My Schuman ohne Eigenschaften-style “vacation from myself” here in LA is drawing to a close. Sadly, I did not conspire to get any serial prostitute-murderers out of prison or commit spiritual incest, nor did I engage in a significant number of rambling, allegorical conversations about the decline and fall of the empire in which I am a bored aristocrat.
But I did get a very interesting feel for life in Los Angeles–or rather, I did in my own way. I was not shown around by anyone, I was not “sold” on it by anyone, I didn’t see many of “the sights” (though I did spend a day at the beach and rode a rental bike in Venice)–I just sort of existed, with little agenda and fewer expectations. That is how I wanted to explore, so that I could continue to mull over a possible move out here if and when I get financially stable enough from my freelance and consulting work to become mobile. Right now, alas, I need my adjuncting–I realize that most long-term adjuncts might laugh until they vomit at these words, but the place I adjunct pays well above the average wage of $2700 per course, and the city I live in right now is MAD FUCKING CHEAP, so pulling in $1500 a month is actually a decent middle-class wage. I had applied to return as an adjunct to the institution that “graduated me with the PhD degree,” to put that in the most field-specific and obnoxious terms possible, but I haven’t heard from them and it’s already July, so I am assuming they are butt-hurt and betrayed by my new incarnation as a post-academic teller of truths, which I completely understand. Anyway, my point is that I had hoped to be moving out to LA right now, but it’s not working out that way, and I am actually more than all right with this.
I’m all right with waiting to move out here for a multitude of reasons, most of which are personal, but the main reason is that although I love California–just love it, really love it–LA is a little overwhelming. There’s the ridiculous faddisness of everything, like the alkalinization of water. There’s the fact that everyone is running some sort of hustle and, unlike St. Louis for example, everyone really cares what I’m wearing (something that was painfully apparent to me when I went out to a bunch of insidery improv things in my Goodwill-purchased jorts).
But one thing I’m really going to miss when I return to my life as a mild-mannered part-time university professor in the flyover is the LA-ness of a lot of people I’ve met here. What do I mean by this? Well, a lot of people I’ve met in the past week are in showbiz, and as such they are very used to, and very adept at, making conversation with strangers. Actors and improv artists are as good at meeting and talking to new people as academics are bad at it. What a breath of fresh air it has been to have an entire week’s worth of conversations with people who a) were nice to me, just abjectly nice to me, and b) who did not even once attempt to engage me in a justify-your-intellectual-existence debate about some obtuse theoretical bullshit. I honestly do not care if every Angeleno’s niceness is fake. I really don’t care if everyone’s niceness is because, as my host/ex-boyfriend puts it, they are all “playing the long game,” i.e. everyone you meet here might be involved in some project you want to be involved in someday, so it’s advisable to keep all options friendly and open. The same is true in academia–you’re ostensibly supposed to be kissing ass to everyone you meet because someone could give you tenure someday–but this somehow doesn’t translate into anyone being nice. The default academic-networking posture is to be a drunk, defensive know-it-all. Never have I felt more marginalized for not drinking than in the academic world, and never have I felt less so than amongst the Kombucha-cleanse artisinal-soda drinking actor set in LA.
I think it says a lot about academia when I say that the most striking aspect of LA culture, the most attractive, and what I will miss most about it here, is that it has been so damn refreshing to just meet and interact with some real damn people.