When I first arrived in this city, it was tough. I had been planning this move for nearly a year, but it’s difficult to mentally prepare for the initial shock of a move to a city I had never visited, in a state I had never visited, where I had almost no friends and when I was truly on my own for the first time in my life. The drive in on Vermont Avenue to get to my new apartment at the end of my 1,913-mile journey was smog-choked and a bit unattractive. The apartment complex was not as nice-looking as I hoped it would be (I thought the hallways would be carpeted) and the room was a depressingly cavernous, empty shell like any brand new place would be.
But in any new situation, one adapts. I live in Koreatown, and there are good restaurants and bars here, far more than I’ll be able to explore anytime soon. I was not very successful at my attempt to get piano students before or since I got here, and I am looking for a studio or student referral service to join. (I’m flattered that one such service was “very impressed” with my qualifications, though they didn’t have an open position for me.) In the meantime, I deliver pizzas for Domino’s. I’m normally not too proud to admit that this is my job, but as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, this job gives me a snapshot of people’s lives. And that is especially interesting when my delivery area is primarily in Westwood, the neighborhood of Los Angeles immediately to the west of Beverly Hills. I deliver to stunning luxury apartments lining Wilshire Boulevard, and to apartment rooms that have doors that open directly to an open-air courtyard or even a rooftop (those doors could be blocked shut by a foot of snow if they were in Minnesota.) And, I deliver to UCLA. Occasionally I also get to go to Bel Air. Bel Air has 40-million-dollar houses, and I got to deliver to one recently; it’s on a mountainside and you can see the entire city of Los Angeles from their driveway.
One thing that has become pretty clear though is that the people of Los Angeles are very nice. Very very nice. Unless they’re in a car. But they only really get mad around rush hour, and it’s quite understandable. The traffic is like this: The freeways are clogged at major intersections even on weekends. Interstate 405, which runs through West LA and hosted the O.J. Simpson world’s slowest car chase, happens to be the busiest freeway, and maybe the busiest single road in the United States. There is another lane being added to I-405, which will not be enough. This creates incredible frustration in people who are driving and road rage. But other than that the people of Los Angeles have been quite kind (though they still keep to themselves), enough that I’m going to use “California nice” instead of “Minnesota nice”. They generally understand that it’s not too cool to ask pizza drivers for free food, and are not unduly mean when I’m having difficulties, with one recent exception. (I had to deal with a lot of rude customers when I worked in East Saint Paul… The high school students at Harding High School in Saint Paul were far more polite than the average adult in that area and actually opened doors for me.)
To me, in many ways, this city represents the future challenges of the United States. The traffic and smog are major problems, and make me think that finding alternative fuel won’t be enough by itself to meet our transportation needs. There needs to be a greater emphasis on public transportation, or someone needs to finally figure out how to make flying cars that are affordable. Even self-driving cars, something that’s a possibility within this decade, would help with traffic jams a little bit. The sidewalks in some places are covered with black spots that look like 40-year-old gum. The homeless population in Los Angeles is very visible, with a sleeping bag and a shopping cart piled high with someone’s dirty worldly possessions to be found on every block in this area. I don’t really think I would want to live here permanently, but until Toussaint and I become as successful in music as we want to be, I don’t really want to live much of anywhere else. Though I do wonder if we could make it in Europe first.
My new solo album Five Dollar Medicine is out today! For pictures of Los Angeles, see the photo album on Facebook. I will add ocean pictures when I can get back out to Santa Monica and not have to worry about parking my car, which is difficult when close to the ocean.