> In Los Angeles, one laughs to survive, enjoys oneself not to enhance life but in order to live at all. That society is so vaporous and tenuous that the only alternative to a spiral of loneliness and fear is a self-contained, steady, pleasurably focused attitude. The L.A. cogito: I laugh, therefore I am. The laughter is ramified and refined. Only with time and effort does a visitor learn its language. It is the absolute form of civility in a civilization that enables nobody to mature beyond adolescence. It can be erotic and quite beautiful, when one hears its undertone of sadness. It can be disturbing, when one catches its overtone of hostility. It is the sound of grown-up children determined not to be afraid.