It’s still a little shocking that this Thanksgiving marked 10 years since that fateful date I packed my bags and slightly-post-college room decor and headed to Los Angeles.
What followed that rainy 2006 evening was a decade of pretty much everything you can expect in the City of Angels. Most importantly, many lessons and interesting observations.
With that, below I am sharing 10 things I’ve learned (for better or worse) from 10 years of living in L.A., a place in which I am very happy to be living!
1. Don’t Dive Right Into Your First L.A. Living Situation Without Serious Thought
I refuse to call my first L.A. living situation a regret, because I do believe that everything you do leads up to where you are presently, and I am overall in more of a good place than a bad one. But that said, I was basically an idiot when I moved here. I mean I guess that can be expected. I was only 23 years old and with no real life experience. I looked my very best, I was motivated, excited and I wasn’t thinking in terms of reality.
I found a girl on Craigslist, and we planned to live together. She seemed nice, normal… all the things you want in a living mate. And emphasis on her being a girl. Yes, moving to a city with no friends, it probably makes sense that I should have an equally lost girl to accompany me as I roam the streets. Well, just as we agreed via email that we’d share an apartment, I received a Craigslist response from three seemingly well-mannered, educated boys. Two were on full-ride UCLA athletic scholarships and one was a regular UCLA student. They could not have been more charming (and handsome from the pics). One of the boys was a Jew from Long Island and I really liked that. I chatted with the guys on the phone, they chatted with my mom—and like that, I was oh-so-easily swayed from living with the girl to moving in with three guys. My mom had her doubts, but my aunt convinced her to let me do as I please. So without even meeting them first or seeing the Brentwood-adjacent condo, I was sold.
The first month was a little chaotic (just a lot of going out, spending money, etc…), but regardless, I was having a blast. I loved everything: the drives to and from OC to move my stuff, the endless MySpace dates, the walks to Brentwood Village, the cute boys my roommates brought over, everything. It was truly a magical time. Nothing has ever felt the way that moving to L.A. felt.
But all of the months in that apartment that followed…were quite the contrary. The roommates went out every night. Reality hadn’t previously hit that they probably wouldn’t want to take their random female roommate out with them every time they hit the club to meet chicks. The Long Island roommate (who at one point claimed I was like family to him) turned out to be a money-hungry schmuck, who may have been great at tennis, but was horrible as a human. Shortly after I moved in, he got a girlfriend, started smoking weed 24/7, broke a glass window during a fight with her and pretty much sucked. He would do the most douchey things, like encourage me to leave a $25 tip on a $6 drink at a dive bar just so I looked like I had money. The regular “UCLA student” had actually only taken one class during one semester there and was currently not working, not going to school. He lived way out of his means, had horrible health (we had to share a bathroom) and manipulated his way into getting people to pay for him or borrow things he couldn’t afford. The third roommate was actually a class act. We stayed in touch after we moved out, but he wasn’t home much when we lived together.
Needless to say, the nine months that lied ahead consisted of basically no friends, no serious job, no excitement. Thank goodness I had a friend from high school who was a go-go dancer at Area. That was my occasional golden ticket.
2. Just Because Your Apartment Is in a Great Location Doesn’t Mean it Won’t Be the Residence from Hell
And in other apartment tales… After landing a job at People.com in 2010, I figured it was time to upgrade living spaces as well. I was currently in a charming Miracle Mile 1BR, and as much as I really did love it (I still think about that place to this day), I was no longer working across the street at the E! building and I also wanted a little more space—something I was then able to afford with the new job.
I found a 1BR in a glorious area (Kings & Melrose, to be exact). The world was at my fingertips. This apartment was not only in a prime location, but it was huge and only $1250 a month (WHAT?!). Sure, the building was a little old, the unit kind of had a weird smell and there wasn’t a whole lot of natural light, but overall, this was a freaking steal.
My 65-year-old next door neighbors greeted me seemingly with open arms. They told me their life story (they were two friends living together, but not sleeping together, in case you are curious), they offered me all-natural energy pills, left me a congratulatory card because of my new job. Okay, so they were a little eccentric, but totally harmless, right? Wrong!
Within just a few weeks, it was very clear to me that they were in agony over their boring lives. They did not have friends aside from each other. They were home at all times. And what started off as a friendly neighbor relationship quickly turned into a jealousy-ridden despise. I found them peering through their blinds to see what I was doing, they’d come out and scream at my friends who were enjoying a casual 7pm visit on a Friday night, they’d chase down my friends who accidentally parked in their space. Never has a man in a bathrobe grossed me out more! They’d leave novels of angry notes taped to my door. Most people thought I was exaggerating (I mean, it couldn’t be that bad) … that is, until they witnessed the madness firsthand! And here’s the kicker: I couldn’t even complain because the male’s 91-year-old mom was the landlord!
As if that doesn’t sound bad enough, let’s just say the neighbors only made up 50% of the apartment from hell. There was a huge cockroach infestation and I noticed it just a week after I moved in. I kept telling myself they’d go away, but no. And oddly enough, I’d always find them in the cleanest of places (my bathtub, the kitchen, the living room). They were everywhere! It was so bad that when friends came over, they’d automatically know they were on cockroach-killing duty. Gross.
There was one particular instance in which I had just come home from the American Music Awards and was rushing to get some mandatory work done before I went to bed. Mid-writing, I heard a rustling noise. It was indeed a windy fall evening, so I didn’t think about it too much. But the noise kept sounding closer and closer, and next thing I knew, there was a giant cockroach crawling up my wall. What started as my wall soon became the ceiling above my bed. Holy s–t! Mind you, I was so exhausted by this point. I’d spent a whole day on a red carpet, I hadn’t eaten, I was trying to get work done, all I wanted to do was sleep. What proceeded was an hour of basically just me staring at the ceiling. Next thing I knew, it was morning. I had literally fallen asleep mid-stare. The cockroach had then migrated to a little corner on my wall.
I told the landlord this was an issue, and she had the place sprayed three times. But here’s the thing: Spraying doesn’t get rid of them. It only kills them. This leads me to the moment I put in my 30-days notice.
I just came back from a horrible 7-day “vacation” for a wedding, and normally I’d keep the air conditioning on at all times because it tends to keep those guys at bay. Well, upon leaving, I turned the air off for safety purposes. And upon returning? Well, that is a vision I’d like to unsee. There was a huge stack of dead roaches piled on top of each other right when I walked into the apt. After almost vomiting, I made a beeline for my pad and paper to let the landlord know I’m bidding adieu to these dwellings.
3. Shady Job Experiences Aren’t Limited to the Entertainment Industry
I was maybe a month into living in L.A. when the sweet woman at my local upscale tanning spot (**NOTE: This was not Sunset Tan) basically scouted me to work at her salon. “You seem like the perfect fit,” she said, adding that there is a rigorous training process and I can potentially make lots of money (hourly wage + commission) at this “high-end” location.
I don’t think most people are honored to be pegged as tanning specialists, but based on the woman’s demeanor and her portrayal of the place, I started thinking that this wasn’t your average salon. And boy was I right…
What followed was a three-day training session with approximately seven additional guys and girls, who, based on how they performed, would be issued accordingly to one of the company’s various salons. At the time, there were I think seven salons spread out all over L.A. The salons were incredibly clean and sanitary, and their employees were friendly, attractive and knowledgeable.
They were also scammers.
It still blows me away to this day, but these seemingly wonderful store managers who welcomed me with open arms and made such “genuine conversation” with me when I would come to tan prior to employment, were nothing more than scammers who were openly training my fellow coworkers and me to indeed be low-key con-artists as well.
Part of the intensive training (which included a handful of tests you had to pass on the first try) focused on how to approach various “clients,” as they called them.
If a person hadn’t been in for at least a year, you told them their tans were expired (even though there was no word about an expiration at the time of sale). Then you’d take whatever tans they technically had left and would “unexpire” them if they agreed to buy a new (expensive) package.
If a person who had tans left implied they had zero, you would automatically go along with it and tell them if they bought a $450+ package today, you’d throw in a few freebies (aka the ones they forgot they already paid for).
If a person ever questioned how many tans they had left, you’d automatically say zero. If they insisted they have more than that, you would say something like, “Oh, wait, I see you have [one third of the amount] actually. It’s just now popping up. If you reup today, I’ll throw in [a few of what they already had].”
If a person said “I think I have 20 tans left, but I’m not sure. Will you check?” you would deduct however many you want so that they can be set aside for later when they eventually run out and you want to give them “free” tans with their next package.
It was absolutely crazy, and some of these girls were essentially paying for their mortgages with this money. I was totally miserable. The girls were catty, and you were only “popular” there if you were a top seller. I would drive home from work in tears because here I was, working in the heart of Sunset Blvd., one of the most coveted streets in the state, only to be at a tiny little tanning salon where I’m not even that great at my job.
I did, however, make a friend there named Ryan. He ended up becoming my very first real L.A. friend, so I guess the place served its purpose. Needless to say, most of the salons (including my “beloved” Sunset location) went out of business. Good riddance!
4. Work in L.A. Can Be a Lot of Fun
Without question, the best days of my life were during my employment at E!—but even after working there, my experiences and observations proved that there are so many opportunities to enjoy the workplace and be creative in L.A.
I had a couple positions at E! before landing my Editorial Assistant job, and once I scored that coveted spot (which required me to write and report), I went from transcribing someone else’s interviews to suddenly transcribing my own! And there were a lot! It was so surreal. I was working for a well-known TV media personality, interviewing stars I’d looked up to for years, going to boutique openings, hotel openings, awards shows, free dinners, everything! I was being sent bizarre sex toys, free bottles of top shelf liquor, a year’s supply of various snacks and soft drinks … just ’cause! It was so crazy. And although it was tough to be broken-into the already-acclimated group of non-E! red carpet reporters at all of the events I covered (a handful definitely were not nice at first), people in general were very kind and respectful. I was so inexperienced at this whole thing, and looking back, I had some really cheesy moments—but somehow I felt accepted throughout the whole process.
But even when I moved onto future jobs, each that followed (whether full-time, freelance or my blog), had/has a fun and creative element. Sure, work is work, and at any job, there are going to be tedious aspects or plain and simple things we don’t want to do, but I think L.A. gives people the opportunity to have more fun at their jobs than many other parts of the country. And so many people are in the creative space. It’s a very comforting feeling to be surrounded by so many fellow writers, for example.
5. Regardless of Who You Are Or What You Do, We All Get Starstruck Over Someone
Given the nature of my career and the span of which I’ve been working, I’ve definitely had my share of celebrity and “celebrity” sightings, interviews and so forth. Although there will always be particular individuals whose very presence makes a reporter starstruck, for the most part, it doesn’t take long to get used to these encounters and spottings. In fact, many of these folks begin to recognize you over time, to the point where you’ve crossed over from being strangers to being somewhat of acquaintances and perhaps more. That said, there have been some standout experiences that certainly differed from just another “casual” red carpet interaction or party run-in. But my most monumental celebrity encounter, by far, has been with my forever-favorite, Shannen Doherty.
Shannen is not only the OG badass bitch of Hollywood, but she’s also my favorite actress of all time and has pretty much been ever since I saw my all-time favorite show, Beverly Hills, 90210 for the first time at eight years old. That said, you can only imagine a dream coming true when I got to interview her in a very intimate setting at her Malibu beach house five years ago. OMG!
I had met her a couple times prior and she was a pure delight. That very first time, I got super starstruck, which truthfully didn’t happen much. I even shed a tear. We took a photo (I told her I needed to move to be on my good side) and I was super nervous. And then, a couple years later, I was shocked when my then-editor at People.com told me I could go interview her at her home. She had been out of the news for a while, so I was incredibly grateful that he encouraged me to go, knowing my intense fandom.
On this day, Shannen was promoting a charity, and was giving away a bunch of old clothing. When I showed up to her home, she totally remembered me from the previous times. I was kind of embarrassed, but I could tell she appreciated my enthusiasm. I seriously cannot express how delightful she was. It was by far one of my career highs—probably the top (and on the same note, Luke Perry was an absolute dream to interview as well).
As for presently, I commend Shannen’s brave cancer fight, and I know that she is one tough cookie. If anyone can get through this, it’s her.
6. The Definition of “Sociopath”
I’m fortunate to say that in L.A. I think I’ve met more people on the good side than on the bad. But even so, one term I’ve become incredibly familiar with in this town is “sociopath.” Until moving to this city, I had no idea what that meant. The term “psychopath” was tossed around incredibly freely since I was a kid, but sociopath? I really hadn’t heard it—and with the exception of one person I encountered during high school and one during college, I can’t think of anyone growing up who really defines that word.
Well, in L.A., there are sociopaths left and right. Charming, emotionless, cruel and full of lies are the characteristics that typically make up this breed. There are so many, but once you spot a couple, you can quickly spot ’em all. And once you do, you learn not to be bothered by their actions because they come from a very empty place. The sociopath predicament is an interesting one. I don’t know from exactly where such behavior stems. It’s really bizarre how many people are like this. Some can be incredibly boisterous and over-the-top, while others are fairly quiet and passive aggressive. But they each have similar distinct qualities that put them into a category of their own.
7. There Is a Black Hole in the Middle of West Hollywood
There’s a legendary black hole in the middle of West Hollywood known as The Abbey Food & Bar. Ah yes, the black hole that takes your dignity, dollars—and in my oh-so-fortunate case—many a cell phone. Yes, The Abbey is a spot that so many of us swear we’re taking a break from, but we always keep coming back to immediately. It’s the home to laughter, tears, new friends, old friends, awkward run-ins and so much more.
I don’t have any tattoos, but the tiny little incision-looking scar on the right side of my right elbow will forever remind me of this establishment. Ah, memories of when I was attacked with cocktail glasses for saving my friends’ seats and not letting these creepy guys sit at our table. Oh, to Saturday nights…
But with the bad clearly comes the good, because otherwise, why would I frequent this place so much? Is it because 85% of my friends are lesbians? Well, I guess that doesn’t stray me, but seriously though, this spot is a staple of my L.A. existence. There’s nowhere I’d rather be during Pride Weekend, New Year’s Day, the night before Thanksgiving, pretty much any night during wintertime, etc. Over the years, ever since making my very first L.A. friend (see: tanning salon), The Abbey has been a regular go-to regardless of friend group.
I’ve been to their monumental 25th anniversary extravaganza, I’ve been to a tasting for their new menu—I think it’s safe to say that black hole and all, The Abbey is in my West Hollywood life to stay.
8. When in Doubt, Become a Blogger … and If All Else Fails, Become an Escort
Not only do I have some major passions, I’m also a professional writer who also has a journalism degree—so it’s not too shocking that I have a blog. But when I think about all of the people I meet in L.A. on a whim, who doesn’t have a blog? Obviously most people are fashion bloggers (clearly I’m not one of them), but either way, blogging has changed the way we view careers, journalism and everything in between. It doesn’t take a skilled reporter or the wittiest mind to create what is nowadays considered “quality” content.
Having a blog has not only essentially replaced having a portfolio, but it gives anyone with consistency access to publicists, cool events and a platform to share their life with the world. Whether or not you monetize your blog, having one has proved to be essential in this town.
When I first moved to L.A., I was so inspired by the Perez Hiltons, Harvey Levins and Michael Ks (Dlisted) of the world. Having a truly successful blog was a rarity. If you were even remotely known, you were huge. It started a whole new realm of publishing, and I thought it was awesome and much more free-spirited than traditional editorial. I had no idea blogging would turn into such a game-changing phenomenon. I am definitely in favor of this world because it allows everything I create to be solely from my own standpoint and preference.
But if a 9-5 career isn’t on your horizon and you don’t have the passion or commitment to become a blogger, I’ve learned you can join the legions of escorts in this town. I personally do not know a thing about this avenue, but I know it is very common and far more casual and socially acceptable than how you’d traditionally view it. Strange to me, normal to many.
9. It’s Perfectly Fine to Mock Some of the City’s Ridiculousness
What started out for me as a guilty pleasure that I didn’t take at all seriously, turned into a full-blown obsession. I was totally consumed with The Hills—and I still am! Why? Because it delivered a pretty accurate depiction of this city. When I first moved to L.A., where you were on a Wednesday night determined everything about your social status. Heaven forbid you weren’t at Area!
From the ridiculously staged iced coffee meetups at Joan’s on Third, to drama-filled birthday parties at Les Deux, it was impossible not to find humor in these predictable occurrences. Heck, the show’s comical villain Spencer Pratt sure made a lucrative mockery of the whole thing, so who’s to stop anyone else?
The Hills not only allowed any average Joe to get a glimpse into the fabulous existences of beautiful 20-somethings living the good life in the City of Angels, but it definitely provided us with plenty of fodder for a good laugh, because so much of what was portrayed (especially in the show’s first few seasons) truly was reflective of how things went down in this town. And I think as the show grew, the lifestyle in the city kind of melded to fit what was portrayed on TV.
I think this town has calmed down a lot since the hit show’s heydey, but it really was once all that ridiculous.
10. Some of the Best L.A. Memories Don’t Actually Happen in L.A.
Okay, so technically some of my best L.A. memories didn’t actually occur here. They happened in Vegas and Palm Springs. Prior to L.A., I think I’d only been to Vegas once, and needless to say, it wasn’t a memorable experience because clearly I don’t remember it (and not for the right reasons). Because of this, I never had any desire to go there. But when I moved to L.A. and found people who showed me Vegas done right, I was totally sold. Words cannot describe some of my grandiose experiences coming out to the 702. From all-expenses-paid stays at a slew of top-tier hotels, to sharing a table with LC on New Year’s Eve at Hyde Bellagio, to a weekend full of Kaskade, Avicii and Above & Beyond, so many experiences have been nothing short of amazing.
I’ve frequented Palm Springs more than Vegas. It’s a lot easier to get to and doesn’t require too much effort or planning. This luxurious desert space is pure perfection. From many-a-Palm Springs International Film Festival weekend, to my 30th birthday during 4th of July weekend, to Coachella and various holiday weekends, Palm Springs is without question home to some of my all-time favorite memories.