Another entry in my Fables and Dramas series. Another of my fables: “Tall Buildings”
A denizen of one of the bigger east-coast cities, or, indeed, of any teeming city in any part of the world not of the pristine and historically unmoored American West would no doubt be perplexed to come upon a news site that had an item which was titled “Man jumps from 12th floor in Los Angeles.” “Twelfth floor?” this putative surfer would no doubt sputter. “Really? They build buildings that big out there? Won’t they crash like stacked soda cans when the Big One ™ hits?” To which, of course, the jumper could give the finger in the infinite moment before his body hit the pavement, and perhaps unfortunate and inattentive passers-by.
I know this from experience. Los Angeles does indeed have many 12-story buildings—many buildings much greater than 12 stories, even! No, they’re not all compacted together, like glass and steel and stone blades of grass sprouting from a small plot of soil. No, in L.A. they have room to breathe, expanding outward as they rise upward, giving their tenants views of mountains and oceans (smog permitting), not of neighbors across the alley in adjacent buildings. L.A. is truly the city of the present and the future—and even the past, of drama and fable and fable. Look at the wide boulevards, look at the arching freeway superstructures, look at the little architectural gems littering the landscape, plopped down by someone with money and imagination. Oh, I tell you, this is the place to be. No place like it, no sir. This is how America will look, eventually: jumbled, polyglot, the past plowed under for the present and recalled—if worthy of being recalled—as myth.
Back to the story. I know for a fact that you can, with pluck and determination—both of which go a long way in L.A.—jump, even leap, off of a building of some height if you’ve decided to do yourself in. The city has become much more urban in recent years, much more vertical, old, disused Beaux Art office buildings converted into lofts and condominiums for the civically adventurous. Why, downtown is a veritable construction site, old buildings being renovated, new buildings going up. One day it’ll be New York, but with better weather and nicer-looking women. These old buildings, the ones being converted, though, they’re abandoned at night, and one can ascend up the scaffolding, carefully, quietly, and hopefully no one on the street will notice—which they likely won’t, depending on where you are, because downtown is dead after 6, when the workers go home and the residents mill around the few pockets of life in the area. Up and up until you reach the top, and what a sight, lights all around you, stretching infinitely off, an abstract, electric heaven. Suck it all in, one last time.
And then I jump. It ends rather quickly.
But how can I relate all this to you if I’m the jumper? It bends the rules of dramatic logic. Well, it’s all a story, isn’t it?
Why 12 stories? Because until the recent past, buildings in L.A. were limited to a 12 story height limit, due to earthquake concerns. Breaching that limit signaled that the city might one day reach up into the sky, rather than spread like a fungus across the landscape.