Mar 28, 2017


I'm at the DMV early but without a book. Of all the things to forget, the book I was reading seems like the best thing to leave behind. I panicked a bit about forgetting a pen, but there was one that had evaded the pen purge of past October still there.

Some state/federal agencies don't care when your appointment is for, they let you in as soon as you arrive. Or at least, this is the case with the passport processing office. The San Francisco DMV doesn't seem to work that way; I've got a good 45 minutes to wait.

The book I meant to bring is Mike Davis's City of Quartz, an ambitious attempt to reify the forces that operate on and within LA. It's weird how some books either fit well into your current context or don't, at all. I feel like I've been hitting a lot of books at the right time lately. Like synchronicity but for "content".

I spent 24 hours in LA last June. While there, I walked the whole of Downtown, past the Capitol building and the LA Times. I met up with my friend Tow, short for Roberto, who lives there. He works as a social media coordinator for the Metro & took me to see the the big dig that they're doing for one of the new Downtown subway stations. We were walking around what I now know is Bunker Hill, which Eli Broad and Walt Disney have crowned with two monuments to "culture": a concert hall and an Art museum. (Tow let me in on a little localism: Broad is pronounced like "toad"). I went by the central museum, walked through the "Mexican" tourist town across from the train station, Union Station, the early 1900s train depot that I'd later return to to catch Amtrak's Coastal Starlight train North to San Luis Obispo, aka SLO (pronounced "slow").

From Downtown I caught the new blue line out to Santa Monica. It took forever, almost an hour, to ride the line from end to end. Looking back along the track (most of it is above ground), the Downtown district receded into the distance; the view remiscient of New York City's skyline from the PATH train in Jersey. LA is built on a scale that rivals only Houston, the US's other car-bred metropoli.

I spent enough time in Santa Monica to eat some tacos and get a feel for the overbuilt retail interests that lined the main drag, then headed out to the pier and down the beach. I hiked from Santa Monica to Venice, stopping just short of the long pier that jutted into the ocean just south of there.

Venice was my favorite neighborhood, even the Google office there seemed attractive, with surfboards lining the wall, just inside the gate. It was just the right blend of urban, hippie, and beachy.

So now I'm reading this book about LA, right? One that outlines the power structure and the lines of cultural influence. It hasn't gotten to the part about celebrity yet, but I trust we'll get there, eventually. Then, just this weekend, I watched the new OJ Simpson series, recently released to Netflix. The OJ drama takes place, of all places, in LA, capturing through a different prism the police tensions, endless highways (car chase with a Ford Bronco), the consequence of celebrity and notoriety. The story is incredibly LA.

There's more to say about celebrity, but I'll save that for later. My numbers just been called at the DMV, I'm here to trade in my New York license for a California one.

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