I spent my formative years up and down the 405 and across the 101: Inglewood, Reseda, Venice, North Hollywood, even out to Woodland Hills for a spell. I lived in Orange County before it was "the O.C." and years before I could mock the "Real Housewives" thereof. Despite my ever-pale skin and dark hair, I am, in my blood, an Angeleno. Still, like most actors, I was bicoastal-curious and did spend some time in New York City. I loved it. I hated it. I am here to warn you, transplants from the West Coast, about what you will soon encounter in your new home.
Let's Start With the Food
First of all, I hope you're reading this before you board the plane to the East, because, if so, you still have a chance to get some decent Mexican food. Even if you're at LAX right now, the Mexican food you can get in the terminal will be better than the so-called Mexican food you'll be able to find in the supposed culinary capital of our country. If you're already in New York, look on the bright side: You can get really good Chinese, and they have something awesome called garlic knots. Ask a local.
Not that I'm food obsessed, but since you are uprooting, let's talk a little more about this most basic of comforts. Prepare, Angeleno, for the corner store. No longer will you be able to shop at what I like to call "Fantasyland Ralphs"—you know, the giant "pavilions" and "centers" where we West Coasters like to shop for groceries, preferably while sipping our Starbucks, purchased in-store (of course!). Say goodbye to these slick, well-lit megastores with 30 types of bread to choose from. You'll now be buying your groceries in tiny corner stores, where you will have about two types of bread to ponder.
It's a good thing too, because there's no car trunk waiting outside to hold your seven bags. You'll be carrying your (probably) one bag home in your arms. The upside is that these markets are on every corner, so you can literally stop in on your way home daily to get just what you need. Or you can buy one of those silver rolling cart thingies that people who like to purchase more than one bag of groceries at a time seem to own—those nuts!
The A in 'A Train' Isn't for 'Aggravating'
Oh, and L.A.-er, did you catch back there where I mentioned you wouldn't have a car trunk available? Right, that means no car—unless you're filthy rich. This means you—yes, you—will walk pretty much everywhere. Quick hint: New York pedestrians don't wait for the walk signal at intersections; they just go when it's clear. Apparently, jaywalking is encouraged.
If your destination is more than, say, two miles away, you will take public transportation. Even—I know this is hard to believe—when you're moving across town with all your possessions. I once moved from midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn on the F train. Five of my friends came along to help carry my stuff. Don't let me scare those of you with actual furniture. I did once help a friend with belongings larger than a coffeemaker move out to Queens. He rented a van, so it's possible—the van part. Having actual furniture is less likely.
Why? Because not only will you be a starving artist; you'll be living in a closet. It's easier to stick to futons and milk crates. Or Ikea! Ikea must have been invented for New Yorkers, because "vertical living" is crucial in tiny apartments, where your kitchen doubles as your office and your closet. (Don't worry, you didn't want to cook in that thing anyhow.) Although, problematically, you have to take the subway to Ikea and then carry your "flat packs" of ready-to-assemble furniture back to your fifth-floor walkup. Upside: free workout!
Public transportation is actually fantastic. No more trying to eat, talk on the phone, update your status, and drive all at once. You can settle in and be as distracted as you care to be—as long as you aren't traveling during what we L.A. types like to call "rush hour" (even though there are two of them and they last about five hours total)—instead of sitting in your car, parked on the 405, alone, listening to music (which really isn't all that bad if you have a/c). You'll now be crammed into a confined space with a bunch of strangers. So get your elbows out. I'm not saying you should actually poke anyone with them, but the bigger you make yourself—the more space you can take up when standing or sitting still—the less you yourself will be poked. Yes, New York is crowded. It's a little like being at Disneyland in the summertime…on a Saturday…all the time. If you like that jostled, pushed about, crazy, fun, hectic, smelly, dynamic vibe, you'll love it.
Love it or hate it, figure out how to balance the mayhem. During some of my time in New York, I lived in Brooklyn and worked in Midtown. Many days, my "elbows out" commute took up most of my after-work energy. Throw in, say, going to the ATM, and I was spent. Everything is a little bit harder when you're doing it in the midst of a crowd. We Angelenos are used to quite a lot of personal space. Figure out how to get yourself spells of quiet and/or open. You need it. You also need the sun. Seasonal depression doesn't seem like a real thing when you live in L.A. Because we don't have seasons.
Rude or Direct?
I'm almost out of room, but I want to address the other side of what Michael is surely calling L.A.'s "fake" side. People in New York are not rude, but they are direct. People mean what they say, and they aren't polite for the sake of politeness. If you say, "I'll call you tomorrow," you are expected to do so. If you want to hand something to the casting director, just hand it over. She'll tell you if she doesn't want it—right to your face! This, I believe, is a good thing. There's less velvet-rope separation and more of a "we're all in this together so I'm going to tell it to you straight" attitude in the New York acting scene.
On the other hand, there is something gentle and appealingly mellow about the polite, have-a-nice-day culture of the West Coast. Sure, L.A. may be more full of "phonies"—people who talk the big talk—but that's a part of Western culture from the time of the pioneers. It's our frontier spirit running away with us. In California, anything can happen. And hey, it's a small price to pay for decent salsa.
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