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 someone...it 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:
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.
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!
08 June 2010