Luminous Dreamlight

I spent part of the weekend down in Orange County, looking at birds, then the better part of an hour scrolling around on Google Maps, trying to figure out where we’d been all day.

[Image: Courtesy Google Maps.]

In the process, I noticed some incredible street names. I love this development, for example, with its absurdist, greeting-card geography: you can meet someone at the corner of Luminous and Dreamlight, or rendezvous with your Romeo on the thin spit of land where Silhouette meets Balcony.

The same development has streets called Symphony, Pageantry, and Ambiance—and don’t miss “Momento” [sic]. Nearby is a street called Heather Mist.

I live on Yacht Defender; please leave my packages at the front door.

[Image: Courtesy Google Maps.]

As you can probably tell, I have nothing particularly interesting to say about this; I’m just marveling at suburban naming conventions. I’m reminded of when we moved back to L.A. a few years ago and we were looking for paint colors, finding shades like “Online,” “Software,” and “Cyberspace.” A paint called “Download.”

A beautiful new house on Firmware Update, painted entirely in Autocomplete. Spellcheck Lane, painted in a color called Ducking.

[Image: Courtesy Google Maps.]

In any case, Orange County is actually a fascinating, Ballardian landscape of freeways built for no apparent reason other than to connect one grocery store to the next as fast as possible, residential subdivisions forming interrupted crystal-tiling patterns, migratory bird species flying over car parks, and vaguely named corporate research centers on the rims of artificial reservoirs.

Anecdotally, it has always seemed to me that fans of J.G. Ballard—or ostensible fans of J.G. Ballard—are suspiciously quick in condemning the very landscapes where so many of Ballard’s best stories take place, the suburban business parks, toll motorways, and heavily-policed private infrastructures of real estate developments outside London, in the south of France, or here in Orange County, where subdivisions seem named after the very animals whose ecosystems were destroyed during construction.

But, I mean, come on—where else should a J.G. Ballard fan read Concrete Island or Super-Cannes than in a $3 million rented home on Gentle Breeze, pulling monthly paychecks from ambiguously-defined consultant-engineering gigs, studying schematic diagrams for water-treatment plants at your kitchen table, all while driving a leased luxury car?

One such engineering firm, based near the developments described here, describes its expertise as tackling “earth-related problems” on “earth-related projects.” Earth-related problems. There should be a DSM-5 entry for that.

[Image: Courtesy Google Maps.]

Anyway, all future Ballard conventions should take place in landscapes like this—enormous rented homes impossible to climate-control, overlooking electric-SUV dealerships constructed atop former egret nesting grounds—at the metaphorical intersection of Luminous and Dreamlight.

8 thoughts on “Luminous Dreamlight”

  1. Very droll. I definitely agree about all future Ballard conventions. However, I went to college in Orange County (more specifically, Irvine), and I feel no nostalgia whatsoever for the place, so I won’t be attending any conventions there myself. (Do Ballard characters ever feel nostalgia for such landscapes?)

    1. A peculiar kind of spatial nostalgia might apply to these sorts of places, but who knows.

      To be honest, I have a soft spot in my heart for massively inhuman landscapes, whether they be corporate business parks or geological expanses. Speaking only for myself, genuinely huge works of infrastructure can be similar to National Parks in their calming effect.

  2. Speaking of DSM-V entries, it’s also worth remembering that late (i.e., VALIS-era) PKD was a creature of the OC, and that his papers remain in the eq-cracked Cal Fullerton library.

  3. FWIW, in my neck of the suburbs, there are a couple of interesting road names:

    – Temporary Rd, which is a permanent, paved road (for at least 25+ years)
    – Derosnec Dr., which is “Censored” spelled backwards


  4. For a brief, shimmering moment, BLDGBLOG and McMansion Hell almost converged.

    One’s mind reels at the possibilities. The unexpected historical aspects of Lawyer Foyers. Why catburglers might shun Uwu windows. Tracing the lives of polyurethane Doric columns, from petroleum distillate to non-structural structures.

  5. There’s a whole generation of post-war Italian architectural critics whose only visit to the US — if that — must have been an afternoon in Midtown Manhattan (circa 375 Park Avenue), and who came back convinced that all American streets have numbers instead of names (Park Avenue being the one exception).

    The idea is that US city planners were so rational that soon they’d start naming their children with numbers, too.

    If they only knew…

    At the same time I wonder how Venetians of old would feel about Orange County, with their Calle del Diavolo (Devil St) a few steps from Calle della Morte (Death St). For their relentless pursuit of darkness, Luminous and Dreamlight would have felt so risqué.

    And this made me think of a — admittedly very small — town whose streets are all named after tarot cards. Or Nespresso pods.

  6. As an American living in Paris, France, I came across a Passage of Desire when
    arriving in the 80’s. If in the area i would often drop by to see what ‘desire looks like” on the faces of the locals. i even considered buying a space to find desire, then walking
    to the corner cafe on rue Paradise…….simple bliss

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.