Los Angeles’s Homeless Emergency

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October 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Leslie Evans

The spread of homeless camps outward from Downtown Skid Row into every neighborhood spurred seven L.A. City Council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti on September 22 to declare homelessness a city emergency and promise to raise $100 million to ameliorate it. There is a long unhappy back story here. The city for decades has tried to nickel and dime its way out of the homeless morass. It has put what money it has allocated for this problem overwhelmingly into police and Department of Sanitation cleanups of homeless camps, spending $100 million in 2014, of which 67% went to these services, which took no one off the streets.

Shocked by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) numbers from its January 2015 point-in-time count, the city found that it had 26,000 homeless people within its borders, 12% more than in 2013, but with an astounding 84% growth in the number of street camps and people living in vehicles. Read more


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October 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Jeremy Tarcher

Publisher Jeremy Tarcher (photo Ken Hively/LA Times). This photo best summed up Jeremy’s image

By Bob Vickrey

 There was a pronounced cadence and deliberate pacing to his speech pattern. He always spoke very pre-cise-ly while utilizing perfect enunciation of each word. Many of us who worked with Jeremy Tarcher in the book publishing business were completely captivated by his style and extraordinary elegance.

That distinctive voice was silenced on September 20th when he died at his home in Los Angeles from complications of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 83.

Jeremy P. Tarcher carved out a publishing niche for himself more than 40 years ago, and helped usher in a movement that spread across the country in decades to follow. His books on creativity, psychology, spirituality, and social consciousness made significant contributions in a field that came to be known as the “human potential movement.”

He had come from a show business background before he founded his publishing house, which was located in the heart of the Sunset Strip only a few blocks from Tower Records, Spago, and Book Soup. Jeremy P. Tarcher Books effectively revolutionized West Coast publishing by offering books focused on the mind, body, and spirit. Read more


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October 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Bob Vickrey and President Jimmy Carter at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, March 1985


By Bob Vickrey

 While watching former President Jimmy Carter describe the details of his recent cancer diagnosis during a televised news conference, it occurred to me that anyone who had ever met him in person was not surprised by the gracious manner in which he was now confronting his own mortality. That congenial style has long been his trademark.

His tireless energy has been on display since he left the White House 35 years ago—even now at the age of ninety. His commitment to international humanitarian work has been well documented, particularly for his beloved project, Habitat for Humanity

The familiar smile he flashed often during the press conference took me back to a time in March of 1985, when I stood on the steps of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel anxiously awaiting his arrival. I was to escort him during his Southern California stop on his national book tour. Read more

There Goes the Robert E. Lee

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October 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 



By Paul Morantz


Like my father before me, I will work the land,
And like my brother before me, I took a rebel stand.
He was just eighteen, proud and brave,
but a Yankee laid him in his grave.
I swear by the blood below my feet
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat
The night they drove old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringing,…

Guess we won’t be hearing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” on the radio any more.
Why, you ask? Well, doesn’t it refer to a dark time in our history, an era drenched in lynchings, hatred, , the shameful enslavement of a race of people and a bloody and destructive civil war? We certainly wouldn’t want people to remember all that, would we? Better it all be “Gone With the Wind,” right?

That seems to be the logical conclusion to be drawn from the current public outrage over the display of the Confederate flag, sparked by the tragic killing of nine innocents at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a despicable act, and when the alleged perpetrator was seen on the Internet spouting hateful racist beliefs and proudly clutching the Confederate flag, the resulting public outcry was understandable. Read more

Between Heaven & Hell

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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


 The author nearly 70 years ago, when life was still a journey to ponder


It’s an oppressively hot day. It was the first time this summer the temperature had gotten up in to the 90s. That wouldn’t have meant much–after all it’s now August–but for the humidity. Summer usually isn’t humid in Los Angeles. Humidity is mostly alien to Los Angeles. That’s more for Miami or New York or those kinds of places. I don’t know for others, but this kind of weather makes me depressed and hopeless.

I guess I’m spoiled. The air conditioning in my 20-year-old Toyota is broken. So I don’t go out much more than I absolutely have to. But as I pamper myself, I feel guilty. Like everyone else, I’ve seen those pictures of families from Africa and the Middle East, often children and young mothers, stranded on old rust buckets in the Mediterranean, crying from hunger, thirst and fear. Read more


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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


Paul Morantz and Annie Hall (Nikki)

Paul Morantz and his Annie Hall (Nikki Schevers) in the late 1970′s


Two of my life’s best friends—Nicky and Nikki—met for the first time on July 4th, seven years ago, on an unseasonably cool summer day. Sharing the same names phonetically was not a coincidence.

While driving my ‘Nicky’ in my l957 Porsche Speedster in the annual Pacific Palisades Fourth of July Parade, I spotted the other ‘Nikki’ at the very curb she and her family had occupied during each parade for many years—directly in front of what once was the First National Food Company, the restaurant in which she had formerly worked. It had been 17 years since we had seen one another. She sat in a wheel chair with a blanket covering her knees. Read more


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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Miscellany · Comment 



Michael Harrison


 Michael Harrison relaxes in his garden


There is not a whole lot of celebration going on this particular birthday

Just grateful for still being on the field, and that the celestial manager has seen fit to leave me in for perhaps another few innings

I was allowed to make a quick stop yesterday to pick up my new hearing aids

They are a mixed blessing indeed, and without a doubt, the most expensive present I’ve ever indulged myself

I now enjoy the beauty of hearing birds that I haven’t heard for many years, and hearing the hushed whispers of my grandchildren without having to ask them to increase their volume,

Sometimes while in the garden I imagine

I can hear plants and the earth talking

However, I find it only a brief interlude until the cacophony of the world intrudes, which in turn, makes me wince and oft times cry out, “what the hell is that noise?”

My ever-patient Sue informs me that the hideous noise I just heard was only the kitchen timer that called her back to the stove

Funny, I always thought that timer was just a pleasantly soft little warning, on those rare occasions that I was close enough to hear it

I had no idea that the cutting of vegetables could be so loud—not to mention my own voice that I now barely recognize

I appreciate what these gadgets allow me to hear—and for what I am desirous of hearing—but the relief of returning to my hushed world when I remove them at night is palpable

And oh, so welcoming

Michael Harrison retired from the book business after 42 years working as a field representative for several publishing houses including Houghton Mifflin Company and W.W. Norton.. He and his wife Sue live in Oakland, California.



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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

Polo Players- enhanced

Do we have a deal? (l to rt) Bob Vickrey, Barry Stein, Arnie Wishnick, Josh Greenfeld

By Bob Vickrey


As we approached the stately Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, the perennial playground of the rich and famous, we wondered if the staff there was prepared to host the likes of the middle-class and not-so-famous.

Our motley crew of four might not be confused with the “Beverly Hillbillies,” but the boyish giddiness we had exhibited in recent road trip luncheons certainly might raise a few eyebrows in this traditionally button-down palace.

The storied Polo Lounge inside the lobby of the hotel, which has a long history of Hollywood deal-making and star-sightings, was the fourth stop in our newly-formed monthly dining group where our goal was to dine in many of the oldest and most famous restaurants in Los Angeles. Read more

Is There Any Meaning to Human Life Or Should We Just Get On With It?

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September 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 

The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom. John Gray. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. 179 pp.

Leslie Evans

John Gray

John Gray

John Gray, English political philosopher and acerbic journalist, is our great pessimist. If at one time raising a lance against the happy illusions of progress was to make one a lonely outsider, today the already creeping  cataclysms of overpopulation and resource depletion, worsened by the early effects of global warming, can hardly be ignored – in the rise of fanatical Islamic movements that are destroying the resource-poor Arab Middle East and North Africa, the endless bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, the failed economic recovery of southern Europe, or the rapid erosion of the American middle class. The sense of decline and of imminent peril is reflected in the avalanche of dystopian films and novels that dominate the cultural landscape.

In this collection Gray presents three long essays, each touching briefly on many individual writers, some well known, some obscure. He begins with Heinrich von Kleist’s 1810 essay, “The Puppet Theatre,” from which Gray takes his title. Marionettes, Kleist observes, precisely because they have no self-consciousness, respond perfectly and with grace to the strings to which they are bound, the freedom to follow the arc of gravity. Read more

Honey Talks About Water

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August 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary · Comment 


By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)


Layport_Vernal_Falls c_2015_Bob_Layport

Vernal Falls Copyright 2015 Bob Layport

A few weeks ago, my friend Susannah Wilson drove her eight-year old granddaughter and me up to Lake Almanor in Plumas County. Susannah and her brothers own a cabin on Lake Almanor. Their grandparents built the cabin, so she has been going to the lake on and off most of her life.

We drove up there from Grass Valley, stopping once to look at Yolo River as it streamed over giant stones, and stopping again in Quincy to go to the local museum.

Spanish Captain Luis Arguello named the river up there “Rio de las Plumas” in 1820. The Feather River is the main tributary of the Sacramento River. After the discovery of gold in 1848, towns sprang up in the area. The Beckwourth Trail, established by James Beckwourth in 1850, was the predecessor route to State Route 70 built in 1934. Ina Coolbrith’s family entered California on the Beckwourth trail, led by James Beckwourth on the first trip he guided over the mountains. Although Susannah is an expert driver and knows the routes like the back of her hand – some of her ancestors homesteaded up there – I cannot imagine my driving that route much less imagine how people crossed that formidable terrain before paved roads. Read more

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