Los Angeles, Los Angeles – From the Editor

Los Angeles, Los Angeles – From the Editor – Editorial

Kit Rachlis

ABOUT ONCE A MONTH THE MAGAZINE RECEIVES a proposal for a column from New York. Most of the queries are articulate, explaining why a “Letter from New York” would be ideal for our readers. Just think how many former New Yorkers live in Los Angeles, they point out. As the two media capitals of the world, the cities are intimately connected, they argue. True enough, and I still turn down every proposal. The obvious and most important reason is that this magazine is about Los Angeles–that’s our subject, that’s our heart–and the place is complex and mysterious enough that I don’t think we should devote space to anything else. But there’s another reason. A column would play into one of the city’s secret vices: our need to seek validation, especially from New York.

If you went by cliche, L.A. and New York could not be more opposite. We are a horizontal city; New York is vertical. We live with nature, whether it’s mountains or coyotes or the ocean, in the middle of our lives; New York has concrete. We are a city of satellites, with no center; New York has Manhattan or, more precisely, those four square miles that extend from Wall Street to 59th Street. We drive; New York has subways and buses. We suffer from an anti-intellectual streak; New York analyzes everything to death. We are an adolescent city, hardly more than 100 years old; New York is mature, dating back to 1664. And on and on it goes.

Those, of course, are simplifications. They hark back to a tired notion that reduces L.A. and New York to the yin and yang of American life. They overlook an essential shift in the culture. Maybe it was the riots, or the Northridge earthquake, or O.J., or the media’s obsession with the entertainment industry, or sheer size, or history catching up with us–but sometime in the last ten years Los Angeles has joined New York as the country’s other iconic city. The place people hate or love but everyone looks to. The place of myth and exaggeration. More than Chicago, more than Boston, L.A. and New York are where you go in order to “make it.” Both attract the driven and the ambitious, whether you’re a recently arrived immigrant at the bus stop or a recently hired mail-room clerk at William Morris. To put it in fancier terms, Los Angeles is to the 21st century what New York was to the 20th: This is where American democracy and the American dream get worked out. All of which is to say, we don’t need a letter from New York. We need a letter to ourselves.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Los Angeles Magazine, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group