I spent a couple days last week in Los Angeles. The main reason for the trip was an event at the Getty Center, where I was part of a discussion about the future of public space in the digital age. I then spent the next couple days doing interviews for my next book.
The Getty event was a great time. It was cosponsored by Zocalo Public Forum, which does lots of roundtable events, and seems to be quite the cultural touchstone in Los Angeles now. (They have a writeup of the evening.) Afterward the event there was a reception at the Getty, so we got to watch the sun go down and lights come up on the complex.
If you’ve never been there, the Getty Center is just amazing. For one thing, it’s vast: it makes the British Museum look like a doll’s house. And it’s a fabulously well-designed set of buildings.
This kind of sleek modern is easy to do poorly, but Richard Meier (I’m pretty sure he was the architect) did a great job.
I was staying at the Luxe Sunset, which was a fascinating cultural experience. It’s literally in the shadow of the Getty Center, at the base of the hill that the Getty sits atop, and as you might guess from the name and address, it’s a rather nice place.
A number of the other guests were from other countries, but they weren’t German or English or Chinese, as many tourists are. Somehow, this hotel has developed a following among people whose languages are only spoken in the United States by two groups of people. The first group is guys who are working the night shift at the Gas-n-Sip. The second group is a bit more complex. The men own natural gas pipeline franchises in former Soviet republics. Their daughter does suspiciously well in their country’s Eurovision song competitions despite being completely tone-deaf. Their son is a professional sungasses wearer. Their wife recently had a day of the week renamed after her.
Anyway, the hotel itself was cool. Not so architecturally distinctive from the outside, but the decor was awesome, that version of open plan spa with lots of marble flooring, comfortable wicker furniture with overstuffed cushions, and water features. You could imagine holding a yoga class anywhere in the hotel.
The day after the Getty I spent the morning at gym (which was filled with people who I can only describe as possessing a kind of weaponized beauty), and the pool reading articles and doing interviews.
Every now and then I thought to myself that it was silly of me to stay in the hotel, rather than getting out and exploring the city; but I always got over it quickly.
Sill, I ended up giving myself a slight case of sunstroke, which hit me that night. A perfect metaphor for the seductive dangers of Southern California.
Friday morning I was at USC at the Brain and Creativity Institute, doing some work for the new rest project. BCI is a great place– it’s almost literally a temple to science, a somewhat pyramid-shaped building whose ground floor has a world-class auditorium and an adjacent fMRI machine– and I found the visit very stimulating.
I confess I was kind of underwhelmed by USC’s campus. It’s not that it’s an unpleasant place, but rather I’m too East Coast and old school: I still think that parking structures shouldn’t be more prominent than the libraries.
After my visit to USC I went back to LAX, returned the rental car (it was one of those trips where I almost spent more on parking than on the car itself), and spent a couple hours at the airport. Better that than rush to make my flight….
Maybe at some point in the future I’ll get to know Los Angeles better. I never fail to be struck by how different it is from the Bay Area: to me, the two areas feel different in a way that, say, Philadelphia and Boston and New York, despite all their differences, do not. Certainly Moby’s description of LA as having “both invented and perfected that strange balance between the suburban and the apocalyptic” captures something about it; but I suspect it’s a mix worth getting to know.