I’m not a fan of people who hate on Los Angeles. Sure, there’s plenty to roll your eyes at: the hipster juice bars selling over-priced beverages that promise miracles. The crowds of aspiring influencers taking endless photos in front of the Paul Smith store on Melrose Ave. Or the combined scent of poop and weed that lingers around Hollywood.
But regardless of how many stereotypes LA plays into, one thing that shouldn’t be discounted is that it also has a real heart and soul to it. I find the folks that hate LA have either never been there or never had a chance to really get to know it.
We recently lost one of basketball’s greatest players in Kobe Bryant. To the world, Bryant was a sports icon and superstar, but for Angelenos he was a hero and symbol of hometown pride. But it was his tragic and sudden death that united LA in a way I had never seen before.
When I visited Los Angeles in February shortly after his death, I found endless tributes to his legacy. There were murals up and down Melrose Ave. dedicated to Kobe and his daughter, Gigi. People also wore clothing to honor their favorite Laker. Even LA’s metro system found ways to pay their respects with buses that read ‘RIP Kobe’ and subway screens with the numbers 8 and 24 on them.
It's been two years since I left Los Angeles. At the time, I needed a change; I wanted to see new places and was interested in pursuing expanded career opportunities. But it was the friendships I made in LA that made me yearn to go back and visit.
My trip to California was a very quick 5 days. It was short, sweet, and a necessary break from Michigan. After a few days in the Laguna Beach area, I took the train up to LA to meet up with my cousin Betsy and her family. It was some much-needed family time. Even the shortest reunions are worth it just to see the people you love.
After spending the night at my cousin’s place, it was off to my old neighborhood of West Hollywood to see some of my former Zumba students for coffee. Becoming a Zumba Fitness instructor was hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did it give me great employment opportunities while living in LA, it also introduced me to a network of people across the city that I was able to build friendships with. My class at 24 Hour Fitness in West Hollywood was always tight-knit – many of them knew one another years before I showed up. I got to catch up with Greg, Teri, and Susan. We couldn’t believe it had already been two years, but that’s the thing about friendships: you catch up right where you left off.
After coffee, it was off to brunch with my good friend Heidi. We caught up for over 4 hours! It was just like old times, since we always loved checking out the cool spots around WeHo.
The night ended with a trip to LA’s famous Magic Castle, which sits on a top of a hill in the heart of Hollywood. This spot is so exclusive you actually need a connection to get in, so shout-out to my friend Jonathan for making that happen. This mansion is really cool inside, and in a city where casual attire is dominant, it’s fun to see everyone all dressed up. You’re treated to magicians performing all over the mansion, as well as stage shows at designated times throughout the evening. Yours truly even got pulled up on stage at one point! I suppose the real magic of that moment was that I didn’t fall over in my heels…
When I think of what I miss most about LA, it’s not the warm weather or the ocean – though they are definite perks. Instead, it's the friendships and people I care about that make it so special. It’s easy to write off Los Angeles as this soulless, vapid city, but I beg you to consider a whole other side to it; a side where genuine friendships are made and good people are all around you. This is the LA I know and love.
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com