An East Hollywood Shrine to Safety

By Ellie Robins

Frantic pregnant nesting. Giddy rebellion against gender norms. Duty amplified to the pitch of existential dread. A protective impulse flicking its forked tongue out from the lizard brain. FOMO. The clandestine joy, in the midst of a trying weekend, of imagining your spouse’s neck snapping like a twig in a drought.

Just a few of the emotions that will soon fill this 40,000 square foot lot. We’re in East Hollywood: Hollywood Boulevard, between Kenmore and Edgemont, and the project is a hardware store, a perverse ode to humanity: the labor of building a shrine to building. Welcome to your new home, Orchard Supply Hardware.

Strange to think that the world looks the way it does because of the human lust for meat. More than a million years ago, hominids grasped that animals packed more energy than plants, that it was easier to catch prey in a pack, that through divided labor a tribe could maintain a campsite. Campfires and temporary homes sprung up on the African savannas. From this: war, football hooliganism, Suffragettes, capitalism, Donald Trump, the suburbs, everything. Including Orchard Supply Hardware. Watch a man proudly choosing an outdoor grill and tell me it’s not pure caveman: protect, provide, impress.

So this giant corkscrew winding down, down into the orange sand, the wave of metal struts rolling imposingly over an incline on the lot, the cement mixer’s deep whir and click: all civilizing measures that help us to forget the deepest truth about us, the truth beneath hardware stores and so much else: we are animals, and we want to be safe.

A COMMITMENT TO SOMETHING GREATER THAN THEMSELVES. MARINES.COM, says a billboard to the southeast corner. A block to the west, a graffitied wall tells of the Armenian Genocide: 1915: OUR WOUNDS ARE STILL OPEN. Two sides of war: glory and tragedy; the fictional account and the true. And at the triangle’s third point, Orchard Supply Hardware: the tribal, fearful impulse writ small, lurking whether you like it or not amid bamboo flooring, dimmer switches, and table saws.

Beneath the store will be an LA oasis, paradise, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon: ample parking. “An underground parking area that features more spaces than the building code requires,” per a Los Feliz City Council Statement. The wonders of the modern world. What this means is that, when compelled to fortify and beautify our dens, we advanced hominids will be able to drive our engorged craniums directly beneath the store: no need to roam the savanna of East Hollywood. An anti-urban, anti-evolutionary design; pure lizard brain.

Here’s what a shopper might see if forced to search for parking or even walk a few blocks: On a traffic island three blocks east, blue tarpaulin wraps humps the size of rhinos, each one containing a human’s world. People without homes to fortify or beautify live out their lives in the city’s unused spaces. The City of LA has granted the right to camp, but not the right to a roof over one’s head. Cars and buses flow through the intersection like a stream around a rock.

Back at the lot, the huge corkscrew screams its way into the ground, digging the foundations that will support a million Sunday-morning arguments about paint.

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