My friend Nina invited me to come with her to her friend Seema’s fancy condo downtown where we could sit by the pool or soak in the jacuzzi. I was gonna write my first Los Angeles-based post of the second decade of the 21st century from there. But it turned out we couldn’t get a WiFi signal up on the roof. So I’m doing it from my apartment. But Nina took a photo of me pretending to write a blog post in my swimming trunks and brown socks. So you can pretend I’m writing from there.
Me and Meow-Meow the cat are sitting on the balcony. We’re five stories up and I’m hoping Meow-Meow’s self preservation instincts prevent her from sticking any more than her head through the guard rail bars. Crum is now living with my former upstairs neighbor Dave who has fallen madly in love with him. I don’t think I can ever get Crum back now. But I know that he and Dave will be happy together and Crum can still go over and bother Noodles and the other kitties in the building.
This will be my second attempt at living in Los Angeles. The first did not turn out well. But then again, that time I did not move here by choice. Tsuburaya Productions wanted to start a Los Angeles office and they wanted me to be in charge of that office. So they shipped me out to America away from my beloved Tokyo, where I had intended to live out my days hunting for old monster toys at Nakano Broadway. Oh and doing zazen and being all spiritual and stuff.
That time I wasn’t really happy about moving to Los Angeles and then after I got there all sorts of unpleasant things began happening (which you can read about in my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate). So I was glad to get out of there. I first tried living in the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. But that wasn’t for me. So I left my stuff in the storage space I had rented there when I intended to move there and was homeless for about a year. I wasn’t really homeless in the sense that I was living on the streets. But I did not have my own apartment for most of that year. I lived briefly in Brooklyn. But the really cheap place I found there did not last and I couldn’t afford real New York rents. So I ended up back in Akron for about 15 months.
Akron’s a funny place. A lot of amazing stuff comes out of Akron; Devo, The Black Keys, Chrissy Hynde, LeBron James… But most of that amazing stuff doesn’t stay in Akron. Here’s my pet theory on why that is. Akron is a boring and normal place. Or I should say, it tries very hard to be boring and normal. It’s not boring because of its location, which is actually a very beautiful part of the country. It’s boring because the vast majority of people who live there seem to crave boredom and normality.
Now if you ask me, there really is no such thing as boredom and normality. Boredom and normality are illusions. Nothing is boring and nothing is normal. But lots of people can’t cope with life unless they create the illusions of normality and boredom. They work very hard to establish these things. And so there are shopping malls and chain stores and restaurants that belong to corporations and TV sitcoms. Akron loves all of these things. The people there will support them.
Now some people in Akron realize that boredom and normality are illusions. But it’s hard to do that in a place where people support these illusions so strongly. So they have to fight a lot. It’s like a 24/7 battle. And this battle makes some of them very tough and very creative. But it also makes them tired. And when those people find out that there are places in the world where people crave the illusions of boredom and normality a little less than they do in Akron, those people move away and live there. Because in spite of the fact that it’s usually a lot more expensive to live in those places, it’s also a lot easier.
This does not mean that everyone who stays in Akron is, in Devo terms, a “spud boy.” Those who are not spuds, must find their own ways of coping with the largely spud-like population. Some do it very well. To me, those people seem really strong and dedicated. I admire them for it.
I escaped Akron first in the mid-80s when I moved to Chicago and then again in the early 90s when I moved to Tokyo after a brief stay back in Akron. So I’m already too far removed to go back permanently, I think. I have no family there, although I do have a lot of very good friends.
This is not to say that LA is any kind of paradise. I am now living with two roommates in an apartment about the size of the one I had in Akron on my own. And it’s costing me twice as much. Yesterday I got a parking ticket that cost $60 (the meter expired about seven minutes before we got back to it). There is no reason any ticket for an expired meter should ever cost $60. To me that’s reason enough right there to justify storming City Hall. But people here put up with that kind of shit. They are stupid for doing so. The ones who aren’t stupid are just too rich to care. People who are too rich to care about nonsense like this are a big part of why it’s hard to live in this city.
HELPFUL HINT: When in LA do not ever park at a parking meter. People in LA hate to walk. There is almost always free parking withing a quarter mile of the meters, sometimes within a block. Look for it. Also, read the signs very carefully. Many of them are deliberately confusing. They are hoping you will misunderstand their ambiguous wording and park in the wrong place. If you don’t understand the signs, park somewhere else.
And traffic here is ridiculous. And people who appear to be friendly usually have an agenda. Case in point: The building I’m now living in is one of these new-fangled LA apartments where they have a team of shiny happy people downstairs at the office ready to assist you at any moment. My landlords in Akron lived 45 minutes away and would answer your calls when they got around to them. My fridge leaked the entire time I lived there. On the other hand, when I was late with rent they would call me and ask me what was up, and I knew from others who lived there that sometimes arrangements could be made to pay late. They were a nice couple with a child who had Down’s Syndrome. I’m sure that if I was ever late with rent at this place those shiny happy people downstairs would turn into Terminator style robots and throw all my stuff including Meow-Meow over the balcony. And I will never know who really owns this building. Probably evil businessmen from some other county. You cannot trust people who pretend to be friendly here because everybody pretends to be friendly. Oh and there are earthquakes too.
Nevertheless, when I lived in Brooklyn I came to the shocking realization that I liked Los Angeles better than New York. I pictured myself more as a Woody Allen type who got along better in the cold and damp of NYC. But I’m not that type. I like the sunshine and the ocean. I like Amoeba Records and palm trees. I like seeing someone who looks like Cameron Diaz driving a convertible down Venice Boulevard and realizing it probably is Cameron Diaz. I like the pretentious hipsters in Silver Lake. They’re hilarious. This whole place is like Highland Square on steroids. Plus I lived in Tokyo where there are even more earthquakes than in Southern California.
Will my second time in LA be better than the first?
We shall see.