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We {heart} New York Too

November 24, 2002

Angelenos may not realize it, but their city is a lonely, sprawling, polluted place full of publicity hounds and agents, cars, empty streets, cars, rats, 100-degree days and did we mention lonely people who'd probably rather live in New York if they were smart enough and could handle the big-time pace.

According to a recent surfeit of news coverage elsewhere, L.A. has a new downtown cathedral that looks like an auditorium, a new downtown auditorium that looks like a cathedral, some lame attempts to redevelop downtown life with apartments only seven miles from the nearest grocery and a death wish to split apart the -- you guessed it -- lonely, sprawling, polluted city.

At last (how many generations did this take?) L.A. has a decent pastrami sandwich thanks to New York, bagels to yawn for and a new police chief recycled from you-can-guess-where.

Not that anyone here needs out-of-town publications, but we owe all this new wisdom to a number of non-L.A. periodicals that coincidentally have New York bases. The selective tone of the L.A. coverage provides insights not only into what others see here, but what they want to see here and the apparent need to compare themselves with others.

Story subjects are as predictable as a presidential photo op to top the daily news. Raging brush fires cloak millions of gasping Californians in smoke and fear. Gang murders drive fear-stricken L.A. to finally hire a real police pro, William Bratton, the former New York chief (who's actually from Boston, by the way). One of the best things about having to live in L.A. apparently is the New York farewell party given Bratton by Tina Brown, not a New York native either.

These newspaper and magazine stories describe Mayor James K. Hahn less as a former city attorney who led the successful fight against valley secession and more as the somnolent, colorless "anti-Giuliani." Hollywood Boulevard is "the neglected stepsister of Times Square." Beverly Hills, one piece observed, "is a nice place to be a rat." As opposed to, say, Brooklyn?

According to another report, "It is commonly said at cocktail parties and on the street corners of New York that Los Angeles is an insipid backwater, a lukewarm bath." Good to know, eh?

Such accounts will surely help Angelenos understand why all their neighbors are leaving, why Southern California property values are dropping so badly, why houses can languish unsold for hours and why the freeways are empty most days.

It's always interesting to know what others say when you're out of the room. As opposed to, say, caring.

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