New York Versus Los Angeles: A Tale Of Two Cities


The debate of New York versus Los Angeles is one I’ve had a dirty, closet affair with for quite some time now. And I’m not so narcissistic as to think that I’m the only one. It’s in all the movies. Certain scenes from Annie Hall never fail to pop up in my mind when people start bickering about the two cities. It was the subtext of the last Mad Men episode. If you’ve ever picked up a Joan Didion book, well she’s pretty much a human homage to how the two cities can shape and torment a person. And the songs about it. The songs about it are the best part.

I lived in New York for four years, after deciding that I would move there when I was five, which is not only not a joke, but also maybe the only promise I’ve ever kept to myself. I then spent those years melodramatically anguishing over how the city was killing me, causing everyone around me unnecessary concern for my mental health. And then after spending a few months drinking my way through my hometown, I somehow ended up in L.A., thousands of miles from where I started. The sojourn was only supposed to last a month, but it quickly became a year. 

You have to leave New York to appreciate all the ways in which it once nurtured you, and that’s maybe what happened. I spent my first eight months in Los Angeles living with a terrible girl in Hollywood. That’s how it always happens, I think, in either city. You move there, and amidst your shock and awe, settle down on the first warm hearth you find. It makes everything as exciting as it does frustrating. Hollywood is also probably the Times Square of L.A., so needless to say those months were spent pining for the East Coast. And then one night I found myself a few drinks in, loudly insisting at a party, “New York is just a superior city. I don’t know why you all can’t see that.” And then I realized that I really needed to get my shit together concerning the whole situation.

Recently the argument got louder when a few journalists entered into a pissing contest. It began when Sarah Fenske wrote an article for L.A. Weekly defending L.A. after the city received a low popularity rank in a poll. Her involvement was probably the least sinister, and her article the most intelligent of what was to come. She asserts that Manhattan “has become a whitewashed borough for investment bankers and foreign investors,” which is a bit reductive, but maybe a little true. Fenske also made it a point to be a critical thinker (gasp!) and very accurately point out some of L.A.’s bad qualities: “traffic, taxes, [and] the sheer aggravation of dealing with a dense, sprawling city that still requires the use of a car.”

Then Meghan O’Rourke wrote an article for The New Yorker called “Leaving Los Angeles.” I sat down in my Los Feliz apartment to read it, and prepared spend the rest of the evening crying into a bottle of wine. But then something unexpected happened. It was the most innocuous piece of “cultural criticism” I’ve read this side of college. Maybe I’m being hard on the girl because she’s writing for the f*cking New Yorker, but this article was an extensive analysis of traffic patterns, laced with a hippie joke and the insinuation that L.A. is somehow inferior because of its geography (“It’s what you get living on a giant fault by the ocean”). 

Among the few specifics in the piece, O’Rourke takes serious issue with helicopter noise (again, words she was paid to write for The New Yorker). I just want to ask her what part of New York she lives in, in which the cacophony of homeless men peeing, trash collectors breaking glass, sirens, and drunk white people falling down doesn’t persist through the night. She also found it necessary to point out how inconvenient it was to her that a freeway was shut down because of a wildfire. She pulls it together with a sappy ending about the humbling effects of hurricane Sandy, and how New York too is susceptible to natural disasters (no shit sweetheart, it’s an island).

In doing all of this O’Rourke also reveals that her apt analysis was deduced from merely two months of living in Los Angeles. This all prompted Hillel Aron to write a rebuttal for L.A. Weekly listing “The Six Types of Transplants Ruining L.A.” Aron’s article was equally biased, but at least it had details. He finds a way to attack New Yorkers in two categories, but he also targets people from Northern California, screenwriters, and actors, so I would call it fair.

What was confusing though was the suggestion by Aron that the wrong kind of transplants were “clogging our bars, taking our parking spots, and hitting on our women.” And to that I say this: First and foremost, shut your piehole about “your women.” I bet you haven’t gotten laid since Michael Jackson was still alive. And crowding your bars? You mean your gross, overpriced, disgusting cesspools that enforce a Jersey Shore dress code? Oh, no one from New York is going to go there. And you can have those women all to yourself, we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with them for a while.

Ultimately, we city folk are all asshats. New Yorkers would need a Klonopin lollipop if I took them to Central Park and told them that we were going to go hiking. Angelinos would faint if I told them we were going to walk somewhere. New York hippies eat lettuce out of trashcans, and squat in bedbug-infested lofts in Bed-Stuy. L.A. hippies will rob you blind like gypsies while giving you PCP-laced salvia to help you find Gaia. A boy in New York bragged to me about his satanic penis piercing once. A boy in L.A. bragged to me about his juicer once.

New York is finite, where L.A. is expansive. New York is poetic where L.A. is mysterious. These concepts intimidate one another. But, both of these cities have fed me when I’ve needed feeding and shoved my face in the dirt when I needed that. Perhaps it’s because I see a need, and desire to continue a relationship with both places in the future, but I don’t feel compelled to eschew one for the other. It wasn’t until I read all of the ignorant mudslinging online, though, that those feelings set in. I guess the point really is that Tupac and Biggie are already dead, so why don’t you stop taking cheap shots at one another, and start taking a good look at why you’re sitting in your rent-controlled apartment in the middle of the afternoon, drinking fair-trade coffee, eating vegan scones, and looking at porn? Get off the internet and go enjoy your city that you're so proud of.