Good, bad and ugly

Ah, Los Angeles… I’ve been in this town a week, and I’m already sick of the traffic. To do anything here, it seems, you have to get in your car and drive at least 15 minutes. This is nuts!

It’s about what I expected, though. I have long thought of L.A. as exemplifying everything that is wrong with America’s car culture: the ugly concrete jungle, the unmanageable sprawl, the gridlock, the pollution.

On the other hand, every time I set my expectations low, I find myself pleasantly surprised. And so it was in this case. I was impressed to see that Angelenos have made a real effort at effective public transit (though the Metro Rail system’s lack of scope limits its utility). I fell in love with the tremendous view of the mountains and the city and the ocean on my hike in Griffith Park yesterday. And I’ve even found evidence of real neighborhoods — the delightfully quirky Los Feliz, for example — hidden behind the look-alike strip malls and gas stations that line the city’s major arteries.

It’ll still be a long time before I can say, on balance, “I really like Los Angeles.” But it might just happen before I leave.

Update (2018): 14 years later, I can actually say “I really like Los Angeles.” It’s one of the most fascinating, maddening and ultimately rewarding places I’ve ever lived — but, as others have observed, L.A. doesn’t really care what you think about it.