I’m embarrassed. It’s been a long hiatus from writing, and for that I apologize. The past several months were verifiably hectic: I started a new job (April 22), moved to a new place (June 15), and had two of my dearest friends visit San Francisco for Pride. Together we flew to Los Angeles for the 4th of July, which was a whirlwind of eating, drinking, imbibing in substances that shan’t be named, and letting go of all the shit.
Basically, it’s been nonstop every weekend and a rush to tie up loose ends before taking a week off of work, all on top of adjusting to a new location, new routine, and new reality. So I’m justifiedish in my neglect, but still deplorably behind.
It’s strange to think about not having been to a place in thirteen years. I was last in Los Angeles in 2006, at the close of the summer before returning to my second year of college, after spending that summer in Seattle. So young and clueless.
I remember a lot of driving back and forth and an intense, bright haze over everything. The lack of big, shading trees means most every bit of land gets plenty of direct sunlight. LA foliage is tall, skinny palms, birds of paradise, and overgrown shrubs. Perhaps some vines. To be honest, I really miss that saturation of sunshine, which rarely graces San Francisco for more than a few hours or a lucky day or two.
Through film, from afar, I have always been fascinated by the city. This most recent trip was in a way an entirely new discovery of the city, minus some fuzzy memories.
When we landed at LAX, hopped in a Lyft, windows down, and cruised past Baldwin Hills after first being stuck in gridlock while still at the airport, what I recalled was still true. It’s a sprawling, bustling, intense landscape, probably one that is overwhelming and draining to many people. For those first few moments, I got a very Erin Brockovich vibe, everything awash in yellow.
During my long weekend there, which was primarily centered in West Hollywood with a day out in Venice and a lunch downtown, things really clicked. It was hot during the day, but the dry heat felt great on my skin (though the farmer’s tan was less endearing). I remembered what it was like to wear shorts and a t-shirt and have to put sunscreen on instead of a sweater.
On our first afternoon in town, we lounged by the little courtyard pool of our Airbnb, hemmed in by a classic SoCal midcentury apartment complex. I napped on the stone tile, ankles dangling in the water that was surprisingly chilly. Then we laid inside by the A/C. That night, we went to Sugarfish (sushi) then ventured out to the bars in WeHo, mostly to people-watch, which is a bit like a live episode of Pose.
I wore a shirt I’d bought in San Francisco (at ReLove) but had yet to wear—a vintage Dolce & Gabbana brown 100% silk button-down. Short-sleeve of course, and it draped so nicely.
That first night and the three following felt haughty and sultry. The hazy sunset combined with spindly palms and twinkling lights of the hills set the scene, and then it was all the energy of Santa Monica, Sunset, and West 3rd that gave me life.
On Thursday (the 4th of July), we found ourselves at a party in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking the city at dusk, watching fireworks explode across the horizon, albeit under a blanket of smog. It was beautiful anyway. Like the night before, I wore another short-sleeve button-down, this time an all-linen charcoal number from C.P. Company, one of my favorite niche Italian brands, that I’ve had for years.
I also happened to be around new and old friends that all exuded style. Not necessarily luxury or labels, just a sense of put-togetherness that I also miss. It tickled me that Kathryn wore either her grandma’s vintage Speedy or her grandma’s vintage Gucci crossbody. And that she took us sightseeing around Venice, to lunch at Gjusta (get the banh mi americano) and for a stroll on the boardwalk.
And I was inspired by my friends Xavi and Annabelle, both of whom I met in Seattle during that fated summer. For dinner at Little Next Door, Annabelle wore black jeans and platform sandals with a boxy sweatshirt, all topped with a black and white Bottega Veneta Olimpia bag. We agreed that the new Daniel Lee designs aren’t as tasteful as those of his predecessor Tomas Maier.
Later on, Xavi showed me his closet (he’s a creative director and stylist). It was fantastic and magical, full of Dries and ami and strange things like a stiff nappa leather bomber from H.Lorenzo.
For nearly five days, I didn’t check email—I didn’t even bring my computer—and I hardly thought ahead like I usually do. I was squarely in the present, which can be hard in the day-to-day of routines and responsibilities and making plans to “be happy when…”
To be frank, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Los Angeles. Especially in San Francisco, Southern California has a bit of an “us-vs.-them” reputation for being diametrically different from Northern California, and there are plenty of former LA folks in SF who never want to go back. I don’t want to make this a post about SF vs. LA, but if I had to choose between them, I’d probably choose LA.
First, and objectively speaking, the weather is better. The air quality may be more consistently bad, but the temperature range is uncannily suited for comfortable human habitation. Warm during the day, cool at night. And like SF, marijuana is legal, so there’s an overarching sense of chill. Everyone is pretty relaxed.
LA is also a city of aesthetes and creatives. Everywhere I turned, there were creatives doing interesting things, with art, design, architecture, retail, or working at places like Netflix. And while it’s easy to discount those pursuits as less essential, to me, they make a daily experience (or break it). LA felt to me like the epicenter of new American taste, style, and a substance that is missing in most other American cities except New York.
Aesthetics matter, and I felt among “my people” in LA, whereas I feel quite out of sync in SF with all the developers and data scientists. It sounds silly, but I was so taken with how much care people took to look nice, how well appointed bars and restaurants were, how cool it all felt.
For me, the entire weekend spoke to a set of values that I hold dear, and that are underplayed in SF in favor of all things tech. I had good food and had every nightlife option at my disposal (and beyond the midnight hour). Had I been able to shop more, I could have found just about anything within a small radius of West Hollywood—from The RealReal resale storefront to Fred Segal‘s iconic shop.
I know it was just a vacation, and vacations are supposed to be inspiring, relaxing, and carefree, but this felt different. It was akin to feeling in the exact right place at the exact right moment, living as I was meant to live. We also happened to be sitting down to dinner when the Ridgecrest earthquake hit, the strongest tremor in area has experienced in years. It wasn’t violent or jarring, more like a sensation of jiggling, as if sitting or standing on a floating dock. Cosmic timing?
The things I remember not liking about LA, chiefly the tiresome amount of driving, didn’t seem to bother me. We stayed in a relatively small area, and when we did venture out, yes “everywhere in LA takes 20 (or 30) minutes” but that is becoming true everywhere.
As an homage to one of my new favorite cities, here is a quick-blush guide to Los Angeles culture and all it has to offer (on the West Side anyway). First, a map of all the places I went, ate, shopped, and otherwise relished in LA:
Two LA-inspired menswear ensembles:
An LA Playlist
Quintessential LA Movies
I am a Christian for sure.
Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
I can quote this verbatim.
What’s not to love about Anne Heche, Tommy Lee Jones, and a volcano that sprouts from the La Brea Tar Pits?
Dark and retro.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Guy Pearce is my celebrity dopplegänger.
Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
I mean, it’s so silly but Uptown Julie Brown! And those Memphis Group-inspired designs…oy…
American Gigolo (1980)
Pretty Woman (1990)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
A groundbreaking combination of cartoons and live-action, with a political story to boot.
Los Angeles Designers to Know
The Elder Statesman
Tie-dye cashmere sweaters, naturally.
And finally, a Destination: Los Angeles Pinterest board full of more LA eleganza, real estate listings, news clippings, and retail news.