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Harry Shearer

December 02, 1990

Regarding Harry Shearer's "Bright Lights, Little City" (Sept. 30): Yes, we in Los Angeles do miss out on "the opportunity to socialize with people (we) didn't invite"--that is precisely the point. Not only does the tangible mass of walls and gates separate us from the street. Consider, for example, the restoration of our wonderful historic neighborhoods to period splendor (an effort admittedly of great cultural value and an economic upper to boot). But the result is a '90s version of the Native American tragedy--L.A.'s ethno-poor are relentlessly forced down and eastward by the tide of private dollars until finally their presence in their own neighborhoods prompts murmurings of "dangerous outsiders."

Stalking Los Angeles on this "revivified" urban curb does often seem uncontrived; Shearer's perception of Melrose Avenue as an organically grown hangout proves just how real an eclectic Disneyland can be. It is these gentrified areas that evolve into "our best gathering places" and sate our hankering for--what did he call it?--planned spontaneity. Not only do our trendoids now have somewhere to go, but we go there too, and bump into them, feigning the white-hot urban encounter. After all, these are strangers. Doesn't that count?

Nope, sorry--it's Memorex, altered in the packaging. A city experience is by nature utterly unmanageable, and there is no chance that one can imagine one belongs. Me, I need to gnaw the foods of the urban reservation when I eat at the human cafeteria. I need to hear language I can't understand, whether it's English or not; I need to be jostled by poverty, see it waving its arms and legs; I need to walk with a threat approaching; I need to be made uncomfortable. Yes, it's sometimes tragic; but it's the best fun I have, and it is never, thank God, decadent. In the Real L.A., I have uncovered this curious and liberating phenomenon--there are no "dangerous outsiders."

We're out here, Harry. There's a city out here, and some of us know where it is.

ROBBIE FRANDSEN

Redondo Beach

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