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1. You’re not from “Los Angeles.”
We’ve got a lot of pride in our city, but it’s second to a more localized loyalty. A team prefixed by Los Angeles wins a championship, sure, the whole town riots as one. But if somebody sits down in a bar next to a guy born and raised in LA and asks where he’s from, that guy isn’t going to say he’s from Los Angeles. That guy is from Santa Monica. Or Culver City, or West Hollywood, or any other individual city that makes up the megalopolis that is LA.
It’s not that we hate each other (although there’s a fair amount of snobbery that goes on). It’s just that Los Angeles as a city is so diverse that each neighborhood/city has turned into a niche, sheltering the inhabitants from the horrors of having to adapt to other people. It’s like the nation-states of Ancient Greece, with better hot dogs and worse drivers. America may be a melting pot, but Los Angeles is a box of chocolates, and the caramel doesn’t like being called the coconut.
Ignore this fact and you risk — shudder — being called a tourist. Or worse — a transplant.
2. Most conversations involve directions.
Everybody laughed when Saturday Night Live did “The Californians,” but people in Los Angeles sat confused for a moment, running the listed directions through their head and seeing if they made sense. It’s like an unconscious disease that’s wormed its way into our minds, where we constantly need to know the fastest way from point A to point B at any given time, because hey, you never know when Olympic will back up for a few miles when you’re trying to get home.
It gets worse in the car, where it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about anything else. Picture this: a passenger consulting Waze, and two more debating with the driver whether going all the way to the 405 will save time. And that’s just on the way to the grocery store.
3. Traffic doesn’t really even bother you anymore.
On the other hand, sometimes you really can’t be bothered to take 40 turns just to get home after a long day of work. The 405 is packed, but there’s something Zen, something stereotypically Californian, about sitting in traffic with the window down listening to music without a care in the world.
Most people would get frustrated. Tourists gape at the prospect of taking two hours to drive 10 miles. Those tourists usually have a reliable public transportation system back home. Probably one that even takes them all the way to the airport, the spoiled bastards. Angelenos have had to deal their whole lives. Like a blind man whose other senses have had to work harder to compensate, Angelenos have learned to cope with the facts of life. Our sense of patience is working overtime.
4. But you’re still holding out hope for a subway to the sea.
We act like we’re not jealous of all those Londoners with Oyster cards and the Chube. We’ve adapted. But secretly, every time whispers go around about a subway extension (at least once a year), we turn into giddy little kids on career day dreaming about the day they become a fireman.
Oh, could you just imagine! Cheap and reliable service to LAX and Venice Beach! People have made dozens of imaginary maps of what it could look like, with so many lines and stops that construction wouldn’t be finished until the sun exploded. They’re the kind of drawings teenage girls do in their notebooks, only replace her future wedding dress with a way to get home from the bars that doesn’t include an angry taxi driver.
There are steps being taken nowadays. Legislation being passed, new stops being put in. But Los Angeles’ economy looks like Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes straight up took a dump on it. There’s a 70-year backlog on potholes that need filling. Right now, that subway to the sea may be a fairy tale, something people born 10 years from now might one day enjoy. But there’s no shame in holding out hope.
5. You’ve accused somebody of being a transplant as an insult.
When somebody from Los Angeles gets mad, the first reaction is to call the offender a transplant — somebody who just moved to the city. To be fair, there are a shit ton of transplants here. Naïve blonde chicks from Ohio who skipped college to try and make it as an actress, and hey, they’ve got a casting session in the valley with some dude they met in a bar!
But it’s not exactly something to be ashamed of, and locals still use it as their go-to method to be as offensive as possible. The driver that cuts them off? Transplant. The guy who doesn’t know how to merge? Transplant. The idiots crossing the road when you have a green light? Better believe that’s a fucking transplant.
Half the transplants come out when you’re behind the wheel. The other half come out when you believe somebody is misrepresenting Los Angeles, forgetting the fact that in a city of 3 million people, there’s bound to be some differing opinions. There will probably be a transplant comment in the comments of this very article. To hear an average Angeleno tell the tale, there would be only five “real” Angelenos in the entire goddamn city.
6. You avoid Hollywood like the plague.
The Hollywood sign is an international icon. So are the Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame. With such a rich culture, steeped in the tradition of film and glamor, surely Hollywood must be the place to be for spotting the hippest celebrities and getting just a glimpse of the movie star treatment. Right?
Here’s the flaw in that logic: Why the hell would anybody, celebrities included, go someplace filled with people specifically trying to ogle their every move? There are two types of people actually in Hollywood. Transplants and tourists who didn’t think things through, and homeless people dressed as Spider-Man ready to stab them for taking a picture without paying.
Hollywood, especially Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, is a bona fide shithole. Mr. Rogers’ star on the Walk of Fame is in front of a sex shop. All the glamor of the Academy Awards is an annual marketing machine. People from Los Angeles are at least aware of that.
7. You get unnaturally attached to mediocre local food joints.
A little over a year ago, Henry’s Tacos closed its doors. La-di-da, right? Except Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad tweeted out an attempt to save the restaurant, and people piled out in droves. There were petitions and sit-ins. More celebrities gave their support to the little taco stand in North Hollywood. Of course, it ended up being for naught — the shop still closed down — but the support and outrage was huge.
Here’s the thing: Henry’s Tacos was pretty standard fare. In a town like Los Angeles, you could throw a burrito in the air and hit a better Mexican joint. What made it special was the fact that it had existed in the same spot for 50 years. Remember that neighborhood loyalty we talked about way back up in #1? People are fiercely protective of neighborhood institutions, and when you grow up getting the same taco every Wednesday, you get attached. Nostalgia is a tasty seasoning.
Every Angeleno has a local joint they go to, and while it may not be their favorite — they might not even go very often — they would be devastated to find out it was shutting its doors. Let’s see a McDonald’s pull that off.
8. But you still take friends from out of town straight to the In-N-Out near the airport.
…But that’s not to say we hate chains. In-N-Out isn’t some small local fare by any means — they’re in Texas now for God’s sake — but there’s something about the mystique of the secret menu and its refusal to franchise that makes it feel distinctly Californian. And it started just outside of Los Angeles, so we can at least pretend it’s ours.
By now, everybody’s heard of In-N-Out and the secret menu’s out, so when friends come to visit, they always want to try out the Animal Style they’ve heard so much about. One of the most convenient locations is on Sepulveda, just near the exit to LAX, so the line is always packed with foreigners wondering why the menu is so sparse and locals trying to get one last Double Double before they go away for a while.
You’d think there would be some kind of hipster effect, where Angelenos start to hate it as it proliferates outwards, but the food is just too good. I can’t stay mad at you, 3×3 Animal Style with Animal Fries.
9. You cringe at the word “hella.”
Los Angeles and San Francisco have a bit of a one-sided rivalry. San Francisco hates LA. They hate our better weather, they hate our “vapid culture,” and most of all they hate the Dodgers. Meanwhile, Los Angeles doesn’t mind San Francisco. The rain and fog is a nice break from the 364 days of sunshine we get a year. The Giants may win their share of baseball games, but Dodger Dogs are a damn good consolation prize. Nobody from LA will talk shit on San Francisco in any serious manner.
But there’s one thing we can’t forgive: the word “hella.” It’s nails on a chalkboard. If you’ve never heard it before, think of it like a synonym for “very.” So, “Dude, I’m pretty hungry,” becomes, “Yo, I’m hella hungry.” It’s just…why? The worst part is that nobody can explain why we hate it so much. We Angelenos say words that probably sound just as stupid to other people. But hella, man. It’s so, really, very annoying.
10. You get anxious at the prospect of jaywalking or parking.
When I first started going abroad, people would cross the street wherever the hell they wanted. I didn’t get it. They would run into the street right in front of cars, even police cars, as if they were playing a real life game of Frogger, and nobody batted an eye. I had to fight to swallow my anxiety before I could follow.
It’s not that I was afraid of being hit by a car. It’s conditioning. In Los Angeles, the police won’t hesitate to pass out jaywalking tickets to anybody brave enough to step off a curb before the little green man beckons from across the road. You laugh at that scene in Harold & Kumar. We nod in humble sympathy. Of course, we have a ton of unsolved crimes, but somehow passing out jaywalking tickets takes precedence. Gotta get that city budget back up to snuff, I guess.
It’s the same with parking. Whenever you park, you feel a biological compulsion to read through every detail of the ticketing times. When you’re abroad, these roughly amount to “don’t park here at night.” In LA, you can park on one side of the street every other day for two hours in the morning except Tuesdays which is one hour and every other day you can park for six hours but only if you have a permit. At a certain point, you just say “fuck it” and park elsewhere. And you’ll still come back to find a ticket left a minute after the time expired.
11. You’re fanatical about at least one of Los Angeles’ sports teams.
Maybe you’ve heard: Los Angeles has sports teams. And they’re pretty damn good. So good, in fact, that some of their best rivalries don’t even leave the city. Bryant #24 jerseys are so popular that half the people wearing them couldn’t name another player, and the Clippers handed the Lakers their worst loss in team history this year. The Kings won the Stanley Cup recently and single-handedly turned a city into hockey fanatics (bandwagon or not, the city loves its hockey). Without a professional football team, we’ve turned USC and UCLA into one of the greatest rivalries in sports, where people who attended neither pick sides.
Sports practically run this town. The very health and stability of the city hinges on whether or not one of our teams is in the running for the National Championship, and there’s gonna be a riot no matter the outcome. A city so broke it gives out jaywalking tickets will foot the bill for a parade if there’s a win.
Of course, this isn’t localized to Los Angeles. Everybody either loves us, or loves to hate us. But there’s something about getting free tacos in the Staples Center after a Lakers win that tastes oh so good.
12. You consider car chases a sport.
Speaking of being the national champions. Los Angeles is so good at car chases we have dedicated apps to let us know when they’re on TV. That’s when we crack a beer and cheer on our boys in blue as they zip through the streets in the ultimate contact sport. The news anchors are the announcers. The times the perp almost gets away are the touchdown plays. When the chase gets within a few blocks of your house, that’s a home game, and you better be craning your neck for a glimpse of the action.
Hell, OJ Simpson is our standing MVP in football and the chase.
It’s a morbid sport, sure. A lot of people aren’t into them. But like I said, people in LA are desensitized to traffic, and that includes the traffic hurtling 50 miles an hour down the wrong side of the road. In a town so driven by cars, you gotta insert a little levity into the equation. That’s the real mark of an Angeleno.