- Created: Sunday, 21 November 2004 07:31
Since I spend so much bandwidth carping about things that could be better, maybe for once I should post something I really, really like about where I live.
I live in Hollywood, which is actually just a district of Los Angeles. It might sound glamourous, but the majority of this end of town is still surprisingly middle-class, even with the recent insane real estate boom. We get plenty of immigrants, and there are well-established enclaves from many parts of the planet. And because the area is modestly prosperous, a lot of the good service jobs here attract immigrants from less-affordable nearby areas.
All of which means you meet good people from everywhere in the world, every day, if you keep your eyes open. And that's a pretty amazing thing.
Heck, I don't even need to leave my apartment building. Tonight I went down to the rental office to pick up a package and met Samir, the new security guy. He's from Nigeria. Told me stuff about what the countryside looks like near the old capital. How cool is that? Some nights the guy downstairs is Werner, a Salvadoran who amusedly indulges my efforts to improve my broken Spanish. During the day, the place is run by my friend Mona, a delightful Lebanese woman who speaks four languages and puts up with bullshit in three of them on a daily basis. The previous security guys were Leo, from Brest-Litovsk, and an Egyptian whose name slips my mind but who had a wonderful laugh. That's just in one room in this very building.
When you see L.A. on TV, it's usually all the crap up in the hills, fancy gated houses perched precariously on rocky hillsides, spotlights and Hummers and collagen. That's not the L.A. I live in or would want to, although bits of it twinkle in the distance through my window.
My neighborhood is a place where Orthodox Jews and flamboyant gays intermingle every day with white suburban hipsters and black kids from Baldwin Hills, a place where the South African tea shop is a five-minute walk from the place that serves Malaysian food on a banana leaf. No, we don't all hold hands and sing "Kum Bay Yah," but you'll see some of each at the Karaoke night at the Farmers Market. We get along pretty damn well.
It dawned on me after going around the world last year that there's not a single place I visited that didn't have somebody living in my adopted hometown.
Think about that for a moment. It wasn't so long ago that something like that was a great, impossible project dreamed of in the abstract by idealists -- a world in which people of vastly different cultures really can get along, respecting and listening to and learning from each other. And man, that happens every damn day in my neighborhood, at least a little, and often quite a lot.
Of course, it's the nation we've always been in large part -- a nation of immigrants, clamoring in a dozen languages in cities on every coast, the vast majority working their honest asses off, doing right by other people, expecting no more than they earn and willing to get along with everybody else doing the same damn thing.
That's the America I love.
That may not be George W. Bush's America, with its fanatic insistence on one god, one economic ideology, one party, ein volk, ein reich, ein vaterland, where absolute lies are so often used to question the patriotism of anyone connected to reality.
But the reality is still here.
I bet that wherever you are, you might find more of this constantly-changing, ever-hopeful, always-renewing-itself America nearby than you might first guess. Maybe not to the UN-on-a-stick degree in my little corner, but still.
In the daily swirl of fresh abominations, it's easy not to notice. But America, at its very finest, still exists. In some places, in giant vivid glorious colors.
Bob Harris lives off of Melrose Place, Los Angeles. When he is not sitting in a West Hollywood cafe sipping cappuccino, he is writing emmy award winning television.