The future of LA is forever shapeshifting
Los Angeles is the future. Or, thatâ€™s what it used to be. Though the city is still part of the American myth of manifest destiny and upward mobility, Los Angeles is also part of a state that seems to be in a constant state of both disarray and innovation. Even the first introduction to the city seems at once progressive and backward physically, culturally and spiritually.
Flying into Los Angeles International Airport is a strange, holy experience. The first glimmer of native architecture is the motif of powder-blue swimming pools and, once the jet has landed, the futuristic, alien-like structure of Encounter Bar & Restaurant, a Jetsons-like, geometric building that predicted that by the end of the 20th century we would be eating TV dinners on the moon.
The whole complex is a sad first greeting to a downtrodden population that wheels its luggage through the LAX terminals.
Even as visitors-cum-residents leave the airport, that same unsure progress-turned-digression unfolds. The traffic crawling on old roads debilitates a population that has depended on the fantasy of spontaneous, immediate movement as its very identity. An aging strip club sits next to a stainless steel Carlâ€™s Jr.; modern, sleek hotels rest across from theme restaurants celebrating the golden age of flight.
Los Angeles constantly changes; it has been a wasteland of crime, a fantasy factory, technology hub and a cultural mosaic. But the city needs to realize that as the cultural and economical focus shift toward places like Downtown and the neighborhoods along the new Eastside Metro extension like Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, the city needs to reckon with an identity forever in limbo. Despite the expanding public transportation and the effort to create a Downtown heart, we will never be the metropolis we have created in countless movies.
We feed into it wholeheartedly; the movie industry, which overwhelmingly fuels the areaâ€™s minds and wallets, has destroyed Los Angeles so many times at the contentment of outsiders everywhere: Volcano, Escape from LA and Independence Day punish Angelenos with natural and alien disasters. And Kurt Russellâ€™s eye-patch.
Despite the ominous feelings of doom, Angelenos still seek an entirely old-fashioned way of predicting what is to come: fortune-telling, which, if any observant Angeleno knows, seems to have prime real estate throughout the area. As outdated as fortune-telling may seem, the residents and tourists alike still seek their local oracles for guidance.
One such business is hidden in the Old Chinatown Plaza, a neon outdoor plaza bustling with tourists, families and couples with matching nose piercings on a freakishly hot November Sunday afternoon.
The psychic at It Pun Fortune Readings sits in front of a small storefront chewing a piece of fluffy, white bread. He is the one clairvoyant, after speaking to one on Hill Street and another in the courtyard, that will allow me to pay a fee, listen to my future and let me take vigorous notes upon the subject for a story.
In a black suit and a camouflage army hat, he squints at me with his dark, old eyes and the wrinkles deepen on his face as he looks at my hands through a magnifying glass with a lens the size of an expensive steak and a handle with enough sterling silver to make a hefty sword.
For $10, he told me the following after I asked him what was in store for me as well as the city in which he has told fortunes for 19 years: I will have three children and I will marry my third boyfriend. I will live to see 103, thanks to a very long line down the outside edge of my hand. My best luck comes in the summertime, and my honesty is my truest asset. This was all recorded with his red Xs and Os on a set photocopied template: my future in shorthand.
Recording his prediction would change my destiny, according the first psychic I tried speaking to. By putting such supernatural talents on paper, I have the power to alter the universeâ€™s energy against me, putting myself in a precarious position, ripe for a good heaping portion of bad luck.
My Sunday oracle was the representation of a Los Angeles caught between opposites; a city showing its age and steeped in uncertain tradition, but methodically looking toward a limitless future. He was an LA transplant who found wealth through reinvention through storytelling and gumption, practicing an art of the past by seeing what is to come.
He still didnâ€™t tell me what fate has in store for the city he lives and works in, but rather nodded, smiled and handed me my photocopy as he returned to his roll.
In a city where luck and hard work lives next to the commercial yet creative, and the archaic but contemporary combine, you never know what to expect next.