evolutionary theory / by laurel

I doubt that I'll ever feel at home in Los Angeles.

Everything in LA, to me, (me being more or less an outsider in the sense that I grew up elsewhere) reflects the desert that's around it.

The desert is the anti-landscape. It doesn't screech and moan the way the skyscrapers do, nor does it pour flurries of incoherent babble into the atmosphere like the low-lying Lego-cities around it. When the desert speaks, it is in a murmur, barely audible, an aural whisper both passive and menacing.

It's a tremendous void containing much, but offering little. When I push my feet through the dusty terrain I feel distinctly alien, like a man on the moon, a conquistador stomping over the spoils of ingenuity. The desertscape would seek to expel all inhabitants that aren't naturally cultivated within the grasp of its arid biosphere. That's why Los Angeles is buckling under the effect of the evolutionary sprawl.

The farther our top floors shoot from the ground from whence they sprouted, the more we are reminded that our roots can only penetrate so far as our rickety aqueducts will allow. In some ways it's a constant gaze upward, LA figuring out how it can mimic a real city and fool everything into believing that we're somehow self-sustaining.

In the end, though, it's a city cultivated in a desert whose only obligation for sustaining life lies in the pithy thirst of the indestructible shrubbery. So LA grasps at resources along a longitudinal plain, seeking to build on and conquer the sea so we're somehow linked to a body of water and not the eastern equivalent of shrubbery and sand.

From the dirty window on the 5th floor of the 1920's factory I can see the 10 freeway, the olive branch extending its forced friendship from the desert to the sea. Cars creep along, even though it is early afternoon. Below me are layers upon layers of concrete, piled on one another like blankets in a living room fort. Beneath the concrete, though, beneath the carefully carved layers of sediment and human industrialization, lies the desert floor. It's there, breathing, living underneath us all, squirming against the burden of civilization.

And so I feel displaced. It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind that we're able to inhabit so hostile a world and still fool ourselves into believing that we are the native ones. And for this reason, I'll never feel at home in Los Angeles, because at the heart of it all, Los Angeles isn't even at home in her own skin.


"The desert is everywhere, preserving insignificance. A desert where the miracle of the car, of ice and whisky is daily re-enacted: a marvel of easy living mixed with the fatality of the desert. A miracle of obscenity that is genuinely American: a miracle of total availability."
- Jean Baudrillard, French sociologist