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– Spring/Summer 2006

Walking the Land

Christy Lange

Tags: Center for Land Use Interpretation

A typical freeway on-ramp in Los Angeles with signage and meter indicator (on left) decorated with graffiti. Photograph by Steve Rowell

A typical freeway on-ramp in Los Angeles with signage and meter indicator (on left) decorated with graffiti. Photograph by Steve Rowell

Look ahead as we fast try to focus on it
I won't be fooled by a cheap cinematic trick
It must have been just a cardboard cutout of a man
Top forty cast ov from the record stand

Walking in LA
Walking in LA
Nobody walks in LA
1

Everybody knows that nobody walks in LA. If you want to see Los Angeles, you do it through the window of a moving car - catching glimpses of scenery through the smoggy viewfinder of the windshield, blinded by sun briefly glinting off billboards or the brake lights of the car in front of you, or watching palm trees bending in the mirage of wobbling air rising from the freeway asphalt. The landscape you know is whatever bland, beige urban sprawl or strangely wild canyon landscape you weave through on your daily ride between home and work, work and home. Occasionally you run into something on the edge of this grid that suggests an end to it, such as the ocean or the desert. But even then your view of the landscape extends only as far your eyes can see at 55 miles per hour. The landscape keeps escaping, always fractured, always incomplete.

Nobody walks in LA. There is no spirit of wandering off the beaten path, no radical Situationist dérive, no Baudelairian flâneur here. Nobody wants to walk in LA. And when you do, it feels endless, hot and boring. Distances are incomprehensibly elongated. People in their cars slow down to look at you. But if you don't walk in LA you could easily miss the plant-shrouded storefront that is

Footnotes
  1. 'Walking in LA', by Missing Persons

  2. Ibid.

  3. Lecture by Matthew Coolidge, op. cit.

  4. Center for Land Use Interpretation, 'The Best Dead Mall in America', The Lay of the Land, Winter 2003

  5. Center for Land Use Interpretation, 'Points on the Line: Ruminations about Some Delineations of the West Coast', The Lay of the Land, Spring 2003

  6. Ibid.

  7. Center for Land Use Interpretation, 'The Nellis Range Clickable Map', The Lay of the Land, Winter 2000

  8. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol.2, Chapter 17, New York: Library of America, 2004

  9. James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers, New York: Signet Classic, 1964, p.14

  10. Willa Cather, O Pioneers!, New York: Bantam Books, 1989, p.10

  11. Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang, London: Penguin Books, 2003, p.2

  12. Lecture by Matthew Coolidge, Royal College of Art, London, 27 October 2003

  13. Ibid.

  14. Center for Land Use Interpretation, 'Around Wendover: An Examination of the Anthropic Landscape Through Maps and Photographs', The Lay of the Land, Summer 1996