Los Angeles is a city of contradiction: a city of opposing sides which are simultaneously good and evil, a city whose most beautiful pieces are its ugliest parts, and a city where the messy business of fulfilling dreams leaves the constant and sobering residue of broken ones. It is, at times, an easy city to hate. L.A.â€™s most exclusive and alluring social circles shout the praises of outrageous wealth and excess, and the whimsy of spending easily earned dollars solely for spendingâ€™s sake. And steps away, L.A.â€™s darkest corners teem with the brutal realities of racial tension, inescapable poverty, and the din of lives long since lost to chemical pleasures. It is a city that barely knows itself, the possibility of a cosmopolitan center shattered by overwhelming civic failure that is its traffic problem. We are separated by only a handful of miles, but still by hours of time. And yet, its grandeur lies in its scale â€“ the simple gathering of so many souls, the painfully untidy coexistence of such different cultures, and our failure (so unlike our oft-compared counterparts in the northeast) to find unity even in our own abrasiveness.
To know Los Angeles, one must be willing to accept the unalienable truth that it is a place where countless millions come to avail themselves of the opportunities that exist here â€“ not just in the top-billed business of show, but in countless other fields, industries and enterprises. But opportunities, no matter how great the scale they are offered in, are always accompanied by vastly more seekers than they can accommodate. And much like the mountains and tons of slag which attend the extraction of simply a few pounds of gold, Los Angelesâ€™ scale of opportunity yields failures and rejections in far greater numbers than its stories of overnight success, and in far greater volume than any other place. No matter how many times we are reminded of the overspoken truism that is that a personâ€™s value lies in their response to failure and not their ability to avoid it, we, in large part, allow our escapist attentions to be diverted mostly to those for whom disappointment seems impossible, and who live lives that are the stuff of fairy tales. It is a tragedy of untold proportion that so many people here spend all of their time and energy here ignoring the omnipresent shadow of failure, and lose themselves in whatever is handy and effective, simply to avoid its acknowledgment. But to love this city is to begin to know its casualties, to love the rocks which bound that gold, and to similarly extract its greatness from the mountains of self-hating egocentricity which hides it.
Simple economics tells us that the scarcity of an item, in large part, determines its value. This simple fact is what makes the discovery of great friends in this place so extraordinary. But even if we are to pessimistically believe that finding a kindred soul in this bastardized social conglomerate is a one in a million shot, we can still count of there being ten potential 'best friends' lying in wait, perhaps just around the corner. What is quickly forgotten by the minds behind star-struck eyes is the simple beauty of connections, and to come to love L.A. is to remember this thing. It has been said by philosophers (whose insight is far greater than mine), that to look for true happiness in human connection is a foolâ€™s errand, and that such actualization comes only in self-discovery and self-awareness. I disagree. To my mind, the only true happiness is in the connections, and the unearthing of like minds and commiserating souls. There is only true happiness in love, empathy, sacrifice, in the grace of unselfish generosity, and in forgiveness. In that, there is no greater place which holds the opportunity for happiness than this. In this place where time is so commoditized and scant, making time to spend with others speaks in greater volume than any other gift. In this place where seductions are peddled on every corner, and the ways of so many are lost, the chances for forgiveness surround us. In this place where the business of lies and portrayal lays its foundation, and so many souls tread about silently and smilingly overburdened, the ability to empathize, listen and understand provides the much needed oasis for our inescapable emotional thirst.
It has been said to me many times during my first two years here (most often times after my seemingly endless ranting on the dearth of decent souls), that once you have found your â€œgroup of friendsâ€, youâ€™ll really start to love this place. Being the goal-oriented, type A, go getter that I am, I used to think that that meant that once I had a band of brothers (and sisters) with which to experience this place, I would begin to enjoy its many charms. I was completely wrong. To love this place, is to love the search for these people â€“ to love the discovery of people in general â€“ to love the close calls, and those who are only in our lives for fleeting, entertaining or even disappointing moments - to love the epiphanic moment where you realize you've finally found someone you trust. Loving L.A. is a journey, not a destination - the journey of finding your place, in a town where there is a place for everyone, and yet most of which you won't fit into.
In the end, much like the balance of California, which enjoyed its initial national prominence as a result of the promise of gold for anyone with a shovel and some fortitude, L.A. is a city of promise unfulfilled - built on the golden hopes of of those who would never strike it. It is also a place, however, whose endless springs of opportunity yield many, among us, who have found their way, despite it not being the one they initially set out on. Many Angelenos know, there is not only one "road less traveled". For each bit of despair you discover here, you can find a bit of hope - if you're willing to look for it. This is a city of stories, rich and diverse - some simple and short, some complex and rich - their first chapters are told by the myriad places and faces you'll see. Los Angeles, as one of the largest cities on Earth, and perhaps the most culturally diverse, is a testament to the one beautiful commonality of its residents, which reminds us of what can exist in each of us, regardless of our color, origins, education, or financial station - the one universal quality of the residents of this city of broken dreams: we're all still dreamers.
Sweet dreams, Los Angeles.
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 Glenn T
The L.A. Connection: The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me
Copyright © 2010 Glenn T
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