Los Angeles, Give Me Some of You!

“Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.”

John Fante, “Ask the Dust”

Us Northern Californians are prejudiced.

That’s right: prejudiced. We look down our noses, down the long craggy coastline, at Los Angeles as though it were the traffic-clogged  layer of Hell Dante forgot to mention. Tanned and Botoxed and full of silicone, Southern California steals our water, votes Republican, gave us the Governator. In its smog-laden haze of red carpets and reality shows, it skews our state’s reputation, bogs down our ethereal quest for Prius-driving utopia of gay marriage and legalized marijuana. It’s Sparta and we’re Athens, the “LA face and Oakland booty” that never quite make it onto the same person, never combine to create the ultimate bad-ass state, but instead go careening on their own individual, bickering paths of disapproval (NorCal) and complete unawareness/indifference (SoCal).

I once read an essay that whittled the whole Northern-Southern divide down to the difference between internal and external—Southern California was the glossy, teeth-whitened facade, Northern California the soulful, spiritually searching inside (you can guess which side of the debate the author fell on). It’s Bikram and we’re Hatha. And while Southern California remains too self-absorbed to even notice our despising of them, people write whole books on the cultural clashes of the US’s most populous state.

But I’ve long suspected that there’s more to Southern California than SUV-driving anorexics and flip-flop-wearing bros. It may have given us Kardashians and Speidi, but what about Charles Bukowski and John Fante, Camille Rose Garcia and The Date Farmers, The Germs and NWA? There must be, I’ve thought, a whole nuther Los Angeles, down beneath the glittering grotesque surface, that most people never see—hidden and raw, like an open wound or a small, beating heart.

I’m going to find it. I’m going, filling my beat-up car with gas and kicking the tires to check the air, going down the writhing road of Highway 1, past old Missions and crumbling cliffs, sleepy mansions and under-funded state parks. I’m headed into the desert, to psuedo-Old-West honky tonks and lawless squatter encampments. I’m watching swallows return from their long flight, to build strange nests and swoop their shadows through the dusk. And then I’m headed into the city itself, the city of Angeles and dreamers and dirtbags I’ve adored. I’ve got no traditional guidebook, no road map—just my phone and a smattering of tips divulged by friends and dug up on random websites.

Oh, and I’m taking you along for the ride.

17 Responses to “Los Angeles, Give Me Some of You!”

  1. 1 pam March 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Wow! Beautiful, beautiful post. I’m glad I’m coming with you!

  2. 2 Abbie March 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Can’t wait to read about it! And, just for the record, I’m originally from the east coast and have only lived in SoCal for 4.5 years lol

  3. 3 Mark Pritchard March 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Dude, when applied to one or more persons, the adjective is “prejudiced,” as in “He is so prejudiced against southern California that he refuses to travel south of Bakersfield.”

  4. 5 Ekua March 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Good luck with this quest. If nothing else, it will probably at least be warmer down there! Anyway, in all seriousness, I’m looking forward to hearing about your So Cal discoveries.

  5. 6 TheJetpacker March 12, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    We’re also heading to the Swallows Day parade next week in San Juan Capistrano. Maybe we’ll see ya there! There’s a great petting zoo called Zoomars nearby too. Also, check out The Great Park in Irvine where you can take a free 5-minute balloon ride.

  6. 8 TheJetpacker March 13, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Even more killer is the view… of pretty much nothing. But eventually a huge park will there… after the usual delayed construction and project going over budget.

    High five!? Don’t cheap out on us. We’ve got two hands — high TEN! That’s how we do it in SoCal!

  7. 9 GRRRL TRAVELER March 13, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Ha ha ha… I totally understand. Love love love the post and good luck in your unearthing of LA’s poetic grit (I thot Bukowski was from SF?) I wonder how much you’ll be able to find in LA- I went to school there way back when the landscape changed per block! These days, I feel like the entire city feels like it’s undergone a disappointing gentrification. I really don’t feel much of the dirt or raw age anymore…even downtown feels clean. Hope you find it again!

  8. 10 Gray March 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Awesome. I had no idea there was a whole us vs. them thing with Northern and Southern California. I can see why, though. In any case, I am looking forward to your journey almost as much as if I were taking it. I would love to see what the non-Hollywood, non-superficial Los Angeles is like.

  9. 11 mickey March 13, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    with an opening quote of such sad beauty as your guide how can you not find what you are looking for – looking forward to being along for the ride

  10. 12 Susan March 13, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    LA is a very grand city! Good luck on your quest! I’m looking forward in seeing you there!

  11. 13 Joel March 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Votes Republican?

    Please don’t mix up us LA County folks with those Orange County denizens.

    Even California’s divisions are divided 😉

    Enjoy the journey!

    • 14 laurenquinn March 15, 2010 at 9:51 pm

      I know—LA’s pretty leftist. Pretty much all of coastal California except Orange County. Just exaggerating to make the point that, you know, we hella prejudice. 🙂

  12. 15 simonemarie March 16, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Oh, the old divide. LA isn’t as gritty as it once was, but then again — nor is the Bay Area. You’ll find some interesting stuff for sure, and some strong cultural influence from south of the border. And you will be deliciously warm. Excited to go along for the ride!

  13. 16 Toni December 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing such a nice thought, article is
    nice, thats why i have read it fully

  1. 1 Recommended Reads, March 14, 2010 | SoloFriendly.com Trackback on March 14, 2010 at 6:59 am
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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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