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Los Angeles as non-Angelinos see it


Every city is unique, and the only people who really know a particular city are the people who've lived there. And it's true that all cities have misconceptions that reveal the outsider, maybe the way something is pronounced, or which direction is uptown, or whatever. And I've found that most people are just wise enough to shrug their shoulders and say that "they never lived there, and they just don't know". But Los Angeles is different, there are a lot of people who've never lived there you think that they know it well.

And I can't blame people for thinking that they know Los Angeles, even if they've never lived there. Los Angeles is portrayed in movies, in TV shows, in books, and just about every way that you can imagine. So I won't roll my eyes and correct people who see Los Angeles that way, but it does give me a bit of a pain. If you've lived in a city that you know well, you know what I mean. And if you've lived in Los Angeles you know that:

• Hollywood isn't two steps from the ocean. In fact, it's miles away. Of course there are countless movies where the hero steps off the porch of his Hollywood bungalow, turns around, and is at the ocean. So if we're going to visit the Pantages, you really can't just turn around and see the Pacific Ocean from there. Sorry.

• Los Angeles doesn't include Disneyland. As big as Los Angeles County is, it isn't big enough to include Orange County, which is where Disneyland is. People who hear that I lived in Hollywood, in addition to imagining that the ocean was outside my door, think that Disneyland is just a couple of steps away. It's not, it's miles away. A lot of miles!

• Freeways didn't make Los Angeles crowded. Los Angeles was crowded long before the first freeways were built. Traffic jams, and gridlock, go back to the invention of cars. If you want to see what Los Angeles was before it got crowded, you have to not only go back before cars, you have to go back before trolleys. And even then there were a lot of horses, and people!

• There's no such city as Hollywood. Or Van Nuys, or hundreds of other areas that are actually just part of the city of Los Angeles. And I mean that legally. This is confusing even to people who live there, but it's easy to determine if you're in a different city - look for the police cars. Beverly Hills has its own police force, as does Burbank. Separate cities have their own mayors, but Hollywood has an "honorary mayor" during the Christmas parade.

OK, the list goes on and on, but you see what I mean. The city of Los Angeles has been blurred by the mythology, and it continues every time someone sees a movie or TV show set in LA. And by the way, no one in LA says that they live in LA, unless they live downtown. And even then they'd probably describe the neighborhood. I lived in Hollywood, and Canoga Park, and Winnetka. I worked with a woman who lived in downtown Los Angeles and called it "the City". I liked that. And if you've ever heard the radio describe the area as the "Southland", yeah, they do, but no one who lives there calls it that.

Image at the top of this post: The Greater Los Angeles area in 1910.

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