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The 7 things you have to spot in L.A. before you can really say you live here

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Legend has it that once a person collects the 7 totems, they can never leave Los Angeles.
(Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Season 2 of “You” — available on Netflix — gets one thing right about moving to Los Angeles: It’s a city that’s easy for East Coasters to fall in love with despite every expectation.

Our home is a place outsiders love to hate out of pure, unadulterated envy. After all, it’s the land of eternal sunshine and warmth, where nobody ever forces you to grow up. And that’s just the beginning of its epicness.

“You,” Netflix’s soap tale of a New York stalker and frequent murderer named Joe moving West to escape his past indiscretions, tackles this feeling of trepidation toward the city with an authenticity unmatched by most television shows about the city. However, for Caroline Kepnes, the author behind “You” and sequel “Hidden Bodies,” capturing all the nuances that make this city so oddly lovable to a newbie was easy. After all, she made the exact same move from New York to Los Angeles that Joe does in the books and on the small screen.

Season 2 of ‘You,’ on Netflix, shifts the action to Los Angeles — and sends up a number of stereotypes about the city along the way.
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It’s a move I too made some seven years ago. Though I fought tooth and nail to hold on to my hardened East Coast exterior like Joe did, the city got the best of me.

Somewhere along the way, I felt myself being enveloped by this sprawling place, wanting it to hold me even tighter, so I too could call myself an Angeleno. (Even though nobody here calls themselves that ... or God forbid calls the state Cali.)

But, unlike New York City, where people get to call themselves New Yorkers by spending a mere 10 years living on the island of Manhattan, Los Angeles isn’t as easy. It plays hard to get. That’s where the seven totems of Los Angeles come in.

In Season 2, Episode 6, of “You,” Joe is introduced to the seven totems, a list of things outsiders must spot before they can say they’re from Los Angeles. Once a person collects them all they can never — ever — leave.

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These totems are popular on the internet, with a few locals arguing their merits on social media. Other places — New York City’s Reddit community included — even attempted to create their own totems. But they can’t compare to L.A.'s magic.

Though the idea of the totems in “You” is spot on, there is a little room for improvement (even Los Angeles’ own Redditors lamented that the ones on the show are just too easy as they represent only the character Love Quinn‘s extremely yuppie viewpoint on the city).

So here is the hot take you’ve been waiting for on the seven totems of L.A. as defined by “You,” followed by our level-ups, and where you’re most likely to spot them all. This way, you can become a real Angeleno (who knows how to say Los Feliz the right way and where the best doughnuts in the city really are, and who’s mastered the correct path from the 405 to the 10). Think these totems are way off? Let us know what’s on your list below.

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( Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Totem 1: A Rollerblader in booty shorts

Where you’re most likely to spot it: Venice

Level up: A scooter rider in booty shorts

An image of a Rollerblader in booty shorts should be put on the California state flag. The sight of men and women in the teeniest shorts they can wiggle up their behinds is a sight that just screams home to me now. Maybe that’s because I live in Venice, where booty shorts abound. However, there is one new sight that will give you a power boost in becoming a true resident: A scooter rider in booty shorts in Venice. It just feels more 2020 on a Bird, right?

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( Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Totem 2: A police helicopter

Where You’re Most Likely to Spot it: Downtown

Level up: A car chase live on the 405

Spotting a police helicopter hovering over city neighborhood is too easy. Instead, we’re gonna level things up by having to spot an in-person pursuit down one of the city’s major highways. Just make sure to pull over safely and let the police do their work.

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(Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Totem 3: A pack of coyotes

Where you’re most likely to spot it: Griffith Park

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Level up: A mountain lion

Packs of coyotes are kind of Griffith Park’s thing. This one is almost too easy (thanks, urbanization). Push this one to the max by leveling up to a mountain lion in Santa Monica. Again, if you spot one of these bad boys, safely pull over on your hike and let it cruise by at an extremely far distance.

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(Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Totem 4: A palm tree on fire

Where you’re most likely to spot it: Laurel Canyon

Level up: Getting your first earthquake alert

The sight of a palm tree on fire isn’t really something you wish for (though it does look pretty badass in music videos). Instead of hoping for a natural disaster like this, why not level up to a little low-key rumble under your toes? For your personal totem list add “getting an alert from MyShake.” Because you never really forget your first 3.0 in the middle of the night. Don’t worry, by your fifth, you just sleep right through it.

Kim Kardashian - 7 Totems
(Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Totem 5: Two starlets wearing the same dress

Where you’re most likely to spot it: Hollywood

Level up: A Kardashian in the wild

It’s Los Angeles. If you walk around long enough (or grab a bite at Beauty & Essex, Nobu or Little Dom’s), you’re going to see a celebrity, and likely two wearing similar outfits. To make this a little harder to check off your list, we’ll see your matching starlets and raise you a Kardashian in Hidden Hills. And really, this isn’t too much of a stretch considering there are, what, like 100 of them now?

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(Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Totem 6: A dog in a stroller

Where you’re most likely to spot it: Beverly Hills

Level up: A dog surfing

A dog in a stroller is an iconic image that’s made its way from coast to coast. Because you’re just as likely to spot a foofy pup getting pushed along the sidewalk in New York as you are in L.A., it’s high time to make this one a bit more Californication: a dog surfing. To spot this one you’ll need to head to Huntington Dog Beach, but it’s well worth the day in the sand just to see a pug hang ten.

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(Mike Bertino / For The Times)

Totem 7: An off-brand superhero

Where you’re most likely to spot it: Hollywood & Highland

Level up: Seeing Angelyne

Don’t be bland and go for spotting just any old off-brand superhero (which New York City kind of capitalizes on with its Times Square shtick). Instead, level up by finding Angelyne. She’s a woman synonymous with B-list, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. As David Ulin wrote for the Times, she is the “original influencer” and Los Angeles personified. Though be warned, she will ask about $20 to snap a photo with her, and that may be cheaper than a run-in with the off-brand superheroes on Hollywood Boulevard anyway.


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