Last night I dropped a reluctant Ériver Hijano off at LAX to make his way to Melbourne. In August, the plan was to merely make his layover a quick stay to see the city and meet some people here. But after a week-long road trip, rebooking his departure flights twice, and falling in love with this city, he finally left after two months–not without the promise, however, of coming back for good.
As a whole, America is a tricky place. It’s hard to see past so much of it’s negative aspects, especially because we (the rest of the World) focus so much on it–not without good reason!–but there’s also an undeniable love affair with the USA (see: Globe and Mail’s trick on not being expatriated). So maybe it’s not the outward projection of this country (politics, social views, etc.); maybe the true treasure is a little bit hidden. I think it’s easier with New York, or San Francisco. They’re what we like to think cities ought to be, rich with experience, accessible to all who pass through. LA, however, remains tricky.
So, Why Los Angeles? How come so many people fall in love with this city? A year and a half ago, I would have never imagined myself here. I couldn’t think past the Reality TV plastic moms, or a vacuous and soul-sucking abyss, or a congestion density–both the traffic and mindless sense. Los Angeles seemed like the worst.
Alex Prager, from The Big Valley, 2008
On the surface, Los Angeles is a perfectly art directed city. The horizon line is beautifully divided by East and West. In the East are the Santa Monica Mountains, which are always a hazy shade of blue or pink depending on the temperament of the sky. In the West, the Pacific Ocean meets the beach and swallows the sun every evening. The buildings here are colourful, and it is eternally Spring with some kind of flower always in bloom. However, beyond that gloss there is an air of loneliness and melancholy. You can walk these perfectly manicured streets and pass by not a single face. And more often than not you are driving; to-and-fro, most likely alone.
David Hockney, Lithograph of Water Made of Thick and Thin Lines and a Light Blue Wash and a Dark Blue Wash, 1978-80
Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled (Malibu South), 2004
Every now and then, though, and usually when you are alone, you tap into a very visceral and fast-flowing current of magic. There’s an energy that runs through the back channels of Los Angeles that can indeed be struck. When it comes, it is swift and warm, and leaves you flushed. And maybe because it is such a lonely city, that when you experience that with others, the rewarded feeling is so strong it makes you fall in love with this heavenly city.
I don’t think you have control over it–almost certainly for the better. And maybe it goes as fleetingly as it comes, but it is sure enough there, always flowing. And the times you find it, you understand why people come and make it their home.