Thursday, February 2, 2012

Iconic LA: Platform for Freedom

LOS ANGELES is the freeway: crisscrossing structures of concrete and steel, twisting into the transitory bliss of a momentary open road. The winding roads lead in and out of the many segregated parts of the city, connecting each through a rushing river of automobiles. Pavement cracks under the friction of mankind’s spinning wheel.                 

I could find no single part of the city that could encompass my conceptualization of Los Angeles. I racked my mind: Venice, with its murals painted across stone, Downtown’s historic core filled with fainted memories, Beverly Hills and all its glamour, Hollywood, with a star-studded walkway of the more or less famous, and East Los Angeles, a collage of tiny shops and, of course, the beloved taco stands. Undoubtedly, there is yet more for me to discover in the endless, sprawling city. In this way, the many distinct parts of Los Angeles combine to create one identity. To pick one place to represent the entire city would be impossible, for each is all too separate to describe another.
Yet despite the segregation of these areas, the layers of the city connect through the highways that run through them. From the overarching highway, my eyes capture the sight of the city’s sprawl encircled by distant mountaintops. To me, in all ways, Los Angeles is the road that is continually paved and repaved. It crumbles, and is renewed. It can be either a path to a dream fulfilled, or a road with a dead end. The life it sustains rushes and slows, whether it holds its citizens captive, or serves as their liberator.

People migrate to Los Angeles to escape and chase their dreams, seeking the opportunities unavailable anywhere else, simply because, well, it’s the City of the Stars. An open road awaits—most often at night—for the dreamers. Others, though, break against the pristine surface, victims to the daily grind, which is a continual beat upon pavement that shatters a glass-like illusion of perfection. They are stuck in a no man’s land, the road jammed between the forces of other citizens that together all say move forward.  
The highway brings the people of Los Angeles together in one circuit of flowing motion. The road may not always provide the mobility as originally imagined, much like the city’s sparkling, glamorous, but false illusion perpetuated by popular culture. The highway, much like the city itself, can be a platform for freedom, or for disappointment. There is no other place that I can imagine that might represent Los Angeles better than the roads that intertwine among such a diverse city. The city can be a morning sitting in traffic, trapped and frustrated, or it can be a night driving an exhilarating 70 MPH on an empty 405-freeway. Continually a conflict of capture and release, this is Los Angeles.
-- Jennifer Pellarito 

photos:  bossco via flickr creative commons (top), jennifer pellarito (bottom)

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