Golden Smog: Los Angeles at a glance

I preface this with the wise words of Sam Elliott’s character in “The Big Lebowski”:

“They call Los Angeles the city of angels. I didn’t find it to be that exactly. Although I’ll allow there are some nice folks there.”

That is, I’m enjoying my new city, and I’m just poking fun here. It’s not like I haven’t rhapsodized on the same kinds of idiosyncrasies you’ll find in the South.

With that said:

1) Everything you’ve heard about L.A. traffic is true. But the parking situation is far worse.

I avoid the interstate at all costs, so I don’t fear rush hour. Traffic is merely a nuisance that bubbles up only occasionally -- kinda like it does on home-football weekends in Columbia, S.C.

It’s the lack of parking that gets you. Unlike pretty much anywhere in the South, you can rarely hope to simply drive up to an L.A. restaurant that actually has its own parking lot. Even if you’re lucky enough to find one, it’s going to be valet-only. There might be 20 open parking spaces, 10 feet from you, but you still have to surrender your keys. And your cash.

Fortunately, at least in downtown Culver City, garage parking is free for the first two hours. But you still have to walk five blocks to your destination.

I'm spoiled and lazy.

2) The “other USC” isn’t as obscure here as you might think.

I get the occasional shoutout when I wear my Gamecocks gear, which is always a thrill.

More often, however, I get awkward glances. And then I realize that, to most people, “Cocks” is not shorthand for a school mascot.

3) For most Los Angeleans, seeing a 70-pound snow dog is akin to witnessing an alien landing.

L.A. might be the most pet-friendly place on the planet, which is good for our husky-and-two-cat household. But “pet ownership” out here really means one thing: “I have a Chihuahua.” Likely a yippy one that fits easily into a back pocket.

So whenever I take Malia out and about, it’s like I’m a freaking rock star. Megan Fox could be walking by, but all the attention will be squarely on my dog -- who, it must be said, is strikingly pretty.
“Oh my God, what a beauty!” “Simply stunning.” “May I please pet your dog?” “Can I have an autograph?” “What zoo is she from?”

Malia is far more likely to get discovered out here than I am.

4) Manners are out.

“Please,” “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” are rarely heard here. Either there isn’t enough time in people’s day, or perhaps they don’t speak very good English. If it’s the latter, then I cut folks some slack.

It’s likely more of a big-city thing than an L.A.-centric problem, but even when I lived in New York, I’d get an occasional “Pardon me.” It would be gruff, almost unintelligible, and might be preceded by spittle in your face … yet they’d at least utter the sentiment.

But if you were hoping for an apology from the woman who cut in front of you at the Ralphs in downtown Culver, you can forget it. She has more important things to get to, like an audition, or the milk aisle.

5) Finding central heating and air out here is as difficult as finding a fully functioning hair follicle on my head.

“Sunny California” my white Irish ass. The day after I got here in mid-December, it rained for two weeks straight, and we’ve continued to have intermittent clouds ever since.

And, like anywhere else in the country, it’s cold in winter. We ain’t on the equator.

People have told me one of two things:

-- This is so unusual! We’ve met our “bad weather” quota for the year.

Or …

-- Thanks a lot for bringing your shitty East Coast weather with you, pal.

If places of business here have central heating-A/C, then they don’t know how to use it. All you’ll find are heat lamps because, ironically, the weather is so “nice” that most people eat outside.

None of the apartments I investigated had ever even heard of central air. I might just as well have asked them if they allowed pet tigers, witchcraft and visitor parking.

Living quarters simply come equipped with shutter units and fireplaces, and every landlord says the same thing: “Just use your windows.”

Obviously they’re not familiar with Antoine Dodson and family.

6) L.A. radio stations love Social Distortion.

Like, a lot. Guess it’s not all that surprising, since they’re from Orange County. Still, the quintessential L.A. band to me is Guns N’ Roses.

I like Social D, but I’m guessing I’m going to hate them pretty soon.

But it could be worse. No station appears to be constantly piping L.A.’s second-biggest musical export.

To paraphrase the Dude: “It’s been a long night, and I hate the f****** Red Hot Chili Peppers!”

7) Despite the craziness, Los Angeles is a gorgeous place.

Idyllic and relaxing, yet simultaneously hip and cosmopolitan, the town has it all. You can tour without feeling like a tourist, and as a foodie destination it’s among the top of the heap. Most neighborhoods are approachable and walkable, and you’ll never lack for something to do.

Plus, I’d be lying if I said the celebrity factor wasn’t a draw. It’s fun to get star-struck. Already I’ve sighted a handful of TV actors, plus William effing Shatner.

And if I should happen to bump into Kristen Bell or Natalie Portman, then you can forget I ever said a mean word about the place.