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Mapping the Face of L.A.

October 12, 2002

Leo Braudy ("A Sense of Place," Opinion, Oct. 6) rightly suggests we should get to know the dispersed histories and eccentricities of the sites of our expansive city. But he also perpetuates the myth that "a tour of the monuments" gives the visitor an understanding of older cities. Maybe. But if I had an extra hour next time in Rome I would bicycle or take the subway to the Garbatella neighborhood most tours to the pyramid and San Paolo fuori le Mura never show you and mingle with people for whom those monuments are only a backdrop and who rarely go into the historic center.

Asking "what do they know of L.A.?" Braudy suggests visitors to the Getty, the new cathedral and the Disney Hall are somehow frozen out of local history. In time all monuments, even new ones, take on artistic or historical meaning. Who is to say that the Getty is not already the most vibrant urban space in Los Angeles, a place to take foreign guests to observe local ways?

The sprawl identified with L.A. as compared with New York only pertains to a view of New York City from Manhattan or Brooklyn. Ask anyone who commutes from Far Rockaway to Orchard Beach, or who takes a car and then the ferry from Staten Island to a set of subway rides and a bus across the George Washington Bridge to a job in New Jersey and he or she will tell you New York is spread out.

Having returned to L.A. two years ago after a year in "the city" and then three years in the bucolic village of Nyack, N.Y., commuting into the Bronx, I can assure Braudy that the New York I loved as a young man 20 years ago when my life was circumscribed by the then-distant Morningside Heights and Greenwich Village is no longer the mythic haunt of the "stroller of the boulevards" and that L.A. is not "resolutely enigmatic." There is history here and distance there.

Ty Geltmaker

Los Angeles

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I was gratified to see that Braudy included Simon Rodia's Watts Towers in L.A.'s "scattering of riches." Watts Towers is a treasure that deserves more attention and appreciation than it gets. People come from all over the world to see Watts Towers, it being included on many foreign tourists' must-see lists, and yet most of the people of L.A. haven't taken the time to visit. Is it that some people are afraid to travel to that part of town? I encourage Angelenos to take the time to see this magnificent testament to one man's vision and ability to make a difference.

Ilene Adelman

Santa Monica

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