Why You'd Ever Want to Live There I grew up in Fargo, as I've mentioned in the past, but I spent a year in Orange County, CA, following college. Orange County, Land of Specious Living. This is not the OC that you know from The OC. Death Cab for Cutie or Imogen Heap never played in the background as I drove amongst the strip malls and tanning salons of Southern California. I saw the Hollywood sign more on TV than I ever saw in real life--often in the background of the interminable live car chases, and my day to day existence seemed to be spent on the highway at 30 miles an hour rather than, oh, anything else. It was a thoroughly deadening time in my life--one I hope never to repeat again.
I was there because, like the quintessential directionless college graduate with an English degree, I was broke and my parents let me live for free. Besides the idiocy of living with your parents when you're 22-years old, I think my parents had settled in the worst area of Orange County--not a crime-ridden area or anything like that: just a wretched hive of scum and villainy in the most conservative area in California: Yorba Linda.
I could regale you with anecdotes, or data, or the simple demographics of the area, but I can already see your eyes glazing over at that prospect, so let me just put this succinctly.
The Richard M. Nixon Memorial Library was four blocks from my parents' house.
And the neighborhood was happy about this. It's where they assembled for their "America! Fuck Yeah!" rallies in the days following 9/11. L.A. is a town without a center, and Orange County is 50 towns without anything to distinguish them once you get away from the beach--the Nixon Library was the closest thing to a landmark within an hour's drive. In 50 years, Mad Max will be remade in Yorba Linda, as a documentary. Or Waterworld, if the Big One comes.
This is a land with no soul--but the Nixon Memorial Library tried to substitute its blackened husk of a soul into the community. As a library, it has its issues. Sure, the vast majority of the texts have been heavily redacted and there aren't enough copies of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," but ironically, all the movies in the video library are the uncut director's edition DVD. Plus, there's no need to return your books, as they simply break into your house and steal them back on the due date.
But those benefits can't possibly outweigh the psychic damage such a place does to the zeitgeist of a place. As far as I can tell, the Nixon Memorial Library is a useful landmark only to the gods, as they will be able to triangulate very quickly where they need to start chucking lightning bolts when the time finally comes.
All of L.A. has this issue, to be fair. The city should never have existed. The land is too inhospitable, there's no water supply, the mountains routinely throw rocks into homes, and it's only once a year that the gods roll back the smog to make sure it's still there. Someday soon, they'll take a peek, and see unbroken ocean.
How long, oh lord, how long? Sooner, rather than later, please.