Sunday, 30 May 2010


By Cecilia Seilern travelling with Lily Barton

We landed in Los Angeles faced with the sole task of buying a car that would carry us all the way to New York City in three months. The budget was limited to $ 2,000, and the obstacles extensive. We had heard that as a foreigner, buying a car in Fortress America was a challenge and indeed it led us to work ourselves up into quite a tizzy after a few days of contacting insurance companies, being put on hold for hours, having our hopes raised only for them to be shattered moments later when we were told, for the millionth time, that only American licenses could be insured. Thankfully, all we needed was a kind American helping hand which came in the form of our dear friend Jules. The car, a blue 1993 Volvo station wagon, was bought off an Armenian man named Fred with questionable morals. The car itself was on budget but we had to fork out an entire grand on various repairs before we set off, but set off we eventually did!

California is State of many landscapes all of which ignited some kind of nostalgia in me. The first, Los Angeles, was not a city I expected to be charmed by. I envisaged the people to be as manicured as the lawns set against a muggy backdrop of highways and pollution. Though this assumption was somewhat correct, my time in LA left me excited for the future of this young city. Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the United States, a city now globally recognized as the Mecca of Movies, was until the 1920’s known more for producing one-quarter of the world’s petroleum. It was in fact in the 20’s that filmmakers, enticed by the warm climate that would allow them to shoot all year round, flocked west and studio buildings began to appear in Hollywood. In the last century, Los Angeles has blossomed into a world centre for business, international trade, entertainment, culture, media, fashion, science, technology, and education. While there certainly is an element of superficiality in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in excitingly creative surroundings. Pit against a European cultural capital such as Vienna, a city with a long and rich history which has produced art and music widely acclaimed across the globe, burgeoning talents such as Mozart, Klimt and Schiele, LA seems comparatively novel and could simply not begin to compete. When I walked the streets of LA I felt a distinct sense of culture in motion, and innovation; a feeling I lack when walking the streets of Vienna. Though inevitably impressed by the architectural beauty of a city such as Vienna and everything else it has to offer (which is a lot), and by no means trying to undermine its remarkable achievements, driving along the palm tree lined boulevards of Los Angeles reminded me that this is a city in the making; that it is NOW that LA is at its greatest, and it is the NOW, that future generations will study. This is what excites me about Los Angeles, and this is what makes me want to come back.

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