I was going to write a sort of love poem to Los Angeles. I’m leaving soon and getting sentimental. The other day I was walking on Fourth Street and I shot this image. There were two men sleeping on the sidewalk behind me. Not sleeping yet, but arranging their cardboard and blankets, settling in for the night. I got on the Red Line at Pershing Square and jotted down a few bad lines of goodbye about how you—and by you I mean L.A.—have no soul and no mercy and you break my heart again and again and you are mainly very ugly except at night but I love you most when the sun is highest. I didn’t finish it. I’m glad about that. This evening I drove up Micheltorena and over the hill and back again. On an errand, not for fun, but the sun was setting on my way over and it had set by the time I was on my way back and suddenly off to my left I could see downtown spread out beneath me in the purple half light and all those corporate towers were sparkling with their lights on and I couldn’t breathe for a second it was so beautiful. And I don’t know how to hold onto that awe at the cruel and utter gorgeousness of this place while knowing every breathing second that it is beyond fucked up. Sometimes the finer adjectives won’t do. I drove down Micheltorena to Sunset and then turned to the east, KDAY on the radio, speeding towards the next red light, falling into that easy L.A. traffic-samadi groove. I parked in Chinatown, on a side street. Just before I got out of the car I saw a flash. A red-shirted security guard in the employ of the local Business Improvement District was snapping photos of an elderly man sitting on a bench, his possessions in a cart beside him. I made sure my phone’s the flash was turned on, got out of the car and took his picture. He didn’t like it. Words ensued. I won't elaborate except to say that the high point was when I said something like "You're harassing this man" and the red-shirt said something like "I'm not harassing him. Sir, am I harassing you?" and the old man said something like, "Yes, he's harassing me. Motherfucker." I thought of posting the photos here but they're blurry and not nice to look at and I don’t see the point of shaming someone with a shit job who already knows that what he does is beyond fucked up. So no sweet goodbye, L.A. You know how fucked up you are. When I got back to my car a few hours later the old man was still there on the bench, sitting up, asleep.

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Reader Comments (8)

You're L.A. experience and evaluation is unfortunate and not mine. Born and raised 71 years now and yes there is shit everywhere like anywhere. Too bad you didn't find the sitting area in Chinatown where a serene Buddha sirs overlooking a sparkling pond. You might've had a moment of pure urban L. A. bliss among the shit. Can't have one without the other. Peace.

I can't say I disagree with you. I know that courtyard well, though I'm not sure I trust that Buddha's smile. If I didn't sufficiently convey the love I have for this city, then it's my failure as a writer. If I let go of my sadness and anger at its injustices, it would be my failure as a human being.

March 8, 2014 | Registered Commenterb.

"i'd rather be living in l.a. than dead in philadelphia."

or was it the other way around?

the american imagination is exported throughout the planet:

robert redford plays an american alone and lost at sea.

chiwetel ojiofor plays an american alone and lost in slavery.

sandra bullock plays an astronaut alone and lost in space.

this lonely dementia is exported in products of industrial imagination.

it can be consumed anywhere. lemme know where you go, i can send some---american loneliness---

March 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersesshu

Love, loneliness, urban wilderness. It's the expansiveness that gets me every time. The intimacy of a place that is burned into you and the isolation of urban injustices.

March 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEkatzk

Thanks, Sesshu, but no need. I have a suitcase full of it packed and ready to go. It comes cheap around here. They’re giving the stuff away on every corner. If I can only get it past customs…
And … is that you, Elaine?

March 9, 2014 | Registered Commenterb.

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