We're ambivalent about Los Angeles. When you talk about a place with so many obviously amazing things right next to so many obviously horrible things, how can you not be ambivalent? People who relentlessly trash LA, and people who can't stop talking about how great it is are equally boring.
So in a year when the conventional wisdom said " Go to Los Angeles right now!" and "Get the fuck out of Los Angeles right now!" we've been here, watching the place closely, keeping an eye on the environmental problems, the local politics, the culture, and just the vibe on the streets. As the mayor might say, this was a big fuckin' year. Here's what we learned:
LA's Rich, Unvaccinated Children Are a Bunch of Disease Time Bombs
Every city in America probably has anti-vaxxers, but rich children in Los Angeles might just be the people who are most vulnerable to disease anywhere in the country.
To make matters worse, the unvaccinated snowflakes of Los Angeles are a breeding ground for LA's whooping cough problem. It seems that to parents on the city's posh Westside, protecting your child's purity of essence (or something) is a higher priority than stopping a potentially fatal outbreak.
A big story about this by—of all publications— The Hollywood Reporter came out in September. Journalists took a look at the state's immunization records and discovered that rich kids attending hoity-toity, entertainment-industry-centric daycare centers, preschools, and kindergartens had rates of unvaccinated kids as high as 68 percent. WHO statistics put those micro-populations in Los Angeles alongside places like Chad and South Sudan in terms of protection from communicable disease.
The New Mayor Will Say "Fuck" on TV if He Feels Like It
LA's new mayor Eric Garcetti is like some kind of experiment to create the perfect politician for Los Angeles. He's always on, and he has just the right remark for every occasion in both English and Spanish. He also looks like what you would get if you told a cartoonist, "draw a picture of a mayor."
Anyway, when the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup this year, he went to a giant reception for the team, and gave the following speech:
...which included the line "This is a big fuckin' day." Whether it came from genuine enthusiasm for the game of hockey (which LA residents aren't known for) or just the desire to suddenly make the whole event about himself, the remark was fun for everyone, and it may have set a precedent that even in this puritanical country, you can talk like an adult in public and not have to go on NBC Nightly News afterward to pretend you're sorry.
There Were a Lot of Earthquakes for Some Reason
LA gets plenty of earthquakes. But the area had more substantial earthquakes in 2014 than any year since 1994, the year of the deadly Northridge quake. It was enough to be chalked up not just as randomly-occurring events clumping together, but a trend worth examining for a cause.
The Santa Monica Mountains (the area residents know as "around the 405 freeway") in particular showed a general increase in seismic activity that caused geologists to stand up and take notice. It was, in many ways, similar to the rise in earthquakes nationwide that the US Geological Survey has connected to fracking.
Whatever the cause, the most intense tremor of the year was the 5.1 magnitude La Habra quake, which caused a blackout that affected thousands, damaged a few homes, and injured a handful of people.
Los Angeles Is Decent at Water Conservation
The entire city of Los Angeles might be the product of a water supply being hijacked from a fertile farm community and piped into what should be a desert, but it turns out the people of Los Angeles have pretty good water conservation habits. Water saving measures begun back in 2009 actually helped during California's historic, ongoing drought. Common practices like fake lawns, and drought-resistant plants make the area tougher to blame than the real water hogs like Rancho Santa Fe.
PR-wise, one smart water conservation measure was the cancellation of LA's Slide the City event over the summer. The Slide the City team desperately wanted to bring their giant faux Slip'N Slide to downtown LA, and in the grand scheme of things, a wet strip of vinyl in the middle of a park wouldn't have chugged nearly the amount of water an almond farm consumes. But letting all that water run into the gutters just so a few people can go "whee!" during a drought this bad would have been a very bad look. So the Powers That Be didn't award Slide the City the necessary permit.
Now if only the city would shut down that huge fucking pointless fountain in Los Feliz.
Cops Aren't Always the Racist Assholes We Expect Them to Be
We're not too fond of our cops here in LA. They have such a strong track record of beating the shit out of black people that they should just quit the police thing and go pro. That's why when Danielle Watts, a black actress, accused the LAPD of harassing her and her boyfriend in Studio City, it was easy to believe her version of the events. She was just minding her own business with her white beau and the racist LAPD couldn't handle their forbidden jungle fever love so they decided to rough them up like they were Bud White from LA Confidential or something. Of course the LAPD was racially profiling her. That's what the LAPD does.
The well-meaning but less skeptical of us took her at her word. But then a tape of her confrontation with the cops came out and revealed her to be bordering on verbally abusive with the authorities, who said they matched the description of a couple who was seen fornicating in public. Whoops!
Watts is awaiting arraignment for misdemeanor lewd conduct. I don't trust the police, but I also don't trust anyone, just like my boy Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Our Most Delicious Food Is Illegal
Bacon-wrapped hot dogs—sometimes called " danger dogs," for the shoddy quality of their ingredients—are among LA's favorite street foods. They're sold out of pushcarts around the city with grilled onions and jalapeños and ketchup and mayonnaise. They're delicious, and, apparently, also illegal. This is something that most people realized when the City Council announced they were considering a proposal to legalize street vending.
There are about 50,000 street vendors in LA, so this is a sizable economy we're talking about. The City Council is still sorting out how to best legalize and regulate all these sidewalk sales, and they don't expect to make any changes until next year. The regulations will probably include some kind of stipulation about how long vendors can keep the hot dogs roasting out there in the sun, since that surely violates the city's health code. Will something be lost in the dogs when they're legal? Only time will tell.
The Police Do Not Control Facebook
On August 1 this year, Facebook shut down for about half an hour. The appropriate response to this would have been, obviously, finding something else to do while waiting for the website to reload. The actual response, however, was the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department getting frantic calls from LA residents who wanted Facebook back. It got so bad that a sergeant from the Sheriff's Department sent out a tweet, kindly reminding everyone that Facebook isn't actually a law enforcement issue and to please stop calling 911 about it.
No One Can Understand Our Parking Signs
If you've ever been to Los Angeles or seen a movie or watched a stand-up comedian you'll know that finding a parking space in the city is its own version of hell. And once you finally manage to find a space, you have to decipher the cryptic warnings on parking signs: one-hour parking during the day, except for Sundays, and no standing between 1 PM and 4 PM, but only during school hours. Or something.
Parking tickets ain't cheap, but getting them is an accepted part of living in this city. It's just too hard to figure out what is and isn't allowed. So earlier this year, a graphic designer decided there should be a simpler method for understanding when and where you can and can't park. The design she came up with clearly demarcated where you could park, at what time, and for how long. The City Council voted to pilot the new program in October, which means Angelenos no longer have an excuse to park where they aren't supposed to—but it doesn't mean that we still won't.
There Are, Apparently, Ways to Get Around LA Other Than Driving
People in Los Angeles have a love/hate relationship with driving. We like to complain about the terrible traffic, how expensive gas is, roads being closed because they're filming something, how annoying parking is, that nobody uses turn signals, that there are too many potholes, etc. etc. etc. Driving in LA is, in a word, atrocious. And yet, we're extremely defensive of our cars, to the point where most LA residents deny the existence of citywide public transportation at all.
This year, that started to change. Sort of. We're still obsessed with cars, but we're starting to let other people occasionally drive us around. Los Angeles is now Uber's third-largest market, and after they slashed their price-per-mile over the summer, some people suggested that the ridesharing app could actually replace the need to have a car at all. There was even a cringey New York Times article about it. Admittedly, we're not quite there yet—stats from this year say driving still makes up 75 percent of daily transportation—but we're learning that there are ways to get around Los Angeles other than behind the wheel. Besides Uber, the number of people in LA walking and biking has doubled in the past decade, and apparently there's a metro?
Donald Sterling Is the Worst Rich Guy in Town (and That's Saying Something)
Basketball is a primarily black sport. Charles Barkley said it, so it must be true. That's why it was so shocking that now-former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling had such a problem with black people showing up to his games.
Sterling was caught on tape condemning his mistress for bringing black men to Clipper games and posing with them in her Instagram photos (one of those black men happened to be Los Angeles legend Magic Johnson). Black guys are the ones that packed Staples Center and lined his pockets. They're kind of integral to the whole basketball-league-thing working.
To his credit, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver wasted very little time banning Sterling for his comments and forced him to sell the team to eccentric mega-billionaire/lunatic Steve Ballmer. Sterling is still in the midst of legal action involving his wife and the NBA. The Clippers have moved on to the business of winning games. Black people can still go to Staples Center. Talk about a fairy tale ending.
New York Is Stealing All of Our Talk Shows
Since the 1970s, NBC's The Tonight Show has broadcast from "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" or, for eight weird months in 2009 and 2010, Universal City.
From Carson to Leno to Conan and back to Leno, Tonight has been a decidedly LA program. The Tonight Show was a shiny reflection of our city: alternating between bland and bizarre; status-obsessed; cheesy, but comforting; consistently amusing at the end of the day.
When Jay Leno finally shuffled off the stage to fiddle with his collection of funny cars and construct a lifelike approximation of his mother's womb made entirely of denim, new host Jimmy Fallon packed up the show and moved it back to its ancestral home in New York. The show is still as weak as the coffee at Langer's Deli (regional zinger!) but now with more of New York's trademarked obnoxious, self-congratulatory swagger. New York didn't just take one of our pop cultural institutions, but it also took 164 jobs. According to the Hollywood Reporter, NBC laid off the entire staff of The Tonight Show in Burbank and "encouraged them to apply for jobs in New York."
That's not a ton of jobs, but it's part of an ongoing exodus of showbiz jobs from LA. Other cities and states offer better tax incentives for production than we can afford. Worse yet, we're living in a New York cultural moment where it seems like the center of gravity has shifted back east.
Mayor Eric Garcetti fell all over himself to praise CBS for keeping The new Late Late Show with James Corden in LA. James Corden isn't particularly well-known and the Craig Ferguson version of the show is barely watched, but it's better than nothing.
The Lakers Suck
Angelenos are proud of many things: our amazing weather, our proximity to the beach, our classic architecture, our commitment to the arts, our Mexican food, ourselves, and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. We love the Lakers so much that we let Magic Johnson buy up half the town and begged him to keep going. The Lakers are one of the few things that can bring our sprawling, demographically divided city together.
We've been spoiled by Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Magic, Kareem, James Worthy, Shaq, Kobe, and Pau for decades. Eleven times, Los Angeles has been able to celebrate an NBA championship (the Lakers won another five when they played in Minneapolis). Eventually, it was all going to fall apart. We just weren't expecting it to happen so soon.
The Lakers are horrendous. So far this season, the most notable thing about them has been one of their players dating Iggy Azalea. They're poised to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. The last time the Lakers missed the playoffs two years in a row was 1974-1976. It says something that the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that has historically been miserable and just had its former owner outed as a racist (see above), is more popular than the historically significant Lakers. The Lakers may never be the rallying point for the city again, joining the Dodgers as a team that coasts on the city's goodwill while violently eating shit. Some of us have a hard time admitting this truth, but the Lakers will likely keep reminding us all of their shittiness into 2015, too.
Andy Dick Can Now (Allegedly) Add "Jewel Thief" to His Resume
There's a familiar local joke that for every LA resident, there's at least one Andy Dick story. Some of these stories are funny, some are utterly tragic, but all contain the magic of Dick. Andy gets in trouble with the law so much that he might as well have a wing of the County Courthouse named after him. His latest quagmire came after TMZ reported he swiped a $1,000 necklace off of a passerby on Hollywood Blvd in November. According to reports, Andy asked to see the necklace, the man agreed, and then Andy swiped it off his body.
Andy was picked up by the cops a few days later (while in possession of a single pill of unprescribed Adderall) since if someone says "Andy Dick stole my necklace," he's not terribly hard to find. The authorities declined to press charges because, according to TMZ, the amount of drugs he had was so minimal, and he even returned the stolen necklace. Better to refrain from speculating on what would happen if Andy Dick were black, and not famous. Instead, let's remember that Andy Dick is out there and he will offend again. Be ever vigilant, because Andy Dick could be anywhere—in your closet, under your bed, on your comedy podcast, or at your local dive bar. He's the One Who Knocks. He's a ghost that haunts our city. Andy Dick, you are LA.