It is not quite cool to love it. Like loving a beautiful but empty woman or a perfect but artificial flower. Just as with a beautiful and (because of it) a suspicious woman, one should, of course, use it and secretly enjoy its charms, at the same time publicly despising it and spreading all the dirt about it. One should say with a jaded smile: “Ah, that sun that shines relentlessly every single day! How boring, how monotonous, how depressing!” With a superior intellectual detachment, one should disclose its endless emptiness, its superficiality, its silicon breasts and its lips swollen from endless Botoxes. One should crave the hot dusty asphalt of big European cities. One should be nostalgic for infernal subways, for temperatures under zero, for snow, for sleet, for slush, for fog and gray skies, for rain and human fuming in buses and trams. That’s cool, that’s in. If one has any dignity left. If one wants to be considered an intellectual. Or a true European. A citizen of the world.
But we love the sun. We love the streets that in April become purple with jacaranda petals. We love the cacti called “prickly pear” and we enjoy their juicy red fruit, we and the frequent visitors of our gardens, the raccoons. We love the ocean and the beaches in the middle of the city where boys with flat bellies and strong biceps play basketball and girls with long legs and huge breasts (we don’t ask if they’re real or not) play volleyball. We love West Hollywood, the Boys Town, where local policemen drive around on bicycles, dressed in tiny panties with leopard print. We love the Hollywood transvestites on Santa Monica Boulevard who, when there are no customers, keep company to the actors. The actors that sit on the asphalt of the same street and learn their lines for tiny theatre productions to which nobody ever comes because they’re busy surfing or writing screenplays they hope to sell for huge sums. We love old Russian ladies who are the only ones in town that ride on public buses and who walk the streets with plastic bags in their hands, as if they had never noticed that they’d changed the continent, the country, the political system. We love to ride in our big cars with our windows lowered and with Tupac blasting loud from our newest car speakers. We love Armenian pistachio sweets and Cuban beef sandwiches called “old rugs” and Mexican quesadillas with scampi and the Japanese sushi made of eel and the Thai soup with coconut and the Indian dessert made of fresh cottage cheese named “rasmalay”. We, passionate nature lovers armed with the newest binoculars, get excited by the encounters with wild coyotes in our gardens, although we fear for our beloved pets that those love to eat for breakfast. We love it when a hummingbird, waving its wings so fast that it seems it’s not moving at all, looks at us from the other side of our kitchen window while we make our morning coffee. We love it when a squirrel throws an acorn onto our head as we read our daily paper where they inform us about the national deficit and global warming. We love our hikes into the mountains that are conveniently located in the middle of the city and that we climb obsessively, to the point of exhaustion, together with the deer and the rabbits. We love the chant of the talented musicians – the mocking birds, as well as the sound of the quails who visit our gardens in pairs, the Missus with the mohawk, the Mister without it. We love jogging around the Hollywood Lake that would look like Switzerland if it wasn’t for the cacti and the eucalyptuses. We love East LA because of Los Lobos and because of the Mariachi Square where we can always rent a band for one of our countless parties. We love yoga studios on every corner, we love the bookstore names after the tree under which Buddha had reached enlightenment, we love yogi teas without theine and omelets without yolks and pasta without wheat and coffee without caffeine and cigarettes without nicotine. We love walks on the beach, we love to watch huge waves that crash against the wild, rocky shore at Point Dume above Malibu, we love to watch a school of dolphins playing in the crimson twilight in January. We love that the sky is big, we love that the space is empty, we love that we are at the very edge of the world, at the end of the West, we love that beyond us is there is only the East, the Far East, and that beyond that it all goes back around, all over again.
We have come here running away from wars, from persecution, from poverty, from winter and snow, from the noise and the hustle and bustle and the human malice. We, the Armenians. We, the Russians. We, the Mexicans. Especially we the Mexicans. We the Hispanics are now the majority in this state, the state that once used to belong to us. And that is just how it should be, we think. Let them learn Spanish, those rich Anglos. We will keep on changing our complicated dramatic names into the simple American ones for a while longer, but not forever. That is how the ex-high school professor from El Salvador, Hermenegilda Cota, is going to turn into Mary, the house maid. That is how the former teacher Jesus Ricardo Juan Fernandez from Guatemala is going to turn into a gardener named Edwin. We will change identities, we will be anything they want us to be, we will do anything, everything, whatever they give us, whatever crumbs from the big table we can catch. And then, slowly, through generations, we will become what we are. We are not in a hurry. We are not Americans. We have time. One day we’ll be ourselves on our own land. That’s why we are willing to jump over the high wall between Tijuana and San Diego, ten times if necessary. Because we want big houses, flashy automobiles and huge amounts of green cash. And later, maybe, even silicone and Botox, God willing. If we still care at that time. We, the rich and the successful.
This city belongs to us. To the transient drifters, the adventurers, the curious and ready for anything girls from Ohio. To us, the ambitious bodybuilders from Austria and to us, cute boys from Minnesota who appeared in tiny sexy underpants on enormous billboards on Sunset Strip and thus began our sensational film careers. We love gambling, we gamble with our bodies and our souls and we don’t care. The gains are such that no one can resist them. And it would be stupid. We want our houses with swimming pool and we think it is our unalienable human right. Whoever doesn’t want to play can go home, to his gray rainy little city or to her boring green wilderness. There, they can voice their objections. There, they can be fiercely intellectual or, God forbid, sincere and warm and naïve. Let them think of us as empty and stupid. Let them accuse us of selling our souls to the devil. We’ll laugh all the way to the bank. We will build houses that will look like the Acropolis if we’re Greek or Taj Mahal if we’re Indian or Aja Sofia if we’re Turks. Just so everybody knows where we’re from and how hard and challenging our journey was. And when those self proclaimed intellectuals, those ones who didn’t succeed the way we did, those ones who consider themselves subtle and smart, when they tell us that it’s all vulgar kitsch, we’ll take them for a drive in our BMWs, in our convertible Mercedeses and we’ll watch them salivating with envy. We’ll watch them dressed in our Armani suits, in our Calvin Klein panties, in our Manolo Blahnik shoes, with our perfect whitened and polished teeth, with our fake breasts, knees, ankles, eyelids, lips, with perfectly flattened bellies, raised buttocks, pulled tight in our sexy costumes. We will play the game to the end. We have nothing to lose. We were nothing and that’s why we can be anything. The nonplayers, the nonswimmers , all the unadapted, the morose, the sullen and the grumpy, all those so called intellectuals, all those that speak foreign languages, all those who have their own history they are unable to forget, all those filled with nostalgia, regret, guilt, doubt, dilemmas – those shouldn’t even enter this playground. The ones who stay are us, the strong, the ruthless, the brave, the ready for anything, the players.
We are the ones who are going to sunbathe on Zuma Beach, we are going to surf on Topanga, we are going on hikes to the huge white aluminum letters known as “the Hollywood sign”, we are going to dance salsa in the Cuban nightclub called “El Floridita’ deep into the night, we are going to eat sushi at Nozawa’s who doesn’t accept orders but serves only his own purist choice named “Trust Me”. In one word, we are the ones who are going to have fun. Because this is paradise. They were right, those ancient Pioneers that traveled across America in their stagecoaches and died in the Valley of Death, trying to reach California. Yes, it is paradise. There are no wars or winters here and the sun always shines. And the mornings are luminous with glittering dew and the sky is blue and the ocean is around the corner and everything that you plant grows. We love having our own tomatoes and our own lemons and oranges. That’s as far as our nostalgia goes: in our gardens we plant tomatoes from the old country. When we eat those, we think of our Armenian and Russian and Guatemalan grandmothers and maybe we shed a tear or two. But then, quickly, we get a hold of ourselves and throw ourselves into our Humvees and other SUVs. We take the freeway to the mountains where we ski in the middle of the summer. Or we drive to Malibu and frolic in the ocean. Or we drive to the desert where we watch the cacti bloom in February. Yes, we have it pretty good here, everything considered. We are the chosen ones, the privileged ones. We laugh at the other part of humanity that spends its time in rain and mud and doubt and unhappiness. Nosotros somos los angeles. We are the angels.