Wednesday, October 12, 2005

L.A.: A fast-food rite of passage, and a cornfield as art

On Saturday, Mark and I went to Los Angeles for the day. On our way there, we made our first visit to the venerable California institution known as:

I'm not much of a fast-food sort of person, but we figured this was one of those things we have to do once while we're living here. At In-N-Out, the employees are oddly cheerful and the menu has a quaint simplicity:

Unless, that is, you know about the secret menu. (The Internet sort of takes the fun out of this sort of thing, doesn't it?)

Apparently this is a place that native Californians crave when they leave the state, sort of like what Valentino's or Runza are to Nebraskans who leave. My burger was good for fast food, but again, I'm just not much of a fast-food burger person. But it was good for what it was (In-N-Out kitchens are said to have no freezers or microwaves in them -- everything is fresh).

Anyway, on to L.A., where we visited the Not A Cornfield project. It's 30 acres of corn, planted in the heart of the city as, yes, an art installation. (Isn't there an old Talking Heads song that goes "This was a shopping mall, now it's nothing but flowers"?)

The land it's planted on is in a sort of decaying industrial neighborhood; warehouses line one side of it and the Metro zips past on the other. According to the website, this plot of land in particular sat neglected for a decade. So this is all about reclaiming land in a city that's famous for lacking focus, that's all sprawled out and centerless and is always covering up traces of its past. I also can't help but think that if Nebraskans knew about this thing, it would just be further proof to the pragmatic Midwestern mind that California is a goofy place. :)


Blogger lis said...

In HS, we went on a band/orchestra trip to SoCal and we all made a trip to In-N-Out. It felt like a pilgrimage and I'm not even sure how we knew about In-N-Out and why it carried such a mystique for us. I even bought a t-shirt.

It's very weird that corn is being used as a symbol for land reclamation. In the Midwest, cornfields are all about development. I think cornfields are like the midwest equivalent of a strip mall (I know it's a bad analogy, but you get my point). I'm all for land as art, but cornfields as art?

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Yes, I think that pretty much confirms everything we midwesterners think about you silly californians... ;) Of course, we also know that you were silly before you left Nebraska, just in a different way. :)

Hope things are going well...

8:27 PM  
Blogger tara said...

Yeah, some of that is Californians definitely romanticizing corn and not thinking about what it means for that giant swath of the country they've probably only flown over. :)

On the other hand, this isn't the Midwest -- here, land is so expensive that farmers sell out to developers because a subdivision is more lucrative than their crops. It happens out here to date farmers in Indio, it's happening to the wine country in Temecula. So here, returning the land to crops has a different political meaning.

also: Hi Jason! Glad you're reading :)

10:11 AM  

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