Colin Marshall sits down in Los Feliz, Los Angeles with Joseph Mailander, who since 1981 has written fiction and poetry as well as political and cultural analysis in the city. His new collection is Days Change at Night: Notes from Los Angeles’ Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. They discuss his long relationship with Argonaut Street; the unique changelessness of Playa del Rey; how Los Angeles became the first recognizably great city built on a mechanical scale; the pronunciation of “Playa del Rey”, “Los Feliz”, and even “Los Angeles”, and his impatience with our sanctimoniousness in our rectitude and insistence on our errors; the fact that nobody comes to the city looking to see rules enforced; how contrarian a position he takes in naming 2003-2013 as the “decade of decline,” and what New York looked like in its own, more severe one; the counterintuitive way political, economic, and social decline bring with them a flowering of arts and culture; Los Angeles’ tendency to punish the very people who have fun in it, and whether they actually feel punished; how the renter-heavy housing market reflects political decline; young people who just want to make enough money to move out of town, and why they often don’t do it after all; his repeated crossings of the Shakespeare Bridge to get to the theater district; what Disney Concert Hall, with its faulty fire alarms and lack of meeting places, means to him; conductor Gustavo Dudamel’s hair as the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s value proposition; how Los Angeles seems to have missed the arc of its own musical narrative; the expensive development of Grand Avenue, “the official street of Los Angeles ego,” as a signal of out-of-touchness; Ye Rustic Inn, its Myrtleburger, and its promise of anonymity; and which administrators just don’t understand the character of the city.
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