David L. Ulin is the author or editor of several books, including The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time (Sasquatch, 2018); Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles (California, 2015), which was shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay; and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology (Library of America, 2002), which won a California Book Award. He was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015, and teaches at the University of Southern California.
The first address is of the house we rented twenty years ago, when our kids were young. Ten minutes on foot—half a mile—from the place where we now live. In reality, however, there is no address, not any longer.
It’s Sunday morning in September and I’m walking Eighth Street when I see it: spray of words in green and pink, framed in the middle of the pavement as if an illustration of some kind. In the middle of the pavement?
California as land’s end, world’s end: It collapses underneath the weight of such a reading, as it must. It reveals the limits of our history—demographic history, social history, history of technology, our sense of this place as final landscape, last territory on the continent, where we face ourselves because there is nowhere to turn.