An “Out of City” Experience

I lived in Los Angeles for 4 years and now it seems like a dream. When I returned there last month, it seemed like I was watching the city and its inhabitants through a thin pane of textured glass that lent a surreal quality to everything and everyone around me. As absurd as it sounds, the only place that felt real was the arcade on the third street promenade. Loud and decrepit and filled with people from anywhere but there.

I finished reading Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero tonight and was left a bit shaken. There are very few places in the world that are talked about and thought about the way people talk and think about LA. Before I throw down some of my favorite LaLaLand themed literary profundities and cap it all off my own infinitely inferior words, I should mention the upside. That being, my many positive memories of Los Angeles. Of swimming in the Malibu surf, of jetting down the Pacific Coast Highway, of sun drenched days with friends. Still, these words say more about the city than the weather forecast ever could. And if you disagree, I look forward to hearing what LA means to you.

1) “There was a song I heard when I was in Los Angeles by a local group. The song was called “Los Angeles” and the words and images were so harsh and bitter that the song would reverberate in my mind for days. The images, I later found out, were personal and no one I knew shared them. The images I had were of people being driven mad by living in the city. Images of parents who were so hungry and unfulfilled that they ate their own children. Images of people, teenagers my own age, looking up from the asphalt and being blinded by the sun. These images stayed with me long after I left the city. Images so violent and malicious that they seemed to be my only point of reference for a long time afterwards. After I left” – Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero

2) “I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon. I never felt sadder in my life. LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets godawful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. LA is a jungle.” – Jack Kerouac On The Road

3) “our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to

watering a plant.”
― Charles Bukowski, Love is a Dog from Hell

4) “Ah, Los Angeles! Dust and fog of your lonely streets, I am no longer lonely. Just you wait, all of you ghosts of this room, just you wait, because it will happen, as sure as there’s a God in heaven.” ― John Fante, Ask the Dust

5) “I could make you satisfied in everything you do
All your ‘secret wishes’ could right now be coming true
And be forever with my poison arms around you
No one’s gonna fool around with us
No one’s gonna fool around with us
So glad to meet you
Angeles”
– Elliott Smith, Angeles

6) Because I am just narcissistic enough to give myself the last word and because this is the only poem I wrote about LA that doesn’t require a censor’s warning.

LA is quick sand
LA is polite conversation and a firing squad
LA is the mirror looking back
LA is LALALA no one’s listening

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