I understand. During the first dot.com bubble, I too ran away to Hollywood, in the emotional way a person bails after a terrible breakup. I was sick of complaining about how the city I’d loved had changed. I was sick of sharing a room with my boyfriend in a house with three other roommates. I heard about a $400-a-month studio in Los Angeles, and I grabbed it. See, San Francisco? I don’t need you! Did I come crawling back? Uh, yeah. I can’t drive, for starters, which made getting to my weekly teaching gig in Pasadena epic. Plus, I missed San Francisco’s familiar, village-like style – the way the neighborhoods all hugged one another, the way it’s so easy to hop around on a bus or streetcar.
But a decade or so later, Los Angeles is becoming the place to be as more of my friends move down there. With new arrivals not just from SF, but from similarly gentrified spots like Manhattan and Brooklyn, our sister city is flush with fresh energy. The free “LA is OK” stickers sitting on the counter at Trouble Coffee are both a harbinger and an understatement (rumor has it Trouble may be opening a Los Angeles outpost) about the number of San Franciscans moving there. How come so many of our friends are leaving the fog for the smog?
Los Angeles is full of cheap housing, whether it’s free-standing bungalows or one-bedrooms nestled in Melrose Place-style apartment complexes. They’re seeking backyards. They’re attempting to live as adults, sans multiple roommates. They have big dreams of actual homeownership, and in LA it’s possible to buy a place without the help of an internet IPO. Though the city’s infamous sprawl was once a source of complaint, today it’s valued for providing lots of space for lots of people at lots of different economic levels.
In LA, our friends have LACMA, with Chris Burden’s fantastic Urban Light lampposts installed forever on Wilshire Boulevard; they’ve got the Hammer Museum, which shows enough female artists to make a Guerrilla Girl thump her chest in happiness; they’ve got CalArt’s Redcat Theater bringing in avant-garde performance, film, dance, and literature. Stalwart indie art gallery New Image Art recently did a show of San Francisco’s Xara Thustra and is bringing the artist’s performance art project, LOVEWARZ down for a show in February. Our very own Needles & Pens recently opened an LA sister store, which they’re calling And Pens, and they’re hosting events by SF’s Hamburger Eyes and former Bay-gone-LA zinester and curator Darin Klein. They’ve got the mysterious Museum of Jurassic Technology. They’ve got Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, an old railroad station that’s now home to a bunch of galleries – one of them currently showing work by iconic lezzie folksinger Phranc. And with Los Angeles storefront rentals being way more affordable than San Francisco’s, our friends have a shot at opening their own DIY art spaces.
Maybe it’s because when it comes to private clubs, we have the Battery, while they have the Magic Castle, where magicians trump tech barons. Once inside, you’re more likely to rub elbows with Marilyn Manson or a descendant of Anton LaVey than Mark Zuckerburg. More coolness: Los Angeles has dinosaurs soaking in the La Brea Tar Pits. While Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat books may be neck and neck for best magical mythologizing of a city, Mary Ann Singleton could no longer live her fairy tale existence in the Bay, while modern-day Weetzies can find themselves an affordable love shack to raise their brood of witch babies in.