Friday, March 27, 2009

Southern California

Before I do a post on San Francisco, I'd like to briefly discuss southern California. Quite honestly, we had planned on avoiding the entire area out of pure fear but since we decided to cut the east coast out of the trip, we figured we ought to really focus on the west coast. So, without any real plan or strategy, we circled around LA and headed to San Diego, drove back up to the heart of LA, then fled eastward.The city of San Diego literally sits in a desert, yet lush green foliage occurs in such abundance there that you could be tricked into thinking you were in a rain forest. I can't say for sure if this city will exist 50 years from now, but I would be incredibly surprised if they manage to maintain their lush greenery. More striking is the sprawling pattern of development that we saw in both San Diego and Los Angeles. It is almost as if nobody took the time to question the dominant form of development. I should add, that the outermost ring of suburbs was almost totally vacant, or in various states of incompletion.

They say you get what you pay for. In southern California, I think people paid a bit too much. It's important to understand that California is an incredibly beautiful state, with incredibly diverse scenery and ecosystems. Plus, who gets up for the sunrise, the sunset is where it's at.So why not live in a place like this, a paradise, an oasis in the desert? Well, first off, it's not an oasis, it's a desert. Water is piped in from as far as Colorado to supply people with their feeling of comfort. And everybody has a piece of of the pie. Their little 1/6 acre tucked away from the collector roads and interstates and covered with green green grass.

It becomes incredibly clear, just by visiting this place, why plastic surgery is so celebrated and strip malls look like 1500 year-old Italian villas. This is a place uncomfortable with the truth. Their vision of California--with its overflowing springs and lush orchards--did not exist in southern California and it had to be forged out of the dusty desert with imported water and imported labor.

Nothing, near or far, is left untouched. A suburban recreation of Venice sits outside of LA proper. This is truly the epitome of all that is off with southern California. It is a place of superficial illusion, driven by an industry of illusion (film) and full of a people who have enormous illusions about its worth. At least, I suppose (and so must they), it looks a bit different.Southern California is a place of great wealth. Their film and music productions, software, agricultural products and consumptive culture are exported across the world. I suspect, though, that the place they have built sits on the very edge of what their wealth can maintain. I would not be surprised to see massive transformations in this place driven by economic necessity.

As a disclaimer, I am well aware that there are a lot of good people doing good things in these places. They are, unfortunately, completely overwhelmed by people who don't care or don't know how they should help.

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