This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.

Laura "Surly Girl" Coleman

West Los Angeles, California

Welcome to Los Angeles. Or for the purposes of this article, West LA.

According to Wikipedia, Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Felipe de Neve, but the US didn't steal it from the Mexicans until 1848. Apparently, the name "Los Angeles" is an abbreviated version of "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula", roughly translated as "The Gaping Maw Feeding Upon Lost Souls and Giving Birth to Broken Dreams."

It is the home of Hollywood-which is home to movies, movie stars and Michael Bay. Los Angeles rests near The Pacific Ring of Fire. It's a plate-tectonic phenomenon that creates big-ass fault lines like the one at San Andreas. This accounts for all the Goddamned earthquakes. I felt an aftershock after the 1994 Northridge quake. It was terrifying.

Fun Fact: not only is there considerable structural damage when the Angry Hand of God hits, but apparently all that ground shaking releases SPORES into the air causing a potentially fatal disease called Coccidioidomycosis or "Valley Fever".

So, let's review. Los Angeles: Mudslides, Fires, Earthquakes and SPORES. Awesome. The people who live in LA are insane.

Some of you might say, "Hey! You're not originally from L.A.! How can you pass judgment on a city you're not from?"

I can because no one is actually FROM LA. Most residents of LA are transplants lured to the city by promises of fame, fortune, and sit-com deals. And I'm here to tell you: Every time a stoplight changes, an actor's soul dies.

I was talking to a gentleman in a bar frequented by a lot of Chicago transplants. When asked what neighborhood he was from he replied, "Uh…somewhere around Grace and Damen…." And he trailed off in this really strange and unaffected way. And so I said:

"So…Roscoe Village?"

"I guess..."

"How LONG have you been in LA?"

"Too long."

There's an old saying that it takes 7 years to settle into LA. That's just how long it takes for it to eat your insides until there's nothing left but a vapid, bitter husk of a person sort of resembling you.

As a frequent VISITOR to LA, roughly once a year to see my dad, I can say with confidence that it is one of the most beautiful and yet horrifying cities in the Union. One can almost taste the fetid desperation that clings to everything. You can see it being washed off cars every day at one the city's one billion car washes.

That's not smog dust. It's the residue from the magma-like ick of compromised integrity that the entire city floats upon. That's why they only have a half-finished subway system. Not because of budget cuts or streets collapsing or because the whole place is built on SAND and loose pebbles. That's all a cover. Look to the La Brea Tar Pits for proof. Devouring creatures since the Dawn of Time B.C.

I mentioned the car washes. Exaggeration? Not really. Because everyone in LA drives. EVERYONE. And when you ask "How long will it take to get there?" Answer: 20 minutes. EVERYTHING is 20 minutes away. Even if it's an hour. Los Angeles has its own space-time continuum. Do not question it. Just accept it. It makes things easier. And it won't hurt as much.

Now, lest you think that everything in LA sucks, as I said, LA can be a rather beautiful city. The weather is gorgeous. All the time. When it doesn't stink like smog and sadness, there's the scent of Eucalyptus everywhere. The houses in the wealthier (lol) areas are stunning. At Christmastime, the trees are strewn with some really spectacular looking lights.

LA is full of iconic landmarks. For instance, when I go to LA, I stay in Century City off a street known as The Avenue of the Stars. This is what I see when I smoke cigarettes on the balcony.

That's right. Fox Plaza. Otherwise known as Nakatomi Tower. It's pretty f-in sweet.

There are also plenty of amazing places to eat. Most notably-for me at least-Carmine's on Santa Monica Boulevard. Don't be fooled by its lame website. This place is a pretty classy scene. The bartenders kick ass, the food is incredible and the rest of the staff treats you like family. An oasis in a town full of sycophants, to be sure. I've seen bullet holes in the walls made by Frank Sinatra during a poker game gone awry and on the night Princess Diana was murdered by cameras, I met Frank Stallone there. He was very tall.

For fast-food, There's In-n-Out Burger. Quite possibly the best fast food in the Land.

There's Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, and the fabled Hollywood Hills. Los Angeles also is still one of the most thriving music scenes in the country.

On the subject of celebrity sightings, aside from Frank Stallone, I haven't seen many. They're a wily and elusive bunch, and I really couldn't care less about them. But I did meet and talk to Vince Vaughn. In 1999. Before his lost hair and alcohol problem turned him middle-aged. Vince Vaughn is also from Chicago. Lake Forest to be precise. He was NOT nice. LA got to him. He is dead inside.

OH! I almost forgot. Los Angeles is famous for one more thing. Jay-Walking tickets.

If you are caught crossing the street ANYWHERE outside designated crosswalks, you can bet your ass you'll get a ticket.

It happened to my brother. When asked by the incredulous cop:

"Where are you from?"


"And you just cross the street wherever you want?"

"Um, Yeah."

The cop let him go, backing away slowly as if from something dark and unnatural.

We've since been trained.

You've been warned.

Goodbye, California! Thanks for all the happy memories. Now it's across the shining seas to the Dark Continent, where the world is not sunshine and surfboards.

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