As I drive through Los Angeles today, I can't escape the feeling that the city is about to crack. It's bursting at the seams, its roads old and unkempt like the skin of an old man who spent too much time in the sun. It feels like the city can no longer take care of itself. It's been long since the varnish has worn off, since the last fresh coat of paint was applied. Now it's just full of nicks and ticks and scratches. I can't help but believe it will only get worse.
The city's highways have been punished by a million cars that press down upon them every day, carrying their inhabitants to and from the various dreams the city is supposed to produce. And the dreams seem like incoherent ramblings of drunk angels, nightmares about being young, the city's billboards advertising a neverending stream of various superpowers that the inhabitants of the movies seem to possess. Superpowers that can protect them from this or that, that can allow them to fly, to move things with their minds, to save them from teenage or very grownup depressions. But none of them promise a rebuilding of the city, a return of a once-powerful dream you could actually believe in. There's no meaning, there's no magic. Just permutations of the impossible that appear sadly real, in a way you have already seen and done. Like a superpower you don't want any more, even if you did get it...
As I drive through Los Angeles today, having lived in the city on and off for about a third of my life, I cannot help but think that this sprawling shamble of low buildings, this beehive with way too many bees and just not enough honey, is about to come to an end. They might call it the Big One when it happens, but it will be even larger than that. It will be a bursting of the city's corset, an explosion of the beautiful starlet's toned Trader Joe's body, exposing the celluloid cellulite underneath, her unseemly wobbly bits.
The End, like everyone, will come late. It's already stuck in traffic. The End of Los Angeles will not be an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a riot that will engulf all the signs and the cultures that call these pot holes home. The End will likely come in the shape of a car. Four cars perhaps. First announced by the majestic hum of harbinger helicopters, they will be the largest cars this city has ever seen. The End Cars will drive upon the city's roads so hard that they will press them into the earth and the roads will crack completely, opening passages to the magma that surely boils underneath and waits for its turn.
When the End finally gets here, it may bring renewal. The desert will return and a fresh dream can be built on this land, upon this giant prop house of dusty promised lands and staged utopias, mostly forgotten, uncatalogued, silly.
As I drive through Los Angeles today, I feel like a fake celebrity, a concoction of meaningless meaning, beautiful but hidden. My true eyes always camouflaged by dark glasses that protect from so much more than just the sun. I am tempted to say that the actual End will be darkness. Appropriate for a city built on the invention of capturing light. Maybe when the End comes, we can all take the glasses off...
Follow Paul Ratner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/filmsbygiants