‘Another perfect day…’ Thoughts on the City of Angels, or Dreams

August 2018 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

carl-sampsonRandy Newman had it right: “I Love L.A.” – with an exclamation mark! I and a couple of my kids recently spent a long weekend in Los Angeles and, while I’m certainly no expert on that city, there’s way more to it than meets the eye.

I once was talking with an acquaintance who moved to L.A. from the Midwest. I asked him if he liked it.

He thought a minute, and said, ”I like everything about it, especially the dysfunction of it.”

I thought about that as I drove across L.A. with one of my sons, who was moving there after a couple of years in San Francisco. The contrast between the two cities was stark. San Francisco is a gorgeous town. It looks as though it was designed by Disney Imagineers. Everything – well, almost everything – seems to be in the right place and the right size and scale. The hills give the landscape drama and context. Come to think of it, I don’t think the folks at Disney could do better.

But, boy howdy, San Francisco is expensive. A “cheap” apartment there goes for $3,200 a month. Try making those ends meet. San Francisco is perfect if you have a fat wallet.

L.A. is completely different. While San Francisco is handsome, L.A. seems to me to be a working city, a place where people aspire to big things. It’s a beehive.

We learned about interesting stuff
that you would probably never learn anywhere else.

A lady in a hotel bar told us about selling arms to the Kurds in eastern Turkey. And what it was like to hang out with “Tim” Leary, the Harvard professor who made a name for himself by promoting LSD.

And that was just the first day.

L.A. is also the city of dreams. Big dreams, small dreams, shattered dreams, and dreams that came true. You can see it as you walk around any part of that sprawling city. We met an aspiring actress from Atlanta, a woman from Croatia, another from France, others from near and far, all following their dreams.

Those are the people I envy. Each of us has a dream, usually when we are younger, and because of a variety of factors, we decide to compromise.

The next thing we know, we are 65 and wondering what life would have been like if we weren’t so willing to give up on
our dreams. In L.A., those dreams are still alive.

L.A. is full of surprises. We spent a Saturday exploring and literally stumbled across the most amazing car museum I’ve ever seen – the Peterson Automotive Museum – which was just down the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Too cool!

I always worry about driving in L.A. After all, about 10 million people live in Los Angeles County. That’s 2 1/2 times the population of Oregon.

As we headed to the L.A. airport, we were worried about traffic, and while it didn’t go 70 mph it kept moving and we arrived in plenty of time for our flight.

I was reminded of that when we got back to Portland, found our car and, at 11 p.m. on a Sunday, sat in a traffic jam, parked on I-205. And that was before all the roadwork started.

Yep, I love L.A., for all of its vibrance, its quirks and its dreams, just as I don’t love Portland for its ineptitude.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Stayton.

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