1. The short version of the full name "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Poriuncula," which is what the city was originally called.
2. The city that represents California to the rest of the country. In reality, Los Angeles is as dissimilar as it is possible to be from the rest of the state.
3. An amazing city that is resented by people in most other parts of the country for assorted reasons. Supposedly, we're all liberal, weed-smoking, anorexic gangsters who drive around in SUVs with a Starbucks fat-free latte permanently grasped between our manicured fingers and dream of making it big in Hollywood one day.
Okay, maybe not all at once.
LA does have a lot of suburbs, but over time they've all sort of melted together. It is divided roughly into two main regions. The City is south of the Hollywood Hills and The Valley is north of them (there's no definite line, but you usually know which one you're in. I generally go by whether you're north or south of Mulholland. Probably if you haven't been to LA you don't know what I'm talking about). Some sub-cities in The City are West Hollywood, Hollywood, Downtown, Santa Monica, and Beverley Hills. Some in The Valley are Studio City, Pasadena, Burbank, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, and Valley Village.
Truths: Usually you don't see people walking like in New York. We drive. There are tons of freeways. There is a lot of traffic and you have to learn how to navigate so that you don't get stuck on the 10 freeway for six hours. This city is immensely cosmopolitan. We have slums. We have gangs. We have good restaurants. We have many studios such as Disney, Paramount, Nickelodeon, etc. There's smog, but it's just sitting on the horizon, not bothering anyone. In fact, it makes the sunsets beautiful. We're not as superficial as people think. Our public transportation is horrible. Our public school system is broke. Our weather is perfect 99.99999% of the time. If we have more than two days of nonstop rain local news stations start a StormWatch2000 segment. People here are nice. If you pass someone on the street they will say hello and sometimes even ask you how you're doing. We have really nice museums such as the Getty Center, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and the La Brea Tar Pits (better than it sounds). We have beaches. It is not surprising to see someone getting arrested or to sit a table away from an actor/actress at a restaurant. We're pretty laid back people. You will never run out of stuff to do here. I can't think of any place I would rather live.
Misconceptions: Hollywood is NOT THAT GREAT. If you come here you would be better off at The Grove. Many of us are, in fact, aware of the state of humanity. All of the good theme parks are in Florida. Our Universal Studios and Disneyland get old fast. We're not that obsessed with plastic surgery. We don't have big earthquakes that often, though there are minor ones now and then. I've only been in one serious quake, so all you east coast people can stop freaking out.
Los Angeles isn't as horrible as people think it is. In fact, it's probably one of the less horrible cities in this country. I quite like it.