The LA That Was and the LA That Will Never Be

Photo used with Matt Loque's permission
Photo used with Matt Loque's permission

I think LA would pretty much be a perfect city if it weren’t for the cars and the air quality (I work in Chatsworth–cough, cough). So Matt Logue’s Empty LA (via Urban Daddy) comes across like porn to me–something approaching post-apocalyptic porn, admittedly, but I am pretty sympathetic to the “hell is other people” school of thought so there you go. Logue’s vision of LA’s streets and beaches emptied of people and cars and all signs of life is exhilarating and kind of terrifying. The book comes in cloth and paper, in two format sizes–13 x 11 and 10 x 8. It’s marvelous.

On the other end of the fantasy LA spectrum are the amazing panoramic photos of ca. 1899 downtown LA–Bunker Hill–posted on Shorpy (see Chris Conkle’s comment for specifics about location) It’s an amazing testimony to this city’s ability to shed its skin. LA is a city that razes and rebuilds. While this opens us for the inevitable “why can’t we be more like San Francisco” criticism that we deny our history, at the same time, it’s part of the fantastic optimism (denial of reality even) of a verdant city in the middle of a desert, populated with folks who come here to recreate themselves. LA is where America arrived at the end of the imperative to “go west.” With no more frontier, we level and recreate this city over and over again.

17 thoughts on “The LA That Was and the LA That Will Never Be”

  1. Excellent post about excellent imagery, but I have to give a counterpoint to your reference of the region as “desert,” which is a geographic fallacy begun and perpetuated by LA Times Publisher Harrision Gray Otis to get voters behind construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

    From a meteorological perspective alone with its historical annual average rainfall and mean temperature the mythical Los Angeles Desert that Otis contrived would be one of the wettest and coolest on the planet.

    If you’re interested LA Observed has a great old post about the subject here:

  2. Sorry to continue with the OT desert vs. Mediterranean climate debate, but hey, what is Metblogs for? I remember the same discussion here a few months ago, and would like to split the baby. Will is right that, based on average ANNUAL rainfall, we’re technically not a desert.

    But averages are funny things, reminiscent of the statistician who put her head in the oven and her feet in the refrigerator and said, “on average, I feel just fine.” Look at the average MONTHLY rainfall in L.A. I looked at 2 charts, both with similar results, including this one from The Weather Channel and another one that was a stuffy university study with plain font and no splashy graphics and thus totally inappropriate for us. You’ll see that our rainfall is clustered into a relative few months, and that, for 7 months of the year or so, we do indeed live in a desert climate.

    So really, everyone is right.

  3. Forgive me being a petulant little baby.

    What’s say we change the subject and talk about something a little less controversial… like what constitutes the city’s Eastside?

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