Thursday, January 27, 2011

Open letter to Los Angeles.

Dear Greater Los Angeles Area,

I know that you hogged up all the water and that you are pocked with areas of shocking blight. When we drove through Watts, for instance, trying to find the Watts Towers, we counted liquor stores and storefront churches. Over and over. Also, payday loan shops.

There is no way to make sense of you, Greater Los Angeles Area. Are you a city? or are you a hegemonic force? Even so, when we drove up Western Avenue, all the way to Griffith Park, there was Koreatown and Little Armenia. I can never know the half of you.

When I think of the place I'd most like to go to recoup my losses or gather my wits or retrieve some long-lost part of myself, you are what comes to mind.

Dear Los Angeles, I think of you as radiating out in waves from the port, and so I include the San Bernardino mountains and the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea and Indio and all the deserts beyond. These are the places people go to escape you, to get beyond you, but for me all of it retains the tang of you.

As for your vaunted fake shine: it is something I have seen on television and read about in magazines, more a story than anything I really know. I think this is because what I think of as Los Angeles--you--is not really. Once, an old friend said, "We never ventured into L.A.," meaning, I think, that we from the South Bay were a kind of provincial--our beaches, our malls, our peninsula were not Los Angeles proper.

But I never knew that. I had come from Tucson, Arizona, and before that, from Japan. The South Bay was L.A., it was that simple. It took years for me to parse that geography. I am parsing it still.

So out in the desert, it is still, somehow, L.A. Somehow you. At Point Vicente, where we know the earth shifted and shifts still, where there is evidence of the Tongva people. In the great ports to the south of that. Even the Port of Los Angeles--it's in Long Beach, in San Pedro. Even what you are, you aren't.

Or something like that, but it doesn't really matter. I want, I long for you. I want to stand on the ground where the wind turbines whirl at the San Gorgonio Pass. I want to drive on the Twenty Nine Palms Highway again and eat Mexican food at your not-illustrious cafes. I want to see the Salton Sea. And I will call it all by your name.


Lisa B.


  1. Love this. You should do boom of prose poetry consisting entirely of letters.

  2. Awesome.
    And interesting. I think the places we come from are not the places others think they are and so, when faced with their representations, we doubt our real experiences.
    Also, I now want Mexican food.

  3. I'm with Amelia. You should write that volume. And I am also with Dr. Write. Awesome. And wow. When I came to your blog this morning, I expected to be entertained. Which I was, but I'm also really moved.

  4. This is a great freaking piece of writing.

    Also, when I flew into MLA this year, I was struck for the first time with the sheer scale, and the grim cement monotony, of the place.

  5. And you made it into a very lovely broadside. Are you going to post said broadside here?

    Oh and I am still waiting for your contribution to the Mobile Poetry Revolutionary Collective. Would you be more likely to submit if I moved it to my professional blog (as I am contemplating.)

  6. The weather here has been stunning this January. Stunning!!! Then again, winter is always marvelous here; it's the rest of the year that's the problem.

    (Did I mention I'm wearing shorts and T-shirts these days?)

    This is my 13th year in Los Angeles. At some point I'm going to have to admit it's my home... since the majority of my adult life has been spent here. I remember driving the folks back from Ojai after Christmas a year ago, coming up and over the Sepulveda Pass and thinking, "This is my home. Big weird place that it is."

    If I ever leave, however, I'm sure I will yearn for it.



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