White Racism at Its Ugliest
Living in Los Angeles as I have for over half a century, I have lived and worked with many Japanese whom I regard as my friends. They are also as American as apple pie—if not more so. So it strikes me as one of America’s crimes that 112,000 Japanese Nisei and issei were interned in some ten concentration camps scattered across the Western States.
The most famous of these camps is Manzanar, located midway between Lone Pine and Independence in the Eastern Sierras. The former camp is now the Manzanar National Historic Site, managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Martine and I had visited it in the past, perhaps as much as three times. Last week, we visited it again. We were happy to see that the NPS had reconstructed four buildings in Block 14 of the camp: two barracks, a women’s latrine, and a mess hall. (Beware of dinner on Tuesdays, when the infamous Slop Suey was served.)
In the crazy divided political world of today, it is nice to see a park whose reason for existence is an indictment of American racism during World War II. Yes, the Japanese were our enemy; but so were the Germans, and we didn’t intern any of them. More’s the pity: Perhaps our current Presidente might never have been born.
If you are driving up (or down) Highway 395, it is worth spending an hour or two visiting Manzanar. And be sure to see the 22-minute video shown every half hour.
Seemingly Endless Piles of Rounded Rocks
Just west of the town of Lone Pine are a strange set of foothills comprised of picturesque rounded rocks piled up for hundreds of feet or more, behind which are the tallest peaks of the Sierra Nevada, including Mount Whitney. Among these rounded rocks were shot hundreds of Westerns, not to mention horror films, sci-fi, and you-name-it. Following is a ridiculously partial list:
- 3 Godfathers (1948), with John Wayne and directed by John Ford
- Around the World in 80 Days (1956), with David Niven
- Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), with Spencer Tracy
- Chaplin (1992), with Robert Downey, Jr.
- Django Unchained (2012), directed by Quentin Tarantino
- Gladiator (2000), with Russell Crowe
- Gunga Din (1939), with Cary Grant
- High Sierra (1941), with Humphrey Bogart
- Lost Horizon (1937), with Ronald Colman
- The Ox-Bow Incident (1942), with Henry Fonda
- Ride Lonesome (1959), with Randolph Scott
- Riders of the Purple Sage (1925), with Tom Mix
- Zabriskie Point (1970), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
And the list goes on and on, including whole series of Westerns with the Lone Ranger, Jack Hoxie, Hopalog Cassidy, Randolph Scott, Tim Holt, Ken Maynard and others too numerous to mention. Not for nothing is there a Lone Pine Western Film History in town. In fact, the perfect visit to Lone Pine should include a visit to the museum (allow two to three hours) and a morning visit to the Alabama Hills, where so many films were shot.
The Alabama Hills Cafe on Post Street in Lone Pine
Actually, why not make a Trifecta out of your visit? Eat breakfast or lunch at the Alabama Hills Cafe and Bakery for absolutely delicious food lovingly prepared. On our trip last week, Martine and I ate there for three meals: one breakfast and two lunches. The restaurant is closed for dinner, and you may have to wait for a table. (If necessary, do so: It’ll be worth your while.)
Sunset in the Alabama Hills
Martine and I were in agreement: Our two favorite towns on our recent trip to the Eastern Sierras were Bishop and Lone Pine. More about Bishop later. If it weren’t for the fact that Lone Pine is a little too close to the Mojave Desert, way too close to Owens Dry Lake which, on windy days, is the largest source of dust pollution in the United States, and if it weren’t such a small town, I wouldn’t mind living there.
Oh, yes, there is one other thing: Not only is Lone Pine only 71 miles (114 kilometers) by air from the recent earthquakes at Ridgecrest, but, back in 1872, there was a major earthquake that destroyed a good part of the town and killed twenty-seven people. When you consider that the tallest peak in the contiguous forty-eight states—Mount Whitney—is just a few miles to the west, I suspect that some more disasters are in the cards for this sweet little town.
So much for the negatives. Lone Pine holds an honored place in film history for being situated close to the Alabama Hills, which for almost a hundred years have been one of the major shooting locations for movie Westerns. From the days of Jack Hoxie, Tom Mix, and Ken Maynard to the TV Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s, the Alabama Hills were seen in hundreds of film and TV productions. For this reason, the town is the site of the Museum of Western Film History, which is worth two or three hours of your time if you have any love for the genre (as I do).
Just Beyond the Alabama Hills Are the Snowcapped Sierras
Although we spent almost two hours riding the washboarded dirt roads that wind through the hills, I would gladly have allocated more time. Unfortunately, the heat was beginning to build, so I didn’t get out to take the many little hikes to particularly interesting rock formations and filming locations. Instead, we headed north to Independence to take another look at those coyote dentures I wrote about yesterday.
Little Lake Just Off Highway 395
After a twenty-year period of calm, we are once again in the throes of a series of earthquakes. Now these quakes are not quite so dangerous in Los Angeles as they are at the epicenter in Ridgecrest, CA, which is 120 miles (193 kms) as the crow flies. With yesterday’s Richter 6.4 temblor, the quake hit us as a rolling motion that lasted about a minute. Today’s Richter 7.1 temblor was a few miles northwest of yesterday’s epicenter, but it came to us as a stronger, more long-lasting rolling motion.
The funny thing is that next Monday, we will be driving by Little Lake (shown above), which is approximately ten miles west of the epicenter. We will continue until we get to Lone Pine, where we will spend the night. At Lone Pine, we will be about 71 air miles north and slightly west of the epicenter.
Today’s quake was the first one that threw a scare into Martine, because of its strength and duration, but even more because she felt two quakes in as many days.