Friday, January 19, 2007

LA: Our Dear Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

Helicopters have circled me in the past few hours. The first one was monitoring some police activity on a corner as I walked out of work in West Hollywood. 10 miles away and two hours later another police helicopter was beaming its searchlight in search of some troublemaker

The everpresent police and news helicopters contribute to LA's Terminator-esque, post-nuclear armegeddon feel. Helicopters zoom by as the humans fight a losing battle against the Machine army. The vertical order of Manhattan's skyscape has spilled into an 11,000 square mile basin of urban/suburban seizue. The suburbs are impregnated within the city, and no one can accurately tell you where Los Angeles ends. I would venture to say that it spreads east 10 miles before Palm Springs. If Camp Pendleton were not there, the LA and San Diego metropolitan areas would have merged into one.

Concrete arteries are spill over with steel during rush hours. Rush hour seems to take up most of the day, as 2 pm marks the beginning of the afternoon gridlock. The city seizes into virtual paralyzation, with commutes that take significant chunks of one's life.

Having come from the east coast, I am used to building codes that ensure development maintains a colonial, columned brick house aesthetic. Anything goes in LA. Strip malls and shopping centers are the kings, with urban high rise randomly clustered across the skyline. Due to the conspicuous absence of homey pedestrian streets, some wise developer built a widely successful shopping center in this model, with a trolley car and all.

Those with money display it in a gaudy glory. $300,000 Ferraris and Bentleys are daily sights in West LA. In a town where a two bedroom on a fifth of an acre will cost you $750,000, 20 bedroom marble mansions dot the hills in the hills.

A twenty minute from what is perhaps the world's densest concentration of wealth will take you to the territory of raging gang wars and drive by shootings. LA mayor Villaragosa recently asked for federal intervention in stopping the uncontrollable gang violence. In several areas Latino gangs are shooting all blacks, including children, on sight.

So here we have it. The world's richest, most creative, gang banging, gridlocked post apolocalyptic wonderworld. Welcome home.

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