Last week I made a business trip to Los Angeles, and was once again trying to grasp an essential question about the city. In many ways, LA has all the elements of a place for me to hate. There’s constant heavy traffic, endless sprawl, desert heat, and all but the most exclusive enclaves are pretty ugly. But there’s something about Los Angeles I really like. The place has a certain energy, but my enjoyment was not simply about stargazing. I lived in New York for years, so it’s not as if simply being in a cultural Mecca is necessarily enough to get me jazzed. Whatever it is about Los Angeles is more elusive to me, but an architect I was interviewing down there, Debbie Richmond, may be on to something. “Los Angeles is a kind of blank screen onto which you project your own dreams and desires,” she told me. “As someone who grew up here, I find that to be true of people who come here from elsewhere. Everyone has their own private vision of LA.” My private vision used to consist mostly of hating the Lakers and Disneyland, not to mention the various Southern California stereotypes we Oregonians carry as part of our cultural DNA. But flying down there a couple of times a year has made Los Angeles a more captivating destination. Don't look for me to move there anytime soon. Unlike my sister, that'd push me into overdose. But it's certainly fun having such a limitless place to explore.