When I first arrived in LA to go to design school at the age of 17, I was disappointed. I'd chosen LA because I wanted to move as far away from New York as I could, and I grew up watching Battle of the Network Stars - a show that was filmed at Pepperdine in Malibu. I was seduced by the beautiful people, who seemed to promise only success and happiness, set against the backdrop of sunshine, rolling hills and bright blue sea. But, that was not the LA I encountered.
Los Angeles was gritty, sprawling, and unkind. I thought that because I was from New York I could handle anything. But LA was rougher than I'd expected. The first month I was there, someone tried to mug me. The front door of my dorm was shot out. I had no car, and I had to take the bus seated next to gang members with teardrops tattooed on their faces, through neighborhoods unlike any I'd seen before. There was no center of town, and downtown felt like a remote outpost that everyone had left behind for the glittery hills (and boy, has that changed). It was as depressing as a place could be.
I moved around a lot over the ten years I was there, and eventually began to understand that each neighborhood was a city center unto itself with its own unique local character. What evolved was the realization that I was in a city filled with many destinations, and suddenly LA was fascinating. By the time I moved back to New York for a job, I was certain that I wasn't certain I was doing the right thing.
This weekend, I've convinced Dan to accompany me to LA. And I know that when I step off the plane, it will feel like home.
We only have the weekend, so I've researched, inquired, and foraged to create the best LA experience one can have when not familiar with the city (as Dan is not). More to come.
Photo of the Avalon hotel from Dynamist on Flickr, who took some wonderful pics of the property.