A lot has been written about New York; even more has been said about the city that has given Chicago an inferiority complex, Los Angeles a cultural arts complex, and San Francisco, well, honestly, I think that San Francisco is too busy dealing with its LA insecurities to worry too much about New York.
To quote John Updike, “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding” — and, to really appreciate that sentiment, you have to have lived in New York for a while. Because while it is a great city, it also seduces you into believing that it is, for all intents and purposes, the single greatest city in the world. The place where things happen first. The place that makes all others secondary.
A born and bred New Yorker, I moved out to LA more than 20 years ago, and, at that time, you couldn’t convince me that I would ever adore any other city the way I did New York. I really believed Frank’s words — “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” — until I actually heard myself saying them aloud to B. (a native New Yorker himself who had left about 15 years earlier than I had).
That’s when I realized a) how silly that sounded, b) how full of themselves New Yorkers can be about their city (hey, don’t throw tomatoes — I was one of you once), and c) how I never wanted to hear that song again. Ever. (Close-up of me with my fingers in my ears every New Year’s Eve when, while watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV, the song New York, New York is blasted at full volume.)
For a dyed-in-the-wool, 98%-of-my-wardrobe-is-black, you’ll-never-get-me-to-leave-this-pizza-behind New York girl, moving out to LA was a major change. In fact, the only thing that would have made me leave the Big Apple behind would have had to be something really extraordinary. And it was. I call him B. (By the way, that was a test; if you’re nodding over the “Big Apple” nomenclature, you’ve failed. No true New Yorker would ever say those two words unless it was part of a grocery list, e.g., “buy a big apple to make an apple pie.”)
So what did I find once I moved? In some ways, New York does continue to rule — the aforementioned pizza, the bagels, the walkability. But in many other ways, for me at least, LA comes out ahead — the proximity to natural beauty, with both ocean and mountains close by; the guacamole; the creative buzz (everyone is either an actor, a writer, a director, someone who knows one of the above, or someone who loves the movies — wink, wink); the weather (it’s 78 degrees as I sit here on February 6 — what’s it like in midtown Manhattan?). While the general LA vibe is more casual (I can’t remember the last time I had to dress up to go out to dinner), the business vibe is only deceptively more casual (Angelenos work just as hard as New Yorkers — we just may do it in flip flops and sweats instead of a suit and tie). And the museum and stage scene out here, while perhaps not as large as in New York, is certainly rich enough to satisfy even a reader of the Sunday New York Times (that would be moi).
“What about the traffic?” you ask. Have you ever ridden a New York City subway during rush hour? Personal space much? “What about the skyline?” you argue. Yup, that New York skyline is beautiful (don’t tell Chicago; again, it’s a sore spot). LA’s skyline may not be as impressive, except when you see those mountains in the background. Earthquakes? Yeah, we hate them. Also the fires and mudslides. But New York certainly gets its share of natural mayhem as well.
In the New York-or-LA debate, both cities certainly have much to recommend them. But when I add up the pros, the cons, and the just “what makes me happy” stuff, I choose LA.
In a New York minute.
ⓒ 2018 Claudia Grossman