Great swaths of Los Angeles are downright hideous. Being from Sonoma, a place that is ridiculously gorgeous, this complete lack of natural beauty and human disregard for aesthetics initially wore on me.
There is a particularly bleak patch on the I-5 between my house in Boyle Heights and where my boyfriend lives in Norwalk. You pass the Citadel, an outdoor mall with an Eqyptian theme, which is epically garish and the “Destiny Inn.”
Then the smell hits you, a smell so sickly you can’t help but think it’s causing you cancer (I’m pretty sure it’s coming from Vernon). For the next few miles through Commerce, it’s nothing but ugly industrial buildings cluttered with an ungodly amount of billboards, punctuated by chain restaurants and one huge casino. There isn’t even enough dirt on the side of the road for weeds to grow. Even better, there’s often bumper to bumper traffic through this stretch so you have plenty of time to take in the vistas. And don’t even get me started on the “LA River” (picture the last scene of Grease).
Fortunately, my boyfriend happens to fully embody a classic Angeleno quality – imagination bordering on the delusional. I see what’s there, he sees what COULD be there. To illustrate using a “location” from our Halloween Back to the Future photo shoot:
And all those ugly spots I pass daily? I regularly spot them in TV dramas and car commercials, re-envisioned through the viewfinder by people like my boyfriend. The recent movie, “In Time,” was filmed entirely in ugly spots near my house. Yes, it was supposed to be an impoverished, dystopian wasteland, but let’s not take the shine off of it…
LA ugliness as seen in the movie "In Time"
The LA River in the movie "In Time"
Just to hit this point home, I’ll share a couple of videos of the I-5 freeway. This video was made by tourists on the way to Disneyland in Anaheim (0:50 – “Sign says we just entered downtown Burbank. Is this what you call beautiful? Because I sure don’t think so!”). And this was made by an Angeleno.
Los Angeles looks like a different place when you have a camera in hand. I’m going to be sure to keep mine on me.