Bldg blog writes an ode to LA:
L.A. is the apocalypse: it’s you and a bunch of parking lots. No one’s going to save you; no one’s looking out for you. It’s the only city I know where that’s the explicit premise of living there – that’s the deal you make when you move to L.A.
The city, ironically, is emotionally authentic.
It says: no one loves you; you’re the least important person in the room; get over it.
What matters is what you do there.
And maybe that means renting Hot Fuzz and eating too many pretzels; or maybe that means driving a Prius out to Malibu and surfing with Daryl Hannah as a means of protesting something; or maybe that means buying everything Fredric Jameson has ever written and even underlining significant passages as you visit the Westin Bonaventura. Maybe that just means getting into skateboarding, or into E!, or into Zen, Kabbalah, and Christian mysticism; or maybe you’ll plunge yourself into gin-fueled all night Frank Sinatra marathons – or you’ll lift weights and check email every two minutes on your Blackberry and watch old Bruce Willis films.
Literally no one cares, is the answer. No one cares. You’re alone in the world.
L.A. is explicit about that.
The whole thing is ridiculous. It’s the most ridiculous city in the world – but everyone who lives there knows that. No one thinks that L.A. “works,” or that it’s well-designed, or that it’s perfectly functional, or even that it makes sense to have put it there in the first place; they just think it’s interesting.
I’m a native Los Angeleno, and this love letter to the sprawl of Southern California makes me miss it. Sigmund Freud famously declared that civilization, or kultur, was simply a magnified version of the individual mind. That’s how I always like to think of Los Angeles. For me, LA is simply the brain set in concrete, lots of concrete. Those freeways are big spindle cells, and the numerous downtowns (Century City, Santa Monica, the SF Valley, etc.) represent the many functional modules inside the mind. Everybody complains that LA has no center – there is no there there – but isn’t that the point? The brain doesn’t have a center either, and it works beautifully.
And then there’s the lack of central planning. LA is a confederation of neighborhoods that aspire to the condition of suburbs. This means that the city lacks any sensible grid or unifying structure. Highways cut across streets, hills disrupt the boulevards, and mass transit remains a joke. The upside is that LA defines functionality on a very local level. Venice Beach is so different from Studio City which has nothing in common with Hancock Park. All of these little urban villages are designed to be separate. And yet, something interesting emerges when these seemingly isolated civic fragments are forced to share an area code (or three).
The brain works the same way. Our cortex is an accident, a conglomeration of used biological parts that we’ve borrowed from other creatures. It’s a jerry-rigged concoction of isolated neighborhoods (the amygdala, insula, ACC, etc.), each of which gives off its own special vibe. At first glance, it’s hard to see how something meaningful could emerge from such a mess. But that’s where we come from. Take it away, BLDG:
Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it’s bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don’t matter. You’re free.