Beginning with the descent from Houston, Los Angeles arises in the distance Ė a giant metal sheet surrounded by mountains and desert and the sea. From the air, you canít see the Pacific Ocean, because of the glint from a million homes, heat arising from blacktop eight lanes wide and serpentine in their paths.

Miles above the ground, it looks like a giant circuit board Ė nature overtaken and bent to the will of men. An aerial view is how we envision a future gone horribly wrong: Rows and rows of houses stretch beyond sight, edged only by the sand yet to be landscaped. Nothing is tall -- Los Angeles is built like New Yorkís five burroughs lopped off at floor two and laid out like a jigsaw puzzle Ė only wide and very broad.

Itís an intimidating place, and I will never live here for fear of its ability to dwarf me, to simultaneously swallow me whole and pass me by.

To give you a sense of its size, the cab ride from the airport to Hollywood cost $60. My driver was flying, there was no traffic, and both locations are within the main urban sprawl. You could circle the I-270 belt nearly twice for that kind of money. (A very uncooperative agent at the car rental depot would not let me rent a car, since arrangements were made on a company card. I didnít have it; he didnít care.)

I am now entering the most difficult challenge of my life: navigating LA on foot, by train and by bus. But after the rental car snafu and numerous computer problems, I finally have settled into my Hollywood hotel.

Thereís a bar downstairs, and a desk with a lamp. Headquarters now intact, Iím heading to the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, where most of this weekís proceedings will take place.

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Artist: X Track: "Los Angeles" Album: Los Angeles Listen