Los Angeles: A Local's Guide
At its core, Los Angeles is a city of polarisation: there’s the vast single-family sprawl of South L.A., offset by the density of apartments in Westlake or Koreatown; the flat basin versus the staggering San Gabriel mountains; the wealth of Brentwood and the abject poverty sheltering under overpasses, in shanties on the hillside or Skid Row. One may have lived their whole life in the city without stepping into a neighbouring district, let alone hear of it. Writer and critic Dorothy Parker famously remarked L.A. was “seventy-two suburbs in search of a city.” There is some truth to that, though it may be more apt to counter it as a city with ten disparate downtowns battling for urban supremacy.
If you’re waking up where I am, it’s 72˚F in the late morning, on the fifth floor of the apartment building erected in 1916 peering over Macarthur Park. The sounds of kids playing on the jungle gym mix with the rush of cars and buses; bells ring from the little paletero cart selling ice cream goodies; oftentimes, the menacing buzz of police helicopters circle the surrounding area. This is just one glimpse of one area in the expansive quilt of LA: a city of polarisation.
There’s a bit of everything so long as you look for it. If you want a day spent reading on a quiet, sun-soaked porch of a Craftsman in South Pasadena with a matcha latte, then it exists; and if an electric day bargaining over clothes and other sundries in the condensed alleys of the Fashion District is on the agenda, then so be it—just be sure to pack an umbrella if you’re there anytime between January-March, the so-called “rainy season”.
You’ve probably heard about LA weather, famed for being sunny (mostly) all year round. Kicking off the summer solstice, June is mild, often noted for its “gloom”, a marine layer which blankets the sky many hours in the day. August and September you should generally avoid, with sweltering desert breezes more akin to hairdryers. After the surprisingly chilly winter rains, spring gives rise to lush green hillsides and days where snow-capped mountains tower visibly to the east.
If you’re a newcomer hoping to solely bask in the sunshine: refrain from imbuing your preconceived notions onto the actual city. You’ll always be disappointed. For every hackneyed trope in L.A., there’s also a bundle of jewels hiding on some Southland street.
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