The City of Stars

Los Angeles, the city of angels. The city of stars, where celebrities call home. Where millions upon millions of dollars are spent making intangible goods that make people inexplicably feel better about themselves. A city where the sense of self-worth gets people out of the bed every day, despite many working dead end jobs to make ends meet while they chase after a fleeting dream that makes the Bible verse of the camel and the eye of a needle feel more real. A city where people are forced to be their most primeval, basic, and barbaric, while putting on a facade of normalcy. Where people are broken and forged time and time again, but always come to the same result. A city where insanity is the norm. A city where people make careers out of chasing dreams. And yet, I long for this place, despite never having called it my home.

Do I despise it? Oh, by the heavens, yes. I despise it with the abhor that is only reserved for the most abhorrent of criminals. It’s at a point where I cannot even begin to fathom where my hatred begins. And yet, I think it’s the most wonderful of all places, where people live they way they were meant to — chasing after moonshot dreams of being famous and rich for doing the things they were scolded for in their childhood.

Acting, singing, instrument playing, and jokes making: these are the things that bring you praise in lalaland. It’s not like other parts of the world, where respect comes from having a job that society deems necessary, and important. Respect comes from attaining what others thought was impossible — showing the world that those childish acts are something to be respected, admired, and praised. And all the while, you know, deep inside, it’s all nonsense. Deep inside, you know there’s nothing real about the things you’ve accomplished. You know the world you’ve created around you is, essentially, a late-Han dynasty royal court, where everyone waxes lyrically about the most mundane features of your life, all in an attempt to get on your good side, and maybe have a shot at that life themselves.

And to those who never make it to the top, an even crueler fate awaits. An eternal purgatory upon which they wait for a call from above. A call from above that will elevate them to the place they believe they rightfully belong. People here don’t know that they’re not entitled to anything. They don’t know that the world doesn’t owe them anything, nor do they understand that the praise they received up to this point was nothing but echoes in an empty room. And yet, thanks to this perpetual echoing of praises past, they believe they can make it to the upper echelons of society. This is the fuel by which they survive. The false sense of hope, and accomplishment. They see opportunities that are not meant for them, and justify it as so. They fail to accomplish what they set out to do, and yet, manage to convince themselves otherwise, and set out on another day. Despite the reality lurking behind the false promise, they manage to live on.

And to those who do not take interest in such fairy tales, the hot summer sun of Southern California may not feel so warm. Behind this lackadaisical facade of the city, the city of stars is a war zone, and the people disinterested in the allure of making it big in this fantasy land are caught in the crossfire — held hostage by both sides in an effort to make the childhood fantasy seem more important than it really is. And yet, despite the dismal present, they pretend that it’s the greatest place on earth, filled with joy and happiness promised to them by one Walt Disney.

It’s perhaps the most broken, disheartening, artificial places I have ever been to. It makes me a little uneasy, and overwhelmed. It makes me feel inadequate in all sorts of ways, and yet, I long for this place, as much as I do the places I used to call home. Perhaps it’s the case of Stockholm Syndrome. Perhaps it’s that deep under this monolithic appearance I keep up, I’m a hopeless hostage to the empty and broken promises of that glistening sign in the distance. Those 9 letters that define this, desolate land. The letters that brought life to this once barren land. The letters that keeps this city held on high like a city upon a hill, rather than the disastrous mess that it really is.

Or perhaps, it’s that I long for that drama in everyday life. That drama that keeps people feeling alive, despite getting nowhere real. That illusion that I’ve done something with my life because I work 3 jobs, and over 100 hours a week to make ends meet, all in the name of chasing that dream of making my hobby my career. All in an effort to never grow up, to keep that childhood innocence, when, in reality, the innocence died a long while back, along with any sense of reality. And just to feel haughty, mighty, and high above those who work the machine, that oppressive thing that keeps me from being me, trying to shape me into something that will fit, much like a hydraulic press. But I’m Prince Rupert’s Drop — nothing can shatter me.

Perhaps that’s what makes Los Angeles, the city of angels, the city of stars, so attractive to me. Because I’m the very essence of what that city is. A desolate, barren wasteland that pretends to be something more — a symbol, an icon. Pretending to be the hopeful future that will eventually come, when, truthfully, my aspirations are billions of lightyears away. Devils don’t come from hell beneath us. They come from the sky.

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