To Valley Or Not To Valley

Not just any valley. THE Valley.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: If you walk down the street in Chicago yelling, “CHICAGO SUCKS!”, you’ll get your ass kicked. If you do it in New York, you’ll get shot. If you do it in Portland, a hipster on a double decker bike will frown at you. But if you do it in Los Angeles, everyone will either ignore you or shake your hand and say, “Tell me about it, right? Fuck this place!”

Highways, gang crime, smog, etc – I’ve established in great detail the things that people hate about living here. What I’ve found, though, is that even people who hate LA seem to have a militant devotion to the part of town they live in. People who live downtown insist that it’s the best place to live because it’s centrally located; people in West Hollywood say it’s the best place in the city because of proximity to nightlife, and people from Inglewood say the crack prices there can’t be beat.

I’m guilty of this sort of neighborhood-fanboyism too: Now that the lease on my current apartment is up and I’m looking for a new place, I set three simple search parameters for my new home:

1)   That I would be the only occupant

Because after four years of having roommates, I’ve learned one thing, and that’s FUCK LIVING WITH OTHER PEOPLE. I have income now, which means that I can afford the luxury of not finding somebody else’s manscaping clippings all over the toilet bowl.

2)   That there be no roaches

Because if there’s one thing I hate more than other people living in the same space as me, it’s bugs living in the same space as me.

3)   That it be in the general West Los Angeles area, preferably west of the 405 and north of El Segundo

I love this part of town, which I affectionately call We405NoElSe.* It’s marginally cleaner than the rest of LA, crime rates are very low, and proximity to the ocean means we get cool salt air breezes all the time, which serves to both keep the heat down and blow the smog away from us.

*Yeah, it’s no TriBeCa. I can’t help that there’s a number in the middle of it. 

Also, I like living within a couple miles of the beach. I mean, I don’t really go to the beach that often, what with all the homeless people and tourists and prodigious amounts of seagull shit, but as someone who grew up living 50 miles inland, I like the freedom of knowing that, if the mood strikes me, I can go look at the ocean for a little while on a whim. I mean, if I’m living in California, I may as well reap the benefits, right?  

Did I mention dudes in Speedos? Because Venice has those in SPADES.

Before I started looking for a place, I thought finding an apartment that met all these standards would be fairly easy. This was because, in my fresh faced naïveté as a newly minted working man, I assumed that the salary that I found so generous for my cheap tastes would easily net me a classy single occupancy apartment close to downtown Culver City, which sports a bunch of cultural civic bullshit and, most importantly, a Chipotle.

What I discovered was that the income that seems like so much to a cheapskate like me really won’t get me much of anything in We405NoElSe unless I’m willing to compromise one of my rules – I can either live in a decrepit 150 square foot fleabag with no kitchen and pay $950 a month, or I can share an apartment with some person who has noisy fights with his girlfriend all the time and tries to talk to me while I’m in the bathroom, or, if I’m lucky, I can do both.

I’m flat out unwilling to compromise on my first two criteria, which means that the third – living in We405NoElSe – went on the chopping block. Having been priced out of my own neighborhood, I started looking around the rest of LA, and I wound up in the San Fernando Valley. 

Enjoy this handy yet slightly pixelated visual aid! 

The San Fernando Valley is a large basin north of downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood – it’s actually on the other side of the mountain that bears the Hollywood sign. It’s expansive, clean, suburban, home to about 1.5 million people, and universally derided by douches on the south side of the Hollywood sign as being a lame bedroom community for old people with children and mortgages.

I was – and maybe still am – one of those very douches. Remember that neighborhood pride I was talking about earlier? Well, it really burns hottest when you get people talking about the neighborhoods that are inferior to theirs, and the one thing everyone in regular LA can agree on is that neighborhoods in the Valley are about as hip and exciting as Laurence Welk boning June Cleaver.

What the Valley has going for it, though, is that it’s cheap to live there. The money that would barely get me a North Vietnamese prison hut in We405NoElSe would easily land me any number of spacious one bedroom apartments in the Valley, most of which are in complexes with swimming pools, parking, and laundry on site.

What’s more, it makes sense for me to live in the Valley, at least from a purely analytical perspective. Burbank, where I work, is in the Valley, and right now I spend about $200-250 a month on my 40 mile a day commute to and from there.  

I spend two hours a day sitting alone in my car, in traffic, muttering potential blog material/copy lines out loud to myself to see how they sound. Recently, I’ve caught myself unconsciously doing this in my cubicle at the office or in line at Chipotle, which gives me the general air of a guy who thinks his neighbor’s dog is telling him to kill prostitutes. 

It doesn't help that most of the copy lines are about violent video games.

Everything – from common sense to my wallet to my overpowering desire to not be perceived as a schizophrenic – is pointing to it being a good idea for me to move up north to the Valley.

But I don’t want to move out of the neighborhood that I went to the trouble of thinking up a trendy mashup name for, primarily because right now I live less than a mile away from my friends Dylan and Holly. It’s nice, after spending a big chunk of my day in my car, to be able to walk over to see my friends – even if we usually wind up playing a video game which simulates driving cars. As I’ve found out, it’s difficult to make new friends as a responsible working adult, which is why I want to try and stay close to the ones I already have.

Yesterday, I put down a nonrefundable security deposit on a one-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood called North Hollywood, in the Valley. The apartment is newly renovated and clean, and it’s about a block away from a number of trendy bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and highrise condos dubbed the North Hollywood Arts District. It’s four miles from my office and within spitting distance of a Ralphs, allowing me to finally become The Dude.

I didn’t want to move away from my friends, and I still feel shitty about it, and I’ll probably feel shitty about it for the first few nights that I’m alone in my new place, bereft of ocean breezes or muted stylings of Adele seeping through my ceiling, courtesy of the gay guy who lives in the unit upstairs. I also didn’t want to move to a place with a reputation for being sedate and boring, because that’s not the kind of lifestyle I want in my early twenties.

But the simple fact is that I work ten hours a day in the Valley, and spend a further two in the car each day going to and from there. I’m spending essentially half of my weekdays in the Valley, waking up at 6:50 so I can be stuck in traffic by 7:30, getting home approximately three hours before I have to go to bed so I can get up at 6:50 to go back out there, racking up 200 miles a week on a 15 year old used car. Something had to change, and I really didn’t want it to be the transmission in The Mystery Wagon.

I commuted for work five days a week; I can commute for my friends two or three days a week. The close proximity, How I Met Your Mother-style social life I was looking for just really isn’t feasible in the city I live in, nor is the How I Met Your Mother-style ability to sleep with improbable numbers of gorgeous women. 

How does Ted have more game than me!? Is it because he's fictional?

I’d be willing to settle for a Frasier-style social life, though: A pretentious-yet-lovable guy moves away from his old environment to start anew, living alone. There are regular visits from his old drinking buddies, he meets new eccentric people, sleeps with a couple of gorgeous women, and has a scrappy dog that does silly tricks.

I think I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Truman Capps would like to point out that most professionally-made American porno films are shot in the Valley – so the next time you watch one, keep in mind that I’m probably less than ten miles away from that botched pizza delivery.