My City of Angeles -
Most people donâ€™t get you. They mock your brown coat of smog and constant congestion. They rank vapid duck-lipped blondes as your main ambassadors to the world. They say you have no culture. No class. That all you are is a perpetual pump of glitter, superficiality, and sleaze. The dream dump.
They donâ€™t understand you. I do.
No one smirks when New Yorkers profess their undying love of their island metropolis. Chicago is considered the Mid-Westâ€™s cultural epicenter and has the entire countryâ€™s respect. Bostonians can paint their faces blue and bellow about home town pride without shame. But saying you love Los Angeles is like saying youâ€™re in love with a stripper.
But I know you better than they do sweetheart, honest I do.
When people ask me about you, about us. I tell them : When you want to understand a culture, a society, you do NOT go to their fine art museums, technology exhibitions and opera houses. These are private spaces for the elite. If you want to understand a culture, you go to their amusement parks. Go to their sideshows. See where they go for release, for escape. Thatâ€™s what you are. You are Americaâ€™s sideshow. A sideshow that is more reflective of our country than any other city : Heterogeneous, boisterous and always present, you are the city that defined the 20th century. .(Las Vegas is now defining our new millennium. But donâ€™t be jealous sheâ€™s always been your raucous kid sister. Just another one of your far flung suburb)
Philadelphia embodied the spirit of 1776. Manhattanâ€™s smoke stacks whose black plumes licked the New York skyline were the symbol of the industrial revolution and the Victorian values of the 19th century. Then there was you. You arose at the very moment when the country shifted away from the crusty Victorian ethos and into the new consumer culture, the rise of the middle class, suburbia, and freeways. (zooming down those gray yawning stretches of asphalt on a humid night is exhilarating). Many people will balk at you for these things. But these things have come to define American culture and that makes you significant. Rich and complex with history.
Retired mid-westerns, disenfranchised black southerners, destitute Mexican migrants could all come to you to escape traditional social hierarchies and carve out a new existence for themselves. The houses in your satellite suburbs of Watts, South Gate, Lakewood were built by working class families. There is great dignity in this. But again, it is complex.
And flawed. A mix of joy and tragedy. Iâ€™ll be honest darling, there is a grit and darkness to you that is haunting. It is that Los Angeles noir. To some you are a delicious suburban retreat. To others you are the dream deferred. You are the conduit for an atomized existence. Isolated and lonely. Low density bungalows filled with impoverished families who struggle to live in your embrace.
You have erected colossal freeway pillars on top of small minority communities. You demolished public space. You have too many walled off mansions that monopolize the most pristine marine vistas.
But I accept your flaws and imperfection and I too, struggle to correct them.
I am loyal to you, you sprawling urban mistress. I do not think your evolution is complete. You are not set in stone like old, dense, gray cities of the East. Within the next 5 years there will be a dramatic demographic shift. Your politics will continue to be quirky and unpredictable. The dormant labor movement is being resurrected inside your downtown buildings, swept by Chicano janitors. I will be here to see it through. To watch you grow and help shape you. Let me close this letter to you with a quote from another of your tormented admirers, D.J. Waldie:
â€œI live in Los Angeles because of the weight of my everyday life. Here is a burden I want to carry.â€
All my love,
WORLD - AN EDGE IN MY VOICE
Copyright © 2010 Natasha VC
A love Letter to the City of Los Angeles
Copyright © 2010 Natasha VC
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