Two Years in L.A. (A Reflection)

Today’s the Jewish New Year–Happy New Year, you Jewish people, you–but it’s also, basically, our two-year anniversary of moving to L.A. Last year, around this time, I wrote a post called “One Year in L.A.: A Reflection.” It’s a pretty fascinating thing for me to re-read because, at the time, we were about to go back to New York for Craig to shoot The Skeleton Twins and I could barely contain my excitement. The gist of that post was: L.A. is fine, but I’m a New York boy through and through.

Two years in, I feel less of a polarity within myself. The key was going back to New York and realizing two things: (1) New York is still there; (2) my old New York life isn’t. That last fact took a while to sink in but once it did, and once I’d spent two months retracing my old steps and attempting to re-live my old experiences, it dawned on me that life had moved on without me. Moving away is a kind of death. People who relied on you, who figured prominently in your day-to-day, learn to live without you. Going back, then, feels a little like going to your own funeral. It was that Tom Sawyer moment of epiphany that made me realize that my life was no longer in New York, it was in L.A.

Once that happened and I just accepted that life is here (we came back in early 2013), I began to really like it. Not just tolerate it, but like it. In particular: I like where we now live (Atwater Village); I like the weather (though a rainy day wouldn’t be so bad, now and again); the produce–especially at the farmer’s market–is unbeatable.


The food scene is exciting (Bon Appetit just named Alma the best new restaurant in the United States and we’re going there this weekend). The people are just as dynamic and fascinating as people in New York, though on the extreme ends New York has more intellectuals, L.A. has more walking beach bods. I’ll take the beach bods.

As far as culture goes, it’s here for the taking. The Stanley Kubrick exhibit at LACMA was every bit as invigorating as any exhibit I saw while I was in New York (though New York museum culture still hits a nostalgic button for me, especially the Museum of Natural History).

The main difference, I’d say, is tone. There’s a certain manic restlessness about New York that’s like a jolt of adrenaline every time I go there. L.A. takes deep breaths. People go on hikes. When you go to a coffee shop or a juice bar (no, I don’t really go to juice bars, but it is an L.A. thing), chances are the person you interact with will have a restful look about them, their skin will be clear and their speech will be calm. If ambition is what fuels New Yorkers, inner-peace goes a long way out here. People still have ambition, but they have it between yoga classes.

There are flowers here. And long drives listening to podcasts (sometimes, I even take long drives so I can listen to a particular podcast; most recently, Marc Maron’s interview with Catherine O’Hara). Sure, there’s still superficiality, obnoxious conversations that you overhear (mostly screenwriters talking screenplays with other screenwriters; yesterday I heard a guy talk up his project: “Twin Peaks” meets “Sex and the City”). It’s not all good but it’s not all bad. That’s true of most cities.

Which is all to say, two years in, I’m happy here. I’m not at Randy Newman level yet, but when it comes to this city–and you can quote me on this–I like L.A.

21 thoughts on “Two Years in L.A. (A Reflection)”

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been considering a move to LA from the northeast for awhile now. Deep breaths, inner peace and clear skin sound like a wonderful thing. Visiting San Diego, my third trip to California in less than a year, next week. The move will happen soon I hope! Thanks again for sharing.

  2. You make a very interesting point regarding “going home again.” As a transplanted NY’er, I have the same reaction as you had when returning to NY. Life has moved on – my old korean deli is now a Trader Joe’s, I have less and less to say to my old neighbors and friends, and the cultural opportunities are unrivaled. I suppose that after 6 years here in the desert (Palm Springs), I consider this superficial place home. One disagreement, I’d give up at least 50% of the beach bods (or in NY gym bods), for a more intellectual crowd. I miss the mental excitement terribly. Oh, and happy new year to you too.

  3. Marilyn McClellan

    Hi from Bellingham. I was born in L.A. and just was there for a two week visit. Here are some more L.A. observations — a) California is golden. The sun is different from the Northwest where I live which is blue/green. b) I got my drivers license at 16 and once you drive those freeways, they are always second nature even with 14 lanes across. c) Flowers all year are wonderful even if mowing a lawn gets tedious. Those things shut down in the Northwest. d) You are right, it doesn’t take several trips to hear a complete podcast. e) I had more good food in two weeks than I have had this year AND good Mexican food simply doesn’t exist in the Northwest. f) I still miss the ocean’s crashing waves.

    Love your blog!

  4. Great post. I’m an LA native, but growing up I never thought I’d end up back here. Now that I’ve been back for a few years I’ve fallen in love with the city all over again. We’re glad to have you. :)

  5. I moved from Texas to San Diego – with a plan that eventually we’ll probably move to LA – a few months before you moved to LA. I already loved SD, but was unfond of LA from several visits, and continued to dislike it up until this summer when I was working up there several days a week most weeks. LA is frustrating, in a lot of ways, and I swear it knows it. And just when you’ve nearly peed your pants stuck in traffic and spent 20 minutes trying to park and it’s hot because you’re a mile too far inland, it’ll hit you with a gorgeous canyon or startling architecture or a funny shop or a dog on a skateboard. There is never nothing to do in LA, and there is always something interesting going on, assuming you can get over to an exit and find a parking space.

  6. Moved to north Orange County from NYC 35 years ago. Each year, I missed NY less and less as I began to slow down my pace, enjoy the weather and appreciate the coastal beauty. I love being just 2 hours away from either Santa Barbara, San Diego and Palm Springs, all different in their own ways. I love that no matter how hot it is during the day, the coastal breezes allow me to sleep with windows open and no AC (this last week being the exception). And yes, the fruit and vegetables all year long, the farmer’s markets. I love SoCal.

  7. Great post! I moved to LA around the same time you did and was very skeptical at first. It has been fun getting to know the city through your blog and in person. Thanks for helping me to discover all the things to love (and eat) in LA!

  8. This so echoes and parallels my own come-to-love LA experience, which has taken about 2.5 years (nearly the same as you) to occur. I had moved from SF, not NY (though had my own attachment to that city), and wasn’t aware of my own biases until I had spent enough time in LA (and had been called out enough on my own snobbery). An LA native friend told me this city rewards those who make the effort to explore, and that has proven true. Also, I’ve learned to shift away from the “show me what you got” mentality, which has lead me to having more of an open mind to new, unexpected experiences and also to make the effort to seek out certain experiences. This applies equally to restaurants and finding the kinds of friends you want to have (not just the tanned, beautiful, toned, lithe, vaguely hipster kind you feel you’re supposed to have).
    At the end of the day, I can’t compare LA to other cities. Once I accept that, it frees me up to experiencing LA and its surroundings for all they have to offer. And I have to say, day to day, I’m happier and more myself than I’ve ever been.

  9. I really enjoyed this post. I like your food-related posts, but this was such a breath of fresh air, to hear your take on other things. Since you are a good writer, it is always enjoyable, but I appreciate the subject matter varying away from food a lot. I also have the experience of living two different places (Winnipeg, Manitoba and rural Northern Minnesota.) That move had a big impact that move had on my life. The places I live are in the same middle of the country region, and the distance between can be traversed by car in a day, but they are in two different countries, which means the change was significant, the people are different and there many adjustments to be made. I am now at home in Saint Paul, but a part of my heart will always be in Winnipeg, even though it also moved on without me, as you have also observed. So much of what you said rang true and it made me want to write my own reflection. It is a little melancholy, but certainly true that (in the words of Thomas Wolfe) “you can’t go home again.”

  10. This is really heartening to read. I had moved from Tennessee to Seattle in 2000, and I liked parts of it but there was a great deal I didn’t like, including a feeling of being disdained for not being wealthy, there was an “affected” air of wanting to be Vancouver or San Francisco and brushing aside the salty old funky parts of the city in favor of glass buildings; and folks would often get irritable and stressed during bouts of sunny weather, as if they didn’t know what to do with it. It was truly like Shadowland to me.

    I moved to San Diego in 2011 and now I have a hard time remembering what life was like anywhere else before…I feel that at home here. The splendid light! The endless ocean! It practically rains avocados. Pale gold boulders amid chaparral in the mountains. Birds, birds, birds. The canyons…I had no idea about these oases! No one told me. Magical places, these canyons, even in the heart of this big city you can find a secret suspension bridge, old abandoned stone buildings. And the people: a good melange of mellow folks, happy not to be stressed, not depressed, eager to enjoy great beer and food and often smiling.

    So when you moved from NYC to LA and expressed your initial reactions I was a bit worried, surely I hadn’t imagined these lovely things about Southern California. Surely they must be waiting for you. But I see the region has grown on you. There’s so much to offer here, and taking breaths as you say, is what it’s all about.

  11. This post is spot-on with how I felt after re-visiting where I used to live many years ago. I love listening to podcasts in the car too. Thanks, Adam. I always look forward to reading your blog.

  12. I can’t believe you’ve been there for 2 years. I feel like you just moved there!

    I was always scared to visit LA, but after visiting for a 5 day “weekend” (over July 4th) I was smitten with the city. I loved driving around and looking at all of the different architecture, loved the food, and loved that it was still a big city but wasn’t so compact and overwhelming like NYC is. I went back to NYC this weekend and it is just such sensory overload for me. I always feel like a country bumpkin visiting NY but LA didn’t make me feel like such a yokel. I mean, I live in Charlotte. Not huge but not the smallest city in the world!

  13. What a beautiful, bitter-sweet post, with your New York life ending and your L.A. life beginning. It took me about a year to get used to Richmond, VA when I moved here 7 years ago. Each and every year after that I grew to appreciate it more and more. Now the city is firmly a part of my identity.

  14. Kate @ Savour Fare

    I think you’re right re: tone. I think that in NYC, the impetus is on being very busy and important – everyone is working hard and making sure the world knows about it. In LA, the impetus is being very relaxed (and therefore, important) – they’re working just as hard, but trying to give everyone the impression that they do nothing but play. I still try to figure out what the hell everyone is doing for a living that allows midday yoga classes and smoothie breaks.

  15. I’m a born and raised LA resident, and I love it here. I love downtown LA, while being close to the beach. There is always something to do and great weather year round.

  16. Adam, I am so glad you now like LA. As I have said before, I LOVE that you are here in LA and discovering the city/restaurants/cultural events for those of us that are busy shuttling kids around and can’t manage to make it to all your spots. BUT… I have wonderful lists of places to visit- from you- that I will get to.
    I am glad you like LA after 2 years… it took me much longer, and I would leave tomorrow if the right situation were presented. However, I have been here for almost 25 years and I think we are not going anywhere. At least I will have the chance to visit other cities when my kids do their college tours and then eventually leave for college. Personally, I am strongly suggesting Austin.
    You are a magical writer. I save your blogs for times that I need to smile, laugh and feel happy. Really. Keep the magic coming. You are a rock star.

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