Stretching across a vast coastal plain into the arid valleys of San Fernando and San Gabriel, the concrete swath known as Los Angeles gleams with the radiance of a thousand stars—and starlets. Here lies the City of Angels, built from plumes of countless dreams upon the ashes of just as many disappointments. How many souls have flocked to its shimmer, drawn like moths to a flame, in pursuit of validation, purpose, and a chance to make something of themselves? How many have made it? L.A. is a microcosm of The American Dream.

I had always planned to move to Los Angeles to “try my luck,” whatever that meant. For a boy growing up in suburban Northern California, the metropolis of Southern California was a siren song. I couldn’t wait to lose myself in the endless city lights and emerge from the palm fronds, anew and found. Los Angeles was effortlessly trendy, sunny and skinny. One day, I’ll live there was a chorus I sang over and over again, even after moving to Switzerland. That song is fainter now, drowned by the monotonous hum of seven million cars sitting in a sea of traffic, and my chichi visions of pool parties, kelp wraps, and juice diets are as parched as the Joshua trees. Is it the California drought, or the gravity of adulthood that has gotten in the way of all my L.A. dreaming? My rose-tinted glasses no longer filter out the smog, but hell, L.A. sure still is—and always will be—fun.

Go to Pompeii and Herculaneum and see Roman villas the way they are now—then go to Malibu and see the way they were in ancient times.

J. Paul Getty

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