Universal City

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Universal City is dominated by Universal Studios, drawing in afternoon and evening hordes of young and old, families, couples and dates to the CityWalk (an outdoor mall) and the amusement park (part of a trinity, along with Disneyland and Six Flags). Also nearby is Campo de Cahuenga, where California was ceded to the United States by Mexico; this event provides artistic fodder for Universal City Station.

Universal City Station

The station is inconspicuous. There is a red monolith, an elevator shaft and downward escalators marking the station; but these are overwhelmed by an expansive parking lot and a bus turnaround. There are no decorations at street level except a sandblasted concentric-diamonds motif that has the warmth of the patterns on freeway walls. But as you descend the escalators to the station platform, you will see ahead a dimly lit timeline zoom by overhead. Passing the ticket machines is Stephen Johnson's artwork Universal Delights (2010), a panorama of modern Universal City's economic and cultural pillars.

Arriving at the station platform itself is an astonishing piece, visual white noise to most commuters: Margaret Garcia's artwork Tree of Life (2000). The platform's columns are decorated with countless tiles giving a character-oriented history of California's capitulation, via text, illustrations and reliefs. The side to NoHo is in English; the side to Union Station, Spanish.

universal delights stephen johnson universal city stationStephen Johnson's 2010 artwork Universal Delights

During rush-hour, late-twenty-somethings, mostly white, pace through during rush hours (many with Jamba Juice in the mornings). They live nearby -- "we have an apartment in Universal City right now to be in the middle of things but still be able to save up some money so that we can buy a townhouse or maybe a house closer to Thousand Oaks." But there's another population in the area.

On the other side of the adjacent Highway 110 (passing through its raised bank via a low, unlit tunnel) are homeless people: a fat sun-baked woman with picnic chairs and clutter; a solitary tent right abutting the gas station. Fast food bathrooms in the area are congested as the homeless wash, brush and wipe, leaving water splashes on floors and mirrors like Charlize Theron's Aileen Wuornos in Monster.