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LA like nicotine.jpg

LA like Nicotine,

LA like Honey

May 2017


Some places are only horizontal once you visit them. Before that they are these stacked things in your mind, towers of everything you know about a place, one on top of each other. It’s only once you visit you can lay it all out and start piecing it together like a puzzle.

LA was particularly stacked. All of it packed into a box and compartmentalised, then categorised: here is the category of big big cities i’ve never been to but somehow still feel nostalgic for because things I love have been set there or some of the best words ever put together come from that place or describe it or cut it right open like a wound, so I feel like I know it, like a part of me might have grown there.

The first time I visited LA it was like a scattering. Everything falling over everywhere, everything I thought I knew and everything I did know, a quick speed tour in a big American car.

This time it started as soon as we began flying in, as soon as its grey-blue horizon started pulling closer.

Here’s what I knew about LA:

  1. LA is a giant black spider all bent elbows and black legs casting a web of sad highways and freeways, all overpasses and underpasses knitted grey grey grey everywhere, always trying to get somewhere, never really knowing what you’re leaving behind

  2. If E channel is anything to go by, LA’s population boasts the highest ratio of plastic to flesh on the planet. I like the idea of all these people with parts of themselves replaced or expanded, unnaturally pumping ancient bits of the earth all processed around their bones

  3. Every street is long and yellow and made three dimensional by the tallness of those famous palm trees stretching to hold the sky up

  4. Basically everyone drives a much too big car

  5. Famous people live there and wear big sunglasses and walk with their faces tilted down and sometimes go a little mad and shave their heads or jump on couches and wear sweatpants they apparently shouldn’t be (because comfort is reserved for wallmart patrons and trailer parks) or gain too much weight or lose too much weight and fall in love with each other and fall out of love with each other deeply and hard and well documented and attend these big parties with (always) a pool and that LA haze extending to be more than just pollution but an actual desired vibe, with cocaine and dripping jewellery and beautiful people everywhere and yet somehow always knowing that all of this, every little bit starts widening some inevitable pit of loneliness that probably bursts open when people stop saying their names

(What have I become my sweetest friend)

Here’s what I know about LA now:

  1. The flatness of LA (and I don’t mean the topography) is not coincidental but planned. Every high-rise in the city had to have a flat roof in case a helicopter needed to land there. So you can imagine another world up there, another level of concrete as empty of people as the roads designed especially for the fluttering turning machines pausing and watching above the city.

  2. In Spring the jacarandas bloom and spread their perfect purple aprons over the roads and the thin edges of fences and in the grasses of parks (some of which are sliced by highways) and for the people who grew up riding bikes over the petals or breathing in their smell at dusk before turning in for the night, they feel like home.

  3. Every street is long and yellow and so so wide that they’re only made three dimensional by the tallness of those famous palm trees stretching to hold the sky up

  4. There are gum trees in LA and they turn purple like swollen flesh full of blood and peel their purple skin onto the footpaths

  5. Everyone is reading the same edition of 1984, the one which has a mostly white cover and a blue eye with the blood red title written in the pupil. Well not everyone, but at least two people on the train. Maybe they’re preparing.

  6. You can see almost every style of house in a ten mile radius. And I can believe it. Being driven around the suburbs slowly (glimpses of high rises through the gaps) each house trying to be something and all of it so unapologetic in its plagiarism or its bigness or its beauty and especially its ugliness.

  7. LA seems as if it was once like fresh dough rolling and delicious and it’s been left out in the sun too long, and has dried up and cracked in places so you have to dig deep now to find the softness of it, its warm centre, the places that still taste as good as they once were, or could have been.

  8. People will be horrified if you tell them you walked anywhere.


And most importantly LA is yellow. Like it has a constant filter on, like it’s nicotine stained from too much excess, like its honey sweetness has been spread and drizzled and runs down the concrete river and comes out of the taps. Golden is everywhere, the word of it, the feel of it in the air, written haphazardly on all the roads, broken into pieces by stretched trees, spread thin over everything like there’s cellophane in the sky.

LA like nicotine, LA like honey, LA with her cellophane sky.

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