|Travel Photography Desert Southwest
Angeleno dreams of it at some point in their life - paddling down the
Los Angeles River. The Los Angeles Area, after all, is named after its
mission by the river. Mostly a trickle, but quite a run in the winter
rain season - districts rise, fall, populations change, urban trends ebb
and flow. But the drainage from the snowfall of the San Gabrielanos is
a constant. And how could you not want to drift down it all, to look up
at your city from its quiet underbelly?
is the lifeblood of LA - the city is based on the flow of containers from
Los Angeles Harbor, drainages from Central California and the Colorado
River. I could never quite put my finger on Los Angeles, but I always
thought about it. People who don't know it curse it, writers who write
about it glorify its villainy, spit on tinseltown, and admire the glamour
all the like. But I had been reading the Qu'ran and considering the river:
to those who are careful of their duty to their Lord, they shall have
gardens beneath which rivers flow, abiding in them; an entertainment from
their Lord. (The family of Imran 3:198)
book, like LA, is often cursed, often worshipped. Like the book, once
you read it, you realize it's actually just provincial and self-referential.
LA is almost quaint, and its townspeople's innocence is hypnotic: a dreary
freakshow in the sun. Paved paradise; America's ugliest city, a Club Med
for the homeless. My ten years in the city have been just ordinary day-to-day;
with occasional guideposts to remind me that LA is not normal; and that
life here is anything but. The city is a mess - a constant confrontation
of people, ideas and dreams, and all the cuisines, clubs, organizations
and beliefs that fit in the little spaces in between. LA's mess is excusable,
because it is unique. But I wouldn't dream this once for Middle America;
sprawl's excess impacts the soul, and already the rest of America is beginning
to resemble LA.
was the poorest man in Broad Beach; the western-most edge of Los Angeles,
in an elongated town called Malibu. The two hundred fifty dollars ('and
water my plants once a week') rent for a small mansion that hung over
the rocky ocean shore was hard to pay. I was self-employed with a failing
business. I tried to learn how to fish. I never caught anything. I fished
over my balcony, fried tuna and chicken on a Hibachi. I read books about
the desert, and invited outsiders to drink rum.
neighbors were well established in the art and film community. Most were
miserable. Sometimes I could not sleep - I heard arguments over the drone
of the crashing waves. Crashing flowerpots
.'You bitch!' Neighbors
let me in on the secret - told me which actors were which. None of this
meant anything to me - I had quit watching television, and couldn't remember
the names of the actors who I had never seen.
day, I was invited to the neighbors for a hash and bong party.
was introduced to the guy holding the party. Freddy hid his belly with
an oversized Aloha shirt. "Hey Bra!" he said. "Come 'ere,
Boozie," he cried, lifting a Yorkshire Terrier off the ground, nuzzling
him on the head and saying, "So you're the bra workin' on the boat?"
I had told Freddy. I told him it was a double-masted Taiwanese ketch that
had sustained hurricane damage, but once re-rigged, would be the only
teak trawler in Marina Del Rey. I began to tell him about Dave, and the
other boat people who lived in the dry-docks.
Freddy wasn't listening, he was watching the game, and fiddling with his
one-hitter. Freddy was well groomed, like his dog, like the bodies of
half naked women on the sunny parts of the terraces, who were sifting
through a community bowl of Doritos.
had rolled a large-screen television onto the upper terrace, where four
or five guys sat, nursing beers and watching baseball. They did not introduce