i am coming up on 20 years in los angeles.
when i think about it, i have been living here longer than i have lived anywhere in my life--at least continuously. i grew up in chula vista, a suburb of san diego, and lived there for 18 years before i went to maryland to spend two years at the naval academy. i came back home after leaving the academy and lived in san diego for another 9 years, so although i have lived in the san diego area for more cumulative years, they do not match the continuous years i have lived in los angeles.
so who cares?
well, i do. the point is that los angeles feels more like home to me than san diego. whenever i go south i feel more like a visitor than a returning son.
when i do my best to think about my life pre-los angeles, that is, my life in san diego, i try to bring up memories of how i experienced people back then. there is a reason for this which i will get to, in my usual fashion, in time. since i moved to los angeles when i was 29, i am referring primarily to my 20's. what i do remember from that time is that i was having a very hard time in relationship, if you could call what i did back then "relationship". i was sad a lot of the time. i will also tell you that i felt kind of invisible, despite the fact that i was a stage performer and a bartender at a popular club. at least i felt invisible when i was not engaged in one of these two activities. i remember that, while i did not feel particularily hostile towards people, i did not exactly trust them either. in fact, i would attribute most of my sense of invisibility to the fact that i did a lot of hiding back then--i think i was trying to stay out of harms way, as it were. this was in opposition to when i was performing or bartending, when i had the defense of the stage or the bar to separate me out from the masses. i just didn't have the experience of being noticed by people unless i was manning a bar or doing a show, and for the most part, that was alright with me, except for the times when i was seeking company, then it wasn't alright with me.
when i think about that time, i have an opportunity to observe what was missing from my experience with people that is present now. as i said, i felt pretty much ignored when i was not "on stage". the difference now, besides not being on stage, is that in addition to being ignored, i am also often dismissed, disregarded, or treated with disgust.
NOW, i can just hear all of you saying "ohforpetessakegivemeabreak!!!!", but hold on for a minute while i break this down for you.
in a city as huge as los angeles, it is a good idea to be somewhat defensive when mucking about. this is because it is likely that out of all the people you run into in the course of the day, you will probably only know less than half of them, if that. often, it is hard to trust those we know, so can you imagine the potential threat from those we don't know? i wish i could say that the strangers i run into here are all friendly and approachable, sane and engaging, courteous and respectful. but sadly, this is so fucking far from the case i just can't tell you. in the nearly 20 years i have been living here, i can report to you that my experience has been that the majority of the folks here are angry, hostile, suspicious, rude, arrogant, and often crazy as loons. now combine ALL of those things, and that is a bad day. granted, not everyone is this way, but a lot of them are. there is a general fury in the air that is evident just in watching passersby or checking out the craigslist rants and raves postings. there is racism, homophobia, mysogyny, and out and out cruelty.
i am not making this up. cities, especially huge cities, breed this. it is in the nature of any society where disconnection is part of the infrastructure, and where the best way to find a community is to join alcoholics anonymous. cities, historically, came about as a result of industry. industry needed lots of people to work, and so apartments and high rises were built to house all these people. despite the advantages, comfort, and ease that industry brought to life, it also unfortunately required that people leave the village culture, move to a place where they knew nobody, sometimes not even their neighbors, and then rely on others, often other strangers, to provide what they needed to live. the problem is that this is counter to our biology, which has evolved to have us wanting to be around our own people most of the time. meaning: there is an inherent instinctive, historical, and biological risk in being surrounded by strangers.
hello, big city.