Saturday, February 4, 2012

Reflections: Los Angeles

                                                                                                 Storefront, Los Angeles  2012

In a book I read recently, Los Angeles was described as 'a city that always looks like it was built yesterday.' It's not literally true, of course, but there's a certain poetic truth there. Los Angeles always  feels like the future to me. I think back to when I lived there during the 1990's, to the time when the city banned smoking in bars in 1995. I couldn't imagine such a law would stick, but it did. Los Angeles - world capital of health nuts, of course.

Years later, when I moved to New York, frequented the smokey bars, I couldn't imagine that a similar smoking bill would pass there. And yet, in 2003 - eight years after it happened in LA - the bill successfully passed in NYC (albeit with more of a fight). The vast majority of the country toes the same line now. It's but a small example of the city's progressive nature. What happens today in LA...

A recent, brief trip to LA reminded me of this. Driving around the city, listening to the radio, I felt like I was living in the 21st Century once more. Splendid blue skies, crisp beats pulsating through the speakers...

Austin, where I live now, has a great many virtues I'm sure, but culturally, I feel that I'm forever reading yesterday's news here. In these parts, it's somewhat heretical to criticize the local music scene, and I suppose that if you choose to live in Texas then you're foolish to complain about the preponderance of twangy guitar-driven music. But even on KUT, a fairly decent public radio station (in, as we are told, the self-styled 'Live Music Capital of the World'), I just can't take it any more.

Perhaps it's a result of growing up in England, where new music is hyped to a ridiculous and destructive degree, but it drives me mental to have to listen to music for most of the day that could have been (and often was) recorded at any time during the last twenety-five years - or more. Ezra Pound, with his mantra of 'Make it new!' would have taken the first train out of here. But I digress...

Los remains for me a beautiful and foolish notion, and I still love it, every time I'm there.

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