Small Differences Between NY & Home

As inspired by Mighty Girl’s travel series (Paris, Barcelona, Hawaii), here are a few things I noticed on a recent trip to New York:

  • People wear sunglasses a lot less in NY. I was there on sunny days, some of the hottest and muggiest of the summer. Despite that, I saw maybe one in every 20 folks with sunglasses on. It even affected me: in LA, I tend to automatically pop sunglasses on my face as soon as I venture outside, but by my third day there, I forgot to wear them till past lunchtime!
  • I was expecting a faster pace of activity, and gamely brought walking shoes and tried to keep up with the flow of foot traffic on the busy sidewalks. As such, I ended up getting to almost all of my meetups on time or early… and would then wait for 10-20 minutes. New Yorkers are meant to be impatient and to-the-point, but I guess that doesn’t always translate to punctuality! My suspicion is that everyone was stuck with “just one more thing at work” syndrome.
  • A black-and-white cookie is not a cookie, but a cake. Not a difference, I was just a bit (actually, a lot) boggled by that.
  • Half the people I saw standing on sidewalks (so… a lot) were smoking. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone smoking in LA!
  • I can count on one hand the number of streets I saw/crossed that were two-way. And yet, even though I knew they were all one-way, I could never keep myself from checking traffic the wrong way too… just in case. I kept hearing my parents’ voices in my head, saying “be sure to look both ways!”
  • Performances are just a part of life in NY. You can ignore them, smile and watch, or openly scoff, but it seemed pretty normal to see in any given week a subway dance troupe, breakdancers, and a Hare Krishna parade. I actually saw all of those things in just three days!
  • People would talk about money more openly. Granted, this may be affected by the people I interact with in LA (I don’t have a ton of friends in the entertainment industry), but I was part of many more conversations in NY that involved how much people made, how much rent was in that area of town, how much that vacation cost.
  • Coffeeshops were so so so small! It’s a good thing that there would be four on a block, because it’s very possible that the first three wouldn’t have any open table spaces.
  • Speaking of crowded blocks, spotting three or four of the same service on a single block probably means that you’ll get pretty good value at any of them, due to competition. When I found myself on a block with three nail salons, I did a Yelp search for the best-reviewed one. I ended up with an AMAZING manicure for $8.50 that included a one-minute back massage while my nails dried (is this standard?? If so, two points, New York.)!
  • I missed NPR. I remember as a kid hearing that New Yorkers loved their newspapers because they were perfect for reading in the subway, and Angelenos loved radio because they were always in their cars. I saw not one newspaper on the subway this trip — everyone was on their phones instead (doing something that doesn’t require consistent cell service, I guess?). But I did very severely miss having the presence of radio news in my life.
  • Everyone talked about the weather, which, to be fair, I feel like people do everywhere in the world. But in NY, unlike in LA, it’s actually worth talking about — I experienced two of the hottest, muggiest days ever (and I’m from Cleveland!), followed by a dark, cloudy day that featured two huge thunderstorms. Dramatic much, NY?
  • And finally, one big similarity, a big city thing, I think: every New Yorker has a very different New York. While, just like in LA, there are things that unite all the city’s denizens. But there are also things that are integral parts of one person’s life and complete mysteries to another person, even if those two folks have essentially lived side-by-side for years. NY example: the Chinese car services. LA example: $15 one-hour massages. (both of my examples are Chinese because I don’t know anyone else’s secrets.)
  • (Photo of me with a NY bagel in a NY park, but still with my LA sunglasses and chipped LA manicure very much intact.)


Dealership Plates

Like anyone who’s lived in LA for a while, I’ve sat through some serious traffic. Living and working in this city doesn’t necessarily mean you go through traffic hell every day, but it does mean that you lower your expectations a lot, at least if you’re concerned with your blood pressure and overall health. So you hopefully buy a car with a comfy interior, figure out a way to create an ideal music/talk radio/podcast/audiobook setup, maybe work out a great bluetooth situation so that you can make calls during your commute, and just sit back, at least somewhat content in the realization that if you’re going to be crawling along for 45 minutes (to go six miles!), at least the sky is a clear blue and the sunlight’s streaming in.

But at some point, you also realize that it can be quite boring, so if you’re like me, you start cataloging the minutiae of your particular commute: obsessing over how the gardener on that corner lot always misses the same section of lawn, counting down the days till that terrible-looking blockbuster comes out and they finally change out all its equally terrible billboards, and — my favorite — taking note of every single other car around me. I try not to stare, because we’re all pretending to be in our own worlds, but c’mon, if you’re a beat-up purple (old) VW bug with a Colorado plate and a large number of bumper stickers advertising various peace-related causes, I’m going to be making up a story about what your life is.

One weird phenomenon that I noted in my hours on the road is, to my knowledge, a predominantly LA thing: the dealership plate. By my count, every tenth car in LA is driving around with no real license plate (not even a temporary one in the rear window!), but instead sporting an advertisement for where they bought the car. I gave myself a few days to see if I could capture this, and I was able to take the below pics with close to no effort:

I guess it’s possible that each of these cars was fresh from the dealer, or even out on a test drive, but… probably not. And given the sheer number of these driving around, I’m pretty sure people just leave them on their cars for months and months, or basically as long as they can get away with it. Frankly, why not? Without identification, you’re essentially not accountable for any damage or reckless driving that you do, and I have never ever seen a car with one of these plates be pulled over — I’d imagine if one was, you’d be in trouble for not having a real plate? I mean, technically, you could be going around committing all manner of crime, because how are they going to identify you? “It was a dark blue Durango… from Keyes in Woodland Hills?” Real helpful.

So now that I’ve come face-to-face with how incredibly prevalent this is, I’m baffled at how it’s anywhere close to legal. I only vaguely recall the details of my last car purchase, but don’t you have to have a temporary plate showing before you get your real ones in the mail? Is there some special exception here for which literally one in every tenth Angeleno qualifies? Does this happen in other cities, or is it a total LA thing? And how did I manage to get four pictures and not one is of the biggest offender, which I’d see MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY on my commute: the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Beverly Hills?

All good questions. Someone help me out here?

Koreatown Dates

This past weekend marked three months since Evan and I moved into our new house! Besides all the excitement/worries that come with the 93-year-old house itself (as I type this, there is hammering and drilling happening all around me, as we’re having central heat and air-conditioning installed this week), it’s been really fun to be in a new neighborhood.

The Larchmont area that we’ve moved into has been a great fit for us, partly because of where it positions us within the city — we’ve only ever lived west of here before, in the Hollywood/Mid-City West/Miracle Mile areas, and while we’re an easy and quick drive from all our old standbys there, we’re also now much closer to one of my favorite neighborhoods in LA: Koreatown. Continue reading