My Lady of Angels,
You know that refrains and repetitions are the essence of narrative and poetry. Refrains and repetitions need remembrance, and that is why in the lines that will follow you are not going to recognize your single self, and see clearly through the eyes of your past that you have partly lost and you will lose again. Yet, here you are, Lady A, Los Angeles, an ever-blossoming flower with no roots, full with forgotten petals of which your future will have no reminiscence, a plural name, many angels, a multiplicity of towns, an ocean and where’s the horizon. So in my story of you, as you will find, there will be references to other stories, other peoples, other loves, the ones you have lived before and you have then disregarded, along with other stories and peoples and loves that have never been yours. Is it still you, LA? You cannot recollect, for you are a restless plurality of places with a disposable history, a metropolis in which the mutable is stronger than the self. Shake the kaleidoscope of your identities, Lady A, shake it, LA, shake your images and times, shake the gender of your angels, transmute your space from shores into ocean, your sand from beaches into buildings, your landscape into real estate and into landscape again, for the vanity of your story and of my love in this letter is in your mutability, in your identity beyond the details of history. As it is true of all angels, one cannot fix the gender of Lady A. The danger is that your image is too well known and pictured, and motion pictured, and yet your reputation and reproduction is not you, and you are instead a tension maintained high by splitting, disarranging and juxtaposing in urban time and space, and by interference of architectural registers. Your past is somewhat cancelled, your future is unpredicted, your present is protracted, and we ourselves – your personality, your people - are sped up, drawn out and interrupted. Your language is disordered and hybridized, your narrative is confused: Is it a different you, with your numerous names, your many temperatures and mists, your countless hills and flats, your diverse hues of the sky? Is it the same shop, when announced by the same familiar sign? Is it the same full moon, in the grey twilight near the ocean, and in the simultaneous light-blue sunset on the hill? Is it the same lover that made all these lines? (Will you be the same reader, all the time?) Time is being played with, in your names, in your urban texture, and even in the text of this letter, and future facts anticipate their memories, and the incoherence of your time parallels the inconsistency of your space and of your character’s behavior - you are always more than one:
I am (Lady A)
II am (LA)
III am (... .......)*
* your name may be placed in this spot.
Agua y argento. Tesserae for a story of Lady A.
I want to try and narrate an unattainable story of angels. I intend to tell your story, Lady A, the tale of your success. Yours is a history of agua y argento. Like babies before birth, angels prefer a liquid suspension for their life. Water is what they breathe, and water is the basic element of the city of angels. Lady A’s adult life begins when to the West and the ocean an aqueduct is added on the East, one hundred years ago, and water is pumped lavishly from a far valley into the future metropolis. The desertification of that distant basin means showers, swimming pools, car washes, widespread gardens. To quell your urban thirst you slaughter without pity a whole population of peasants, LA. In the cold cruelty of your freshwater, your Hollywood directors are able to shoot your real colors – all the hues of drowning grey - and while you drink freshwater to develop, your motion picture industry feeds on sensitized silver to capture its images on film. That agua and that argento make you grow and come from the same valley, which you raped twice, Lady A, in its riverbed and in the depths of its mines. Two threads are intertwined in your success story, LA: agua y argento. Two elements inform the way you endlessly repeat your places and your successes, LA, still backed by the unfinished martyrdom of a valley in the mountains, while unwary is your drive to ignore the past, to do without history, to forget that your life, LA, is constant palingenesis, incessant resurrection from someone else’s sacrifice. That sacrifice is the deep basis of your amnesia, the removed reason for your ceaseless compulsion to entertainment, the buried motive of your belief in a time without history, in which bite-sized is best, the city is bits and fragments: we all wait for the next. Yes, belonging in LA is a fleeting state, since Lady A was born from a scattered conception, and in fact has no beginning or end; hence in LA you are always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo, intertown. The placelessness of LA resists chronology, favoring instead a tale of disoriented growth and propagation. In Lady A, history spreads like the surface of a body of water, sprawling towards empty spaces or trickling downwards to new memories through cracks and pauses, eroding what is in its way. The surface of water can be upset and altered, but these disturbances leave no trace, as water always manages to find an immaculate equilibrium, and thereby re-establish herself as an oblivious interplace.
Alias, alibi. Kinesis of Lady A.
LA, elusive: and you remain a place with lack of destination, Lady A, a pilgrimage to no Holy Land, a city of angels one must drive through, and go on driving in its grey-eyed snake of highways with eternal coils that vainly return the verdict: you shall never get back to your first time, to your initial place. Now. You think you are drowning in water, you think you are dreaming silver, but Lady A gives birth to you again, in your obsessive driving through her heart. Lady A has no end, nor did she have an innocent beginning, so you won’t find in her either arcadia or utopia. One cannot be innocent, living in Lady A, since LA is a false alibi (alibi means another place). Maybe you believe that driving through is a lurid misdeed, then, but here the crime is destination while your reward is discovery, and all you have to do is driving through, and look anew at places you must have seen before, but now they will present you with unseen hues and epiphanies, new signs, new shops, new urgency of consumption, new need for entertainment. Bring me my Bow of burning gold: Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire: the Angels will provide you with the always-new name for yourself.
Nostangeles. LA with no nostalgia.
Freedom from memory. Unforgiving freeways. Where are the traces left by the Pacific Electric Railway, which used to be omnipresent in the city of angels? The impermanence of Lady A is like the one of water in a stream, always new to itself, never the same, and yet with an identity and a name. Lady A has the memory of that water. That is why it is a city without history, with freeways and no railways. And the overwhelming number of new and recent arrivals, speaking inexperienced languages, have no idea that the reason Los Angeles exists as a metropolis is because of water brought to it from an outlandish valley more than 200 miles away.
Kalei, L-A, oh! a toy town by contiguity... a kaleidoscope! a game of casual places! (of a fictitious form!) an unremitting carnival! a megalopolis where meanings will collapse! no real subordinations! just billboards and visual spells that last very few fathoms (and a half!)! connections and intersections! I do like this commodity I have never seen before... it is a tube to turn! and into you we are all to watch! intently! and our smile will be a denationalized one...
LA is a strange city - a kaleidotown -, a restless toy transforming instants into forms that do not clarify our view. And, after a while, Lady A’s interest will dwindle – it’s always so, with her. Still, she is beautiful, and we resolve to drive on.
Water and trickery. And the wealthy always bathe in the thirst of the weak.
One hundred years ago, trickery made of LA an immense market, where every transaction has a liquid foundation. Looking out of my Owens Valley window early in the morning, Mount Whitney is clad in sunshine. Here Lady A is a colonial madam that owns the whole valley – Owens is a resource colony - possessing almost all its water and land and holding immoderate power over its people. A complex ploy was designed one hundred years ago to rob the valley people of their water. Water and rape are related to the history of LA since birth: indeed, water is the source of all life, and of LA’s success as a metropolis. In the animal kingdom and in human history, the wealthy always bathe in the thirst of the weak.
Offering the memory of a dry lake to Lady A.
Curiously, Lady A’s water taps fail to connect us with the alkali wasteland of Lone Pine, though from the Owens Valley to LA, water can run by gravity all the way by a providential layout of the land, which descends in gradual steps from Owens Lake to Mojave to the city of angels. Yet, a gradual approach to Lady A is not possible: more than a city, in fact, LA is an elusive agglomeration, an urban nebula, an urbanized occasion, a built-up land, an interurban territory that contains many towns but no centers and – above all - does not contain us. Indeed, in the conurbation of angels we are never inhabitants, only spectators, and our eyes are not followed by our bodies: they are not omens of our inhabiting the space they are scrutinizing. We can look at Lady A only as a Hollywood star, a megalopolitan event. Instead, if we want to be told about her birth from stolen agua y argento, we will go and see the valley from where the descent to Lady A loses its reassuring progress and takes the shape of vertigo, overpoweringly driving our mind into LA’s original sin - water and trickery against the blemished beauty of her victim: the lake was all water once, brine shrimps and alkali flies, and waterfowl galore; and now it is all dust and salty shores, dry landscape and relics of skulduggery.
And time remains around the cuts, in shots, in the transitions from one angel to another.
Shoot. Cut. Film it, as though in a dream. And deal with the mainstays of our Lady A, who proudly bears the scars of her previous deceitfulness. Show the tormented dry lake that allowed her to look at her neighboring towns with contempt, one hundred years ago. So, shoot, and cut, and show through cinematic montage the complex physiognomy of this beautiful parvenu, a monumental thief of water who made it to the cultural center of the world. Nature was there by right of birth, while Lady A had to step in, precipitously. Highways, aqueducts, ring roads, artificial cascades, fly overs, and polycentric territories. Shoot. Cut. In fact, a cauldron stays at the center of the Earth, but its ineluctable boiling is stressed by human steps on the surface. Hence, get out of the frame, be critical: the two boxers are still studying each other. Mind, none of them is reliable: both Lady A and Owens as you know them are like whores for sale, filled with appearance, so try and make the strumpets strip, with slow affectation, carefully taking off the packaging of ideological clothes they are wrapped in, showing their naked forms, at last. Shoot. Cut. Be more than one in your montage, and do not offer your many cinematic selves as a prize for the winner.
Transience (conclusion). Shaking the LA kaleidoscope.
Clad in the unsettled silvers of your sky, in the greys and blues of your beckoning body of waters, from swimming pools to ocean, after a day out I drive you home, LA. Why does one need to communicate, while driving your long distances? Even if I don’t feel like uttering a sound, I feel obliged to send a message - a pointless change in speed: a ticket to understand me. You do not answer my uneasiness, Lady A. Your name can’t be the key, though I keep repeating it to myself. This is the land of angels without gender that do not look for roots, the transient Lady A that doesn’t ask for marriage – only for transformation, promiscuity and divorce. This is where everybody feels at home, and nobody. This is where everybody is going to drive through and never stop. This is where the narrative cartilage is constantly rearranged: I have pictured you in my mind, so many times, but then your plural angels loom above a crowd like ruins on a desolate beach. Now, the timid, improbable fixity of your name with its final “s” does not match your strange unconstraint. Still, I obey the summons, and instantly desire the shapes of your kaleidoscope, your vibrant changing eyes, with their alluring lids always opening at my look. You make me a proposition, I accept. I love you, LA, I love your many bodies, though they are too rough and ready, and altogether lack the charm of indirectness. Your shop signs are too explicit, as it is true of the qualities of the people that used to inhabit your frontier. You need indexicality: your signs are too immediate and urgent to be sexy, while indices postpone and refine the meaning of the consumption they point at. The dearth of veils and indices makes for shortage of perspective, and your horizon blurs in its being too abrupt and close. In fact, the fundamental metaphor for Lady A is the pure commercial, a pledge that sells itself forgetting her multiplicity, a motion picture that forgets its subject’s mutability. And I am left with your transience, with traits in your several landscapes that look like they were towed in last month and will be towed out next. Yes, Lady A, I shall never possess your manifold bodies, their spirit of profligacy, your unique waste of history.