Friday, August 19, 2005
L.A. is a trip. I don't live here but have the feeling I always did. L.A.'s locations, after all, have been burned into my brain on a thousand TV shows, a thousand movies. It's a multiple exposure of deja vus.
Have been staying at my Aunt's condo in Woodland Hills. First day there, I'm striding down the winding sidewalk. Striding towards me in the opposite direction, I'm greeted by two giggly girls in bikinis, some tall gawky dude with a moustache, and various other dudes holding cameras, lighting equipment and reflectors walking briskly down the sidewalk. A porno shoot. Ya think?
First day. Arrived in a fog of jet lag. Theoretically, I'm AHEAD by six hours. I've spent the flight sleeping. Instead of noon, it's early in the morning. I should be raring to go. But I spend the day napping.
Second day. A dude swimming around in the pool next to Aunt Jo's condo with a giant python.
Third day. In the parking lot, some steroided-out, excessively tatooed dude with a green mohawk riding around in circles on a pocket bike that looks like a roller skate beneath his massive frame.
Fourth day. Driving down the I-10 with my Aunt and nephew. We pass a school bus labelled "THE DREAM FACTORY" full of slack-jawed children with shaved heads and dull, vacant eyes.
Fifth day. The people in the Industry do not return my calls.
Sixth day. My friend in the so-called Industry did return my call.
L.A. is surprisingly old and shabby. The Tower Records building looks like shit. The Hollywood Sign looks like shit. The freeways and streets are filled with kipple. The area around the L.A. Convention Center resembles North US 41 in Sarasota. This was all designed to look gleaming and shiny and superficical, but it's gone to seed. To borrow a phrase from William Gibson, it's been bladerunnered. Damn him for saying it first.
L.A. is a bizarre mosaic of micro-neighborhoods. Not just Mexican, Chinese, Columbian. Very specific and weird. Ukranian. Korean. Weird slices of that thing called China.
The freeway traffic is, surprisingly, civilized. Nobody tailgates. People use turn signals when they change lanes. Drivers stay out of the passing lane unless they're actually passing. I saw absolutely no aggressive, impulsive drivers. Compared to the I-10, I-75 is Mad Max. The lingering effect of the 1980s freeway shootings, maybe?
For some reason, there are no left turn arrows. Somehow, this never occured to anybody in California. ("Left-turn arrow? I do not know this thing you speak of.") Right turn on red, yeah. But no left-turn arrows. You're at the mercy of oncoming traffic.
At Ralph's, the digital screens at the checkout counter talk to you and try to sell you shit.
There are hills and mountains everywhere. They form the background of the horizon line: the blue zigzag of some mountain like a speedfreak's jittery watercolor.
Sometimes you wind up driving on a freaking hill or mountain. A momentary lapse of attention can easily kill you.
The landscape tends to be brown, not green. Stuff grows, but reluctantly. The place is, at heart, a desert. IT wants to be a dessert. The dust surrounds you like a death wish.
The San Fernando Valley at night is even more pretty in person.
The bad neighborhoods are really fucking bad.
If you felt like making a TV show, there's a lot of free, cool-looking scenery all over the place.