Friday, October 19, 2007

Slip Sliding Away

image by Ervín Pospíšil - GNU F.D.L.

Sometimes, very rarely, it rains here in Southern California, and the effects are usually disastrous.

Nearly every day our LA Times comes in a plastic wrapper. I used to wonder why, since it never rains. I kept meaning to call them to tell them I didn't need the plastic wrapper, but they would throw me off by leaving off the plastic wrapper every now and then. (I also realized at some point that the papers came in wrappers so they weren't soaked by 6 a.m. lawn sprinklers.) In the last couple days, with the early morning drizzles and sprinkles, when I've picked up the paper, the wrapper has been wet. The wet newspaper wrapper was a strange feeling -- unusual for me here in L.A. -- it took me back to days of fetching the Hartford Courant from the bottom of my parents' driveway so I could read Doonesbury. We lived at the top of the hill, and everything was always wet in the morning. And it rained a lot.

Also, on a prematurely dark April afternoon in fourth grade, in response to my teacher's question about the weather outside, I said it was "precipitating" and the entire class and my teacher laughed at me for like two minutes. That was also the year that my teacher confiscated my Casio watch because I couldn't figure out how to disable the hourly two-beep chime. She never gave it back.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I No Longer Heart New York

Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDGBLOG, recently left L.A. for San Francisco, but he's still in love with L.A:
In L.A. you can grow Fabio hair and go to the Arclight and not be embarrassed by yourself. Every mode of living is appropriate for L.A. You can do what you want.

And I don't just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversity and so we should celebrate it on that level and be done with it; I mean that Los Angeles is the confrontation with the void. It is the void. It's the confrontation with astronomy through near-constant sunlight and the inhuman radiative cancers that result. It's the confrontation with geology through plate tectonics and buried oil, methane, gravel, tar, and whatever other weird deposits of unknown ancient remains are sitting around down there in the dry and fractured subsurface. It's a confrontation with the oceanic; with anonymity; with desert time; with endless parking lots.

Geoff's post is bursting with BLDGBLOG's usual infectious enthusiasm, and you come away from the post wanting to do backflips and karate chop planks of wood in celebration of the void-like nature of L.A. But I do agree with BLDGBLOG that L.A. is now America's greatest city. As I have been telling everyone who will listen to me lately, it's quite clear now that New York has jumped the shark. See, for example, the city's "hot blast of nastiness, jingoism and xenophobia" in reaction to the Ahmadinejad visit, the daily horrors of parents desperate to get their kids into the 92nd Street Y nursery school, the 2004 Republican convention and the banning of protesters from Central Park's Great Lawn to "save the grass", Rudy Giuliani, the corporate takeover and Disneyification of public space in Manhattan and Brooklyn, an average selling price of over $1 million for an apartment in Manhattan, Alex Rodriguez, a rightward trend, and to top it all off, sickening tales of a new gilded age in New York in today's NYT Magazine.

The hedge fund masters of the universe, the big law firm partners dining at Nobu, the self-satisfied Ivy League couples in the Sunday Styles pages, and David Remnick can have New York. I'm done with it. New York has always been a massive financial center, but it feels like this has become its defining feature now, eclipsing its other features (diversity, cultural fervent, etc.). The sheer concentration of wealth in New York is warping the city and changing it from what it once was. Admittedly, I haven't spent much time there since I left, but that's my impression.

Or perhaps these are just the justifications I present to myself as I pull into the Zankou Chicken in Glendale at 10 p.m. and sit alone in my car for a moment in the light of the mini-mall.