I rode the bus and the train to downtown Los Angeles today. And later sat, with feigned enthusiasm, for a job interview inside a concrete-floored, high-ceilinged art gallery.
The subway exit was 7th and Hope. The weather was violently windy, blindingly sunny. White fluffy clouds tore fast across the sky. I walked into a shimmering, sparkling, glassy, washed and Windexed world of brand-new, spotless, sleek, shiny and radiant glass towers.
I was in an area east of Staples Center, south of Olympic. Yet its structural newness and callow glibness felt like jejune, milk-fed, blond-haired, salty-breezed San Diego.
Amidst the asphalt, glass, steel and aluminum, I discovered a fair-sized green-park surrounded by tall, right-angled, balcony faced skyscrapers.
Inside the grassy park: an estrogen feast.
Women students from a nearby fashion college, FIDM, smoked cigarettes as they sat along benches and on top of concrete walls. Brimming with energy and youth. A parade of citrus perfumes, vanilla scented shiny hair, shaved and polished slender legs owned by naïve young faces.
Laughing, running, hurrying.
At an empty retail space, intended for future yoga use, I stopped to talk with a workman, renovating and cleaning. He told me he stood on the sidewalk everyday and watched these gorgeous girls walk by.
“90% of them are hot,” he said.
The strong winds continued as I reached the gusty corner where the art gallery stood. Next door, I discovered a Danish bakery where the smell of butter, fruit pastries, chocolate-topped cookies and hot coffee blew out onto the sidewalk.
I arrived at the appointment an hour early, so I continued walking around the neighborhood and found more newness.
Epic spic and span newness.
It was Noon, here in downtown Los Angeles, and there were few cars and almost nobody on foot.
Buildings reflective, orderly, tidy: landscaped with fabulously colored flowers, prickly succulents, willowy grasses and rows of upright young trees, water fountains, and little pocket parks unpopulated with humans. Amidst this constructed urban paradise were rows of empty benches.
A wine bar, with outdoor seating, was open on a corner. And not a single person occupied any seat.
A great concept, a superb image, a winking nod to richness, that’s what they built around here.
Those great hypes, of 2004 and 2005: the unlimited prosperity, the exploding stock market, the cheap money, the hustle and con of the hucksters who sold America real estate, stocks, derivatives, credit. These empty, fresh, unfilled, immaculate, twinkling edifices of glass, these are tactile creations and hard monuments of a false and corrupt national binge. Blessed by tax breaks and corporate lies. Unpunished by Washington. Unconscionable billions for bail outs.
Now these resplendent, lustrous buildings sit here, underused and unfulfilled, their once loud voices and enthusiastic promises of urban excitement, muted.
This is just one district of downtown Los Angeles: a great glassy area of spacious, broad streets and tall, unspoiled, spotless, reflective vertical condominiums.
Like everything in this city, it starts out young and full-of-promise.