First Person

Why Jay-Z, Lena Dunham and I all left Brooklyn for Los Angeles

A typical March day in Venice. (Photos by Dan Cerruti.)

Jay-Z. Lena Dunham. Dan Cerruti. What do all these incredibly important cultural figures have in common, besides zeitgeist-capturing appeal with legions of fans? They–we–are all native New Yorkers who have decided to move to a land of gritty authenticity where only the savvy and cunning survive. I’m talking, of course, about Los Angeles.

The name of this blog being a pun on Brooklyn, I suppose I should do what I can to make you stow away your pitchforks and torches and stymy your cries of “traitor” and “heresy” and “You’re wearing shorts in March? Go fuck yourself.” The internet is lousy with “Why I’m leaving New York” essays, but I figure I should do my best to explain why this phenomenon has claimed so many New York peeps.

I moved in late February, mostly to pursue career things within the movie industry. LA has more options for longer-term work as well as more options to get paid to write for a screen. Such writing gigs are barely existent in NYC. But I also wanted to say good-bye to my hometown. I’ve logged my entire life in NYC and wanted a change. So the point of LA was to get me out of a rut, into a more shallow and sunny rut, and maybe make money in the movies.

LA is mythologized as being cheaper than NYC, which is true to an extent. Finding a habitable room at the baseline still costs about the same, but whereas if you spend a couple hundred more in Brooklyn to get, let’s say, a few less heating pipes bisecting your bathroom, in L.A. you get a host of amenities and utilities included, like a washer/dryer, a reality show filming your daily life and cocaine/champagne faucets. You still have to get your cocaine through Time Warner, though, so it’s far from perfect.

LA has $895 studios that you don’t have to sleep with anyone to get.

Something I never really got the chance to do in NYC is get yelled at by police officers for jaywalking. Thankfully, I have been harangued by cops TWICE here, being told my reckless lifestyle was too wild for society, and to use the crosswalks. It makes you feel like a sexy rebel for doing what comes naturally to you!

Of course, it was always going to be a struggle to adjust to LA’s car culture, but I’m finding that I’m doing alright. Even if, like me, you grew up barely driving, once you understand that Mad Max was actually a documentary about the LA freeways, it all clicks. Everyone drives like they’re fighting off a bushel of scorpions in the driver’s seat with the T-1000 hot on their tail, which, honestly, considering the number of bank robbers, spies, and Vin Diesels in this city, might explain their fast yet furious tendencies.

Health and habits change out here, too. The citizen contract of New York is to test how fast you can slowly kill yourself with binge drinking, feces-laced transit and lethal exposure to artisanal whimsy. Here, people fucking hike. Beyond jogging, or running, or any other form of leg-going-in-front-of-other-leg, but there is legit HIKING within city limits. And waiting for you at the top of most mountains are kale juice geysers. Or so I’m told. I’m still of the mindset that transferring from the NQR to the ACE at 42nd St. is a hike.

The commute's not the greatest though.
The commute’s not the greatest though.

Not to belabor a point, but there’s that whole thing about New York losing its character. So many neighborhoods of the city have only affluence levels to distinguish them, as opposed to any other characteristic. Nowadays it’s all just young, broke women having sexual mishaps. Makes you miss the diversity, y’know?

In short, stay away, all of you, I don’t want any of you to come here and drive up the rent. I’ll be at the beach eating sushi off of the stomach of a “model slash actor.” You guys enjoy, um, everything you ever loved being converted to a Walgreen’s or Chase, pretending that the rush of summer arriving somehow justifies a life of being busy for its own sake, living in a metastasizing dystopia of undue wealth and undue death, and pursuing goals that get farther away the closer you get, like some sort of Zeno’s Paradox of personal well-being and happiness, until you finally just end up cashing out on ever realizing the promise of a city that has long since abandoned the need for anything besides high-rise condos. And pizza, which I’ll admit, sucks mightily out here.


  1. Randall J

    Are you sure Jay-Z and Lena Dunham didn’t move because they work in the entertainment business and can make far more money living in LA? Simple business decision as an actor/performer/producer that applies to less than 1% of NYC residents.

    Nice job working them into the headline though.

  2. The only reason L.A. isn’t being converted into Chase’s and Starbucks is because it consists of two types of strip malls:

    – uppity ones that are ALREADY made up of B of A’s and Coffee Beans
    – “ethnic” strip malls with laundromats, Central American grocery stores and cell phone resellers

    I lived in L.A. for seven years, by the way. The first two were great! I lived in Venice! I biked everywhere! Life was awesome!

    And then I moved to Silverlake and had to drive everywhere and became a traffic fearing recluse. All fun became pointless because I would have to drive to get there. Going out? The subway stops at midnight so you have to drive, and the bars close at 2 anyways That in-city hiking? You will drive 30 minutes to get there, and then you will spend another 30 looking for parking.

    Overall, L.A.’s car dependence makes it a special kind of hell. It just takes time to realize that. At least on a subway, I can multitask without getting a ticket (or endangering lives texting while driving)

  3. 1. You’re not a trader for leaving NYC. People have been arriving in and leaving from here for as long as there have been settlements. In short, you’re not special.
    2. Declaring NY “done” because there are massive changes occurring shows an incredible lack of perspective. It’s likely the most evolving city in the world in fact. There wasn’t some golden age of NY realness that came to crashing end in 2002.
    3. If you need a change of scenery, cool. Not sure why you feel so insecure about your choice.

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