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Back in Town – For Now

January 20, 2012

2011 – the year that wasn’t. I wasn’t in town for the entire beginning of the year, nor the middle or the end really, but I did manage to make it in for the last few weeks. My biggest fear in coming back was that I would find myself disenchanted with my hometown. Argentina has managed to hold my attention for much longer than I thought; truth be told i’m not quite done there and will be going back for a stint in graduate school (the good news: it’s free!) and will thus have to leave my dear old Loyalist blog unattended for a while longer. There are a number of impressive new innovations afoot in Buenos Aires to report too, not the least of which is a massive installation of dedicated bike lanes and a bike sharing program – the reaction to which has unfortunately been less positive than it should. After all that time away, I was half expecting to come back and feel out of place, to feel like I had seen greener pastures which had robbed me of any affection for my home, to convince me that all those vociferous LA haters were right.

Long story short: it didn’t happen.

Los Angeles may not be a city of superlatives. We may not be the biggest or have the tallest buildings, or be the most aesthetically arresting. There are moments when even the most ardent supporters (me) have to admit that some things here are seriously fucked up. But there is something about this place that you can’t quite replicate anywhere else. So many people find the cafes of Europe, the subways and the urban prestige of the US East Coast, the myriad other experiences you might get elsewhere, to indicate the cultural inferiority of our humble west coast burg. I don’t.

I can’t expect any of you to be convinced by this. But I will leave you with a short tale, one that to me is why I still feel so at home here, why I feel this is a place to be, why despite the fact that I’m temporarily leaving again, I know for sure I’ll be back. This time back here I made sure to catch the art walk. I stumbled into a shabby loft on 5th street, where crowds milled around on the first floor. I climbed the flapper-era staircase to the second floor, where there was a salon with a panoramic view of the street. A surprisingly ornate ceiling was covered by wires and pipes, and at a stage on one side of the room a band, fronted by an Austrian in a sailor suit, blared 80s rock. Local artists pedaled drawings of Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson. Upstairs, an angry neighbor shouted down for everyone to shut the fuck up, he had just called the cops and they would be there any minute. They never came. He then resorted to simply verbally harranguing people who tried to climb past the third floor.

There’s a certain edge to this life, a lush combination of being strong, yet not totally played out. I can’t think of any American or European city where you’d get something like that. Our other cities are either dead or stale. Ironically, the closest I’ve ever come to anything like this is in Buenos Aires, which may explain why I spent so much time there.

So there you have it. I will leave you with some photos I’ve taken here so far. I may not be able to return for a while, but I am still and will always be an LA Loyalist.

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