In Los Angeles there are essentially two reasons to do anything. The first is to accomplish something. The second is to be seen accomplishing something. This sounds simple, but it starts to get complicated. Is being seen accomplishing something an accomplishment in and of itself? This can get very meta indeed.
And so activities, restaurants, and stores in Los Angeles tend to fall along these two parallel tracks -- one group offers Angelenos the ability to accomplish a task, the other provides a venue to be seen purportedly doing so. Put another way, half the city is a stage, waiting for its performers.
Allow me to provide some examples. First, do you need a new pair of jeans? If you do, then a trip to a Banana Republic or the Gap at your local shopping might do the trick. Or do you instead need to be seen buying a new pair of jeans? Then Kitson on Robertson Blvd, a paparazzi-lined street is on the agenda. Sure, you can buy a pair of jeans at Kitson, but really, half the fun is determining how many people you know, how many people know you, and how many times you might make it into the tabloids.
Now onto our second example, feel like a salad for lunch? If you do, then depending on where you are you may head to one of the adorable cafes on Beverly Blvd or Third Street. If you want to be seen eating a salad, you could simply walk down the street from Kitson and hit up the Ivy on Robertson or you could go to Wolfgang Puck's famed restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that Spago falls into a rare cross-over category, because while it is no doubt a place to see and be seen, it is also a restaurant for a terrific salad). The Ivy provides everything you might expect; passable, overpriced faire within spitting distance of the paparazzi. You might want to head to the chiropractor or masseuse after such a meal, because you'll no doubt be craning to see who you're seated next to.
And finally, do you feel like a hike? If you do, then you might try the Santa Monica Mountains, a few canyons in Malibu, or a mountain in Culver City. Or do you feel like being seen hiking? Then you're heading to Runyon Canyon. If you are someone, want to be someone, used to be someone, or know someone who is someone, then you simply refer to it as Runyon.
Runyon anywhere else in the world would be a short but steep mountain path leading to a lovely overlook. Runyon in Los Angeles is more aptly called Run-way. More than a path to walk, it is a runway on which to stretch, strut and finally reach a photo shoot ready crest. The path is spotted with sculpted bodies. Instead of purses, watches or other accessories these fit models carry well-groomed, sometimes well-dressed, pooches.
I was an unwitting participant in the play we'll call Run-way recently. A friend suggested it and so we spent the better part of an hour dodging in and out of the fashion and dog show. As another friend remarked, Runyon truly is the Ivy of hikes.
So next time you tell yourself you need a new pair of jeans, feel like a salad, or want to take a hike, do some soul searching. Ask yourself if you really feel like new clothing, a meal, or some exercise. Then half of you get comfortable with an alternative explanation. You want to be seen doing those things. That's fine. Every city needs their performers and here in Los Angeles we do not have a shortage.