Dear Los Angeles, California,
Though it saddens me to be away from you, I think we both knew it would happen eventually. Though my semester with you was truly the best, the BestSemester program only lasted four months, and I knew I had to return to finish my schooling in Canada. You must understand.
But I’m not sorry I came to visit you, even if it hurts to leave.
You’ve wrecked me, LA. How is it possible for a single place to be so magical and so devastating? You make dreams come to life on the silver screen, but you destroy thousands of dreams daily. I’m very conflicted. Please bear with me as I process.
You’re vast. Once I thought I understood you, there was still more of you to discover. Koreatown, Inglewood, Miracle Mile, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City . . . I could barely fathom your complexity and great size. Thankfully, I got to see you at your best from the Griffith Observatory. Boy, how you twinkle.
You’re savvy. You know exactly what’s happening in your film industry at all times, and everyone talks about it all the time. Countless billboards, bus-stop ads, and even park bench ads incessantly remind me of all the TV shows I need to watch to be as culturally relevant as you are. And I know that if I don’t read Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, I am truly dead to you and will never work again. But hey, at least we got to experience Westworld together—if you didn’t tell me to watch it, I probably wouldn’t have.
You’re narcissistic. You’ve managed to cast yourself in over 600 movies (and masochistic, since you’ve destroyed yourself in 26). Even before I met you, I could never understand why you liked yourself so much. Now, I’ve met countless tourists, dreamers, and artists who just want to BE you, and it makes me wonder if the whole reason I went in the first place is because I did, too.
You’re gorgeous. Your sunsets are sky-high gradients, and your hills are purple silhouettes. Your cityscape stretches higher than the palm trees. Santa Monica still feels like a dream.
You’re dry. Sure, other cities may err on the side of precipitating to a fault, but three days of rain in four months? Insane. Wash your streets. But still, I can’t complain about never wearing a rain jacket. You let me forget about the existence of weather, and it made me feel invincible.
You’re crowded. How do so many people fit in one geographic area? It made me want to sell and/or burn my car. It shouldn’t take 45 minutes to drive eight miles to the airport. Also, you drive like a maniac.
You’re warm. Like, walk-ten-minutes-wearing-a-backpack-and-start-sweating kind of warm. You make 50° F feel like below freezing. (10° C. You’ve also ruined me for thermometers.) I wished I would never become like you, but after four months, I, too, walked outside wearing a single sweater and complained about being cold.
You’re scary. Why is it that you make young artists fight to be recognized, and then the moment they get noticed, they must fight becoming irrelevant forever (unless they’re Meryl Streep, who you’ve decided is timeless)? And then you make people scared of failure so much that they work themselves to death. I mean, it kind of makes sense, but forgive me for asking: do you get your kicks from watching people suffer?
You’re niche. You drink kombucha like it’s going out of style, wear a coat half-way and call it style, and show 35mm film prints at the New Beverly Cinema (owned by Quentin Tarantino). You showed me the magic of ramen restaurants and trendy consignment stores, and frankly, I’ve been changed forever.
You’re depressing. I wish you didn’t care about money as much, but regardless of what I think, Transformers 5 still comes out in June 2017. You have so much power to make movies that are popular, powerful, and original, but I guess a slight spin on a tired action-hero narrative is the safest bet.
You’re mythic. Even though you are notorious for crushing the human spirit, there’s still something about you. It’s the knowledge that in you, the percentage chance of John Mulaney or Octavia Spencer standing in line behind me at Starbucks is significantly higher than it is anywhere else. It’s the knowledge that every time I casually grabbed a burger at the In-n-Out on Sunset Boulevard, I was three blocks from the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. You’re like a griffin—part real, part fantasy, part MGM logo.
But most of all, you’re creative. How did you get so lucky as to be neighbors with millions of passionate, creative people? The stories you tell make people laugh, cry, think, and feel in an infinite number of combinations and permutations. You help us make sense of our lives and give us something to live for. And even if it was just for a short amount of time, I loved being a part of that.
It’s good to be away from you for a while. It’s colder here—wetter, too. The dreary grey fog, towering evergreens, and faded outline of a far-off mountain feels almost cozy, like a hug of which I’d been deprived. You’d like it up here, but I hear you come up here to film a lot.
I’m going to visit again soon, but this time, it won’t be to see you. So, don’t expect me to look at you the same way as I did, with big puppy dog eyes. It’ll be to see the people you introduced me to—the people I’m now honoured to call my friends. My co-workers and bosses at my internship, Retrofit Films; my buddies, staff, and pretentious hipster tech coordinator from the Los Angeles Film Studies Centre; and Kevin. Honestly, thank you L.A., and thank you all.
One last thing: Before you, I didn’t really believe that I could change the world. But you’ve crushed my pride and inflated my ego so many times that I can’t help but hope.