It’s funny how people are different from different states across the country. It’s usually stuff like accents and what teams they cheer for. Every once in a while it’s about serious stuff like politics and religion, but most of the time there’s a pretty good variety of beliefs wherever you go. People are honestly very much the same. They all have to pay the bills, take care of their family, and find some time to relax and have some fun. The people of L.A. are no different. They just live in a more expensive place with better weather then most.
Growing up in Los Angeles was interesting. I never built a tree fort or went hunting, but I did see the Hollywood sign, a lot, visited the walk of fame a bunch of times. I’ve been to Universal and Disneyland more than a normal person should, but hey, I was a kid. One of thing things I remember the most was the people I ran into. Sometimes it felt like living in a world of perpetual tourism. Of course there were the local spots that only the people who really lived there knew about and appreciated, but usually, if you went out, you were running into somebody from out of town. And as a kid, what better way to have some cheap fun than to mess with the tourists.
I’ll admit, I’ve almost gotten into trouble a bunch of times because of my friends. We were kinda punks with ripped baggy jeans, outdated Ramones t-shirts, and colored hair. We thought we were cool and original, but so did a few hundred other kids in the area who looked exactly the same. Anyway, it was a way to rebel, so we jumped on the bandwagon. I was actually pretty tame even though I looked like I was ready to start a riot. My friend Luke, on the other hand, was pretty serious about not giving a crap and doing what he wanted. I’ve lost track of him over the years, but I remember that trouble followed him like a shadow. He’d do things as simple as giving tourists wrong directions into the bad areas of town, to slashing tires and stealing stuff from them. He was a sneaky little jerk, and almost got me arrested more than once, but he was a loyal friend. He always owned up to his mischief and never left me behind. When you’re young, that’s what you look for in a buddy.
When we weren’t getting into trouble, we would sit, smoke, and people watch and talk shit on everyone walking by. Not that we were better than them, but everyone just looked so fake to us, and it was a way to pass the time. We’d bust on the suite with his briefcase and cellphone. Screw corporate America. Screw him for being a pawn. We’d make fun of the tourist family with their stupid visors and Universal t-shirts, taking pictures of every house and bush like it belonged to someone famous. Who cares if Ben Affleck’s petunias are in bloom. Go back to your dumb-ass lives in Montana or wherever the hell you cam from. This was our city. We loved it and hated it at the same time.
There were good people there too that I respected. There was a small restaurant, years back. A little Italian place that I actually worked at washing dishes and busing tables even before I was old enough to have a job. It closed a long time ago, but I still remember it. An old guy named Art owned the place. He was loud, with a big beard and red nose and cheeks from drinking too much of his own wine, but a good guy. He was always ready with a joke or a come back and kept me on my toes. He taught me a lot about working hard for what I want and was generous to a fault. At the end of each night, he made sure to give away his leftover food to the homeless. It was usually just bread, pasta, and sauce, but it was happily received by those poor hungry people. He never looked down on them. He knew he was better off and had something to give, and was happy to do so. I remember that the most, more than the jokes and the yelling. That made an impression on me.
People all over the country are just people like me. Some have accents. Some have more money. Some work 7 days a week while others can’t find a job. It doesn’t matter if you believe in a god. People are people. I don’t know what happened to my friend Luke. He could be in jail or dead, but I’m thankful for the friendship and memories. Art never talked or bragged about what he did. Not many people knew other than the workers. These people are what I think of when I think about L.A., not the tourists or actors. These are the real people that made it a good place for me to live.