RIP P-22

Mountain Lion P-22 in Better Days

He could not express what he felt But when Mountain Lion P-22 was captured and euthanized a couple of days ago, Los Angeles suddenly woke up to the fact that it had lost a hero of sorts. He had survived for years on the fringes of urban civilization, feasting on kitties and obnoxious Yorkies. He had name recognition. In the end, though, it all caught up with him.

According to CNN:

The department said the “compassionate euthanasia” was unanimously recommended by the medical team at San Diego Zoo Safari Park and conducted under general anesthesia.

P-22 was given an “extensive evaluation” which “showed significant trauma to the mountain lion’s head, right eye and internal organs, confirming the suspicion of recent injury, such as a vehicle strike,” said the department. “The trauma to his internal organs would require invasive surgical repair.”

The 12-year-old mountain lion also had “significant pre-existing illnesses, including irreversible kidney disease, chronic weight loss, extensive parasitic skin infection over his entire body and localized arthritis,” according to the release.

He was in poor health overall and “may also have had additional underlying conditions not yet fully characterized by diagnostics,” said the department.

Over the years, we kept hearing about P-22’s exploits, how he was suddenly seen in somebody’s back yard or how he callously chomped on Fluffy. The point is: He survived under difficult circumstances. It’s a pity they felt they had to kill him: They should have put him out to stud.

Beware: Raindrops!

Rain Predicted for Los Angeles! Flee to the Hills!

The dire warnings have been appearing on the news for several days now: Rain is coming to Los Angeles. The city of brown lawns (watering of which is forbidden) is about to entertain a soaker. In a city unused to rain, the water that turns everything green and fills the reservoirs is also a present danger.

For one thing, drivers don’t seem to be able to modify their motoring to accommodate wet roads and flooded street corners. (What, I wonder, would they do in the icy streets of Cleveland?) I always slow down when it rains. It helps that my vehicle is an all-wheel-drive Subaru Forester.

Weather forecasting in a region of mountain ranges, valleys, and dry rivers with concrete banks is a chancy thing. Undoubtedly, some areas will get several inches of rain—mostly in the mountains; but in our neck of the woods, we rarely get as much as the news forecasts. At least in the last several decades, there is been a palpable drying trend. I remember some rainstorms of the 1970s and 1980s that did significant damage and dumped large amounts of precipitation.

I actually like the rain—even when it tends to fall on the weekends. Now that I’m retired, that’s no longer an issue.

Winning Back the Streets

Political Handout for Traci Park

An intense campaign is shaping up for Los Angeles’s City Council District 11 between two defense attorneys: Erin Darling, a Progressive Democrat, and Traci Park, probably a Republican. At stake is the proliferation of homeless encampments in the district.

On Saturday morning, Martine and I had a chance to see a debate between Darling and Park. We were unimpressed by both of the candidates—though we suspect that Park is more willing to enforce existing laws forbidding encampments near schools, churches, and public parks.

In general, there are two prevailing voter viewpoints regarding the homeless: On one hand, there are the Mother Teresas and, on the other, the Darth Vaders. If a homeless person is willing to observe the law and is seriously interested in leaving the street encampments, I am willing to join the Mother Teresas to assist them. For those who are mentally hill and are unwilling to obey rules regarding alcohol and recreational drugs, I prefer the Darth Vader approach: drive them off the streets, by force if necessary.

Political Handout for Erin Darling

Although Erin Darling is endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and several liberal politicians and organizations, I see that Traci Park is endorsed by the Fire Department and local Police Departments. I rather suspect that Darling is one of those Woke Liberals I dislike as much as Trump’s MAGA insurrectionists. At one point in the debate, he spoke glowingly of the skateboarding community. What, aren’t they all still in Middle School? Sheesh!

The older I get, the more I realize that we are rarely presented with candidates and issues which we can enthusiastically support. All Martine and I care about is cleaning the garbage piles off the streets (usually associated with bums living in tents); cutting down on petty thefts of bicycles, medications, food, and drink; and threats of violence from rampaging bums (which have affected both Martine and me).

Fun in the Sun?

Family On Summer Beach Vacation Run Out Of Sea Towards Camera

Ah yes, Paradise on Earth. As a people, we have traditionally viewed summer beach vacations as the closest one could get to Heaven while alive. When I first came out to California in the late 1960s, I thought so, too. While working part-time at System Development Corporation in Santa Monica, I spent many afternoons lying on a towel and reading steamy fiction like Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

The water was fun to a certain extent, but I was never a board or body surfer, though I went in often enough to be savaged by the occasional rough wave. Also, I tended to burn—especially as I had no one to slather my back with sun tan lotion.

While I live only two miles from the beach at Santa Monica, I don’t spend time there any more, unless I take a walk on the boardwalk connecting Santa Monica to Venice. Part of the reason is that the water is more polluted than ever, especially because we are only 20-30 miles (32-48 km) from the nation’s largest port, where freighters and tankers regularly foul the waters with petrochemical waste.

So when Martine and I go to Hawaii in a couple months, are we planning for any beach time? Not really. Although the waters at Waikiki are less polluted, the sun is stronger; and we both have fair skin. We are more interested in visiting Honolulu as a destination rather than trying to live in a pharmaceutical commercial.

I suppose if we lived east of the Mississippi, we would yearn for sunshine; but, living in Southern California, we have sunshine on most days of the year. In fact, September tends to be one of the hottest months of the year in Los Angeles. So we are likely escaping even hotter (albeit drier) weather at home.

“Nothing Is Easy”

Bengals QB Joe Burrow Grimaces in Pain

I am not known as a big football fan, but nonetheless I decided to watch today’s Superbowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams. After all, the game was being held in L.A. and featured the home team.

While it was nice that the Rams won, I was very conscious of the physical pain that is an inevitable part of the game. In the Second Quarter, Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr had a non-contact misstep which injured his left knee and sidelined him for the rest of the game—leading to additional defensive coverage on Cooper Kupp that made things rough on QB Matthew Stafford until the fourth quarter.

What particularly caught my eye was the sacking of Bengals QB Joe Burrow by Rams linebacker Von Miller early in the Fourth Quarter (above). For several seconds, Burrow lay on the field with his face contorted in pain. Fortunately for his team, he was able to recover, though I felt there will be something to pay for that takedown.

There was a lot of meaningless commentary by all the sports pundits, but only once did the truth come out when one of them said, “Nothing is easy.” No truer words were ever spoken in sport.

The Geography of Los Angeles

One thing about Los Angeles is its distinctive geography, much celebrated in literature and film. You can always tell when some New Yorker just deplaned at LAX and started spouting inanities that displayed an ignorance of this geography. That’s what happened when I read Megan Abbott’s neo-noir thriller Die a Little. There were a few names like “Pico Boulevard” (which everyone here just calls Pico), the giant doughnut at Randy’s in Inglewood, even several restaurant names like the Apple Pan and Ciro’s—but they just didn’t hold together. It’s as if she was using a map and a guidebook and just pasting the places together.

Take Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall (1977) with its tone-deaf attacks on L.A.

After all, it’s been more than 35 years since Alvy Singer hilariously dissed the city in “Annie Hall,” saying that people here “don’t throw their garbage away, they make it into television shows” and that “the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.”

I can only hope he enjoyed the mashed yeast he ordered on the Sunset Strip.

When you read Raymond Chandler or Ross Macdonald, you get a feeling for the crumbling sandstone of the coastal mountains, the transverse mountain ranges running west to east, the vast distances going from one point to another, as well as the odd architectural vibe of the place. When I first came out here in 1966, I was confused by all the stucco and chicken wire architecture, until I experienced my first real earthquake in 1971.

You can always tell when an east coast writer is slumming in Southern California. It doesn’t come across as real.

Down Two Muses

Christmas 2021 was going to see Los Angeles minus two of her muses. We just lost Joan Didion (above) to Parkinson’s disease; and six days ago, we lost Eve Babitz (photo below) to Huntington’s disease. Didion and Babitz were, to my mind, the leading writers about life in Southern California over the last half century or so.

I remember when I was first introduced to Didion by my friend Stephanie Hanna, who recommended back around 1970 that I read her great collection of essays entitled Slouching Toward Bethlehem. Since then, I have read at least eight other volumes of her fiction and nonfiction.

Eve Babitz was a more recent discovery, thanks mainly to the New York Review of Books (NYRB), which brought out most of her work in the last few years. I consider Eve’s Hollywood and Slow Days, Fast Company to be among the best works written about life in Southern California.

Joan Didion died in her 80s, and Eve Babitz at the age of 78. That makes me feel vulnerable, as I am a male who is about to reach his 77th year next month. In many ways, my acceptance of women as a source of outstanding literature about the local scene is due to these two powerful figures.

Now, as I look around me, who is there to take their places? No one that I can recognize at this point. I am just going to have to start looking….

The Path to the Milky Way Leads Through Los Angeles

I am completely entranced by the poetry of Joy Harjo, a Muscogee Indian who is also Poet Laureate of the United States. I found the following poem in her collection A Map to the Next World. By the way, Okmulgee is the Oklahoma city that is the center of the Muscogee nation.

The Path to the Milky Way Leads Through Los Angeles

There are strangers above me, below me and all around me and we are all strange in this place of recent invention
This city named for angels appears naked and stripped of anything resembling the shaking of turtle shells, the songs of human voices on a summer night outside Okmulgee.
Yet, it’s perpetually summer here, and beautiful. The shimmer of gods is easier to perceive at sunrise or dusk
when those who remember us here in the illusion of the marketplace
turn toward the changing of the sun and say our names.
We matter to somebody,
We must matter to the strange god who imagines us as we revolve together in the dark sky on the path to the Milky Way,
We can’t easily see that starry road from the perspective of the crossing of boulevards, can’t hear it in the whine of civilization or taste the minerals of planets in hamburgers.
But we can buy a map here of the stars’ homes, dial a tone for dangerous love, choose from several brands of water or a hiss of oxygen for gentle rejuvenation.
Everyone knows you can’t buy love but you can still sell your soul for less than a song to a stranger who will sell it to someone else for a profit
until you’re owned by a company of strangers
in the city of the strange and getting stranger,
I’d rather understand how to sing from a crow
who was never good at singing or much of anything
but finding gold in the trash of humans.
So what are we doing here I ask the crow parading on the ledge of falling that hangs over this precarious city?
Crow just laughs and says wait, wait and see and I am waiting and not seeing anything, not just yet.
But like crow I collect the shine of anything beautiful I can find.

Baby Steps

Los Angeles Central Library at 5th and Flower Streets

Today I took the train in to Downtown Los Angeles (or DTLA, as it is also known) to return some library books and pick up the next batch. For the first time in almost a year and a quarter, I was able to enter the library, hand my returns to a human being, and pick up the next batch. The last time, I had to call on my cell phone and have a librarian come out with the bagged books I had put on hold.

Now the ground floor of the library is open. This includes the book check-in and check-out and the international languages department—oh, and the restrooms. For any other books, I still have to put them on hold using the library’s website.

With my books in hand, I took the Dash Bus B to Chinatown and looked for a promising Chinese restaurant that was open to indoor dining. My old standby, the Hong Kong Barbecue, was still take-out only; but I found a good option in the Hop Woo Chinese Seafood Restaurant, just a few doors down, where I had rock cod in black bean sauce.

On the way back to Union Station, I bought my usual small bag of limes from an elderly woman (only $1 for about eight limes). As the weather grows warmer, I am addicted to fresh-squeezed lime juice with a slight splash of tequila.

I still had to wear a face mask on the train and the bus, resulting in fogged-up glasses, but I am encouraged that sometime soon we will be able to dispense with them. My second Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination was two months ago, so I am hopeful that the worst is past.

Southeast

This Is the Part of Los Angeles County That Most People Know

Although I have lived in the Los Angeles area for over half a century, there are parts that are almost totally unfamiliar to me. Today, I had a chance to visit one of them as I drove Martine to a ophthalmologist appointment in Lakewood, which is a place I have whizzed past on the freeway, but never stopped to visit.

The part of LA that is most unfamiliar to me are the so-called “Gateway Cities” in the southeastern part of the county. I am somewhat familiar with Long Beach, which I regard as part of the tierra cognita of my experience.

The City of Los Angeles occupies much of the center of the county. Then there is a narrow corridor of the city that stretches down to San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles. To the right of that corridor are a number of independent cities that include such names as Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cudahy, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, and presumably other -woods.

Here is a map of the Gateway Cities:

Los Angeles’s “Gateway Cities”

When you remove the dark blue of Long Beach, you are left with a bunch of small, tightly squeezed together communities that for all intents and purposes have little of interest for people visiting Southern California. There are a couple of colleges, no major museums, only one ethnic community (the Indian and Pakistani enclave along Pioneer Avenue in Artesia), and a couple of historical places, mostly in Whittier. Other than Long Beach, the only community people outside of California are likely to have heard of is Compton, mostly as a high-crime place to avoid.

Martine is due for another appointment in Lakewood in a couple of weeks, so I should probably learn a little more about this apparent black hole in the city where I dwell.

And where do I live? If you look at the top map for Santa Monica slightly to the left of center, look for the number oval 2, which indicates Santa Monica Boulevard. I live right under that oval 2.