Because there just aren’t enough cliche-sodden essays about Los Angeles, here is a nice one about why Los Angeles is a bad place from the Atlantic back from 2005.
First off, LA has no *heart*. A city needs a heart, and it needs to be pulsating. A pulsating heart.
Honesty, pulsating? Shouldn’t writing in the Atlantic, I dunno, have fresh prose and ideas? Pulsating. Go out and Google Pulsating Heart City. This is what your pages look like:
Ok. I’m just saying: if your theory about the city has ever been used in the cheap hotel equivalent of the J. Peterman catalog-writing style, it’s not a particularly deep bit of thinking.
Here’s the other major problem that defines LA as the anti-city. You have to be able to see all of a city from one vantage point for it to be a city, and you can’t do that in LA. Like you can see all of Paris. Well, um, no, you can’t.
Nor can you see all of New York from one spot. I’m not just talking the ritzy parts that make their way into Sex and the City pan-views. I mean the whole shebang–the part where we admit that the entire east coast of the US is pavement from Boston to northern Virginia?
One of my favorite books about Los Angeles is called The Prismatic Metropolis. They didn’t get the memo about how one gaze and perspective, not unlike the One Ring, rules them all–at least in real cities.
The Atlantic essay captures why a lot of writing on urbanism is just so useless, and why my social scientist colleagues roll their eyes when we get started on urbanism as a topic. In this dude’s case, he’s rehashing and reducing Kevin Lynch and deciding that he doesn’t like Kevin Starr or Los Angeles, and he has to dress up his personal dislike in abstractions and metaphors–so they seem like a generalizable theory–but which don’t actually make any sense when you think about them rather than just go with whatever tired cultural symbolism about LA we pull out of the box.
You can probably see all of Lamont, IA, population 503, if you stand about 2 miles down the road from it.
Lamont, IA, is a dying city in all likelihood. Here is the one house for sale on Zillow. How cute is that place, by the way? 2,000 square feet. For $85,000. *Dude.* I can write a check for that.
When I do a Zillow search for $85,000 homes in Los Angeles city and in Los Angeles county, I find nothing but trailers, vacant land, and rentals that the realtors have input incorrectly into Zillow. I repeat: trailers, vacant land, and rentals. Oh, btw, since it’s looking like most of the small-ish bits of vacant land run at least $60K to 70K, you can’t afford to put your mobile home that costs you less than $85,000 anywhere in LA county for $85K total, as you need at least $60K for the land.
Shouldn’t a dying place be cheaper than this? If we are dying, could more people sell off their houses in a panic and move to Manhattan, with it’s pulsating heartiness–so I could afford a house in LA?