Massaging the Medium

Massaging the Medium

I have been humming and whistling this all week, probably annoying all around me. But more about that later.

This week took me back to week six’s challenge, and I built upon that, while also thinking about last week’s challenge, meaning I am still very aware of my process.

Like everyone else, I really enjoyed the lecture this week, and I went out into my city and walked and sat and observed, but Los Angeles is not a walking city, it is too vast. It is surprisingly walkable in specific areas but as no one said, ‘It is 72 suburbs looking for a metropolis’. It is still a city of drivers.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, before smartphones and GPS, there was something that everyone had on the backseat of their car; it wasn’t just a map, it was THE map, specifically the Thomas Guide, a spiral bound tome with every street in Los Angeles County. Many a phone call would end with a stretch to the well worn Thomas Guide on the backseat and a minutes-long thumbing through indexes and map grids, frequently the person on the other end would be helpful with a major intersection ‘Close to the corner of Street x and street y’ which is actually is still something one can hear. Major intersections are Los Angeles’s Inuksuks. The Thomas Guide was then thrown unceremoniously (or perhaps full of ritual back into the rear, and the journey began.

The Thomas Guide is no more, Google, Waze, et al have made it more redundant than a Blockbuster Video store. Progress passed them by, Rainer Maria Rilke’s question if time is a destroyer could be answered in the affirmative in this case. Rilke – I think, I am no Rilke scholar – was not against change. All human habitations are subject to change, but some more than others and Los Angeles seems to change at a fairly high rate. I live in an old bank in Downtown. I work in an old bank in Westchester, I frequently eat or drink in old banks and even bank vaults. this is called adaptive reuse in jargon, but it made me think of overlays.

in Ed Ruscha’s ‘All the buildings on Sunset Boulevard,’ there is one building on which the signage is missing, it just says ‘The’. It was The Classic Cat, a strip club, which is now a Chase Bank. There is another Chase Bank building that sits on a famously lost piece of paradise, The Garden of Allah, which is allegedly the inspiration for ‘Big Yellow Taxi Cab’ by Joni Mitchell (though more likely she was ‘inspired’ by a trip to Honolulu, Hawai’i). However, now the Chase bank that sits on that site has been designated a historic-cultural monument and it will be razed to make way for Frank Gehry’s project (note the ‘corner of’ wording in the very first line of this article). In that article, they also share a rendering, a literal overlay, of the proposed structure, which made me think that layered or overlay would be a good word to describe Los Angeles. What Los Angeles lacks in time it seems makes up for it with a merciless speed of change. There is a bar opposite my house that has a wall which is made up of doors from the United Artists building, one of which is Charlie Chaplin’s, but no one sitting there knows that. There is all this history but it is obscured by new layers which in turn become history. there is something tragically poetic about this. Memento Mori and forget Charlie Chaplin, life is for the living.

Southern California and Los Angeles are famously laid-back (they aren’t at all) but that is the stereotype, everyone is hustling here (Manchipp would enjoy it) but they do it in flip-flops. So I was trying to find a Layered, laid-back connection, a pun if you will…I couldn’t quite get there though.

I was thinking of 72, or seventy-two as a word, 72 suburbs, 72 degrees, the perfect temperature, 72 languages of Babel, etc. But 72AndSunny of week 2 ruined that.

I was commuting and thinking about this project and I came back to Los Angeles being a driver’s city, it is so vast, so large, so horizontal. Horizontal seems like a fairly unique word to describe Los Angeles. Reyner Banham in 1971’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies writes ‘So, like earlier generations of English intellectuals who taught themselves Italian in order to read Dante in the original, I learned to drive to read Los Angeles in the original.’ he goes on to state ‘Angeleno freeway-pilots … [whose] white-wall tyres are singing over the diamond-cut anti-skid grooves in the concrete road surface, the selector-levers of their automatic gearboxes are firmly in Drive, and the radio is on. He was quite in awe of the freeways and found beauty in the interchanges

Below is the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange, mostly known as the One-Ten and One-O-Five (essentially the freeway version of ‘corner-of’) which I drive through every time I go to work.

Tell me that isn’t sublime. Here is a documentary filmed there of what we Angelenos do – because there is another day of sun.

As I have stated before, the love affair with Los Angles is a slow one, it is a tough city to get to know, but it is a city of brilliant little rabbit holes in unassuming places. Unassuming would have been a good word to choose as would have rabbit holes but the term rabbit holes has slightly negative connotations. However, hidden gems, diamonds, rough diamonds combined with the diamond-cut-anti-skid grooves along with this building a block from where I live started to become interesting to me.

Downtown Jewelry Exchange former Warner Bros. Theatre
(Johnny Depp’s old penthouse is in the background, btw)

Interesting, because it was also formerly the Warner Bros. Theatre and a church. The diamond above the entrance is where the former Warner Bros. logo once was. Multiple layers again.

I took the blocky, architectural lettering from the current building and recreated it and tried some other words

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