Thursday, June 7, 2012

I'm Ready For My Close-Up....

When one grows up in the midst of myth, one doesn't know it.  To me, the sight you see above is nothing more than simply an afternoon's drive on one of the main streets through my neighborhood.  Note well, to illustrate, the common billboard on the left for Albertson's, a grocery store, and Sav-On, a drug store.  There is next to nothing glamorous about either.

In the distance, slightly blurry hills that I took for granted surrounded everyone's life; palm trees weren't anything special, they were simply the trees that lined city streets.

Note also the glare, the ever-present harsh sunlight that forgives nothing, that illuminates all, that bakes the pavement until it is a particular shade of white-and-grey that I now recognize as a tell-tale sign that the road pictured is somewhere in Los Angeles.

Sunset Boulevard runs to the sea, in far-away Santa Monica.  In a land where the place-names are all Spanish but pronounced in such a particular way as to carry its own sounds, a special form of Spanish (as opposed to the Spanish of Mexico) that has its own rules, that only a Los Angeleno knows how to pronounce correctly.

Our harbor? San Pedro.  Saan Peedrow. 

Our train stations take art deco age leather chairs and combine them with the Spanish mission style to give you our own take.

Despite it all, despite the distance, I still know my Los Angeles in a way others will not.  I alone know why the late Ray Bradbury stayed with us, as one of us, and knew our ways. 

I live a life of exile, my home submerged in razor wife, graffiti and lame democracy.

But, for me, in my soul, Los Angeles is.

She, she had to leave.  Los Angeles.

She found it hard to say good bye to her own best friend.

She had to get out.

Get out.


  1. Speaking of closeups...

    Not a bad call, leaving...

    ... I no longer feel at home in the place I grew up, either.

  2. The place I grew up no longer exists. Gone is the sawmill that enveloped the frosty morning with the sharp smell of pine, the potholed streets, the strum of a solitary guitar carried on the evening breeze. The grammar school where, in sixth grade, I met my best childhood friends is an historical site; the junior high school razed because it was falling apart, the ghosts of children past still sliding down its ethereal bannisters from floor to floor. Gone are the moms and dads that protected us from harm, that taught us right from wrong, that taught us to hunt and fish, to sew, to cook, to play an instrument and fix a car, that busted our behinds when we stepped out of line...many of them sleeping in the tiny graveyard tucked in the forest on the edge of town.

    You can't go home. You can't recapture the past. You can only hold it dear in your heart, and let the memories bring you comfort.

    1. Almost nothing has changed in my hometown. It's completely recognizable as the same town it was 40 years ago as a child.

      Development has been light, and well integrated. Big box stores, strip malls, fast food chains, etc - non-existent. The old "downtown" strip remains pristine and the center of commercial activity.

      How did my town accomplish this? A great deal of it was simple lawlessness and corruption. Commercial activity was throttled; I personally know one restaurant whose liquor license application was simply "lost" by the town about a half dozen times. Why? She wasn't Irish. (They thought she was Jewish, in fact she was Greek. Wouldn't have mattered).

      My "tribe" (Yankee) existed as an established minority with certain privileges and restrictions. We were fine, just as long as we didn't run afoul of the Irish. Our seacoast village was known as the Irish Riviera. The Irish Mob and the Irish political establishment were joined at the hip (see, e.g. the Bulger brothers) and it payed not to rock the boat.

      I can go home anytime I like, and walk the same streets, visit the same corner stores, and experience the same place whose criminality and pigheadedness I was innocent of as a child. That innocence is the only thing I can't recover, and is why I can't truly go home.

      The power that can make time stand still can do all sorts of things. Some of them ugly. Narratives are complex things.

    2. "40 years ago as a child"

      Banish thee, heathen!

  3. People in Vienna, in Austria, have hometowns that have changed only a little bit over the last decades. They go home on break and when they feel they've had enough. They can't imagine living life without a safe haven, a home to go back to.

    Here, we accept that all we know and love will change in a few years. Yes, yes, change is inevitable. But the pace of that change is not written in stone. Human beings require a connection to place to be truly happy; this I've come to really believe.

    Which is why, when it comes down to it, I think that when the chips are down most of my countrymen put their emphasis on their personal well-being. Why be concerned about anything else when it is all scheduled for destruction, creative or otherwise?

  4. I experienced an incredible feeling of loss the time I went to visit my parents and found that the old cider mill and orchard that had been an autumn essential when I was growing up had been razed to make way for a townhouse complex.

    As transient as our lives have been, we've had to figure out how to create haven wherever we've found ourselves. There really is no going "home" for us. Neither of our parents live where we grew up; mine now live in a completely different state. Neither of the two homes where my husband grew up exist anymore. If we had to move back to the US, I have no idea where we'd go - I guess it would depend on work availability.

    Wherever we are, together, is home.

  5. GO Kings GO!

    4 - 1 going into the 3rd period. The Kings have a lock on the Stanley Cup, don't they....

  6. The Kings are my surrogate team to win the Cup. They have been incredible in the playoffs this year. Plus 15 of their players are Canadian eh!