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January 09, 2003

I Love LA - Volume 4

the los angeles metaphor is basketball. it is a distributed, decentralized city. it is non-hierarchical, almost anti-hierarchical. even the old money doesn't live in one community. there are multiple flavors of wealth and poverty. there is a scattered canonical list of all things, l.a. but i forgot where i put it.

even so, angelenos are immediately recognizeable, whether it is that particular east los angeles accent of spanish, or that tossed salad hairdo with short pants and ray-bans on pacific coast highway.

we are america in microcosm because we are transitory. the only happy angelenos are those who have migrated the paths to a slightly better place. as clearly as there are routes in new york city there are semicurcular avenues in los angeles county that start from the boat or the border. they go from the industrial central east to sprawling south central to the east valley to south west out to the eastern edge in the starter suburbs of covina. they go from the valleys to the hills, simi valley to woodland hills to palisades to beverly hills. they go from hawthorn and lawndale to torrance to redondo to manhattan beach to palos verdes. but sometimes they get stall. they get stuck in compton for two, three generations. the run out of juice in lakeview terrace. they try for santa ana but never leave hawaiian gardens. they get squished between redevelopments and gentrification in culver city and venice. they fall capriciously and literally to the ground in northridge, or go up in flames in koreatown, or malibu.

for every class, for every ethnicity, for every persuasion imaginable, there are at least three neighborhoods in los angeles. for every subculture there is a spot, for young thais that hang out in dark, semi private dance clubs just north of the wiltern theatre, or for older south americans who come to salsa at club atlas in the wiltern building itself. for forgotten old money african americans 3 miles west of the wiltern now living behind perino's which used to be the poshest restaurant in the city. did you know about the miles and miles of horse trails high above the city, lined with eucalyptus leaves? no, that's nowhere near the hollywood sign, that's rolling hills. did you know about the sparkling quiet multicultural suburbs of walnut? did you know about the pristine woods in orange county?

los angeles is too huge to comprehend, and it defies categorization. but it invites you to take a closer look at every turn. angelenos are besides themselves with invention and always ready to show you their take on things, comfortably.

what i love about this town is that it has had its share of tragedy which has made it grow up. i feel a sense of pride and watchfulness. just enough vulnerability to make it a place worth fighting for. nightmare scenarios are not dismissed any longer, and now it's more than just stylized noir. it's the los angeles of fox's series '24'. it's the los angeles of denzel washington's 'training day'.

los angeles is growing up in other ways as well, in dimensions of the hopes and optimisms of tens of thousands of immigrants and transplants of every stripe who come here to add to the flavor. civic awareness is real, and the politics are healthy. there is a vigorous exchange of ambition working constantly on many levels trying to make los angeles more real to more people and a serious acknowledgement of what happens if too many get left out.

my love for los angeles creeps into me slowly every time i come back after a long time away. it happens when i hear an extraordinary song on the metropolis show with nick harcourt, or a fantastic story told by larry mantle on the airtalk show, or a stingingly frank interview with warren olney on 'which way l.a.?' it happens when fritz coleman tells me that el nino is back. it happens when i'm driving and i am surprised by the huge snowpack on mount baldy in my peripheral vision by the very fact that i can see it 60 miles away. it happens when i drive slowly on sunset boulevard and the kid next to me bomps his head absently to the pounding bass. it happens when i realize after 45 minutes of combing hermosa beach with my kid's elementary school class that i cannot find one beer can for my garbage bag, and then i realize that the shaggy old derelicts got here first to recycle for coins. it happens whenever outsiders talk about 'la la land' because i know so much better.

los angeles is even a cool place to be from. there's so much that i never feel compelled to do because i've been there and done that. being from los angeles demystifies the idiocies and fears so much of the country often fetishises. i'm from los angeles, therefore i have no need to watch 'baywatch', no need to climb rocks, no need to be afraid of police anywhere else in the country. no need to look for movie stars, no need to get over eating sushi or pronouncing spanish words. no need to doubletake at interracial gay couples, no need to wonder if i'd be killed in a race riot, no need to wonder how i'd survive if i could never afford to buy a house. no need to go to l.a. and find myself. (for that we go to vegas.)

i'm always happy to say a bit about my hometown. i still love it.

Posted by mbowen at January 9, 2003 11:51 AM

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