One of the best parts about living in Los Angeles is when your New Yorkers come to town. This brings out more New York transplants, a cocktail shaker and a collective effort to convince your visiting friend to move to LA. It was in a group like this that I met fellow transplant Margarette Happy Birthday. Margarette Happy Birthday lived in New York for about eight years before moving to LA and when she texted me on my birthday, "It's Margarette Happy Birthday!" I dubbed her that name forever. More so than timing, it perfectly captures her persona. She is a woman who walks into a room on no particular Tuesday and your instinctual "Happy Birthday!" reflex kicks in because you know it's about to get exciting. For example, her response to YOLO is, "Thank God you only live once, I can't afford to do this twice," and she sums up her time in New York with, "Listen, I loved living in New York. You never know what the night is going to bring, which is fabulous. But less fabulous if you're super broke and have a flair for spontaneity."
Making the LA plea to your New York friends is no easy feat, and I'm used to the first round of pushback: "There's no culture. Nobody goes to work. Everybody drives. There's no decent Chinese takeout. " This is when you bring in Margarette Happy Birthday. She is the best-kept secret in Los Angeles when it comes to on-boarding potential New York transplants, and she should be considered Ellis Island for those who have migrated West seeking sunshine and closet space. Her tactic is simple: understand the Los Angeles equivalent to New York, and you'll assimilate in no time.
She convinced me she was right for the job with an explanation that the decision-making process to pay for parking in LA is the equivalent to the decision-making process to pay for a cab in NY. You budget cash for a cab or parking just in case, but you might need that cash later because you never know where the night is going to go. A New York scenario happens later in the night with friends, when you're a little drunk and you have to get back to Brooklyn. After a few blocks on foot and a group agreement of how much it would suck to take the subway, you're over it and secretly waiting for someone to be like, "Fuck it, I'll pay for a cab." In Los Angeles, it's the same thought process, but happens earlier in the night. You drive around manifesting parking karma, and after 10 minutes of circling you're annoyed and announce that parking sucks in hopes that someone will give in with, "Fuck it. I'll pay for valet."
MHB's theory got me thinking more about the concept, and having lived in both cities, it's important to bring up wealth equivalents in the form of status tokens. New York women show their wealth with their handbags, which is the equivalent to Los Angeles women showing status with the cars they drive. Like when you're on the uptown F train and the women next to you has a brand-new black, stud-bottom Alexander Wang satchel bag. This same woman will be in the lane next to you on the 10 heading west in her brand new black Audi A4 Quattro. The woman on the 6 train with a Coach bag is the woman driving a Camry on Highway 5. Unless it's a vintage Coach bag, then she's driving a Lexus SUV hybrid down Wilshire. In New York, you might have a rare moment of seeing a hand knotted Turkish leather bag from The Row getting off the 1/9 train at 13th St. This is parallel to seeing a Model S Tesla on the 101 by Studio City. It's a little bit like seeing a unicorn and provokes wonderlust questions like, "Is that from The Row? Is that a Tesla? Is that a unicorn?" Same connotation.
The most important thing a New Yorker considering Los Angeles needs to recognize is our version of seasonal affective disorder. Living in New York, this tends to happen after the holidays because snowfall before New Year's Day is considered magical, charming and totally acceptable. You're bundled in jackets, you rush into the wind tunnel restaurant doors adorably, you remove your coat, your cheeks turn red, you order a Zinfandel, your fingers thaw and everyone compliments you on your new Barneys sweater.
Then the holidays happen and just like that, they're over and there's trash in the snow and you know you have four more months of this and frozen fingers crossed it takes less than three days to plow Brooklyn this year. It's freezing and you can barely get a manicure because your nails are cracking. This is when your seasonal affective disorder kicks in and you buy that light that promotes fake vitamin D, combats your SAD and simulates palm trees. The winter scenario in New York is the equivalent to fall in Los Angeles, where you're in a tank top, probably poolside and drinking cucumber juice. This is when my SAD kicks in and I start to stare longingly at my leather jackets. Instead of investing in vitamin D lamps to manipulate my season, I take matters into my own hands by closing all the curtains, turning off the lights, playing Cat Power's Moon Pix and blasting the AC to simulate sweater weather.
Finally, there is the rain conversation. It's important to understand the semantics around rain and how it translates to the New York ear. You can get out of plans altogether without any guilt or follow-up questions in New York by saying, "The trains aren't running." For Los Angeles, Margarette Happy Birthday puts it best: "To achieve the guilt-free bail in LA, just say, 'It's raining' and you're good."
She's correct. It's an unspoken understanding in both cities that both instances are so challenging and stressful it's best to stay home.
The whole LA rain conversation is tricky, though. One night the mutual friend who brought MHB and me together started her West Coast visit with, "I love LA. Why don't I live here?" The potential conversion moment was cued, alive and going well until we hit on LA rain.
"I don't know why LA people are so afraid of the rain. It's ridiculous. See? This is why I can't move here. And do people even read here?"
"People read. I think," I say.
"Depends on the neighborhood," Margarette Happy Birthday chimes in lighting a cigarette.
"It helps to keep your The New Yorker and New York Magazine subscriptions," I add.
MHB drags her cigarette and points at us while exhaling with a matter of fact, "Oh. You know what you have to look out for? Flip-flops in the office. It happens. Don't be alarmed, it's a thing."
Our friend still lives in Brooklyn. For now.