overhaul / undertow

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

My new workplace is in Glendale, a disturbing suburbia on the east side of the San Fernando Valley. Any building over three stories seems to have been prohibited up until just a few years ago, but it appears that with nearby Disney City (excuse me--"Burbank") and Pasadena filling up with skyscrapers and service/intellectual/creative industry-type buildings, the overflow has spilled into humble little Glendale. The area is now beginning to sprout skyscrapers glittering with mirrored glass, "innovative materials," new-utopia hues like subtle blues and jewel-toned aquamarines, and the noveau-art-deco stylin's that seem to be the hallmark of current Los Angeles skyscraper architecture.

Another thing that occurs in profusion here, but--unlike the still-in-construction towers--sporting the patina of genuine age (a rare thing in LA) are churches. All sorts. Everywhere. Just about each corner has one, from Presbyterian to Latter-Day-Saints (Visitors Welcome!!!). I've been reading (finally) City of Quartz by Mike Davis (which I should have read a while ago, but oh well). According to Davis's astoundingly thorough and knowledgeable survey of the cultural geography of Southern California, in the 1920's through the 1950's this area was a real haven for good Christians, ascetic religious types, and proto-"family values" Protestants who condemned the active labor movements occurring on the other side of the hills (in downtown and urban LA proper) and the influx of Latino and black culture into the central city--the original white flight neighborhood.

No wonder there's something spooky about the place. I can't put my finger on it. It's suburbia, but more sinister. Maybe because its so close to the urban center? Maybe its the huge Angeles National Forest looming overhead, crushing us with an unconscious sense of mortality, of how our carefully ordered world can spin off into the chaos of nature at any moment.

Or maybe it's just the damn churches on every corner, quiet, unobtrusive, reeking with that sense of muted abuses, silent mistreatments, fucked-up families.

Usually I like churches, though. I donno.


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