If there's one thing I know about this Town
[the Ground Walks]
If you take all of LA’s concrete and break it down and cut it up into pieces you could hold, or carry, you could put it back together and make a belt around the world ten feet wide.
You could tie a noose around the world.
You could suffocate the world at the equator.
I’m still getting used to feet. I guess the good thing is you can step them out, one in front of the other. Ten steps across the equator, all that concrete.
I imagine a kind of surreal market, full of human darkness. Men carrying bodies to the middle of the ocean along the LA concrete road, people selling wares, their faces always close and sudden in yours, travellers who can only go in one direction, the sun impossibly bright and everywhere, the sky the biggest it’s ever been and really feeling the roundness of the earth as you watch everything slip over the side of it in all directions.
The Bonaventure is like a rocket launch pad. Cape Canaveral with that white rocket fade in the middle of downtown LA.
We cross bridges over roads and enter through the side because it doesn’t really have a front door. It feels like the kind of place that melts into you, that drips.
It is inside out. We can watch each other from the edges, we can wind around the tubes and find each other in new spots. We take the elevator up and Andrew and I back away from the glass because the height expands quickly and we both feel it in our bones.
Somehow in LA the ground is not the ground. We are walking outside, on the road. There are trees, and fire hydrants and the lobbies of buildings and then we realise we’re five stories up, and there’s a whole nother network below us.
A great hole opens up in the courtyard, and it’s like ground zero, where everything falls inwards into this great pit of sadness. But we get closer to the edge and it isn’t some great idea, it isn’t the missing of something exaggerated. It’s a mall below the street level. Another ground wrapped by shops instead of names of people we’re trying not to forget.
On the “real” ground the roads part like curtains above to let light in.
[Peter kicks a used needle away so we won’t step on it]
Trucks rumble like blood and earthquakes and the air rushes.
The city survives down here.
We sit below four tall buildings in the crevasse they create. They use the corners of the view to keep us inclosed. We talk more and sometimes I lie down to see if the buildings will sway for me. Jonathan hopes no one from work will see him. He does that thing where he looks at everyone for a fraction too long. We’re dressed in the same colours and blend. We talk about what we don’t want to do.
What is the ground? How do you decide if you’re underground or over it? Can we measure it by how much sky there is – can we look up instead of down? The city is a blanket, lain across the earth [ground?] sometimes folded and creased, sometimes keeping you warm, sometimes holding you down.
I am still hesitant about the blanket as a metaphor for the city though, a blanket is part of a kind of maternal act. Laying down a blanket over a slumbering land is something a mother might do, and founding mothers aren’t written about in history books.
The city is a suffocation device.
I wonder where all the sand must have come from to make all of LA’s concrete. Is it made from itself? All the desert scooped up (the way a man scoops up the waist of a girl) and hardened again and again.
We sit in reflected sunlight (this city has a way of turning buildings into moons). If LA was a noose around the world would it plant its feet and lift up over the sea or would it float on it? Roll with it? Somehow it would exist in the middle of all the everythings in the world (all the cities and their sad skylines and all the grey grey grey, all the people and their little lives revolving in and out of each other) and then it would exist in the middle of all the nothings (all the endless seas and skies that lay themselves open across the belly of the earth like the palm of a hand).
LA as the ocean again, LA as the hardened desert, LA as a belt pulling tighter.
I’ve never understood the ocean without its edges, there’s always been something. An island, a cloud like the top of a mountain, the moon to make sure you remember where you are. I wonder what the sea is like between the lights, after the sun sinks, and before the stars come out in a moonless sky. I wonder if anything feels the right way up.
The ground, the ground? [the ground]
Every time you think you’re walking you’re just moving the ground.
Image: Sarah Etaat