I was going to write a sort of love poem to Los Angeles. I’m leaving soon and getting sentimental. The other day I was walking on Fourth Street and I shot this image. There were two men sleeping on the sidewalk behind me. Not sleeping yet, but arranging their cardboard and blankets, settling in for the night. I got on the Red Line at Pershing Square and jotted down a few bad lines of goodbye about how you—and by you I mean L.A.—have no soul and no mercy and you break my heart again and again and you are mainly very ugly except at night but I love you most when the sun is highest. I didn’t finish it. I’m glad about that. This evening I drove up Micheltorena and over the hill and back again. On an errand, not for fun, but the sun was setting on my way over and it had set by the time I was on my way back and suddenly off to my left I could see downtown spread out beneath me in the purple half light and all those corporate towers were sparkling with their lights on and I couldn’t breathe for a second it was so beautiful. And I don’t know how to hold onto that awe at the cruel and utter gorgeousness of this place while knowing every breathing second that it is beyond fucked up. Sometimes the finer adjectives won’t do. I drove down Micheltorena to Sunset and then turned to the east, KDAY on the radio, speeding towards the next red light, falling into that easy L.A. traffic-samadi groove. I parked in Chinatown, on a side street. Just before I got out of the car I saw a flash. A red-shirted security guard in the employ of the local Business Improvement District was snapping photos of an elderly man sitting on a bench, his possessions in a cart beside him. I made sure my phone’s the flash was turned on, got out of the car and took his picture. He didn’t like it. Words ensued. I won't elaborate except to say that the high point was when I said something like "You're harassing this man" and the red-shirt said something like "I'm not harassing him. Sir, am I harassing you?" and the old man said something like, "Yes, he's harassing me. Motherfucker." I thought of posting the photos here but they're blurry and not nice to look at and I don’t see the point of shaming someone with a shit job who already knows that what he does is beyond fucked up. So no sweet goodbye, L.A. You know how fucked up you are. When I got back to my car a few hours later the old man was still there on the bench, sitting up, asleep.
I took this photo in San Francisco, at Lee’s Sandwiches in the Tenderloin. It was raining. The rain had just started falling, but it would last all day and most of last night. On the drive up from L.A. everything was parched. The hills, which should be bright and green this time of year, were already the color of ash. The sky was hazy all the way up.
Somewhere in almost every house in Nabi Saleh there is a sort of shrine, a small table or a shelf or a corner of a shelf arrayed with an assortment of the shell casings and spent munitions that litter the streets and olive groves and hillsides of the village—hard black rubber tear gas grenades, the shiny metal tear gas canisters fired in volleys of seven or more from launchers fixed to the roofs of Jeeps, the blue or black-tipped high-velocity canisters so lethal that the IDF briefly banned them, ugly little marbles of steel wrapped in hard black plastic and the dull green cartridges from which they spray, ordinary brass bullet casings in a variety of calibers. Last night a large contingent of soldiers raided the village. They went house by house, banging on doors, entering homes, taking photos, waking children in their beds. In the video above, shot by Bilal Tamimi, you can see them in his home, confiscating the empty shells, taking back their gifts to the community. They took four men and one teenaged boy with them when they left. I don't know if the link will work (it's to a private facebook page), but this video shows a young man who works as a pastry chef in Ramallah kissing his mother goodbye before the soldiers pull him away.
"Evidently the business of writing is one from whose clutches it is by no means easy to extricate oneself, even when the action itself has come to seem loathesome or even impossible. From the writer's point of view, there is almost nothing to be said in its defense, so little does it have to offer by way of gratification."
—W.G. Sebald, A Place in the Country