to live and die in los angeles

when i was visiting the east coast, most of my friends asked the same question—so, what’s living in la like?

the funny coincidence wasn’t that the wording was so similar each time i was asked, but their demeanor when asking. it’s a loaded question that comes with a bit of a sneer, because everyone has this weird preconception of los angeles and what it’s like here. (admittedly, i felt something similar before moving—then, one day, i was driving down sunset and realized, it’s just a fucking street full of potholes like the rest. cultural lore is really something else.)

plenty of factors come into play when describing what it’s like to live somewhere. i can’t afford a house in the hills, so there’s that. but my studio apartment is the same rent as one in boston or portland and my painting studio is less per-square-foot then really anywhere i’ve found. gas is insane—california just hit over $6 a gallon again—and food isn’t cheap, but in ‘cost of living’ terms—the most fucked up phrase on the planet—it rounds out.

downtown los angeles

and that’s what people think about when they think about california, or los angeles. that and palm trees. but what it really means to live here, for me at least, is that tonight i’m going to see floating points perform 2021’s promises. later this year, i’ll get to see william basinski perform the last symphony a couple days before my birthday. between now and then will be undoubtedly killer shows with tim hecker, jessica moss, mary lattimore.

obviously, given it’s hollywood, there are any number of film events that are happening all of the time and impossible to recount. (next week i’m seeing an nc-17 cut of david cronenberg’s crash as part of beyond fest.) but there’s also an incredible visual arts scene—right now on my list of shows to make it to: jenny holzer, harmony korine, william monk.

when i say that los angeles is the last place in the states i want to live, part of it is because i’ve lived in every other part of the country and none really measure up to southern california. but mostly it’s that la provides an unlimited amount of art and culture to indulg in. there is just no shortage of anything to do in terms of gallery shows, music, film. i think at this point, living anywhere else, i would just find myself so bored.

on display

key changes

josh and i were eating sushi at a joint off beverly and discussing music, preparing to go see relay for death and aaron dilloway make so much noise that my teeth hurt during the sets. going to an abrasive noise show perhaps isn’t as rare as it used to be, but it still takes a certain path to end up at one. josh grew up in ohio and i spent high school in small-town alaska or rural new england—places not exactly known for their cultural scenes. finding the music, and therefore the people, we could relate to back then took work.

and this is actually how we initially became friends—on a message board loosely affiliated with the punk scene around 2006. now we both live in los angeles and go to usually anything but punk shows—taste changes with time. our conversation revolved around cultural growth and how some people just stop at a certain place; how entertainment gives society the option to just never expand their experience with art beyond what is projected from the screen.

being back east last week, i had similar kind of experience, talking with my old friend dan about how much fun we had at taking back sunday shows in 2002 or how rowdy the worcester palladium would get when a band like thursday would play it. these weren’t exactly unknown bands, but that was a scene that gives the option to just stop any sort of musical growth. if i had chosen to, i could have just stayed listening to music reminiscent of early-2000s emo and still have content to consume today.

we live in a strange moment where the commodification of art is integral to the new economy. on the artistic side you have the ongoing debate about selling out and becoming a part of the machine that is eating away at every cultural scene possible; on the consumer side, there is the choice between seeking out new and perhaps difficult artists with your time or just accepting whatever an algorithm tries to sell you. but those consumer experiences are completely different—to take a personal chance on something against listening to whatever spotify spits out is actually a fairly substantial personal choice.

these choices are important because they impact how our socio-cultural growth, at any scale, is formed—and, more significantly, by who. but most people don’t think beyond their own taste, and plenty don’t even think much about that. it’s too bad, because these decisions of consideration do matter.

anyway, i’ve been listening a lot to rachika nayar’s heaven come crashing, tim hecker’s konoyo, corntuth’s the desert is paper thin, and manas’ collaboration with efrim menuck, at home unamerican—and then some placebo and taylor swift in there, because we all fall victim to the pop machine sometime.

here comes the fall

after spending the day at the studio, i had to run home to change before going out last night. this isn’t because i was covered in paint (i was, but i don’t tend to care about stuff like that)—but rather it was too cold to wear shorts. it’s the first time in months that i’ve worn pants anywhere in los angeles. absolute bliss.

i always love the fall. i get to wear cardigans and watch everything die. the last flowers try to hold their color and composure among their crumpled, wilting comrades. browned leaves join the cigarette butts and consumer debris in the gutters. the palm trees feel even more out of place, gathering their energy to stand tall against another winter. the miserable vengeance of nature is palpable.

there is a certain bludgeoning loneliness that comes with the season—plenty of people are preparing to hunker down together for another winter, while i can just be grateful that, though alone, at least i won’t have to deal with the deathly cold of new england come december. (then i realize i’m spending at least six hours a day painting, and the rest are usually at home making or out listening to music. it’s hard to imagine how another person could fit in there—but that doesn’t ease what it is to be lonely in a city like this.)

the most depressing thing is that i have a new neighbor who complained about the plants around the building touching the doorways and the people who cut the hedges hacked up the cactus in front of my apartment where the hummingbirds flock to this time of year. now i don’t know if the flowers will bloom, and therefore if the birds will visit on the daily. i guess these things happen, but to gain a shitty neighbor while losing hummingbirds is a pretty deep hit to start the season with.

cattitude

having cats can sometimes be like an on-again, off-again relationship—at least when it comes to going on vacation. cats show absolutely no affection upon returning from a trip. theirs is the attitude of, well you’re the asshole who left us, why should we be excited you’re back?

it’s really only after some time well-spent, and perhaps a fresh bowl of food, that they come around and things are all good again.