The Broad Stage

On Sunday, I saw Thorton Wilder’s celebrated play Our Town, with Helen Hunt in the role of The Stage Manager. The play was very powerful, Hunt’s performance flawless, and the production very interesting.

Our Town is playing at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center through February.

The Broad Stage is an interesting venue, with an intimate feel to it and a rich program of music and theater performances. I’m thrilled with my new ‘discovery’ and look forward to attending many other great performances at the Broad Stage.

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Is L.A. a Rude City?

Travel + Leisure magazine readers voting on America’s rudest cities ranked New York as number one this year. No surprise there, since that’s what most people think about NYC, whether it’s true or not. What surprised me the most, however, was to learn that Los Angeles ranked fourth this year, and is a three-time-champion in the category, having been considered ruder than what T+L calls “classically brusque East Coast cities,” such as New York, Washington, DC, and Boston.

I don’t know what T+L readers based their votes on –maybe frustrated LA drivers or snooty Beverly Hills boutique sales persons– but my experience so far has been very different.

After living on the East Coast for over 25 years, when I first arrived in Los Angeles I was shocked by how friendly people were, compared to folks in the Washington DC area. I wouldn’t say Washingtonians are rude, they are just a bit reserved, and I blame their attitude on the weather, which is almost always dreadful in the nation’s capital.

In L.A. I quickly realized that the typical half-smile with no eye contact East Coasters often give strangers is not very common here, and that I should be a bit more engaging in my interactions with Angelenos, whether I thought their friendliness was genuine or not.

So, is Los Angeles a rude city? Heck, no! Nothing could be farthest from the truth. Angelenos are friendly and fun. As to why people are so friendly here, I’ll go back to the weather to explain their behavior because it’s easier to feel good and be nice to people when it’s sunny, warm, and pleasant, which is almost always the case in Los Angeles.

Because of this and others things, I love LA!

LA Traffic Horror: Myth or Reality?

Yes, traffic in the Los Angeles area is bad, no doubt. But I actually expected it to be much worse, considering how much Angelenos complain about it. In reality, traffic here is not much worse than in other large metropolitan areas, such as Washington, D.C. (that I know all too well), New York, or Chicago. In fact, it is the D.C. Metro Area that holds the title of worse traffic in the nation, not Los Angeles.

Last year the LA Times reported that “it took commuters in the L.A.-Long Beach-Santa Ana area an average of 28.1 minutes to get to work in 2010, ranking 17th nationally.” Commuters in the Washington D.C. metro area, on the other hand, can spend 45 minutes to 2 hours to get to work. And the I-495 (or Capital Beltway) can be quite intimidating during rush hour. I didn’t have to drive on the Beltway to get to work but it would still take me 45 minutes to 1 hour to drive a distance that could be covered in 25 minutes in good traffic.

So, why do Angelenos complain so much about traffic?

My guess is that when people live in a beautiful place, surrounded by beautiful mountains,  the ocean, exquisite vegetation and near perfect weather, all that’s left to complain about is traffic!

Santa Monica: More Than A Pretty Beach

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in California for three months and never once posted about it! In my defense, moving from one coast to another, house hunting for weeks, dealing with difficult sellers and agents (that deserves a post of its own) and doing everything else needed to settle in a new state, has been a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, while doing all this, we’ve been living in Santa Monica, on a rental apartment just a stone’s throw of great shopping and restaurants and half a block from the ocean front. This has been a great experience and I’ve become a huge fan of the city.

Santa Monica is special, not only because it has super friendly people, great beaches and breathtaking sunsets but also because it’s a very progressive community with admirable standards of social inclusion. Its reputation as a liberal, caring, and well-organized city, with good schools, and good public services is one of the reasons Santa Monica is one of the most sought after places to live in Los Angeles County.

One of the things that struck me the most about Santa Monica was the city’s policy on homelessness. Unlike other communities, Santa Monica is known for treating the homeless with great compassion, and for being dedicated to preventing and addressing homelessness through outreach, permanent and temporary housing and shelter, and supportive services.

To be sure, there are those who see the homeless presence as a danger to the community. They forget that many of the people roaming the streets today are war veterans, former successful professionals, moms and dads, who fell victim to addiction, financial misfortune or mental illness.

While the city has had problems in the past with the way the police treated the homeless, it is certainly much more proactive in addressing homelessness than the city of Los Angeles –named the “meanest” city in the United States by national homeless advocacy group in 2009, according to the LA Times— and other cities in neighboring counties.  Just this past week, in three Orange County cities, three homeless men were killed by what is believed to be a serial killer, someone who does not embrace the notion of compassion and tolerance towards those who live on the streets.

On January 25, over 200 community volunteers will take to the streets in Santa Monica to visually count homeless people in the community, as part of the city’s Annual Homeless Count. I am seriously thinking about joining their effort.