Written by Joseph Mattson
Empty The Sun, 2009
No, for the first time in my life what I feared was leaving. Leaving Los Angeles. Gone would be the long bleached avenues of warm disquiet, the whispering seven-story palms towering with wise endurance above the mashed commutes of countless human insects stitching paths across each others’ sordid lives, nestled below the caustic trademark layer of smog that governs the puppet show, where hope and despair collide in intersections of the same blue smoke that aspirations are made of and then burned to. And with it all, the sanctimony of place. I feared losing the city with neither indifference nor nostalgia. I’d simply gotten too used to it. In its familiarity lived my fear. Los Angeles is tough and scary and undeniably superb. Nothing if not polarized, the city is mean yet forgiving, dirty yet lovely, full of darkness in its harsh burning light, full of light in its cool darkness, all laid bare without apology or expectation. Almost human. Assholes are assholes unabashed, angels are angels undefined. It is the most honest place I have ever known. And for better or worse, it had become my place. I had come to know her in all of her rotten shortcomings and her rotten promise, in all of her despicable ugliness and numinous beauty, and simply in knowing her I was afraid to leave. I feared even leaving the smog and the tired lungs it’d given me. In the right kind of light, at 7 p.m. in the spring, 8 in the summer, 6 in the fall, 5 in winter — at twilight’s turning — as the sun lets the hills go and moves on to cast its belted fist upon the sea, the smog refracts the most brilliant mix of orange and purple, a sight both overwhelmingly apocalyptic and hopeful. The color had come to define what I was now afraid to admit I was leaving: home.
© 2009 Joseph Mattson; Los Angeles: A Barnacle Book