Saturday, June 14, 2008

Visions of Los Angeles

Everybody here
Comes from somewhere
That they’d just as soon forget
And disguise

— R.E.M.

LOS ANGELES — California, they say, gets to the future of America before anywhere else. If that’s true, this city (with more showroom-sweet Mercedeses per square yard than any place outside German or Saudi Arabia) is sending a signal: that $4-a-gallon gas you’ve been dreading is already in the rear-view mirror. You just didn’t see it coming up on you that fast … and now you’re on your way to $5 a gallon … and life goes colorfully on.

Life under the Bear Flag has always been a thing apart, the state representing the world’s sixth-largest economy is occupied by a patchwork diversity of people who’ve made their separate peace with reality (despite, like the rest of us, being shackled to it).

It’s there when you get off the plane at LAX. The heat that shimmers just outside the terminal. That sense of permission, of the undying possible that permeates everything. Welcome to the dream machine, run by a former bodybuilder from Austria. A filmmaker born in Arizona. An artist born in England. A police chief born in Boston. Welcome ye vagabonds. You’re in the right place for ... everything.

Walk down Wilshire Boulevard. Spanish mingles with French, Korean with Thai. A tanned, muscular cool that takes everything in 80-degree stride; shirtless, hairless, hatless, melanoma be damned. The Lakers are in the NBA finals. It’s another beautiful day. With enough time, money, Botox and CGI, there’s nothing these people can’t do. “See Rome and die”? Maybe. But somehow, you’d rather see L.A. and live. What’s your hurry? It’ll be there tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Whatever “it” is.

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