To Live and Die in LA

Growing up in Los Angeles was a wild ride. From code switching between street lingo and standard forms of language, Los Angeles made diversity my best friend. It introduced me to different cultures, paved the way to expanding my dietary palate, and it showed me that street smart is just as important as being booksmart. I learned a lot from my city. Here's a list of the 10 most important things I've walked away with:


1. First and foremost, rush-hour. Los Angeles has taught me to try to stay off the road during rush hour, unless absolutely necessary. And if it is, make sure to have your iced Tierra Mia coffee on deck, your brothers in the car, and Black Sabbath playing in the background to block out all the honking cars and the road rage noise. 


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2. And what a perfect segway into… freeways! Knowing the ins and outs of the countless LA freeways is crucial. Especially without using Maps because truth is, you’re likely to get stuck in traffic and we don’t always have our charging cables in the car. And if you don’t know them off the top of your head, here’s a quick plug: the 91 to the Beach Blvd exit in Buena Park that takes you down the main strip directly to Knott’s Berry Farm (also to Portillo’s Hot Dogs which is fire). The 110 to Stadium Way to catch a 7 pm Dodger game. The 105 to Dockweiler Beach for bonfires, and the 10 to Venice Beach to go bike riding on the boardwalk. And let’s not forget, the 5 to Moonlight Rollerway skating rink for groovy early-birthday celebrations. 


3. And when you don’t want to drive, you can always rely on the metros that take you in and out of the town. The Expo line for exploring the Promenade in Santa Monica. The blue line to Persian Square to go ice skating in the Winter, and to Long Beach for a kayaking trip in the Naples Canals. The red line to Union Station (or better yet, Placita Olvera) and to Hollywood . The green line to Norwalk on Tuesday for 2$ tickets to catch an old film. And the Gold line to East LA, where the street tacos are made with some of the most tender love and care that I’ve ever experienced. 


Apart from knowing how to get around in the city that everyone is so desperate to get a taste of, LA taught me love. Platonically, romantically, and tangibly. 


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4. LA taught me about simple acts of love. Because yeah, romance can be getting all dolled up for a night out on the town. Cause that's what people say, right? A night on the town? Sure. But sometimes, romance is no makeup and sweatpants while your boyfriend drives you deep into Downtown’s city center looking for a street hotdog with a chili pepper on the side and a nice, cold coca-cola. Sometimes, romance is switching back and forth between looking at him drive and looking at the red lights of the Palace Theatre sign on Broadway but still being mesmerized by both.


5. LA also taught me to give as many holes-in-the-wall a chance. Granted, that doesn't mean eat at a place that's infested with roaches or looks like it hasn't been cleaned in about a month. It means, give the community a try. A lot of the time, we're really just tryna make it out here. And you know what? Once you realize that some of the best places are those that are yet to be truly discovered, you're likely to find your new favorite joint. The perfect little shop of an older woman on Belgrave who sells carne asada tacos for only 1$ and you realize, there couldn't be a more perfect time to stop in and buy some than on the walk home from school. 


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6. Los Angeles also gave me secret insight to all the best hiking trails in the city. Yeah, there's Mulholland Drive, Eaton Canyon and your regular Griffith Hike trail. But there's also the BoyScout trail on the left side of the Observatory and the hidden swing overlooking the freeway at Elysian Park. Because yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and sometimes you'll find exactly what you're looking for on Google Maps. But sometimes, the city deserves some more looking.


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7. I even learned how to save my coin and buy in bulk - welcome to the districts! Most relative to the Fashion district and the Flower district, Los Angeles showed me when deals are steals and all the places where you truly are getting the bang for your buck. From aloe vera plants, roses, succulents (beans, greens, tomatoes, potatoes) you name it! The districts have it all. After buying yourself a bouquet of tulips for your dining room table, you can hit up the Arts District for a cold one at Angel City Brewery.


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8. However, as any person who knows LA well enough, knows that with the districts comes Skid Row. And as any decent human being in the city can tell you, not every person on Skid Row wants to be on Skid Row. Not every person who ended up there had struggles with sobriety. Some people ended up there because the truth is, Los Angeles is flooded with people who are trying to find success here. The aspiring youtubers, beauty moguls, and the vloggers. Kudos to them and whatever, but they don't make up Los Angeles. The city is made up of the individuals who were trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. The city is made up of the people who went days without sleep, living paycheck to paycheck to make ends-meet. The city is made up of mothers and fathers who sacrificed the clothes on their backs only to still lose the uphill battle for rent control. And that's what Skid Row is. That the people from San Pedro to Alameda all deserve a smile the next time you see them instead of being called zombies on commercial videos.


And although the city caressed me in love, it also made me realize when it is important to stand my ground. Recognizing the famous quote, "I'm a lover, not a fighter"; here I am publicly stating that in Los Angeles, you gotta be both. If you don't show the city what you're made of, it'll turn you into dirt. So if you're not ready for it, in the simplest terms, be ready to keep it pushin'.

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9. Sometimes, the city is just about ready to pummel you into the ground if you not 'bout yo' witts. One minute, it's Thanksgiving morning, you're getting your nails done and laughing with your sister. Next thing you know, a girl is disrespecting your mom and you're in a fist fight on the infamous corner of, none other than, Rosecrans. And that's when you realize, there is a hell of a reason as to why the block got so many damn shoutouts in the music industry. But hey, even on a day of thanks, that's Los Angeles for you. 


10. I also learned about the severeness of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Drive-bys, ghetto birds and knowing the difference between gunshots and fireworks; it's all too real of a thing. And sometimes the palm trees symbolize a little more than just palm trees. And you shouldn't be caught dead wearing the wrong colors on the wrong side of the hood. Because little shit like that can get you killed. Because in Los Angeles, sometimes it isn't just "little shit". It's the reality of turf wars that can you put you 6 feet under.


Bottom line, Los Angeles made me who I am. From being a regular customer at the tire shop on Slauson, still referring to the new Obama Blvd as Rodeo Drive and still pulling up to Pink's Hot Dogs on Melrose; Los Angeles has showered me in abundance. LA is more than the condom wrappers on the floor in between the 10 freeway entrance and the Jack in the Box, it's more than the walls lined up with graffiti, it's more than the smell of piss near the 7/11 on 7th. LA is the girl on the city bus asking you if you have an extra hair tie, it's the fruit vendor on Central hustling and bustling under 90 degree weather, it's the gentle nod you give to a complete stranger as you pass them on Figueroa. It's community. It's integration. It’s all love.


It's home.