Last night I agreed to drive a friend to Highland Park, yet another place in Los Angeles that I had never been. She directed me as we drove east and then north on the Pasadena freeway, then through a labyrinth of graffiti-ridden streets, donut shops and convenience stores and Chinese food restaurants and fast food restaurants and slithering on into a realm of repression-hit homes, flaking, breaking bungalows and neglected apartment complexes. The homes are built on angles, into bluffs, overlooking cliffs, crooked like rows of rotting teeth, and we're still rolling forward, farther and farther from the freeway, farther from the delicate vein of transit that will connect me home. I feel severed, then, realizing I've lost track of the twists and turns we've taken away from familiarity. I drive up a steep, cracked and weathered hill and down into a winding, shallow canyon where we finally make it to a cul de sac, a crescent moon of pleasant, well-maintained houses precariously embedded into a cliff.
Across my dashboard I could see deep into a gutted valley sprinkled with trees and pastel colored houses and complex webs of telephone wires. "So, do you know how to get back?" My friend asks casually, stepping out of the car in leather, Jeffrey Campbell platform heels. I could ask for point by point directions or program "current location" and "destination" into my phone, put I choose to get lost.
I put on Lana Del Rey, the most quintessentially Los Angeles artist of the moment, and begin tracing my way back to the freeway. My memory of streets begins to fade and each time the road parts I seem to choose the wrong direction. It is nighttime now. A starless night, the only light comes from living rooms--darkness and spray paint intentionally obscure the names on street signs. I find myself on a road so narrow that my car brushes up occasionally against the row of cars parked on my right and the spray of trees poke their arms through my slightly cracked window on my left while Lana laments an absent lover...a man who chose the futile chase of money over her love. In Los Angeles, everybody wants money and acceptance, money and validation. Or we want validation and think money will bring it to us, think that having somebody to love will prove to ourselves that we are legitimate, valid creatures. Here, love is interchangeable with money; it is a commodity we use to prove our worth. Interchangeable with money, love is cheapened easily in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, everybody wants to be told they exist. In Los Angeles, everybody wants to be found.
-- Zahra Lipson
Photo Credit: thedukeofla.tumblr.com