Recently I had a conversation with a woman who used to work for the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles. Her job was to show dignitaries from foreign countries around L.A. to give them an appreciation of the city.

“What are the must sees?” I asked, since I knew I still had a lot to learn about the vast and complex city that I’d made my hometown only five years ago.

Watts Towers
Watts Towers

She named Watts Towers and Gamble House as two very different but distinctively L.A. experiences. Because I was familiar with neither, she briefly explained the towers in Watts that had been built by an Italian immigrant out of steel and broken dishware and the craftsman house built without nails or screws by the corporate tycoons. She also suggested a drive along Sunset Boulevard from downtown to the Pacific Ocean to see how the neighborhoods change. She began to talk about the character of the city as one that was represented by its diversity and startling contrasts.

“Of course these sorts of things could never happen in San Francisco,” she said. “People there have taste.”

What struck me about this was not that she was dissing L.A. but that what seemed like a drawback actually worked in the city’s favor as a distinguishing attribute – part of its character.

I thought about how that applies to artists, too. We often try to overcome what we perceive as our weaknesses rather than embracing them as parts of our character that contribute who we are and what we have to express. Maybe we could gain by seeing the value in our “flaws.” I think these could be our superpowers!


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