How to Love Los Angeles by Chris Daley

A meditation, a love letter to Los Angeles.

Embody the spirit of the coyote. Protect your den, beware of wolves, roam the streets at will, and do not give a fuck. Train your howls to echo like there are many of you, each more fearless than the next.

Be grateful for the superficial friendliness of strangers. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Look up at the clouds. Learn their names: cirrus, altocumulus, nimbostratus. Look up long enough and a space shuttle may pass before your eyes.

Do not be confused by age in Los Angeles. Many people you know could be 28 or 39 or 47. Believe anything they tell you.

Use the literature of Los Angeles as a guide. Read about Acosta’s cockroach people, Babitz’s sex and rage, Banham’s ecologies, Beatty’s white boy shuffle, Boyle’s tortilla curtain, Braverman’s frantic transmissions, Bukowski’s post office, Butler’s speech sounds and Brinig’s flutter of an eyelid.

Set your alarm to wake you at sunrise. Watch the colors on your walls change from blue to purple to pink to orange to morning.

Do not believe that Los Angeles has no seasons. Learn to make the subtle distinctions between pilot season, baby lizard season, palm frond massacre, Coachella, jacaranda season, June Gloom, stone fruit season, Santa Anas, jacket season, Christmas by the pool.

Ask yourself what Joan Jett would do.

Have your palm read on Venice Beach when you are 22. Do not be alarmed when he tells you that you will be a writer and a teacher and that you will not meet your soulmate until your 60s. It probably won’t come true.

Read about Cain’s noir, Chandler’s meek little wives feeling the edge of the carving knife, Coleman’s heavy daughter blues, Danielewski’s found texts, Davis’ dialectic of ordinary disaster, Didion’s freeways, Dunne’s true confessions, Ellis’ cocaine, Ellroy’s dark places, Erickson’s ecstatic days.

Love the wannabe screenwriter next to you at the café who has talked about Toni Collette for the past half hour. Love the wannabe filmmaker who is holding his hands up in the shape of a screen and looking through them at a house.

Any day of the year, go to the produce section of your local supermarket and look around.

If you don’t hike regularly, start immediately. When you see a rattlesnake on the trail, tell the other hikers that you saw a rattlesnake. When you see Paul Rudd on the trail, do not tell the other hikers that you saw Paul Rudd, no matter how much you want to.

Let the Scientologists at the corner of Sunset and Vermont proselytize to you while a homeless man a few feet away yells, “Jesus wouldn’t like it!”

Be thankful for the smog that delivers you breathtaking sunsets several times a week.

Read about Fante’s residential hotels, Fitch’s white oleander, Fitzgerald’s last tycoon, the Grahams’ queer people, Himes’ hollers, Huneven’s Unitarians, Huxley’s mysticism, Isherwood’s guru, Jackson’s Ramona, Lindsay’s art of the moving picture.

Blame your murders on the winds.

Move to Lyman Place, where every building is named after a classic movie star, or any building with one of the following words written in script on the outside: Villa, Capri, Gardens, Manor, Palms, Riviera.

Run your errands in Glendale. Buy doughnuts and Chinese food at the same counter.

Let people come to you. Wait long enough and Beyoncé will come to Los Angeles. Or David Mitchell. Or Stephen Hawking. Or your crazy cousin Charlene.

Do your own stunts in the movie of your life. If you come upon a cluster of Stormtroopers on your Saturday morning coffee run, let them lend you a gun and pose for a selfie.

Read about McCoy’s dance marathons, Mosley’s blue dress, Nagahara’s lament in the night, O’Hara’s big laugh, Pynchon’s inherent vice, Rechy’s miraculous day, Revoyr’s Southland, Rodriguez’s vida loca, Schulberg’s rags to riches, See’s golden days, Simpson’s Hollywood.

Do not be surprised when you see a woman bring her own radishes to a restaurant and a jar of peanut butter to spread on them.

Drive one hour to Disneyland. Drive two hours to Joshua Tree. Drive three hours to the Mexican border. Drive four hours to Hearst Castle or Salvation Mountain. Get out of Los Angeles once in awhile and remember that California used to be the Wild West.

Groove on the glut of the like-minded.

Pick up succulents at the supermarket and finally keep a plant alive.

Read about Sinclair’s oil, Smith’s twilight, Starr’s dreams, Tobar’s barbarian nurseries, Ulin’s sidewalks, Viramontes’ moth, Waugh’s pet cemetery, West’s dream dump, Wolff’s big nickelodeon.

Embrace your improved chances to see a UFO.

Take headshots on bridges named for Shakespeare and Nowhere.

Get drunk inside a castle, a chateau, a power plant, a barrel, a bulldog, or a forest. Kiss too much and get kicked out of a train station telephone room, a hunting lodge, a former speakeasy for vaudeville performers, a Japanese palace, or Bugsy Siegel’s old apartment.

Look no further for abundant evidence the apocalypse is on the way. Enjoy your life at the end of the road.

Chris Daley has written for the Los Angeles Times and served as a fiction judge for its Book Prizes in 2013 and 2014. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Collagist, DUM DUM ZINE, the Ploughshares literary borough series (#13: Los Angeles, in which brief excerpts from this essay appeared) and the recently published W.W. Norton anthology of contemporary creative nonfiction, “Brief Encounters.” She is Director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles and teaches academic writing at Caltech.

Photo by Chris Daley