The Friends of California Libre...

08 June 2010

Call Me Ish Kabibble

Greetings, friends,
I've discovered a new diversion for myself when I have some time on my hands; there's a setting on my GPS that changes how it calculates routes.  The default is "economical", but living in Los Angeles, I have it set to "fast", which will ordinarily take me out of my way to find the freeway and get on it.  But there's yet another option, "short", which takes the most direct route between two points, turning even to save a few precious feet.  It's a risky calculation, and has led me down a few dead-ends or into cycles of zigzags across major boulevards.  But I always see something new.

I was leaving Laura and Drew's party last weekend, nearly midnight on Saturday, a distance of nearly some 20 miles from my house -- from near the Burbank Airport to near LAX.  You can follow the route here:
and note that in order to get Google to calculate it, I had to change it from a car to a pedestrian.  My GPS is more accommodating, clicking away as I asked for the shortest route.  The first part of the drive made complete sense, the most direct route across the San Fernando Valley to Hollywood, and usually this is the norm for long drives, the outer part finding a way to feed into the web of streets around the destination, while the part closest to the destination finds those secret shortcuts it can take years to learn.  The mysterious part, as it was here, is the middle of the route, where the command to find the direct path between two points can sometimes zigzag, but often traces the most ancient roads in a neighborhood, the routes travelled by Indians and Spaniards, reminders of a geography rendered invisible by years of city-building.

So it was that night...for a brief stretch I even found myself upon Keniston Avenue, the northern extension of my very street, separated by miles and even a range of hills from my part.  To have such a length named after him, this Keniston must have once been makes me curious.  Then I zagged once again, as Keniston ended, onto Vineyard Avenue, an old streetcar line that met the mainline at Venice Boulevard, where the worst streetcar accident in Los Angeles happened on 13 July 1913.  This was a wonderfully preserved old neighborhood, along the crest of a hill, that I'd never seen before.  Then it intersected Santa Rosalia near the oldest building in my neighborhood, the ranch house of Rancho La Cienaga o Paso de la Tijera, and I realized I was probably following the old boundary of the ranch around the base of the hill.

Anyway, if you are Cali today, do me a favor on vote YES on proposition 13.  This exempts a property owner from having their taxes reassessed if they do a seismic retrofit, such as bolting their house down as I need to do.  I can't think of an easier way to encourage people to do this.

I'm not going to give you any other advice, except to say that if props. 16 and 17 win, it will be a good measure of how easily duped Californians are, and if proposition 14 and 15 win, some of my friends in the union will be pissed off, but I will be very happy and maybe some progressive types with limited support from political parties will have a chance at governance.  Anything (in the case of proposition 14) that is opposed by the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, most of the other parties and the unions seems like it must be good to me.

I'd also suggest, if you have trouble picking Superior Court judges, that voting for whoever is running against the current judge, especially if they are not a self-identified prosecutor, is a good bet.

Where have I been since February?  At HOME, an expensive but rewarding moniker I get to apply to my little eighth of an acre (just over 500 square meters).  You are welcome to come by and have a smoke or watch a movie, but if you want to get me to your art opening or your party, it had better be good, because I have floors to do and garden to dig.

I'm starting to understand how possessive my ancestors were of their land, and have to learn to temper my anger.  I'm beginning to hate the Pottery Barn, for example, for sending me catalogues after I've asked them to stop multiple times, and I'm beginning to hate the people who cut through my plants to throw advertisements at my front door, like that will really get me to patronize some business.  A few weeks back somebody taking a shortcut across my yard and my neighbors' lead-footed on my lilac verbena, totalling it, and I wanted to kill them.  Since I've become a property owner, I feel a deep responsibility for the web of life within the surveyor's lines, to the point of irrationality.  What's worse, friends, that I value a plant over a human life, or that I'm not sure if that should bother me or not?  It's a quandry but I guess, like with so many things, I'll have to draw the line somewhere.

I watched a documentary about whaling the other day with some disgust; whaling was among the first (but not the last) cause célèbre I've taken up, and I'm committed to boycotting forever the countries that perpetuate it, Japan, Norway and Iceland.  The documentary seemed to celebrate the gore a bit much, methinks, in trying to establish how heroic and how formative whaling was to the US.  I prefer to think, like Herman Melville, that whaling was a symbol of our unique crisis in the 19th century, when we turned our back on the natural world and America began to disintegrate into a singleminded greed.  The end of Moby Dick, after hundreds of pages of thoughtful rumination, is an abrupt, violent statement of this crisis:

         "I turn my body from the sun. What ho, Tashtego! let me hear thy hammer.  Oh! ye three unsurrendered spires of mine; thou uncracked keel; and only god-bullied hull; thou firm deck, and haughty helm, and Pole-pointed prow,--death-glorious ship! must ye then perish, and without me?  Am I cut off from the last fond pride of meanest shipwrecked captains?  Oh, lonely death on lonely life!  Oh, now I feel my topmost greatness lies in my topmost grief.  Ho, ho! from all your furthest bounds, pour ye now in, ye bold billows of my whole foregone life, and top this one piled comber of my death!  Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.  Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale!  THUS, I give up the spear!"

        The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward; with igniting velocity the line ran through the grooves;--ran foul.  Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him round the neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone.  Next instant, the heavy eye-splice in the rope's final end flew out of the stark-empty tub, knocked down an oarsman, and smiting the sea, disappeared in its depths.

        For an instant, the tranced boat's crew stood still; then turned.  "The ship? Great God, where is the ship?"  Soon they through dim, bewildering mediums saw her sidelong fading phantom, as in the gaseous Fata Morgana; only the uppermost masts out of water; while fixed by infatuation, or fidelity, or fate, to their once lofty perches, the pagan harpooneers still maintained their sinking lookouts on the sea.  And now, concentric circles seized the lone boat itself, and all its crew, and each floating oar, and every lance-pole, and spinning, animate and inanimate, all round and round in one vortex, carried the smallest chip of the Pequod out of sight.

        But as the last whelmings intermixingly poured themselves over the sunken head of the Indian at the mainmast, leaving a few inches of the erect spar yet visible, together with long streaming yards of the flag, which calmly undulated, with ironical coincidings, over the destroying billows they almost touched;--at that instant, a red arm and a hammer hovered backwardly uplifted in the open air, in the act of nailing the flag faster and yet faster to the subsiding spar.  A sky-hawk that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its natural home among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Tashtego there; this bird now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between the
hammer and the wood; and simultaneously feeling that etherial thrill, the submerged savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his hammer frozen there; and so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it.

        Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.

Photograph:  The wreck of the Wanderer, the last whaler out of New Bedford, destroyed on the rocks before she could begin her voyage, 1924.


By the way, in case you're wondering...that's Ish Kabibble on the left (the inspiration to Jerry Lewis)...

Vive le SCREED!

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