Less than 24 hours ago, I was riding shotgun in my friend’s silver Hello Kitty-themed Honda en route to the City of Angels.
With our windows down and spirits high, we shamelessly butchered every Bryan McKnight song in her stone-aged iPod Nano with only one destination in mind: our favorite tattoo shop.
We had finally saved enough time and money for our mini vacation.
Breaking away from the Valley for 14 hours and escaping to my hometown was worth every overly priced Frappuccino and gallon of gas.
It was ironic that our ultimate goal was to sit uncomfortably for six hours under several high-speed needles. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s worth it.
There is an expected sense of peace and exploration when embarking on a planned road trip, am I right?
You save for months, notify your employers and make the appropriate arrangements — it has to be better than your grueling, everyday life; something out of the ordinary, or else it wouldn’t be a “getaway.”
As my friend and I approached the base of the Grapevine, our surroundings began to change.
A cooler wind was rising and the glowing, greening mountainsides showed off in honor of St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
It was beautiful.
Before we knew it, the horns of road-raged drivers on the highway overpowered Mother Nature. We weren’t in Kansas anymore.
From that point on, last-minute braking became the most exhilarating part of the trip.
The welcoming spirit of Los Angeles was upon us. We were greeted by middle fingers and ongoing duels between monster trucks and motorcycles.
There we were, peacefully paced, among hundreds of people in a hurry to go nowhere — no destination is worth driving recklessly. Not even an exquisitely done tattoo.
At 10:30 a.m., we entered Gardena, a small-ish town of 62,000 in Los Angeles County, and continued our game of bumper cars in the city’s downtown streets, which are sadly comparable to some of Fresno’s worst areas.
Though I love my home, Los Angeles is sprinting into a downward spiral.
I wonder if there was a time when the world just beyond the Grapevine was friendly or remotely conscious of having manners (holding doors for others, saying “pleases” and “thank yous” or simply smiling).
I am not the Valley’s most enthusiastic fan, but I will say that its people are more apt to shoot you a smile or a wave, while the big city folk fling doors in your face.
Why is that?
Everyone in Los Angeles looks irritated and impatient, confirming my assumption that they are merely a part of a larger, meaner community that encourages rushing life and tackling anyone who gets in the way.
In 2012, Travel and Leisure magazine released poll results that placed Los Angeles as the fourth rudest city in the United States following New York, Miami and Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles was also rated as one of the least pedestrian-friendly cities in 2012.
It did manage to crawl from first to fourth place from 2011 to 2012, but what does that say about New York and other worsening cities?
I lived in Redding, Calif., for two years during junior college, and all I have to say about Northern California is that it is inhabited with aliens. Yes, aliens – mountain-dwelling creatures who pull over to fix your flat tire and deliver Crock-Pots of chicken soup when your entire family is sick.
What a foreign concept.
I believe the same alien species exists in the Valley – nice, pleasant strangers who have good heads on solid shoulders and are genuine in nature.
Sure, every place is home to fools and followers, but I feel that our Valley still treasures the important values in life: selflessness, charity and genuine concern for our neighbors.
Has Los Angeles’ love for money and individuality taken over? Does its selfish nature and social attitude shape the priorities of its inhabitants?
I can see its ultimate demise in the graffiti on its walls and the litter in its streets.
It now encourages shallow, self-righteous values that thrust people to the top of the social ladder and leaves them clueless to the needs of others.
I used to dream of returning to the City of Angeles, bachelor’s degree in hand and a thousand opportunities ahead – a stress-free life near family and the beach.
But the beaches are tainted, the streets are overflowing and my family is ready to leave.
I hope for the sake of my home and a million memories that Los Angeles becomes more than a great place for quality tattoos. I only have so much empty space on my body.