JFK to LAX

HollywoodAbout a year ago, I found myself at a major personal and professional crossroads. I decided to focus on the positive and view it as an opportunity for a fresh start. I sold my house, quit my job and bought a one way ticket to Los Angeles. Being a native New Yorker, many eyebrows were raised by family and friends.

“Wait. What? Why? How? When?”

That was almost eight months ago and I have absolutely no regrets. Although I miss my friends and family very much, I know I made the right decision. A change of scenery was exactly what I needed to reevaluate my life from a new perspective.

To be honest, I really don’t understand the love/hate relationship that New Yorkers and Angelenos seem to share. Los Angeles has just as many opportunities as New York. It also has just as many problems. I won’t waste any time arguing about which city has worse traffic or more self-involved residents. (Hint: It’s a tie!) The cost of living is comparable. LA isn’t cheap, but you definitely get more for your money here. Public transportation? New York has the edge in the infrastructure department, but I have to say, LA’s Metro system isn’t nearly as bad as people say it is.

There are some things, however, that are simply no contest. What’s so great about LA? Lots of things — the weather, for one. It’s not 72 and sunny every day, but it’s pretty close. Beaches — although not in the winter months. The Pacific is much colder than anyone thinks. The surfers wear wetsuits, even in August.

Year round farmers markets feature an amazing variety of produce from all over California and the local restaurants take full advantage. And speaking of restaurants, I am constantly on Yelp! looking for new places to try.

Although this probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, I was shocked to see exactly how many movie theaters there are in Los Angeles. Well over a hundred. Maybe more. Many of them are generic multiplexes, but there are also many small, independently owned and operated theaters that cater to fans of independent film. They are all over the city and many have one night only showings of indie features, as well as classic blockbusters. So far, my favorite theaters are Cinefamily, Laemmle and the Vista, but I’m sure I’ll be adding to the list.

Equally surprising is the number of record stores that still exist in LA. Given the current retail climate and our pervasive download culture, I was thrilled to see how healthy the local music retail economy is. Amoeba is definitely the Holy Grail of record stores in my mind, but there is still plenty of room for specialty stores and smaller shops like Vacation Vinyl, Origami Vinyl, and Headline Records. It’s great to see that there are so many people who still value and pay for physical music formats.

And, of course, the live music scene is extremely vibrant as well. From smaller clubs like The Echo to mid-size venues and theaters, all the way up to mind-blowing outdoor amphitheaters like the Hollywood Bowl, there is no shortage of places to enjoy live music of all genres.

When I’m looking for some peace and quiet, I love the fact that you can hike into the canyons, but you don’t have to leave the city to do so and you’re still home by lunchtime. The same goes for the aforementioned beaches.

Did someone say road trip? Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina Island, San Diego, Big Bear Lake, Palm Springs and Las Vegas are all within two to four hours of central LA. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can make it to San Francisco or the Grand Canyon in less than eight hours by car.

As you can see, Los Angeles has a lot to offer, even to the most well-heeled traveler or jaded New Yorker. I’m not sure if I’ll stay in LA forever, but I’m having a pretty good time so far.

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