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California Nightmares: Why I Hate L.A.
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
I've lived in the Los Angeles area for most of my adult life. I’ve also traveled around the world enough to know that things can be far better than they are here. The obvious question is why don’t I move to a better place. Because my relationship with my city is complex. To see the flip side of my association, check out California Dreams: Why I Love L.A. Otherwise, join me to diss the City of No Angels.
We have the most extensive freeway system in the world. It also becomes the largest parking lot during rush hour. For 2010, the Chicago Tribune dubbed Los Angeles as having the worst traffic in America. We suffer 85 hours of congestion per week with an average speed of 14 miles per hour. Our widely spread commercial and residential centers make our attempts at a public transit system bizzare, which exacerbates the traffic. For example, our airport Metro Green Line, which was supposed to be a shining example of high-tech light rail, stops about a mile from any terminal, requiring a transfer to a shuttle bus for use.
It’s perhaps unfair to single out one city in a nation obsessed with conspicuous consumption. Or maybe the constant sunshine illuminates the issue even more. But we throw away uneaten food in garbage cans while the homeless beg for scraps at freeway entrances. We fill our pools and water our lawns while our rivers remain dry. And we destroy perfectly sturdy homes and historic buildings to erect McMansions and other architectural behemoths that are out of scale with the neighborhood. I wonder how much of the California deficit we could erase by avoiding the spendthrift treadmill and turning the savings over to the government.
The American Lung Association ranked Los Angeles in 2012 as the most polluted city in the nation for ozone. We’re also in the top five for particle pollution. Our brown haze is immediately obvious to anyone looking up into an otherwise featureless sky or flying into LAX. And forget about seeing the stars at night. With light pollution also obscuring the view, you’re lucky to spot the full moon among all the particulate matter. I wonder how healthy it is to be jogging for fitness at Santa Monica beach with the gunk from car exhaust spotting your lungs.
Forget about our earthquakes, which are much ballyhooed around the world. They’re so common and so minor that the average Angeleno is more likely to think about the distance to Mars than the next temblor. Our biggest worries are the forest fires that blaze across the city when it’s hot and dry, a condition that exists almost year round. It doesn’t help that we lavish water on our well-tended English-style gardens, while ignoring the surrounding native brush that morphs into kindling. One lightning strike or worse yet, an arsonist’s lit match, can consume acres in minutes, burning up homes, businesses, animals and people.
We’re beautiful and healthy. We’re also well-spoken as long as the subjects stick to Oscar gowns, Justin Bieber’s new doo and what sports star is dating which starlet. But you’ll get a blank stare if you bring up more prosaic subjects like world events, literature, science, education, economics, art or social responsibility.
We’re more concerned about the tan of our skin than the cancer it can cause, and hock our souls into debt as we keep up with the latest fashions and technologies. It’s small consolation that if nothing substantial ever comes out of our mouths, our carefully crafted faces, bodies and outfits are at least pretty to look at.