2 Years in LA: LOVE
Looking back on my old lists, both Hate and Love, I kind of realized that I talked a lot less about stuff, on both sides. It’s not because I’ve become used to the stuff I hate, or that there’s less new stuff out there for me to go crazy for, but it’s all there now. I used to have clear delineations between “bad” and “good” experiences. At some point in the last year, my experiences became less and less like a list, and more and more like a life.
Today’s the day, officially two years in Los Angeles. Due to a hectic work schedule the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t talk about everything I like in the detail I originally wanted, but I think I hit all the high notes.
Mostly about food.
Don’t make that face. You knew what you were signing on for when you came to this blog.
My how the time flies when you’re employed. My first year here, that first seven months dragged, man. No structure and no car in a city as vast as LA can be maddening.
The best advice I got about being social in college was “find ways to make it smaller.” IU’s a big school and you’re not going to know everyone in one of your classes let alone the entire department or the school itself.
Plus, most English Majors are snobby pricks. Even me. Especially me.
Instead of bonding with the people I sat next to every other day, I joined a comedy group. That group of alcoholic perverts became the core of my existence at IU. They were my bedrock, and in making my world smaller, it expanded when I made their connections to other people my connections.
Steady employment helped a lot with that in LA, as it forced me to interact with a lot of different people and, slowly but surely, find my place in Los Angeles.
There was no epiphany this year, no great moment where it all fell into place. I just kind of noticed one day that I had a larger circle of friends, most with no ties to Indiana University, which is kind of a big deal for me. I had actually branched out. I had had help getting my foot in the door, but after that, everything was on me.
I’ve gotten to the point where I have to remind myself that I live in Los Angeles. I’ve gotten so used to my life here, that it never dawns on me that I live in one of the largest cities on the planet. I’ll be walking to work, and I’ll look up, and there’s palm trees, or a sliver of the mountains in between buildings, and I realize where I’m living.
It’s not perfect, but nothing ever is. It’s not home, but I don’t feel like I could just walk away, either.
It’s where I live, and I’ve found a lot to love.
My New Place – Those of you who are familiar with my place in Koreatown know that it was not exactly optimal living conditions. Simply having my own space would ratchet up my lot in life by a lot on it’s own.
The new apartment has tall ceilings, and thanks to circumstance, is flanked by two wind tunnels, so it never gets too hot. I have a large kitchen to cook in and I can walk to work, which allowed me to sell the money pit that was my car. I’m at the end of Museum Row.
I can hit the LACMA with a rock, and I can lay a wreath where they shot Notorious BIG (which I will do). I’m surrounded by bars, bakeries, sandwich shops, and during weekdays all the food trucks come to me.
For the first time in two years I don’t have to jealously look at where my friends live and wonder why not me? Everyone can finally, at long last, suck it.
The Food – Again, I can’t believe Los Angeles doesn’t rank among the best cities to eat in. Time and time again, I look at list of eating destinations (I know, I know, fat guy jokes, got it) and LA’s never on there.
Maybe it’s the spread. You have to go north to San Gabriel to all the Chinese enclaves, West for Japan, south for Vietnamese, Korean food from giant bowls of noodles, to dumplings, to unlimited trays of meat smack in the heart of LA, but there’s a ton of great Asian food all over if you A.) know where to look and B.) are willing to go to a “bad” part of town.
“Bad” in Angelonese, I’m learning, means there’s no valets, or maybe the homes have bars on the windows. Sack up, pussies. It’s grafitti, not a gun.
And the Central and South American food?
Oh, your town has a “Mexican neighborhood?” That’s adorable. There’s not just one spot to go for awesome food from our Southern Cousins, but it’s regional. Entire blocks that only cook food found in one part of Mexico, east, west, coastal, roasts, wraps, deep fried, slow-cooked, or maybe a swath of the city that has places that only do Colombian.
Peruvian food abounds. I can, on a single mile walk, get Peruvian rotisserie chicken, two different bowls from regional ceviche specialists, and some kind of El Salvadoran monstrosity that looks like what would happen if a pizza and a quesadilla had a kid, and the kid was exposed to 1950’s movie radiation and became a giant menace.
There are a lot of young chefs out here cutting their teeth, and it’s amazing to read about chefs opening tiny restaurants downtown, or their own truck and see where they honed their skills. Cooks who should be in Michelin caliber restaurants or running the kitchen of a massive luxury hotel are instead taking the time to experiment and make the food that makes them happy.
They are cheap, accessible, and honestly, probably for a limited time. It’s refreshing to eat food made by someone who doesn’t want to be on TV.
Everyone’s in Good Shape – Some people take it too seriously, and there’s still the notion that somewhere out there is a special machine, technique, diet, or pill to make you thin. Clean living”s eating up all of my free time, but the lifestyle out here got me off the couch, in the gym, and out of danger of dying of a heart attack at 35.
Having said that, if they DID make a pill and DID work, I would take it in a heartbeat. Working out blows.
The Culture – Most people, when talking about LA use the world culture like “culture.” And it’s fair. This is the where the movies are made. Stories, worlds, entire lives are crafted here daily, and not just in fiction. Celebrities and pop stars have image consultants that tell them how to dress, what to wear, where to go, and coordinate with photographers to make sure they’re seen. That kind of “culture” is LA’s export and it’s what people see most of the time.
I think that’s a large part of the appeal for me is going out and finding the stuff that isn’t associated with Hollywood. There’s weekly screenings of classic movies in a cemetery. A summer and fall festival that unveils a giant outdoor screen in parks and shows action movies and R-rated comedies. The roller derby, the ethnic festivals, the food festivals, the block parties, comedians dropping into do surprise sets, musicians just showing up at a club because they feel like it.
There’s currently a lot of debate, back and forth, and a dirty tricks involving the food trucks. Some politicians don’t like the association that all food trucks are unlicensed, dirty, or only come to low-income/ high-crime neighborhoods. Restaurant owners don’t like the competition. Portions of the population feel that they are a vital part of LA’s food and culture scene.
Traditionally known as ‘roach coaches’ the vast majority of these serve quick, fast, and, most importantly, good Mexican food. They mainly cruise construction sites, valet lots, really anywhere the vast Hispanic population of the city, but the Kogi truck changed everything.
Started by Roy Choi, he’s one of those guys who could be running his own high end kitchen, realized that tortillas are good, and beef rib is good, and if you combine them, life’s awesome. He took to the streets, and instead of opening a new, hot restaurant in one part of town, which due to traffic and distance, means you cut out the other nine parts of town, he opened a truck, and every day could hit three parts of town, spreading his name, making bank, and keeping his overheard super low.
Yeah, food trucks get tickets, a lot of tickets, but that’s nothing compared to rent and utilities. Then he get got another truck. Then a third and a fourth.
He started the ball rolling on a whole wave of gourmet trucks and now there’s the ubiquitous Asian fusion food trucks, but now burger trucks, friend chicken trucks, dessert trucks, a truck that builds everything around french fries, and they use quality ingredients. They’re still able to keep it cheap because of that small overhead. A lot of of other cities may have food trucks, and according to what I’ve read there’s a few gourmet ones popping up, but in terms of numbers and quality, LA’s got it.
An army of good, cheap, quality, and highly mobile restaurants that can go anywhere and be at every event. It’s become it’s own little event. Going out with friends to eat a truck you’ve never been to, and to see another part of town that you’re not familiar with. The trucks team up with bars, serving food in their parking lot, and again, expanding your horizons, forcing you to open up and see what else is in LA.
There’s a whole world out there that exists in the margins and thanks to the Internet, you can be plugged into a whole network of off the radar culture. Sometimes you’re spoiled for choice on what to go out and do because so much is happening.
If anything the fact that LA isn’t celebrated as a food city or the perception that there’s nothing to do out here outside of Venice Beach, Sunset Strip, and the touristy stuff on Hollywood makes all that stuff on the outside of the bubble that much more fun. It’s got something to prove, and that chip on the shoulder translates into a lot of fun stuff.
It’s just on you to find it.
The goal for year three is to get a car that works and I can depend on, and maybe find some way to get paid for my writing.
Of course those were the goals for years one and two, so we’ll see.
Posted on September 13, 2010, in Lists, Matt Loman, Uncategorized and tagged 2 years in LA, anniversary, culture, food, let's keep this crazy train going, love, Matt Loman. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.