The city is lonely and frighteningly empty. The lobbies of gigantic corporate office buildings downtown are -- even during the day -- deathly still. The sidewalks are empty. No one goes in or out of buildings. Where is everyone?
Homeless people stand alone on street corners, waving battered cardboard signs at BMWs trying to get to the 10 West. Shadowy figures dash out in the dark across the four lanes of Sunset, blocks from any crosswalk.
It's always somehow amazing when people do come together or gather anywhere in L.A. It always feels so provisional. In New York, everyone was always together, pressed cheek to jowl, sitting in each others' laps, knocking each other out of the way. It was a rare, precious moment when you were finally alone, in silence, shut off from everyone. Here in L.A., it's strange to ever have people together. People belong in their separate neighborhoods. People belong in their metal shells locked on the 110 or on Olympic.
El Gran Burrito at Vermont and Santa Monica late at night is a typical thing. People drive up out of the night, huddle by the warmth of the grill and eat for a few minutes, perhaps share some words with the cook and cashier, say goodbye, and then drive off into the dark, merge onto the highway, alone.
Still, I am not down on L.A. You just never really have any idea what is out there. Driving through Koreatown, Thai Town, or Little Armenia, you know there are amazing places, hidden behind the garish neon signs -- you'll never see them all, you'll never know the proper things to order even if you found the right places. It's bracing, imagining what is out in the gigantic mess of a city. But that's the sad thing. Unlike New York, "community" here is often very much imagined.