Tuesday, July 21, 2009

LA: It Is More Important To Look Good Than To Feel Good

I like LA. I really do. I just went there for the first time in thirty years and saw just a very small area - West LA, Culver City, Santa Monica, Malibu. I think I expected a state full of Stepford People; perfect tans, perfect bodies, perfect smiles. What I saw were people who looked a lot like people in New York. They just dress better in California.

But let me tell you about my experience in Culver City. We stayed at the Culver Hotel. It's a vintage hotel with a great history and some ghosts, which I experienced firsthand. It sits next to a main thoroughfare and in front of a lovely pedestrian mall that includes a movie theater, restaurants and bars. It's hopping. All the time.

And as I sat there in the evening, listening to the raucous merriment of dozens of very well dressed people jammed into the lobby, all of them yelling above the sound of a live band, I was missing something. The crisis. Where's that economic crisis we're told California is facing?

I strolled down the mall past the movie theater - people were lined up down the block to get in. The restaurants were packed solid. The bars were full. Crossing the street to the other side, no less than five more restaurants, some of them quite pricey, were jammed.

Culver City is not glamor central. It's nice, but it's not where Paris Hilton goes to hang out with her BFFs. This crowd was a pretty fair mix of Escalades, Priuses and used Fords (in California, it seems correct to identify someone by their car. They love their cars).

The only signs I saw of any economic trouble were a small tent city outside of Culver City, which looked like it might have been there forever, and a sign in Topanga Canyon. Topanga Canyon, I'm told by KB, is the hip artists' enclave that was, on the day we visited, hotter than the seventh circle of hell. It looked like a good argument could start a brush fire. And a sign on a fence pleaded for support for efforts to save the local state park. Perhaps the governorator is planning to sell off state parks to put a tourniquet on a state budget that we're told is hemorrhaging to death.

But the crowds were still buying lattes at the Urth Cafe, the Culver Hotel lobby was a loud party every night and across the street at Ugo there was a line of people waiting for a cafe table where they could eat dessert and watch the world walk by.

If California is going down, LA sure has a great attitude about it.

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