There are moments, driving down a residential street (avoiding traffic, of course) the light will illuminate the trees just so…. and the natural world moves to the foreground and the suburban bric-a-brac recedes, and the radio goes quiet and for a space in time you are no longer in Los Angeles, or even in the year 2013. This particular grace has a way of sneaking up on you on the angriest of afternoons. You are glad all over again to live here. The Valley, its cluttered tackiness and brutal commutes, it’s upside-down mortgages across the darkling plain….makes sense! Flush with patriotic sentiment, you fumble in the glove compartment for a camera to commemorate the……wait a sec, are those…dogs…hanging from that tree? Dogs? Cats? How long have they been there? Why isn’t anyone doing anything? Has the Shining Path established a fresh redoubt in some Panorama City apartment? Has a new Dictatorship of the Proletariat been declared? Are teams of insurrectionists descending into Sherman Oaks (well, POSO-ville) to proclaim the second coming of El Presidente Ezekiel?
Oh, wait. Apparently someone hasn’t taken their Halloween decorations down. After 23 days. Ah, The Valley. We’re comfortable with ourselves.
In case you had no idea what I was free-associating about, this was Peru, for 20 years in the grip of Maoist fanatics. That would be an un-ironic stick of dynamite in the dog’s mouth. Their calling card. There was a truly sublime film made about this: The Dancer Upstairs, starring Javier Bardem. Also, a great novel: Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett.