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Reader responses to what it means to be ‘a real Angeleno’

Los Angeles people feel their city is misunderstood. They know that most outsiders, and even many locals, have only the most superficial understanding of it. This doesn’t crush them — because being from L.A. means being a little low-key about hometown pride.

But deep down, real Angelenos do enjoy hearing how special this city is, and how right they are to stay here, even in these not-great times. That’s the feeling I got after I wrote a column last week listing some of my “real Angeleno” criteria and asking you to add to them.

“Los Angeles, you’re no angel, nor are you full of angels,” epespinoza8143 wrote on our website. “But I love you regardless [with] all your faults.”

My list of some of what makes us who we are included a tolerance for ethnic diversity, a reverence for Vin Scully and the knowledge that it’s better to use your turn signals than not — even though too few people here do.

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Many readers saw my column as a celebration of Los Angeles’ identity. And as a commentary on the big and small ways that living in L.A. changes you.

“Although not a native, I have lived in Los Angeles for many years and embrace this city as ‘mine,’ ” wrote Barbara Bain, an Emmy Award-winning actress and longtime Mid-City resident. “I know I am a true Angeleno because I am now expert at selecting the perfect avocado.” (Some good tips: skin so deeply green it’s nearly black, soft to the touch but not squishy.)

A lot of real Angelenos, by the way, don’t call themselves Angelenos. They simply say, “I’m from L.A,” as more than one reader pointed out to me.

“A true Angeleno wears pants in the winter, not shorts all year round just because ‘it’s hot compared to where I come from,’ ” wrote Steve Freeman, a native of Mar Vista.

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Some of you told me things about myself and my fellow Angelenos I hadn’t even stopped to notice. And some of the best came from people who haven’t been here too long.

“When you ask an Angeleno how far someplace is, expect the answer in minutes not miles,” wrote Linda Sands, who described herself as an L.A. newcomer.

Quite a few of you wrote proudly that true Angelenos don’t panic in earthquakes. That winter is the best time to visit the beach. That real Angelenos know the Eastside doesn’t begin at Western Avenue. And that those with the right L.A. stuff know that after a traffic light turns red, two cars should enter the intersection to complete their left turns.

A few commented on the Latino feel of certain corners of L.A. — and of homes here in which Spanish-speaking people work.

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“True Angelinos may not be bilingual, but have picked up just enough Spanish over the years to know when someone is saying something bad about them,” tifftiff402 wrote on our website.

But we don’t let such cross-cultural slights make us angry for very long. In a polyglot city, they’re inevitable.

I don’t know what that Armenian-speaking guy at the car wash is saying about me. Nor do I understand what half the signs say in Koreatown. Sometimes these things bother me; usually they don’t. By allowing the unknown and the exotic to roll off me, I think, I am acting like a real Angeleno.

As Rodney K. Boswell, a 60-plus, second-generation native put it, “A real Angeleno respects their fellow citizen’s — and their city’s — eccentricities.”

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“You follow no one’s expectations — you just are,” wrote Mia303. “You look and act the way you want to hour to hour; you say and do things according to your own desires.”

One reader who’d spent a quarter-century of his life on the East Coast had a nice way of describing the city’s essential open-mindedness and sense of possibility. “Unless you’ve lived somewhere else … it is hard to explain how Los Angeles, with its problems, is still a much better — spiritually and intellectually freer — place to be,” wrote dnealesq.

One blogger thought I dated myself by putting Vin Scully on my list of real Angelenos — after all, he’s been calling Dodger games since the 1950s. But plenty of readers picked up on what I was really trying to do by invoking his name: highlight the importance of memory in shaping our sense of who we are.

A lot of you sent me your memories. Of the Iowa migrants who settled here in the 20th century. Of watching the Hollywood Stars — the minor league baseball team — play and of long-gone Gilmore Field.

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People wrote about getting Blue Chip stamps at the grocery store. And about the days when Southern California still could boast of having the only Disneyland — and when “E ticket” meant not just what got you on the best rides at the park but any exciting experience.

The more I read, the more I realized that being an Angeleno means embracing a unique set of contradictions that sometimes cancel each other out and leave us free to chart our own courses.

“It’s one of the largest small towns in the world,” Will Wright wrote. But Loy Spears had a different take: “You are never allowed to say anything to your neighbors, other than, ‘How ya’ doing!’ or ‘Great day today, huh?’ I’ve lived next door to a guy for seven years in Hermosa Beach and that’s all we’ve said to each other.”

“I drive everywhere, don’t walk anywhere,” wrote @thanatossassin on Twitter.

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“Conversely, I drive nowhere and walk everywhere,” replied @brookeerdmann. “Angelenos: Each to their own.”

hector.tobar@latimes.com


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