Recently, I've come across two biannual events that have reminded me that I've been living in Los Angeles for two years, my car registration renewal (I still drive my mom's 2004 Toyota Camry), and my iPhone 6 purchase (I bought my iPhone 5 in Glendale at the Americana).
I didn't think much after being here for a year, but two years is when you really start to know a place for what it is and what it could be for you for the foreseeable future.
Before I moved here, my picture of what living in LA was like was colored mostly by a short trip to the OC in 2008, while I was figuring out my post corporate life after a somewhat demoralizing month and a half in Las Vegas. I didn't know how different it was from LA, and assumed that it was a ubiquitous experience, where people kind of just chilled out, ate 4x4s at in n out, house partied and enjoyed the weather and the outdoors but didn't really do much. It's somewhere I'd never imagine myself staying long term, but enjoying for a week or so.
It was early in 2012 when I came to LA for living scouting. Although I love my New York based acting training and New York actors, I feel like there's this "above it all, don't sell out" mentality of the purity of the art, and that LA represents the cheapening of acting. The reasoning behind that is that when acting becomes about making money or getting famous or how many twitter followers you have, it sucks the soul out of it.
And they're not 100% wrong, but at the end of the day, you have to figure whether working at an off off off Broadway theater to an audience of 5 people is worth the tradeoff of diluting your art a bit to reach out to the masses and making enough money to sustain a living. It took a couple years for me to shed this mentality and cast off fears from leaving everything that was familiar to me in New York, to realize that I wanted more for my voice to be heard than to be 100% pure and holy about the business of acting.
So I ventured out and visited for a couple weeks. I went through the a program in New York that had an "LA trip" for actors where you would meet industry people for a week doing seminars and workshops. I still even remember the host of the program drawing the 405/101/10 on a whiteboard in the first interest meeting in the trip and saying "This is essentially your world here, most of what you will be doing will be within the confines of these highways."
Of course my first encounter with the 405 would be when the SuperShuttle took over an hour to get to Studio City from the airport. Meeting industry people for a week was exhausting but the reception I got back was positive enough for me to believe that moving out here was the correct choice. I was still very green in my mind of how the business operated, but I was convinced that it was time to move.
So two years ago, I traversed the fruited plains of America and drove with my life in a car. It's funny how random people do want you to succeed when you are in a field like acting. I remember shipping my chair (it's a nice chair) to LA from my hometown in New York, and a Korean guy working at UPS around my dad's age was wishing me the best of luck on my career enthusiastically as if I was his own son, asking if I knew of Doona Bae. I knew a few people from college, but I happened to be one of the few Korean families out there with no family at all living in LA or had ever lived in LA (how is that possible, I have like around 15 cousins living in America).
In these two years, I feel like a lot has happened, but yet almost nothing has happened. Starting life as an actor in LA is really like a startup business, probably like 95% fail or something like that. There has been progress for sure, but there's always that two steps forward one step back feeling you get. I've definitely learned a lot however, and become less green about the whole business.
In these two years, I also feel that I have probably been to more places in LA than most people, including people who have lived here their entire lives. That's because LA isn't really a city in my opinion, it's a collection of several cities. That 405/10/101 hexagonal trapezoid I was talking about? I basically perfected how to get from one part of it to another depending on time of day. These next few entries, I'll try to expound on what I've learned about Los Angeles, that hasn't already been covered ad nauseam by NYC vs. LA articles everywhere (I've read them all, btw).