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1. Los Angeles Abstract


I’m probably known... although, perhaps not to you... as the author of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir. That was a book about a lot of things - water, sin, carpentry, Catholics and Jews, land use policy, the Laws of the Indies, Lakewood, and a dead cocker spaniel. They seemed, at the time, to be related.It was more of a long, solitary conversation with myself than a book. Years long. Held morning and evening during my walk from my house to my office and from office to house, the predictability of each step eliding into each sentence. Eventually, that conversation turned public, because the back-and-forth was an argument, too... an argument with myself initially over the folly of staying here (here = my parents’ house, then my house) or of believing . . . particularly of believing that so much ordinariness would add up to anything. Then it became an argument about falling in love.

I was about to say something about us at this point, because the “falling in love” part seems to need it. But I stopped because I have a habit of referring to you and me collectively... naming us as Angeleños or throwing us together as “we” by the fourth of fifth ‘graph of just about every essay I write, as if you and I were passengers on the same Metro bus and as if being there together implied anything, particularly any obligation or civility, between us. You in your uncomfortable seat listening to your iPod. Me in my uncomfortable seat thinking how the pyramid of Khufu at Giza might be taken apart, block by block, to reveal what it hides inside.

Well, now that’s been said. (You might remember that I once told an audience that I thought blogging was a form of speech, not of writing. That got me in hot water. Someone else may remember from Phaedrus that Socrates argued writing was overrated. He valued living speech. Just a suggestion, if you’re still defensive.) Except I made about two dozen changes in these 373 words and 18 sentences (MS Word will do the metrics for you), which currently score at a ninth grade reading level. Just in case you were wondering what I’m getting at.

“We” remains an abstraction, despite my regard of the back of your head two rows in front, an abstraction equivalent to the abstraction that Los Angeles has become (has been made to become... and there are reasons for that which are worth talking about). But here is where the imagination comes in, my imagination and, if I’m lucky, yours, too... and there isn’t much imagination in the kind of thing this thing is (what you are reading but maybe you should be hearing)... and - oh - it’s a moral imagination about which I talking.

(490 words. The goal is 500, after which I get bored with the sound of my own voice.)

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