L.A. Liars


By Lily Wise

Back when I was growing up in New York State, my family believed that Los Angeles was a cesspool of crass material values along with kooky far-out "woo-woo" fake spirituality and nutty alternative health practitioners - a place so evil and extreme that even Uncle Solly's Van Nuys adobe with swimming pool couldn't salvage it. L.A., they insisted, was destined for a bad end - probably the Big Earthquake that would dump all of Southern California into the Pacific where it belonged.  

So when I left my small town for cultural and educational opportunities, it was only natural that I headed to the Big Apple and considered the Big Orange only for half a second when I flipped through the UCLA catalog and drooled over the beautiful campus.  

"Don't even think of going to Los Angeles," my mother warned, one side of her lip curling, the rest of her face screwed up in pure horror. "Number one, you can't use your New York Regents Scholarship there. Number two, it's too far away. Number three, you're too honest. They'd eat you alive out there."  

I'm pretty sure Mom had numbers four, five, six, seven, and more. Still, I like to think it was my idea to settle in New York City and raise my family there, and I wasn't just following Mom's dictates. I stayed in NYC for what I estimate (in my optimistic moments) will turn out to be two-thirds of my life.  

Now I'm an Angeleno. I've lived here for almost ten years and haven't succumbed once to any of the evils Mom warned of. My body relaxed as soon as I got to the West Coast. Clearly, it's home.  

There's only one thing Mom had right, and it may be due to the influence of salt air and large billboards: we sleep well because we lie easy.

I catch myself these days not exactly dissembling, but exaggerating. Exuberantly. Out here, we all act as though we love each other, as though we'll call back, we'll do lunch, we'll read the script, we accidentally came to lunch without our wallet, we love the new hairstyle….  

But here's the thing my Mom and the rest of the East Coasters don't realize about L.A.: we're not really lying. At the moment we say it, we MEAN it! That's the big difference between liars anywhere else in the world and L.A. liars. People in other cities say one thing and think another, they smile at you when inside they're screaming angry, they kiss and hug the very people they yearn to knife in the back. They're two-faced, bald-faced, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-their-mouth, sweet-talking but mean-spirited snakes in the grass who talk out of both sides of their mouths. Not us. Not in L.A.  

I still love New York - to visit, that is. But L.A. - now that's a place to lie comfortably in the sun, with a cool drink ready to hand and a bright smile on a smooth, tight face. Because we're real.

Email: Wise206 at hotmail dot com