The City of Second Chances

If you’re any type of TV-watcher (and no, I don’t mean Netflix on your computer – I mean a good, old, television set), you may have seen the ads for Discover L.A., a site promoting tourism in Los Angeles, CA, using some eye-catching, artsy graphics and deep, metaphorical voiceovers. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, search “what’s your LA story” in YouTube or try this one out for a taste.) The ads are short – maybe 15 seconds on average – and feature different well known parts of LA: Venice, LACMA, beaches, the Hollywood sign, and the chance to run into celebrities in random coffee shops.

As someone who has now lived in LA, albeit the ghetto of LA, for the last three years, I’ve always had a fond distaste for the city. Yes, it has it’s appeals, it’s special places, and it’s shiny exterior, but I’ve always focused on the worst of LA: the smoggy “haze” that constantly hangs over the city and is now even a weather classification there; the depressingly excessive homeless population on Skid Row that the city pretends doesn’t exist; and the arrogant, I’m-more-entitled-than-thou attitude and lifestyle that everyone seems to carry around with them.

LA is a city that people come to with dreams the size of rocket ships and pockets with only a bit of spare change, hoping to make something of themselves, start some new and exciting life chapter, and hopefully, one day, see their name up in lights. As they say in the movie Pretty Woman, “Everyone comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams.” And it’s true. If you walk down any street in LA, any time of day, I guarantee you won’t find a more eclectic mix of people anywhere else in the world (except perhaps Berkeley, but that’s a different story).

Watching these ads for LA, I originally scoffed. Very clearly, the ads romanticize LA, highlighting it’s wonderful assets and the sunny beauty of the southern California area while ignoring the dingy and dirty streets that surround these small tourist oases. But the more I watched these ads this summer from my northern California hometown, the more I felt something tug inside me.

Then, tonight, I saw the movie Chef with my lovely mum. First of all, the movie itself is great – nothing overly exciting but a great story of a chef turned food-truck-rogue and his relationship with food and family. I definitely recommend it. The movie is ultimately set in LA, with small scenes taking place on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and at various identifiable LA farmer’s markets. Throughout the entire movie, I leaned over to whisper to my mum where all these places were (sorry Mum!). Not only that, but as a small-time foodie, I have embraced the food truck culture, tied to exotic, creative, and sometimes just plain weird street cuisine. Watching it all play out on a screen somehow brought it all home for me: I miss LA.

Despite it’s dark sides, it’s broken dreams, it’s dirt, I have now realized that LA holds a little part in my heart and my life. I’ve had some crazy experiences in LA, some of which I could never replicate anywhere else. And while LA might drop you to the ground time and time again, the people of LA are fighters – they are determined to find out what makes them special, what makes them shine like the Hollywood lights at night. LA offers them a chance to do just that. It’s a city of second chances. A city filled with food trucks, artists, color, diversity, celebrities, special sights, dreams, and adventure.

I never thought I would be swayed to let LA into my heart (and don’t worry San Francisco, you’ll always be the city for me), but here I am writing a sappy post about missing LA. So LA, thanks for letting me give you a second chance, and that, folks, is my L.A. story.

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