As I get older and a little less ornery, shedding some of the idealistic righteous anger developed during adolescence and young adulthood, I discover that my perspectives on things I once abhorred or disdained are shifting, ever so slightly, towards tolerance. For example, I have suddenly found, to my surprise, that I no longer am harboring hatred towards Los Angeles or San Diego (sentiments which could be gathered in my last post before I left for these destinations). Maybe it’s just because the weather is summertime hot and sunny, the flowers are blooming, and women are scantily clad. Or maybe it’s just because I’m so grateful to be on vacation and no longer in a winter enshrouded location. Whatever the case, I even felt a kind of rekindling of love in my heart for Southern Cali, which once only aroused my ire. Sure, the traffic is still horrendous and the Bel Air inhabitants still superficial. Sure the cities are still ever sprawling and politically mismanaged. Sure, water is still wasted by the gallons daily on manicured lawnscapes and fruitless shrubberies. But for the first time in Los Angeles, I felt a real sense of community, whereas before I only felt detachment and isolation. The Mexican communities, the Korean communities, etc, are all thriving and bustling and filled with life and interconnectiveness. It’s akin to the perspectival paradigm shift that I felt in Perú, in regards to Lima–at first it was just a big dirty crowded city, but by the end, I saw it as colorful, vibrant, and beautiful. I suppose it is really simply a matter of the places that one sees, and the viewpoint that one gets from that particular position. When I lived there before, I lived in an overly expensive, disconnected-from-reality area, and that tainted all of my experiences, because I didn’t own a car and thus rarely ventured far from that established viewpoint. This time in LA, we acted more as tourists–we went to the tarpits (did you know that there were native camels in the LA basin?), we went to Olvera St and ate some excellent comida Mexicana. I also visited my friend’s ecovillage in the heart of Koreatown and ate salad greens picked fresh from his garden. We went out to see live cumbia in a bar smaller than an armpit (definitely not up to firecode) where there were no signs except for a little piece of cardboard telling you to go around back, where it was so crowded you could only kind of stand there and sway and jump up and down, but it still was good.
In San Diego, the 80 degree weather is maybe just slightly too hot, but it’s still a welcome change from snow embankments and icy walkways. Walking along the beach, smelling the flower laden air, running along the boardwalk . . .suddenly San Diego doesn’t seem so shitty. Sure, the city is corrupt and the traffic is getting just as bad as LA’s (give it 5 more years). Sure, the music scene is still dead and the sense of community is often missing. But it’s a place to live, and there’s always the everpresence of the ocean, primal, impervious to human pettiness.
There are certain overarching tendencies in any given city, which lends its force and inertia to the general vibe and flow of lifestyle and commerce. But within these dominant trends there are also eddies and subcurrents of wholly different and unique peoples and mindsets and musics. Let’s be honest, Los Angeles really does typify many of the stereotypes that it is branded with: there’s a lot of really superficial, boob-jobbed MILFs and shiny luxury cars and actor wannabes living on credit and sheer appearance. It’s Hollywood, it’s Beverly Hills, it’s Bel Air, it’s Westwood. But then there’s East LA. There’s Watts. There’s Compton. There’s Skid Row. There’s concrete fortress towers of luxury condos and then there’s rows of cardboard box houses right along outside. There’s the appearance and then there’s the reality. There’s the movie and then there’s the living life coming to the block near you.
And really, of course, ultimately, what it really comes down to–in any place where you might happen to reside in–is you, and what you choose to do with what is available. Is you, creating new perceptions or simply going along with whatever the latest herd fashion fed to you on the billboards, the radio, the TVs, the clubs. Is you, fighting to find what makes you alive, fighting for friendships that give you strength, fighting for love that gives you wisdom, fighting for space that allows you to grow. This can happen anywhere, in any city, at any time. Guess it just took me a while to grow up and learn to stop blaming everything around me for keeping me down, when all I really had to blame was myself for not reaching out.