My education began during happy hour at a Saltgrass Steak House in the Fossil Creek neighborhood of Fort Worth.
The California plates on my car made it easy to identify me as the stranger who had moseyed into town from somewhere else and since I had nothing to do but sip my beer and decompress from the day I didn’t mind some quiet conversation.
He asked me if I was from Los Angeles and I nodded my head and waited to see where the conversation would go. I have been fortunate enough to have done some traveling and experience has taught me that these conversations are usually rooted in the stereotypes about the city.
Depending on the person and what they find good or bad those stereotypes make people eager to want to visit or very glad they have never been to that hell hole.
While I appreciate the human desire to classify things in black or white terms I sometimes feel a tinge of obligation to point out just how big Los Angeles is and how that makes it difficult to pigeonhole it as one thing or another.
My new found friend began by telling me about how I would have to adjust to driving in a huge place state like Texas and that I should let my LA sensibilities go about what real traffic was.
I nodded and smiled at him and waited for him to take a breath so I could ask him if he had any idea how much ground LA actually covers.
City of Los Angeles: 472 square miles
County of Los Angeles: 4,084 square miles
Los Angeles Five-County Area: 34,135 square miles
(Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, Orange and San Bernardino counties)
There are 88 incorporated cities in Los Angeles County ranging from Vernon (population 112) to Los Angeles city (population 3.8 million).
Source: LACity.org, LACounty.org, California State Association of Counties – counties.org
I didn’t know the exact numbers I cited above (thank you DiscoverLA) so I rattled off something about hundreds of miles and how I had friends who drove a good 35 or 40 miles to work and then home each day.
He waved off my account as an exaggeration and told me it probably just felt that way because of traffic and then reiterated how I needed to get ready to deal with real traffic.
I had already been to downtown Dallas (see photo above) and experienced the joy of weekend traffic (see photo above) and laughed because the days of seeing empty highways into downtown LA seem to be long behind us.
Have You Been To LA Before?
In the midst of his dismissal of my account he told me about how people from Los Angeles were self centered and that most of us had moved there because we wanted to be newscasters.
I nodded and smiled through this part again but made a point to say I was born in Los Angeles and that I disagreed with his assessment.
“Have you been to Los Angeles?”
He shook his head no and told me he had no interest because television and movies had shown him all he needed to know.
That would have been an opportune time to suggest he had learned his debate skills from arguing about politics on Facebook but sadly I didn’t think to say it. 😉
Instead I listened to him tell me about the need to visit the Stockyards and to go see the Cowboys, Rangers and Mavericks play ball.
Those of you who know me are probably wondering what I am leaving out of the tale because there is always something more and you would be correct, there is always something more.
Remember When Truth Killed Reality
I suppose you can blame the idea for this post upon recent status Facebook status updates and a handful of emails I received this week.
It is because the US has entered the preseason run up to the 2016 presidential election and people are starting to voice their opinions about which candidates should be shunned and who should be hailed as the hero who will save the day.
Many of the facts I have seen people share have as much basis in reality as the my friend’s impression of LA.
Some of what he said was spot on but much of it was fundamentally flawed because the foundation he used to support his ideas was built upon quicksand and imagination.
It reminds me of a conversation I had when I was 14.
Classmate: Do you like girls?
Classmate: Are you gay?
Classmate: Then you must like girls.
Classmate: Then you must be gay.
I suppose using a teenagers underdeveloped sense of logic and reason it made sense to assume if I said I didn’t like girls I was gay but it didn’t take into account I lied to him.
I lied because I didn’t want to tell him I liked girls and worry about him running to tell one of the girls I was interested in that I liked her.
If you ask my children they’ll tell you I caution them upon trying to come to conclusions based upon false premises and to try to make sure their facts are ironclad before they do make their proclamations about the truth.
I have also taught them to remember that sometimes people decide they know the truth and they will let their truth kill reality.