LOCALS ONLY

By Niko + Tierney

Starring 

Dicko Chan. Ama Elsesser. Gil Venivici. Alexa Demie. Iconika. Mickey C. Charlotte Patterson. Michael Faso. James Flemons. Kyle Pak. Gibby Evan. Karen Veliz. 

A story about Los Angeles

Photography by Niko Karamyan, Written and Produced by Tierney Finster

 

He tells me look, don’t see. Looking is better than seeing. I look at my friends and I am happy. I look all over LA and am happy.

I’d rather feel. LA makes me hot. I sit in people’s cars, drenched in sun, and pry my bare thighs from their sticky, leather seats. I dangle my pink-pedicured feet off the edge of Point Dume in Malibu with my eyes closed, imagining that I’ve conjured the blue water beneath me into a frothy pink. I match my breath to the rhythm of the waves and sigh out all that doesn’t serve me. I remember a Kipling quote my painter friend Rachel had taped to her refrigerator while I was cat-sitting for her in Inglewood: Solid as ocean foam, quoth ocean foam. I try to dissolve like waves, back into the type of divine child that prioritizes playing with her friends and prospers in living fantasies. My hands are damp from the milky, cold coffee I sip and I abandon the antagonizing parts of my inner monologue. The ice cubes melt. My breath smells like weed and my wrists reek of rosewater. I savor myself. I’m in the mood to manipulate another person’s emotional reality so I lay on a pink fur rug in my living room, blowing thick smoke into a boy’s mouth just for something to do. I like to watch how I change him, and luckily for us, there’s a mirror nearby. I walk barefoot on the hot cement in my parent’s front yard and one of my dad’s nails punctures my foot; my little feet caked with dirt because I’m loose and vibey. My cheeks are red from being in the jacuzzi and now that it’s summer I want to melt all the time. I hold babies in Toluca Lake and peel off my acrylics on my elementary school’s cold cement steps. I sext at Zankou in Granada Hills while my mom gets more Diet Coke and I avoid Reseda and Devonshire because of all that’s gone down. I idolize my grandfather and kiss Blessed Sacrament every time I pass it in Hollywood. I’m my dad’s favorite passenger, cracking my cotton mouth open to sing Tom Petty and Guns N' Roses to him through Laurel Canyon, my favorite fairytale. I rap Mack 10 on the 405 as we take exit 69 home to North Hills, formerly Sepulveda, formerly farmland owned by Mission San Fernando Rey de España, for which the entire valley is named. I pass what used to be H-Wood on Sunset and sense memorize the glory I took in being a baby passing as an adult, demanding to be seen. Punching Juju in the face while giving her a birthday lap-dance in the Roosevelt penthouse and her horror-movie-Marie-Antoinette-costuming making the real blood impossible to notice. I was broke but very, very glamorous. I’m broke but very, very glamorous. I spent three years smoking weed in Westchester and going to Goodwill on La Tijera and Coffee Bean on Manchester for fun. When I want to unplug I pretend I’m in a Red Hot Chili Peppers video, a a dusty, angelic LA rock chick wandering around aimlessly in 1991. My old girlfriend leaves her room to fill our bong up with new water and walks back in with slit wrists. She goes to the hospital and I stargaze at a soccer field. Now I want to be felt. My platonic crush is a guy. He tells me look, don’t see. Looking is better than seeing. I look at my friends and I am happy. I look all over LA and am happy.

 

The Characters

Dicko Chan Dicko is all citrus and sex. He’s delicate but strong like an orange still wearing its peel. As a photographer, Dicko relishes in forming relationships with his subjects. He wants to know us intimately, like a lover, stripped of our pretension and our vanity. He wants us naked, at least emotionally. He’s not a capitalist pig. We grab some La Croix and take his car to Forest Lawn, a cemetery with more than 100 years of experience burying Los Angelenos. We take off our tops in the Mystery of Life garden while listening to Rihanna. This whiskey got me feeling pretty...Niko and him pose with the statue of David. We make peace with its spiritual residents.  

Dicko Chan

Dicko is all citrus and sex. He’s delicate but strong like an orange still wearing its peel. As a photographer, Dicko relishes in forming relationships with his subjects. He wants to know us intimately, like a lover, stripped of our pretension and our vanity. He wants us naked, at least emotionally. He’s not a capitalist pig. We grab some La Croix and take his car to Forest Lawn, a cemetery with more than 100 years of experience burying Los Angelenos. We take off our tops in the Mystery of Life garden while listening to Rihanna. This whiskey got me feeling pretty...Niko and him pose with the statue of David. We make peace with its spiritual residents.

 

Ama Elsesser Ama is the future. Seventeen and beautiful, she has a buoyancy to her that makes everything better. We dance to disco in a MacArthur park living room and she shows me the memes she’s been exchanging with a new suitor. They have a date at Lake Hollywood later. She tells me she will give him the same face she gives Niko’s camera – calculated but organic, seductive and sweet. Ama loves modeling and storytelling with friends. She joins us for pupusas before we part. Ama’s going to to get into making music.

Ama Elsesser

Ama is the future. Seventeen and beautiful, she has a buoyancy to her that makes everything better. We dance to disco in a MacArthur park living room and she shows me the memes she’s been exchanging with a new suitor. They have a date at Lake Hollywood later. She tells me she will give him the same face she gives Niko’s camera – calculated but organic, seductive and sweet. Ama loves modeling and storytelling with friends. She joins us for pupusas before we part. Ama’s going to to get into making music.

Niko Karamyan Niko is my best friend. He took the photos for this story and means the least harm of anyone I know. In photos, he makes everyone look their best by ensuring we feel great with him. Capturing beautiful images is his lifestyle. He is a beautiful image – a model and actor capable of using his face and body to share rich and complicated stories. He is a visionary others consume. Niko loves farce and makes people laugh. His spiritual core radiates compassionate power. He loves love and found his and now they have a baby named Mango together. Niko always picks me up and we go somewhere new. It’s been this way for years.

Niko Karamyan

Niko is my best friend. He took the photos for this story and means the least harm of anyone I know. In photos, he makes everyone look their best by ensuring we feel great with him. Capturing beautiful images is his lifestyle. He is a beautiful image – a model and actor capable of using his face and body to share rich and complicated stories. He is a visionary others consume. Niko loves farce and makes people laugh. His spiritual core radiates compassionate power. He loves love and found his and now they have a baby named Mango together. Niko always picks me up and we go somewhere new. It’s been this way for years.

Gil Venivici Gil is a hot model. My old friend told me she met my tall, Asian friend with long hair on set. It took me days to realize she meant Gil. According to her report, Gil showed up for an introductory hangout at her apartment with champagne, molly, and weed in tow and you can imagine where their exchange went from there. I respect boldness. Gil is not scared. I get tired of meeting internet swag boys with no personality or basic social skills. Gil looks people in the eye and knows how to make us feel instead of think. He’s not anxious or uneasy which is such a relief to me because I am plur. He’s always striving to be a better man, but will always stay wild. He manipulates the camera with ease, landing him a lot of jobs with brands in LA. He loves to turn up and gets lost in the moment. Pictures help him remember. We meet Gil at his grandma’s house in East LA and oogle her cages of beautiful birds.  

Gil Venivici

Gil is a hot model. My old friend told me she met my tall, Asian friend with long hair on set. It took me days to realize she meant Gil. According to her report, Gil showed up for an introductory hangout at her apartment with champagne, molly, and weed in tow and you can imagine where their exchange went from there. I respect boldness. Gil is not scared. I get tired of meeting internet swag boys with no personality or basic social skills. Gil looks people in the eye and knows how to make us feel instead of think. He’s not anxious or uneasy which is such a relief to me because I am plur. He’s always striving to be a better man, but will always stay wild. He manipulates the camera with ease, landing him a lot of jobs with brands in LA. He loves to turn up and gets lost in the moment. Pictures help him remember. We meet Gil at his grandma’s house in East LA and oogle her cages of beautiful birds.

 

Alexa Demie Alexa is a Goddess – a slim-thick cherub manifesting her own abundance. She makes music and movies and will soon star in her feature film debut as a young Griselda Blanco, the Godmother of cocaine. Alexa is my sometimes-flatmate and longtime-collaborator. She plays parts in order to feel free. Niko and me too. She sings to celebrate her freedom. Niko too. She wears Phlemuns on our balcony during a dewy sunset and doses herself with Reishi mushrooms from Erewhon for happiness. I get my first fake ID with her. She’s a glamorous feminist whose intimacy issues match my own. Together we become better.

Alexa Demie

Alexa is a Goddess – a slim-thick cherub manifesting her own abundance. She makes music and movies and will soon star in her feature film debut as a young Griselda Blanco, the Godmother of cocaine. Alexa is my sometimes-flatmate and longtime-collaborator. She plays parts in order to feel free. Niko and me too. She sings to celebrate her freedom. Niko too. She wears Phlemuns on our balcony during a dewy sunset and doses herself with Reishi mushrooms from Erewhon for happiness. I get my first fake ID with her. She’s a glamorous feminist whose intimacy issues match my own. Together we become better.

Iconika Iconika is the wild bitch show. She’s a man-slayer with many looks. Phlo put up with too much of men’s shit so Iconika was born. She has pulled herself up by her own dominatrix bootstraps for close to a decade now as an independent musician. She was the Lana Del Rey of trap before Lana Del Rey existed and trap music went mainstream. She’s a Cancer and Cancers are weirdoes. I meet her near the Orange Line in the valley; she pretends to be my fan. We smoke cigarettes in empty bathtubs, clothed, and kiss in public for pictures, modestly. She prides herself on rolling anything quickly – respecting the nuanced differences between Dutches, Backwoods, and Swishers. Blunted, we dance to Makonnen in Malibu and summon the spirit of Diana Vreeland. Why? Her arm reads IKON, short for Niko The Ikon. I’m tripping on mushrooms in the desert and she ushers me inside to do my makeup and listen to Lil Wayne. We are not the same; we are martians. The three of us share a friend, her best friend, a girl Niko introduced us to, and she died. We didn’t really know what to do.  I listen to her talk and it makes me want to write. She screams lemme ride yo dick to strangers from out of the car window until Niko and I can’t laugh any harder. We fuck it up wherever we go. She’s pretty songbird and a Bad American.  

Iconika

Iconika is the wild bitch show. She’s a man-slayer with many looks. Phlo put up with too much of men’s shit so Iconika was born. She has pulled herself up by her own dominatrix bootstraps for close to a decade now as an independent musician. She was the Lana Del Rey of trap before Lana Del Rey existed and trap music went mainstream. She’s a Cancer and Cancers are weirdoes. I meet her near the Orange Line in the valley; she pretends to be my fan. We smoke cigarettes in empty bathtubs, clothed, and kiss in public for pictures, modestly. She prides herself on rolling anything quickly – respecting the nuanced differences between Dutches, Backwoods, and Swishers. Blunted, we dance to Makonnen in Malibu and summon the spirit of Diana Vreeland. Why? Her arm reads IKON, short for Niko The Ikon. I’m tripping on mushrooms in the desert and she ushers me inside to do my makeup and listen to Lil Wayne. We are not the same; we are martians. The three of us share a friend, her best friend, a girl Niko introduced us to, and she died. We didn’t really know what to do.  I listen to her talk and it makes me want to write. She screams lemme ride yo dick to strangers from out of the car window until Niko and I can’t laugh any harder. We fuck it up wherever we go. She’s pretty songbird and a Bad American.

 

Tierney I like 11 a.m. on Fridays and feeling good with other people. I love getting into moods in front of cameras and telling all sorts of stories. I began contributing to this magazine because a stylist Debra works with DM’d me on Instagram. I had fun writing all of this text and am surprised if you’re reading it. Locals Only began as a response to LA-NY trend piece culture and a spike in the number of pseudo-intellectuals from Europe and the East Coast who move to LA but feel compelled to package their enjoyment of the city, my city, in between layers of cliched irony (as a means to feeling more confident at parties.) I love the way the “Wild Wild West” sounds and imagining myself as a bartending harlot during the Gold Rush. I love that feeling when the beach day is over and I’m walking into my parent’s house in the valley, the smell of the air conditioning and the way it feels on my skin. I love the worlds I’ve made and found here. I love my youthful hope and regularly hang out with teenagers in hopes of sustaining it. I love Hollywood and want to be a film star.

Tierney

I like 11 a.m. on Fridays and feeling good with other people. I love getting into moods in front of cameras and telling all sorts of stories. I began contributing to this magazine because a stylist Debra works with DM’d me on Instagram. I had fun writing all of this text and am surprised if you’re reading it. Locals Only began as a response to LA-NY trend piece culture and a spike in the number of pseudo-intellectuals from Europe and the East Coast who move to LA but feel compelled to package their enjoyment of the city, my city, in between layers of cliched irony (as a means to feeling more confident at parties.) I love the way the “Wild Wild West” sounds and imagining myself as a bartending harlot during the Gold Rush. I love that feeling when the beach day is over and I’m walking into my parent’s house in the valley, the smell of the air conditioning and the way it feels on my skin. I love the worlds I’ve made and found here. I love my youthful hope and regularly hang out with teenagers in hopes of sustaining it. I love Hollywood and want to be a film star.

Mikey Carvajal Mikey is my heart. Our compass. My favorite DJ. A friend who reminds me of the point of being me. I meet him on a summer afternoon at the student store, a couple weeks before middle school begins. We’re buying P.E. clothes. My mom greets his dad because they work at Kaiser together and points out Mikey’s baby blue and white Nikes. She expects me to talk but I just nod and smile, pretending to be shy. Mikey becomes my new friend. Now Mikey’s been my old friend. He forgets his glasses when we go to Wango Tango in Anaheim so he borrows mine every few minutes. He sees Ludacris and J.Lo better that way. We take Photobooth pics in my filthy, dirty high school room. He drives me home from parties and makes sure I’m safe. He loves me and is less afraid of love than most people I know. Mikey excels at most visual things – fashion, graphic design, camera operating, curating. He made the original valley hat and loves little treats.

Mikey Carvajal

Mikey is my heart. Our compass. My favorite DJ. A friend who reminds me of the point of being me. I meet him on a summer afternoon at the student store, a couple weeks before middle school begins. We’re buying P.E. clothes. My mom greets his dad because they work at Kaiser together and points out Mikey’s baby blue and white Nikes. She expects me to talk but I just nod and smile, pretending to be shy. Mikey becomes my new friend. Now Mikey’s been my old friend. He forgets his glasses when we go to Wango Tango in Anaheim so he borrows mine every few minutes. He sees Ludacris and J.Lo better that way. We take Photobooth pics in my filthy, dirty high school room. He drives me home from parties and makes sure I’m safe. He loves me and is less afraid of love than most people I know. Mikey excels at most visual things – fashion, graphic design, camera operating, curating. He made the original valley hat and loves little treats.

Charlotte Patterson Chardawg delights me. I find her one foggy afternoon at Neptune’s Net, the first place she ever associated with communal rebellion. We drink a beer and she talks about seducing younger guys. I tease her, diagnosing a potential desire for dominance. We break into the Pepperdine campus in a nod to the weird Christian high school she went to for a little bit, and because we’re really good, bad girls.  Niko obliges to filming her Rihanna tribute, a music video for Sex With Me. And it’s always wet, a bitch never ever had to use lip gloss on it...naturally. Charlotte is a natural performer with a wonderful grasp of language and a keen sense of humor. She’s the kind of girl that some guys are scared of and then might say is  “too smart for her own good.” She knows she can do anything she wants and we love that about her. We get Malibu Yogurt and our sprinkles spill all over our table. We all love it there and Niko gets seconds. A fine art photographer, Charlotte tells me about her most recent photo exhibitions and the way she used sea air to effect the pictures. She hangs loose and her Snapchat (@Charuut) is the best.

Charlotte Patterson

Chardawg delights me. I find her one foggy afternoon at Neptune’s Net, the first place she ever associated with communal rebellion. We drink a beer and she talks about seducing younger guys. I tease her, diagnosing a potential desire for dominance. We break into the Pepperdine campus in a nod to the weird Christian high school she went to for a little bit, and because we’re really good, bad girls.  Niko obliges to filming her Rihanna tribute, a music video for Sex With Me. And it’s always wet, a bitch never ever had to use lip gloss on it...naturally. Charlotte is a natural performer with a wonderful grasp of language and a keen sense of humor. She’s the kind of girl that some guys are scared of and then might say is  “too smart for her own good.” She knows she can do anything she wants and we love that about her. We get Malibu Yogurt and our sprinkles spill all over our table. We all love it there and Niko gets seconds. A fine art photographer, Charlotte tells me about her most recent photo exhibitions and the way she used sea air to effect the pictures. She hangs loose and her Snapchat (@Charuut) is the best.

Michael Faso Faso is my ultimate male muse. I mine his mind and he lets me. He’s asked for it. He’s from Van Nuys and has allowed me very intimate access into how he thinks and feels. Faso inspired my first story for Playboy, my first story as a professional writer. I wake up and text him a story from bed. He entertains me from work. I walk down La Break to his house before he goes to the Undefeated office. Niko meets us there and we congregate on his bed. Faso poses with his things because he loves things – buying, making, collecting things. He’s swag AF but so incredibly coffeehouse, as if Michelle Branch was a Comme des Garcons spokesmodel in a new branded virtual reality experience. Unlikely and real, Faso loves to feel and take pictures and make zines. It’s my birthday and I tease him, I’ve never even seen you really dance! So he does. For a couple days, even. Faso is a Gemini which explains a lot. Faso and I are both only children with good grasps on art history. We’re good friends because we both wake up pretty early.

Michael Faso

Faso is my ultimate male muse. I mine his mind and he lets me. He’s asked for it. He’s from Van Nuys and has allowed me very intimate access into how he thinks and feels. Faso inspired my first story for Playboy, my first story as a professional writer. I wake up and text him a story from bed. He entertains me from work. I walk down La Break to his house before he goes to the Undefeated office. Niko meets us there and we congregate on his bed. Faso poses with his things because he loves things – buying, making, collecting things. He’s swag AF but so incredibly coffeehouse, as if Michelle Branch was a Comme des Garcons spokesmodel in a new branded virtual reality experience. Unlikely and real, Faso loves to feel and take pictures and make zines. It’s my birthday and I tease him, I’ve never even seen you really dance! So he does. For a couple days, even. Faso is a Gemini which explains a lot. Faso and I are both only children with good grasps on art history. We’re good friends because we both wake up pretty early.

James Flemons James meets us in Elysian Park, across from Dodger stadium at dusk. We hear the faint sound of Fifth Harmony’s “Work” playing and spot James in his car, a vintage convertible. He’s dressed in Phlemuns, his namesake line full of playful, smooth classics, and poses in front of a Peter Shire statue. Shire grew up in Echo Park and built the piece in 1992, dedicating it to preventing the area from real estate interests and overdevelopment. James is from Central LA and runs his business like a one-man show, which becomes increasingly difficult as his brand becomes more and more in demand. He doesn’t want to talk about the difference in fashion climates between New York and LA and I never would have asked.

James Flemons

James meets us in Elysian Park, across from Dodger stadium at dusk. We hear the faint sound of Fifth Harmony’s “Work” playing and spot James in his car, a vintage convertible. He’s dressed in Phlemuns, his namesake line full of playful, smooth classics, and poses in front of a Peter Shire statue. Shire grew up in Echo Park and built the piece in 1992, dedicating it to preventing the area from real estate interests and overdevelopment. James is from Central LA and runs his business like a one-man show, which becomes increasingly difficult as his brand becomes more and more in demand. He doesn’t want to talk about the difference in fashion climates between New York and LA and I never would have asked.

Kyle Pak Niko and I call Kyle “Dr. Pak”. I consider him a doctor of fashion. As the creator of Homme Boy, a delicious line of high-end punk clothes, the Doctor makes gritty menswear out of sumptuous materials. I love wearing his brushed cotton t-shirts because they feel like breathable, silky, velvet. Niko loves wearing a purple leather jacket from Homme Boy’s first collection, Genesis. Kyle loves movies and dogs. He falls in love with both and works very hard from the confines of his Koreatown studio. I’m always trying to turn him out and I’ve succeeded at times. Niko too. Kyle is an inspired and meticulous creator. We drink Tom N Tom coffee on a roof at sunset.  

Kyle Pak

Niko and I call Kyle “Dr. Pak”. I consider him a doctor of fashion. As the creator of Homme Boy, a delicious line of high-end punk clothes, the Doctor makes gritty menswear out of sumptuous materials. I love wearing his brushed cotton t-shirts because they feel like breathable, silky, velvet. Niko loves wearing a purple leather jacket from Homme Boy’s first collection, Genesis. Kyle loves movies and dogs. He falls in love with both and works very hard from the confines of his Koreatown studio. I’m always trying to turn him out and I’ve succeeded at times. Niko too. Kyle is an inspired and meticulous creator. We drink Tom N Tom coffee on a roof at sunset.

 

Gibby Evan We meet Gibby downtown in a fashion studio full of plants. He makes music there with his friend Hugh. I know he’s from the Valley and that he’s a rapper. I notice he doesn’t release a ton of things  but that when he does, they’re neat and thoughtful packages. His website and graphics impress me, produced as if they were made for a TV show. He likes to rap about fly shit  and doesn’t sound lame doing it. He went to high school in Palmdale. The production on his latest song, Run Tel Dat features a lot of porno oohhs and uuhhs and a Mariah Carey do do doop outro...soothing but energetic. I don’t listen to it all the time but when I do it’s usually twice in a row.  

Gibby Evan

We meet Gibby downtown in a fashion studio full of plants. He makes music there with his friend Hugh. I know he’s from the Valley and that he’s a rapper. I notice he doesn’t release a ton of things  but that when he does, they’re neat and thoughtful packages. His website and graphics impress me, produced as if they were made for a TV show. He likes to rap about fly shit  and doesn’t sound lame doing it. He went to high school in Palmdale. The production on his latest song, Run Tel Dat features a lot of porno oohhs and uuhhs and a Mariah Carey do do doop outro...soothing but energetic. I don’t listen to it all the time but when I do it’s usually twice in a row.

 

  Karen Veliz I’d like to read Karen’s diary because I love to hear her stories. She’s quiet but honest; independent and mysterious. I’m happy she tells me things. I cherish her distressed, romantic mind and the way she keeps it so private. She styles herself beautifully and radiates on camera. She’s a down ass bitch with an aptitude for caring for living things. She’s naturally fashion and boogies like a disco queen. She’s both a baby geisha and a Four Twenty Model.  

 

Karen Veliz

I’d like to read Karen’s diary because I love to hear her stories. She’s quiet but honest; independent and mysterious. I’m happy she tells me things. I cherish her distressed, romantic mind and the way she keeps it so private. She styles herself beautifully and radiates on camera. She’s a down ass bitch with an aptitude for caring for living things. She’s naturally fashion and boogies like a disco queen. She’s both a baby geisha and a Four Twenty Model.

 

*Illustrations by Chris Sharp