Thursday, May 15, 2008

May Or May Not - A Month Of Militancy, Part 2: F/Buck The Stereotypes!

You've heard them all before. And maybe you may or may not have spouted some yourself (shame on you). But hearing all the lame cliche preprogrammed stereotypes about this great city is one of the realities of being an Angeleno. Fortunately, one of the realities of being a Militant Angeleno is knowing how to debunk them. So in this second (yes, the Militant has been behind again, but think of this as ten posts in one!) installment of May or May Not - A Month of Militancy, the Militant presents, in no particular order, the most commonly-heard Los Angeles stereotypes and his responses to them, so you can prepare yourself for delivering some serious pwnage to the next whiny transy you encounter.

Yes, nobody in Los Angeles takes transit. Every one of those people were Photoshopped in. Yeah, Uh-huh.

1. "Nobody takes transit in L.A./This is L.A., everybody drives a car." Sarcasm aside, that was an actual photo above of the Red Line at Union Station. Shouldn't it be empty or something? If nobody takes transit, then why do these people (however misguided) gripe about overcrowded buses? Yes, this is "L.A.," but even more importantly, this is the 21st century. Gas is currently around $4, and according to a recent survey, 66% of drivers are driving less these days. Is our transit system perfect? Of course not. But it's not gonna get any better if you discourage people from taking it. The Militant supports all modes of transit, and isn't necessarily anti-car. Driving a car is meant to be fun. But it's not fun when you're stuck in traffic. So a real Militant Angeleno only drives when the conditions are present where it's less hectic.

2. "L.A. is sooooo spread out." The Militant swears that most transplants are not actually humans but robots; because they come equipped with pre-recorded voice playback systems that seemingly repeat that phrase on cue. Perhaps they come here to assimilate Angelenos into their Borg or are part of the robotic insurrection that John Connor (a native Angeleno, after all) must defeat. The large size of the region can't be argued, but why the loaded "spread out" instead of simply, "large" and "grand?" Nobody ever says the United States of America is "sooooo spread out." Nobody ever says the state of Texas is "sooooo spread out." But they are. So why does only Los Angeles get this negative distinction? Well all the Militant will have to say is that people fear the unknown and dislike what they fear. They like to point out its spreadoutedness as if it's the way Angelenos originally planned it. But in reality, it's people originally from the East Coast who designed Los Angeles the way it is.

Los Angeles started as a tiny pueblo along a river by Spanish pobladores in September 1781. For more than 100 years it remained a tiny pueblo, and even until as recently as the turn of the 20th century it was just a little 25-square mile patch centered where Downtown is today (denoted by the yellow square in the map). Who made it spread out? People like Phineas Banning from Wilmington, DE, who built a railroad from Downtown to San Pedro and created a harbor (the harbor was supposed to be much closer in Santa Monica, but Banning, in his spreadouted wisdom wanted it over 20 miles south). Or Henry Huntington from Oneonta, NY, who acquired, developed and sold land all around Southern California and built his own electric railway to connect everything together. Come to think of it, lots of people rode around in that thing back in the day, which was larger than the NYC subway system, and Southern California was waaaay less dense than it is today. Take that.

3. "L.A. will never be a bicycling city." Yes, the Militant knows what today is. But he isn't celebrating it with any special fanfare since, well nearly every day is BTWD. But seriously now, have you noticed the increased number of bikes on the road? And why are things like this and this suddenly getting attention lately? Hmmm? Even more important, Los Angeles has more or less a grid system of generally wide-enough roads, relatively flat terrain (who wants to bike in Frisco with all those hills?) and FAVORABLE WEATHER (which is the reason why most of you fools are here in the first place). Things like ignorant drivers can always be mitigated. Besides, around a hundred years ago, long before we had freeways for automobiles, they built this thing just for bicycles - the first of its kind anywhere - in what is now NELA.

4. "L.A. food sucks. You can never find a decent ______ out here!" Oh, poor you. You came "out here" to be famous/work in the industry. You came "out here" because you like the weather. But gasp! The food isn't to your liking! So the whole place sucks now! Oh the horror!
Now if that were a real whiny transy speaking to the Militant, the bitch-slapping would commence right about now. But this is only a re-enactment. Okay, so transplants come here and expect everything to be in its proper place, and in their little idyllic, myopic world, life has the best of "out here" and the best of "back home," and you never have to work hard, be concerned or worry about anything ever. Yeah. Okay. So the best pizzeria in town, despite their efforts to be authentically NY/East Coast, still does not pass muster. Well there's a scientific reason for that. Social scientists have hypothesized that food is intrinsically linked with nostalgic emotions. In Deborah Lupton's book Food, the Body and the Self, she writes:

"Commodities such as food act as "storehouses" for meaning, serving as reminders of events in one's personal past. Personal nostalgia sacralizes commonplace food items whose consumption revives memories of good times. Personal nostalgia may be defined as a kind of homesickness, a sense of loss, a rosy memory of childhood as warm and secure. It involves a bittersweet longing for home."

So there you go. A decent slice of NY pizza isn't necessarily Los Angeles' weakness, it's a mere security blankie for the thumb-sucking transplant. So in reality, it's not that Los Angeles is in need of better pizza, but that these people really just need to see a shrink.

And yes, the same gastronostalgic emotions overcome many immigrants as well. But unlike transplants, they actually get off their asses and learn how to make the damn food themselves.

5. "There's no places to eat past 10 p.m. out here." Where the f do you live? Orange County? That's just as Los Angeles as southwestern Connecticut is to NYC. Same region, not the same lifestyle. Aside from the expected, try Thai Town or Koreatown, where most establishments are open until 4 a.m. or 24 hours. And if you're too lame for ethnic food, the Militant spotted one place on Cahuenga in Hollywood opening soon (pictured right).

6. "L.A. people are self-centered, fake and superficial." If Angelenos were really that self-centered, fake and superficial, then why are there, according to, at least 2,300 (there are much more in actuality) 501(c)3 non-profit organizations in the Los Angeles area whose collective missions are to serve various issue-, geographic-, faith-, ethnic- and needs-specific communities? And to help fulfill their missions with volunteers -- you know, people who do stuff for free? Doesn't sound characteristic of a land fraught with superficiality. Maybe people who say that just need to meet people in another part of town, or learn to actually learn to actually interact with people outside of their limited social sphere (which may actually include the self-centered, fake and superficial, but is in no means representative of the populace at large). You are what you know, and if all you know are self-centered, fake and superficial people, then maybe that self-centered, fake and superficial Angeleno is looking at you right in the mirror.

7. "People from L.A. don't know how to drive in the rain." Already covered it.

8. "L.A. is a one-industry town." Um, according to this site, these are the largest industries in Los Angeles, in order of employment:
  1. Direct international trade
  2. Tourism
  3. Technology, including aerospace
  4. Motion picture/TV production
  5. Business and professional services
  6. Wholesale trade (excluding autos, apparel)
  7. Health sciences/biomedicine
So gee, why is "our one industry" ranked #4?

9. "Everybody out here is from somewhere else." People who say that probably never read this here blog. One of the largest industries, listed above, is the health-related industry, which means we have a bunch of, you know, hospitals? And people are born in therefore, all these babies born in local hospitals are, you know, born in Los Angeles. Imagine that. Aside from yours truly, here's a list of other people you might have heard of who are actually from here.

10. "L.A. has no history." The Militant addresses this at length about every four posts, so no need to revisit that. But this page (select "Photo Collection" in the pulldown menu on top, and search at your heart's delight) will prove all the lackshistorytards wrong. So very wrong.

Oh there's more, and the Militant may or may not write an entire book debunking every stereotype about Los Angeles (hmmm...not a bad idea). But since the Militant's been lacking on posts lately, this'll do for now. Stay armed and stay Militant!


Alex Thompson said...

Right on! I get so pissed off and hyped and super red in my angry face just reading this because I remember people saying all this dumb crap. RAAGH. #2 and #4 drive me up the wall.

The only one I disagree with is #3. What planet are you living on that you think LA is bikeable. That's not gonna happen because it's just waaay too spread out.

Matthew Ruscigno said...

Great post. I think I need to build a robot to read the responses to all of these myths that I am tired of talking to people about.
Alex Thompson- You are everywhere. How many robots do you have to read the internet for you?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Militant for setting the record straight.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that those people are photoshop in? Because it's such a big effort to do so.

Militant Angeleno said...

Matt: Who needs robots when you got Iron Man?

Christine: The Militant may or may not have a lot of time on his hands. That, or a heavy dose of sarcasm.

LA MapNerd said...

Nice job of cliché-debunking.

One note, though:

The article about the Dobbins Cycleway at the DOT/FHWA site is a curious thing - it appears to be a promotional piece intended for publication back east.

But it was apparently written in anticipation of the Cycleway's eventual completion - it describes as existing fact portions of the Cycleway that were never actually built.

The only part of the proposed Pasadena-to-Downtown route that was actually constructed was the segment from the Green Hotel in Pasadena to the base of Raymond Hill near the Hotel Raymond, following the route of what is today Edmonson Alley, between Fair Oaks and Raymond - about a mile and a half of the total proposed nine-mile route.

Much of what is described in that article, including the route through the Arroyo Seco, the Casino in the hills of "Merlemount", and the terminal station downtown near the Plaza, was never actually built.

Anonymous said...

loves it! i think i've found my native angeleno twin in the militant. i had to stop being friends with people after i tried to enlighten them about all these myths. my efforts were to no avail so i dumped them out of remorse and pity.

Anonymous said...

Awsome post. Thanks for writing it!

Anonymous said...

Hit the nail on the head. These myths are so "Westside." If they lived the same distance from "The City" back home in New York, they'd be in New Jersey. Then they compare the equivalent of New Jersey with Manhattan. That's apples and oranges folks.

Leave the Westside ghetto and you'll meet lots of nice down-to-earth folks who were born here, don't work in "the industy" and know how to ride Metro. Can anyone tell I can't stand the Westside ? :-)

chicanaskies said...

The only people who think Angelenos are self-centered, fake, and superficial are white people who live on the Westside and are too scared to step foot anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

This was a truly great post. My jangled NYC nerves are enjoying my westside cocoon at the moment, but I look forward to getting to know the city better this summer.

Elsongs said...

Dude - High Five x Infinity +1!

I totally loved the part about John Connor being a native Angeleno. Reminds me of when my gf from the early '90s showed me the flood control channels in the Valley where they filmed the chase scenes form T2.

Unknown said...

Great great article. Don't believe the hype... err cliches.

Anonymous said...

LOL! This is funny, well-written blog post about illustrating the idiocy Angelenos have to put up with from.