Diary: What About a New City Center?

LA’s edge is no easy place to live in, or modality to live by. Whether the leftist, bohemian, black dignity and power, chicanx or latinx edge, romanticism, skating, biking, walking, not only does not pay the bills for most citizens and homo sacer but also runs you into trouble with the infamous LAPD and Sheriff departments that enforce “order” as conceived by state facilitated real estate capital dominated postindustrial capitalism. This order can be misleading with “cops that are cool” and that sort of thing, LA’s version of apple pie, or is it cherry pie bleeding out of its seems. Metropolitan urbanization created an odd geography of policed decay and slow growth that harbored the late 20th century’s edge but is getting gentrified beyond belief, especially since the 2008 great recession. Exclusive architecture policed heavily artiried by a system of freeways.

Well, it should not be the case. The edge is fertile. It’s a shame that Fred Moten is no longer an LA poet, and even more of a shame that he was not a popular poet in LA when he loved here, as no contemporary poet really is. Now based in New York City, Moten is the poet of fugitive life, life lived at an edge, after having live the center as we all must, that is sometimes attempting to build a center, he is the poet of one of LA’s highest cultural aspirations: fugitive being. It’s that same fugitive edge that I feel while I sit in Venice, Los Angeles, with the houses’s door open and listen to the city breathe in and out, as if this breath, or life, can be easily negotiated with and veered toward a new direction. Sometimes I hear cars pass by and I tell myself that the sea has come for us all, and the day is here “Venice is underwater”; water is swallowing street after street of gentrification.

the salve trade

By Fred Moten

all down on perdido street, from san juan

to inglewood, up on that bridge, up where the

soul trees grow by soul, dance to fantastic

information while we kick off the modern world.

the whistle sounded good like a kiss on a train.

a track below us in the cabinet in the tunnel

under the water. a steady boom to lift us out.

nobody lived, not without digging, but he wore

that ivory waistcoat and we loved to see that shit.

Moten’s poetry flows with affirmative word use and beat, as he asserts his way of life through his poem. His poetry is grand, as if that of Gustav Mahler’s music, who like Moten was born into the oppressed of his society, Moten being black American and Mahler jewish Austrian. Moten’s poetry can only come for his person, a praxis that leads to this grand style; he has and continues to sustain it in a way that implies that this is Fred Moten.

Unlike Moten’s poetry which is kind and giving, the center in Los Angeles is ruthless: ruthless enough to sell “edge” to both Angelinos and tourists at the cost of massive gentrification and displacement. It’s this very “edge” that creates the contemporary edge of Los Angeles, and it is living in relation to mass selling that has always created Los Angeles edges. The center has tentacles all around, these tentacles being the infamous LA boulevards, freeways, public institutions, and highways that are part and parcel of the economic restructuring of LA in the 80s that led to the humanitarian disaster that the city harbors today. How does on relate to this center while living a city edge? A better question is why relate to this while living a city edge? To be able to afford to live in this mega-city-county in which one needs a car for one. The other edge of LA is all around: it is poverty and homelessness at the tune of ⅓ of the city’s population. Moten was a Prof at UC Riverside, part of the system, but still is able to stand taller than the institutions that hire him and their ruthlessness and cynicism.

The edge in LA has a limitation: it never quite goes beyond galvanizing or mobilizing. In other words the flow, in poetry, records, protests, never gives the city a new structure / form. As if cursed by its popularity (except for poetry and others) the edge never really fills a vacuum in LA with something new, with a new norm. For example, despite the enormous popularity of bands like Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, most marketed rock and roll today in Los Angeles sounds more like white yesterday than it does like a cosmopolitan mezcla (a mix) of hip hop, rock, black, brown, reggae. It’s the same in politics. Despite the many mass leftist innovations and victories in community and labor organizing in LA, the political options are stale and the city council is a travesty. The edge, however, can fill a stadium at a moment’s notice. Well, so can the center, and it does all the time with LA Dodgers games, and other LA mass culture favorites.

The post-metropolis world of regional urbanization is the ideal host for an edge’s new center. Regional urbanization means a plurality of cities in one city region. This means that the edge could easily move to a smaller city, attempt to come to power in it (cultural, economic, political you name it) and still participate in the life of the city region and the state, keeping in mind that regional planning is a symptom of late capitalism. Therein is a symptom: the edge, unlike the center, has neither the resources nor the time to with a long view and instead focuses on resistance and other forms of dying. The edge here is dying because in the end, if you can’t live here you can’t live here. The big question is housing: how will the edge continue going on if both commercial and residential rent is skyrocketing. “No sabes” as it said in communities all around LA.

What becomes of the edge: the writers, lawyers, musicians, singers, but also the poor, the “disabled”, etc, at the edge of sunny capitalism? Some keep on, others leave. Some attempt to uplift the others through fights for affordable housing. There are plans to remake both whole and center by the edge, as shown by Black Lives Matter and other militant groups’ manifestos I will tell you from firsthand observer experience that most folks engaged in such militancy cannot easily afford even the costs of one arrest: the truth is that money dictates the future of Los Angeles in every aspect. Let us pray, to creator, as modern Tongva say, that things change.

Where does go here to heal in mass, to regenerate. Perhaps the market has made us a little too arrogant to believe in such a thing. Where do I go to allow my soul to breaths, with clarity in a forest, with honesty in and old giving river. Perhaps we begin again there. In poetry.

Looking out at the moon on a night like this in LA, one feels that there is an extra presence, one unaccounted for, that of a survivor, that of a philosopher, that of a poet. A coyote like personage, this presence tells of an ancient LA, one that has been built on and one that will come again, for this part of the world was always meant to be destructive to those who commit harm to it. Yes, an old poet. Here in Los Angeles, does poetry not need structure? It’s certainly much less important than non-fictional discourse, myth taken to be true, and finally the silence that Angelinxs practice in a city / county that has yet learned to cooperate.