How Am I Ever Going to Score a Good Date if I Always Have to Admit to What Number I’m Taking You Home To; or The Great Grid in the Sky
Los Angeles is a big grid (you already know). The boulevards lacing over the desert in longitudes and latitudes, neighborhoods like little nations perched on hills or flat against the land.
The numbers like the stories of a great tower, anyone riding down the street like descending in an elevator (See! Do you see?! descending in an elevator? That doesn’t even make any sense!)
I know there are other cities that have this similar numeric cypher. New York City does. But does anyone have it so down to a formula like LA does?
It’s simple, the higher the number, the worse the…everything. They say nobody knows how far down (See? See?!! Again, they say down but really the numbers are going up!) the numbers go. Some say they descend straight into hell itself. (But really, we all know. It goes to 266th Street. A friend once told me it ends in front of Palos Verdes. I said, So the myth is confirmed.)
Even my guerilla Salvadorean friend from the Valley once told me, All I know is, is that the higher the number, the darker the complexion.
How could we go so wrong? Quantifiable misery. The blocks sweltering under the smog like the hot gases of Jupiter. I guess the 40s don’t seem so bad then. (Even though I’ve been down there at the 70s, the 100s, a “number” of times. But it’s so quiet! Is there anyone home?)
I tried to go to Long Beach. You can take the freeway, but I don’t drive. You can take the blue line, so I did. We started at street level, where we belong, and slowly they tell you how they’ve fooled you all. The tracks rise and rise and suddenly your flying through the air and it’s iron wrought mass market pastel Americana as far as the eye can see (or as much as the eye can see through the dense midday fog). We ride the tracks and I get off sometimes, last time at Firestone. And I walk around to look up at the thing all cement and steel like the arching spine of a serpentine concrete monster lurking just below the paved city surface.
It’s ingenious. Now everyone knows where to go (or where not to go). It makes everything easier! Home values. School performance. Where to locate your business. It’s like drawing from the lottery! It’s a magic code, a language we can all speak. I’d like to order the number 2, please. Wow! So efficient!
Lies as broad as avenues, truth wavering like the lanky palms of a bygone era. Sometimes the math just doesn’t add up. How many numbers can one (one) person be expected to take care of? Expected to remember? Ha. We’ve got our own problems to worry about.
That part’s true, they really do. And the things is, it’s not all bad but it’s not all good. I forget that sometimes when I’m staring out my window watching the old abuelo and his grandson picking lemons from the tree growing on our front…strip.
Aren’t we all just a game of connect four? They stuff us in and sift us down until everything is filled. Or like tetris. They push push push down the way you might push down the garbage to make more room…for more garbage. So that’s what’s going on! Who knew? It’s the numbers that really cause all the trouble. Numbers make us mad! We don’t need economists. What we need are more mathematicians. Bring them down here and let them help us out and teach us the beauty of numbers and how they can work in so many ways and in every direction and they organize the sun and the stars and rotation of the planet and even keep our feet planted on the crumbling cement sidewalks (planted! on cement! ha.).
LA I want to add you up and see who you really are. The great grid in the sky (it must be the sky if we’re to be a city of angels).
"There was a strange new construction going on in the inner city. Our stately schools, built before WWII, were beginning to resemble prisons. Certain sections were sealed off, the green quads and courtyards placed off limits of paved over. Bungalows appeared as class sizes grew, decreasing area available for playground activities. Calculus, Greek, Latin, and Journalism were among the classes that disappeared from the curriculum. In the November 1964 election, a local Fair Housing Act proposition was defeated by White voters-which angered my parents, who resented the restricted housing that had crippled their chances for economic stability in the early years of their marriage.
At home, my parents began to fail economically as the price of material things outclimbed their combined incomes. My father could no longer find fruitful employment, abandoned the Republican Party, and became a Democrat. My mother’s paycheck as a seamstress was steadily eroded by bosses bringing in cheaper labor for Mexico. I was exiting puberty, and it was more than obvious that they could not send me to college. My hatred for Los Angeles increased exponentially.
Withing six months, between June and November of 1964, I graduated from high school, started college, turned eighteen, left home, married, dropped out of college, threw away my hot-iron pressing comb and curler to go au naturel, and joined L.A.’s political underground. Nine months later, I would give birth to my first child. Days later, in August 1965 (the violence raging three days before being reported in local newspapers), Watts erupted in flames.
Black had become beautiful."
— The Riot Inside Me by Wanda Coleman
"Sometimes I get bored riding down the beautiful streets of L.A. I know it sounds crazy, but I just want to go to New York and see people suffer."
— Donna Summer