When I posted yesterday’s inaugural LA Haters post, I honestly thought it would be a series I’d add to maybe once or twice a month. Little did I know that more anti-LA vitriol was already seeping out of the internet and I’d pretty much have to make this column a full-time job.
A few things have happened with this project since yesterday. After playing around with the name and process, I decided on “haterating” as the perfect portmanteau for what I’m trying to achieve here. I then established a hashtag, #LAhaters, so we can track these conversations elsewhere. I also decided to add relevant information like the author’s Twitter name and word count of the article. And finally, Martin Filler tweeted an apology about his piece. (JUST KIDDING! He’s not even on Twitter!)
Today we will be haterating “Leaving Los Angeles” by Meghan O’Rourke at The New Yorker, which many (many) of you sent to me after yesterday’s post. O’Rourke’s piece is wholly different than Filler’s filler. For one thing, she actually lived here (for four miserable months). And in a very odd twist, she now claims her piece (or at least part of it?) is satire:
@stevenchean Yep, it is a kind of self-satire of the aggressive NYer (until the end) but never mind tone, I guess.
— Meghan O’Rourke (@meghanor) May 7, 2013
Or more specifically, a “kind of self-satire of the aggressive New Yorker.” Which may be a new brand of satire that only aggressive New Yorkers understand? After discussing this with the #LAhaters advisory board, we have determined that even if O’Rourke’s piece is, indeed, satire—and we’re not sure we even believe her—it should stack up both in stereotypes (and in hyphenates). So with that in mind, your rankings. But never mind tone!
A parlor game played by pretty much any New Yorker temporarily living in Los Angeles: a running tally of “How They’re Different.” After spending four months in the land of kale chips, sunshine, and helicopters, my list is almost entirely consumed by thoughts about driving.
- Kale, horrible kale +1
- Sunshine, horrible sunshine +1
- Helicopters, actually horrible +1
- Driving, and the fact that most of the piece is focused—sorry, focussed—on driving +10
- No points for the parlor game because stereotype or not, that’s some TRUTH right there, and she didn’t resort to naming the game “How New York Is Better” +0
No, here in L.A., drivers peacefully wait for you to look up (from your smart phone, most likely) and notice the left-hand signal is green. Once you do, you can take your time, inching forward like a glowworm. It’s fine if only one car gets through per green arrow. No one seems to care. And as for intersections without a left-turn arrow—and this is truly confusing—drivers don’t bother to creep into the intersection. They wait, like sedated animals, back at the light.
- Really confused here because apparently LA invented the semi-illegal left turn, and nowhere on earth are drivers more insistent about peer pressuring you into a crowded intersection when the light turns yellow. Granted I don’t drive much anymore, but this does not sound at all like my experience at a Los Angeles red light. So is this the “kind of self-satire of the aggressive New Yorker” she means? And in that case, how could it possibly be satire of an aggressive New Yorker if she’s trying to illustrate that Angelenos are too laid back when in actuality WE are the aggressive ones? +20
- First insect/gastropod reference +1
Having been lulled by all this, you may find yourself drifting languidly through the undulations of Hollywood on a Saturday night, baffled by the roads’ twists and turns, trying to ignore the G.P.S. as it gets more and more insistent. (“Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating. Turn left at Sunset Drive. Turn left at Sunset Drive.”)
- Sunset Drive—or the only one I know of—is in Los Feliz +2
- And you could only call it “twisty” or “turny” for a half a block +2
- No wonder she got lost +1
The roads here are like snails, spiralling around. As you drive along, wondering where the hell to turn, a car may rush upon you, honk accusingly, and pass you dangerously on a turn, only to pull into a driveway two houses up. Be prepared, Easterners: L.A. traffic is calm except in the Hollywood and Beverly Hills, which are islands of suitably East Coast sclerotic impatience among the placid sea of the rest of L.A.
- Second insect/gastropod reference +1
- Again, SUPER CONFUSED. First she complains LA drivers are too laid back, then she complains they are too aggressive, but only on our slimy snaily hills? Help me understand!!! +10
Get over the relaxed driving—perhaps it’s all that medical marijuana in the air, or the vegan lifestyle (too enervated to care?)—and take a walk, and you’ll realize that no one else, like you, is walking hurriedly down the street, arms akimbo, as if they really have to get somewhere; they stroll instead, sucking down a coconut-milk smoothie, yoga mat under the arm.
- We don’t even know how to walk right +2
- “Medical marijuana” +420
- “Vegan lifestyle” +1
- Coconut-milk smoothie +1
- Yoga mat +1
- Also, a bonus for unoriginality. These are not endemic to LA and everyone knows this person would be juicing, duh. +10
On the East Side, where I live, life is languid and full of the sounds of barking dogs. Pitbulls abound, and Chihuahuas. Bring your earplugs if you wish to have a peaceful walk through the bougainvillea-covered streets, or, if you prefer, take some tranquilizers, so the dogs, ready for some diversion to give them a sense of purpose, don’t make you jump out of your skin.
- We get it: YOU HATE DOGS. +5
Unlike New York, philosophical differences abound here: a friend told me about a birthday party where the host nearly came to blows with a female guest; it turned out she was a Scientologist, and “he didn’t want any crazy here.”
- We’re not open minded +1
- Gratuitous Scientologist reference +2
It used to be the case that L.A. seemed utterly different from Eastern cities in one crucial way: it was already hauntingly apocalyptic, a place of steep hills, deep predator-filled canyons, terrible earthquakes, and winds bearing plutonium from Japan.
- “Hauntingly apocalyptic” +1
- “Predator-filled canyons” +1
- Earthquakes (Come on, only one natural disaster? She can do better than that.) +1
- Winds bearing plutonium from Japan +1
The first month I lived here I cowered in my bed at night as the helicopters passed over, thinking there was an ongoing series of manhunts. (And there was, for a while—Christopher Dorner was on the loose.) One day, I told a West Coast friend about my night-terror and he looked at me like I was slow, then said, carefully, “They’re traffic helicopters.”
- Helicopters +1
- Traffic +1
- Also, those weren’t traffic helicopters. +0
Whatever those helicopters are, they give L.A. the feel of being constantly under siege, the way the coyotes that howl down in the ravine do, the way the wildfires, itching into flame as soon as the thermometer rises, do.
- Coyotes +1
- Fires! BOOM! +1
- Double Natural Disaster Bonus +5
One day last week, the smoke in Glendale was so thick that authorities shut down the highway I use to get home from work. California’s monumentalities still have a desperate, dangerous edge: it’s what you get living on a giant fault by the ocean.
- “Desperate, dangerous” +1
- “Living on a giant fault” (not true, we live on MANY giant faults) +1
- Edge of the continent reference +1
But I’m struck, visiting this time, by how California’s apocalyptic ecology no longer feels absolutely foreign. Since 2001, that science-fiction feeling has migrated eastward. Last fall, Sandy drove home to all of us the folly and imperiled grandeur of our island existence, with its unprecedented flooding and winds. In March, I took my one trip back East—to Boston, where I stayed in a hotel just yards away from where the first Marathon bombing would occur a few weeks later—and later watched images of dazed Bostonites being interviewed and “locked down.”
- “Apocalyptic ecology” +1
- Entire Paragraph Devoted to How Living in LA is Like 9/11, a Deadly Hurricane and a Horrific Bombing That Paralyzes a City, Combined, WTF? Bonus +100
Given all this, L.A.’s soot raining down from a sky of sun seems relatively normal: a kind of pathetic fallacy for our climate-changing, end-days era. I’ll miss it. The other night, I drove home in the fog from a screening of an old David O. Russell movie at the New Beverly Cinema. In the mist on Beverly Boulevard, the palm trees stood out like strange lollipops, the sweets of a precarious Candyland.
- “Soot raining down from a sky of sun” +20
- David O. Russell +1
- Palm trees +1
- Hey, at least she knew it was fog, not smog +0
TOTAL SCORE: 629
Congratulations! O’Rourke has taken the lead!
LA Haters Leaderboard
(1st!) Meghan O’Rourke: 629
Martin Filler: 549
Okay… who’s next?