Everything about it is a contradiction, the antithesis of who I am, but the contrasting angles and mismatched edges fit together and the vision is flawless. Motivated by integrity, I see the world in black and white, but the dream is shallow and the city is filled with color. The goal is unrealistic and the industry is competitive. Those who fight their way through the door gain respect and their power trumps the materialistic root of their success. The streets are gritty, the sprawling landscape unappealing to the eye but it’s a city known for beauty and perfection.
It’s called the City of Angels, a place where few dreams come true and millions of souls are trampled. The neon lights are bright but so aren’t the hungry eyes of the masses that gaze at the starless sky at night, praying for their big break.
In LA, everybody thinks they’re someone and they never let you forget it. On my first and only trip to Los Angeles I remember being taken aback by the number of people I met who “worked” with insert famous person here. Relatively trusting in normal life, I was suddenly skeptical of every person I met. The distrust left me with a gross feeling in my stomach, unsettling, as if I were so hungry I couldn’t eat. I wondered if I could overlook the incessant name dropping and blatant lies. As I walked down the wooden steps of a thrift shop in Venice I worried one day I wouldn’t think twice about dropping a name or two in a town where networking is the number one way to get ahead and vowed to remember how ridiculous I thought the owner sounded when he told me about the time he dressed Kirstie Alley for a photo shoot.
One particular man passionately told me about his experience as a producer for NBC/Universal. We were on the train at Union Station when he sat across me, ready to talk. His name was Manny and he appeared to be in his mid-fifties. His dark hair was thick and though he spoke English better than some Americans he couldn’t shake his Mexican accent. “Yeah, me and Fergie,” he said. “She loves me because she knows I’ll tell her the truth. One time…she came up to me in hoochie-mama dress. Tits hanging out, her ass wasn’t covered and she said ‘Manny, how do I look?’ You know what I told her? I said ‘Baby, you look like a hoochie –mama!! You gotta leave something to the imagination, girl. Make them want more! You know what I’m saying?”
I’m polite. I smiled and feigned interest in the appropriate places, feeling bad for the guy whose self-worth was attached to embellished relationships with the rich and famous. I wanted to believe he was telling the truth but it was difficult to believe the man sitting across from me in dirty jeans and a Hanes tee-shirt had close relationships with Dave Matthews and Britney.
I’ve fantasized about living in LA for year but like most things in life, fantasy doesn’t transcend the realm of reality. I’m disgusted by the dirty streets and cinder block buildings covered in graffiti but the strip-mall atmosphere and smog aren’t enough to pollute my dreams, so I have to go. Most people question my sanity and people who live there advise against it. “Good luck finding a job,” said an out of work writer I called about a sublet. “I don’t know if you know this or not but the competition for servers is high. You need a portfolio full of things you’re working on, what your goal is, pictures….and once you get a serving job, you don’t give it up. There. Aren’t. Any.” I told her I’d have six months rent saved up and she said “Well….you might be able to find a job by then,” but her voice was thick with skepticism.
Every job I’ve applied for has rejected me via courtesy emails citing a ‘large number of applicants.’ They say they’re not interested at this time and always thank me for my interest but the polite dismissal does nothing for my ego. Of course, I justify their decision with the fact I currently live 3500 miles away.
When the rejections first started piling in, I lost the idealistic optimism that gave me the courage to go to California in the first place. For two days I stared at my computer screen thinking the worst. I’d spend my days aimlessly searching for a job in the miniature cities that make up LA without luck until my money ran out, no other option but to go home without my pride. It wasn’t going to happen for me. I wasn’t going to be a fashion journalist; there are millions of writers just like me who, more talented or not, have connections I don’t. ‘It’s sad’, I thought, ‘that before I even arrive, I’m discouraged.’ Fear had overtaken my excitement and with the reality I couldn’t plan everything, panic ensued.
This downward spiral of second-guessing and uncertainty had to stop; I could feel the urge to back out forming in my gut. I made a decision that some might say is...crazy. I chose to ignore every negative aspect of the move. Mind over matter, I am positive I will find work if I try hard enough. 13.2% unemployment rate? No big deal! I’m optimistic I’ll make friends because I know I’m fun to be around and can carry on witty conversation. I don’t worry about finding a place to live after my three month sublet in Westwood runs up because in a city that big, there are apartments to be found. I don’t worry about getting stabbed because I’ve managed to survive living on Elm Street where in the past six months there was a major drug bust, a man was murdered, and a woman raped. This past Saturday there was a standoff, guns and all, and I had a prime view from my living room window. I don’t think about what I could lose or that for the first time in my life I’m set up to fail because I simply don’t believe that will happen. I have an annoying level of self-awarded confidence that borders on conceited but it has served me well so far. You might think I’m blind, naïve, or clueless to how the world works and my mother would agree with you. Me? I choose to think about things in a positive light, never letting negativity get in the way of achieving my goals.