Observing Los Angeles

Something escapes him about Los Angeles

The New York Times continues to run Verlyn Klinkenborg's occasional musings about Los Angeles, but they seem to be getting shorter. Perhaps he's also running low on material. As he says in Sunday's piece, he keeps imagining that he is "finally going to grasp its essence," but somehow he finds that the essential ness that defines Los Angeles eludes him.

I try to feel its harmonics in my bones. I watch the edges of the freeway to see if there is a clue in the debris the traffic sweeps to the sides. I wonder if there would be room for all these cars if they decided to find parking spots at once.

The iconic glimpses don’t help me in my quest — not the sudden view of the Hollywood sign I get from the Hollywood Freeway, not the view of downtown almost floating in the sunset from Pasadena. Every now and then, I turn a corner and think that something essential is about to be revealed. The feeling intensifies all the way up Venice Boulevard into Culver City, and then I’m on National taking one of those curious hidden freeway entrances and suddenly the feeling vanishes.

Author and book critic David Kipen responds in the form of a tweet: "Imagine the converse: 'I don't get NY. I've looked for its essence in Grand Central Station, on the Brooklyn Bridge, atop the Empire State Building -- everywhere! Why do I even bother?' Why indeed?"

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