Thursday, August 14, 2008

"California! Here we come!"*

The major cities I’ve been to include New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Miami, and London, and it was finally time for me to see what Los Angeles had to offer. Seeing as I spent most of my time in the bottom floors of a large, climate-controlled hotel, my visit to L.A. wasn’t as immersive as some of my other trips. Even still, I formed plenty of opinions on the city (of course!).

My plane took off in the early evening (East Coast time) and followed the setting sun west. We chased it across the country in an everlasting sunset until it dipped below the horizon and the quiet night caught up with us. I almost believed the enduring sunlight was a metaphor for how my trip would turn out—forgive me for my weak moment of Romanticism. If I had been thinking clearly, I would’ve realized the darkness would eventually come, and then my metaphor wouldn’t have seemed so optimistic.

It didn’t matter anyway because as the plane approached LAX and descended into a smoky, black cloud, all my sappy thoughts were quickly dispelled. At first I thought it was a storm cloud, but underneath it there was no lightning or rain, and then I realized it must be a smog cloud. I wondered what sort of unseen storm the smog was unleashing, and what impact it would have on my lungs.

Despite the smog, the city appears to be quite health-conscious. The Westfield mall that is across the street from the hotel (which shows what a small world it is because there is a Westfield mall about five minutes from my house in Connecticut) has an interesting food court. All eat-in food is served on real dishes, and the drinks come in real glasses. The mall near my house almost always serves the food and drinks (eat-in or take-out) in disposable containers.

The food selection is also on the healthier side. As I walked across the food court with my tray of pizza and orange soda, I got the feeling that people were staring at me in disdain (like I’m a bad person for eating something so greasy and delicious). Even the shelves of the grocery store are filled with all kinds of health foods that are usually only found in small, specially marked sections in the grocery stores I frequent.

My favorite indication of the differences in lifestyles between East and West Coast occurred during one of the conference sessions. (Did I forget to mention I was there for a writing conference?). An editor from New York mentioned how she often munches on fried-egg sandwiches while reading manuscripts. The moderator of the discussion said something like, "That’s a very East Coast thing to say." Then she joked that an editor in California would be more likely to review manuscripts over a soy burger (ew!).

The soy-burger comment was made in good fun, but I couldn’t help but feel it legitimized my insecurities of walking through the food court. I was all alone, holding food that told everyone I wasn’t from around here, wearing clothes and sunglasses that weren’t designer brands, and feeling like it was my first day at a new school and I had no one to sit with in the cafeteria. At least I had remembered to take off my name badge…that would’ve really showed them what a nerd I am.

*Phantom Planet