Overland Avenue: A Backlot Tour:
"Believe in the holy contours of your life"
"So you were saying, before this tour gig got started,
that your mother was hugging the wheel
and you were sitting next to her in the front seat.
Obviously, we're talking way before childhood airbag executions!
like you were four or five maybe--L.A. ready to explode into its
post-war Renaissance--and she told you the Mormons
tithed ninety-percent to buy all the empty land
and build their Temple, that Overland Avenue
wouldn't connect with Wilshire anymore."
"Interesting. But I need to begin this fin de siecle number--
that's fancy French for everybody's time ticking away,
'The End' of an era--and 20th century Fox better get its act together
and upload changes to their computer hardware before the Interenet
collapses at 0100 hours, January 1 '00! You'll see this Avenue
totally connects with everything that's coming down:
Rupert Murdock, track-home construction, the Century Plaza,
self-reflecting glass towers full of well-feed lawyers--
all that dwarfs today Golden-robed Gabriel as he trumpets
Apocalypse, all that drowns him out, so the traffic just ignores him
now that L.A.'s gone cellular, bouncing back from any earthquake.
As I promised, here we turn down Overland, heading south."
"'Overland? Over land? Where is the waterway alternative?
What does this mean?' Old guys like you would ask me!
And all I can tell you is that this mostly single-laned,
bumpy, pot-holed thoroughfare just happened
out of urban-sprawl necessity. Squeezed between gas-war
priorities of a tinsel-town, defense-oriented city
that yanked up the red-car trolley lines to Venice Beach.
Yeah, I used to have a job at Disney, then went to Universal;
I'm just doing a little moonlighting on this one."
"As we roll past stucco houses near Olympic,
let me lay on you a real estate ad from the era:
Track homes for sale, 10 to 14K!
Walk into any one of the three or four identical models
you can choose from so that you and your neighbors
and your neighbors' children will know exactly
how the other families live and at what angle
the bedrooms face the street. Your kids will run wild
in the still-vacant lots, quickly-vanishing celery fields,
or wood-frame houses under construction--
part of your Oregon forest got nailed right here!
This way those little monsters learn about thick mud
after a storm, when standing water has no place to drain."
"Now we are passing Pico Blvd, where nearby Nordstrom
has a sale on those pure cotton Calvin Klein briefs,
in which your swimmer's ass (excuse the expression!)
feels so smooth and tight. You say we're on the spot
where the Barnum and Bailey Circus had its freaky
side-shows. Hell, you sure are an old geezer.
When did you say you left L.A.?"
"Now don't miss this widened part of the Avenue
all the way past National to the Freeway. It's kind of like the way
things really should be on the road to Culver City.
You mentioned missing back lots at Fox, now how bout MGM?
That burned-out set of Atlanta from Gone with the Wind!
Doesn't that really say it all for you? Or the grace of Fontaine
and Nureyev's Swan Lake, late '60's, for the masses at the Hollywood
Bowl, and you whispered to Martha, your date, 'They do it all with mirrors.'
The houses around here now sell in the 6's and 7's (No, that's still
hundred thousands), and the same Rupert Murdock just made a deal
for the Dodgers--the number they're talking is 3.5. Yeah, million!"
"Now that there, you'll notice, is the Santa Monica Freeway!
More lanes of traffic on both sides than you'll find
anywhere else on Earth! It's I-10 to many, beginning somewhere
in the curve of the dark McClure Tunnel near the pier on a bay
of a world-class ocean, and it gets you all the way across Arizona,
Texas, to New Orleans, if you so desire, Florida's Panhandle
and good old Pensacola! What's this I see in the papers?
ATT and SBC may merge ahead of the on-going traffic.
The figure there is 50-plus and that's billions!"
"But this tour ends on the narrowest, lowest-lying part
of our now-famous street, where you still might find
a used-car lot. On the right, take a long, hard look at gated condos.
A whole world pre-existed them for almost two decades,
which you totally missed out on, having chosen exile
in the Pacific Northwest--and after all, probably, 'over the hill,'
already, so to speak, and perhaps born the wrong sex--
your genes definitely askew--a high-life place landed and took off
from right here--something totally L.A., a piece of the real action!"
"I mean Chippendales flung open its door--
the one with the biggest, hottest bat in town!
and white limos would drive down Overland,
loaded with high-heeled, stylish women
(each one a hairdresser's personal creation),
who would step out on cue and then be escorted
by tall, dark, handsome men in tight, black leather pants,
white cuffs and collars, and cute little bow ties.
But no shirts! Their smooth, well-pumped, naked torsos
setting a new "buff" standard in the business.
Who knows what really went on inside? It was, after all,
'For Ladies Only,' and the videos you might purchase
back there at the mall on Pico might not capture everything
that got stuffed inside those g-strings. In another life, you, too,
might have taken off your clothes for money, used that stage
as a springboard to jet-set London, Tahiti, Australia and
choreograph A Musical With Muscle. I guess you might say
Chippendales finally got too big for its own breeches!"
"So, do you have any questions?
What's that? You escaped for one short year
from over-crowded public education
and learned to read, and sing full-throated hymns
at the Lutheran school right here on Hughes Street;
and less than a decade later Marlene Dietrich
gifted you the performance of your life in Mexico City.
She was so confidently off key, giving so much more
than her all, and you fell deeply in love that summer
and temporarily abandoned religion. I say, let's drink
to Rupert Murdock as he and his ilk swallow up
the few remaining landmarks in what's left
of your easeful dream of poise and youth
in our laptop town gone cybernetic. May their bottomless
greed trickle down enough cash to reconstruct
our new millennium so that everyone can sport a logo
as graceful and eloquent as Nike's defective boomerang!"
"As you get off this bus and your feet pound the pavement,
remember, I want to see the money in large tips!
You've learned real fast: it takes wheels to tame
this Monster City. You'd better purchase triple-A insurance
for those all-too-frequent blow outs, medical and travelers'
with part-time, dead-end jobs like this one. I guess for you
it's all part of the same contours: furrows, riverbeds, Bible stories,
dance, sex, high fashion, black and white limos--
the purest escape in music or poetic language--
and you'll never stop asking Martin Luther's question
at the start of every lesson: 'what does this mean?'"
Beyond Modesto (1997)