Dear Verlyn Klinkenborg,
I just read your May 8 column about your ongoing failquest to find the “real” Los Angeles on nytimes.com today, and if I wasn’t so enamored with your entirely awesome name, I’d have sworn at you three times already, because normally when I read something like what follows, I just want to cuss like a sailor:
Something escapes me about Los Angeles. Wherever I go, I always imagine Iâ€™m finally going to grasp its essence. I try to feel its harmonics in my bones.
I watch the edges of the freeway to see if there is a clue in the debris the traffic sweeps to the sides. I wonder if there would be room for all these cars if they decided to find parking spots at once.
The iconic glimpses donâ€™t help me in my quest â€” not the sudden view of the Hollywood sign I get from the Hollywood Freeway, not the view of downtown almost floating in the sunset from Pasadena. Every now and then, I turn a corner and think that something essential is about to be revealed. The feeling intensifies all the way up Venice Boulevard into Culver City, and then Iâ€™m on National taking one of those curious hidden freeway entrances and suddenly the feeling vanishes.
I’m new to you so I have no knowledge of how long you’ve been in Los Angeles and writing about it. Maybe you’re fresh and fully assimilated into the prevalent car culture. Or maybe you’ve been out here awhile and this is just more of what you’ve been writing. Gawd, I hope not. But either way, as someone who’s a native as well as a perpetual tourist in my own town, I’m the first one to admit your job ain’t easy. I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to feel the city’s harmonics in my bones and it don’t come simple. Having said that I can only wonder if you’re kidding or if you indeed really think you’ll find what you’re looking for strapped in behind the wheel of a vehicle, seemingly addicted to our freeways and one of the more soulless stretches of Venice Boulevard. As such, if you’re at all legitimately interested in ending your deadend game of seek and hide with this wonderful city, I’m going to tender you the following heartfelt advice.
- Get off the 101 or the 10 or the 134 or the 405 — and stay off!
- Get out of your goddam car — and stay out!
- Get somewhere. On foot, on a bike, on a bus or a train — but for gawd sakes as much as you might want to don’t go to City Walk, or LA Live or the Grove. Go to a Dodger game. Go to Boyle Heights. Go to Union Station. The LA River. Go to Leimert Park. MacArthur Park. Go to the Watts. West Adams. San Fernando Mission. Venice.
Of course if you sincerely think that eye-spying shoulder trash and stalking onramps is the way to go about grasping at any of this city’s essence then my advice will be lost on you. And if so, tell you what: get out. Because it’s never going to happen. You’re just going to pound out more banal columns bemoaning Los Angeles as always being beyond the reach of your vestigial intellect.
So either get your boots on the ground and get busy or do yourself and L.A. a favor and order yourself up a window seat back to NYC. and as the jetbird swings back over land after its LAX take off over the ocean, look down. You’ll have just as good a chance of harmonizing with our lost city from that removed and encapsulated a vantage point as you would from a car stuck in traffic on the 110. And when that fails to happen you should have no trouble picking out the 10 and the 101 and the 405 and the 134 from the grid below and remembering all the good times you had on them.