Friday, May 28, 2010

Wherever You Go, There You Are

LA isn’t fake. It’s not. Really. I mean it. I’m pretty sick of the whole So-Cal/Nor-Cal rivalry. To start with, I don’t really see the point. Beyond that the complaint I hear most up here in the wild hippie north is that people in LA are “fake.” Well, they’re not any more fake than people anywhere else. It’s kind of like “bad drivers” and traffic, people everywhere are bad drivers and traffic sucks anywhere you have an actual population of people who are, by definition, bad drivers.

I lived in LA and I’ll let you in on a little secret, there are “real” people there. There are, but there’s a trick to finding them. Now I’ll preface this by saying it’s a gross generalization, and I’m sure there’s good people in the industry, but this is good rule of thumb: If you want to avoid “fake” people don’t try to get into “the scene.” I think that’s the big mistake people make when they go to LA. No matter what they’re there for too many people go to LA and try to go to the cool clubs, meet stars, and try to live the life they see on “Entourage.” That is your ticket to fake. Here’s the truth, famous people have to be wary of you, and everyone like you sees you as competition. This doesn’t mean you can’t make real friends but if you’re trying to break in to the inner circle of LA cool and you’re a normal schlub with no connections you’re going to have a very frustrating time. It’s tough at the other end of the scale too. If you’re famous for some reason you’re going to have a lot of people trying to glom on which leads to dealing with a lot of “fake.”

Here’s the key to enjoying LA as a Nor-Cal, don’t give a crap. If you go to LA and don’t give a thought to trying to be something you are not you can have a great time. LA has museums and dive bars and theater and everything else you think you love about the bay area. If you want to have a good time in LA don’t try to figure out where Vinnie Chase hangs out, find out where his gardener hangs out. Don’t stand in line for some place with a $40 cover, find the place that has no doorman and no buzz but is crowded anyway. Make friends with people before finding out what they do or who they know. Basically, keep doing the things you did and being the person you were before you got to LA and you’ll have a great time. Because the real reason so many people are disappointed or unhappy with So-Cal is because they’re being fake. They go down there expecting to become something other than what they were before they arrived. Basically a lot of people get frustrated because their fake persona isn’t fooling anyone else either.

Of course Nor-Cal has its share of fake people too. The difference is that here you’re more likely to encounter fakeness in your everyday life and not even know it. Seriously, people act all kumbaya like they love everyone and are all about peace but a lot of the time it’s a front. Most hippies are out for themselves just like everyone else. Even worse, they’re usually more intolerant of opposing viewpoints than Tea Baggers and right wing whackos. Have you ever seen an indignant hippy? Let me give you an example, one year my wife asked my brother-in-law why he didn’t want to wrap his Christmas presents, because she thought is would be nice, he stormed out ranting that he clearly cares more about the environment that she does. Y’know, because not using wrapping paper that’s already been through several Christmases is going to save the world, it’s not because he’s a lazy hippy. The people ranting about the immigration law in Arizona are often the same people who don’t want to send home school information in Spanish or provide interpreters for PTA meetings. Because the fact is that intolerant tree huggers are still intolerant. At least in LA fake people who don’t think you can get them ahead have the decency to treat you like crap or ignore you to your face. Here in the “genuine” north it’s more likely that they’ll just pretend to be interested in you and then avoid your calls.

In a way I think I like the LA fakeness better than the San Fran fakeness. I’d rather be able to gauge people based on what they think of my clothes or my sunglasses than whether I only use locally farmed toilet paper. I’d rather be judged for my car being too cheap than for not being electric enough. The scenesters in SF are far more annoying than the ones in LA because the ones in SF act like they’re a part of something so real and so important and so different that no one else could ever possibly understand how real it is. The ones in LA are far more honest about their existence. I had a great time in LA because I never tried to get “in.” I loved LA because I ran into so many interesting people who were either on top, or on their way up, or on their way down, or who weren’t going anywhere ever. I had a great time going to weird places and meeting real people. LA, in my experience, is way more real than SF. I’d rather hang out in LA than in SF. I’d rather drive in LA than in SF. Of course I’d rather be in Berkeley than anywhere else but that goes without saying; even with all the fake kumbies running around.

Today’s point: There’s fake people everywhere. Fake southern hospitality. Fake Capitol Hill freaks. Fake mid-western modesty. Fake Wall Street D-bags. Fake ivory tower academics. The key to enjoying wherever you are is to stop trying to get “in.” If being “in” is who you are or what you’re working towards then you should know from the jump that you’re going to have to deal with some kind of fake so don’t be surprised, throw on your mask and have fun.