Mon, 20 Sep 2004

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real city - episode I

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I am chillin' in NYC, in the royal borough of the Queen, in Astoria, to be precise.

And now I have time to think. Scary.

Within hours of coming back here, I felt life flow back into my veins. I have missed the noise: the screech of subway trains rushing along the rickety tracks, the cabbies honking insensibly at the pedestrians crossing at the "don't walk" sign, the rumble of trucks downshifting as they barrel down the highway.

There are scarce parts of L.A. that actually resemble a real city, scattered haphazardly amidst the hills and valleys. But I don't even live in L.A. these days.

Despite the fact that San Diego is the 7th largest city in the country, it feels way too much like a gigantic, monstrous suburb of L.A., a place that exists only as a reaction to both San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its Old Town pretty much abandoned, its Downtown wholly artificial and manufactured. Abandoned freeways—signs of horrendously poor planning—lie scattered throughout the entire city: Friars Road, Kearny Mesa Road, Nimitz Blvd. The over-capacious highways crisscrossing needlessly across Mission Bay. The overgrowth of needless bridges connecting nowhere to nowhere. The massive off-ramp from the 805 that deposits you right into an Albertson.

You know you're in a post-modern city when the roads are built around freeways—when the interchanges distort the grid of the city. Interestingly, L.A. is not a post-modern city in that sense. You can tell that the city grid existed before they built the Hollywood Freeway. Major city streets flow around the four-level interchange unhampered.

So I've missed the city, although being out in suburbia has made me appreciate wide-open spaces. The one thing that I like about L.A. is that it has a classical city core, but it is surrounded completely by nature. Mountains and rivers, canyons and passes. You can drive five minutes from downtown L.A. and find yourself in a quiet forest, even though it takes about an hour without traffic to get to the city's edge. And the looming mountains remind you how insignificant the monuments of humanity truly are. Can you imagine how less royal the Sears Tower or the Empire State Building would be if they were framed by the San Gabriel Mountains, jutting up to almost 2 miles into the sky?

The only thing really real in San Diego is the natural aspect. The Cuyamaca Mountains off in the horizon, the San Diego River meandering through Mission Valley, the endless blue ocean shimmering for miles in all directions, obliterating any notion of international boundaries. And amidst the attempt of urbanization, or at least suburbanization, are the hidden canyons and vista points.

Central Park is pretty impressive, but despite what they say, you still know you're in the city. If you climb up to Mt. Soledad in S.D., or wander the trails of Griffith Park in L.A., you can forget that you are well within the city limits.

But enough mental masturbation. I need to go outside and wander, in this wounded city between two rivers, where all roads lead, at least for a short while.

06:55:58 20 Sep 2004 > /unrealcity > permalink > 0 comments

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