Read Los Angeles Magazine's December 2020 Issue

In a normal year, the approach of the holidays summons a mix of anxiety and hope. But as we limp towards the finish line of 2020, the latter seems to be in short supply. Following a year of natural and human disasters, many of us had prayed that November’s election would mark an end to the polarization that has gripped the nation for the past four years; instead, it merely accelerated it. Days before the vote, entire neighborhoods disappeared behind plywood barriers to guard against potential civil unrest. In Beverly Hills, a crowd of flag-waving MAGA housewives traded barbs with counterprotestors from BLM. In West Hollywood, a gaggle of self-described Gays for Trump dodged insults (and occasional cocktails) from the city’s less conservative citizens.

Portrait by Elisabeth Caren

The president did little to quell the dissension, of course. In the waning days of his campaign, Trump assured Americans that COVID-19 was a media hoax, certain to be forgotten by November 4. As I write this, on November 5, infection and hospitalization rates are once again spiraling across the country. Here at home, the prospect of another lockdown looms. Back in April, the stay-at-home orders were tolerated as a novelty—Zoom meetings! Baking bread! Quarantinis! But nine months later, the thought of returning to enforced isolation threatens to drive us to insanity.

Sanity, of course, is not the only casualty of this moment. Since the lockdown began last March, L.A. has suffered more business closures than any other city in the nation. With little fanfare, thousands of local businesses have shuttered, from decades-old landmarks like the Satellite, Rage, Four ’n 20, Pacific Dining Car, and Beverly Soon Tofu, to thousands of lesser-known stores, restaurants, and cultural venues. Each padlocked business leaves an unmendable hole in the cultural fabric of the community that it served, and throws scores of people out of work.

Restoring some semblance of normalcy will require time, hard work, and a shared sense of purpose—as well as a commitment from government leaders and businesses to seek creative solutions to the city’s misfortunes. Los Angeles will certainly try to do its part. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve devoted many pages to commemorating disappearing landmarks while promoting local brands and businesses that still survive. To that end, this issue’s holiday gift guide spotlights homegrown companies and local shops, from Merci Milo and Geary’s to Vroman’s Bookstore. Our annual Give supplement, packaged with this issue, celebrates the people and companies at the forefront of charitable giving in Los Angeles, along with hundreds of worthy charities and volunteer programs that could really use your money and participation.

Los Angeles, even in the best of times, can seem like a lonely place, where people tend to retreat into their own bubbles. If nothing else, the past year has taught us the limits of such isolation. A recently transplanted friend used to complain to me that on evening walks his neighbors barely acknowledged him; now he constantly meets neighbors he never knew existed. These are socially distanced, across-the-street types of connections, but connections nevertheless. As Angelenos, we are all learning to be less obsessed with our own needs and more empathetic about those of others. On behalf of myself and my colleagues at Los Angeles, I wish you a happier, healthier, and more hopeful New Year.


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