Joseph Remlinger, English 101
Instructor: Jacqueline Stark
Krupnick Essay Contest Winner, 2008

What My Piece of Cardboard Will Say

My best friend Mark assured me that, “one day, you will either tell the story of your journey to L.A. as a star or a bum.” I asked him if there was any in between; through bad cell phone reception, his muffled, cracked voice screamed, “No!” The characters in this story—my brother, my band mate who had no driver’s license, and myself. The vehicles on this expedition—our tour van, a moving truck with a failing transmission and my old Cadillac. We sped boldly through the monotonous Great Plains of Interstate 70, the lonesome, desolate deserts on Highway 15 and the blasted mountains along 210 West with an enduring feeling of purpose. Furthermore, we slept in mold-ridden motels with damp carpet at thirty-dollars a night with names like La Siesta and El Rancho on our way to the city of Angels, but knew that surviving the trek was only the first step with the greatest undertaking to come. Because, when moving to Los Angeles from a small mid-western town, one faces many challenges including relocation, social differences and finding personal success.

First, the migration and journey to L.A. by American dreamers—caused by education, acting, music and employment—can be classified as effortless, moderately difficult, demanding and unachievable. Primarily, people come to L.A. to further their learning, whether it is at a two-year institution, four-year university or trade school. The city offers any type of training one could want, such as Recording, Fashion and Acting. Now, using this knowledge one can perform at some of the many music venues, improvisation clubs, or find a job in their profession while figuring out how to make ends meet. As well, while changing locations is not easy, discovering plenty to do on the weekends can be. The city is known for entertainment and does not disappoint with ritzy dance clubs, opulent dining and grungy dive bars. But, too much play and not enough work can make Jack (or Jill) a poor boy (or girl). Finding employment can be arduous, but necessary since the cost of living in Los Angeles is as high as almost anywhere in the world. Also, adjusting to the fast-paced lifestyle can discourage some people comfortable with small-town attitude. Finally, one either adapts or will make the even longer journey back home or to another location. All in all, many will continue to journey to Los Angeles for different reasons such as school and stardom, but will find the change simple to agonizing.

Next, to achieve comfort in a functional home in L.A. one needs electricity, water, utilities, trash-service, and of course, entertainment. First, electricity powers everything in a house from its refrigerator to the computer, while water service allows a person to take a shower, use the bathroom and cook and clean in the kitchen. Also, utilities heat the water in a home as well as sometimes power your oven, while trash pick-up helps keep a place tidy and organized. Furthermore, entertainment can entail anything from five television stations to Internet at the speed of light. To start with, call the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Like their name states, they will cover one’s electricity and water after notification of new ownership. Similarly, after notice by phone call, utilities will be turned on, typically within twenty-four hours. Now, most apartments in Los Angeles have a trash service included, but most homes do not, and arrangements have to be made with a waste disposal company on the home’s trash-route. Finally, since so many competing companies offer in-home entertainment, one has to choose which company offers the best deal for their digital desires. In the same way, this luxury can be obtained by calling the preferred company, then setting an appointment for installation. All in all, lights, the shower, the stove, trash pick-up and a T.V. can make a house feel like home.

In addition, the culture of L.A. and a small Mid-western town differs in traffic, crime and politics—which is the art of government characterized by policies, practices and sympathies—but is similar in ideals and career opportunities. First, the hustle and bustle of the after-work drive in L.A. can be dreadful compared to the leisure of a small town drive. Many people commute using one or more of the many freeways in L.A., which causes congestion almost every morning and afternoon. Next, crime is prevalent in Los Angeles like any major city, though mostly confined to particular areas, compared with fewer felonies in less-populated Mid-western cities. Also, politics differ from place to place. Los Angeles residents, for the most part, ride a donkey, which is the symbol for the Democratic Party. These voters are more liberal, fighting against anti-abortion laws while supporting gay marriage and legalized marijuana laws. In contrast, small-town Midwesterners, leaning on an elephant to represent Republicans, are more Conservative; supporting guns rights, tax reform while protesting to keep marriage traditional. However, the idea of values and the American family stays the same across the United States. Even though politics may differ, the structure of the American society from Missouri to California stays the same—a beacon of hope and freedom to all citizens and ethnicities. Lastly, careers in the Midwest and Los Angeles are similar in the opportunities coming out of a college or university and the preparation for the real world, though Los Angeles offers a much more diverse job selection and heftier paycheck. Overall, L.A.’s culture can be shocking to a person from the Midwest due to differences in the fast-paced motion, corruption and views, but will discover that it is still the same old America.

Finally, finding personal success in Los Angeles can be seen in one’s transportation, possessions, work and residence. First, one can take pride in their Lamborghini or their decision to save the environment by using the Metro. L.A.’s stars and wealthy buy luxurious cars for thousands with plush, heated leather seats, MP3 player and get looks from the opposite sex. L.A.’s civilians and smart purchase a Metro ticket for $1.25 with hard, cold plastic seats, awkward silences and get stares from the homeless. Also, the city is at the forefront of technology, and one can invest in learning about the advances or the new inventions themselves. This can also mean the attire one chooses to wear. Rock n Rollers put on rags and bags to gigs. Elitists dress to impress in dance clubs. Beachcombers dress in skimpy tops and bottoms in the sun. One has to find what apparel makes them comfortable, and what clothing is acceptable at work. A person’s day job and their night’s passion to continue to dream can be different, and finding time and energy for both is important. Becky might cover up her tattoos at her tiresome office job during the day but spike her hair into liberty spikes at night while John can finally let loose in acting class at nine at night after spending the day playing the part of a telemarketer. Finally, one’s house has to be satisfactory. Success at work can translate to moving closer and closer to your dream location whether that is the busy and exciting West Hollywood or the beautifully landscaped and relaxing Beverly Hills. All things considered, L.A. can be rewarding as long as a person can tolerate their job, enjoy their hobbies and discover what properties and belongings are essential.

In conclusion, one day soon while you are minding your own business on the metro, I may regale you with the story of going through the silhouettes of mountains at 11:30 pm in Arizona and tell you how a rush of valiant energy washed over my body as I finally came to the realization of what I was doing—making a conscious choice to take a chance. We—Americans—take it for granted, but there is no other country in the world, or any other time in history, when it has been possible to follow your dreams—to relocate to L.A. It is a luxury that only a small percentage of the six billion people on the Earth ever get to experience. It can be insightful and invigorating, but it can be excruciating also. Furthermore, getting setup in a new place is never easy, but one can follow simple steps to complete the transfer. And, the culture can be astonishing at times compared to small-town life, but just another barrier to overcome to help achieve your goals and be content. So, I will describe to you the sights of the Midwest on the way to the coast. Then, I will ask nicely, “Can you spare a quarter?”