A metallic Los Angeles dawn. The streets are dry [Unlike film shoots where they spray them down for that surreal reflective quality. Or maybe that was only in the eighties and nineties when they did this, but he thinks the history of the street location wet-down must have started much earlier, peaking at the height of the drought specter--but there is perpetual drought here. When the citizens of the realm were asked to let their lawns die and bathe quickly the preponderance of wet streets on film increased dramatically. He's almost positive of this. At which point it also becomes a sort of trope for car ads. A study of aforementioned car ads will reveal that 65% were shot in various abandoned and decrepit late-night downtown post-industrial locations. A significant subset of these were staged with moistened blacktop. He’s not certain what the ads were trying to insinuate. The figure driving was always opaqued behind dark windows and the cars were always speeding through the empty streets, though much of that could have just been CGI.] but his windscreen is still streaking with the dew that started out on his car at his point of departure. He thinks it’s really too early to be down here.
The streets are mostly empty–like in the car ads so he can see why they like it. The distressed ruins of brick seem pimply and diseased with their seismic retrofits spiking through. Bums, silvered like dirty crows with their filthy blankets over their shoulders, shake off the dust of lives lost, finally free of night, surprisingly dead-cold night. The seaweedy smell of the Pacific is improbably heavy for being inland. A suited man emerges from a ground floor security door. A woman in a pink bathrobe waves him good day. A dog sits in a high window with his head out like he’s a passenger driving in the neighborhood as it rushes forward.
What emerges from this profound ugliness, this 99% of it all [Rem Koolhaas, as he has been reading in preparation, is on to something there. So is that guy Mike Davis. It's all on the reading list.], is unclear. But, on the surface of it, this ugliness drags ruin to it. The energy, misguided or not, of new citizen youth seemingly props up this shell of a world where prior there was none. But it must take a force of idealism he himself does not yet possess to see a future other than heroin needles and prostitute handbags in these slouching forty blocks. These new citizens are themselves like the ocean breeze and the bits of sand that blow down here, following the freeways. It’s unclear if the wind will return them. For now they have keys, passcodes, assigned parking spaces, surveillance cameras.
The cops step aside. The market opens its graffitti steel roll-up door to sell its lottery tickets and bad coffee. The cops are sipping the bad coffee from paper cups with plastic lids. They set the cups on the patrol car roof and hook their thumbs into their belts.
This is just the morning ride down the hill and through the streets to the parking lot. There is a lot on his mind. He thinks of this as that part of Los Angeles that remains off @gelatobaby’s grid. She likes Los Angeles , but it’s not certain she is talking about this particular part of it with the Denny’s and the prisons and the trains and the helicopters chasing zombies. Human feces and dog feces alike in the tree planters with their sad little trees. Does anybody ever talk about this part of the city?
This is the first morning of the summer test-the-waters program. A small group has assembled amongst their college cars with stickers and dings. The dust of the dirt lot is still swirling from the last car that pulled in. An actual station wagon of the sort he used to ride in with piles of other children, all without seatbelts, of course. Bleached wood paneling and muffler eaten away by rust like it had probably come out from somewhere with severe weather. A blonde girl drove up in an up-to-the-minute Mercedes purchased in Beverly Hills, according to the plate-frames. The sticker on the back window read USC. She was talking on her cell phone. A tall pimply-faced boy leans against what must have been his dad’s Cadillac, of all things. He is smoking and his fingers are like puffy sausage links, hairless infant hands that seem soft and moist.
The strangers mill around and gravitate into broken little troupes, introducing themselves. Most do not say much as if there is some automatic understanding of purpose despite representing different generations, demographic profiles, and archetypes. Perhaps none are morning people. He himself is not and he is not even sure how he made that dream drive here. Some, out of nervousness and jumping with caffeine, reveal too much about themselves upfront. Then there is nothing left to talk about and they mill about some more. The blonde girl in the Mercedes is still sitting in the Mercedes and talking on her oddly large cell phone. An Asian girl with short hair and big generic sunglasses is making jazz hands and finger gestures while speaking in Ebonics. She could be any number of variations on a Blue Note Horace Silver album cover he remembers. Like this:
No one of authority seems to be present. No one with keys. No one has checked any of the trailers. Being non-hierarchal and without signage, it is not clear to those assembled, which trailer is the designated one for this immersion program that is about to commence. They all stand there with hands in pockets or folded across chests against the cold. The orange sun starts to light up the glass of distant financial institutions and the proximate jail.
A man arrives in a chop-top Bronco of flat beige and splotches of bondo, roaring across the dirt on big tires. The troupe squints and turns as the dust swirls. The Mercedes has now altered its color to suit it’s environment more closely. There is the dull clang of the Bronco door closing. The man puts on a white hardhat and disappears into one of the trailers. The door shuts. A few moments pass and he emerges with a cup of coffee and keys. He smiles, opens a door and waves the drifters in.
The Director welcomes them and they take their seats–little plastic outdoor-type seats. The lights are cut and the projector proceeds to flash image after image of remarkably complicated buildings and odd bits of science fiction. There is mention of Bergsonian time, Marx, Heidegger. The images are stunning and seem self-illuminating from within. He has never seen buildings–potential buildings–such as this. He wonders if he ever will, but The Director is well-dressed in dark suit and smooth hair and exudes confidence.
After the presentation there is the call for questions. There is silence and the silence becomes uncomfortable, at least to him so naturally he feels compelled to ask a question since nobody else seems inclined. This is what he is here for, he thinks. He’s paying for this so he’s going to engage it as much as possible even if it seems like he’s hogging all the time and attention. This is immersion and he’s going to immerse.
“How do you find the time for all this?” As the question was half-way complete he realized how stupid and pathetic it sounded, but it was too late to take back. The Director looked right at him, grinned as if he knew he could answer in a way that might cause some emotional damage and confidently replied:
“There are twenty-four hours in a day.”
This was uttered as if a challenge to commence in like fashion to live and breathe architecture and he felt like it was leveled directly at him. That’s what he gets for asking such a ridiculous question. How do you put your pants on in the morning? Do you put the left trouser leg on first and then the right or vice-versa? Or do you somehow jump into both legs at the same time? Haven’t we all tried that? It was the stupid sort of ill-conceived and non-rigorous question he asked when he felt compelled to break some awkward silence, usually his own. In such situations he might be the first to pose a question because past experience showed that if he waited too long all the questions he could come up with would be asked by others and then he would have blown his chance to be recognized as someone with a valuable question to contribute, and he would have felt bad for not having posed a question at all.
He didn’t now where this inclination came from. He had never had the disposable income to contribute to an expert to help him figure that out. It was remarkably like the experience of sitting in a classroom and struggling with whether or not to raise one’s hand or to hide in the back. If you hid in the back you got called on. If you raised your hand you could be ignored. Somewhere around third grade, he thought, he began, to the annoyance of classmates, to be one of those students who always raised his hand by default. He had, at some point, decided he was going to live and breathe every single day.