The author nearly 70 years ago, when life was still a journey to ponder
By LIONEL ROLFE
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
Paul Morantz and his Annie Hall (Nikki Schevers) in the late 1970′s
BY PAUL MORANTZ
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
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.
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
The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Inquiry into Human Freedom. John Gray. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. 179 pp.
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
NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND
By Honey van Blossom
(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)
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
The Dining Club- (left to rt) Arnie Wishnick, Bob Vickrey, Josh Greenfeld, Barry Stein
By Bob Vickrey
When our group arrived through the traditional back door entrance of Musso & Frank’s Grill and surveyed the dining room, we all breathed a sigh of relief that there had been no major changes in the appearance of the legendary restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard.
When we had called for reservations the previous day, we were told the place had just reopened after a week of renovations. I’m happy to report the vintage Hollywood grill has still maintained the same atmosphere of its 1919 origins. Read more
By Les T. Zador, Atty. at Law
In the past, I have written about protecting yourself, i.e. getting your ducks in a row, if you’re involved in a car accident. I told you about how best to guard yourself against insurance companies which make it a practice to take advantage of the unwary and use, for example, poorly written emergency hospital records to undermine an accident victim’s case. This month I want to tell you about my case against a major bank. Banks, just like insurance companies, also tend to overreach, depending, of course on the bank. Small banks, i.e. community banks, generally care about their customers and make a real effort not to give them grief; but when you’re talking about a large bank worth many billions, the customer is far too often just another number. Read more
Mounting protests over the two new Los Angeles city ordinances, one for sidewalks and one for parks and beaches, that reduces notice for clearing homeless camps from 72 to 24 hours, adopted by the City Council June 23, have prompted Mayor Garcetti to order city departments to withhold sweeps until softening amendments are added. The mayor chose to let the ordinances become law without his signature. These decisions unhappily are mostly cosmetic.
The amendments that are under consideration are minor: mainly to exempt from seizure homeless persons’ identification documents and prescription medications. The most positive proposed amendment is to eliminate the misdemeanor penalty, carried over from the previous law, for failing to remove a camp on time. This can still go to warrant as a violation and have essentially the same effect. Read more
(Umberto Tosi, author of Ophelia Rising, was an editor and staff writer for the Los Angeles Times from 1959-1971.)
15. MAKEDA’S ARC
Makeda rips a half-typed sheet from Benny’s clunky Underwood and crumples it into a over-filled wastebasket by the kitchen table. “I can’t write about this shit!” She hobbles to the small fridge, still using a crutch. Ben has stocked it with snacks, milk and Keesha’s mini-cartons of juice. She finds some leftover takeout chow mien from the previous night, and takes to it, cold. She’s healing, but it still hurts to move around. She’s not that hungry, but if she eats she can take another codeine and mellow out. That won’t help the writing.
It’s a Saturday. Benny has taken Keesha and his own two daughters to Santa Monica pier for a few hours. He’s been a brick, but she wishes he wouldn’t hover around her so much some time. I still don’t know where we’re going with this, but it feels right. Up until last year we could have been jailed for getting married in some states. The Supreme Court ended that, and the bigots are saying it will end civilization as we know it, mixing the race. We can get married in Virgina, but fucking Nixon’s probably going to be President now. It’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll out on the Strip, and cops still killing black folks down on Crenshaw. Forgetting doesn’t change anything. But does it really matter anymore? Not that Benny and I are talking marriage or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong. Okay, maybe I protest too much. Read more