In memoirs, in documentaries, in conversation, people often describe pivotal, fear-triggering events as having “changed Los Angeles overnight.” After Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family, people in the city started to lock their doors “overnight.” I was at a Christmas party when someone said to me that on the eve of the O. J. Simpson ruling everyone in Hollywood became a gun owner overnight. Nothing in Los Angeles happens overnight, but this is how people like to talk. Why, I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with wanting the city to be either a dream or a nightmare, like in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Psychologically, there are two L.A.’s. One is where Naomi Watts gets to be the sunny aspiring actress Betty and have beautiful teeth and a gorgeous lesbian relationship with an amnesiac Laura Harring. The other is where Naomi Watts is Diane, with fucked-up teeth, an unrequited romantic obsession, and a bullet in her head. They’re both the same movie, and none of it makes any sense. But it says something about how the city sees itself: things are one way, or suddenly another.

Dayna Tortorici writes in n+1 on growing up in Los Angeles, a city everyone can identify — but that has no identity.

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