the show

by rantywoman

I was a loser, too, when I moved there:

Of course, a new narrative of L.A. shouldn’t stop with this good news. As pretty as we are, we have plenty of flaws. For one thing, we are, fundamentally and literally, a city of losers. We are people, or descendants of people, who lost at politics, commerce, love, family, or religion someplace else. (I’m one such loser—descended from Okies who had to flee the Dust Bowl and a great-grandfather who came West after a Midwestern business failure.) All of the booms covered in “Becoming Los Angeles”—railroads, agriculture, oil, aerospace, war manufacturing—ended in bust. We stuck around anyway. When you lose in Los Angeles, the sun will still be shining.

We’re still good at losing. L.A.’s unemployment rate is significantly higher than the state’s, and we have relatively high rates of bankruptcies and business failures. Maybe that’s why this city is so obsessed with winning (Go Lakers!) and keeping up appearances. We’ll tell you we’re having a great day when we aren’t. And many of us endure long working hours and brutal commutes by summoning the ancient stage adage that the show must go on.

Why should developing a coherent narrative about a place so rich in human story be so hard? We could stake a claim to being The Enduring City, in the good and bad senses of that word. Or perhaps The Surprise City, since we weren’t supposed to be here.

But the best choice would be The Human City, a true reflection of our species in all its artifice and ambition: complicated, irrational, creative, crazy, grandiose, glorious, sublime, corrupt, maddening—and still too much a stranger to itself.