Sep 13, 2012

LA

I now live in LA.  Not NY.  Might as well get that out of the way.

Reasons for moving? There are many.  Both my wife and I have moved a lot and enjoy it. I had been in NY for 8 years.  About 4 years more than I had planned. I'm more West Coast than East Coast. I like the outdoors a lot. Family is closer. Etc.  Kids were starting to hate NY. Lots of stuff.

Having been here a while I thought I might lay out what I miss and like about living in both places.

Top Reasons to live in NY.
  1. Subway.  This one is easy. It's my top reason. The density of NY combined with an extensive subway system, no matter how stinky and dirty it is, trumps the best car by a long shot. I used to like cars like any male would before NY.  But when you get rid of your car, and effectively allow someone else to chauffeur you around, you realize what a burden a car really is. Besides the cost of the thing there are so many time consuming activities around a car.  Just driving it is a singularly focused activity whereas I can doing anything I want on a subway. And cars facilitate the spread out development of a region rather than concentrating it, exacerbating the problem of getting to where you want to go.  I miss the subway daily.
  2. Restaurants. Again easy. NY has such scale (meaning so many people densely packed) that every kind of cuisine can exist here from fine dining to scrappy hole in the walls. LA has a nice restaurant scene but it doesn't have the singular focus on particular food items that NY has.  For example there were approximately ten high end butchers I used at one time or another.  In LA there seem to be two.
  3. Broadway. Plays.  Lots of them. Usually starring famous actors.
  4. Hyperspecialization. This plays out in restaurants and stores. Japanese toys your thing? There's a store for that. Craving for porchetta? There's a restaurant that only serves that. Want to buy some fossils? Got it covered.  Any unique offering is generally available in NY.  
  5. Pizza.  Nothing beats NY pizza. It was a revelation moving there.
  6. Energy. This is towards the bottom of my list but it's still valid.  NY buzzes.  Constantly. It's infectious and causes you to completely ignore that for almost a decade I did not get nearly enough sleep.
  7. Hipsters. I know everyone hates them but when they are gone you're left with mediocrity and conformity. Hipsters have some misses (fixies?).  But their hits are good.  Real butcher stores, old fashioned men's barbershops, well crafted goods, old things, etc.
  8. Street Art.  Wonderful subversive art is pasted all over NY.  It's part of the fun walking around the city noticing little hidden treasures.
Top Reasons to not live in NY:
  1. Cost of Living.  This one isn't what you think it is. NY is an expensive place to live.  But you can manage that easily.  The real problem is that it's also expensive for businesses.  And that means NY and Manhattan in particular push out fringe elements to the outer boundaries. By fringe I mean the edgier restaurants, stores, etc. as well as NY institutions.  2nd Avenue Deli, one of the best places to get corned beef, is no longer on 2nd Avenue.  Rent went up and it could no longer afford it.  Places like SoHo are now effectively strip malls and high end boutique stores.  Most of the cool stuff was pushed to Brooklyn.  Which was fine.  That's where I lived.  But even that is getting priced at similar rents to Manhattan. Eventually everything will be 'high end'.
  2. Grouchiness.  NYers love to tell you that they are friendly.  They aren't.  They have no concept of manners or being nice.  I've never heard a single please or thank you from, well, anyone. Some of this is in the name of efficiency but most of it is because NYers are just rude and unhappy.
  3. Lack of 'Outdoors'.  Sure you can jaunt down to the Caribbean easily.  But every island is effectively the same.  But mountains, desert, pinewood forests, canyons, beaches (good ones) etc.? Nope.  Just deciduous forest after deciduous forest.  Some crappy shoreline.  Even Central Park is a highly manufactured park. That's about it.  Oh and bugs.  Lots of them.  Half a camper's investment is in bug suppression technology.
  4. Dirty and Noisy. Probably my daughter's biggest complaint.  I sort of got used to it but it is really dirty in NY.  When you step off a plane anywhere else you notice how clean it is. And don't get me started on cockroaches and rats.  They are pretty much everywhere.  I've never had so many intestinal tract issues as when I was in NY.
  5. Groceries.  I think the main problem here is that the restaurants suck up the good stuff before the it is sent to retail.  Fish?  1 good purveyor. Greens? None really.  Even the farmers markets seem to be the same quality as grocery store at twice the price.  I will give NY a hat tip for their meat though.  The butchers and quality of meat are some of the best.  But alas no grilling allowed.
So what about LA?  

Top Reason to live in LA
  1. Weather.  Although it has been raging hot lately (and our AC bit the dust) you can't beat the fact that there is simply no need to ever check the weather.  It just says 'Nice and sunny'.
  2. Produce.  Besides the fact that you can grow things easily, the produce is just plain better here because most of it is grown here.  For example 80% of the almonds in the world are grown in California.  Tomatoes, avocados, greens, meyer lemons, etc.  Everything tastes better.  And gaviota strawberries.  But really... avocados.
  3. Regional Outdoor Offerings. Pretty much all my favorite outdoor things are within quick range.  Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Antelope Canyon, Ape Cave, the Ring of Fire, etc.  Not to mention  the local beaches, sealife, huge national parks, etc. 3-day weekends are going to filled with visits to these places.
  4. Politeness.  Maybe it's just the transition from NY to LA but holy crap are people so happy and perky and polite out here.  It was a little disconcerting at first but people are genuinely nice.  When we moved in our neighbor came out and my NY defenses were still up.  I was sure he was going to complain about something.  Every move in NY entailed some neighbor getting their panties in a twist.  But no.  He just came out to say hello and ask if I minded the noise he was making in his backyard.
  5. Surfing.  I can learn to surf here.  People do surf in NY but come on.  People also kayak in Gowanus Canal but that doesn't make it right.
  6. Mexican & Chinese food.  Good places in NY do not exist.
  7. Architecture.  People are usually surprised about this but for me LA is the architecture capital.  Sure there are strip malls everywhere.  Lots of the very best Frank Lloyd Wright, Union Station, Watts Tower, Bradbury Building, Capital Records, LA Police Station, the oldest McDonalds, Gas Company Tower, Googie buildings, Neutra homes, etc.  Really it is just endless.
Top Reasons to not live in LA
  1. Cars & Traffic  Cars cars cars.  People drive down the block to the corner store. At our kids school they described the pickup policy which revolved around cars.  When my wife asked what to do since our kids walked to school the response was, "oh.  we've never had that question before."  Because the weather is so nice the natural conversation in LA is around the traffic.  There is no way to answer, 'how long does it take to drive to X' because it depends entirely on the time of data.  It could be 15 minutes or it could be 1.5 hours. I'm not a big fan of being in the car but that's a requirement here.
  2. Houses. This one probably applies only to me.  And it's a solvable one. But everyone lives in houses. Apartments are less de rigueur.  But I like apartments. I've lived in one since I was 18. Houses to me are time sinks. They just require me to waste more time doing things I don't want to do. And I find them lonely. I liked the noises from above in an apartment. I liked the social aspects of running into neighbors daily and seeing the concierge.  I don't see anyone in my neighborhood.  Ever.  
  3. Suburbia. It has also been since I was 18 that I lived in Suburbia. Again this is solvable. But our location is defined by where our kids got into school.  And it's a sea of mundanity on some level. There are some reasonable neighborhoods nearby but they have to be driven to. I'm now officially "bridge & tunnel".  My butcher is in West Hollywood.  My fishmonger is in Santa Monica. The best restaurants I've been to aren't where I am.  And that just means more driving.
But so far it's has been a nice change from NY.  The sun is nice. The people are nice. The trees are nice.  The beaches are nice.  And since I still work out of a NY firm I get to have my slice of NY fairly often.  Because I don't think I can go without Ippudo for long.

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