For those strong enough to live in Los Angeles, I’d imagine the power fades from the names of the things there. “Sunset Boulevard,” for example. Associations with the movie aside, the very name of this street brings to such a perfect image to mind — a wide street, stretching into the great, red end of the day. I can’t quite reconcile my mental Sunset Boulevard with the real thing. I doubt that the folks who live anywhere near Sunset stop and think about that disconnect. All this is being said by a person who will never live in LA. Mike Doughty, everybody’s favorite neo beatnik, described this southern California mess once as “exits to freeways twisted like knots on the fingers,” and I’d have to agree that I can rarely see past it as anything more than this. For all the good this strange, sprawling thing to the south can offer me, I’m put off by the fear I’ll tumble down some large crack in the sidewalk.
I managed to keep balance this weekend, however, when I braved the strangeness of it all. As I mentioned earlier, my friends pulled some strings and got two of my photographs into a charity show at Bonhams & Butterfields. It’s with no small amount of awe that I consider that Drew From Hollister had something some might consider artwork shown in a space on Sunset Boulevard. Again, for all I know, Los Angelinos might think art in a charity show on Sunset might be as big an accomplishment as eating a sandwich without choking to death. But it meant something to me.
By the time I got to the show Friday night, one of the two photos had already sold. For reasons I will never understand, some attendee snatched up “Donkey Ears” twenty minutes in. I’m happy they did, of course, but I can’t help wonder what they might have seen in a photo I thought would only have significance to the person who took the picture. My best guest: Somebody bought a motel and needs to decorate it, pronto. From what I saw, “Orange and First Rain” didn’t get picked up, which I’m also find with, since the fact that it was still hanging on the wall allowed me to get a photo of me standing next to it.
Photo credit goes to Hillary, who also managed to get me into the show in a way I didn’t expect.
Here’s a detail. If you’re confused, I’m standing on a giant PB&J, looking at the disembodied legs of some poor girl.
In all, I’m glad I went — and not just because I saw my name on a sticker. LA becomes a lot more manageable when the right people are there to guide me around and tell me what not to lick. I still don’t think I’ll be heading south again in the immediate future, though. The more I think about it, I feel like I’m better off staying an outsider who occasionally works up the courage to venture down and then be satisfied with himself when he does it without dying. Sunset Boulevard may be littered with trash — human and otherwise — but I’d rather be painfully aware of the difference between the idea of it and the reality of it than just getting used to the way it is. Spencer reminded me that LA isn’t inherently bad, exactly, just a lot more difficult when compared to a “little jewel box of a town” like Santa Barbara. LA is more like a trash heap. Like most trash heaps, there’s some good shit buried inside, but you just have to dig for it. To a small extent, I did that this weekend. I saw LACMA for the first time, for example, and whiled away a good twenty minutes lost among a netsuke exhibit that was entirely more interesting that any explanation I could give could make it seem.
I dug. I’ll dig again later. For the moment, maybe I’ll stay in Santa Barbara and maybe watch “Sunset Boulevard” again.