Los Angeles

Saturday, November 15, 2008
Last time I was in L.A., which is one of the towns I grew up, I noticed the desert air more than ever. It bathes everything in mirage and silence and transparency and timelessness. Mirrors in even the dingiest restaurant bathrooms will flatter you. This is the effect of the desert air. And the silver screen.

Out on the Santa Monica pier, with fog rolling along the coastline and the end of Western civilization. Very few people look at each other on the pier. This is the case in most of L.A., where people are usually in their cars. The utopian sidewalk network is used mostly by the immigrants and crazies.

This transparency is what lends L.A. its immediate apocalyptic charm. You get the sense that the apocalypse could explode outward from the spaces between the people at any moment. At any moment, L.A. could just vanish into the Void. Or implode under the weight of the smog.

The smog of L.A. Years and years ago, I hiked up the Glendale Hills till I was well above the city. I don't think there's a single point from where you can see all of L.A., but this one is close. I couldn't believe my eyes. The smog was a coal-black line at 4-5,000 feet. Below it was a sort of night. We were either standing above the smog line or below it. It was impossible to tell.

The myth that California will slide into the Pacific.