Among the Right Angles


The new community growing up around Lankershim and Magnolia is a place of right angles. Lofts and windows, rooflines and balconies: all are straight and horizontal, crisp and clean.

I walked around here today, mid-day, in the white sun, along Chandler, McCormick, Blakeslee and Magnolia, in-between new apartment rental offices, new hair salons, new trees, into new pie and new beer restaurants.  UPS and Federal Express trucks, moving trucks, street sweepers, security guards and parking violation officials swarmed everywhere, bringing goods and dropping fines.

It was déjà vu for me, remembering my daytime walks in New York City around Tribeca, Soho and Noho in 1988, selling advertising for the brand new New York Press.  The west side of Tribeca was just developing, and people were opening yoga salons, restaurants, and bars and looking at their reflections in the glass, just as they do today.  I was in an urban frontier, tamed, not by the lasso and rifle, but Robert DeNiro and JFK, Jr.

Frenetic, and fast, promiscuous and pretentious, I was full of energy and youth, dressing well, working out, caught up in an endless chase for sex and security and a way up. I ate in every good restaurant on my $15,000 a year salary and ended up with anyone who I laid my eyes on.

And I saw that urge today, as I walked past guys pouring out of the gym, and sexy girls on their cellphones, and the eternal sunshine of the spotless streets, a corporate paradise rented out and made up like a real city, but really just another atomized blot on the desert.

A “friend” of mine, who moonlights as an escort and personal trainer, rented an apartment in one of the large complexes near the Red Line and told me many sex workers inhabited his building.  But in the bright sun, under the bright signs, on the well-swept sidewalks, all is clean and happy and progressive.  And one must remember that one of the largest sex toy companies in the world, Doc Johnson, earning millions and employing hundreds, is headquartered nearby.

Anyone who comes to LA and says he is not a whore is also a liar.  And anyone who attempts to make an honest living here will surely fail.

Carfree Living

Los Angeles does not often impress in civic infrastructure, but this corner and pocket NE of Universal City comes close.

Of all the places in the San Fernando Valley, this one has taken off the most, in self-creation and self-realization, in the last five years.  It has done it by refuting and rebelling against the old car-centered model of Los Angeles.

You don’t need it here. You can get around on your bike, on foot, via subway, and go see an art movie, drink a craft beer, live in a loft, and attend live theater.  You can work out with elliptical trainers, free weights, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and step and dance classes. Live comedy and live readings of short stories are performed at The Federal.  You can go to school, study and earn a degree at the Art Institute of Hollywood.

It’s a young place again, a dense, digital and creative section remade in the style of the early 21st Century. A place where hanging out on a coffee shop sofa is sometimes industrious, and working in an office cubicle is often useless.

Everything in Los Angeles starts as an experiment, and has its day in the sun, so to speak.  Westwood, the Miracle Mile,  Van Nuys, Panorama City, Canoga Park, all were started in a blaze of optimistic boosterism , like a Presidential campaigner, promising a lot and then sputtering and stalling and sometimes falling to pieces.

Along the edges of North Hollywood, the old decay and weedy lots sit, like determined and patient killers, ready to strike back  and take down life. And with a deathly silence the ancient Verdugo Mountains, back there in the distance, watch the silly activities and wait…..

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