Category Archives: Urban Life

CONFUSION: “ART-NOT-ART” STREET ART

A funny thing about “art.” Sometimes the happiest of aesthetic accidents happen as a consequence of totally non-artistic impulses.

Take as prima facie example the case of the roller-shutter pictured above. It’s on a warehouse-factory building in the rapidly gentrifying Downtown Los Angeles neighborhood dubbed the Arts District. It’s a beautiful building, a grand structure standing as testament to L.A.’s glorious former industrial past.

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STYLE: THIS FORMER EURO-AMBULANCE COULD BE YOUR NEW CALIFORNIA CRUISER

Style. It’s important. You know it. We know it.

When it comes to personal transport, the mode of transit you use says something about your personal style. This is true or truer in no place more perhaps than Southern California. A.k.a., SoCal, where the car is like your avatar to the outside world, as telling of your tastes and lifestyle to people in L.A. as the kind of jeans and sneakers you wear would be on the streets of NYC.

There are many ways to travel in style as you drive SoCal’s scenic ocean-hugging highways and byways, its beautiful canyons and deserts, the palm-tree-lined avenues and boulevards of its cities and towns, but perhaps none is more unique or expressive of a style than this newly for sale 1970s-era Mercedes Benz 3070 Sprinter-type Ambulance.

Don’t you just LOVE IT?!?! (It’s ok, it’s ok … This is a safe space. You can admit to such things here, savvy reader.)

This vehicle would make the most perfect surf-mobile or DIY camper, mais non? Look closely at its roof — yes, you see correctly: Those are siren lights. Yes, SIRENS!

This vehicle was once an ambulance somewhere in Europe, we’re guessing France or Germany, in all probability. Imagine the stories this vehicle could tell if it could talk.

The design of this vehicle is so European that it’s obvs perfectly suited to SoCal in its severe un-California-ness. It’s got style. And it’s for sale by owner, somewhere in Malibu for about $1,900. 

Imagine pulling up to the beaches of North San Diego County in this big, red behemoth, your party or brood spilling out of this thing and on to the warm sands of summer. Or cruising up to the curbside valet at Spago in this whip. Imagine the envy of other shoppers at Costco as you easily glide the obscene bulk of your purchases into the cargo hold of this van.

Imagine all the surfboards you could carry in this thing. Imagine dark desert highways, cool wind in your hair, the warm smell of calitas …

Imagine the sound of the klaxons on this things, the siren at full blare, but that European siren, the one that sounds like braying donkeys hee-hawing through synthesizer horns. A sound that brings heady memories of Paris, smoking Gitanes outside a bar in Belleville at 2:00am, old ladies walking tiny dogs, croissants, strong coffee … “Un creme, sil vous plait!” you audibly say to your self.

So different from the sirens of American ambulances and their elongated notes that sound like a wolf-howl fed through a broken Moog. A sound that conjures up the heady smell of  …. an airport Cinnabon.

But we digress.

TECHNOLOGY: STREET ARTWORK LITERALLY “PHONY”

An electric utility box along Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, has been painted as an old-school public pay telephone. See pic below.

From a distance you might be fooled into thinking you were spying a real pay phone, albeit a questionably larger-than-life-size one. But, of course, it’s fake, a phony — literally a “phony” in the original sense of the word.

The painting is cartoon-like, but accurate in its rendering of the design and details of the phone. The real public pay phones were once common in cities around the United States, but have all but completely disappeared from American life.

The artwork is a cute and clever reminder of how quickly technology has changed and how physically pervasive and visible it can be in our lives.

As by-product of the explosive growth and adoption of cellphones, and later smartphones, over the past two decades is the erasure of pay phones from the urban landscape.

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE: STENCIL STREET ART ATTEMPTS WRY SOCIAL COMMENTARY ON SMARTPHONE USE

 

We were were recently walking down the street in the Arts District near Downtown Los Angeles (a.k.a., DTLA).

We were upbeat, bright-eyed, walking with a spring in our step, as one might say, practically skipping along the pavement and doing this all while scrolling through the email inbox on our battered iPhone, firmly en-gripped in our right hand. (BTW, we just made up that word “en-gripped,” which we think perfectly captures the idea of holding a phone while walking.)

That’s when we almost didn’t notice the nearly life-size stenciled silhouette of a lean, badly-postured man on the sidewalk ahead of us. See pic above.

This figure was staring down at his smartphone (sure, probably an iPhone, but, you never know, it could be a Droid — you’d be surprised sometimes that there are actually some non-iPhone smartphone users out there — Yes, even in the Arts District! Amazing, we know).

He seemed so engaged with his smartphone that he was missing out on all the stuff going on around him on the street. He was missing out on life, on living, and stuff that didn’t involve touch-screens and apps icons and likes and getting things done and working remotely and sending important work-related messages and viewing urgent texts about deadlines and budgets.

He was missing out on important non-important stuff, like missing out on all the awesome street art all around.

We took a pic of this.

Then we went back to scrolling through the email inbox on our battered iPhone and went on our merry way.