Warming Up L.A. Live
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Once I heard Kevin Starr, the great California historian, say a remarkable thing about L.A. He said, "Now that we've poured all this concrete, we have to learn to love concrete." And I remember thinking, "Yes! What a noble request to make of the human spirit. After all, here in L.A. someone is always building something large and cold and ugly. And surely, it's our job to go out and warm these structures up, not just with our bodies and our cash, but our affections."
Last week, when the Urban Man visited phase two of the new L.A. Live development downtown, I tried to keep Starr's words firmly in mind. I read the P.R with poetic care and yes, I invited my love, in the person of my wife, to go down and see the colored lights and steel stanchions of what may become the entertainment heart of the basin.
I admit she was skeptical. "What is it?" asked my love, "a bunch of big outdoor video screens?"
"No…" I assured her, glancing nervously in the direction of the digital billboard which has appeared at the end of our own street, and for which I have tried to develop a fondness. "Even if we don't buy tickets for anything, we will witness large vibrant dance clubs and spacious, yet hip restaurants."
"Is it like a big shopping mall?" she asked.
"No," I answered, "It's big, but not as charming as a shopping mall."
"Will it be beautiful or creatively designed?" she inquired.
"Now you're asking too much," I said, getting a little miffed. "They only had $2.5 billion to spend. But I assure you, it will be loud and bright and we will see a number of sizable concrete plazas."
At last my love consented, and lo, we sighted the spotlights from the 110, and made our way to a cheap parking lot some blocks away. As we walked up 11th, L.A. Live did glow into the sky with extravagant blues and purples — calling out to that special L.A. affection which craves both halogen and high-earning talent. I was sure my love would respond when we strolled up Chick Hearn Street and beheld the tall digital tree they had erected, ringed with Jetsons-like bands of steel. I was eager for her to witness the six 75-foot towers with the ever-changing advertisements for Coke or Wachovia or perhaps American Airlines…and the yes, the really large digital billboard on the side of the hotel.
Thousands had answered the call, and many would-be lovers in tight-fitting and insufficient clothing strolled with us, not finding a place to sit down. They too eyed the bleak Starbucks. They too contemplated the blank alleys and awkward entryways.
We all did our best, but when my love had gone twice 'round the square, she whispered, "Is this it?"
"Darling," I said. "Of course it's staggeringly ugly, but that's the challenge for the dedicated Angeleno. If it's another awkward yet predictable collection of glass and steel structures devoid of warmth or joy, it's up to us, along with professional entertainers, to offer this space our warmth and joy." And lo, the Urban Man laid his right hand against a blank steel wall and transferred a little body heat directly into it.
I'm afraid my love did not respond to this invitation. In fact, inside the ESPN bar, she proved uninterested in the wall-to-wall screens flashing random sporting events from around the globe. In the Conga Room, she failed to notice the Latin influence displayed in a few art objects behind glass. Try as I might, I could not coax her into the very largest and noisiest club. In fact, I'm sorry to report that my love refused to linger at L.A. Live at all. After barely an hour, she said we had given it enough of our warmth and joy, and soon, like true Angelenos, we were back in the car looking for somewhere else to park our affections.
Copyright © 2008 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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