“Although awash with garbled pseudo-scientisms and racial allusions, [Anton Wagner’s] Los Angeles (1935) offered an extraordinarily detailed panorama of the city’s districts and environs in the early depression…particularly Hollywood’s elaborate, but doomed, attempt to generate a Europeanized ‘real urban milieu’:
‘Here, one wants to create the Paris of the Far West. Evening traffic on Hollywood boulevard attempts to mimic Parisian boulevard life. However, life on the boulevard is extinct before midnight, and the seats in front of the cafes, where in Paris one can watch street life in a leisurely manner, are missing…'”
Here I’m reminded of something I heard in my writing workshop with VONA at Miami, when a fellow writer mentioned how on first getting to L.A., the place felt “like a country town.” I remember being so struck by her words, as before then it had never occurred to me just how much the city feels like a village nestled out in the wilderness! Somehow, I’d gotten so caught up in the concrete and density of L.A. that I viewed it purely as a metropolis, when its origins clearly still mark it as a nexus of hills, canyons, and other dry land that just had concrete plastered all over it one day.
In fact, when I think about it the place isn’t even radically different from the pueblo in Southern Mexico where my mom originally hails from: a tiny little town in the mountains with its own miniature twists and turns through the landscape like the streets of Los Angeles.
What’s more, Wagner’s take on the ‘[missing] seats in front of the cafe’ furthers the point of L.A. as a teeming and even chaotic sprawl of mass, since unlike the streets of say, Manhattan, for example, which are flat and therefore prime locations for seats and tables on the street, Hollywood is landlocked amid the swirl of Sunset boulevard and cross-streets that curve strangely into one hill or the next. This makes it difficult to set up seats and tables in a way that is uniform and therefore synchronous with an overall aesthetic, or as Wagner points out, in a way that successfully mimics Parisian boulevard life. Of course, as for the midnight or two am curfew, I can’t quite explain how it came about in L.A., but somehow I have a feeling that Davis will cover it in his elaborate excavation.
Once again, then, I think I’m geeking out! I feel like my knowledge of L.A. only expands with each analysis, and like the information can only play a key role in determining the next twist and turn for The L.A. Storyteller, especially as a new year approaches.
With More Soon,