LA Theories

KV Luce
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readSep 4, 2016

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from the photo series “Expired LA” by Vicky Moon

A few days ago one of my coworkers, an actress who lives in Silverlake, blamed her suicidal sweaty hangover on an event she described as “a guy doing a live recording of his podcast, with beer.” People in LA love to listen to other people talk, which shouldn’t be mistaken for loving to read or write. There’s nothing like near-total disinterest from and in The Literati to make you feel like you have nothing to lose.

I have this theory that listening to people talk is part of the worship practice directed towards the city’s general-interest entertainment deity, Comedy; and that LA, above all, wants to laugh is fitting as an ass in yoga pants. Curtis White wrote, in a book about evolutionary explanations for depression, that Because the depressed person finds no possibility for life within the cloistered limits of the normal, she becomes radically open to other possibilities. She opens herself to the random. In this way, the depressed person becomes the portal of the beautiful. She becomes the creator of counter-worlds, other places where she might be able to live without being this miserable thing that she ineluctably is. Through her, a sort of happy-making playfulness comes to rule. She learns how to laugh. When she laughs, she really laughs. She is an incredibly great laugher. This is of some considerable consolation to her and her depressed friends.

I have this theory that LA is America’s depressed woman, radically open to the random and occasionally the beautiful. Definitely she’s the most feminized city in America, a medicated woman with a manicure strolling out of Soul Cycle during an Instagram sunset, swirling the most recent liquid food trend in a branded plastic cup, listening to an astrology podcast on her phone, inching through awful traffic to go watch Netflix with her ugly boyfriend, with whom she’s on Tinder, looking for a third.

I have this theory that in LA all the cliches are true, but so is everything else. Frank Lloyd Wright famously said: Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles. As loose and sticky as it gets; is this the least sterile city in America? Sometimes when I’m walking around the scummy chaos that is LA on a street level, or riding the metro, surrounded by all the people everyone who says “everyone drives in LA” don’t consider people, I think about how LA has enough loose change to add up to something big, enough to invest, and I wonder when she’ll cash in.

There are 82,000 homeless people sleeping in LA on any given night, the highest anywhere in the country. This is also, somehow, fitting, especially when you consider the prediction made by the respected climate change scientist and bucket-hat enthusiast James Hansen. In a YouTube video published this March called “Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise, and Superstorms video abstract”, James says it’s highly likely that within this century all coastal cities will be swallowed by the sea. I have this theory that maybe everyone in LA is destined to be homeless eventually, and — if the word karma is a too LA for you — maybe it’s kismet.

I have this theory that glamour is the halo of fate, circling the seedy and the tragic like a hug, which explains why it’s so easy to feel glamorous here. I have this theory that the only way to get your money’s worth here —slightly cheaper than New York and San Francisco but still triple the cost of whatever backwater you’re from — is to go places and brush against people whose fates have less than zero to do with yours. Since most of the worlds in LA barely know or care that any of the other worlds exist it’s easy to float between them as both spectator and specter, traveling diagonally, a bemused ghost.

K-HOLE, a ‘trend forecasting group’ from New York who compose beautiful PDFs, have this theory on Ghosting: In Los Angeles, you’re always late. And you’re in no position to make demands to the Clock Winders that live in the East. You are a perpetual late responder — never the first to know, but always on call for the aftermath. Living in constant temporal disjunction, your days begin by checking an endlessly scrolling inbox. Like you’re at an Olive Garden being served the bottomless bread basket from hell.

Communication breakdown happens when all of your communication is asynchronous. You wake up to hundreds of unread emails, 70 unread texts from group chats, a missed call from a student debt collector, and GoDaddy.

Waking up in L.A. is a traumatic experience; it’s very un-chill. The hikes, juice cleanses, B12 shots in the ass — those are all crisis management, not preventative care. But waking up in L.A. is also a magical experience. Information comes out of the black hat with no identifiable point of origin. It simply appears. In L.A. you have the power to determine when you’re seen by others and when you go dark, and how intimate the settings are when you make an appearance. It’s like MTV’s Unplugged — acoustic, emotional, flanked by white flowers and candles.

Moving to L.A. isn’t about disappearing — it’s about modulating between “being there” and “ghosting.” Like the rabbit, we’re not afraid of being sucked down the rabbit hole. We’re freaked out about how and when we’re going to get pulled out of the void by our ears.

Get your money’s worth by drifting sideways through the In & Out on Sunset and Orange, eavesdropping on the sugar daddy date going on in the adjacent booth, or landing one night in the tasteless loft of an insecure screenwriter (who’s kind of friends with Kristen Stewart and who kind of liked the way you mocked him during the magazine party at TENANTS OF THE TREES, a scene so deeply lame it sometimes does an ouroboros-curl into transcendence) only to watch to him cry, naked — twice — about having to dump his girlfriend, or going to an opening featuring paintings the artist made with her own vomit, which was composed of mostly almond milk, according to her artist’s statement, to stare at kids so wealthy and stylish it seems like they’ll never die, or stumbling into the Los Feliz chapter of AA on your walk home so you can warm yourself in the sunny attentions of cardboard-attractive — and sober — improv actors, or riffing with teens who moved from Texas two months ago about Gosha Rubchinskiy in an Uber Pool driven by a 50-something man from Ecuador, or instructing your mediocre first date to drop you off alone at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons hotel so you can order a slice of chocolate cake at the bar, eat it alone, and send wry snapchats of the lobby’s expensive flower arrangements.

I have this theory that all the flowers here, bursting freely from the cement like some dada version of blood from cuts, are offerings from the playful depressed woman who haunts the streets. They’re little gestures of consolation, displays of random beauty so prolific they shake your semantics slightly loose like a small earthquake.

Speaking of earthquakes, I have this theory — definitely my most popular — that LA is the best place in the world to die. On January 17th, 1994, a police officer was driving to work on his motorcycle when he drove off a cliff he thought was a road. It had become a cliff just a few hours earlier, around 4 AM, when the Northridge earthquake split the freeway in two, and in the predawn darkness he died by driving off the edge. This may be the closest anyone has ever come to walking off the edge of the flat earth, so obviously it happened in Los Angeles.

I learned about that death by watching a YouTube video called “LA’s Killer Quake”, because it’s really possible that most of what I know about history has come from YouTube. I tried reading City of Quartz but couldn’t make it past the page where the author, a Male Marxist of course, called Marjorie Cameron a whore without even using her name. She, Marjorie Cameron, artist and witch before both were cute, died in West Hollywood in 1995; the next year Ella Fitzgerald, genius before that category had room for her, died in Beverly Hills. Marilyn Monroe (1962); Aldous Huxley (1963); Whitney Houston (2012); Jack Parsons (1952); Brittany Murphy (2009); Michael Jackson (2009); Richard Pryor (2005); Sharon Tate (1969)…the list of haloed deaths occurring here goes on, on IMDb, for 15,441 names.

The deeply glamorous filmmaker and writer Theresa Duncan didn’t die in LA but she did live here, for a long time, in a way that arguably made her want to die; which she did, via suicide, in 2007. Everyone who ever touches it tries to write about LA but she wrote my favorite lines. The year before her death, she published a blog post called “Los Angeles is Detroit with Palm Trees”:

Now that New York has become a suburb of the suburbs (a line stolen from my dear paramour Jeremy Blake) it is left to Detroit and Los Angeles to battle it out for the honor of embodying America’s fevered unconscious. Detroit and L.A. are each industry towns where citizens not involved in the main product are an afterthought, viewed primarily as seat warmers for the new Chevys or the latest giant Loews Cineplex, respectively. Culture is an afterthought in both towns, both are known for a subgenre of noir fiction, and both are emblems of sprawling urban nowheresvilles where no one can hear you scream.

And yet I find both places indescribably glamorous, inchoate and mysterious, endlessly strange and iterative, as if the street behind you is being covered over with some new fantasy by scene painters as you drive on. I’d go on to parse out the differences between the towns, but as I said, I suspect they are actually the same place, two sides of a coin palmed in the alternately icy and desert-hot hand of America, a future currency whose buying power is for strange new fast-moving forms and fantasies that are as yet undreamt of in the rest of the West…

Theresa and I have this theory that LA is a city of the future, and since the old world is dying fast, the future is now.

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