The City That Sleeps Just Fine16

Posted by Deirdre // 02-05-2014

Goin' back to Cali

Goin’ back to Cali?

I’ve read two articles on L.A. recently that made me really stop and think. Like a “wait, what?” kind of think. Like, “is L.A. actually a place I could see us?” kind of think. I grew up a New Yorker and always felt like L.A. was kind of a joke — or at least not really reality. My Dad has lived there since the early 80s and I visited him often, especially when I was younger. Those trips were always filled with Disney Land and swimming pools and tennis clubs and what I considered luxury (what really was luxury for a while after moving in with a girlfriend and her kids to their AWESOME mid-century modern house with a pool in a crazy gated community in Beverly Hills for several years, he mostly lived in more modest places, even though most came with a pool). A few times in my 20s I went there to visit and hung out with friends who lived what would be more of a life I would live there, yet I still never really thought twice about L.A. as a home and when I did move to California for a blip, it was to San Francisco.

But recently I was doing some research on L.A. for a consulting job and came across this article in T Magazine about the new arts and fashion scene there that struck me so intensely that I immediately sent this blurb to my husband, along with the full link.

“Los Angeles’s burgeoning fashion ecosystem — democratic, bootstrappy, upbeat and sometimes wantonly improvisational — seems to be drawing power from several sources, including still-plentiful real estate, a local buzz vacuum caused by the sputtering of the movie industry, creative runoff from the town’s exploding art scene and an emerging sense that sometime in the last few years, New York ceased being a locus of inventive energy and gritty potential and turned into a luxury shopping mall where the proverbial kid from the sticks with sequins in her eyes has to foam milk for 14 hours a day just to make rent”.

First of all, hilarious. But wait…bootstrappy? Improvisational? In the past I haven’t associated this type of artsy, street style with L.A. — I have several friends in the biz there and while it is laid back and more casual than New York in many ways, that seems a stiflingly non-democratic community. But a few years ago some friends moved there (without kids, mind you) to a stunning place in Venice Beach, on a canal, 5 minutes from the beach for like half of what we pay for a walk-up off of 7th Avenue. They’re graphic designers, not producers or agents, and I curse her Instagram regularly. And we’ve met others — both with kids and without — who have a nice, normal, non-Hollywood and kind of awesome life there. But also the sense that “things” are possible — that there is movement and energy and creativity happening, because people can afford to actually make it happen — is exciting and alluring. Honestly, it is the kind of vibe (sans Palm trees, of course) that drew me to Brooklyn in the first place way back in 1999.

The second of the two articles is by none other than Moby, the musician and creator of the cute LES shop (and brand) teany, and is called I left New York for LA because creativity requires the freedom to fail. Whoa. Even a successful artist and entrepreneur feels there’s too much pressure to succeed here. He admits that there are certainly other options besides L.A., but because he made the choice to move there from New York and it’s a comparison that’s often made, that’s what he’s focused on.

“In New York, you can be easily overwhelmed by how much success everyone else seems to be having, whereas in LA, everybody publicly fails at some point – even the most successful people.” 

It’s pretty much the case for us, at least. Not necessarily failure, I hope, but I guess the feeling that you are failing unless you’re winning. There is this pressure to do and be “something” here that doesn’t exist elsewhere — in both bad ways and good. I’m glad I felt the need to finish college and get a job right away and build a career (this drive exists way less in L.A.) but at the same time I wish I’d gone to Martha’s Vineyard or Portland, ME (or Big Bear or Lake Tahoe!) for a summer during college and lived with 8 roommates and waited tables instead of getting an internship in advertising. And now the pressure to do and be is about lifestyle and school and camp and on and on and on.


Smith Street pioneer, Patois

Moby talks specifically about how creativity is stifled here now because of that pressure to succeed, and how that affected his community of artists. And truthfully we’re now part of this arts scene because my husband is a filmmaker (independent, possibly not ever Hollywood independent), and it is virtually impossible to live here without me taking a crazy job in which I would never see my kids and have him continue to do what he wants to do. But regardless of your affiliation with artists, I think it affects the community at large. Brooklyn has gone through this transformation — which many will call gentrification and it is to a large extent, but in a way it’s what has made us all want to be here — because scrappy foodies and artisans and progressives have been able to live here and invest in the communities by opening restaurants and stores and kids’ after school programs and flea markets. But the pioneers like Alan Harding are having to go farther and farther out to find places that they can afford to set up shop. The chains are becoming the only ones who survive.

The pressure to do and be is exhausting. And as I’ve said before, do I really need to live in a city that never sleeps? I go to bed at 10. I like the way the Times put it — L.A. is “the city that sleeps just fine.” Who wouldn’t sleep well with a soft breeze coming off the Pacific and a Palm tree-lined drive? Wintery mix? Doesn’t exist there. We’ll leave the traffic and drought and earthquakes out of this conversation for now since we’re about the positives today. As they say in L.A., it’s all good.