Tethering an Angel
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Like most residents of L.A., the Urban Man wishes that angels were easier to track down. If only they would appear reliably or allow us to tether them permanently to our lives. You do see those funky statues scattered around town, but they’re not enough.
I bring this up because last week I joined the couple hundred Angelenos who went to see the design for Civic Park, part of the massive Grand Avenue Project at the center of the City of Angels. We peered with obsessive interest into the model for the 16-acre site that slopes from the Music Center down to City Hall. We examined tiny plastic imaginings of trees and lawns. We tried to picture a parking lot redeemed as common ground.
Our interest was more than architectural…it was downright metaphysical. A distinct and irrational hunger was felt in the room, a hunger that struck fear into designer and developer alike. You see, everyone there wanted more than a place where they could celebrate or protest. Everyone wanted, heretically, not just an exact center for the megalopolis—but some important new symbol, some worthy artwork which would displace both the Hollywood sign and the LAX theme restaurant on tourist postcards.
I mean, other cities do get heroic symbols.
Nothing dramatic was proposed, and disappointment washed the room. When I huddled with the developer and designer, they said: “People don’t understand. We have only funds enough to clear the canvas, plant some green. But we’re hoping someone with money and intention will create yes, that symbol, the final there here, the primary chakra of the megalopolis.”
Well, that’s not an exact quote, and as long as I’m putting words in their mouths, let me say that I know they were talking about an angel. By that I mean not just the philanthropist who would fund such a project, but some angelic object, literal or abstract. Never mind the proposals for artificial rivers or orange groves. If someone is going to build a serious symbol for L.A, it will require wings. Really. Big. Wings.
This is, after all, the city of second chances, of random grace and undeserved consequences. And at once, the Urban Man thought…why shouldn’t I make a start? Why shouldn’t I try to imagine this angel? So I strolled straight down into the current park, a place wedged between the ugly Courthouse and Hall of Administration. I stood near the bottom of the hill and held up my thumb toward the Music Center. I knew the thing would have to be enormous, but balance its muscularity with an undeniable evanescence. Not, of course, a Hollywood-style creature, but nevertheless fooling the eye with wild curves and nighttime reflections.
It’s in the nature of angels to emerge and disappear, again and again—and for a time, pacing out the dimensions, I thought we might require just a set of wings, curling boldly out of the earth and over the busy streets—as if a recumbent figure were pulling itself from the rising ground.
And lo, as evening fell, I did see L.A. as a biblical scene of mirage and revelation, a camp of desert tents and visions. I thought: “Along with the inevitable tragedy, you can find a certain dignity in chasing a mirage.”
But alas, although I can free associate as well as any urban man, I am no artist. The sketches in my mind were childish at best. And no, I could not keep out that terrible element of local kitsch.
Still, I wanted to rush out and find someone who has been grandly touched by random L.A. grace. Someone who could fund the right sculptor for our there here. I wanted to say, “This is your big chance. Tether some great, but as yet unimagined angel to our desert camp.”
If that person is you, drop me a line.
Copyright © 2008. Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved.
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