a car. That’s what I do, and sure, people look at me like I'm some kind of freak when I tell them that, but that could very well have nothing to do with the car thing. Between your rental, insurance, parking, tickets, gas, etc., exclusively Uber-ing isn’t so crazy, and an increasing amount of people are doing it.
4. Don't actually take any job you can get
For instance, dressing up like your favorite superhero and taking pictures with tourists for a dollar sounds great on paper. But have you ever heard an Oscar speech where the person thanks Hollywood Blvd Spiderman? You haven't. There's a reason.
5. They sell liquor everywhere!
Back in NYC, liquor is distributed in stores specifically designated for alcohol sales known commonly as "liquor stores." But in LA: everywhere. Supermarkets: liquor! CVS: liquor! Mini-mart: liquor! Bank: liquor! Okay, not the bank, but there’s enough liquor everywhere else that you’ll be able to get by. You can buy a whole rotisserie chicken AND some whiskey to wash it down with all in one stop. God Bless America.
6. Running a red light is really expensive [LA NATIVE ED. NOTE: NOT REALLY, SEE BELOW]
Unlike a place such as, I dunno, Idaho, traffic laws in LA are not suggestions, but real laws. Violations of those laws are penalized to an annoyingly harsh degree. After my roommate’s first month here, he got a letter in the mail from the City of LA. "Perhaps they’re giving us the keys to the city!" we awesomely speculated. Alas, no. He'd received his first LA headshot -- a picture of him coasting through a red light, accompanied by a $500 ticket for his troubles. If there’s even a chance you’re not gonna make the light, don’t risk it. [EDITOR'S NOTE: HE PROBABLY DOESN'T HAVE TO PAY THE TICKET AFTER ALL]
7. "The Valley" is not the soulless hellhole Clueless makes it out to be
There’s actually some fun nightlife, nice places to live, and cool/good-looking people! I’ll never trust movies ever again.
8. The 2am bar closing time is both real AND strictly adhered to
I’d long heard rumors that nightlife in LA ended at 2am, but thought it was one of those things where bouncers made half-assed attempts to steer drunkards toward the door. How wrong I was. At 1:45am, the lights will come on, revealing you as a physical monster to whomever you were halfheartedly grinding with. By 2am, if you’re not already standing on the street or in a cab, prepare for a savage beating by a frustrated actor-turned-bouncer. This extends to every bar in the city. I’m sure there are sweet after-hours bars, but I’m not cool enough yet to know about them.
9. Medicinal marijuana is legal and easily obtainable
As I’m sure you’re aware, medical marijuana is legal in the state of California. What you might not know, is that the word medical is used in quotes. According to medical marijuana doctors here, pretty much every ailment short of "knife in heart" can be treated with marijuana. Some places don’t even need you to have a California ID, just proof of residence. Once they give you their “rec,” you can take it to one of LA’s many fine marijuana dispensaries and get busy... ruining your life, you drug addict heathen!
10. Make sure your apartment is nowhere near highway entrances
I love my apartment, but every morning from about 8:30-10am, and then again from 4-8pm, it is an absolute disaster outside my window. The reason is because I live near one of the entrances to the 405. Being forced to sit in traffic is one thing, but dealing with it outside your door every single weekday is maddening.
11. The Staples Center is a sporting arena. Not a museum for staplery.
The Staples Center is the home arena for the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, LA Sparks, and LA Kings. It also hosts a variety of concerts and other events. It is located in Downtown LA. If you were looking for a museum about staples, you will be extremely dissatisfied with your experience.
12. You need a PhD in reading parking signs
The signs are so complicated, it’s almost as if the city stands to benefit monetarily from you doing the wrong thing! Here’s an example of a typical sign you might see around LA. Not cool.
13. Everyone wants to tell you about their screenplay
Every waiter, driver, sexual partner, etc. is begging for an opportunity to tell you about their screenplay. As soon as you bring up anything remotely creative that you’re involved with, that will be their cue to tell you about it. Sooooooo, unless you want to hear about your Uber driver’s new screenplay that’s "basically a mix between The Karate Kid and Wild Hogs," you’ll keep your mouth shut about any creative endeavor.
14. Venice is awesomely chill, but frighteningly unsafe
When most people hear Venice, they appropriately picture a chill-ass dude on a longboard with a water pipe in one hand and a kale smoothie in the other. Yup, that’s Venice! But Venice is also a stumbling drifter with a syringe in one hand and a crowbar in the other. Venice is culturally awesome and a fun place, but crime is a real and scary problem. It seems that every person I know who lives in Venice has a story about dealing with its seedy underbelly. If safety is important to you and you can’t afford Iron Man-like security, maybe consider another neighborhood.
15. If you're traveling during rush hour, add 45 minutes to your travel time
See #10 for the awful reality of the traffic situation. If you have dinner/drinks plans, don’t trust the Google Maps projection. No fail, you will be thirty minutes late. Do yourself a favor and leave as early as logistically possible (although, then you risk being "on time" and playing Candy Crush for half an hour waiting for your friends who are running late).
16. You are going to be exhausted from hosting people
If you live in Minneapolis, you’ll hear a lot of "Oh, man, I hear it’s beautiful there! I’ll have to come out to visit," but rest assured, nobody will ever set foot in your city. Unlike Minneapolis, people actually want to visit LA. So, all those people who ignored you when you froze your nuts off in Minneapolis are suddenly going to be your best friends and try to schedule a trip to catch up -- which can be awesome, until it’s your third weekend in a row tip-toeing through your own kitchen while another gross friend snores on your couch.
17. California Pizza Kitchen sucks
Don’t let the name fool you... this is NOT authentic California cuisine.
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Brandon Cohen is a screenwriter and aspiring adult man. When not writing about LA, he resides there. Join his West Coast journey by following him on Twitter and Instagram at @brandandco, and watch with glee as LA gradually eats him alive.