The internet loves lists, and I've written hundreds of them over the years, but I won't stop until I get one published in McSweeney's.
33 Things Everyone From Los Angeles Knows to Be True
Written by Michael Alarcon for Rent.com.
Horrible gridlock, congested airports, questionable air quality, bandwagon sports fans, noise pollution, insane rent prices, people who blast music out of their phones on public transportation. These daily hazards are nothing new to people who live in major cities.
And it’s no newsflash that Los Angeles suffers from all of those things (it’s the second most populated city in the U.S., after all), but it has so much more. L.A. has quirks and idiosyncrasies — both good and bad — that are there to keep its people functioning with a sliver of dependability.
If you’ve lived here long enough, you’ve come to accept and love these 33 indisputable truths as the glue that keep this town together. If you’re a recent transplant, stick around. You’ll get there.
1. Angelenos never refer to themselves as Angelenos. We say we’re from L.A., and despite the L.L. Cool J song, no one here says “Cali.”
2. You’d never eat a Danger Dog during daylight hours, but late at night, after a concert or a particularly vigorous night of drinking and dancing, the heavenly scent of those grilled bacon-wrapped street dogs covered with onions and peppers tastes like ambrosia.
3. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who lived in one of the neighborhoods that was hit by the Night Stalker.
4. You haven’t had the full Venice Beach Boardwalk experience until you’ve met Harry Perry.
5. You’re not exactly sure what a Sig Alert means, but you know it adds an extra 30 minutes to your commute
6. Chick Hearn (even in death), and Vin Scully are the voices of this city.
7. You’ll complain about standing in line for anything in L.A., yet begrudgingly wait 30 minutes for Animal Style Double-Doubles.
8. The best Chinese food is not in Chinatown, it’s in Monterey Park.
9. The only people who regularly go to Pink’s Hot Dogs work there. Everyone else in the hour-long line are tourists.
10. It doesn’t matter what season it is. It could be 50 degrees or 100 degrees and thirsty hipsters will always wear beanies with a tank top/scarf combo.
11. Eric Garcetti may be the Mayor of Los Angeles, but Rodney Bingenheimer is the Mayor of the Sunset Strip.
12. If you’re able to get to work in under 45 minutes, you’re considered one of the lucky ones at the office.
13. As of this publish date, Dodger Dogs cost a whopping $6.50. They taste like dry am/pm hot dogs, but you’ll buy a couple anyway and wash them down with a $6.25 cup of Bud out of routine.
14. The novelty of a movie being made in your neighborhood has long worn off, and now you scowl at film crews who have the audacity to ruin your commute.
15. Weekday rush hour traffic starts at 6 a.m. and ends around 7 p.m., with a one-hour break around 10:30 a.m.
16. If you’re a homeowner and you live within a quarter mile of the Coliseum, your front lawn becomes a parking lot during every event where you can charge $40 a car.
17. You mourned the passing of Jonathan Gold like he was a close member of your family.
18. You still feed off the hate from ’80s-era Boston Celtics fans.
19. The only time the Orange Curtain’s threshold can justifiably be crossed is for trips to Disneyland, driving en route to San Diego and when you have to visit your parents’ house on major holidays.
20. Similar to how Eskimos have more than 50 words for snow, in Los Angeles, the word “dude” has just as many meanings, depending on inflection, phraseology and what neighborhood it’s used in. Incorrect usage can be catastrophic.
21. You remember when Pink Dot was still a small, local enterprise and you could have a 12-er of beer, a pack of smokes and a pizza delivered to your door within 15 minutes.
22. Eventually, you come to accept the fact that you’ll hear the phrases “Keyes, Keyes, Keyes, Keyes on Van Nuys!,” “Yes, Cerritos Auto Square!,” “You’re killing me, Larry!,” “O-O-O-O’Reillyyyyy Auto Parts — Yeaow!” and “Well you won’t get a lemon from Toyota of Orange!” at least once a day.
23. The distance from one location in the city to another is not measured by miles, but by time.
24. Hiking at Runyon Canyon has been ruined by Instragram.
25. Angelyne is a mysterious angel sent from heaven and we’re lucky to have her.
26. You can expect a multitude of projectiles to be thrown at you from behind if you wear a Giants cap to a Dodger game.
27. Mexican food is the sixth major food group.
28. You make more than $75K a year and you still have roommates.
29. It doesn’t matter what crisis the world is facing on any given day, a rain forecast will lead the nightly news every time.
30. You’re constantly on the hunt for someone who knows someone who can get you in The Magic Castle.
31. If you were actually born within the Los Angeles county limits, you’re as rare as a unicorn.
32. If you were here for the Northridge quake, you sleep through everything, and sensibly chuckle when recent transplants ask if you “felt that crazy earthquake last night?”
33. People who live in Los Angeles can make fun of Los Angeles, people who don’t, can’t.
9 Websites to Get a Free Education in Higher Learning
This is easily the most plagiarized thing I've ever written. I created it for a back-to-school summer ad campaign with Staples for eHow. The title is clunky, but that's SEO for you. Lots of content-aggregating websites copied and pasted this list, and surround it with ads. Sometimes those sites at least give me the byline, but most don't. I could retire on 10 percent of the revenue this list has made over the years. Nick Hornby never had to deal with such frivolities.
If there are two things we can all agree on loving, it’s free stuff and becoming as awesome a person as possible. Dig around the Internet, and you can kill two birds with one stone: free higher education!
I’m not talking three-minute, lo-res YouTube clips either—I’m talking free semester-length courses from Ivy League schools, classes in sophisticated coding, access to mountains of standard textbooks—even elaborate foreign language studies. Read on and prepare to become incredibly smart—for free.
1. MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT professor Dick Yue says it best: “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.” MIT OpenCourseWare is a web-based publication of all MIT course content. It’s open and available to the world, and it’s a permanent MIT activity. In short, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is giving you all 2,150 courses to you for free. Click here!
2. Open Culture
Open Culture is a lot like the MIT site except it’s more of a university aggregator. Currently, it’s rounded up 825 free online courses and 800 free certificate courses from top unis like UC Berkeley, Penn State, Oxford, Yale, Notre Dame, and a lot more. The site also cultivates a library of 550 classic books, 625 movies, and 160 textbooks—the numbers continually grow and they’re all yours. Click here!
This is another great site with a beautiful, easy-to-navigate layout. It differs a bit from most of the sites on this list in that you actually enroll and learn at a structured classroom pace with other students like yourself (there are currently 4 million active users). Prestigious lectures, interactive quizzes, peer-graded assessments, and live interaction with your classmates and teachers—sweet! Click here!
The site’s home page puts it out there in bold black font: “Learn to code interactively, for free.” If you’re planning on working in the media industry, coding is steadily becoming a major jewel in the crown of one’s resume. I personally know a handful of writers who taught themselves how to code after work. After awhile, they got hired on to different companies as coders and engineers, then doubled (some tripled) their salaries. And, um… I’m still an editor. Click here!
Why plop down up to $500 on Rosetta Stone to learn a foreign language when you can learn it on this site for free? Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Italian with no fees, ads, gimmicks—a quality-level college education on language for free. Click here!
6. Khan Academy
I love this site because they have so much unique content to offer and they allow you to chart your progress with easy-to-analyze metrics, coach and teacher reports, and academy badges for levels of achievement. This one’s for everyone, but it’s great for home schoolers and overachieving kids who have flown way past their traditional class studies. Click here!
Another course aggregator of sorts, but the studies are much more refined, focusing on web development, graphic design and film making. You’re probably going to benefit most from Tuts+ if you already have a general understanding of the subject matter, but bookmark these guys anyway—there are some incredible courses within these pages. Click here!
edX is also like Open Course which was mentioned above, and they’re also overseen by MIT and Harvard with courses from Cal Tech, Rice, Cornell, Wellesley, and lots more. Cool tools, a great user interface, videos, and game-like labs on your schedule and pace. Click here!
9. Gutenberg Project
Books, books, books—lots of ‘em—over 42,000 to be exact, and all free. Everything from text books to classics, to Kindle titles. You’re not gonna find Jackie Collins’ latest novel, but if you’re into serious reading, you’ll never buy another book again. Click here!
OK, now go learn and be awesome.
27 Essential Things Every Man Needs to Know (and Know How to Do)
This is another list I wrote that's been heavily plagiarized over the years—you might have seen it on Thought Catalog, shady Russian content farms, Pinterest—the list goes on. It was originally written when I worked for eHow.com while I was directing a new vertical within the brand for men in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.
1. Keep a durable toolbox stocked with the basics: hammer, screwdrivers, nails, etc. You should be able to fix 90 percent of anything that goes wrong in your home.
2. Know how to change a diaper without whining about it.
3. Take up a hobby and be passionate about it. Work is work, and family time is family time, but you should have one thing that’s yours.
4. Invite your mom out at least every 6 months or so—just you and her. Breakfast, brunch, tea—whatever. Just take her out and listen.
5. Take your dad out to a ball game every now and then. He’s dying to just spend a few hours with you over beer and hot dogs. He regrets he didn’t do this with you more when you were younger.
6. When you can, pick up the tab without being asked, and don’t make a big deal out of it.
7. Know basic first aid, not just CPR. Know what to do when someone goes in shock, how to immobilize a broken bone, how to apply pressure or dress simple wounds, how to relay information to a 911 operator.
8. Be able to cook a great meal (an appetizer, a salad, and a main course), and know how to pair it with wine. Spaghetti doesn’t count, aim higher.
9. Learn how to recognize when a woman is venting and shut up. She doesn’t want you to solve her problem. If she does, she’ll ask.
10. Know how to drive a manual transmission. It’ll take you a couple hours to learn and you’ll never forget how to do it.
11. Have one go-to method of knowing how to start a fire without a match or lighter. The Boy Scouts have three.
12. Have a bank account separate from your checking and savings. Every paycheck, put 5 to 10 percent of it in said account. Same thing for your 401k–add to it.
13. Read one great book every month. Take your time with it and understand it.
14. Have one toast ready at a moment’s notice. Similarly, know how to give a great speech. The perfect speech will earn you enormous respect.
15. Be able to dance when asked. You don’t have to be Fred Astaire, just move your arms and legs a bit—the girl you’re on the dance floor with is there to have fun.
16. Know how to change a flat tire. Don’t complain when you have to perform the task.
17. Always compete strongly, and lose graciously—win graciously, too.
18. Own a filing cabinet and keep all important paperwork in there. W-2s, birth certificates, tax stuff—anything you can’t afford to lose.
19. Spend at least 5 minutes a day catching up on current events. Don’t just read the Local and Sports sections—venture into the World and Politics sections, as well.
20. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re about to cheat, know that you’ll feel completely miserable afterwards.
21. Always date your wife, girlfriend—significant other. Get off the couch.
22. When someone you’ve just met asks you a friendly question, answer them. Then ask them one back, and listen.
23. Don’t look for approval from anyone other than you and your own set of moral codes.
24. If you feel like something’s wrong with you physically, go to a doctor. A lot of illnesses can be stopped if caught early enough.
25. Remind yourself that your job doesn’t define you.
26. Always compliment her shoes (or anything you know a woman put a little extra effort into).
27. Confidence is everything. Know yourself and what’s important to you—that’ll get you there. (And if you don’t feel confident, fake it—it’ll happen eventually—don’t be cocky, just hold your head high and show poise.)
This list can apply to men and women, but sometimes guys just need an extra reminder.