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Quakes, smog, riots, traffic, carjackings, the recession, troubled schools, beautiful--but shallow--people . . . These days, everybody loves to bash our city. So we asked a few Angelenos (the famous and the not): If things are so bad . . . : Why Stay in L.A.?

April 04, 1993|Jonathan Gold | Jonathan Gold is a frequent contributor to The Times.

You first have to picture a party behind somebody's old rented house in Mar Vista, at the moment just before a long summer's dusk deepens into night, and just after everyone's finished eating tacos made with marinated shark taken hot off the grill. A dog barks; a screen door slams; somebody comes out with a cold can of beer just for you.

This is more or less the epicenter of the Los Angeles thing, where the leather subculture and the Latino death-cult subculture and the arty-punk subculture and the film guys and grad students from a lot of different countries merge into a purely Angeleno culture both beautiful and weirdly unambitious.

(If Madonna had first emigrated to Hollywood instead of the East Village, this is how she would have ended up, maybe eking out a living as a Sin-O-Matic dancer.)

Los Angeles asks little, and offers everything in return.

Compare this to harried East Coast media workers, or to the hard-working Bay Area bohemians trying to shape an as-yet nonexistent cyber-culture in the shadow of Potrero Hill. Compare this to life in cities where you can't choose between a dozen different kinds of Thai food for dinner, or price accordions at a mariachi supply store, or see traffic stop at the sight of an Armenian pop star's stretch Rolls-Royce.

Los Angeles is where subcultures evolve into full-blown cultures, making it possible to carry on a rich, meaningful life without ever having to speak anything but Mandarin or do business with anybody who doesn't have a tattoo.

And the rest of us get to visit. Why would anyone want to move to Seattle?

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