Why myths fail – the fairy tale of Eagle Rock

eagle-rock“‘Those places are important — they dissolve some of the cruel anonymity of everyday life,’ he said. ‘They’re part of the equation of making the local real to us. But they’re not the whole equation. They’re not enough.'”(“When The Next Wave Wipes Out – Bohemian Sprawl Hits the Limits in LA”, Scott Timberg, nytimes.com, 26/02/2009) D.J. Waldie, Southern California historian about the decline of Eagle Rock, a bourgeios bohemia on the Northeast side of Los Angeles.

For the last five or six years Eagle Rock offered a soft spot for those who wanted to flee the harshness of LA-life. “The neighborhood of 35,000 or so has attracted screenwriters and composers, Web designers and animators, who labor on their laptops in cafes, discuss film projects at Friday night wine tastings, and let their children play with the handmade wooden toys in a Scandinavian-style coffee shop, Swork.” (idem) Turns out this suburbian utopia wasn’t going to last forever.

“The flower store has closed; no gourmet market is moving in. Lucy Finch, a vintage boutique, folded last month. That Yarn Store, a hangout for crochet-heads, didn’t survive a bad winter.” (idem)

Since I’m no anthropologist I’ll only talk about the Eagle Rock story as a metaphor and what that metaphor signifies for me.

Five or six years ago Eagle Rock underwent a transformation, from a sleepy, rather dull uptown to a highly sophisticated retreat where daily life could flourish again and all aspects of life that were repressed from the rush of the city could be revived and revitalized.

It’s like Eagle Rock became a kind of green house on the outskirts of a noisy and suffocating city, a place where the delicate aspects of human life could be restored. In a sense the new Eagle Rock was born out of unfulfilled human needs.

Soon the little town thrived. The larger the city, the more urgent the need for an Eagle Rock moment, the more pleasant the Eagle Rock dream appeared. And the more successful the Eagle Rock dream became, the more wanted it seemed, the more expensive it became  and the more it turned into a myth.

It didn’t take long before the myth of Eagle Rock became more precious than the reality that had lead up to the transformation of the rather dull and sleepy uptown. The new inhabitants of Eagle Rock, those who were living the dream and making a great living out of it, did everything in their power to preserve the myth and keep things the way they were. The myth was great as it was, so why change it?

And so it happened that Eagle Rock forgot about its history. After a while, nobody knew anymore why and how Eagle Rock had become the myth it was today. If you asked about it, you probably heard something like: ‘It was meant to be this way’ or ‘The city life created this’ or ‘It was a fortunate series of events that lead to this’.

But suddenly something changed in the city. Crisis struck. People lost their jobs, their income, spendings had to be cut, priorities had to be reset. One after the other the pillars of the Eagle Rock crumbled down. Day after day more people started to realize that what they needed from Eagle Rock was not really Eagle Rock but what the myth of Eagle Rock stood for. It weren’t the stores with the wooden toys from Sweden, nor the imported Australian products. They didn’t need another handmade soap.

What they needed was authenticity. And day by day it became clearer that all these so called authentic products and services hadn’t made them happy after all. Oh, they’ve provided them with instant happiness, or happiness on occassion, but in times like these just buying another bar of soap or another toy wouldn’t do the trick.

What they were looking for wasn’t to be found in a town like Eagle Rock. It was to be found in their hearts, in their minds and in their day to day actions. It was to be found in their daily lives. All these products, all these surroundings were merely mirrors trying to reflect the things of life which they couldn’t see anymore.

And so the people of Eagle Rock started to take away the mirrors. They started to draw back the curtains and look at life again. People who moved in five years ago moved back to the city they’d once fled. Suddenly they’d realized that what they’d left behind wasn’t so bad at all.

The mirrorshops of Eagle Rock closed down, one by one. Until there were no mirrorshops left and the town became dull again.

“‘Those places are important — they dissolve some of the cruel anonymity of everyday life,’ he said. ‘They’re part of the equation of making the local real to us. But they’re not the whole equation. They’re not enough.'” (idem)

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