Los Angeles, unlike Barcelona, is no La La Land (yet)

Los Angeles is an interesting place to be and it is not necessarily because of the at-large images of glamour and wealth stereotypes that exist of Los Angeles. It is interesting in that it is actually quite unglamorous. You have the Hollywood Hills and the mansions in Brentwood. But those areas are not Los Angeles. You have areas of dirt, tent-cities and left-over, unused tracks that lie at the heels of wealth. Many who work in LA don’t see these areas that bear witness to the fact that dirty boulevards are everywhere in the city. Yes, many tired and poor set up where ever they can find a few empty feet for their belongings. 

I see these areas everyday on my way to work. Just today, I saw a woman mopping the area right in front of her tiny tent. While there was pride in that moment, I felt a bucket of sadness. Who sees these areas? Who truly looks st them?  I am not too sure that even the Mayor sees these areas. Which is surely a shame as he tries to win the 2024 Summer Olympics bid. If LA were to win its bid,  I have no idea how this city could withstand an onslaught of Olympics’ tourists. We don’t have a great public transportation system and people here have no idea how to walk. Its a hot mess. But more importantly, where would the tent cities go? Can this city utilize the Olympics to transform itself?
I was in Barcelona a few decades ago when it was preparing to host the Olympics. It changed the city immeasurably. Barcelona had been a long forgotten city in terms of infrastructure under Franco’s dictatorship. Then Barcelona became a darling. I was there as it prepared itself like a worried debutante. I lived right near the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s never-ending architectural delight. The city hummed with anticipation. Everything seemed new, fresh or recalibrated. Barcelona kept its old world charm in a new, feverish way. I fell in love despite its warts. Of which there were many but most are often overlooked. But my love of Barcelona runs deep in my veins till this day. There is an ephemeral quality to my love. 
I just went to the LA Zoo and quickly ran up to its churro stand. But nothing compares to the experience of eating churros at midnight at a random Barcelona corner as one goes from one club to another. 
But back to Los Angeles. I am going to admit that I just don’t know what to think about it. And I feel pressed to come up with a descriptor. I’ve been here now a full year. Yet, I don’t feel connected yet with the city streets of Los Angeles. And as I watched the local news coverage of LA’s Olympics bid, I wondered if LA could transform itself and into what, if it could.  Could it offer actual public transportation? How about a way yo get go the airport without relying on a car? Could it create cool, new villages that tie the city together? As it us now, Los Angeles has no core. At the moment, in my eyes, there is no there there (yet). 
The movie La La Land showcases angst but its a beautiful, fanciful angst. LA is way grittier. LA reminds me of the NYC of the 80s. But how LA will change is hard to tell. It could become a Barcelona or it could just become tinier and tinier and have no core left. 

11 replies »

  1. I’m so looking forward to seeing La La Land! Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone are so cute together :)) Also, I didn’t know that the mayor of LA was trying to secure the Olympics 2024 bid. That is a big deal & I can only imagine the traffic mess there would be. I wonder if they would actually build new transportation for the Olympics! I have never been to LA, but I always imagine it to be a tough place to live because of the living expenses and all the traffic. I’ll probably visit one day though :))


  2. A side of L.A. that many people don’t ever see, or even know exists. Nice post. Sad, but with hope that perhaps there can be effective change going forward. It will be interesting to see how the Olympics affect the City of Angels.


  3. Interesting post – thanks! The initial photo of the tents out on the street instantly reminded me of Melbourne. Often when I am in Melbourne I see far too many homeless people, what I will admit though is I have never seen tents…

    Hopefully LA has a brighter future – no one can tell!


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