Monday, August 13, 2007

You Can't Go Home Again--It Either Isn't There or It Looks Like Someplace Else

The intersection of Gutierrez and Chapala Streets in downtown Santa Barbara is interesting in a number of ways. Were you to continue northwest on Chapala, you'd quickly come to a tall, ungainly barrier, preventing you from the northbound 101. Shoehorned in before the barrier is a small, family-run taqueria, Lucy's. A block south is a favored enclave, featuring a tattoo parlor, the Santa Barbara Yoga Center and so down-at-the-heels apartments. Across Gutierrez are two sprawls of condos, intended to be weekend and vacation pieds a terre, sold to those from Los Angeles who may have to work there but by golly, they can own a little piece of Paradise. The sales pitch for these condos is that their locale is the area of Santa Barbara most like Los Angeles.

This is a hoot in many ways because just this past weekend, the venerable Los Angeles Times ran a long feature about attempts underway to make downtown Los Angeles like New York, presumably to lure migrant New Yorkers to one of the least livable areas of the entire Los Angeles Basin. This reminds me laterally of the time I ran the Los Angeles office of a large New York publishing conglomerate and one of my chores involved securing rooms for visiting dignitaries. Rooms to them meant the Beverly Hills Hotel. My set-ups at Chateau Marmont and the Bel-Air Hotel were met with disdain. No one, I was reminded, stayed at LA lodgings, they stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel because there they could see persons from New York they might not otherwise see in New York. "This Los Angeles stuff has to stop," my immediate superior warned me. "We don't want places where people from LA would go."

If I get the current situation correctly, Santa Barbara, which often exhibits graffiti that reads "L.A. Go Home" wants a part of it to look enough like L.A. to lure more Angelenos here. Confession: I am a carpetbagger Angeleno, having committed several years to going to school there, working there, and being born in Santa Monica, which is not all that far fro L.A.

L.A. wants its downtown to look more like New York and the rest of itself to look like portions of Brooklyn that are currently trying to look like L.A.

They are all managing to look like Omaha or possibly Albuquerque, both of which are caught between the rock and hard place of wanting to look like L.A. and New York without anyone noticing.

Go figure.

And while you're figuring, figure why so any persons and places want to look like other persons and places.

Nobody willingly admits to being a bad driver or a poor lover.

Maybe that's just a New York thing.

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