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Photograph: Rozette Rago

A Time Out New Yorker tries L.A. for a week

Written by
Tim Lowery

Editor’s note: As part of this week’s cover story on Los Angeles, Time Out New York features editor Tim Lowery and Time Out Los Angeles restaurants and bars editor Erin Kuschner swap coasts (and lives) for a week. Read Erin’s take on New York here.

Fuck me. It’s early 8am as I’m showering at Erin’s Echo Park pad, enjoying the spacious digs and the quiet and the light pouring in through the window, when it hits me: I need to move my rental car for street sweeping. By 8am. “They’re really strict about it,” Erin texted me the night before, and an image of some guy towing away my Toyota Corolla and a week’s worth of walking everywhere in a city that seems allergic to the very notion of walking sends me into a panic. I toss on my clothes, fly down the stairs—too rattled to appreciate the bucolic entryway, ivy-covered trellises and palm trees that greet me on this perfect day—and sprint uphill at what seems to be an 80-degree angle. I can’t fathom what this looks like to the hippiesh dude fixing his truck across the street. Sure enough, a tow truck’s idling about 30 feet away, but I make it just in time. I hop in, catch my breath and realize that, right now, I might be the least-chill person in all of Los Angeles. Say what you will about my anxious self: In New York, there’s a comfort in knowing that someone’s always freaking out more than I am.

I should explain something: I don’t drive—or at least pretty much haven’t driven since high school. Before arriving for this assignment—I’d been to L.A. once before but Ubered everywhere—this is the one thing that kept me up at night, as I replayed that scene in Annie Hall, where consummate New Yorker Alvy Singer crashes his car near Sunset Boulevard. But as I made my way onto the 105 after landing at LAX, I was oddly calm, so charmed by the mountainous landscape bathed in warm sunlight that I forgot I was cruising down a five-lane freeway. I made it onto Sunset and flew by Echo Park Lake while blasting the classic-rock station with the windows down. For a moment, I was transported back to my teens—when driving was fun—but then I snapped back to reality when it dawned on me that I don’t know how to parallel park anymore.  

So what did I think about L.A. before winding up in this weird, sunshine-filled, spread-out anti-Manhattan? Until a few years ago, not much. But then in 2010, a friend in Chicago made the move. The following year, Permanent Records, my go-to vinyl shop around the corner from my old place in Chicago, opened an outpost in Eagle Rock, eventually becoming a sort of HQ for L.A.’s fruitful garage-rock scene. (It recently expanded to another branch in Echo Park.) Now it seems like half of my friends have either moved there or are thinking about it.

There are almost too many differences between my day-to-day life in Brooklyn and my abbreviated one in L.A. to count. First, there’s Erin’s adorable, ’60s-style bungalow, which is nestled on a hill with a small front patio, has a faintly rusty and sweet smell, and is eerily quiet at night—or at least is for me, as I’m used to a steady stream of roommate chatter and the occasional siren.

Also, there’s how Angelenos walk (when they walk). When I stroll from a parking garage to Time Out Los Angeles’s offices the following morning for my first day of work, it feels like a zombie apocalypse, with a few people waiting for a walk signal when there are literally no moving vehicles in sight. It feels kind of like a Sims version of a city and everything about this situation—not jaywalking or moving at the speed of a jog or having to maneuver past a group walking three-wide so you don’t miss your morning meeting—is so unlike my usual trek to Times Square, I can’t even.

That night, I meet up with my friend Jess, who is a 15-minute walk away. She’s shocked I’m going to actually use my feet to travel, which throws me, as walking 30 minutes to get somewhere in Brooklyn is my MO. But en route, I understand her point. Winding through the hills is equally relaxing (there are some lovely Victorian-style homes I dream of buying) and creepy (why is that shadowy figure outside the convenience store staring at me?).

Then there’s Time Out Los Angeles’s Silicon Valley–esque lounge area, which plays indie tracks, has a vintage watercooler filled with fresh strawberries and slices of watermelon, a bar with craft brews and artisanal coffee, and—get this—a wellness room, whatever the fuck that means. It also seems like everybody I meet is at a 3 on the intensity scale, whereas New Yorkers are perpetually burying the needle past 10. At rocker den Little Joy, I ask a dude I’ve just met what he does. “Nothing really,” he says, eventually admitting that he bartends sometimes. “L.A. makes you lazy,” he adds. That’s something I hear a lot while I’m here.

The following morning at minimalist café Eightfold Coffee, Time Out Los Angeles editor Kate Wertheimer, who spent two years in NYC before decamping to L.A. six years ago, tells me, “When I first moved here, everyone seemed kind of lazy, and I missed the drive that I’d felt all the time in New York,” but she does say that Angelenos seemed to have gained a bit of ambition recently. (Whether that’s her imagination or due to the influx of East Coasters is up for debate.) If New York is the city that never sleeps, L.A. is the city  that’s so enviably well rested, it’s annoying.

But it’s a fish-out-of-water annoyance I eventually learn to dig and embrace. Over the course of the seven days I’m here, the differences with NYC soften and feel less odd, and I let that chillness seep in. In fact, more than any of the haunts I love (red-light–drenched tiki joint Good Luck Bar, no-frills, worth-the-hour-wait noodle spot Silver Lake Ramen, those trillion taco trucks I visit), it’s the feeling I got while running on a footpath in Elysian Park-—where your backdrop is a twinkling skyline facing one way, a verdant cluster of hills facing the other—that I know I’ll remember and could probably use a bit more of in my life.

On my last day, I awaken in a Zen-like state and look at my phone. It’s 8am. My flight leaves in two hours. Fuck me.

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