Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown

And there was nobody aroun',
I got into the driver's seat
And I drove 42nd Street
In my Cadillac.
Good car to drive after a war.
Bob Dylan, Talkin' World War III Blues, 1963).

On Saturday I leave London for Los Angeles for a week at Cal Arts (California Institute for the Arts), just north of LA near Santa Clarita, as part of an exchange. My first visit to California. I've been filling in an online visa waiver form for the US 'Department of Homeland Security'. (Related pages include a symbol signifying a state of 'orange' alert: 'National Threat Advisory - High in the airline sector'). The form itself includes a tick-box (yes/no) section with a long list of questions including:

- Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude?

- Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?

There isn't a 'don't know' option.
I wonder quite who ticks the 'yes' box, and why.
Still, at least it makes everyone feel so much more 'secure'.

My flight arrives at Los Angeles Airport (LAX), which, it seems, is in part an incomprehensibly vast car park in this city of the car. There's a lot of lot. In For The Time Being, Annie Dillard uses the LA airport car park as a measure of scale to make some startling numerical parallels, to draw attention to events, past and present, that are all too easy to consign to invisibility and to put our easy familiarity with the car in a rather different light. She fills the car park with other human beings in ways that radically defamiliarise and disturb this parcelled waiting space at the entry and exit point from the city of angels, and in so doing exposes another kind of 'moral turpitude'. The car park as a kind of cemetery/memorial, or holding pen; and the car itself as container of bodies, a packing tin for the overlooked and the disappeared:

'Los Angeles Airport has twenty-five thousand parking spaces. This is about one space for every person who died in 1985 in Colombia when a volcano erupted. This is one space for two years' worth of accidental killings from land mines left over from recent wars. At five to a car, almost all the Inuit in the world could park at LAX. Similarly, if you propped up or stacked four bodies to a car, you could fit into the airport parking lot all the corpses from the firestorm bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, or all the world's dead from two atomic bombs, or the corpses of Londoners who died in the plague, the corpses of Burundians killed in civil war since 1993. You could not fit America's homeless there, however, even at eighteen or nineteen to a car' (pp. 132-3).

David Lynch's online daily weather report from his home in LA today (10 September 2008): 22 degrees, blue sky, golden sunshine.

Welcome to California. Beautiful one day, perfect the next.

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