t. j. peters
In 1766, Jozef Achterkamp, an emigrant Dutchman to the United States of America, set westward. He felt that war was imminent in his adopted city of Richmond, which it was. Not many people spoke of the western coast, but he anticipated his efforts to get there would be worth it. He left Richmond with a horse and some supplies.
Jozef traveled for hours until he reached the swamps. Wading, the murk, knee-high and swallowing, followed by another suctioned step.
Jozef traveled for days until he reached the Appalachian Mountains. Brush thick as ancient cobwebs, ground unsure as he.
Jozef traveled for weeks until he reached the Mississippi River. Flowing, potable murder. It’s own horizon, plane of forever. An ocean on the plains.
Jozef traveled for months until he reached the American Rocky Mountains. Jagged barricades rising, a summit purgatory, nay a through route. Bitter cold, unjustified.
Jozef traveled for years until he reached the Mojave Desert. Amber waves of grains of sand, between sea and sea, and thirst. His horse would die there.
Jozef traveled forever. Upon arrival he did not weigh much and his everything was tattered, beaten by the uncharted and unsettled and in- between. He landed in a place that would one day be called Malibu, California. Cliff edges lush, kissed by ocean breeze, a living portrait carved by the waves of the New World, sea coves of ceramic-glazed blues and greens and glistening. Untouched. The end. A beauty no white man had yet seen.
Jozef looked out to the saltwater rip tide and the vastness that stretched to the Orient—a port, but not a passage—and mother fucker, he thought, this was worth it.
44 Pobladores, 24 Marcos
In 1781, Felipe de Neve, the Governor of Las Californias, founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, a civil settlement of Spanish colonials. It was to be secular and quaint, a New World, built for Our Lady of the Angels, wherever she was.
There would be forty-four humans, plus four more soldiers. The forty-four were twenty-two grande and twenty-two pequeño, eleven wives and eleven hombres, the children a historically undocumented mixture of girls and boys. Nine were Indios and eight were Mulattos and two were Negros and Criollo and Mestizo and Spanish got uno. Forty-eight in all, a metropolis on the rise. They were farmers and cowboys and cobblers and mule men and widows, diverse from the outset and more so two centuries later. Their home was on a river that stretched to the ocean—a harbor to the South, a river no more.
El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, from forty-four plus four to millions still growing, of labor and expansion, a city from everywhere, two-hundred and twenty-five years forgotten, presently exposed at twenty-four frames per second.
In 2014, I reside in the Concrete Jungle, or rather, a concrete jungle—the City of Angels, the home of the Stars, the vast and always seventy-five degrees (on average). The never-ending, manmade stretch of up-to-live-in and flat-to-get-across is enough that the nickname is apt, but not necessarily what Marley described, though I would never deny him. It is true, I do not know the jungle, but I have seen the slabs. Miles of highway connect would-be parks to lots and garages, and the river, too, once free-flowing and manic, is but a trickle in a cement basin, paved over to prevent another flood. It was 1938 when a jungle was ruined by water.
I come from The Jungle, as told by Upton Sinclair, another city of concrete, but one more learned and corrupt. Chicago was once a slaughterhouse kingdom, ‘til it gave way to more normalcies—an urban dwelling plus crime—where my roots rose from its South, siding by the law and whisky. Before us, in 1871, the City That Works burnt to the ground and my ancient townsfolk flowed the Fox River to resurrect it. With boats against stream they did it with brick and mortar, stacked higher than before, stronger than ever, later to be steel and concrete. Another jungle, bigger and permanent, not to be ruined by fire.
And here I reside, my second city, a place described as sprawl. Endless pavement built above a landscape that if uninhibited would still—sans the Stars and ever-pleasant temperatures—be sprawling. It is a place of palm trees and to-dos, hills and valleys, and also a beach, but also a desert. With time, civil engineering gave biodiversity a highway, and now there are so many of us, moving from one ruin to the next. Call it Concrete Jungle or city or suburb or town or Jungle or sprawl or mess or Hhell or what have you: I will rebuild here, feet steeped in artificial sediment, hoping I migrated up and not just over.
t.j. peters is a writer and filmmaker dwelling atop a mount in Los Angeles, CA. To alleviate the mind-numbing rigmarole of the entertainment industry, t.j. writes short prose, most often in the form of flash fiction and creative non-fiction. In addition, t.j. considers himself an amateur falconer, though there is no evidence to support this claim.