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18 November 2009, 10:30 am 5 Comments

Los Angeles: Greetings from Los Angeles!

This post was submitted by raphael


Griffith Park Observatory, overlooking downtown LA. Photo Credit: Raphael D. Mazor

As a new contributor to The New Gay, I’d like to take the chance to introduce myself, and share with you a little bit about the city I now call home.

As a born-and-bred New Englander, I never would have expected to find myself in a city that seems so antithetical to all of my East Coast values. But a career in environmental science brought me to California, and landed me in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. And I have to say, after my initial distaste for the SoCal lifestyle passed, I have learned many things to love about LA. In this blog, I hope to share them with you.

Angelinos know how you feel about us. We know the smug superiority New Yorkers feel when they hear about our traffic and massive freeways. We are well aware of the rage San Franciscans feel when they think about the water we steal from them. We know how Portlanders can’t understand how anyone would live in a region with near-perpetual smog. We know we are hated and feared by most of America. But the truth is, we like you! LA-bashing is almost never reciprocated by Angelinos.

All the negative impressions of LA are, in fact, well founded. We do have horrible traffic, some terrible smog, and lots of superficial people straight out of the worst reality show. We are an environmental disaster, an apocalypse in progress. But a city of LA’s magnitude can’t help but offer so much more.

Take our diversity, for example. Apart from New York, no American city—and few worldwide—can compete with LA when it comes to ethnic diversity. The number of ethnic enclaves is staggering: nearly every nationality has a neighborhood in LA to call home. We have more Cambodians than anywhere outside of Cambodia, Armenians outside of Armenia, and Koreans outside of Korea. Same goes for Iranians, Thai, Mexicans, Vietnamese, Salvadorans, and so on. The list is long—longer, it’s been said—than for any other city in the world!

Culturally, LA is rich, even if you ignore the Hollywood juggernaut that manufactures the mainstay of American culture. The arts, music and even theatre scenes are vibrant. And despite the dearth of indie bookstores (an affliction of most cities these days), it’s a great town for writers as well as readers—just check out the LA Times Festival of Books in April, America’s largest book festival.

LA can be daunting to the uninitiated. It’s size seems unmanageable, and its car-oriented development make navigation quite difficult. But once you learn its neighborhoods, LA unfolds for you and starts to share its secrets. This city is harder to explore than Boston, DC, or Chicago. But your efforts will be rewarded.

The mainstream gay scene, centered in West Hollywood, is much like the mainstream gay scenes of New York and other big cities, though perhaps flavored a bit more with celebrity sightings and spray tans. However, neighborhoods further east, like Silverlake, Koreatown, Downtown, and Highland Park offer plenty of alternatives for queers. Much to the surprise of visitors, my own little hamlet, Long Beach, has a gay scene that rivals WeHo in size, but not attitude. The queers of LA’s suburbs, like the Valley, OC, and the Inland Empire, have also created communities for themselves in what appears to outsiders to be the most hostile terrain.

I am very excited to write for TNG, and I thank Michael for inviting me to contribute. In my future blog posts, I hope to make Angelinos more familiar with some of the great queer events going on around them, outside the ghetto. But I also hope to reach out to TNG’s other readers, and show them a side of LA they might not have known existed.

To get you all in a more LA frame of mind, here’s a short playlist of songs about LA that don’t suck:

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  • Jerry said:

    Well-said! LA is vast — in size and temperament. At times, the gloss can seem overwhelming, but that’s because it gets the most press and notoriety. Besides all that, there is a huge metropolis here, full of amazing history and neighborhoods and dozens and dozens of sub-cultures. There truly is something for anyone and everyone — and, more importantly, it is a place where the anyone and everyone are welcomed and encouraged to contribute to as many niches as they like.

  • michael said:

    Love the Raveonettes song. There’s a good Ariel Pink song called Life In LA that’s really good, including the lyric “Live in LA, come on out if you’re gay.” Good times.

    Glad we have some LA coverage on here now!

  • Percival said:

    Glad to see a fellow Long Beachite (Long Beacher?) join TNG’s contributing staff!

  • raphael (author) said:

    Percival, I prefer the term “Longbeachistani”. And I’ll be sure to make sure Iowa-By-The-Sea gets some coverage on TNG! (Really, it’s much cooler than that name makes it sound.)

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