So you’re moving to Los Angeles. Good choice. It’s a sprawling, vibrant, insane city. There will always be something to do or see, someplace to go, some new road to chart. But if you’ve got a minute, I’ve got some advice.
1. Buy a Thomas Guide. Keep it in your car.
2. Stay out of the really bad parts of the Valley. If you wind up there, stay east. The closer to Ventura Blvd., the better.
3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s the only way to get other people to.
4. Do big things badly, as the man said. Screw up so completely that there’s no way to put out the fire, just contain it and minimize the burns. The freer you are to fail, the more willing you will be to take the chances that will lead to a success that’s more rewarding than you realize.
5. You won’t do #4 that well, or at all, for a while. That’s normal, and when you think about it, not doing it is kind of like doing it. But don’t forget it.
6. Learn to love guacamole. It’s a life-changer.
7. The worst thing about the traffic here is its unpredictability. Sometimes the 101 south will be clogged at like 1 p.m. on a Saturday, just because. Learn to deal.
8. And so help me, do not become one of those people who wants to get on the 134 and waits until the last possible minute to get over. Or one of those people who drives into an intersection with no guarantee to go through it, if cars are backed up after the light. Then you cause jams, and you are an ass. People who drive like that are worse than Republicans; at least bad drivers are usually self-aware enough to be able to change their behavior.
9. The Arclight is the best theater in the country. There are many great theaters nationwide that offer special screenings or serve food and beer, and this has that, too. But for an honestly top-level experience, you cannot beat the Arclight. Period. The one in Sherman Oaks is still very good, and much better than a typical multiplex, but there is absolutely no topping the original one in Hollywood. Not at all. Anyone who says different is lying or misinformed. Make it your cathedral.
10. The Kogi truck sells overrated tacos. Pinkberry sells overrated yogurt. Sprinkles sells overrated cupcakes. Avoid buzzy trends and just look for good places to be.
11. You know those annoying girls and douchey guys you see on show like “The Hills”? They’re real. Just stay away from them. A good rule of thumb is just to never go to a club, since that’s where the asshats hang out. Find a good bar, or dive bar.
12. Speaking of which: The Scarlet Lady Saloon in Culver City, where Sepulveda hits Sawtelle, is probably the best bar in the city. It’s a dive, and it’s just a little brighter inside than you’d expect, but it’s got a great bar staff, colorful locals, karaoke on the weekens, and an all-around relaxed vibe. It’s also two doors down from Roger’s Exciting Tattle-Tale Room, a dive bar so gross it’s not uncommon for hookers to use it as a pit stop. You’ll love it.
12(a). Seriously, don’t knock karaoke. Learn to kill on one or two songs, and you’re set.
13. Amoeba has most anything you’re looking for. The only artist I’ve never been able to find there is Eytan Mirsky, but that’s a rare exception. The best thing is that they’ve got an amazing churn on new arrivals in all genres, so visiting the artist sections for your favorite bands can yield something new every time, and often for cheaper than you’d expect. Tons of great DVDs, as well. It’s your new favorite store.
14. Go to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Order the Carol C. and a glass of tea. Know happiness.
15. The best guac in town is at Tere’s Mexican Grill, southeast corner of Melrose and Cahuenga.
16. People back home will ask you on a regular basis if you’ve seen any celebrities. They will ask this with an expectant and hopeful tone, as if there’s a park where all the famous people hang out and anyone’s allowed to hang out with them. Get used to it. What they don’t realize, and what you need to remember, is that people who work in the business are just people, and this is a company town where a lot of industry employees live. That’s it. Some like being approached, some don’t; it’s better to err on the side of caution.
17. Yes, In-N-Out Burger is a classic experience and a staple of life in L.A., but a better meal can be had at The Habit. Hands down.
18. Go ahead and use the carpool lane on entrance ramps. They’re almost never monitored (and you can get out easily if they are), and you can breeze by the people waiting for the light to turn green. Totally worth it.
19. Valet if possible. When you get here, you will resist this, and will look for a place to park on the street even though it’s still like two blocks from the restaurant and there’s not an easy place to cross the street. You will think, “I came from a land of free and abundant parking, and I have no truck with paying to park unless absolutely necessary.” But dude, look around. This town is falling all over itself for lack of place to put stuff, and you’ll be paying to park in garages more than ever. And a valet service is just a necessary evil and a cost you will eventually begin to factor into a night out. It’s one of the best conveniences you can get for just a few bucks. Believe me.
20. If you live in the Valley, take the Flyaway shuttle to LAX if you have to travel. Or fly out of Burbank if you just don’t want to deal with a crowd. But for LAX, the Flyaway service is key.
21. Always tip the bartender well, especially if you begin to frequent the place. That’s how you get strong pours.
22. The beach is overrated. Never go on a Saturday.
23. Watch out for intersections in Hollywood and West Hollywood: A lot of them have cameras that will snap you running a red light. And they will find you and send you the ticket. Off the top of my head, there’s one at Sunset and Cahuenga, and several along Fairfax. (Check here for more.)
24. Always check signs when you park in a residential area.
25. Never go to any place that charges a cover.
26. Never settle.