Frank Blaney, a life-long Angeleno points out how the radically different environments of London and Los Angeles compare for men’s health, sanity, and quality of life in this “Tale of Two Cities.”
As a lifelong resident of Los Angeles (born, raised, and subjected to interminable internment) I have an intimate knowledge of “La La Land.” Yet, recently I had the opportunity of traveling through Africa and Europe as I did training for businesses and promoted my book on Self-Care. Surviving all these years as an Angeleno, I sought to understand this mystery: Why did my mental and physical health radically improve while briefly residing in London?
I never realized how impactful our physical environment is to one’s health. If you HAVE to live in a major metropolis (and do not yet have enough savings to purchase a rural country estate like George and Amal Clooney), which of these two cities is best for you to rest your weary working-class head? My vote would be for London over Los Angeles.
Here are 7 observations on the health impacts of these 2 cities—and why London is the wiser choice over L.A., if you want a longer length (and higher quality) of life:
- PARKS: London actually has parks. Real parks. Or, “Commons” as some of these massive, green, grassy, open areas are referred to by the locals. So what is the big deal about a park? Families can go there for free and escape the “Rat Race,” spend very little money, get some sun, exercise, and time together frolicking. All without having to fret about what would crimes may afflict one in Los Angeles—in its “normal” Mac Arthur park type of visit.
There is a profound effect on the body, mind, spirit, and psyche by walking through a big GREEN park. The green of the trees and grass goes in through the eyes and cleanses the soul. The oxygen from the plants is richer. Our feet touch close to mother earth.
At parks you get to see Muslims, Blacks, Asians, Latino’s, and Whites all frolicking—and see that ALL humankind just want the same dam thing—to play with their kids, have fun, and be treated respectfully. Such a plot of earth does not exist in Los Angeles, or even in its same time zone.
- NO GUNS: Growing up in an economically depressed neighborhood most of my life in Los Angeles, guns were a part of your everyday struggle for existence. As I youth I often heard them shoot off. As a 10-year-old boy I had a .45 automatic stuck in my face by a very serious man who threatened to kill me.
You never know who had one. I have had friends not show up to school the next day because their 14-year-old selves got shot in a park (see #1 above). I have gone to numerous burials of youth I have worked with who were shot dead. The police regularly shoot people, especially young people of color, and too often for the flimsiest reasons that have nothing to do about “serving and protecting.” God have mercy on the children in the “City of the Angels.”
Biggie Smalls was shot to death in Los Angeles. Mentally ill people get shot or shoot. Kids get shot. Rich business owners, construction workers (I worked that gig for 9 years and know), kids in school (I have been in 2 school “lockdowns” for gun searches), and senior citizens all often carry guns—locked, loaded, and ready.
Los Angeles being the “Gang Capital” of planet Earth has many young men who carry guns for “protection.” Squabbles turn into shootouts. This situation always keeps you on a “low grade adrenaline drip” —when a car goes by, a stranger’s odd stare, or a youth needing to “prove they are a man.” Living in the “Wild Wild West” gets old. London has almost no guns. The adrenaline slow-drip got shut off there—allowing me to heal a bit. I can breathe.
- REAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Driving kills. When I was five I saw a boy plummet through a windshield on my block and turn into a lump of red. Kids got run over in my block a lot. Everyone I know in Los Angeles has been in a car wreck. Everyone. But truly, you NEED a car there to get around. It can take a whole half day taking L.A.’s shitty public transportation (what little of it exists) to get somewhere for a job. Traffic sucks and pollutes the air. Suppressed, dejected, and rejected “Barista’s,” screenwriters, actors, models, and soccer moms channel their angst and anger through their bumpers and horns. It sucks.
London has great public transportation running at all hours. It is clean. You got occasional Creeps, but numerically, it is a jillion-times less than some of the crazy shit I saw daily on the Metro “Redline” in Los Angeles. It is cost effective and efficient. It is much faster than a car, since the speed limit in London is about 20 miles per hour. This of course, leads to less automobile fatalities also.
I am tired of driving. I would much rather climb to the top of a Red double-decker London bus and read their free “Metro” newspaper— with its weird “National Enquirer” type of news, goofy entertainment gossip, and boring shit about “Brexit” that no one but the Brits care about. It is heaven having a Jamaican Rastafarian bus driver, Muslim guy with a big beard bus driver, or a tired old White lady bus driver whizz me about town while I read a free newspaper. Heaven’s transportation system must be something like this.
- GENUINE ETHNICALLY DIVERSE COMMUNITIES: Los Angeles is a completely segregated city. Completely. Ethnically diverse? Yes, but all in their separated “ghettos.” Except for the neo-colonization called “gentrification,” you do not see White folks in South L.A. or Compton. You see almost no Black or Brown folks in Beverly Hills or Studio City (unless they work in service jobs, as maids, or childcare workers). The “Freeway” systems built in the 1940’s and 1950’s was purposefully planned to cut off communities from each other and keep communities of color separate. L.A. City Planner’s plan worked.
The Los Angeles Rodney King Uprising of 1992 had 63 murders in the streets (23 of those still unsolved) and thousands of injuries. Much of the violence was directed from one ethnicity towards another. Having grown up in predominantly Latino neighborhoods, and having later resided in predominantly White, Asian, and Black areas as an adult, I know firsthand that there is a lot of mutual distrust, anger, and even hatred there. One of main reasons I left L.A. was the institutionalized discrimination against people of color and the imbedded segregation— psychically and geographically.
The experience in London has been quite different. Muslim boys and girls with the hijab play with Asians, Whites, Blacks, etc. as if it was nothing. Adult Blacks, Whites, Asians and Muslims “chit chat” like it is nothing. The workplaces and construction sites are integrated. There are many more interracial and intercultural couples here that (like my African-American wife and I) are left alone in peace. No one takes notice at all of the diversity. It is as common and normal as breathing air. Clean air.
- CLEAN AIR: There is a regular breeze, blue skies, lots more grass, trees, lakes, and rivers abounding in London. Nature is treasured and respected. I have read that pollution is allegedly a problem here, but I cannot taste it, see it, smell it, or feel it. I grew up in Los Angeles at a time when the schools were closed due to high stage smog alerts.
I have never been a regular smoker, but when I had my annual physical at 38 years old, the doctor asked me, “How long have you been smoking?” When I told him, “Never,” he asked, “How long have you been living in Los Angeles?” “All my life,” I said. “Ahhh, that’s why your x-ray shows you have the lungs of a smoker.”
I breathe freely in London, feel healthier, never get colds, and the sky is blue. Or, it’s raining (which means there is no water shortage).
- HEALTHIER AND CHEAPER FOOD: No GMO’s. Better produce for a lot less money. They care about the meat and eggs being “local” and treated better without having to pay mad money to Wholefoods for “Free Range” whatever. Great water, tea, coffee, beer and cheap French wine.
- CULTURE AND THE ARTS ARE VALUED: They support the Arts in London. People actually read books. They listen to live music, go to the theater or Spoken Word events. The British Film Institute (BFI) is supported in part by taxes, so new and creative filmmakers can make good movies people want to see. Up and coming actors, directors, and writers do not have to get molested by assholes like Harvey Weinstein to get a part, just to make another shitty Hollywood Superhero franchise movie. Londoners put their money where their brains are.
The Arts contribute to stress reduction, life quality enhancement, and a chance to meet with friends (offline) and enjoy some good old fashioned healthy socialization around a pint of beer at the pub afterwards. This will add years to one’s life, and make that life immensely richer.
If you care about your health, tell Randy Newman to stick his crappy “I Love L.A.” song where the sun does not shine. Better yet, visit where the sun does not shine, and pop on the Clash—“London’s Calling.”