Jean-Christophe Dick: Los Angeles

Security Check: JC daylights as an airport and aviation consultant, and moonlights as a photographer and pilot. You can find his incredible pictures of his travels here.

What’s your historical Los Angeles and New York connection?
I was born in 1980 in Manhattan and lived in Brooklyn for my early formative years until the age of 12. The New York Mayors at the time were Ed Koch and David Dinkins. In Brooklyn, we first lived in an apartment on Columbia Street next to the Brooklyn Promenade, then, a few years later my dad bought a brownstone with a burned out roof from its previous owner, an alcoholic taxi driver.  My dad spent the next ten years renovating it, but when it was finally completed, he was transferred to Switzerland.

After leaving college I found a job in Aviation Finance and later Marketing in Montreal, Quebec. It was a great job but it was in an office building and not close enough to the airfield, or to the action for my taste. I wanted to be closer to the action, on the airfield in the middle of it all. I was introduced to some airport consultants based in Los Angeles, they flew me out to interview, and a few months later I was employed in an office overlooking runways Two Four Left and Right at LAX. That was seven years ago and looking outside each day at the planes never gets old.

Describe your experience in NYC.
I love New York. I grew up in pre-Giuliani New York, things were a little more “authentic” back then more “A Bronx Tale” less “Wolf of Wall Street”. Crime was a problem, but that was a part of the routine, stuff got stolen, you moved on. We always left the glove compartment of the car open to show would be thieves: “nothing in here, break into the next car”.

New York is made by New Yorkers, it’s a tough place to live, but they make it liveable.

Describe your experience in LA.
I remember the first two years in Los Angeles, it was pure radical awesomeness, as I kept realizing over and over again that I was living in California; it would hit me at random moments, driving up Pacific Coast Highway, that this was my life now. To a certain degree it felt like I was on vacation. For this reason, I think it took me some time to feel like an Angeleno, a term that I learned after a few years in.

There isn’t one LA, it’s an agglomeration of neighborhoods with distinct national and ethnic identities that have managed to retain their character against the forces of gentrification and “hipsterilization”, at least for the most part. The sheer urban expanse makes it hard for one citywide identity to emerge, and that is perhaps due to the fact that many people that live in Los Angeles are transplants from across the nation and around the world. Eventually you start to find your place in the city dynamic.

It’s a great time to be Los Angeles right now, as there has been political will to change the way this city works for the better, improvements and tangible investments in public transportation, bicycle lanes, increased zoning density are leading to build a new urban dynamic at a human scale. Downtown has turned the corner from being just an office space to a cultural hub attracting high art and emerging artists alike along with entertainment and the people that frequent them. Great projects will continue to transform the cityscape from the Sixth Street Bridge replacement, the rehabilitation of the LA River, the Subway to the sea, et cetera for the near and long term future. LA is the place to be, I love LA.

What was the biggest challenge of moving from NYC to LA?
What I miss from New York are the bagels, its perhaps a stereotype but its true. There are places that bill themselves as New York or Brooklyn bagels. No, they are not, there are no good bagels to be found in Los Angeles, you have no choice but to find a new breakfast food, maybe with quinoa.

Also I found it easier to meet people in New York, as everyone in LA is locked in their own worlds whether it be in their own cars on the 405, or their own delusions of grandeur, it seems everyone is more insular. I think that’s changing though, or maybe I am.

How can NYC and LA best engage with each other?
Both New York and Los Angeles have vibrant artist communities, while there is some spill over between them, they largely are their own worlds. We often see and feel a city through the eyes of the local artists, they are hyper sensitive to the changes in a city and share that with other inhabitants, like a canary in a coal mine, they often can foresee urban failure (sometimes it is general paranoia). I would very much like to see more cultural exchanges between artists, and that at all levels of art, not just the artists that hang in private collections, but artists that hang in our collections. Have artists spend a week or two with similar artists on the other coast city, the outsider view will refresh what is seen and both cities would be richer for it.

Favorite LA secret spot
Abandoned AT&T Microwave long lines tower, Malibu. This tower now cover in graffiti sits atop a hiking trail above Malibu, if you can manage to climb up the wall and then up the ladder, you will be treated to an incredible view of the Malibu Canyons. And also,Sunken City, San Pedro. This is a spot of Los Angeles that fell into the Pacific in the 1930s, still unstable today, but it has the remains of what once was a neighborhood.

Favorite NYC secret spot
Castle Point on the Hudson at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken NJ for the views of Manhattan, and the Irish Hunger Memorial, on the west side of New York for the landscape.

If you were not doing what you do now, you’d be…
Traveling, always traveling, there is a world bigger than New York and Los Angeles and I haven’t seen enough of it. I’m writing this on a plane to Seattle, next week Death Valley, and in two weeks: Panama. I can’t stop exploring.
What’s on your playlist right now?

Phoenix, The National, Tilly and the Wall, Slow Club, and Green Day. Always.

From the 2462 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + LOS ANGELES

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