August 25th 2009. That's when I moved to LA to "chase the American Dream". More than six years ago already...
Totally on a whim, I thought, "Taty, pack your bags and move, explore, do your thing!". I hate the "what if" thought. I always do what I want to do, even if the whole world thinks it's the worst idea I can think of. I follow my gut feeling! Most of the time it's right... right?! I first booked a week vacation to LA, just to explore. And it felt just right: everything was huge, sunshine every day, it was so lively, all these coffee bars, movie stars, the PCH, neon lights, etc.
And then, to top it off, I met this amazingly creative and inspiring guy. Our days together were very sunny :) One of those days, I was driving to the beach, listening to a great song (Hold on I'm coming - Sam & Dave) and I just felt total freedom!
I literally gave up everything in Belgium and 3 weeks later ... moved to the City of Angels and got myself an apartment in West Hollywood. This was freedom for me! Knowing I had to start all over again.
LA for me was the city of endless possibilities. I saw and felt the sunshine. No seasons, only summer. I saw the beautiful beaches of Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, and all the tourists taking pictures of that big wheel on the Pier. Skaters in hot pants on Venice Boulevard, musicians busking on the beach, artists trying to sell their art, guys smoking their medical marijuana, girls showing off their bikini body, actors going to auditions, taking head shots in the back of people’s cars. The Walk of Fame, In and Out Burger, Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, the Hollywood sign, the Kodak theatre, the huge motorways, the crazy cars on Rodeo Drive, organic food stores, the Oscars, the fame, the good life, the dream!
But the downsides only hit me later. Having to tip wherever you go (that includes your hairdresser). Forgetting to add those taxes to your bill. Hardly any public transportation. Which of course completely means nothing compared to the extreme in-your-face inequality (Mexicans working their tales off for the rich; the Oscars on the one side of Hollywood Blvd, so many homeless people on the other).
And the people? Everybody you meet is either an actor or an agent or a manager or a dancer or presenter or an acting teacher, an immigration lawyer, a personal trainer. Or they are at least trying to be one of these things. I never met a teacher, plumber, someone who just works in a regular office or someone without a massive dream. Everybody is their own CEO in LA, you are in the business of trying to create your own little spot in the industry. I did miss the European culture and coziness. Little cafés and bars and just bumping into people...
I must say: my time in LA taught me so much about myself, going back to basics, working two jobs for hardly any money. Waiting tables till 3pm, hosting events in high heels at 4. Rushing through traffic, trying to keep up with the pace of the city. It was tough sometimes but, no matter how short on cash I was, I always tried to have fun and enjoy my time there. I once spent my last $20 of the month on a bottle of champagne, and enjoyed the hell out of it, in the sunshine, by the pool.
The American Dream didn't work out for me (what's up with all that paper work?!), but I wouldn't have been where I am now without my Hollywood experience. And it still inspires me to this day. I don't know if there are many places on earth where you can meet such a variety of inspiring, creative people. And even though most of them are never going to make it big, at least they have the balls to go try. My kind of people ;)
My favorite spots in LA!
Morning hike: Griffith Park
Museum: The Getty
Bike ride in Venice
It's incredibly ugly but can't leave without: the Walk of Fame - Hollywood Bouldevard
Live Music: Hollywood Bowl (= a MUST)
Downtown LA: the Art Walk
Best bookstore ever: The Last Bookstore
Go to the movies :)
Take a drive and watch the houses/stores/people on Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Bel Air, ...
Shopping (Disneyland style): The Grove
Shopping (hipster style): Melrose Avenue