Radio is more important to Angelenos (because of cars), but songs tend to have a tiny shelf life before they disappear and show up on an oldies station 15 years later. Good songs never seem to fall out of fashion on New York radio. In New York, you can walk into a deli and hear Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” or the first Vampire Weekend album playing on the radio but that almost never happens when you’re listening to the radio in your car in Los Angeles.
When you spend time in New York you realize how an Angeleno’s car is so much more than just a way of getting around. It’s a personal biosphere, an environmental bubble, subject to your complete control. 90 degrees outside? 62 degrees inside. New York is a very sweaty place.
New Yorkers don’t leave their office during the day. I think it’s because they’re air conditioned and heated. Angelenos regularly drive to lunch.
In your car-slash-environmental travel pod in Los Angeles, you are alone. Other pods are abstractions, “a thing causing me irritation” most of the time. You vent your id at people in their pods in ways you would never vent to a person on a Los Angeles street. New Yorkers vent their ids far less often. People are more often people than an abstraction. In this way, New York is friendlier than Los Angeles. When one New Yorker irritates another New Yorker, it’s usually in person and then it’s met with the same sort of invective, albeit more eloquent, as when Angelenos vent, unheard, in their cars. Angelenos may be more comfortable, but they’ve forgotten how to be irritated at other people.
New Yorkers cry in public, all the time, everywhere. On the subway. Just walking down the street. Angelenos cry in their cars.
New Yorkers have this remarkable ability to be alone in a crowd. They practice this skill constantly, probably because they have no other choice. It’s near impossible to be in a public place in New York and not be around other people. There are parts of Los Angeles where you can spend an hour and not see another human being. Certain trails in Griffith Park, the top of Temescal Canyon, almost anywhere in Mandeville Canyon. The streets in my neighborhood. Whole swaths of the beach, plenty of rocky breakwaters. The biking paths along the river.
New Yorkers drink far more alcohol —I calculated it, it’s more than double per person— than Angelenos. They smoke about the same number of cigarettes.
New York bars are astonishingly conformist. There must be hundreds of bars doing that whole iron and wood and Edison bulbs thing. Both New York and Los Angeles have their share of Irish pubs and dive bars, but Los Angeles has only a couple (I can actually only think of one) that are of that particular Mumford & Sons-chic. You would be hard pressed to find more than a handful of pairs of bars in Los Angeles that you could say are alike.
New Yorkers are just as flaky as Angelenos. People assume that plans might be broken up until a few hours beforehand, just as they do in Los Angeles. It’s easier to have a flexible schedule, however, in New York, because of the subway.
Rooftop parties are slightly more delightful than backyard parties.
Here’s a weird one: doorknobs. New York doorknobs break off in my hand, all the time. They’re all like a hundred years old, and people, like, don’t replace them. The newer buildings have these doors that are unlocked by keys that look like they were found by Voyager 1 at the outskirts of the solar system, and when you use one you hear the metallic clang of a magnetic force shield powering down so you can open the door. Other magnetic force shields are activated by electric fob. New Yorkers love their fobs. Several people I met carried multiple fobs on what I would call a keychain but what we’ll probably soon call a fobchain. Every doorknob in Los Angeles works like it’s supposed to; we all use normal keys that you can get copied at the hardware store.
The New York $4 umbrella is an amazing thing. They’re ubiquitous. They’re disposable. No Angeleno owns a disposable umbrella, because we don’t know where we would buy one.
Both cities have great ethnic food. New Yorkers scoff at eating pizza in Los Angeles but repeatedly suggest Mexican food to their Angeleno visitors. The “eggs on a roll,” available for breakfast at any of a million New York bodegas, is not something I understand how Los Angeles lives without. New Yorkers only think they understand hamburgers, but New York is objectively better at sandwiches. Coffee snobbery exists to a higher degree in New York, which is kind of hard to believe, because Los Angeles sets that bar really high.