I had a great visit to Los Angeles Feb. 5-9—it overfulfilled my best expectations. Ever since a number of friends moved to LA after the Dotcom bust drove so many people out of San Francisco, I’ve had the feeling that Los Angeles is a far more interesting place than it used to be. I suppose I would have to credit Mike Davis and his “City of Quartz” back in 1990 for starting my own northern California snobbish re-examination of our long disdained southern California brethren. By now, I think a lot of folks in LA are sure they’re way “ahead” of us, partly through sheer size and scale, and partly because there’s an openness and joie de vivre and camaraderie amongst Angelenos that we really don’t approach up here, where everyone is jaded, everyone already knows what the other people are going to say, etc. There’s a certain “stuckness” sometimes in the Bay Area and the people I met in Los Angeles are up against such an overwhelmingly hostile megalopolis, in terms of design, values, and expectations, that those who are in the dissident subcultures are quick to connect with each other. It probably also means that there’s less judgementalness when you meet folks who are in some way standing up for life in a culture so fixated on death.
I took those shots from my rental car, an oddly LA experience of driving around in a convertible! First time I ever did that!
I got to Los Angeles after six flight legs over 2 days and it was a whirlwind. I did three Nowtopia Talks in the first two days, a Google lunchtime author series on Thursday, and then Friday Feb. 6 at FarmLab at midday, and the Los Angeles Ecovillage at night. The Googlers were funny–at least half of the 25 attendees tapping away at their laptops while I spoke. They asked some good questions and I think it went over quite well. They also videotaped it, simulcasting to Mountain View, but there was no audience feedback from there. On Saturday morning I went into the studio of Killradio.org (my browser says their website will damage my computer! But you can find their shows as podcasts at kpfk.org) and had a rollickin’ good two hours on the air with an ever-changing assortment of bicyclists and even a motocross champion! That night I spoke at BookSoup in West Hollywood to a small crowd, and then on Monday morning I finished my Nowtopia mini-tour at California Institute for the Arts in Valencia, speaking to Andrea Bowers’ class “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way! Art, Activism, and Dissent”.
The FarmLab is such a cool place! There’s a certain amount of local grumbling about it because it’s so well-funded, being the main project of Lauren Bon, an Annenberg Foundation trustee and descendent of that uppercrust family. But the conversion of the sprawling warehouses into gallery and meeting and performance space is beautiful, and by all accounts, they do a lot of great stuff there. I presented to about 50 people sitting in a big semicircle on upholstered benches, near a kitchen where a yummy chicken and salad lunch was served to all. Outside an historic viaduct rises to cross the LA river, shadowing weird art pieces, junker cars full of plants, and ironic juxtapositions of many sorts. Jeremy Rosenberg gave me a mini-tour explaining the multiyear experience he was still having (to his own surprise), including the seminal effort called “Not A Cornfield” –a huge adjacent parkland, once an abandoned island amidst freeways and warehouses (not far from Chavez Ravine) where Lauren Bon put in a 32-acre cornfield as an art project. Jeremy gave me a beautiful 2-volume book on it, one full of essays and analyses, the other photos and artistic representations, the books themselves quite elegant artifacts. I’d not heard of the Cornfield project but it was well known to my hosts at the LA Ecovillage, who are in a broad network of like-minded transformative efforts percolating here in LA.