August 24, 2005

That's So L.A.

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I just wanted to tell you that it’s all true. The monogrammed handbags that opened to reveal a small canine, the even tan lines, the giant alien sunglasses and cars worth more than your college education. What exactly am I referring to? An episode of The O.C.? The trashy photo spreads of most celebrity gossip magazines? No, ignorant readers, I’m referring to the phenomenon known as “living in Los Angeles.” You laugh. Perhaps you are from Los Angeles or have had a similar experience or just want to tell me that I’m spreading heavily-biased, media-fueled lies. And you would be right, in the sense that I am heavily biased. Heavily biased towards the truth, that is.

Anyway, it wasn’t until the third pair of suspiciously perky and firm chest implants I saw (all in a row), that I realized this place was something else. Never before had I ever heard anyone ask a supermarket if they carried “non-meat, non-dairy, non-flour hamburger patties” and then heard the supermarket employee reply with an enthusiastic, “right down this aisle!” What? And here I was thinking that the garden burger was the height of food technology. A trip to Whole Foods (the health food supermarket that seemed to have overran the city) revealed that I had previously been living in the dark ages. Just the bread aisle yielded seemingly impossible varieties of bread such as flour-free, wheat-free or even one made specifically for women, menopausal women that is. It seemed that the entire city was fueled by one purpose: looking good. I know it may seem that I was being entirely superficial in my generalization, but that’s only because I was being entirely superficial in my generalization. Even restaurants were following with the trend, advertising themselves as “macrobiotic vegan” or “gourmet raw food.” Before I knew it, even I was starting to buy into the entire drive to succeed aesthetically, pressured by the entire avenues of yogalates studios and gyms that I passed everyday on my way to work.

I want to say that I adapted just fine, with my cell phone glued to my ear and my boho purse slung haphazardly over one shoulder as I browed through boutiques on Robertson Boulevard. Instead, I just stared. Starred at the rows and rows of sunsoakers at every beach I went to and also at the outrageously outfitted entourages of teenagers from Bel Air who drove European cars whose names I couldn’t even pronounce. That being said, the worst thing I encountered (besides the non-stop traffic and cutthroat parking situation) was the pollution.

Despite initially giving off an impression of superficiality and an unhealthy preoccupation with appearances, Los Angeles was surprisingly helpful in an ironic way. With a driven population completely unimpressed with the entertainment industry that the rest of the world designates as its source of identity, L.A. forced me to just get over it. So what if the street or the local Coffee Bean was suddenly closed due to filming of some show or commercial, all it meant was perhaps a slightly longer walk to the nearest Starbucks. Who cares if you have a friend who works in “the industry” because the accountant at my office is actually a reoccurring cast member on a new fall pilot.

So thank you L.A., for making me jaded and level-headed, no really! Without you, I would still be gushing over every new Hollywood commodity with shameless glee. But now I know better. I know that without Botox, the entire west side of L.A. would not show up for work on Monday morning. Just kidding!

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor