Hello L.A.
January 13, 1998

Views From Metropolis


Wendy M. Pfeiffer

Part 1 in a Series

Moving to this metropolis has mesmerized me. I am blown away by a
place where social nuance is expressed in shoe styles and politics are a
hairdo. As I feel the shock fading into acceptance, I am filled with fear
that I will lose the sense of contrast that so dominates my days. That
alliteration will become an affectation rather than an expression.
I will create a record of this metamorphosis. I will broadcast it to
everyone who "knew" me. Perhaps this will preserve the person I knew as
Wendy. ( I liked her, but she, clearly, does not fit in here.) I am being
sucked into the hype of here. I will emerge in some different form---at
least more packaged in appearance. I wonder if appearance drives values?
At least I still recognize the difference.

I grew up hating LA. It meant consumption and violence and
indulgence. LA used our water to irrigate theme parks while our gardens
died off. Sure, LA brought jobs to the state, but at what cost to our
agriculture and our way of life? And the people were
so...transparently...materialistic. Except for the ones living in Watts,
of course. They were just---frightening.
I never bothered to update these perceptions. In my 30's, my life was
organized around Silicon Valley, and its style of consumption. There was
naturally something more genteel about the blatant display of wealth and
status, the isolation and social hierarchy of that technocosm.
And so, I am blown away by this place. The slower pace. The bohemian
attitudes that create an aesthetically-balanced environment. The emphasis
on pleasure and family and the zest for life. The joy of style as life and
life as self-expression. The beautiful ocean and blatant pollution. The
social insulation so total and so effective that this place seems complete.
What was I doing for so long on the outside? Isn't it better now that I'm
here? Shouldn't I just let go---give in?

The other day, we were in the bar of a huge kosher Jewish New
York-style delicatessen of the kind only found in Hollywood. Street people
and movie producers mingled over bottles of beer and homemade bagel chips
while a strung-out pianist croaked Christmas blues tunes with the house
band to raise money for a guy recently involved in a serious car accident.
It was a hit and run, and they paralyzed him and stole his guitar. The
money was being raised to buy a new guitar. We didn't donate anything---it
seemed so hopeless.
The vinyl-clad transvestites at the bar were alternately leering at
the fat Elvira girlfriend of the bass player and cheering for the gaggle of
eager harmonica players waiting for their turn at the open mic. A young
Andy Warhol shared a Budweiser with a young Yoko Ono. And I felt perfectly
normal, perfectly fine. The pastrami was excellent, the pickles homemade.

Anyway, that's the view from here.