I live in Los Angeles. “Hollywood” as it’s referred to by politicians and other elites making a point about elitism.
No matter where you come from (NY for me), if you live here long enough, you get used to the glue-gunned, hodepodged set-design feel of the place. A fun-house distortion of landscape, architecture, culture and people. Not a mile from my home, there’s a backlot New York City—all the New York Hollywood needs. My town boasts a fake “Italian style” cobblestoned street guarded by an old-style, red-uniformed greeter to add more colorfaux authenticity. Even fake lilies must be gilded. Palm trees aren’t native but the purple Jacaranda trees are. Breasts point skyward; buildings low-slung. A neighborhood is any cluster of buildings you can think of a name for (e.g., Century City). The sky grey-tinged; the teeth blindingly white. Rain makes the ocean more polluted. Seasons don’t roar in or bleat out. Everyone is brilliant. The summer never ends.
I love it here.
However, there’s a quality of hermetically sealed-ness that can erode discernment (see paragraph 3 above). I even find it hard to call up a sharp image of L.A. without it fading into the edges of my mind’s eye. It’s always a bit out of focus with the same haziness as the weather. Most of what I see is mediated through windshields and never driven home.
In contrast, weeks after the fact, my Alps hiking excursion remains sharp. My phone photos portray a landscape that’s the stuff of Hollywood movie settings. If anything should seem fake, too beautiful to be real, it should be that. I think the reason it doesn’t is that I didn’t experience it through a lens or a shield of any sort. I walked it. Walking not only left my imprint on the ground but also left the ground’s imprint on me. Transforming landscape from noun to verb; from description to experience.
“… a way to meander my universe into being”
Having just had a direct experience of this, Ulin’s words landed.
Walking was the way to take me from Hollywood backdrop to LA front stoop.