Written by Joan Didion
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Course of Empire, 2005
At the beginning of June 1988, two months after my husband and I had moved from Los Angeles to New York, I happened to fly back to Los Angeles on Jesse Jackson’s campaign plane to cover the Californiaprimary. It was the first time I had been back since the move. The plane landed at LAX in the late afternoon. There was a chartered bus waiting, a drive toa rally in South Central for which the candidate wasalready late. There is no way to drive from LAX to South Central that has ever figured on anyone’s listof the famous scenic tours of Los Angeles County, yet I remember sitting on the bus that afternoon with my face pressed against the window, tears streamingdown my face, too blinded by the glory of this place I had just abandoned to even notice what street we wereon. Which streets they were did not matter. What did matter were the hard industrial angles, the gas stationsand the strip malls and the two-story apartmentbuildings with the outdoor stairways and the coveredwalkways upstairs, the very stuff that said Los Angeles to me, all swimming in the lurid light that comes therein the western sky for a few hours before the sun drops below the horizon and the known world goes dark.
© 2005 Joan Didion; in Ed Ruscha: Course of Empire, 2005, Berlin: Hatje Cantz