Friday, 3 January 2014

A Maritimer's View of L.A.

Sarah Milton, protagonist from my Reading The Dead book series, spent her life growing up near the Atlantic, yet the sandy beaches and warm weather of the California coast always held a magical allure for her. This aspect of her character, I modeled after myself. 

Indulge me for a moment while I provide a quick comparison of my home versus my "workplace." Los Angeles is a bustling metropolis of almost four million people, packed in an area of 469 square miles. Compared to those numbers, Fredericton, the capital city of New Brunswick, with its roughly 56,000 residents and 50 square mile footprint, wouldn't fill L.A.'s pocket.

Those figures alone are enough to give me nosebleeds should I ever contemplate packing my bags and moving out west. The small town boy in me finds the population density of Fredericton "city" troubling enough, at times. I find L.A. a wonderful place to visit... just not in real life.

However, for a crime writer, there's no question which area provides a greater wealth of exciting story material. It's all in the numbers. Sarah Milton, Fredericton PD, writer of speeding tickets and investigator of the occasional break and enter, wouldn't be nearly as interesting a read.

As I continue to write book three of the series, Street Savior, and formulate plans for a fourth, I'm spending more time armchair researching the many geographic faces of Los Angeles. As such, I would like to take this opportunity to paint a picture in your mind of the L.A. that I see from my chair on the snow-packed east coast of Canada.

I dive into Central L.A. and move east, immersing myself into the atmosphere of its downtown underbelly, where the destitute find shelter on the sidewalks in the dark of night. From there, I set my sights to the south and east, towards proud, yet impoverished landscapes, its streets claimed by the city's gangs. Asphalt arteries wind through this land, leading to destinations with exotic-sounding names, like Monterey, Alhambra, and Covina.

Still turning, I face the mountains. They smile down upon the rooftops of dense suburbs and the unnatural greens of country clubs. With Dodger Stadium passing over my shoulder, I find myself facing the Hollywood Hills and its prestigious landmark. Its white letters stand upon the hillside like a beacon promising affluence and excess.

I keep turning, knowing that a whole world exists on the other side of that rolling green mound, yet unable to tear my eyes from the treasure that lies at its feet. I gape in wonder at the lights of Hollywood, only to marvel at the palm-lined streets of Beverly Hills. Populated canyons wind through here in grey tributaries, forming islands of green upon which reside the upper crust of the city, in mansions both garish and breathtaking.

Yet still I do not linger, for what I seek has finally appeared in the corner of my eye; an expanse of open ocean that is as similar to its cousin on the east coast as the sun is to the moon. Beyond the familiar towers of glass and steel, past a schizophrenic land of hills, homes, and highways, soaring between the airstrips at LAX and Santa Monica, and over the boats moored in Marina Del Rey, I at last find the vista that fuels my imagination.

Kissing golden sands, the Pacific is a topaz gem sparkling in the sunlight. It carries with it a warmth that's lacking from its Atlantic brother. I soar along its perimeter, gazing out over the endless expanse of cloud and wave over my shoulder. Below me, I find that I am not alone in enjoying its splendor. Others bask in the sun upon its shores and marvel at its majesty as they journey with me along the Pacific Coast Highway. I take a moment to look back the way I came, only slightly dismayed to find my view marred by an ugly grey smog. 

There is such beauty here, I think, and such ugliness as well. The diverse humanity thriving within its borders makes the city's heart beat with a rhythm unlike anywhere else on the planet. It's a song that I want to capture and play for all to enjoy.


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