book of days serial #11

When she drove into the night she took the girl in the car with her. Some nights she and the girl would not say a word until the car stopped at the hedge in Culver City. These were called weekdays, because on weekends the car never stopped, and it was night into day and back and again that they shuttled that route, like a pendulum.

“I used to like this town,” she said, just to be saying something and not thinking too hard about the course. “When I wake up in the morning it seems as though there are still trees along Wilshire Boulevard. That Beverly Hills is still a country town. Westwood is bare hulls and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars with no takers. Hollywood is a bunch of frame houses on the inter-urban line. That Los Angeles is just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good hearted and peaceful. Now we have a climate that mystifies us. We sleep indoors with air conditioners. The intellectuals have sold themselves. But everyone is intellectual and wears glasses now. It couldn’t have always been good, but it couldn’t have always been a neon slum either.”

The monologue crossed La Cienega and back to the curve of the strip. She compared LA to Mexico City, which she knew very well. They were volcanoes, spilling wreckage and desire in ever widening circles over a denuded countryside. It is never wise, she averred, to live too near a volcano. The terraces and sidewalks were packed with tourists and trust funds. The parking lots buzzed like ants on a piece of overripe fruit and the sinking night smelled like one that would never reconcile itself with the patterns of traffic. Was the route different? Not tonight.

“Real cities have something else, some individual bony structure under the muck. Los Angeles has shopping and water. Without that it would be a mailorder city. Everything in the catalogue you could get better somewhere else. I bet if someone stopped the flow of water here for three days, the jackals would reappear and the sand of the desert would drift up to the overhangs on all the dingbat apartments. Not that the jackals are gone, they are just invisible.”

“You’re bitter tonight mijo.”

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