Los Angeles has a new superstar everyone is fascinated with and, for once, it hasn’t sprouted out of Hollywood, the sports scene or the restaurant one. It’s the new Music Director for the LA Phil, the wild replacement to the cool Esa Pekka-Salonen. With his wild mane of curly hair, his tender age and his Venezuelan state sponsored music studies, Gustavo Dudamel has been an instant hit. The LA Times has spent gallons of ink praising him while the NY Times was a bit stingier on Mr. Dudamel’s debut in the big Apple – either way, it’s fun to have a young and energetic person leading the Phil and his personality seems to match the wild architecture of the Frank Gehry’s designed Walt Disney Music Hall.
What led me to these musings is not a newfound expertise in classical music or opera, two vast personal cultural holes of mine but a walk around downtown on a Wednesday afternoon, when most people are still at work which makes tooling away time all the most pleasurable.I have to admit I never had an up close and personal encounter with the Disney Hall, despite having become an architectural landmark of this city of mine – I drove by a bunch of times and admired the wavy sheets of golden metal but this time I got out of the car, and walked up and around the entire building, marvelling at the feat of imagination and construction. Right behind is a cute little garden with a fountain made of what looked like broken pieces of Delft china. I sat at one of the metal tables and admired the city right below me. Without having to go and sit through a concert – which is no doubt worth the price of admission – Disney Hall offers guided tours of the building during the day.
Right across the street is MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) recently saved in extremis by Eli Broad and his money. It’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but stays open late on Thursdays. Its Summer week-end concerts have become a LA staple and currently it features an Arshile Gorky exhibition that looks extremely interesting and will run until September.
From the table right next to the window at Bottega Louie, while I was eating pizza as if it were going out of style, I couldn’t help notice that 90% of the food traffic was minorities, and not terribly well off by the look of it. Which reminded me that all the money that has been poured into the downtown refurbishment has created lovely lofts for the hip and trendy who can afford them but hasn’t done much for the pockets where the immigrants still live in pretty downtrodden buildings. And more entrepreneurial capital will eventually push them out by pricing them out. If a successful metropolis is to be judged in part by its integration, we are still way off. But is integration in a metropolis an oxymoron anyway?