In Which I Determine That L.A. Is Neither Paradise nor Sodom By The Sea

“Los Angeles is deceptive, just like it’s main export – movies.”

Look dude, I know you think so. Everybody thinks so. This was a cliche when the first eastern european emigre hauled ass out here, fleeing the east coast mob, to start a chicken ranch or a movie studio. Blah blah blah, artifical, woof bark, everyone’s so fake, oogly moogly everyone’s an actor/screenwriter/waiter. You could run out your toner drum printing out these “hot takes” dating from back when women rouged their knees, stack them up, set them on fire, and they’d blaze for nearly as long as our delightful fire season, the smoke giving off an acrid whiff of the sour grapes of a spurned lover. “I never wanted you anyway, plus you’re so fake!”

What makes L.A. alarming to people who lack the self-awareness to know any better is ironically, the reason those first studio execs gave instead of “running from the mob” for their move to this remote coast – the sunshine. It’s the sunlight that makes the city incongruous to those who only know it from our main export. Camera angles and back-lots and vast numbers of crew members can do a lot to make a place sparkle. The reality is that the sun illuminates the city without the benefit of a “kicker” to fill in the shadows. Lacking a perceptible rainfall, there is rarely enough water to sluice the layers of plant matter, brake-dust, general detritus and assorted filth off the streets with any regularity. The sprawling ex-urb that makes up the “city” of L.A. never got tall enough in most places to dim the daylight here, so the Orange Death Orb seems to highlight the crud making any moment of contemplation – say, waiting for a bus in a bus shelter with an oddly useless shade-free awning – turn into a meditation on how gross everything is. Better not to have any spare moments for contemplation then, and also, this may be why no one wants to ride the bus.

I never set out to write a defense of this city; I don’t think it needs one. Neither is it a love letter. My feelings for the places I live are always ambivalent at best. But I don’t like know-it-alls, and I especially bristle at the ignorant tearing down an easy target to make themselves look superior. So, with that in mind, please consider this essay both a tourism ad and a minor warning for the lovely, filthy, sunny, happy, lonely, shallow, meditative, hard-working Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels; we really don’t give a shit if you think we’re all fake. We’re too busy getting on with our lives.


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