You learn to dream big and to survive

As a New Yorker you are taught a few things, seemingly right as you come out of the womb into the world. First, you immediately come to understand that New York is the greatest place on earth. You may not be able to vocalize it, but in your bones and gut, you know. Second, you learn about resiliency and determination. You are exposed to countless songs that extoll the virtues of a New York life. Even though I am older now and 3,000 miles away, I occasionally find myself singing:

I’m gonna make a brand new start of it, in old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

 New Yorkers are not just dreamers. I always grew up thinking that there was a way up and out or out and up. You learn to both dream big and to survive.Such a way of being is ingrained in my DNA.

And it is 100% true for me that I wlays want to wake up in a city never sleeps. That is partly why, while I like Los Angeles, I still do not love it. Los Angeles is, indeed, a city that sleeps. I am up usually by 6am if not earlier. There were times in New York when I would start heading out to work at 5am and the city streets were already humming. I must admit that I miss that early morning hum. This past weekend, we were up and about 9am in Los Angeles and hardly anyone could be found walking the city streets. Mind you, you hardly see people walking here period.  It is what it is. Funny thing is that it is not like LA stays up late. Closing time is real here. But that is not what I am here to discuss today.


While I love to flaunt New York’s resiliency, it is interesting that there is a sens eof resiliency here in Los Angeles that is a bit overlooked in pop culture. Many are familiar with Lou Reed’s Dirty Boulevard.

“No one here dreams of being a doctor or a lawyer or anything
they dream of dealing on the dirty boulevard

Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I’ll piss on ’em
that’s what the Statue of Bigotry says”

It is extremley true thar many here live on the streets. I am astounded by the sheer number of homeless people. I believe that it is over 25,000. There are tents and tent cities everywhere. More tents than the cardboards Lour Reed sings about.  I tak ethat back. According to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty at the Weingart Center, an estimated 254,000 men, women and children experience homelessness in Los Angeles County during some part of the year and approximately 82,000 people are homeless on any given night. It is unfathomable to me that in a city of extreme wealth there are such dire circumstances. It thus may be hard for many to dream big and survive  here.


One of many tent cities I pass by on my way to work everyday


Despite the odds many do make it up and out or out and up. There are many that still dare to dream. The movie Lala land, which glamorizes the plight of Los Angelenos, does showcase the beauty of dreaming in LA.

I was fortunate to meet a young lady here in Los Angeles who dared to dream despite the odds stacked against her. Despite her family telling her that she would not make it and should not bother dreaming of going to college, she studied and applied to college. She got in. She was so happy and yet so sad at the same time. She proved to herself that she could aspire to grander things. However, she also saw how she would have to support her dreams on her own. Well, not so much on her own. Those of us that work with her encouraged and applauded her.

This past weekend, I was mapping out several communities in Los Angeles as I am considering buying a home and I came across this mural. I was enthralled by it. I found it emblematic of the power of dreaming big and rising above one’s circumstances. I think it is a good accompaniment to that feeling of and song of being able to make it anywhere.

Always stay strong.



6 replies »

  1. I am reading your post. It is 2.00am and I should be sleeping. We bury my mother tomorrow.
    But reading about staying strong and making it, prompted my response.
    This was what my mother instilled into us. A sense of resilience and “can do”.
    A belief in ourselves and a knowledge of the fickle winds which can blow any one of us off course.
    We were taught to take our opportunities while they exist as they never return. If the luck is there, then to ride it is easier than to make it.
    Good luck with the house hunting Mimi. Perhaps a smaller mural might be the way to go.B


  2. California and New York are similarly liberal states, politically. IDK what has been or is being done in NY State or NYC to reduce the problems of poverty and homelessness, or to encourage the type of upward mobility you have described. Based on my history and experience, and I try to keep up with current California events even though I now live in a Red (neck) state, I still take as a point of pride the leading edge positions taken by my home state in many of these areas.

    You may or not be aware of the laws in San Francisco that deal with homelessness, and they may not be in force any longer now that the Santa Clara techies have taken over the city. So Cal in general, and L.A. in particular, have larger homeless populations as it is not as uncomfortable and dangerous to live outside in that climate as it is in Nor Cal. I have also observed more programs in the L.A. area meant to assist those with lower incomes to move up in the world. And, in defense of the non-downtown and non-hilly and non-beachy parts of the area, there are many large areas of low income people.

    Finally, in your house search, you might want to check Santa Monica, which at one time was AKA the Socialist Republic of SM for its deference to the many homeless people that were allowed to sleep in its parks, to see if you can afford anything in that area. I think you could easily take public transit from there to downtown for your job. Good luck.


    • Yeah, San Francisco had some bad anti-homeless propositions recently. There are more homeless in LA…but that is basically because of space and weather. LA did pass a huge housing measure but let’s see how it gets implemented.
      Yeah, transportation to Santa Monica from dtla is not bad. But I actually work in south LA. Bad, bad metro stops. The blue line is extremely dicey and I’m a new Yorker. Lol. I have faith it will improve. It has to, right?


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