I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard Los Angeles described as a “wasteland” or “seven suburbs in search of a city” or any of the other curious remarks uttered by people.
It was never like that for us growing up here.
For one thing, there was always so much going on, so many different people, and my mother’s constant soirees and dinners.
“Wasteland” is a word I don’t understand anyway because physically, surely, they couldn’t have thought it was a wasteland—it has all these citrus trees and flowers growing everywhere.
I know they meant “culturally.” But it wasn’t.
Culturally, L.A. has always been a humid jungle alive with seething L.A. projects that I guess people from other places just can’t see. It takes a certain kind of innocence to like L.A., anyway. It requires a certain plain happiness inside to be happy in L.A., to choose it and be happy here. When people are not happy, they fight against L.A. and say it’s a “wasteland” and other helpful descriptions.
Vera Stravinsky once told me that in 1937 she went on a picnic, in a few limousines, that Paulette Goddard had prepared (“because she was quite a gourmet . . .” Vera said). On the Picnic was the Stravinskys, Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, Greta Garbo, Bertrand Russell and the Huxleys. They got into the cars to drive to a likely spot, but there were no likely spots and they drove and drove. There had been a drought and everything was dry, there was no grass and so finally they spotted the measly L.A. “River” and decided to spread their blanket on its ridiculous banks and make the best of it. The “L.A. River” is a trickle that only looks slightly like a river if there’s been a downpour for three months but even then it doesn’t look like a river. Anyway, they spread out the food, the champagne, the caviar, the pâté and everything and sat on the banks of the “river” beneath a bridge over which cars were going.
They looked up and there was a motorcycle cop with his fists on his hips, looking cross.
“Yes?” Bertrand Russell stood up to inquire.
There was a sign that said that people were not allowed to picnic by the “river.”
The cop pointed at the sign and looked at Russell and then said, “Can’t you read?”
If the story’s details are different, if it was another year and the Huxleys weren’t there, still, it is an L.A. “wasteland” story. It’s a story of L.A.
The cop only relented when he recognized Garbo.
Zie verder Eve Babitz, a Glamour Girl Who Refused to Be Dull (recensie The New York Times)