In Los Angeles: Flat World

John Turner
Harvard Square Commentary, December 4, 2006

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The Marriott Hotel at the Los Angeles Airport is an uninteresting place. The lobby offers a semblance of glamour when you first step inside, but a little walking around teaches that there's nothing there -- aside from a diminutive Starbucks shop -- to sustain it. Boring as the hotel is, though, it's a palace of wonder compared to the area in which it's located.

If I were going to make a movie about a guy who one day wakes up in a neighborhood and gradually discovers it's hell, this is the  geographical plot I would choose. You can walk for a mile in any direction from the Marriott and find only a couple spots -- a sandwich shop and a small market featuring liquor -- to sustain a sane life.

Looking out my window right now, from the 12th floor, I can see across the street the Embassy Suites Hotel and a canopied sign which says it contains the "Country Cafe." I haven't been there yet, but I'm fairly sure there's nothing rural about it and that if I do brave the traffic to get across the boulevard I'll find the food undistinguished and overpriced.

An obvious response to this criticism is, "What do you expect around a big airport? It's not a place for residential life." True.

Even so, airport world reflects a sterility that extends beyond necessity to a perverse wallowing in the estrangement of humans from one another. I don't believe it has to be as it is and, perhaps, the future will find ways to make the culture of airports and their surroundings something that doesn't leave people feeling emptied out inside.