Los Angeles is a town that takes years to learn to love. The sizzle is there, of course. Hell, it's Hollywood. But isn't the proof in the bacon? (Lordy, living with the Maharishi is really taking it's toll -- that bacon analogy came out of nowhere, I tell you.)
Yesterday, as I was driving north on the Golden State Freeway and listening to "Sugar Baby Love" by Showaddywaddy, I thought to myself, there aren't many things in life left to do that haven't been done before by anybody, but this is one of them. I was whooshing into the far right lane at the time, preparing to exit onto the 118 east, and pleasantly suprised that iPod shuffle even knew about Showaddywaddy. The 5 is one of the main arteries in and out of Los Angeles, though it scoots around downtown following the LA River (which isn't really a river, just a man made concrete canal which fluctuates between a gushing torrent and a pavement dotted with heron's nests) to the north of Griffith Park. It's a freeway full of promise, as it takes you away and towards the mountains. On a clear day, after rain or after the Santa Anas have blown through, you can see the thin outline of Mulholland's aqueduct, which supplies millions of people with water from the north, and is the sole reason that the city manages to stay a live. It's a tiny little pipe considering its importance.
To the east, are the San Gabriel mountains and the Los Angeles National Forest, mottled piebald underneath a few casual clouds, and then the spires and antennae of Mount Wilson, and to the west the Santa Monica mountains, and beyond them, the Pacific Ocean. The Golden State is a freeway of opportunity, of optimism, of possibility (as opposed to the 90, the Marina freeway, which is just a sad, sad excuse for an expressway, all 1.8 miles of it) best maneuvered first thing in the morning, against traffic. It was on this very stretch of road that I read Kurt Andersen's tweet: And this was a hallelujah moment.
I don't need the approval of the east coast cogniscenti to persuade me of my city's inherent worth but it does help the cause.
This afternoon, the red-tailed hawks are circling and calling above Horseshoe Canyon. They have made their nest in the top of the same tall pine tree on the ridge, year after year. The invasive eucalyptus and acacia trees dot the canyon, alongside the indigenous California Bay Laurel, California Oak and Pepper trees. We've planted olive trees, too and flax, and the pink geraniums are just beginning to flower. The lizards and the dogs sun themselves on the deck as I write and read. If this isn't a little bit like heaven on earth, the canyon in the springtime, before it gets too hot, I wonder what is?
With my oldest child home from college, my days are less organized, much to my delight, and this morning we went to breakfast together at the lovely Aroma Cafe on Tujunga Avenue in Studio City. Huevos Rancheros, a spinach and mushroom omelette, coffee. We sat next to a young couple and their baby, dressed in a turquoise and white striped t-shirt and possessing the most iridescent blue eyes. They greeted the wait staff by their first names. More people came over and gooed at the baby, who was awfully pretty. This is what it's like, I thought, to live in a village. It's an uncomplicated thought, I know, a rather obvious one, but isn't the simple idea that people are connected to each other, that they know each other and treat each other with love and civility rather a nice one? And it's something you'd expect from a big sprawling metropolis like LA. LA is Bladerunner. It's talking signs on the freeway (LA Story). It's Chinatown (aquaduct again). But it's also Cheers.
I want to neatly tie this back to pantheism and I'm not entirely sure how so, as one does in these moments, I shall quote environmentalist and nature writer Rachel Carson:
Those who dwell...among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. . . Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.
-- Rachel Carson