Friday, February 3, 2012

Iconic LA: "An Ocean View"

DRIVING WEST on Grande Avenue in El Segundo, CA is nothing really special. It could be any street in almost any part of the country. People running and walking their dogs, down the street lined with normal looking houses and apartments. Once your car gets past all of the houses, the sidewalk is now lined with tall trees, unsuccessfully covering tall fences on either side of the street. You follow the curve of the road and as you come around the turn you are smacked in the face with the endless, peaceful ocean. The ocean itself is a huge landscape of Los Angeles and yet the waves alone are not what make this scene distinct to Los Angeles.

Your perfect view is interrupted by the oil tanker sitting in the middle of your peaceful horizon. Your nostrils begin to fill with the fumes of rotten sewage and the ocean in front of you seems miles away. What would normally be the scent of refreshing seawater, perhaps littered with a whiff or two of ocean dwelling fish is now completely overcome with a smell worse than fish. As someone who absolutely despises the smell of fish this is huge to say. The rank odor of cleaning rotten water makes you feel as if you are underground, desperately trying to find a manhole somewhere to escape through. Unfortunately, the drive to get past the smell is over a mile long. The cause of this smell is the Hyperion water purifying plant to your right, and even with your windows closed the putrid smell starts to fill your car, overpowering any hope to smell the salty air the sea brings. One cannot help but chuckle at the line of palm trees that surround the entrance to the water plant, unfortunately palm trees do not have an odor that would mask the smell.

What makes this drive iconic of Los Angeles is the clear intertwining of the natural setting Los Angeles provides, such as the ocean, and then polluting it with factories and treatment plants. Utopia meeting arcadia is a theme seen all around Los Angeles even in the quaint little town of El Segundo. El Segundo tries so hard to be distinct from Los Angeles and yet that ocean drive would never be seen anywhere else. When you drive along the ocean going up to northern California, there are houses, little beach front towns and boardwalks galore, but no where else have I ever seen an ocean view paired with a Oil refinery and water treatment plant. Perhaps it is the adding of palm trees next to these unnatural existences that bring out the irony even more. The ocean will always be beautiful but the El Segundo beach may not be the beach people expect when they think of Los Angeles, but being disappointed is also something that is iconic of Los Angeles.

--Mickala Jauregui
photo: hyperion water treatment plant, el segundo
credit: szeke via flickr creative commons

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