Don’t rent property from a private landlord.
That’s the number one piece of advice I would give anyone arriving for the first time here.
You may not get as much square footage for your money from an established organisation in a block, but provided you have not violated any rules, you will get your money back at the end.
With many private landlords, you may just have two choices at the end of your lease, when they are holding on to a chunk of your money on whatever pretence they choose. You can walk away, or sue. I sued. And I won. Californian law is very strict. Suing is a hassle, but well worth it.
This time round, I have been far wiser and also been able to steer many people away from people I know to be bad landlords. Spread your experiences; it helps your friends, and LA is a very small place where a bad name counts for a lot – if you see what I mean.
Another valuable piece of advice I wish I had been given when I first arrived three years ago is: never, ever, ever go to a post office. Unless you want to have three birthdays while standing in a queue for a stamp, do your business by any other means.
In fact, hiring a horse and sending your letter by hoof will take considerably less time than organising it through the mail.
Returning to any country for a second time when you have left it reminds you of just how naïve you were when you first arrived. Hopefully, you have learned lessons; unfortunately, you will just make different mistakes. It’s as true of life the world over as it is here.
For example: when I came here from the UK, I was naïve enough to think that cup cakes might be better than they were at home, where the experience was like sucking on a box of sugar cubes (that would have been better served being fed to the horse who delivered your letter).
Having seen the queues outside the cup cake shops in Beverly Hills, I was optimistic. Big mistake. Had I bought a sugar cane farm and sucked on it for a week, I could not have been prepared for the massive hit of the sweet stuff that sent me rushing for the rest room. Gross. Now, you would not find me queuing for a cup cake any more than you would find me taking relationship advice from a Kardashian.
Learning such things is . . . well . . . the icing on the metaphorical cup cake.
Back in 2009, I was also naïve enough to think that there would be an LA hairdresser who knew how to cut hair in a style other than anything that makes a woman look like The Addams’ Family’s Morticia – or, if you’re a man, Lurch (and heck, I’d had enough of that look from my landlord’s entourage).
I had such bad cuts, I would have been happier emerging looking like Uncle Fester.
They just can’t do short hair here, not least because they hardly ever see it. Long hair is as de rigeur as Botox and lip implants, and unless you are a poodle, you can forget coming out of a salon with a short haircut and looking like anything other than a lesbian trucker or a serial killer.
When I returned to the UK after a haircut here, I risked arrest as children ran for cover.
The main thing I wish I had known in 2009 is that no one area is Los Angeles: especially not Beverly Hills which, for the most part, I found to be an enclave of narrow-minded, humourless, not very well travelled people who believed themselves to be the centre of the universe.
Don’t get me wrong: there were and are some wonderful people, especially in the five star Beverly Wilshire and a select number of restaurants; a huge number of people working in the film and television industries are also among the brightest you will ever meet, and it is always a privilege to meet them and learn from their very varied experiences.
Santa Monica is not the centre, either. While it has among the best sunsets in the world, it feels miles from any working environment and a magnet for lots of people who don’t want to do very much in life other than hang out at the beach.
West Hollywood is a vibrant, working environment, but not a great place for a woman to stand a chance of meeting a bloke.
The truth is: whatever you want, the city has it all. Outside TV and film, it’s still a cultural wasteland compared to New York or London, but there are worse wastelands on the planet.
Anyway, that’s enough for now.
I have to see a man about a horse.