Dearest Readers! I give to you, as the play of my Labor Day, my carefully constructed invitation for an upcoming soiree in honor of my departure from Los Angeles:
To my immense sorrow, I must now serve as the herald of a great empire’s immanent collapse.
Taxes levied have been too high.The funds that might have served the people have been squandered on the excesses of the elite. What once stood as a gleaming beacon, a power with which few would dare to reckon, is now meager, paltry and insufficient. The city is lost. But I beg of you: let me fiddle in your company as the the towers of this, the Empire of my presence in lovely, decadent Los Angeles, are swallowed by the flames of time and progress, relentless harpies that they are.
Yes, oh beloved citizens of the sprawl, I must depart for the rust belt charms of Cleveland, Ohio*, pale though such charms will always be in comparison to those once offered by our shared, our sweet Los Angeles.
Join me in one last, one great, one bacchanalian** celebration before my departure. We will drink beer in the light of the late summer sun. We will eat cloven-hooved animals***. We will laugh and carouse as the epoch of my glory comes to its fiery close.
*I am taking a job as the Baker-Nord Center Postdoctoral Scholar in the Digital Humanities at Case Western Reserve University.+
**Togas are welcome but not required. Wine stored in the stretched and dried intestines of animals, also welcome, as will be sacrificial offerings to the gods.
***It’s a barbecue. Bring some booze. Some foodstuffs. Some friends. Something to throw on the grill. Or bring nothing but your welcome selves. Some beer and some carnitas will be provided.
+Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is my title. But I would prefer it if you would refer to me, over the course of the party, simply as ‘Caligul-alli’.
All urban centers are filled with dwellers and visitors just about to depart. It is, partly, the constant population flux that makes cities compelling to explore, to live in, to pass through. Los Angeles has its own very particular place in the global landscape as a city of flows. People come and breath the smoggy stuff of it in. They love it or hate it or nestle into an ambivalence about it. Then life interferes and sends them meandering elsewhere. They leave. Or, sometimes, they stay. Either way these movements change the city, and in turn, make it the sort of strange and compelling ecology that transforms those who move within it.
I am, alas, quickly nearing my departure from Los Angeles. There is very little conflict in my feeling about this city. I adore it. I swoon. I am drunk with love for Los Angeles. But leave it, I must.
I’m Cleveland bound, dear readers. And that may mean for you more exciting and exploratory posts. For me, it means an adventure and a mourning. I already feel the terrible weight of this loss. Los Angeles is the city of my coming of a certain age, the city that housed my least bearable sorrows and served as harbor for my most brilliant joys.
Los Angeles is a city that must be sick with the trite, the inadequate ways I and many (and better*) writers before me could list its gifts. Those who have named its faults (and there have been many**) did so with sometimes vicious and intentional, sometimes naive myopia. The city responded to both with equal indifference. She*** will treat me as she did them. If there is any feeling that might come for her in response to my departure, it will be, at most, a negligible sorrow.
Ohio calls. And many other places call many other Angelenos, and would-be Angelenos, and passers-through and by. When those calls come, Los Angeles mocks them. Or at least she seems to for me. She glistens in the sun. She whispers about her mild winters and lets maps to her secret corners unfurl on the desk. She coyly offers a picture of just what a bitch she will be if you really do leave her. I am a sucker for her charms in just the way an itinerant urbanite would be. I’m sure that as soon as I really walk out the door I will be filled with regret that I did. I’ll pay for leaving.
But such are the manic loves offered by the lovers of cities, and such are the cities worthy of such ridiculous, impossible loves.
Los Angeles will be for me, perhaps always, the city that got away. In fact she might be such for most visitors, for most native-born, even for those still held in her particular, bizarre embrace. She is a city a heart can love until it breaks. Unknowable but familiar, she returns affection only partially. Sprawling, traffic-clogged, imperfect—magical.
I just may spend my life wanting desperately to return.
Take me back, someday, Los Angeles. Please.****
*Reyner Banham was a lover of Los Angeles, more faithful than most. To name just one.
**Nathanael West did not, it seems, really love Los Angeles. He did not suffer from the myopia to which I refer but he wrote poor Todd Hackett and Homer Simpson into being so that they seem only able to view, if lustfully, the awful, the violent, the wretched phenomenon of the city as it was.
***I struggled with choosing the gender in my anthropomorphization of the city. I settled on this particular pronoun not because I in any way support the tropes that perform in our language what translates in our culture to the asymmetrical distribution of power by gender, but because the depth and breadth of my love for Los Angeles is the sort I have felt in my life far more often for women than for men. I trust you, dear visitors, to read it thusly.
****I recognize that this post takes itself and its prose too seriously. So be it. I am serious about loving Los Angeles.