When you hear something described as "only in L.A.," rest assured of its being neither unique to nor representative of Los Angeles. Take, mundane though it may be, the definite article preceding freeway numbers — "the 10," "the 5," "the 405" — a linguistic tic mythologized, by a kind of soft cultural conspiracy, as unheard outside Southern California's metropolis, or at least outside Southern California. True, Los Angeles doesn't look, feel, or seem to work quite like any other city. Both its avowed lovers and haters agree on that, but what exactly sets it apart, and how, remains a matter of active inquiry. Or it would be if more of us actively inquired into it, rather than gesturing toward settled trivialities: frequent driving on the aforementioned freeways, encounters with flamboyant quasi-celebrities, streets lined with palm trees, buildings not shaped like normal buildings.
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