Welcome to LA

Greetings, Super Bowl visitors. Welcome to our little land of mellow mornings and high achievement. Here are a few things you should know about our humble coastal village:

There are parts of LA that are crafted entirely of butterflies – Bel Air, for one. Palos Verdes, another.

LA is more of big meme than a brand, or sometimes a cartoon.

We are a land of contrasts, of expansive natural beauty, of chin tucks and lousy lip jobs.

We have a river that’s not actually a river — your icemaker probably has more juice.

And in Pasadena, there’s a Lake Street but no lake.

We constantly ask ourselves: Do we love LA? Do we loathe LA? The answer is always yes.

Because our elaborate freeway system is the envy of the world. Average speed, 4 miles per hour.

We have the best carwashes. In the foothills, wild bears often plop down in the pools.

At night, our young people put aside their schoolwork for a few hours to spray paint the overpasses and any available concrete.

We have a mayor who looks just like the goofball dad from “Modern Family.” Instead of wearing a Covid mask in public, he merely holds his breath. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three…

Please note that the locals are laid back but a little angry beneath the surface – at outsiders, at insiders, at the traffic, at their exes, at the growing army of tents crammed onto sidewalks and public parks.

Sometimes we’re so tolerant, it’s almost a character flaw.

We’re pretty much like everywhere else, but different.

Half the population is therapists; the other half is coyotes. When a full moon comes up over the mountains, it looks like a hubcap full of cream.

There are rats in all the attics.

We love our Rams, though there are no rams. Our head coach is Opie from the Andy Griffith Show. Supposedly, he has a photographic memory. Might be our smartest public figure.

Actually, Sean McVay isn’t Opie. He’s football’s Keanu Reeves. He’s so positive and decent you want to hate him, but you can’t; after you watch him a while you realize he really, honestly believes all that stuff he’s saying.

If there’s anything we truly admire here, it’s success and sunny optimism, though deep down we’re not too sure we trust it.

If LA has a common emotional ribbon, it’s a robust Socratic skepticism. Too often, we ponder life too much.

Sure, sometimes we’re a little high. We eat far too many avocadoes. Kale is almost a fetish.

Our farmers markets are ridiculous. In mid-winter, we’re still getting tomatoes. Even the men eat way too many salads.

For such a healthy place, we gobble a lot of meds.

Everything starts early out here, especially youth baseball. The local infields are already scuffed up from the cleats of 7-year-old shortstops.

And the apple trees are popping—beautiful! — though it’s hardly warm enough for apple trees to start popping.

Meanwhile, nothing is too good for our children.

In the nicer neighborhoods, they’ve turned motherhood into some sort of AP Honors class. Who can hire the best nanny? Is it too soon to teach my toddler trig?

You wonder how the rest of society will ever catch up.

As big cities go – and I know all of them – LA is uncommonly kind and grateful. The other day, another driver let me cut in at a light. In Glendale!

While visiting LA, you’ll encounter basically four types of drivers: 1) Buttheads in Bentleys; 2) The Whip-Arounds; 2) The Cut-Ins; 3) The total lunatics who speed through school zones.

Basically, we drive like our brakes just failed.

We’re known for our cinematic natural light that changes constantly. The light is different in the morning from the evening, from Tuesday to Wednesday. Brassy. Burnished. Harlow gold.

In the mornings, the sun’s so bright you can barely see to drive. In the summer, the sunsets last till midnight.

By 8 pm, we’re all in our PJs so we can work out at sunup.

We order oak milk in our Starbucks and pretend it tastes the same.

Houses are super expensive. Inflation is running about 30%.

Hancock Park is our land of wide lawns and feral minds; Boyle Heights? Low-riders. Burbank? Burgers (the Original Bob’s Big Boy and Forman’s Whiskey Tavern in Toluca Lake).

A few years ago, downtown LA was like Denmark. Not so much anymore.

But the beaches are still pretty nice – the porpoise, the mermaids, the starlets, the unicorns. There are piers everywhere, but the best one is in Manhattan Beach.

The easiest way to get around? Hike.

You like to hike? We love to hike. Pretty much all we ever do is hike.

We’re also way into dogs. We dress them in little vests. They look like French soldiers.

Like most places, we’re probably proudest of our taverns. Brennan’s, near the marina, has turtle races every first and third Thursday (they actually keep them in turtle stables in the back).

Big Dean’s, at the base of Santa Monica Pier, is an incredible sports bar staffed by burned-out surfers. You might also like Duke’s in Malibu, where the crashing waves water the picture windows.

At sunset, look for something called the “Green Flash,” which is either a natural phenomenon that occurs when the sun kisses the Earth goodnight, or the next billion-dollar Marvel franchise,

Our best drive? Kanan Dume Road to PCH. Or, Sunset Boulevard — especially from the 405 to the sea, winding and lush (beware of Range Rovers). Takes only about 15 minutes, except when the schools let out, when it takes 3 hours.

Once you reach the beach, you can north to Zuma, or south to Santa Monica, which is really what you probably expect of  LA – leggy runners and girly dudes in board shorts.

Hope this helps. In LA, be sure to always leave a few hours too early – to the stadium, the airport, the Getty, the ER.

Occasionally, there’s congestion, not often. But you can never tell for sure.


Ready for some Cooper Kuppcakes? Look for our all-pro lineup of Super Bowl treats on Wednesday. Thanks for the contributions. Late rallies welcome. Send suggestions to Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. Go Rams! Cheers!

13 thoughts on “Welcome to LA

  1. I moved to So Cal 38 years ago. Still, my friends ask, “How can you live there?” I have no idea what they think goes on here. You don’t HAVE to participate in things that you don’t like, for Pete’s sake.

  2. Thanks for your delightful musings on all that makes LA so uniquely wonderful and maddening at the same time. You nailed it on Coach Keanu and Mayor Breathless. I have been trying for years to think of who it is that Garcetti reminds me of. YES, it’s the clueless dad on Modern Family! Now I can turn my mind to more important matters. Go, Rams!

  3. Advancing a pigskin across an enormous distance in pursuit of glory. What does that remind me of? Oh, I know. “Honk, honk!” Fighting for freedom. “Truck yeah!” LA is nice, but how about that DC in the winter, eh, eh? So, after you’re all done shoving your faces full of guacamole, find the biggest gas guzzler the family owns and let’s do this! Honnnk!

  4. Chris.
    Lake Ave in Pasadena gets its name from Lake Vineyard which is now Lacey park in San Marino. Filled back in the day by the steams flowing south from the San Gabriel mountains.
    There’s at least one natural lake (pond) in town
    Johnson Lake near the junction of La Loma & Laguna Rd.
    I grew up in Burbank, thanks for the tip on Furman’s Whiskey Tavern. My brother John built operated & sold The Burbank Saloon which became Tin Horn Flats a Mecca for Chicago Bear fans and Covid rebels!

    1. Big Dean’s yes. I will pass on Brennan’s and go straight to MB Pier and Shellbacks Tavern Cantina

  5. “By 8 pm, we’re all in our PJs so we can work out at sunup.” Then, still in our PJs, we head over to do our shopping at Walmart, where pants are optional.

  6. I don’t watch football,and always change the channel when sports news comes on. Except when Sean McVay talks. He’s just so earnest and positive. Also, BMW drivers are the biggest butt heads.

  7. “Half the population is therapists; the other half is coyotes.” !!!! so true !
    and don’t forget every little strip mall that has the obligatory donut shop, nail salon and yoga studio ~ ~ ~

  8. Hey Baybee !
    Who knows L.A. better? He came already knowing the way light can slant over the water to ignite a space. Miami and New Orleans are good training ground for reading ambiguity. He knew the white end of the spectrum, and was partially opened by it. Coming into the basin for the first time, it’s hazy lemon glow easing into consciousness—like L.A. itself—finally opened him completely, as it does to so many.

    He’s been deeply inhaling its orange Kool Aid for more than three decades, now. The Don Of Domestica, Mafioso Of The House, has consumed L.A., and been consumed by it; spun around and run over by that “hubcap full of cream”; intoxicated via the”Harlow Gold” in the air and on the dusty winter surfaces you see everywhere you look. L.A. is his house, his beat, his terra unfirma. The uncertainty stirs him, becomes him. Bask in his constant motion’s emotions, which may seem like a long running dream to those from somewhere else. You can see their acolytic notions in those found.sleep–driving on the freeway. There are more of those in town now than you can imagine. Baybee.
    Gooooooooo Rams!!

  9. Hey Chris, if that picture of the sunset over the ocean is from your deck, I’ll come & be your housekeeper!

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