city poisoning

I love Los Angeles. Everyone knows this. It strangely suits me – it’s extreme and overly dramatic. Especially the part I live and work and exist in. Venice is slightly eccentric and colorful, the bungalows with overflowing gardens on broken sidewalks, the ocean, the beach.

And still, even on days I don’t go east of the 405, I still have to remove the city from my face with astringent, a layer of brownish grease I never saw come off my skin in Vancouver. I can’t see downtown for smog some days. Tap water doesn’t quench my thirst because it’s slightly saline. And swimming in the bay here off Venice burns my throat, can make me sick, and breaks my heart, how filthy the water is off Los Angeles.

I miss being someplace clean. I miss the way the air feels in summer back home, how clear it is, how it smells like ocean and cut grass in Oak Bay. I miss how clean, if blindingly cold, the water is in the Sound and Straits. And I miss clean air, air far from freeways, that doesn’t leave a layer of pollution on my skin.

And every so often, I just want space. I want empty road and ocean and deserted beaches. I want to clear out my mind. I miss how empty the Northwest is, how it’s the edge of the world. I found myself wishing today that I could be back up on the 101 north of San Francisco again, the highway I so fell in love with on the way down.

I caught myself listening to the synthpop tracks I played on the way down, dreaming of the morning I spent in Eureka on my bike, just me, just Jillian, flying down the streets of an isolated small city in far north California.

I dream of ocean, of empty land, of the furthest points west. This is my nature because this is where I’m from, my thinly populated Archipelago off the west coast of North America.

A full weekend escape is called for. I can’t handle any more civilization – not American, not Canadian. I can’t handle this many people everywhere, this much land claimed in the name of houses, stores, boardwalk, strip malls. There’s talk of San Francisco, and I would demand to take the long road up, and that’ll do until I can drive the roads alone at Christmas.

This many people in one place, this much space claimed and developed in the name of California, takes the mythology out of the world around me. And that’s what sometimes poisons me. I’m a city girl at heart, but I just have too many formative years to exist in one for this long at a time.

4 responses to “city poisoning

  1. I know how you feel. Though Cincinnati is a much cleaner city than L.A., sometimes I just need to get back to nature. I go down into Kentucky to visit the lakes, and I resent having to wear sunscreen, because the air and the water are so clean and refreshing, but the sunlight burns me, alas.

  2. Hi,
    I just wanted to say I appreciate your posts and have added you. I hope to be a transplant to LA by the end of next year, and some of your posts are opening my eyes to the “realistic” view of LA.

    I had a similar problem living in London, btw. Never had I taken so much black crap off of me with astringent every night. Pollution is a damn shame.

  3. at least it’s clean water. and that;s the price you pay for being a redhead after all!

  4. yep, i added you back because i noticed you added me 🙂

    not sure if i have a realistic view of Los Angeles though. i live in West L.A. so it doesn’t get hot, and it’s pretty here. i ride my bike to work. and i’ve focused very hard on the social/cultural aspects of being twentysomething in L.A. since being here. but hey, if it helps you get some perspective, i’m glad of that 🙂

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