we are all going to reseda…

This came into my mind recently:

When viewed from the sky, the sprawling neighborhoods that make Los Angeles are a series of small grids, linked by freeways and divided by boulevards into larger grids. When you fly into Los Angeles at night, it's like looking at a circuit board, traffic flowing along the freeways in streaks and dots of white and red, and along boulevards lined by the amber glow of streetlights. Bits and bytes of data move from node to node with the type of inefficiency that can only be born of bureaucratic planning that spans decades.

Also, this:

The Magic is everywhere, and everyone can see it, but nobody can actually see it for what it is. They talk about it like it's something wonderful: the Hollywood sign, the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier, the shiny towering buildings in Downtown and Century City that turn into pillars of fire every day in the setting sun.

But some of us know what it really is. We can smell it, we can feel it, we can hear it like the droning of a far-off diesel locomotive. The Magic, fueled by the dreams that die here and stay trapped in the basin like smog, hides this city's true face.

The most concentrated Magic is in Hollywood, where the most powerful Dream Magic has been crushed underfoot and ground into the streets themselves to make them sparkle, a trap to lure in ever more dreamers, to feed the Beast that lurks just beyond their perception.

A big part of living in LA is hating living in LA, and talking about hating living in LA. That's not without reason: it's expensive, it's overpopulated, it has the worst transportation infrastructure in the fucking world, and it often feels like most of the people you meet here came from somewhere else on their way to Something Better, so nobody cares about making LA suck less.

But a city that can inspire me to see it as a Gibsoneqsue TechnoRetroCyberFutureSprawl in one moment and then as a living, scheming, hungry ancient Beast in the next can't be all that bad.

…or maybe it just wants me to believe that.

49 thoughts on “we are all going to reseda…”

  1. I’m feeling bad for the dreamers who get crushed. Kind of like when I watch a nature show. I think the wolf is freakin’ awesome until it rips the bunny all to shreds. Poor bunny.
    Right now, because of you, I’m thinking, “Mean, mean awesome LA.”

  2. I’ve always wanted to visit LA. Good or bad, I see it nearly every day on tv or on the internet. I’d like to feel it for myself.

  3. A aged and well fed beast does not stay so without having some gimmick or shiny promise of glory to lure in every meal. I still believe that below every Los Angeles City Limits signs should be another sign which says “NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM”

  4. LA seems to be a microcosm of the US. An enchanting beacon of hope to so many, crusher of dreams, and raging beast, all depending on who’s looking (and when they’re looking). LA is so big and so diverse that it’s all of that and more.

  5. Love the magic bit. Might be fodder for a bit of urban fantasy. Reminds of the episode of Angel where he investigates a casino.

  6. “…it often feels like most of the people you meet here came from somewhere else on their way to Something Better, so nobody cares about making LA suck less.” Replace “LA” with “Las Vegas” and you have a pretty good description of the general attitude in my hometown.

  7. I lived in LA for 38 years, moved there in 1967 from PA with my family as a teenager, and in 2005 I moved with my wife to Plano TX.
    I always used to think the real essence of what LA was when it was great to live there was something already consigned to the past, even 40 years ago.
    So I would always visit anyplace in LA and try to imagine what it was really like decades before I moved there, like in “LA Confidential”, or even to push it back further in the past, before the automobile and the flood of midwest migrants from the Great Depression.
    So for example when I would go to the beach 40+ years ago, I would always drive further out and go to Zuma before it was popular or crowded.
    That was how I wanted to try to appreciate the magic of what LA was before the flood of humanity found it.
    During my 38 years the growth was explosive, to the point where it is strangled today.
    When in college and for a few years afterwards I worked in the studios, theaters, TV studios in IATSE, NABET, etc. in the crafts. So I tried to appreciate what the studios were like decades before as well when I worked there.
    And that for me is the ugly, made up side of Los Angeles, I don’t believe that aspect of LA ever had a Golden Age.

  8. the magic of LA is just that magic. it is really a city of only 10,000 people, the rest and all the building are Hollywood props and special effects. LOL j/k
    I remember the first time I flew into LAX at night, I thought to myself “holy shit this is a huge city” far bigger, more spread out than my Houston. It seemed like the first time we hit city lights it was about 30 minutes before we landed.

  9. It’s been some years since I’ve been to LA. The few times I’ve been there, unfortunately, all I could think about was how much I wanted to leave. Then again, I grew up near SF and feel the same way about that town. Odd that someone who grew up in the city would end up becoming a country bumpkin at heart. So I may live in a little hippie town of around 8,000 people who are stoned most of the time, but this is where I like to be (but haven’t been stoned myself since college, many years ago). :)

  10. When I moved there from Somewhere Else (on my way to Something Different), I loved the sprawl of Los Angeles. I loved that high-rises don’t interfere with your view of the sky or the mountains. I loved driving a block from any of the major roads and finding myself in a snug grid of small neighborhoods with orange blossoms on the corner. I particularly loved how the night-blooming jasmine in West Hollywood would push through the diesel on alternating breaths when I was stuck in traffic on the 101.
    Since my brief stint with the studios, I’ve come to think of Hollywood as the most honest city on earth… no, really. We each construct our own vision of the world, and as much as we do try to understand each other, it’s our own perspective that is most real to us. Nowhere but in Hollywood can you so literally create your own reality; embrace it to the exclusion of all others; and make no apologies. What’s more authentic than that?

  11. It's an influence on me, for sure, so maybe it affected me subconsciously. I've been reading Kill The Dead, which is all about Magic and Hollywood, so I'm sure that snuck in there, too.

  12. Two alternatives…
    1) Move north of Agoura Hills or TO
    2) Move South to Orange County or even North San Diego County.
    Plenty of Hollywood royalty have lived in OC including the Nelson’s (Ozzie and Harriet) as well as John Wayne.
    And let’s not forget Kobe B.

  13. Sounds like something from American Gods. And is prolly part of the point it’s making.
    There’s a reason I moved to the UK.
    I love your writing Wil, and love that we like some of the same stuff. You’re awesome.

  14. Since the first time I flew back home into LA after dark, I’ve always associated that view with the final scene of the original Tron, just before the credits rolled. It’s still an experience I treasure, every time.
    You paint some purty word-pictures, Wil. :-)

  15. One more for the American Gods bandwagon. The strange thing is that when my East Coast mind thinks of Los Angeles, I tend to think of it as less magical & more like the way Mr. Gaiman describes the Center of the United States: a completely fabricated place that has no intrinsic magic of its own*. The LA I’ve seen just looks and feels inorganic and forced.
    *A statement that has nothing to do with the fine people who live there. :-)
    Moving on… I really enjoy your writing, Wil. I look forward to whatever you have in the works and will wait very patiently for it. Thanks for being so damn entertaining whether you’re using your own words or someone else’s.

  16. I can’t help but disagree with the idea that a Big Part of living in LA is hating living in LA. Having lived in a variety of Other Places, but grown up just to one side of LA (to wit: Pasadena), I abso-fracking-lutely *love* LA. Every place has its issues, there’s no city in the world that’s perfect, and it’s only really in the venue of crushed dreams that LA’s faults exceed any other place.
    I’m serious, too. When we talk about being overcrowded and poorly-planned, New York and its environs laughs at us, nevermind Boston and its street structure defined by peninsular coasts which no longer exist. While our transportation infrastructure is a joke and we’re far too in love with our cars, Houston was built by a bureaucracy which considers sidewalks to be an unnecessary extravagance. The smog, which we still take our cynical pride in, is nothing compared to what it was just twenty-five years ago (when gym classes would be cancelled at my Jr. High due to the entire San Gabriel Range being hidden behind a pall of orange haze… and this was a school in Altadena, right up against the San Gabriels!).
    And while this oddest of areas does indeed exceed the world in fueling its own brand of magic with broken and shredded and evaporated dreams, most certainly, it’s also home to a greater intensity of those hardy souls who turn dreams into reality

  17. I assume you’ve never watched Koyaanisqatsi, it compares cities to circuit boards.
    (And if you haven’t watched it, you really need to. Despite being thirty years old, it blew my mind.)

  18. When I was in college the required freshman writing course was always taught by a legion of English department TAs. To make what was, by definition, a really remedial class more enjoyable to teach, the department would let the teaching assistants choose whatever theme they wanted for their section and create reading and writing assignments related to it.
    My TA chose “Los Angeles as a Dystopian Society,” and I’m still amazed at how much art and literature there is on this theme. It stems, of course, as you point out, from the fact that Los Angeles—such a massive cultural center—is run by people who hate Los Angeles. As a result, we get Blade Runner, Escape from L.A., The Running Man, Demolition Man, and so on.
    Of course, even when a film is about the apocalypse more generally, Los Angeles offers a convenient backdrop for the major studios. But the theme carries over to books, too, from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower to sociological accounts like Mike Davis’ City of Quartz and journalistic tomes like Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert. Even having lived and worked there, I never looked at L.A. quite the same way after that course.

  19. The worst part of living in LA is leaving LA, feeling homesick for LA, then coming back and feeling like a chump for missing this, of all places. But you still know that the next time you leave town, you’re gonna wind up missing those stupid imported palm trees, the shitty public transportation system, and the vapid assholes who think common courtesy is the new sitcom starring Courtney Cox.
    On the other hand, LA also created the french dip sandwich, so for that alone, I forgive her all her many sins.

  20. Many thanks for this wonderful text. To be honest, I know LA only as a visitor for three days (about a year ago – see my blog) and never lived there. But it’s one of the most impressive urban areas I’ve ever seen – and I enjoyed your comparison to a circuit board very much! My first trip to the USA went to an atomic physics conference in Chicago in 1999 – and I was just overwhelmed (the conf. was held in the great old Drake Hotel). Later, in 2002/3 I was living in Manhattan (KS) for 13 months (as a postdoc at KSU). It may sound silly – but if I had to attribute a specific sound to that time it’s just a train horn (something I was not used to in Germany). To some extent this sound makes me a little homesick though I enjoy living in Germany very much (your remark on the sound of a far-off diesel locomotive just reminds me that). I wonder what fascinates me about LA so much – is it all the stereotypes, vista points, landmarks, film industry etc.? One particular somehow hidden aspect may be the fact that I grew up in the Ruhr metropolitan area http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhine-Ruhr (Düsseldorf btw is part of it) and despite many differences in its urban structure its size and population is similar to the LA metro area. A landmark of LA which I liked very much is the Griffith Observatory with it’s planetarium. I know this sounds geeky but the planetarium of Bochum (the city where I grew up*) was some kind of my second home – but that’s another story 😉
    *) Ready for another coincidence? The district “Langendreer” of Bochum where I was living is nicknamed “LA” (which is quite ridiculous since it has a population of only 30000).

  21. I love LA. I’m sure it helps that I was born here and it’s my home town but I do love LA. (Okay, I hate the damn traffic and the lack of viable public transporation). I love the beach and museums. I love the farmers markets and the swap meets. I really love the patchwork quilt of ethnic neighborhoods and communities. I love that when you smile and say hi to people, they mostly smile shyly back.

  22. I find your circuit board analogy interesting as just this week my Arduino kit arrived, so I’m looking forward to getting back in to electronics.
    I grew up in Phoenix, and though I did a lot of travel (mainly in the southwest), I remember the shock of flying in to Atlanta for a week of training, thinking ‘what’s all that green stuff down there?’

  23. Wil, you ever read Ray Bradbury’s “Graveyard for Lunatics?” It’s set on what’s essentially the Paramount lot, with the name changed to protect the guilty.

  24. Wil, next time I’m in LA I need to get you over to Bill Mumy’s place and record the two of you talking about your lives & careers. I think it would make for an enlightening podcast or similar. You’ve mentioned a few times maybe wanting to get out of LA, and he’s got some good bits about how his father stayed in LA to support him when he was on Lost in Space, and how while Bill wanted to move on more recently, he stayed in Laurel Canyon because his daughter got into the industry as a child actor too.

  25. There are so many different “LA”s, apart from the one Everyone From Somewhere Else Is a Certified Expert On (ie: the stereotypical one, what we who live in SoCal call “the Westside”):
    There’s the corrupt political/business LA (Cities of Bell and Vernon, every damn Mayor and City Councilman of LA proper), reminding us that noir isn’t just in the past.
    There are all the various LAs that are enclaves of Places Really Far Away Where English Isn’t Spoken.
    Related to that, there is the foodie LA, where Jonathan Gold is the prophet and real (as in beat up and old) taco trucks are a better bet than the inedible bullshit that’s served up in almost every trendy restaurant in the city. Knowing the best donuts are out in Glendora, the best bakery in Glendale, and the best pastrami is across from MacArthur Park. Also: In-n-Out or Tommy’s, choose your side.
    There are many more LAs that rarely surface above the glare of the all encompassing spotlight on “Hollywood”. The LA that takes the goods that show up on store shelves throughout this continent from ships and onto trucks and trains (and supports more local jobs and generates more local tax revenue than the entertainment industry). The LA that’s up at 3 AM to sell fresh produce to restaurants and stores throughout the region. The LA that provides me with actual trains on railroads to take me to and from work everyday (yes, they exist). The LA that is home to part of the vast Military-Industrial Complex that gave birth to a lot of classified stuff (e.g. Stealth Fighter (flew out of Burbank airport at night according to legend)), the Space Shuttle and satellite TV (JPL’s Open House is this weekend, folks).
    I can go on. “LA” is a kaleidoscopic urban environment/myth. Give it a shake or tilt and you’ll see something new. If you want to see an LA beyond the hipster sidewalk cafes crowded with people who “want to direct someday”, check out the Militant Angeleno’s blog.

  26. you write so beautifully, Wil. I like your opinions, it is interesting to see what you see. I really wonder what you think on bigger topics, like what’s the purpose of life, or something, or maybe you prefer to keep that private, but I so would like to know what you think

  27. Gone savage for teenagers with automatic weapons and
    boundless love..
    Gone savage for teenagers who are aesthetically pleasing, in other words, fly…

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