Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's Only Five Years to Paradise

It rained pretty good on Friday and Saturday. It was a warm, easy rain. The earth smells sweet now and the air is clean.

The roses are getting ready for the Rose Bowl Parade. I was over in Pasadena yesterday -- it's the old part of town. There is no movie money over here, it's too conservative. You see lots of mansions set back from the road behind tall hedges. And lots of roses blooming.

The summer is very hard in Pasadena, because it gets seriously hot and the smog backs up against the San Gabriel Mountains. But it's nice in the winter.

It's also less frantic than the West Side. Everybody on the West Side wants to be like Hollywood or be near the beach and be young, pretty and well-connected. The traffic is terrible, the streets are crowded, and everybody's in a big hurry on their cell phone.

So you get off the West Side and drive east, going through downtown Los Angeles -- past the new skyscrapers, past Staples Center where the Lakers play.

You go past downtown, you go by Chavez Ravine, the home of Dodgers -- a fine ball park nestled in a hillside covered with eucalyptus trees.

But you go keep going east to Pasadena, where the old money lives -- the bankers, the railroad fortunes and the big landowners. It's not Hollywood, not "cosmopolitan," but quieter and the traffic is slower.

I went there to visit my brother. I hate being accurate, but my brother actually lives in "Altadena," which is right next to "Pasadena" so we have to respect local usage.

Okay, they still have some of the movie business in "Pasadena." Like down the street from my brother's house lives a man who makes a living as a "location agent." He represents the owners of more than 600 houses which can be rented and used for location shots.

The shots might be for a movie, a TV show, or a commercial, but the agent has a portfolio of homes and the producer can pick just the right one for his shot.

When I was there, they were using a classic California Craftsman home as a set-up for the new TV hit "Parks & Recreation."

Now, the owners of the home have to vacate the premises for several days, and then ALL their furniture is put out on the sidewalk, to be replaced by furniture suitable for the film or TV show. But the owners get paid well for the inconvenience.

So, if you watch Amy Poehler come home from work on "Parks & Recreation," then you will see her enter a house just down the street from my brother's house.

As I said in the previous newsletter, it's how people in Los Angeles make a living, and there are hundreds if not thousands of jobs involved besides the the famous names and faces you see on TV -- like all those guys we saw moving the furniture in and out of the house and setting up lights, bringing in the portable toilets, and taping NO PARKING signs to the trees so that residents nearby won't interrupt the shoot.

It's a big deal and it's really cool to watch.

THEME. Now we have arrived at the THEME of today's newsletter, titled "It's Only Five Years to Paradise."

Or it's more like a hope. I look around Los Angeles -- the air is dirty and the traffic is terrible, but it would only take five years to turn this city back into a paradise.

A paradise, if only the people who lived here wanted it to happen. You shut down the freeways, and you rebuild what was once the nation's biggest system of street cars. That solves the traffic problem. Then you tear up all the lawns and build luscious organic gardens on every block.

You retrofit every house and building with a roof-top rainwater collection system that drains into an underground cistern. That solves the water problem.

Then you put solar panels on every one of those same roof tops, and the solves the energy problem

Bingo, the air is clean, the streets are quiet, and every one is happy. It wouldn't cost that much money. You could still use some stretches of the old freeways for racetracks and custom car shows.

It would take five years to do this, whenever the people around here decide that's what they want.

Five years to paradise. I can see it right over the horizon.

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