There are three great cities in the United States: there’s Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York – in that order.
I love Boston; I like Miami; I think Washington DC is habitable; but Los Angeles is Los Angeles. You can’t compare it to Paris, or to London, or to Rome, or to Shang- hai. You can interestingly contrast it to those cities, sure, and Los Angeles even comes out lacking; but Los Angeles is still Los Angeles.
No matter what you do in L.A, your behavior is appropriate for the city. Los Angeles has no assumed correct mode of use. You can have fake breasts and drive a Ford Mustang – or you can grow a beard, weigh 300 pounds, and read Christian Sciencefiction novels. Either way, you’re fine: that’s just how it works.
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 import- ant 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 may-be that means driving a Prius out to Malibu and surfing with Daryl Hannah as ameans of protesting something; or maybe that means buying everything FredricJameson has ever written and even underlining significant passages as you visit the Westin Bonaventure. Maybe that just means getting into skateboarding, or into E!, or into Zen, Kabbalah, and Christian mysticism; or maybe you’ll plunge yourselfinto gin-fueled all night Frank Sinatra marathons – or you’ll lift weights and checkemail every two minutes on your Blackberry and watch 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. If you can’t handle a huge landscape made entirely from con- crete, interspersed with 24-hour drugstores stocked with medications you don’t need, then don’t move there. It’s you and a bunch of parking lots. It’s the most ri- diculous 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 eventhat it makes sense to have put it there in the first place; they just think it’s inter- esting. And the huge irony is that Southern California is where you can actually dowhat you want to do; you can just relax and be ridiculous. In L.A. you don’t have tobe embarrassed by yourself. You’ve got a surgically pinched, thin Michael Jacksonnose? You’ve got a goatee and a trucker hat? You’ve got a million-dollar job and a Bentley? It doesn’t matter. Los Angeles is where you confront the objective factthat you mean nothing; everything there somehow precedes you, even new con-struction sites, and it’s bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferentto you. You don’t matter. You’re free.
And I don’t just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversityand 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 a confrontation with the oceanic; with anonymity; with desert time; with endless parking lots. And it doesn’t need humanizing. Who cares if you can’t identify with Los Angeles? It doesn’t need to be made human. It’s better than that.