los Angeles A California Town

An interesting beginning

Like many early California towns there have been several different flags that have hung over its city. The city was founded in 1781 when 14 families from a diverse background decided to found a new city. For about 40 years the Spanish flag hung over the city, then the Mexican flag, then the California flag and eventually the Stars and Stripes. This is symbolized in their city seal.

What I have found most interesting about Los Angeles and Southern California is how efficient they are at making a metropolis. It is quite impressive if you just think of how much change has happened in just over one lifetime.

For example; in the late 1800's until the mid 20th century orange and citrus orchards were the prominent landscape for most of what makes up the Southern California metropolis of suburban landscape. Just take my extend family history in Southern California as an example.

In the 1920's a farmer owned some land not far from downtown Riverside California, he sold a portion of his land to build some homes and a neighborhood near Fairmont Park. The homes were small but good enough and large enough to raise a family in. These homes were also affordable.

In the early 1950's my Grandfather purchased one of these homes for just over $10,000. Much of what Southern California was like in 1950 was similar in infrastructure to what it was in 1920. The population of a lot of cities had increased by 3 times in 30 years. Essentially doubling every decade. Just think of this statistic for a second.

In 1950 the population of the entire state of California was 10.6 million people. The population of Los Angeles County in 1950 was 4.1 million people. In 1950 if a random person was selected from California there was a roughly 40% chance they lived in Los Angeles County.

The county where my extended family grew up, Riverside County had an entire population of 169,000 people, Ontario only had 22,000 people and Corona had 10,000. In Northern California Fairfield CA which now has over 100,000 people had a population of only 3,000.

Basically California in 1950 was one big city of Los Angeles County California and a bunch of small towns everywhere else. When my grandfather would take my dad, aunts, and uncles on a road trip to the beach or to Los Angeles from Riverside to visit a family member they would drive through orchards of orange trees and farmland.

In the late 1960's my Dad was attending UCLA and after many years of constructing highway 60 was recently completed in 1964. The family home was just off Main Street and highway 60 in Riverside so my Dad would visit on the weekends. He remembers there being very little traffic and not that many cars on the road and the drive taking sometimes less than an hour.

Today there are 39 million people living in California and 10 million in Los Angeles County. There is a 25% chance a random person selected in California lives in Los Angeles County. That is a 15% drop in population proportion to the state at large.

Which means California has basically become one big Los Angeles over the years. Two lane roads have become highways and then interstates, orchards have been cut down and turned into neighborhoods, endless strip malls consisting of Home Depot's and Lowes and In n outs make up suburban life in California pretty much everywhere.

There are pockets of California that are still like it was 70 years ago in Southern California. Up here in Sutter/Butte/Siskiyou Counties you can still catch a county backroad and avoid a highway for a leisurely drive through some farmland and country scenery. But to Los Angelinos Mt. Shasta might as well be Montana or Colorado or Australia. It is just easier for people in Los Angeles to hop on a plane to Helena for some open landscape than it is to drive 10 hours.

But then again that is city life for people who are also in the SF Bay Area or Sacramento. I lived in Solano County for 20 years and never had any reason to drive an hour and half to the Sutter Buttes until my family began buying a house here. Which used to be an orchard, so this cycle continues.

Just in my lifetime California has become crazy populated. I remember visiting my extended family in Southern California and we took a family road trip to Las Vegas for a couple of days. This was back in the late 1990's when Las Vegas was sort of trying to market itself as a family friendly destination for some reason, back when the MGM had an amusement park.

I remember driving through Barstow CA and thinking it was a proper dump of a place to live in. The amount of things that had to go wrong in someone's life to end up living in Barstow CA in the 1990's probably was pretty long. This is why in early Fast and Furious movies they kind of make fun of Barstow CA. I had a similar feeling about parts of New Jersey when I was taking the train from Trenton to NYC. Trenton NJ is probably the Barstow CA of US Capital cities.

But back in 2017 I was driving from Las Vegas to the Inland Empire and passing through Barstow and realized that the city planners had just urbanized the city. It had new homes, shopping malls, gas stations, the works.

There are real estate agents selling homes in Barstow CA today marketing its location as being halfway to LA and Las Vegas and selling them for close to half a million dollars. The median price of a home in Barstow today is about $300,000 and back in 2017 it was just over $100,000. I barely remember not much more than a few mobile homes lining the interstate back in the 1990's.

Hollywood Blvd

Anybody else find it somewhat of a funny coincidence of these stars being next to each other? Both are sexual weirdos, one played a fake president on TV and the other was a real president saying "fake news" all the time.

A town built on Rejection

Currently the Writers Guild of America and the Actors are on strike attempting to get fair wages from the studios. But that's not what I want to write about.

Hollywood and Los Angeles and California at large is a place where people from outside of California come to live out their dreams of becoming rich and famous or just rich or just famous. The point being is the level of fiction, fakeness and superficialness that exists in Los Angeles and California is a lot.

He's a tourist. He vacations in people's lives, takes pictures, puts them in his scrapbook, and moves on.

Ron Swanson

That quote comes from some writer from the T.V. Show Parks and Recreation. But I think it is a good line that sums up the lives of many Californians and Los Angelinos. People come to Los Angeles for a little while at some point in their lives usually from New York or somewhere else, live for a few years, then move out. They start out as tourists in Los Angeles but eventually might stay for several years.

Los Angeles is a tourist town, and like many other tourist town it enjoys messing with them sometimes but also is dependent on them. For people who have lived in a tourist town they understand that tourists leave once their vacation is over, they go back to their lives, they are in your life living out their dreams and being ridiculous. But once they are gone, you who live in the town will have to deal with the aftermath.

I kind of view this labor strike as the studios being the locals in a tourist town and are treating the writers and actors as tourists who could just be replaced, or their concerns are not important because a year from now there will be a bunch of new people in town ready to work cheaper and just as hard.

Los Angeles is a town of rejection, there are more failures and heartbreaks and depressing stories of failed hopes and dreams than there are success.

Just think of this statistic. 99% of the scripts the Writers Guild of America submits to movie studios gets rejected. Every year there are roughly 50,000 scripts sent to studios with hopes of becoming a movie. And only about 150 become an actual movie. There are only about 11,000 members of the Writers Guild because in order to get into that union you need to have some of your scripts be turned into something that was produced. 11,000 people is about the population size of 6 average high schools in California. It is an elite group to begin with and the writers in that group have already faced a lot of rejection and are some of the lucky ones to have got something they have written into production. And even still 99% of their scripts get rejected.

The Actors Guild of America has about 120,000 members but not all of them are actively acting as a profession that pays the bills. Roughly 86% of the union makes less than $25,000 per year. Even to get a role that makes it on T.V or in am movie with one line is a lifetime accomplishment in some ways. Constant rejection and small wins a successes over a large number of years for minimal pay is more of the life of actors and writers than the Matt Damon's of the world.

Los Angeles also is not Hollywood. About 2% of the population of the city work in the entertainment industry. Which means 98% of the city is full of people who have normal everyday jobs that exist everywhere else. Such as: teachers, cops, government workers, nurses, retail, janitors, etc.

For example Target employees 20,000 people in Los Angeles. Whereas NBC Universal employs 11,500.

The city is defined by tourists and outsiders who see it as Hollywood Land. When in reality it is pretty much like everywhere else you will find in America.

Hollywood Blvd

Top things I love about Los Angeles

  1. It's exceedingly average in pretty much every possible way. It's just like everywhere else, but the beach makes the city awesome. But after a while it becomes a crowded place that is easy to complain about and never go. But everybody not from LA doesn't get why everyone in LA doesn't spend all day at the beach. Those people are right in criticizing us Californians for not knowing how lucky we are to have such great outdoor ocean activities so close.
  2. The individualism and feeling you get from being in Los Angeles is different from other big cities with metros. In Los Angeles people need a car to get from place to place. People live in their cars more than their homes and offices in some ways. Radio stations like KROQ are iconic LA things because of this phenomenon. In NYC or Paris or other big cities with better public transportation there is more of a communal sense of being a Parisian or being a New Yorker. Even though people in those cities also are pretty good at ignoring other people and living in the cave that exists as an iPhone and AirPods while riding the subway. The act of being in a subway car with other people gives off a different energy then being stuck in your individual car on a freeway surrounded by other people.
  3. To Californians this act of being in your car and navigating place to place on your own is normal. But for people from other cities who sort of depend on subways to get from point to point who never really had to think much about driving the thought of navigating 4 different freeways to go 15 miles could be overwhelming. I also love how Los Angeles has a bunch of freeways and roads that just go every direction.
  4. The freeways and interstates of Southern California and California at large were sometimes built as a parallel to an existing country road. For example Baseline Road from San Bernardino to the San Fernando Valley is one of the oldest roads in Southern California, but people know it now as exits off the 215. Or for example, Sepulveda is a city road that runs near the 405 and goes for miles. Santa Monica Blvd was Route 66 and the pier is the end of that road. These hidden roads among suburban landscapes is something that makes Los Angeles interesting.
  5. Los Angeles is a collection of neighborhoods connected by streets more than it is one major city with a unified identity. Unlike San Francisco which is a much smaller geographic footprint, Los Angeles is spread out. But I also love how Hollywood does tricks on the country to make it look as if it is a small town. For example at the end of the movie "Lethal Weapon" which takes place around the Hollywood Blvd area, Riggs runs to the 5th street bridge and back. But anyone who has ever been to LA realizes that is impossible. Hollywood blvd to the 5th street bridge in Santa Monica is close to 15 miles. And nobody in real life could run 30 miles like Mel Gibson did in Lethal Weapon. Hollywood did the same thing in Dirty Harry with the phone booth running, with all those hills its an impossible feat.
  6. The drive from Malibu to Los Angeles is pretty awesome. On a clear perfect Southern California Day when you hit that corner and see the Pacific Ocean and LA it can be quite spectacular. Interstate 1 is full of views like that up and down the California Coast.

Only in Los Angels Story

The cliche from people who live outside of California is that everybody in California has a celebrity story. A story where they interacted for a few seconds with a famous Hollywood celebrity, or they know someone who know’s someone who did once. I have a couple of these stories, I’ve met two Governors, a legitimate Rock Star and band. But those stories never happened in Los Angeles.

Both my Dad and my sister attended UCLA my Dad studied History in the early 1970’s and had some classes with the legendary Bill Walton, who is famous for weaving historical facts that most people find trivial or useless into his color commentary of college basketball. My Dad sometimes does similar things, basically I’ve been listening to history that I never found important for most of my childhood, but in recent years have found a great love in History. I can’t ever imagine my life not being about knowing random historical facts.

With that said, my Dad at UCLA also had a couple jobs. One was at a Jewish owned shoe store who had two locations, one in Brentwood and the other in Beverly Hills. The store was very high end and did some bespoke work for celebrity clients. Every time Kiefer Sutherland is in a movie or on television my Dad recalls the story of his father Donald who recently was coming off a big role in the classic WWII/Hippy comedy movie, Kelly’s Heroes. Any way the story goes that Donald Sutherland brought in his young son Kiefer into the store one day for his first pair of shoes which my Dad helped fit and sell. Later on he had the shoes bronzed as a family heirloom. This story is an everyday event that a lot of families do with their children, they save the first pair of shoes in a box in an attic or something. But because both Kiefer and Donald Sutherland are famous actors and pop up on the T.V. on occasion I get to hear the story of my Dad selling Kiefer’s first pair of shoes to Donald. This story to me got annoying about after the 10th time I heard it.

The other story from my Dad’s work was when Yoko Ono walked in looking for shoes and the other sales people were too scared to help her because she was way too famous and they were intimated. But my Dad helped her and then she John Lennon pulled up in a convertible to pick her up and she left. But this is not the Los Angeles celebrity story that I want to share most.

My Dad grew up in a military family moving from base to base during his childhood. Like many military families they were run by a sometimes very strict man at the head of the family, my Grandfather Jack Tinsley. This had both benefits and disadvantages. The benefits were that my Dad and all of his brothers and sisters have extremely tidy and neat houses. My grandfather had six kids running around a 3 bedroom house and the chores were pretty much done by all the children. My Dad and Uncle have been hand washing dishes since they were 10 or 11 years old and even 60+ years later still hand wash dishes. I picked up the habit, its easier to just wash it and put it away and be done with cleaning the kitchen in 10-15 minutes then load the dishwasher, have it run a 45 minute cycle, then go to bed, then wake up in the morning and have another chore of unloading the dishwasher.

As a family story goes, back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when the military transferred a family to a different base there was an inspection that was done to the base housing before they moved. The military had list of things that needed to be cleaned before it was signed off and it was not up to the military standard then there could be a demerit to something on a record somewhere the standard was basically clean everything with a very good once over, it did not have to be tip top shape, but clean. My uncle tells the story that this list the military had was just nothing but words on a page to my Grandfather. Jack Tinsley grew up in South Carolina and his grandfather Leonard was a civil war veteran to say he had his own version of what clean was is an understatement. My uncle recalls a time when he was about 12 years old scrubbing an oven with a toothbrush, this oven fed six children and two adults every night, it got used. My uncle recalls my grandfather breaking out a white linen glove to see if there was any trace of grease left in the oven, and if there was he had to keep cleaning until there wasn’t.

The point I am making by sharing this story is that even the lax, lazy standard of cleanliness for my aunts and uncles is still higher than most other peoples version of clean. But what does this have to do with an LA Celebrity story. Not much, except when my Dad was still at UCLA he had his dependent pass to go on base to get food at the bx. One day he was at the bx and saw a deal on some office mini refrigerators, in 1970 these fridges were expensive to purchase for a lot of young college kids, but my Dad was able to score a dozen or so of them for only $150 on base. His thought was that he could sell them for $50 or so in the college dorm and make some extra cash.

One of the college dorm people who purchased a fridge from my Dad was a woman named Suzanne, who also happened to be one of Jim Morrison’s girlfriends. She was madly in love with Jim Morrison and was friends with my Dad. For several months she would talk to my Dad about Jim, and to Jim about my Dad wanting both of them to have lunch at some point. Even though my Dad didn’t really have any interest in meeting Jim Morrison, and Jim Morrison didn’t really care about meeting my Dad they both just gave in and Suzanne set up a lunch by the Door’s record studio in Hollywood.

There were some similarities between Jim Morrison and my Dad, both were taking a couple film classes at UCLA, both enjoyed history and art, and both grew up in military families. Even though biographers of Jim Morrison have written that Jim Morrison would say that his dad was dead and disowned him, my Dad recalls Jim saying that his Dad was an Admiral in the Navy (George Harrison a very distinguished Navy Admiral) and there was no ill will from Jim to his dad or the military. For about an hour they chatted and they both agreed they were pretty much there to get Suzanne off their back. Jim thanked my Dad for being her chaperone/bodyguard to the Troubadour a few times preventing other members of The Doors or anyone else from sleeping with her. They talked art, history, and Europe. This was in the early part of 1971, my Dad had been accepted to study abroad at St. Andrews University in Scotland and was set to leave in August. Jim Morrison was leaving for Paris with his other girlfriend Pamela Courson.

In July of that year Jim Morrison died in Paris. My Dad recalls how devastated Suzanne was and how much she loved Jim Morrison. A few weeks later my Dad left for Paris to begin a study abroad program in Scotland, the UC system sent students from different campuses to different colleges all across Europe but they had an orientation in Paris for about a week first. My Dad recalls having to run away from a group of angry drunk Frenchman who called my Dad a baby killer for stuff that happened in Vietnam and wanted to fight him for being an American.

The world was a little different 50 years ago.

My Sister also attended several NA and AA meetings during college and there there were sometimes celebrities that attended some meetings she went to. But the A in those stand for Anonymous for a reason.