365: Day 269 – Thinking about my city

Griffith Observatory and Downtown Los Angeles skyline at night

I saw this picture in an article, and it made me nostalgic for my city. There was a time not too long ago when I was hardly home. I went from one social event to the next and filled up my schedule with as much to do as possible. It didn’t matter what time I got home. I remember on the rare occasions when I’d have a free afternoon or evening, I’d be messaging a bunch of friends, fishing for an invitation. A quiet evening in was almost inconceivable. 

I miss the adventure of it all, but I must admit that it was a time filled with carefree irresponsibility–especially financially. Now, after many months of the pandemic, I find myself treasuring my time at home and dread having to spend too much time away from home. My adventure now lies in books and articles both for entertainment and self-improvement. I think back to the many very expensive dinners, and I don’t remember the details of many of them. I’ve even forgotten the names of many of the restaurants I would rave about. The only thing I plan on resuming after this pandemic is over is regularly going to the opera and other classical music performances. That is truly my passion.

So really, what I miss are the elements of Los Angeles that are most intimate to me and authentic to my relationship with the city. Going on foody adventures and social gatherings–while fun–are really something I partook in to fit in with the crowd. I guess this pandemic has served as a form of soul searching and a rediscovery of the elements of my city that genuinely make me happy.

LA has a glitz and glamour reputation the world over, but do people really know Los Angeles? The entertainment business gives it its fame, but it is not what put this city on the map. You don’t have the busiest port in the nation and third in the world making movies. The Los Angeles region is actually the largest manufacturing region in the country, and its top industry is aerospace. The area prospered in the twentieth century thanks in large part to large defense contracts. But it all started as a humble Spanish settlement called “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula.” Of course, there were Native Americans long before this settlement, but this was the beginning of the region’s identity as Los Angeles. It then grew to a collection of ranches whose names survive to this very day. Hollywood was a ranch that was later converted to a housing development. It later became the neighborhood that gave birth to the city’s entertainment industry and produced stars on the silver screen. In the local mountains, the real stars would be studied by Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble from the Mount Wilson Observatory.

Needless to say, I now want to do a different exploration of the city: an exploration of its history that is often hidden in plain sight. In the picture, you see the Griffith Observatory overlooking the skyscrapers of Downtown LA. It has been an iconic scene for movies, but it also stands above the city, hinting at the many treasures this city can hold.