30 Angeleno, part 2
Most places are fait accompli- buildings, culture, behaviors and even foods came into being many decades, even centuries earlier. Each new generation accepts that determination. It is a tacit reassurance that come what may, there will be continuity.
Growing up in LA is to come of age in a place that is like walking on one of those rope bridges where every step feels uncertain. LA is an eccentric, changeable place. Hot in temperature, cold in sentiment. What is here today may be gone the next time you drive by. Everything is expendable and everything is for sale.
I went to Italy a couple of years ago and it hadn't changed since my previous visit 30 years earlier. And I noticed during that trip that Verona hadn't changed since I lived there for two years as a child 50 years ago. There is something wonderfully comforting about that. A pact with history. We won't be destroyed! We will remain. Forever.
In LA we take a perverse pleasure in allowing developers to wipe out our history whenever there is money to be made. Which is pretty much all the time.
As much as that angers me-I have to admit it is also liberating. We might be untethered from our own history but that means we are also unchained. We can live the way we want. No one notices (or cares). We have (perhaps it's a bit of an illusion, but nevertheless) freedom.
It is too late to return LA to being the wide-vista place it was 50 or 100 years ago. The city is permanently buried under tall (usually ugly) buildings and concrete. What is left of the past, for the time being, are the memories and attitudes of us natives. Angelenos want to be left alone to be whoever we want to be. We want to believe we can still get in our car, roll out and keep going until we hit water or a mountain.
In 1934 W. C. Fields made a film called, "It's a Gift". He plays an unhappy east coast grocer who escapes to life on a citrus farm in southern California. The film ends with Fields in a chair smiling broadly, drinking a glass of orange juice.
It has been a gift.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
29 Angeleno, Part 1
You just moved to LA or are visiting. Driving down a freeway, any freeway, you see the city splayed out like a drunk collapsed on the sidewalk. The sun is likely burning a hole in your head if you don't have good sunglasses. You haven't yet seen an actor with a recognizable face (uh, the famous hide out in exclusive neighborhoods-they don't want to see you.) The traffic is annoying and when you finally do get to where you're headed, parking is a problem.
That's one LA. We natives inhabit a different LA.
When I drive on a freeway: it's the nearly empty 405 I drove on at 16 when my best friend Susan and I would go to Westwood to see a movie, or took the Ventura freeway to Sunday afternoon Griffith Park love-ins and free concerts, or warm nights heading to the Whiskey on the Strip, or driving through Topanga or Malibu canyons to get to the beaches where we would roast like chickens on a spit. On route to roasting maybe a stop in Topanga to hike down to the creek to smoke a joint. Or we'd hitchhike from the Valley through Laurel Canyon to get to Hollywood. Taking the Hollywood freeway south was also the route to our grandparent's place at 3rd and Bixel downtown. While there sometimes our grandmother took my older brother and I to Clifton's cafeteria, a short walk down the hill past Angel's Flight.
My point is that for those who make a move here for their career or to get out of the snow, LA is just a place. For us natives-it's our hometown. It's that place that formed our sensibilities as we played outside and walked to school and made friends for life. It's not just a place. LA is inside of us and we are inside of it.
28 Art History...or not
Not long ago a friend told me what one of her college art students said to her after my friend had suggested that the student investigate a particular artist she might find interesting or relevant.
The student responded, "What's that got to do with me?"
I love this response! It's so guileless, so young, so so so un-self-consciously narcissistic!
Picasso! Who's that? Da Vinci, Bernini, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, David Park, Louise Bourgeois, Auguste Rodin?
Who cares? Dead, all dead. Leave me alone art history! Go away!
|At the Tate Modern, London|
My response to the girl (certainly not yet a woman) would have been-"Well, perhaps you're right. I guess it doesn't have anything to do with you."