Red Dawn Silhouettes - Burbank, California
"..,19. What is the city's greatest secret?
I think the people of LA are its biggest secret. You have to live here for about two or three years before you realize that, if you look hard enough, you'll find lots of people who are generous and down to earth and smart and fun and who just make sense to you. But in the beginning, newbies tend to wind up at some awful club that makes them think, 'Who are these mutants and what the hell am I doing in this scary, scary city?'"
-- from 2004 LAist interview with Heather Havrilesky
"Just as Los Angeles pretends to be a suitable home for several million human beings, when it is, in truth, a horrible sprawling sham packed with overpriced stucco hovels on tiny tracts of land, a gigantic human mistake that demands resources pumped and trucked and shipped in from faraway places, so, too, does "Nurse Jackie" pretend to be a comedy (or a drama?) suitable for several million viewers, when it is, in truth, a disjointed, reckless sham packed with bewitching jokes, a wicked romp that ultimately goes nowhere. At the end of the season, Jackie is the same mysterious blank slate that she was at the beginning."
-- from Havrilesky's current article titled "Going Down in Flames"
What a difference five years makes. I agree with Havrilesky's first assessment in 2004. LA is not a comfortable or friendly city but it has its undeniable charms. I disagree but sympathize with her second compare/contrast crankiness. She's stretched the flaming metaphor from today's horrendous fire storms into the hinterlands of cable TV's wasteland. I can only surmise that she wants the nonsensical "Nurse Jackie" to self destruct for real by refusing Havrilesky's evacuation order.
Because Havrilesky continues to live in Eagle Rock - a neighborhood in northeastern Los Angeles, I'm convinced that she normally tolerates LA pretty well, but has succumbed to "post traumatic fire storm stress", a little known syndrome that afflicts everyone in the greater LA area on days like today. I'm feeling a little ptfsss myself.
When I get all ptfsssee, I remember my first end-of-summer fire season about twenty plus years ago. *sigh*.. cough, cough, gag..
My first husband and I arrived in Hollywood from the scorching desert of Phoenix, Arizona. We were both musicians and had exhausted the show band, road band, original band, bar band avenues from New York City, to Kansas City, to Denver, to Chicago, to Hawaii, to Seattle, to Vegas, and finally back to the old home town, Phoenix. The music business was such an exhilarating, tough, bitch no matter where or how we pursued it. Only one place remained that held out some hope of recognition and employment: Los Angeles.
We drove into Los Angeles and looked up at the smoggy sky, studded with bits of ash and grit. It brought tears to our eyes and a wheeze to my smoker's lungs. Back then, nothing would deter us from our creative delusions, erm.... destiny. We were young - we'd been everywhere. LA treated us no better and no worse than other big cities. It was a "why not."
We got a creepy apartment in Hollywood - on Argyle, and the husband/bass player was working in a nightclub with the "promise" of studio work to come. I had minimal typing skills which allowed me to work as a junior clerk/secretary in a small film company. Once in a while, I'd get a call for a paying gig, singing for weddings or backups. Our baby was farmed out eight hours a day to an in-home babysitter several blocks away, and we worked. We worked hard. We paid bills. We worked even harder and sometimes went to a party or a club together. We made a few friends, mostly musicians and minor film industry people. We fell into the LA industry scene where "promises" were made with firm handshakes and art was created "on spec" and "promoters" got their jingles, and/or demos, and/or creative projects for free. We fell into the hope of making money from art and we lived on the edge of the entertainment industry conveyor belt, eventually falling off and falling apart.
I took the baby, and quickly faced the reality of my dreams and illusions. A happy marriage? Crushed. Stardom? Shattered. Wealth? Let me just get my hand to my mouth, please. Do I want to move back home with Mom and Dad? I'm too old and proud. Can I claw my way back to a decent life in this place? I'm young, energetic and already clawing, so why not?
Over the years, the clawing has diminished and the reality checks have increased. Do I love LA? Sure, why not. It is a town with a few thriving industries that employ millions of hard working people. It is an industry town with fat paychecks and fat egos. The most important thing to understand, however, is that LA and most fast-paced urban centers belong to the young, energetic and hard working folk. People can yammer about natural disasters, belch out "it's not pretty" snobbery, whine about bad traffic, get righteous about bad air quality, sneer at car worship, and hide behind these negative smoke screens while they harbor the real reason they bash the big dog - it's overwhelming. People who live here have to be fearless. On a day like today, when over 30,000 acres of virgin and urban forest are burning to cinders and ash, I am overwhelmed by this place. I hate this feeling and the mental mechanisms I must use to maintain sanity, but by this time next week, the threat will be gone. I'll feel more in control of my life - free to move about the city without a mental seat belt.
Will I retire here in LaLa land? Hmmm. The older I get, the more I see the appeal of a calm, Pleasantville environment - not too hot, not too colorful, safe and predictable. I'm sure it's out there and when the time comes, I'll jump in my hybrid and find it. (Don't worry Austin, you won't see me migrate to your pristine oasis on the hellish Texas plains. I'll be looking for a nice place which includes nice people, please.)
Pleasantville's first-ever rainstorm]
Big Bob: Well, we're safe for now. Thank goodness we're in a bowling alley.
May all beings affected by wildfires know love and peace
May all beings affected by wildfires know love and peace