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Jewish World Review August 3, 2001 / 14 Menachem-Av, 5761

Lewis A. Fein

Lewis A. Fein
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A Devil Among Angels: Life in Los Angeles -- IF the stereotypical New Yorker is a gruff cabby or bus driver - think Jackie Gleason with a Pakistani accent - then Los Angeles is the dumb blond. Only in LA, where the average young woman's body contains more plastic than a Tupperware convention, is ignorance an admirable trait. Now, it is easy to belittle Los Angeles --- easier, in fact, than navigating the city's freeways or securing a table at Spago. But Los Angeles deserves America's contempt, largely because of the idiots, poseurs and charlatans that define the city's character. And no, this unholy trinity neither describes nor typifies LA's homeless population; the city's dispossessed actually live the prototypical California lifestyle, albeit more modestly.

First, the weather. LA is a natural desert, and snow is nothing more than a downpour of potato shavings outside Studio Lot B. Rain is almost equally rare, usually occurring during February or March. Thereafter, smog is an Angeleno's best friend, that cumulonimbus cloud of automotive emissions, trapped air and industry bunk between Hollywood and Vine.

Yet too much sun rots the brain. Things move more slowly in LA, and a sunny day -- every sunny day -- is another vacation day. Even household pets assume a relaxed attitude, barking or purring infrequently and begrudgingly. Indeed, a warm day tires the soul.

Second, the people . . . and a disclaimer: the stereotypes are true! The typical Angeleno is a superficial villain. Ironically, most residents - themselves recently released or recovering from rehab, plastic surgery and, increasingly, prison --- lack a full set of emotions, though Prozac sells briskly among the glitterati. Yes, the typical Angeleno is a vainglorious drug addict . . . with a tan.

Still, few things are worse than an Angeleno's illiteracy. For most residents, a book is a film without pictures - an unmitigated waste. For others, words cause migraine headaches, which require stronger amounts of Prozac. In general, most residents treat bookstores like museums: places to meet eligible women or bachelors.

Third, the entertainment industry. For the typical Angeleno, Hollywood is a constant source of pleasure and pain. Admittedly, the real Hollywood is nothing like Universal's tour of the same, where mechanical sharks and synchronized floods entertain tourists. The real Hollywood is a land of duplicitous agents and insecure narcissists. Put another way, Hollywood is an older version of high school with valet parking.

Fourth, the politics. By now, most residents treat politics like recreational drug use: a momentary yet wildly popular display of social consciousness. Residents also personalize their political beliefs, trumpeting the benefits of solar power or the cause of animal rights. Yet no matter how disparate the cause or insane the idea, Angelenos agree about one thing - that conservatism is Satan's ideology.

Yes, Hollywood dispatches conservatives the way Israel extradites Nazis: swiftly and severely. Liberals dominate this town, and any display of conservative sympathy -- including a Republican placard or NRA bumper sticker -- invites disdain. Instead, Alec Baldwin and Barbra Streisand influence the city's political character; not even Charlton Heston -- nay, Moses -- can visit enough plagues upon this place.

LA is America's dream factory. The city projects an image of fame, power and money. Beneath the surface, however, is an alternate reality. LA is a place where immaturity is rampant and dissent non-existent. This is a city of liberal orthodoxy and individual decadence. This is a place where the weather numbs the mind, and the mind -- denied literature and non-chemical stimulation -- destroys the body. This is the land of America's other reality.

This is my home.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Lewis A. Fein