02 October 2013

Beds of Sin (i)

"People just keep coming here," a relative of mine once said indignantly, and as if she wasn't talking to one of the more recent emigres. Who wouldn't want to live in Los Angeles? I have feared straight through from the moment the first seed of temptation sprouted in my mind all the way through the present moment that the answer might be: "anyone with a conscience." I've hidden from no one the fact that the climate was always a consideration for me, but I have plenty of better reasons for coming to live here, and so far I'm content that they're all in evidence. And contrary to that peculiar form of midwestern conjecture one is bathed in upon declaring the intent to relocate, I've yet to feel the shadow of the entertainment industry stalking my every artistic move, and I remain unconvinced that people here are, as a group, any more or less superficial than they are back home.

It could not be more transparent, on the other hand, that the whole operation is enabled by a constellation of environmental and humanitarian atrocities the sum total of which I'm not sure many people I've met here know or care much about. Some of the blankest stares I've ever seen have followed what I thought were innocuous questions about water issues, made to people who have lived here their entire lives. Several co-workers of mine have the infuriating habit of taking their lunch breaks in their cars with engines idling and air conditioners blasting away for 30 minutes at a time. These are low-wage earners in the era of $4 per gallon gas; clearly there's no deterrent strong enough to combat animal instincts.

Naturally, my footprint is smaller, but I am an animal just like everyone else, a walking entropy machine complete with central nervous system and reproductive organs to assist in the task. I'm drawn to year-round outdoor basketball, musical communities that are large and informed enough to be self-policing, and double-digit personnel options on just about every instrument I'll ever need to form an ensemble to play my music. The extent of my impact on climate change, air quality, clogged freeways, depleted water supplies, and housing shortages remains to be seen, but this much is (and always was) clear: owing to geography and sociology alike, it will necessarily be larger here than it would have been in Minneapolis or virtually any other place I might have gone; it will be leveled against an environment which is under siege in a way that Minneapolis, despite its own notable sprawl and the alarming recent emergence of its own air quality issues, has never experienced and probably will not experience for a very long time; and it will be leveled at the expense of more desperate, aggrieved and oppressed people than the entire Twin Cities can claim in either number or degree. For all of that, I never had a perfectly clean conscience about coming here, and I never will.

No matter what sorts of high or trying times might await, my living here will always be "me time" through and through. It is a concession to the voice that says "do something for yourself for once" and in direct contravention of the one that says "you've had it pretty good to start with; leave something for everyone else." People just keep coming here, and I didn't have to be one of them, but here I am competing against all the other transplants and quite a few natives of myriad vintages for just about every known resource and privilege a human being might require. I'm crossing my fingers that we don't run out.

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