A Londoner in LA: The Good, the Bad and the Lesbianic...

The world has, what I consider to be, an irksome obsession with California. Writing this and about to go on to explain what I mean by this, the initial thing that springs to my mind is, "But why wouldn't people be obsessed with California?" And the fact that I think this is, like... the whole reason people are obsessed with California. Vicious circle, much?

But seriously, it is kind of like, what's not to love? Permanent summer, dwelling place of celebrities and it's not only acceptable but expected to travel a couple of streets by car. For someone who is daily sandwiched between a rather gross smelly man with his legs too wide apart and a screaming child on the tube, this seems like the ultimate luxury. Reasons to love it can be found everywhere. They even have Disneyland. Hand on heart, Taylor's sister and her boyfriend used to pop down to Disneyland after school. THEY POPPED DOWN TO DISNEYLAND. AFTER SCHOOL. Mind-blowingly luxurious.

Not only does CA have these obvious attractions, but it is glorified wherever we look.
It's been this way since the long ago days when Marilyn Monroe roamed the streets. It's bigged up in movies, in magazines, in pop music. It's represented as the greatest place on earth. On a daily basis, I see at least ten people wearing t-shirts which say something about California (or, even more specifically, Los Angeles, though people do venture out to San Francisco and even San Diego). Every time I see someone in one of these shirts, all I wonder is whether or not they've actually been there. I'm going to guess 60% have not.

This seriously bugs me, and I am sent into an actual rage by Forever 21's current store displays, which, in the middle of Oxford Street, in London, one of the greatest cities in the world, announces, "THIS IS LA." Well. Actually. It's not. It's London. And here in London, my fabulous classy historical tourist-attracting London, I want to be made to feel cool for being in London, Goddamnit! Not made to feel like I'd be cooler if I was in another place entirely. Not to mention, Forever 21, that if this was indeed LA, I'd have my girlfriend next to me. But that's not for here!

The fact that I find people's obsession with California really, really annoying is actually pretty ironic. It's ironic because... well... it's a bit awkward but... I'm obsessed with California. So basically, yes, I'm a hypocrite. Can't be helped. I've been obsessed with California for years longer than I've known Taylor. I also possess not one, but three, t-shirts glorifying California. And maybe a bracelet. Oh, and a candle. And I have a little display on my closet door reminiscing about my time spent there. BUT to be fair to me, I stand by this! It's OK to have my "I heart SD" postcard up because I do really heart SD. And I went to California on a family holiday when I was thirteen!! So technically, since the obsession begun, I've been totally informed.

There's an obvious culprit for why I'm obsessed with California. It's The L Word's fault.
And also a bit Paris Hilton's (I sort of want to be a butch version of her. Don't ask). But mostly it's The L Word. I've loved The L Word since I was about fifteen. I'm totally, completely obsessed with it. I've seen it a bazillion times. I maybe know it off by heart. Seriously, you can test me if you want. I kind of pride myself on how well I know it. And how great does The L Word make LA look????? More lesbians than you can shake a rainbow flag at! All dressed like their closets are an AllSaints store and a Dolce & Gabbana shop combined! Their gay bars serve cocktails! Mine serve plastic pints of Carlsberg for £1.70.


So when Tay and I got wifed up and I planned my first trip out to California, I was, for want of a more ladylike way of putting it, shitting myself with excitement. 90% of this was about seeing my girl for the first time in three months. 10% was, admittedly, about going to California now that I wasn't in the early stages of adolescence (better than just not in the early stages, I'd reached the coveted twenty-one! We all know what that means...).

And California was absolutely staggering. It's a magnificent place. It really is. Even driving between Taylor's family home in Riverside and San Diego where Tay lived at the time, I felt like I was in a road movie. There's something amazing about American roads, to a non-American. The views looked like Django Unchained, not kidding.

BUT it also wasn't entirely what I'd imagined. When I first went to visit, Taylor did not, in fact, live in LA, which has always been the pinnacle of my obsession. She lived in San Diego.
We visited LA and I did love it. But it wasn't how I thought it would be.

I'm about to crush some dreams here so brace yourself: The L Word is filmed in Canada. That is why it looks zilch like LA. The real LA couldn't look more different if it tried (seriously, it's almost embarrassing...). It's a lot less green and luscious than it seems in The L Word, and there's so much more driving than I imagined. Being a Londoner, I'd never really focused on LA's complete necessity for driving. I guess to a certain extent the LA of my mind was like London with more sunshine. But in real life, LA consists of soooo many roads, and not sceneic ones either. Ones which look like motorways look in England. Except these are within-the-city roads! I finally understood that amazing description in A Single Man (for those who don't get this reference, get yo' Isherwood on, you'll thank me). And although my exploration of the gay bars was on the brief side, I have to say they certainly didn't look as glamorous as they do in The L Word. They looked quite like their London counterparts to be honest: drunk-males-in-tight-pants-centric.

Funnily enough, San Diego was the place I liked more. And this was because San Diego was how I'd imagined LA! I pretty much think San Diego is a slice of heaven. The weather is balmy and beautiful and there's vegetation everywhere (right next to the roads which you're driving down to go to the Mexican takeout that's a street away - coolest thing is we genuinely did this!). It's super beach-focused despite being a city, which means seahorses EVERYWHERE - my seahorse, Sid (who travelled with me out of necessity as he is, admittedly, a tattoo) felt in great company.


And even more fabulously, San Diego's gay area, Hillcrest, is the most amazing gay district I have ever been to in my whole life. Flying a huge rainbow flag at all times, it is laid-back, welcoming and lovely. We went every Sunday to an adorable lesbian-run church, University Christian Church, where, honest to God, the priest was away one week because she and her wife were at Dinah Shore. The bars are not just bars but they serve food too. You can get brunch! And the bars have theme nights with so much variety, not just playing the latest chart-toppers: we went to a night where they played clips from musicals all evening, meaning my Roger Dupree from The Producers impersonation got to leave my bedroom and hit the California gay scene.

AND they have a whole lesbian bar, the fabulously fabulous Gossip Grill. Unlike most places which claim to be for the sapphicly inclined, it's really ladies-who-love-ladies-focused with vaginal themed cocktail names - Pussy Punch, anyone? If Kit had come over and said "grrrrl" and "baby sis" a lot of times and given me pear polenta tart, it would practically have been The Planet. San Diego, in fact, had lesbians wherever I looked. I almost have to wipe away a nostalgic tear as I remember it - it was all my L Word fantasies come true.


And thus, I draw to my conclusion. Firstly, The L Word lies. If you want a real depiction of LA, The Real L Word is (appropriately!) much more REAL-istic. But then we all knew The L Word lied from the minute Max grew that full face and neck of facial hair despite still sounding like Jane Horrocks, so that's not that revolutionary a conclusion. I guess my real conclusion would be that I feel super blessed to have gone to beautiful, wonderful California and I think it's phenomenal. But I also think London is an equally mesmerising city and the people of it should be loving it and not hankering after another location (Forever 21, that includes you).

London's place in my heart could never be taken away (I wouldn't really get rid of public transport for a bazillion cars. Unless you're offering a Bugatti Veyron...) and I feel super blessed to call it my hometown. But at the end of the day, I feel most blessed of all to be tied inseparably to both these fabulous locations. Oh, and to experience them alongside the love of my life. That's the greatest gift of all.


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