In Which We Arbitrate The War of the Worlds

This is the latest entry in our series about New York. Here we let the multi-talented Bridget Moloney decide whether exactly we want to spend the remainder of our life. Enjoy.

Los Angeles v. New York

by Bridget Moloney

Comparison-shopping is something I could do forever. I like it best online, switching between products, comparing user reviews, prices, shipping costs, color selection. As I considered a move from New York to L.A. I would’ve been well-served by a buyer’s guide. Sure, I have a massive internal database for the comparison, but it helps to see these things written down. Granted, this is my personal perspective, but since we have the exact same subjectivity, this should be helpful.

I am a second generation Los Angeleno, which is very rare, like an albino bison. I lived in the Valley, and then Brentwood, until shortly after my 18th birthday. After four years in Evanston, Illinois I moved to New York where I have been moving and shaking for the past three years.

IMAGINE ALL THE PEOPLE LIVING IN HARMONY

Let’s start with the obvious. L.A. is a company town. As a child, I was ignorant of that fact. Even though I grew up the daughter of a television writer-producer and a real estate agent (a classic Southern Californian combination). L.A. Story is still (fairly) funny for a reason. When I was in town during the Writer’s Strike I went to brunch at Hugo’s in Studio City and there were three separate parties with their picket signs leaning against the tables. I was too blasé to stare. What this does mean is that there are a lot of people in Los Angeles who think they are funny or deeply high concept and therefore moved to the city to create hit television shows. It is also full of attractive people who moved there to be on these television shows.

Not everyone succeeds in creating or being on these imagined television shows. There are a lot of people who once thought of themselves as attractive and high conceptual/funny, who are now opening Pilates studios, or teaching English, or moving back to Pennsylvania. But it’s not all show business all the time. I have a friend who moved to L.A. to get his PhD at UCLA because he loves to surf and do biochemistry! Plenty of people live and work in L.A. who are not in “the business.” I try to avoid using that phrase. Evidently, sometimes I fail at that.

New York has its industries. They seem to be finance and publishing. Again, that is oversimplifying but there are a lot of people I know who are white and went to college and live in New York and work in finance or publishing. I’m including magazines and any affiliation with SNL when I say “publishing.” New York is more diverse. You can’t help but spend time with people who aren’t doing the exact same things you are doing. When I say spend time I mean ride the bus, eat in certain diners, drink in certain bars and wait on line. Sometimes in L.A. the only people you see are just like you.

STEREOTYPE OR CAREFULLY OBSERVED REALITY?

Los Angeles, according to certain people, is full of vapid illiterates. That is, of course, completely ridiculous. Southern Maryland is full of vapid illiterates—as are large swathes of San Diego County. The flip side is New York is full of hustling poseurs. People think of New Yorkers as acting too busy or being too busy to show the least bit of compassion. As an experiment I’m ordering my next iced coffee in New York with “room for the milk of human kindness.”

Are people’s coastal stereotypes gendered? If L.A. and New York were rendered in cartoon form (beyond what’s in the New Yorker’s pages) would Los Angeles be a bimbo (female) and New York a douche bag (male)?

Is L.A. is wearing a low cut baggy tank top and flipflops drinking coffee and vocal frying about parking and New York is ordering vodka redbulls in a suit talking about how much his roommate sucks now that he got fired from Bear Stearns?

PERSONAL SAFETY

When people used to ask me about L.A. or moving to L.A., they always asked about car-jacking. This makes me think that the Los Angeles of 1993 is the one that exists in everyone’s mind.

To be honest, I feel safer in NY. There are so many people on the street, at least in the neighborhoods I frequent, I feel safe walking around at most times. Although I don’t wear headphones if it’s super late and I walk in the middle of the street if I see anyone I feel looks unsavory approaching me on the sidewalk, thank you very much.

In L.A. walking from your car to a restaurant, especially if you avoid valet, can feel a little creepy sometimes. The darker side of New York’s diverse throngs is the fact that many of them are crazy people like Spike Jonze, Barbra Streisand and Graydon Carter.

In Los Angeles, one is usually well insulated from crazy people: roll your windows up, don’t take a table closest to the sidewalk. In New York they are wherever you are, bumping into you, screaming and occasionally exposing themselves. That sort of thing doesn’t worry me but it can be a problem for sensitive individuals. I like to think of it as colorful. One afternoon a man carrying a tire seemed to be following me for a block calling me Scott. I crossed the street and he kept going – not scary, just very interesting. Cars, if not being carjacked, do offer a nice respite and are a great place to keep many things like books and changes of clothes.

NATURAL DISASTERS

I suffer from something known in the therapeutic community as “catastrophic thinking.” The basic breakdown for me is Earthquakes vs. Terrorism. People who have not been in earthquakes often express interest in experiencing one. Heck, I have friends who lived in Pasadena during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and have almost fond memories of it. Not I. I developed PTSD as an eleven year old. I spent the first months of college leaping from my desk and running to the doorway every time our upstairs dorm-mates dropped something (which, upon reflection, seemed really often). The rumbling of the subway can cause an elevated heart rate. When I’m in California and I wake up in the middle of the night my first thought is, “we are about to have an earthquake.”

I do not want to understate the immensity of the tragedy and horror of September 11th. I cannot begin to imagine what the victims and the survivors feel. I operate under the pretext that acts of terror are not inevitable. Some horrific plot could be hatched, but hopefully not. Also, I could be hit by a taxi or an AC could crush me. The world is an unpredictable place.

THE MORE YOU EAT

New York has better restaurants. I’m sorry it’s true. But L.A. has better produce (this cannot be overstated) and better Mexican food. For some people produce and Taquerias are more important than Momofuku. I will weep for David Chang’s distance when I move to Los Angeles.

WHEN YOU STEAL MY SUNSHINE

The weather is better in L.A. I really tire of that, “don’t you miss seasons?” bullshit. First of all, there are seasons in California, they are just subtler than the seasons east of the Mississippi. I do love the fall in New York, and the first couple of snows (I enjoyed the blizzard of ’06) and the warm evenings when restaurants first open up the outdoor seating.

February is bleak and endless, the longest 28ish days. I have never had more terrible allergies than I did this March in New York (supposedly the roach feces—ubiquitous in New York—makes one more susceptible to seasonal allergies.) Also, it can be really humid, which makes the chances of sitting in someone else’s sweat slick on the subway that much greater.

SCENERY

The L.A. River is not much of a river, whereas the Hudson and the East River are far more impressive. But you should not swim in any of them, so that’s a draw. There is a lot to say about this but basically it comes down to: do you like bigger spaces? Then L.A. it is. Do you like awesome architecture? Then it’s New York. Do you like Mid-Century neatness? Then L.A. Do you like Frank Lloyd Wright? Go to Oak Park, Illinois.

CULTURAL MYTHOLOGY

May I recommend E.B. White, Joan Didion, Raymond Chandler, Jonathan Lethem, Chet Baker, Rodgers and Hart, Bobby Short, Frank O’Hara (redundant I know, I have a thing) and Francesca Lia Block?

MISCELLANY

The supermarkets are just nightmarish in Manhattan any time except 10 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are better in Brooklyn and I imagine Queens, but have no personal Queens-market-going experience. The grocery stores also smell like wet cardboard. However, bodegas, for all their stale Butterfingers and overpriced supplies, are very convenient. In Los Angeles supermarkets are Xanadu! Large aisles! They smell great!

Traffic is terrible in Los Angeles and you can’t read while you commute. You can read while you commute in New York but you can also be groped (unfortunate). It can be lonely in your car but it can be unpleasantly scented on the train. Friends might be more concentrated in one city or the other. Family might be on one coast or the other, which might be good or bad depending on your particular dynamic. The cost of living is slightly less in Los Angeles, but you spend a lot of time thinking about the price of gas. There are many, many rodents in New York; sometimes they are in your apartment. In Los Angeles there are sometimes lizards in your house. Lizards vs. Rodents?

It’s not the things we already know, but the things we imagine we can have there, and might not yet feel certain of.

Bridget Moloney is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages.

NEW YORK

Part One (Will Hubbard)

Part Two (Matt Lutton)

Part Three (Brian DeLeeuw)

Part Four (Molly Young)

Part Five (Alex Carnevale)

Part Six (Rachel B. Glaser)

Part Seven (Brittany Julious)

Part Seven (Andrew Zornoza)

YOU SHOULD HAVE ALREADY SAID WHICH CITY YOU THOUGHT WAS BETTER IN THE COMMENTS PLZ

“I Was Wrong” – Badly Drawn Boy (mp3)

“You Were Right” – Badly Drawn Boy (mp3)

“All Possibilities” – Badly Drawn Boy (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Molly on The Emperor’s Children.

Will on poetrie and painters.

Dick Cheney’s favorite book.

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