A weed farm, a tent camp, James Franco, and a beachfront Capricorn meetup all get stuck in rush hour…
Oh, California. I’m honestly not sure what to say about you. First off, I have to mention the fact that this is my first time to post on my own site in more than a year, and there is both a compelling and also equally uninteresting reason for that. This move — and by that I mean our most recent move from Thailand back to the United States — has never felt spectacularly interesting, much in the same way that wandering around your local mall never feels as riveting as window shopping on vacation, even if you’re ultimately shopping for the exact same crap. After several years spent living in weird and wild and largely unfamiliar places, returning back to the States — even a new one like California — felt like an episode that no one, including me, needed or wanted to watch, even before I read the plot.
Additionally, in this same 16 month span of playing temporary Californian, I’ve gone from making the least amount of money I’ve ever made to the most, and have spent what seems like a soul-crushing amount of hours writing for a strange mix of people, companies, and brands that ultimately offer little in the way of inspiration or opportunity — at zero fault of their own — which makes the task of writing for myself seem that much more tedious, especially after a full day of crafting well-written yet eye-gougingly dull product descriptions for thermostatic mixing valves, a job I would not wish on even the most humdrum of humans (eyes on you, Taylor Swift).
And now, I guess, I realize that being uninterested in this particular chapter of my life is mostly idiotic and pointless, and relocating to the big bad expanse of Los Angeles, as well as a town three hours north that is the total opposite of Los Angeles, are all deserving stories in their own right, too.
An Honest Look at Life in California
Part I: Potheads on a Pot Farm with a Side of Split Pea Soup
Our first two months in California were spent living in a bungalow on a weed farm about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, followed by four months in a spacious room on the top floor of a cute Victorian home in a town called Buellton, home of Pea Soup Andersens. Fun Fact: Pea Soup Andersens, a restaurant staple in the small town of Buellton, claims to sell over two million bowls of pea soup per year. Let’s go over that again. Two. Freaking. Million. From the math, I can only conclude that the same 38,462 denture-laden vegetable soup fans are consuming the same pea soup bowl every single week, but that still seems like a hell of a stretch.
Anyway, our first six months in California were colder, wetter, muddier, and poorer than I anticipated, and thankfully our friends Adam and Olive were there to ease the blow of unwanted unemployment and $20 wine tastings with home cooked meals, weekend adventures, holiday celebrations, and super dope levels of friendship. Also a dog, two chickens, and a fuckload of ducks and weed.
Still, while I certainly encourage you to visit the town of Buellton, and its surrounding towns of Lompoc, Santa Ynez, and Los Olivos, moving there for the sole purpose of being near friends, avoiding the chaos of larger and more expensive cities, and landing fulfilling and well-paid job opportunities — perhaps unless you are a skilled farming professional, for lack of a better farming term — is likely only going to land you in a world of prolonged credit card debt and recurring feelings of farm life inadequacy.
Still, we made more friends in Buellton in six months than we have in Los Angeles in nine, and while I can’t say we would make the same decisions if we had to do it all over again, six months in a quiet, scenic, and conveniently-located part of California is still better than one month in Waco, Tulsa, or any of a number of other U.S. towns I deem despicable for outdated reasons I feel no need to explain further.
Part II: Adjusting to the Noise, the People & the Nerve of Los Angeles
From Buellton, we had to make a decision: pack up and move to Los Angeles, a place neither of us were overly thrilled to call home but ultimately offered the best opportunities for employment in our preferred creative fields, or San Diego, the more relaxed, picturesque, fish taco slash surfer bro-clad metropolis just three hours south, promising less in the way of our professional aspirations, but more in the way of our quality of life desirables (re: proximity to Mexico).
Primarily out of concern for our bank accounts, we ditched the latter option after a weekend of sightseeing and crept our way back up the highway for a day of LA style apartment-hunting in the few studio apartments we found on Craigslist within our budget. Almost entirely fueled by happenstance, a day old hangover and the thought of faking face-to-face joy with one more potential landlord whilst scoping out overpriced units, we signed a year lease in an apartment in Westlake, a place where you’d like absolutely no one to know your name, located smack dab in the middle of the slightly more charming Koreatown and slightly more terrifying Downtown.
For only $1,395 per month, you too can have direct access to furious commuters battling for daily street parking, the occasional attempted (or successful) murder outside of your bedroom window, no air conditioning, no dishwasher, inconsistently functional communal washers and dryers, 500 square feet of semi-decent living slash snoozing space, pantsless strangers urinating on your entry steps, and an inordinate amount of street noise designed to piss off the deceased.
Don’t get me wrong. No part of me assumed that moving from the tropical shores of Southeast Asia to the dirty digs of Los Angeles was going to be anything less than rough, but I still underestimated the sheer levels of paradox. Everywhere you look it’s desperation versus greed, stunning versus hideous, and fascinating versus frustrating which, as a newcomer at least, seemingly defines the majority of the second most populous place in the country.
Part III: The Haps, Now & Not Forever
If it’s any indication of the job market in California, I will tell you that landing your ‘dream job’ in Los Angeles, for those whose dream it is to still have an employer, is disheartening. Another word is miserable. Hell, scratch the ‘dream’ part and apply it to any job you’re qualified for that doesn’t immediately make you cringe. Apply for a semi-related job title of your choosing on LinkedIn one full day after it’s been posted, and you’re instantly competing against several hundred other worthy candidates.
To add to the fun, should your employment history not be filled with the correct amount of key words and instantly recognizable brand names with multi-million dollar budgets, it’s highly likely that your resume — let alone portfolio — is even making it past the spam folder of the recruiter’s inbox. Ninety cover letters, nine interviews, and ten weeks after moving to Los Angeles, I was offered a job as the Assistant Brand Manager for SelvaRey Rum, and independently-owned spirits brand co-owned by Bruno Mars. It took Peter another five months to get a job offer from Sony, and now we are both fully on that 9-to-5 life and finally able to start doing what we moved back to do: save money.
And while yes, I’ve already managed to pay off my final student loans, credit card debt, and even add some funds to my savings account, if ever you find yourself considering Los Angeles as a destination in which to both save money and not be desensitized to strangers shouting ‘dumb bitch’ in your specific direction at 9 in the morning, this ain’t it, chief. As is almost always my recommendation for life: keep on moving.
Part IV: Use It or Move It
Editing this post, I realize it sounds an awful lot like I despise it here. I don’t. Los Angeles is, however, my least favorite place I’ve ever lived, and that’s alright. If anything, it’s reaffirmed by belief that there are more opportunities outside of this country than there are in it, at least for our sake, and knowing this is not the end of our tales of travel, maybe I’m just having a particularly tough time adjusting to sitting still.
On the plus side, Peter recently purchased a steadicam, a terribly unattractive yet badass contraption that he primarily uses to follow me in circles around our studio apartment as I complete mundane tasks like taking out my contacts and warming up soup, and has been practicing his skills at a weekly acting class and the occasional short film gig. The perk of living here is that creative people still get lucky, and Peter has a true talent for creativity behind a lens.
Since writing is my primary jam these days, I’ve even started attending screenwriting events and am trying to learn more about how to write a screenplay, a job I truly believe I’d excel at if I had the patience to stick around and give it a real shot. When in Los Angeles, why not try the thing you’re already great at on a larger, more glamorous scale. If a team of writers can make a living writing the Big Bang Theory — a show I find to be the shining example of entertainment lacking all cleverness — I can too, damnit.
Should you want to join us in the City of Angels, god help your soul. See you here. Let’s hang out.
Thanks! Love your writing. I’m moving there and my life is going to be just like Californication. Can I crash on your couch until that happens?
Haha more like X-Files…
And if we had room for a couch, you would surely be invited. Alas, we have a blow up mattress that touches our bed when inflated. Luxurious.
Kelsey Kay, your writing is amazing and I have missed living my life vicariously through you and Peter. I wish Cynthia could get my son Kenny on an airplane and come and visit some of your spectacular living choices. If I were younger, I know I would visit you.
Aww, thank you Sherry! And yes, let’s trick Kenny and tell him he’s going to Six Flags and then put him on an airplane. Miss you and hope to see you the next time I’m in Texas!
I don’t understand why you didn’t move to Northern California. Plenty of creative people and possibilities, much more gorgeous (redwoods, vineyards, magnificent coast) better air and water Emerald Gateway, finest wines and craft beers. I lived in LA when I was a kid. Glad I don’t live there now. Sonoma County is paradise. If you haven’t been to other places in California and you just stay in that ratrace down there you’re selling yourself short. And I think it’s just as expensive in LA
Hi Glenda! I’ve never been to North Carolina, nor has anyone ever recommended it before, so it did not cross my mind as a place to move. But from your description, it sounds like a lovely place. And yes, I need to visit Sonoma! I’ve been through the majority of California at this point, and trust me… we did not land in LA because of its natural beauty or charm. We would have moved to San Diego or northern California — or hell, anywhere in Oregon or Washington for that matter — if that were the primary reasons for our move. Cheers to you, and thanks for the recommendation.