Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Different, but No Comparison
Jennifer Flaten

Ask anyone, anywhere, to name the cities that define the United States. The answer will be New York and Los Angeles. Trust me; no one ever answers Minneapolis, Boise or Madison.

New York and Los Angeles are on opposite coasts. Each city has a wildly different style, subculture and lifestyle. Still, New York and LA share many qualities.

Each city is smugly certain it's the epicentre of the universe. Let's face it sometimes New York or LA is the centre of the university. Those, of us, who live in Middle America, from Ohio to Colorado, know that nothing happens, where we live, didn't first occur in NY or LA.

Although New York and LA are the standard-bearers for America and share, many more traits then either city cares to admit, some things do set the cities apart. Take New York City, Big Apple, it's in the heart of the cold Northeast. Big Apple residents often experience below zero temperatures and grey skies dominate the bleak winter landscape.

It is hard to imagine a more unwelcoming climate, cold and grey. It's no wonder New Yorkers have a reputation brashness and quick tempers. How do you succeed in anything, in the cold, if you don't hurry? Who wants to linger under grey skies?

It follows New Yorkers always have one eye on the weather. The winter brings large snowfalls, and the summer is hot and humid. The only relief, for New Yorkers, is during the pleasant, but oh-so brief, spring and fall.

The ever-changing seasons mean New Yorkers can handle adverse weather. Manhattanites can ride out any storm. In Brooklyn, the weather faces a tough fight, especially in Bensonhurst. Tough people come from tough climes.

Los Angeles, the "City of Angels," is in the centre of the balmy Southwest. The skies are always blue and the trees green. Nor does it ever rain in California.

When you think of retirement, sunny southern California surely crosses your mind. The temperature's a steady eighty and there's never a wind, so cold, it blows right through you. LA is for the old, but not New York City, where a minus ten wind-chill temperature is usual.

In LA, who needs to rush? Every day is as glorious as the last. In New York City, the cold is pervasive and they need cars as big as bars to stay warm.

Winter in Los Angeles means droplets of rain and mudslides. Winter only lasts about two months, in southern California. Short winters spoil the residents, who panic at a drop of rain, making driving most dangerous. Drivers in Los Angeles find it difficult to manage unfavourable weather, such as droplets of rain. In New York City, a foot of snow keeps the muggers warm and snuggly at home, but brings out droves of shoppers.

Brutal driving conditions are features of Los Angeles and New York City. In Manhattan, the congestion, caused by too many trucks, too many taxis and not enough roadways often leads to gridlock. Los Angeles has more than enough roadways, but too many cars, which leads to gunfights as well as gridlock. To drive, in either city, you need an iron will and a desperate need to get where you're going.

New York City has effective bus and subway services. In LA, public transit is confusing and ineffective. The major source of public transport in New York City is the subway, and it's the pride of the city. Started more than a hundred years ago, the New York subway, today, carries more passengers than there are people in many states, and is a model of efficiency, and now, safety.

Great public transit, but it's slow. Thus, there's much walking, in New York City. This explains why New Yorkers are so slim - they walk everywhere!

The alternative to public transit and walking is a taxi. A typical taxi ride, in New York City, costs about $50, half of that to waiting in congested traffic. All the walking also lowers gas emissions, in New York City; its carbon footprint is small than many cities, in the USA. Hard to believe, but New York City is green!

Traffic, in Los Angeles, is a misnomer, as all its freeways add up to long waits, with the engine running. Some drivers, in LA, spend two hours travelling to work and two hours to get back home. This has led to dangerous multitasking, while driving, which might be better than getting angry.

Angry drivers can engage in "Road Rage." The term applies to LA because of deaths that occurred on the city's roads. Although Road Rage has eased, minor incidents continue. The LA question is this, would you rather have the driver, of the car next to you, on the freeway, playing pong, on his or her iPhone or aiming a carbine at you?

Housing costs are excessive, in LA. The average family moves farther and farther away from city centre to find affordable housing. In turn, this means too much traffic and massive jams.

The traffic and the massive jams produce a constant smog cloud, over Los Angeles. Although the smog level, in LA, has eased, of late, it remains a primary health concern. LA, in fact, is one of the most polluted cities in the world.

This is weird, considering how most LA residents claim to be green. Being vegetarian and living in a greenhouse is fine. What, though, is the cost of smog and sprawl to the environment? The green movement may have started in Los Angeles, but it stalled there, too.

The moment a native New Yorker arrives in Los Angeles and opens his or her mouth, you know where they came from. The New York accent is grating and nasal. There's also the New York attitude.

What do you expect from the mix, in New York City, of ethnic imports from Central Europe, and Mediterranean countries? The imports beat a harsh Germanic speech pattern and southern passion into a New York accent, with an attitude. Hey, you got a problem with the way I talk.

Generations of immigrants, to the USA, passed through Ellis Island, off New York City. Ethnic communities appeared, starting in lower Manhattan. Waking up, each morning, to see the Statue of Liberty was inspiring.

Each ethnic enclave had a strong sense of community, bolstered by a common language and cultural tradition. That sense of community is an essential part of New York City. Everyone is welcome everywhere, in New York, or, as a wag put it, your money is a good as anyone's.

Angelinos have a Spanish fondness for smooth rounded tones. Spanish contains dulcet qualities that are pleasant to the ear. The influence of the romantic languages is soothing.

Four major ethnic groups live Los Angeles. These are Caucasoids, Blacks, Latinos and Asians. The infighting is historic, and over the past twenty years, new rifts have arisen between the Asian and Black communities.

Crime is always an issue in big cities. Since Rudy Giuliani was mayor, in the 1990s, violent crime in New York City has declined, steadily. Today, its streets are safe and the police use computer modelling to send officers were they're most likely needed.

Los Angeles has one of the most reviled police forces in the USA. Long thought deeply corrupt, the Rodney King incident took the LAPD to a new low, in public esteem. An intense public relations effort, by the LAPD, had modest success.

Gang violence is something Los Angeles and New York City share. LA is infamous for gang violence. The LAPD estimates one gang, the Crips, founded in 1971 by Ray Washington and Stan Williams, has 35,000 members. The Bloods are the second largest street gang in Los Angeles. Continuing violence takes place between and within both gangs.

Once, the boroughs of New York City seethed, with gang violence. Joint efforts, by borough police forces, have been successful. Gang violence is in continuing decline in New York City.

In the popular view, New York and social aggression are synonymous. "What cho' lookin' at" applies to more than the de Niro character in "Taxi Driver." Where else do servers tell you how much to tip them?

If you haven't lived in New York City, the adjective, "angry," applies. The image of a New York cabbie flipping the finger is common. New Yorkers speak their minds, whether you like it or not.

LA is the exact opposite of New York City. In Los Angeles, strangers face polite, if distant, treatment and no one tells you what he or she thinks, about you or anything else. In New York City, opinions, ideas and judgments are public. LA residents are easy going or so it seems about everything, except traffic jams. New Yorkers are honest and tell you so.

Southern California's famous laid-back attitude, in fact, is cold. No one bothers anyone else. When people, in LA, meet, there's a faux sense of intimacy. It seems the glitz and fantasy of Hollywood infects the entire region, with phoniness.

The attitude in New York is "so what if we have a harsh climate, go to the beach!" If you only have good weather three months of the year, you, too, would spend as much time at the beach as you could. New Yorkers love the beach, whether they are going to the New Jersey shore, or Long Island; the beaches are a crowded all summer long.

It comes as no surprise that many people move to Los Angeles solely for the beach. Santa Monica Beach is almost downtown and made LA famous, Venice Beach is for scantily clad tourists and Malibu is for the rich and famous. The weather makes the ocean and related sports available all year long.

In LA, if you want to ski, you drive an hour to Tahoe, where you can gamble when the slops close down. The weather is choice in Los Angeles. Snowy mounts to the east, beaches all around. Still, it never rains in California and New Yorkers are at the mercy of the weather.

Los Angeles dominates southern California. Yes, you can drive to Mexico, but it's not the same as jumping on a train, for a short ride, to Boston, Philadelphia or Washington, DC. Variety on the east coast is enormous.

San Diego has tried, hard, to forge an identity, in southern California. Only eighty miles south of Los Angeles, San Diego is on the verge of the LA sprawl. Fifty years ago, when I first went to LA, Pasadena was ten minutes away, but now is inside the city limits.

LA sprawls, but New York City has the largest population, in the USA. Taking all the boroughs and Staten Island, too, its population tops ten million, spread across a small area. Manhattan Island, is about 23 square miles, has 1.6 million residents and a population density of 71,000 residents a square mile. Sprawling Los Angeles has a population of about 7 million.

New York City offers honesty and truth. If someone doesn't like you, you hear about it. In Los Angeles, you don't hear much said, but thought are silent; out of earshot, everyone dishes the dirt on everyone else.

Illusion and delusion are the LA charade, and all Hollywood. Though widely thought separate cities, Hollywood is part of Los Angeles. What passes for Hollywood excessive is LA.

Women and men flock to Los Angeles for fame, fortune and stardom. They flock to Schwabs Drug Store, which closed fifty years ago, hoping a movie producer will discover them. Allegedly, Lana Turner, a movie star of the 1940s to 1960s, was "discovered," while eating pastrami on rye, at the Schwabs lunch counter. The story is an invention. She was "discovered," about a mile away, drinking a malted milk at the Top Hat Café.

It is no wonder the naïve and glamorous flock to Los Angeles. They want to be a part of the best-known fantasy provider in the world. Who doesn't want to be "discovered" at a soda fountain or wherever it is producers "discover" starlets these days.

The glitz belies the seediness of Los Angeles. AJ Benza, co-host of "High Stakes Poker" and former New York City gossip columnist, says LA is more lethal, more dangerous than New York. Wall Street is one form of seedy deception, but is has hope. Hollywood Boulevard is worse; those on the skids, who never were and know they never will be stars, prowl it day and night.

The mythical New York gets a bad, undeserved rap. It has turned into a jewel, with excellent leadership and foresight. There may still be some traffic issues, but the crime has become almost a non-issue and Times Square is the new Disneyland.

Los Angeles is on some of the most beautiful Pacific stretches in the world. It lacks strong government and leadership, suffering, today, from a fast-declining reputation. The citizenry are a little too laid-back about issues that continue to plague them.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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