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I Love L.A.

Tue, Jun 05, 2001 01:12PM -0600

So maybe I'm having flashbacks of the Showtime-era L.A. Lakers and Randy Newman driving down Century Boulevard down in the 'hood saying he loves it. Why do human beings persist in the illusion that history is cyclical?

Although I still sound like Doc Holliday according to my sister, I have for the most part recovered from my airplane-induced illness. Remind me to wear a surgical mask next time. It's kind of strange to imagine that just a week ago I was in New York, en route to Chicago.

But on to the point. (Yes, occasionally, I have a point.)

It has finally dawned on me that L.A. is a real city. Just like New York and Chicago. Strange to imagine, really. Even though I was born here, it required moving away thousands of miles for me to see it a little more clearly, without the impinging imagery of Disneyland and Hollywood getting in the way. Knock away the glim-glam facades of buildings sitting on the Universal Studios lot, the ritz and faux-royalty of Rodeo Dr and Bel Air, the Versaille-like, Marie Antoinette-reminiscent "let them eat cake" feel of the Staples Center, and you might end up with something that even a New Yorker might grow to hate less. (I suppose that someday I will take up Baz Luhrman's advice and move into Babylon. Maybe. But this is beside the point.)

The skyline still leaves a lot to be desired, perhaps, when you compare it to the near-infinite expanse of Manhattan, or the stratospheric heights of the Chicago Loop, but it's halfway decent, and sometimes even a little pretty when a little snow dusts the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.

I discovered that the best angle is probably when approaching the city by train from Fullerton, and you can see it start off with the lonely Transamerica building just north of the I-10, into the behemoths of the financial district, abruptly ending with the buildings on Bunker Hill. But after a small (although disconcerting) gap, it rises again with the older mid-sized buildings of the Civic Center, crowned by the unique tower of City Hall. I guess it looks like two cities growing into each other--the ultra-modern steel-skinned structures of Bunker Hill versus the somewhat historical (renovated in a way reminiscent of Universal Studios and/or "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" --go to Union Station to see what I mean) buildings of the Civic Center.

Another interesting exercise is to stare at it as you descend into LAX, approaching from the East. For the more imaginative, you might try to envision Downtown L.A. being contiguous with the buildings of Koreatown and Mid-Wilshire, which in turn are somewhat contiguous with the buildings of Century City and Westwood. It fills my mind with wondrous and somewhat frightening possibilities--in my mad fancy, I imagine it to be some nascent Manhattan, slowly growing up out the fault lines and tarpits. It is mostly an area devoid of freeways, except on the perimeter. Two subway lines run right through it. Despite the rampant car culture, people are eventually not going to stand for 17 mph commutes from Valencia, and who knows what might happen in the future?

But people actually do take the subway. Obviously it's not like a Manhattan-style rush hour, B-train crammed until all your orfices are filled, but I have seen people rush up the stairs to catch their transfer to the Long Beach-bound Blue Line, and people on occassion have to stand because all the plush seats are taken. When this thing has a connecting line with Pasadena, it may very well become viable--the only thing that's missing is a connection with the Eastside.

And the LA Dash buses in Downtown L.A. are actually quite functional. For a quarter, it really does get you to a lot of places. It's confusing like hell, just like the more pricey but more widespread MTA buses, but it gets you there.

Still, L.A. is an odd place. I still marvel at Bunker Hill--like I said before, it's sort of like bulldozing the Upper West Side of Manhattan in order to build more office buildings. And, remarkably, downtown L.A. is eerily quiet. Now maybe I've been completely desensitized after spending nearly two weeks in Manhattan, what with the lumbering trucks, the honking, the sirens, the taxicabs peeling out and backfiring, people cursing, and fanatics preaching, but when I clambered on out of the 7th St/Flower St. subway station, I was met with an almost preternatural silence. Cars would slide almost noiselessly out of the intersections--you might think they were all electrical cars--and I swear the loudest sounds were the hum of the air conditioning of the office buildings and, no joking, the wind. And while people do walk up and down the streets of L.A.'s Financial District, it certainly isn't the massive torrent of human flesh going hither and thither that is Times Square, nor is it the stream of tourist lemmings that run up and down Michigan Avenue. Sad as it sounds, though, I feel like it's only a matter of time until the Gapification of Downtown L.A., and while it's likely to grow into some huge tourist-attraction more reminiscent of Times Square, the Magnificent Mile, or even San Francisco's Union Square, it will certainly be the end of an era.

But yeah, I am fascinated by the City. Not just L.A., but all cities. That's why the next logical step really seems to be New York. But I'm thinking maybe L.A. will always be Home. After all, it's got a little bit of everything, really (as long as San Pedro and Hollywood don't secede. As for the Valley, fuck 'em, who really cares about it?)

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