Otherworldly sunsets glimpsed between the silhouettes of palm trees seen from a freeway traffic jam. Maybe a long beach, bronzed surfers boarding over the splash and churn of the Pacific ocean disappearing into a distant horizon. Perhaps the flash of paparazzi cameras over red carpets as the glamorous step into movie premiers with chilly artifice like expensive make-up and crisp tuxedos over febrile scandals.
All of these are totally cliches of course, but like most cliches, they’re also sort of true. Los Angeles is all these things, sort of. Like a glossy advertisement, that movie montage establishing place through the invocation of the most obvious signifiers. Cue the Hollywood sign here.
However obvious, these are still some of our shared myths. When we dream of LA, we dream of these things too. Even the most hardened native pauses to peek a sunset, every smog-smothered local is swept clean with bracing ocean breeze, wet with salt spit when we make it to the beach. Despite the regular inconvenience of movie crews for locals like me, I like having them around, the give the city a frisson of cinematic possibility, especially as I don’t particularly depend on them at all for survival.
As a writer living in Los Angeles without any professional interest/connection to the entertainment industry, LA feels free, like I can do whatever I want here, like I can try something new. There’s a false dichotomy with New York but it being the biggest city in the US, it’s hard to ignore. New York has the nuclear power of publishing and commercial galleries, with all its arcane pretensions, palace intrigues, and social dominance. All of which end up closing things down for me, instead of opening them up. Los Angeles for all its flaws feels open.
A bit dreamy, perhaps, but that’s why we live here. We all came here or stay here because of some dream. You can say the same about America in general perhaps, but dreams of Los Angeles have a specific space to them. And the artists who came here, though most of them are hardly so literal in their workings, you can see these dreams still shimmer in their work. Whatever Los Angeles is, and it is so many things both good and bad, there is still space here and that space is full of possibility.
Wyoming has space too, lots of it, but LA space is of course different, and even in LA there are lots of different kinds of space. Wyoming space’s defined by a beautiful/cruel landscape and