The Bureaucratic Run-Around

The above picture shows a steady water leak under a parking sign at Amherst and Ohio in West Los Angeles The area around the parking sign sometimes looks to be wet (but today it looked as if it had evaporated), and there is a steady runoff over the curb and on to the storm drain.

We are currently in the middle of a drought. Governor Newsom is perennially on the verge of dictating mandatory water cuts but this, being an election year, makes it unlikely.

The leak looks as if the sign had somehow pierced a water main. If that’s true, the leakage could cause problems to the multistory apartment building adjoining, especially as they have an underground garage.

The View from the Curb

Being a conscientious citizen, Martine did her best to inform the proper authorities. Instead of appreciating her efforts, the bureaucrats merely brushed her off. First, she called the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who promised two weeks ago to look into the matter. Next, she tried the Los Angeles City Hall where there was a help desk; but it seems it no longer exists. The Police suggested that she try the Department of Water and Power on Hope Street. There, she met with a security officer who brazenly lied about the employees working at home. What gave the lie to his assertion was the arrival of several employees while she was talking to him and the fact that the building’s outdoor parking lot was full of cars.

On a number of occasions, Martine has made several trips to Santa Monica’s City Hall over on a number of issues, and she was happy to see that they acted quickly to resolve them. Los Angeles, being ever so much larger, apparently is too large to be efficient or even respectful toward a citizen who is trying to help them.

Martine has read this post and suggested that a copy be sent to Mayor Eric Garcetti showing him how badly he is served by the bureaucrats under his control.

New York or Not New York?

The New York World’s Fair 1964-1965

In the summer after my junior year at Dartmouth College, I felt I had to make a decision as to which graduate school I would attend. My top two choices were New York University (NYU) and UCLA. The University of Southern California (USC) also had a good program, but I was told by one of my classmates that it was in a bad part of town. (The Watts riots were to take place in August of that year, and decided me against the place.)

So the whole family packed up and drove to Passaic, NJ, where my father had some relatives. We stayed at the Hotel Lincoln in Passaic and took the bus through the Lincoln Tunnel to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. While my parents and brother went to some tourist place, I took the subway to NYU and managed to find Haig P. Manoogian, who apparently was the whole film department, in his office.

Although Martin Scorsese idolized Manoogian, I received an entirely different impression. I was interested, not in film production, but film history and criticism. Manoogian was not, and made no bones about it. The result: Scratch NYU.

This trip turned out to be fun in an entirely different way. It was the second (and last) year of the New York World’s Fair, which we all attended. My memories of the Fair are twofold. First, upon entering, I was so struck by the place that I tripped over a small child. Second, it was the first time I had ever eaten a taco, from a no less authentic place than the Mexico Pavilion.

The final upshot of the trip was that I applied for admission to the UCLA Film Department, which accepted me and led to my moving out to Los Angeles, where I have lived ever since.

1322-D 12th Street

The old building in the center is where I lived from 1968 to 1971. The address was 1322-D 12th Street in Santa Monica. You can see two windows on the second floor: The one on the right in mine. When one walked in to the apartment, there were four rooms in the sequence living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.

It was fun living there until February 9, 1971. At 6 o’clock in the morning, I heard all the dogs in the area howling. It was followed within seconds by the Sylmar Earthquake, which registered 6.5 on the Richter scale. I was literally shaken to the floor and scared out of my mind. When the noise and shaking subsided, my kitchen was in shambles. I had to throw out several large garbage bagfulls of food.

Within days, I bid the kindly owners, A. J. and Birdie Olliff, farewell and found an apartment on Barrington Avenue in West Los Angeles. I was afraid that, in a hypothetically more severe earthquake, I would not be able to make it to the exit. Looking back, I don’t think that would in fact have been much of a problem. I was afraid and not thinking right at the time. Of course, in an earthquake, the worst thing you can do is run out of the building and be clobbered by falling debris.

The building is still there: The Google Maps picture was taken in August 2007. I am sure that the Olliffs have passed on in the intervening years. Old A. J. was something of a visionary. He talked of seeing items made of “chiROME steel” in his visions. I guess he could not pronounce the word “chrome.”

The Cleveland Limited

When I traveled back and forth from Cleveland to Dartmouth College (in Hanover, NH) from 1962 to 1966, I had to take an involved route that involved one train and two different bus companies:

  • The New York Central Cleveland Limited, Train #58, connected Cleveland to New York City by way of Albany. Westbound, it was Train #57.
  • The Vermont Transit bus picked me up in front of Albany’s Union Station and dropped me off it Rutland, VT.
  • A White River Coach Company bus picked me up in Rutland and drove me to White River Junction, VT, where I transferred to another White River bus to Hanover.

In September, the family made a vacation of driving the 609 miles (977 km) to Hanover and staying at the Chieftain Motel for a few days while they enjoyed the New England countryside. Also, when I graduated, the family drove me and my gear home. All other times, I had to take the train and buses.

A year or two after I graduated, the New York Central, as such, was no more; and the Albany train station, which I described in a pretentious poem I wrote as a student as “oldgold in decrepitude,” was turned into an office building; and the trains stopped across the river at a new Albany-Rensselaer Station.

Typically, I was the only Dartmouth student to take the Cleveland Limited. Most of the others were bound for Chicago and points west and took the New York Central Wolverine, which bypassed Cleveland by going through Canada between Buffalo and Detroit.

The train was grotesquely uncomfortable. The cars were either too hot or too cold, sometimes both on the same trip. Once I made the mistake by buying over-the-counter sleeping pills (I think it was Sominex), which kept my eyes propped open all night. Only once did I get a sleeping compartment: It was too expensive, but it was rather nice.

Once, I transferred to another train in Albany and got off at Springfield, MA. There I waited for several hours for a Boston & Maine passenger train to White River Junction.

The Paris Family 1950

1950 Census Records of My Family

The 1950 Census has been unsealed and is now available for searching. Above is the page of the census (look starting with line 6). At the time, we lived at 2814 East 120th Street in the Buckeye Road Hungarian neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. In our household were:

  • My father Alex, born in what at the time of his birth was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but in 1950 was part of Czechoslovakia.
  • My mother Sophie, born in the U.S. but raised in Hungary.
  • Me—but not my brother, who was to come along the next year.
  • My great-grandmother Lidia Toth (correct spelling: the enumerator goofed). Since both parents worked, she served as a live-in caregiver to me. She was born in Felcsut, Hungary, and spoke no English.

Note that my father was listed as a machinist. He was then employed by Lees-Bradner and Company, which manufactured gear-hobbing machines.

If you are curious about your own family, you can search the 1950 Census for yourself by clicking here. Please confine your search to the head of the household, as things get a little scattered when it comes to wives, children, and other live-in family members.

Tiny Treasures

Beware Malefactors!

My Martine is as sweet as sweet can be, but her heart can be steel-plated when it comes to street hooligans. On most days, she takes a long walk in the neighborhood, keeping a weather eye out for what she calls “tiny treasures.” Sometimes these are foreign coins or interesting lanyards or any number of things.

Lately, however, some of her discoveries have been on the alarming side:

  • Two baseball bats, near a bus stop ad that had been vandalized
  • A bolt cutter
  • A large sledgehammer

In each case, she walked the item to the Santa Monica Police Station and handed it to the officer on duty. I cannot help but think that the local police are wondering what she will bring in next. Will it be an AK-47? An RPG (that’s rocket propelled grenade)? A box of land mines?

The streets of West L.A. and Santa Monica are getting rougher each year, and that’s reflected in what she finds.

Among the Hippies

You Won’t Find Me in This Photo

Although I arrived in Southern California right around the time the Hippies sprang into existence, I was never one myself. I had just undergone brain surgery in Cleveland, and my worries were too basic for me to work on being cool. I was, in a word, decidedly uncool. I didn’t have a beard, though in 1968 I started to grow a mustache, not because it was fashionable, but because it reminded me of my Hungarian Huszár (Hussar) ancestors.

All around me, people were wearing tie-dyed shirts and blouses, headbands, and other regalia suggestive of Native Americans and Asians, the only Hippie trait I adopted was long hair. I had always disliked the crew cuts and flattops that my parents liked, so I let my hair grow when I came to the Coast. As for beards, I tried but it was way too itchy.

Some of my friends were Hippies, and by and large I got along well with many of them. I tended, however, to avoid kids who took their stance too seriously. I smoked grass from time to time, but I was probably more likely to get an asthma attack than to get high. As for more serious drugs, like LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin, I didn’t mess with them.I had no way of knowing how long I would live without a pituitary gland, so I didn’t want to experiment too much. I was into surviving.

And so, more than half a century later, I am still infesting the Earth—with perhaps the prospect of continuing a few years longer. My continued survival came as a pleasant surprise to me.

Escaping Thayer

It’s now called the Class of 1953 Commons, but when I was attending Dartmouth College between 1962 and 1966, it was called Thayer Hall. All students were required to eat there, which for me was a disaster. The meat was like slabs of granite, accompanied by bland potatoes and overcooked vegetables.

Supposedly it has improved since the days when Miss Jeanette Gill (who was reputed to be a retired marine) ruled the dining hall with an iron spatula. But then there were troops of dogs fighting for table scraps. When we saw the truck from the Precinct Pig Farm parked outside of Thayer, we were wondering whether they were picking up to slop the hogs or delivering to slop the students.

When I returned to Cleveland for Christmas vacation in December 1962, I managed to get a doctor’s note excusing me from eating at Thayer because it was making me sick. Which it was.

That left the handful of restaurants in Hanover, New Hampshire for me to explore. Probably my favorite was Lou’s Restaurant, owned by Louis Bressett, who, once every blue moon, served a devilish good spaghetti with meatballs. There was the usually reliable College Inn, and always the possibility of a splurge at the Hanover Inn.

I also enjoyed a local restaurant called Minichiello’s. Let me quote a 2015 post:

One of the places I ate was Minichiello’s: They had good pizza and were friendly. The only problem was they thought I was such a nice boy. You must remember that when I was a college senior, I looked as if I were still twelve; and I was subject to bullying by the local high schoolers until they saw I was carrying a college ID. So there I was, munching away at my pizza, when they introduce their daughter to me. She was very cute in a bad girl sort of way, and here her parents were holding me up as an example she should follow—instead of those bad boys who worked at the local garage.

God knows, if it weren’t for the fact that I was seriously ill with a pituitary tumor and, as a result, had not yet physically reached the age of puberty, I would much rather be doing with her those things her parents feared she was doing with the bad boys.

So for the rest of my college career, I avoided Thayer Hall. Where food is concerned, there’s a lot to be said for the privilege of being able to choose.

Waterless Tuesday

I woke up this morning to bad news. A notice was taped to our front door indicating that our water would be shut off on Tuesday between 8 am and 4 pm. That meant I would have to camp out for several hours where I would have access to a lavatory. What came to mind was the Westfield Shopping Center in Culver City, perhaps after I took my car in for an inspection of hoses, belts, fluids, and tires for next week’s trip to Las Vegas.

The apartment building management stated that the water shut-off was for “maintenance repairs,” never specifying the exact nature of the maintenance repairs.

Today meant even more bad news for the homeless encampment across the street. The police showed up with several trucks and disposed of a number of (but not all) the tents, and most of the associated piles of rubbish that accompanied them.

I have tried to avoid interacting with these campers, though I had a run-in when I returned from the desert two weeks ago. Tired from a 130-mile (201 km) drive from Palm Desert, I pulled into my parking spot only to find it occupied by a bicycle bum sitting on the pavement and eating a bowl of cereal. He was incensed that I asked him to move and urged me to go f—k myself. I returned the favor, and he left in a surly mood. When next I returned to my parking spot, I saw that my vehicle was decorated with spilled milk and some kind of multi-colored fruity cereal. Naturally, I had to get my car washed that afternoon.

Escape to the Desert

It’s off to the Coachella Valley for me this weekend to spend some time with my brother. I figured it was best to go now before it started to get hot, as it does late in the spring. My next post will probably be on Monday. With luck, I will have some new scenic photographs with desert views.