Monday, October 29, 2007

A Season of Disaster

On my way back to school after Fall Break, I was able to catch a glimpse of the fires through my tiny airplane window. The presence of smoke added depth to the blackness of the night sky. At first glance, I thought I was looking at the usual lights of the city, twinkling hundreds of feet below. When I realized I was gazing at the flaming trails that had been consuming the landscape for days, I had an eerie feeling. It was surreal to look down on the cause of such destruction. From that height, I was disconnected from the severity of the situation, just mesmerized by what looked like tiny rivers of lava, running through the dark terrain. I struggled to determine where the fires were burning in relation to Pomona. I was unable to find any distinguishing features of the city below that provided any sort of orientation. I know the darkness definitely contributed to this, but it was also indicative of the vastness of LA's sprawl.

The sense of calm produced by the darkness in that empty plane was suddenly lost when the winds disrupted our smooth flight. I found myself clutching my armrests as the plane bumped and dropped and swooped, colliding with the invisible gusts. Looking down on the fires and experiencing the turbulence gave me a terrible sense of disaster. I was no longer safely soaring above the turmoil; I was thrust into it as my plane got closer and closer to Los Angeles.

Exiting the airport, I was overwhelmed by the weight of the smoky air that engulfed me. I was reminded of what we talked about in class, about LA's seasons being represented by natural disasters as opposed to the weather. For me, this experience and current situation of the city seem quite pertinent to that idea. It's hard to imagine that so much disaster could lead to renewal and that this could be a part of LA's natural cycle. Could the people who have lost homes and cherished possessions possibly feel that way? The forces of LA have unfairly stripped them of their physical reminders of the past. They've unwillingly become subject to the amnesia innervating the city. Is this ritual of sweeping away the past what defines LA as a setting? Perhaps the constant changing of the city creates a dynamic that lends itself to the creativity of writers. A city so transient presents countless opportunities for re-creation in story.

-Victoria King

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