I've always had a rather dim view of Los Angeles. Whenever I visited, usually on business, the city seemed unwelcoming - vast, too spread out, and not like a real city, despite traffic that made Chicago's look tame by comparison. The preeminence of the entertainment industry seemed to elevate form over substance to a spectacular degree and in ways that, distastefully to me, pervaded every aspect of LA life. Also, it rained every single time I was there. I'm not kidding; I never saw good weather. I had begun to think LA's good weather was as much a myth as Seattle's horrible weather. My suspicions along these lines were fueled by a People magazine picture I once saw of some starlet, bathed in sunshine and wearing very little other than her sunglasses, shopping in Malibu allegedly on a day when I was actually in Malibu and could personally verify that it was cold and foggy.
But I was in LA for two days this week and it was glorious. Oh, sure, there was a pall of smoke from the Griffith Park fire hanging over things off to the east, but the sky was blue, the temperature was in the 80s, and I was in Century City where you can actually walk from your hotel to the office buildings you're visiting (just like in a real city's business district). And the people could not have been nicer. People on the street nodded and smiled at me as I walked from place to place. The hotel staff was unbelievably capable and affable. A relatively new acquaintance offered to pick me up at LAX (a favor of gargantuan proportions, as far as I'm concerned) and she drove me from the airport to Century City via some known-only-to-locals route that involved beautifully landscaped homes and no freeways. My 15th floor hotel room had a real balcony - I sat on it and watched the lights grow brighter in the east (the Griffith Park smoke having further dissipated) as the sky turned from blue to black, and I felt just like I was in a movie (an illusion aided by my location on a street called Avenue of the Stars - how LA can you get?). My trip back to LAX involved the usual freeway snarl, but it was with a cab driver who is an artist from Albania and one of the most interesting people I've talked to lately. And the people I spoke to at two law firms were wonderful: receptive, smart, thoughtful, interesting, generous and funny. It was a great trip.
And the icing on the cake? The trip was bookended by 35-minute flights, a huge improvement over the 4-hour flights that used to be necessary for me to get to and from Los Angeles. I'm actually looking forward to going back!