SOCIAL STUDIES A New Yorker Packs for Los Angeles Meghan O'Keefe

This weekend, I am going to Los Angeles for the first time ever and I am packing two pretty sundresses, my favorite jacket and all of my courage.

I’m not a skittish traveler. I routinely travel on planes, trains and Bolt Buses all over the country. I’ve spent almost a year of my life in Europe. When I was five, I crossed my first international border and remember being irritated that the Canadian Mounty shining a flashlight in my face had disturbed my nap. I can handle customs, delays and being stranded in the middle of nowhere. I’m also not afraid of big cities. I mean, I live in New York. I can stand next to a crazy homeless dude on a subway and not freak out. However, going to Los Angeles still kind of terrifies me.

A friend of mine told me once that everyone has one city that is a behemoth in their mind. It’s a city they don’t think they can conquer. It intimidates them and makes them feel tiny. At some point, I decided that Los Angeles is my behemoth.

When I was a little kid, my family watched Pretty Woman together. It was the first time I had ever seen Los Angeles depicted as a place where people live. According to that film, the people who live there are either mean rich people, poor drug-addicted prostitutes or ambivalent hotel staff. So, it became clear that even though Julia Roberts’s dreams came true, if I moved to Los Angeles, mine probably would not. As I got older, Los Angeles was repeatedly shown in film, television and in tabloids as a beautiful place where naive people go to get their dreams trampled. I developed an unnatural affection for all documentary shows about old Hollywood starlets who fell from grace under the pressure of the old studio system. Because of this, when I think about leaving New York to just visit Los Angeles for a couple of days, a part of me is worried I’ll end up like poor Peg Entwistle, a 1930s Broadway star who killed herself by jumping off of the Hollywood sign.

Of course, that’s ridiculous. A ton of really nice, wonderful and mentally sound people live and thrive in Los Angeles. In fact, the person I’m lucky enough to be staying with might be the kindest person I know. There are a bunch of lovely and successful ladies who write for this very website who are also based in the City of Angels. Essentially, I’m getting myself worked up only imagining the worst possible scenario for myself. I’m not going to end the weekend dead on the floor of a seedy motel room. In fact, I’ll probably just end the weekend jet-lagged and stuffed with In-N-Out burgers.

Right now I’m trying to pull together all my pluck and courage so I can say to myself that it’s going to be alright. In fact, it might actually be a lot of fun. Maybe Los Angeles isn’t the behemoth. Maybe my behemoth is just my own anxiety. I have to put aside all my concerns and worries so that I can be open to the fun that could occur. I don’t want to be the kind of person who decides a place is bad before she’s even been there. So I’m going to leap forward. I’m going to enjoy myself. I’m going to give Los Angeles the chance to be the setting for my new favorite memories instead of a city of someone else’s nightmares.

I’m definitely remembering to pack my courage, along with my optimism and sense of adventure. Now that means I can panic about whether or not I have time to buy new shoes to pack, too.

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  1. L.A. is no behemoth to me, it’s a bug that I want to squish. I lived there and hated it. Now New York, oh man. I’m in love with that city. If it wasn’t for the cold weather, I would be living there right now.

  2. I’m originally from LA, it’s not so bad. I hope Cali treats you right :)

  3. no- at various times Stanton, Skyline, McKean.

  4. okay I’m getting really personal- Did you have an art teacher named Poling? If so hi-I love your stuff. If not I love your stuff anyway.

    Anonymous | 9/18/2011 10:09 am
  5. You’ll have fun! It’s not as scary here as you think :-)

  6. Wait a minute- did you live in Delaware during your middle school years? If so I think I know you!

  7. haha. i think you’ll have a great time. this place is just like any other, except maybe has better weather. ;) have fun!

  8. The first thing I did after reading this was google Peg Entwistle. She really did jump of the Hollywood sign!

  9. Thanks guys! I’m actually on my last day here. It’s been pretty great. If anyone has any suggestions of where in Hollywood or Beverly Hills I should eat lunch…let me know!!!

  10. I feel that New York is my behemoth. LA is easy, honestly! There’s so much to see despite the seedy underbelly of Hollywood hovering over the city. It’s beautiful, and it’s fun. You’ll be fine, but just remember to have fun! And, you’re a New Yorker, you really CAN handle LA!

  11. I’m sure you’ll be fine. New Yorkers are doing great everywhere.

  12. If your a New Yorker, LA is like a little piece of the puzzle. You’re from the Big Apple! LA is sooo not a big deal. You’ll love LA. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never been to NY but from what I hear, NY is definitely crazier :) don’t worry! Pack summer clothes and rainy coats! The weather is bi-polar at this time of the year. Good luck! :)

  13. I hope you enjoy your trip. I’ve been to LA twice now, and before the first time I went, I didn’t really want to go there – it was a stopover on my way to Canada for a tour. I always imagined LA being the home of “blonde bimbo barbies” who were mean and anorexic (hey, I was 20 and my opinion was based on the tv shows we get). But I went for 3 days, stayed in Santa Monica and I actually really loved it. I met so many nice people and they totally changed the image I had of LA. The second time I went (earlier this year) was just as good. I went to an ice-hockey game at Staples Center (a bit of a novelty for an Aussie) and one of the guys selling the candy before the game was talking to me for at least 15mins – trying to explain the rules to me when he found out it was my first ice-hockey game ever. Pretty much everyone I met was really nice – none one really had the bitchy attitude I still kinda expected to get in LA.

    Off topic, but I also went to NYC this year for the first time and OMG!!! I can’t wait to get back there!

  14. Nah, don’t buy new shoes to take with you. Pull a Julia and go shoe shopping when you get there GOL