If you ever forget how extraordinary Los Angeles is, watch the sun rise up just once from Griffith Observatory. View Los Angeles from an overly comfortable distance as the microcosm it really is. Just 469 square miles of an urban/beach paradise with a Subtropical-Mediterranean climate and something special in the air. Your eyes will initially be pulled to the concrete and glass jungle that makes up Downtown LA. It is perceptively cold and motionless on this particular Sunday morning. I suppose even major cities are entitled to sleep in now and again. At hardly a glance away you cannot help but focus on the much smaller but brightly illuminated streets of Hollywood. It gives off the buzz of a scene just after a crime. It is obvious that at some point not very long ago a smoldering fire of entertainment was burning with excitement. Now all that’s left is a grey haze of its final die hard ashes. To the far west you gaze into the visual eternity that is the Pacific Ocean. Harmonious swells that have traveled incalculable distances finally break into waves and come crashing home into the Santa Monica sand. Underlining all these regions is the sprawling suburbs that make up the vast South Los Angeles County. Every niche of the city is completely different but somehow they all seem to bellow the same tune, “I am Los Angeles.” It’s a genuinely simple declaration that speaks for itself. Nothing more or less, just the assuming whisper that there is no other place on earth like it.
(Please allow a short break for historical satire as well as my apologies to my History of California Professors. It was not your fault… it was me.)
Dating way back to ‘who the hell knows when’ the big O.A.’s, or the Original Angelenos, where the native Chumash people. Unlike other native tribes the Chumash where know for their peaceful characteristics and viable farming/gathering techniques. But what really separated the Chumash apart was their creativity and art work. Rock paintings, elaborate shell jewelry, and appealing baskets where so intricate that they where used as currency when trading with outside tribes. They were easier times to be an Angeleno. The only smoke in the air was coming from Pablo Tac’s pipe and I’m almost positive there was no traffic on what would some day become the beastly and expectedly cruel 405 freeway. Flash forward to another frivolous date a really long time ago.
It had been a couple centuries or so since the Spanish had conquered (a.k.a. annihilated) the Aztec Empire and things were starting to get a little boring down south. So in the name of God and taxes they set out on a series of missions into an uncharted world with hopes of spreading Christianity, Measles, the Spanish language, and a bunch of bullshit rules like it was back when we where in middle school. The natives where feeble at best and had little choice but to roll over faster then Bill Clinton’s female interns. Stories of Los Angeles and California’s beautiful topography were relayed back to Spain. The new land of ‘Milk and Honey’ was as advertised. Adventurous and desperate Spaniards alike joined in on the opportunity to help colonize Alta California.
This lasted for hundreds or thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of years I’m not sure I was not actually there. Regardless, what comes around goes around and the Gallegos found out the hard way that Montezuma’s Revenge was more then just a case of a horribly upset stomach. After countless years of imperial bullying of the small kids on the block, a balding old man named Miguel Hidalgo cried out so passionately from the city of Dolores that the conquistadors had no other choice but to pack up their Chorizo with Gazpacho and head home. The ones that chose to stay in the LA area became Mexicans. The Natives (what was left of them) where required to fill out the INS Form I-151 in hopes of receiving a Green Card and a permanent residency.
Mexico’s victory was relatively short and sweet. Their nation was struggling internally and on the verge of combustion while the United States was firing on every cylinder. History just loves to repeat itself, so the United States, feeling oh so hot and heavy decided it was their manifested destiny to expand forward, conquer, and imperialize. Sure, Davy Crockett would bite the bullet but the Yankees would beat the Dodgers… again. Flags and patriotic loyalties where traded in for their new colors. As for the natives who where now mostly a mesclado or mixed race, they would be required to carry a driver’s license and birth certificate at all times.
California was the 31st state of the union and Los Angeles her uncrowned queen. The idea of the dangerous and opportunistic Wild West was born by some uncalculated drunk cowboy that John Wayne or Montgomery Clift would later echo (in Hollywood) to great praise. A new breed of tactful participants bolted to California in search of all the artificial dreams that can keep a person up at night. With the railroads came more people. With the discovery of gold and oil came even more people. The Hollywood boom, the wars, countless major expansions, and the people would just keep on coming. Time travel: Present day.
The city is alive, it is a beating heart. But it’s really the Angelenos that supply its enduring rhythm and imperative blood. With almost four million residences, one out every six work a job related to the creative field that makes LA the entertainment capital of the world. It’s hard to imagine the Chumash not being proud that art and creative people of all facets are alive and thriving to a larger degree then any other place in history. Los Angeles is an alpha world city with respectively the third largest economic center in the world. The working force is dense and imaginative. Spanish influence is hard to escape. Somewhere maybe Queen Isabella celebrates. ¡Es absolutamente imposible ir a cualquier parte de la ciudad y no oír Español, oler tacos, o ver un guey representando la bandera mexicana!
The perception of everything being brighter in California has never dimmed. People from every demographic and corner of the world still dream of someday coming here to manifest dreams or to just fit in some way to the madness. The principle concept being, if you can make it here not only can you make gold but be it. The people are as unique and brilliant as the area they encompass. From the historical to the present, natives to the foreign, blue to white collar, dreamers or realists, they are all here and desired contributing pieces to the crazy puzzle that makes this open-minded place complete. Their words and traits obviously differ immensely but their actions all bellow the same tune, “I am Los Angeles.”