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Quakes, smog, riots, traffic, carjackings, the recession, troubled schools, beautiful--but shallow--people . . . These days, everybody loves to bash our city. So we asked a few Angelenos (the famous and the not): If things are so bad . . . : Why Stay in L.A.?

April 04, 1993|Lynell George | Lynell George, a former LA Weekly staff writer, will join the View staff later this month

It isn't as if I haven't tried.

I, too, have made my elaborate plans to wander away from Los Angeles more than just a few times.

The reasons, I'm certain, were equally intricate and passionate. But other than a keen sense of post-adolescence restlessness, I don't remember any of them quite so sharply now.

I succeeded only once.

My escape, I do know, wasn't provoked by the reasons I most often hear disgruntled natives rant about: violence, crime, traffic, anonymity, the brown smear of skies. I just needed--or so I told the dubious who watched me fill the hollow of a car--a new place to inspire my muse.

Securing a Northern California address, I found myself filling countless notebooks and carefully crafted short stories with hazy disconnected images of that more familiar terrain.

Not L.A. as idyll. Sun and seascapes and the proverbial days without weather were not what captivated me. I liked the extremes--the paradox of frigid snow and sweltering desert; the opulent Deco ghosts hovering alongside ragtag, carny transience.

So I wrote of wild canyon fires, the rush and electricity of those disorienting fabled red winds, lone punk-waif nomads roaming the desert, the sound of languages as they mesh, then fold into one rhythmic tongue: A city restive with change.

I glimpsed L.A. through a new prism: in all of its drama and incandescence. Distance allowed me to appreciate its vibrancy, a city caught center of rapid, inexorable evolution, forced and thus struggling to constantly redefine itself in all its belligerence and tenacity.

Liking L.A. has been long out of fashion. I can't remember when I haven't been made to feel like an apologist, booster or worse--another one of those Angeleno Philistines, who, because they know nothing else, simply know no better.

If one wants to understand the allure of this faded beauty, the challenge is to dig deeper to discern it. Beneath the placid, public veneer, a mesmerizing current charges around us. The city is at its most brilliant at the point where past, present and future collide.

Now when I wander the expanse, I'm captivated by the spectacle, exhilarated by the possibilities of what just might push out of it.

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