Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
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Only in L.A.
Last week it was John Keats telling everyone what was wrong with Los Angeles. He didn't like the place at all.
He described it as "a vast sprawling slum . . . an incredible clutter without political cohesion . . . a monument to the lack of wise community planning . . . an example of the triumph of blind greed in the relentless exploitation of living space . . . the absolute nadir of American taste."
Of course, Keats has done quite well in the epithet sweepstakes. He has written books blasting schools, the construction industry and the auto manufacturers.
THIS WEEK IT'S Oscar Mandel, University of Nebraska English professor, who visited here last summer.
In an article entitled, "Los Angeles, From a Corner Darkly," in the magazine, "L.A.," due out Tuesday, Mandel writes:
"It is a city without the power to assert its own identity; a city with nothing unexpendable in it, nothing which, vanished, would cause a civilized man at the other end of the world to weep . . . I have the impression of a Technicolor slum . . . a dance macabre of uproarious stucco fonts . . . a honky-tonk of exclamations . . . It is nobody's city; it is only a place with more 'housing units,' it seems, than there are hills in the world . . . I felt, in Los Angeles, that I did not need to notice anything. Could anything really remarkable happen where 'everything is okay?' "
LET US HOPE that Oscar has calmed down now that he got it off his chest. There's no need for anyone to get that excited. Hit and run heckling is an old story out here. It has been going on a long time. We really don't mind. In fact, some of the things both Keats and Mandel say are true.
But I detect no indication of mass exodus. What do you suppose it is, John and Oscar, that makes people stick around? There must be some redeeming feature to the poor, battered old pueblo.
AND THEN there's author Robert Carson's Holiday article, "West Coast Journey." Carson, who lives here, drove about 3,000 miles, from Seattle to San Diego, leisurely taking in the sights.
He quotes a friend who said of Los Angeles, "It's a wonderful place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit it." Carson disagrees, he thinks it's a fine place to visit and humorously mentions some of the picturesque things that Keats and Mandel seem to have overlooked.
The same friend, who has lived in Berlin, Rome, Paris, London and New York, said also, "It is the only city in the world where you can get a sunburn in the daytime, a cold from the damp night, and during that 24 hours be hit on the head out on your patio by one of your own oranges."
Carson concludes, "You are bound not to be bored in the basin."
AN ITEM HERE about a Philadelphia lawyer's offer to endow an Al Capone Chair in Taxation at Princeton reminded Malvin Wald of some information he came upon while working on the script for RodSteiger's movie about the gang lord.
When Capone bought an estate near Miami, authorities told him he was undesirable and would have to leave. He pointed out that he'd committed no crimes in Florida and didn't intend to and suggested they read the Constitution which protected such law-abiding, tax-paying, home-owning citizens as himself.
Incidentally if a Capone Chair in Taxation should be created, the trend is obvious -- the Adolf Hitler Chair of Humanities, the John Dillinger Chair of Crime Prevention, the Billy the Kid Chair of Juvenile Delinquency Prevention, the Barbara Graham Chair of Home Economics. Just a bunch of misunderstood kids.
FOOTNOTES -- Mikoyan's cryptic remark that Molotov soon may leave his post in Outer Mongolia for a more important assignment was clear to Alan Wilson. ToVyacheslav obviously would go the honor of being the first man shot to the moon . . . A 1952 Ford parked on West Pico Blvd. had a sticker, "Help Stamp Out Black and White City Cars" . . . Oops, an SC prof. in a letter to a lady on South Avenue 63, wrote, "he would be permitted to use his own disgression in the matter" . . . Variation on a theme, electrocardiogram division, by H. Mabie: "That's the way the ventricle vaults."
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