Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Soylent Green continues to come to life in L.A.

(Draft, not final, still in editing stages)

L.A. continues to bring the Soylent Green story to life.

It’s really strange to be reading the book “Make Room, Make Room” while living in a city where it seems to be coming to life. The book was the basis of the movie Soylent Green and describes a New York where it is always hot, people live on the sidewalks, there is a water shortage.

I entered the Carl’s Junior on Sixth Street in a state of somewhat hypnosis, having seen the ad for their new burger now maybe five hundred times in the past two weeks. I'm convinced I want to eat this huge double patty of beef, and when I reach the counter I realize, hey it’s only a little bit more to get the “meal deal,” with fries and a Coke.

Chewing the meal as I read.

The familiar ground meal, not much different from the first McDonald’s burger I ever ate back in the 1960s. Even then that young I marveled at the similarity to beef in the flavor.

Not really beef, just really a lot like beef.

I'm chewing the burger as I read the first reference to Soylent in the book Harry Harrison wrote in the 1960s, a book that seems to predict everything that's happening today, with over population, riots and shortages, and the heat- never ending heat like we have in L.A. in 2010.

The sci fi futuristic movie with those scenes I never forgot.

Chuck Connors as the Cop leaves his hovel of an apartment in the morning and has to step over people sprawled on the doorstep, humans living on the streets, even children. They're unbathed, unfed, thirsty, and the government supplies them with just enough food water and cash to stay alive at that horrible level of existence. Meanwhile all over the city, resources are running out.

When you saw the movie in 1973 the idea of people in the United States living on sidewalks was astounding, astonishing, something you would never see. Now walk down a street in the part of L.A. just east of where I live, and you see people who’ve set up housekeeping in alleys, behind bus benches.

And the heat. The heat that never stops in the movie, is also described in the book, the condition of living with a water shortage that prevents people from bathing, while the temperature never goes below ninety degrees so you are constantly sweating, even at night.

So you always have this layer of dried crust on your skin.

We're not too far from that living condition right now in Los Angeles, just a few years away the way things are going.

I put down the book so I could concentrate on my big treat lunch out. I’d gone to the courthouse a few blocks away for a hearing that was on calendar on the internet but off calendar when I got to the courtroom. I didn't want the entire trip to be a waste, so decided it was time to extend my frame of experience.

Time to go to the Clerk’s office on the third floor to get a copies of documents. The last year or so I’ve been so broke, even the fifty cents a page to get copies of public documents was out of the question.


Hopefully those days are over now that I'm working all the time and I can even stop for lunch after the hearings. Apparently I’ve got a reputation for being the fastest transcriptionist in reality TV production, I seem to have almost more work than I can keep up with.


I thought for a while that Cardinal Mahony had used PI’s and PR consultants or whatever and found out the company I work for, then found a way to steer mounds of work to that company, just to keep me so busy I couldn't keep on writing City of Angels blog. If so, Mahony didn't take into consideration my many manias, one of which is workaholism and an obsessive need to get a job done no matter what I have to do to do it.


I'm in Carl's Junior chewing the ground meal, whatever it is, it has become a familiar part of the American palate. If you let the burger sit and get to room temperature then take a bite, you can taste the difference, the meal, and the beef flavoring added to the meal.

I'm cogitating the chew and listening to the babble of languages around me. Korean, Japanese, several dialects of Spanish, and even a few Americans, some with white trash mangling a conversation with an Ebonics speaker were just to my right, arguing over who spent the night last night with who and how much ketchup do you plan to use.

To my left are two very enthusiastic young men, Korean descent, inhaling burgers and fries with a practiced finesse, they know exactly where to put the ketchup in the little cardboard container, exactly how to fold the wrapping over the sandwich so they can take massive bites without getting paper in their mouth. In a Spanglish version of Korean and English they are barking back and forth to each other, barely have their bottoms in their seats, their level of energy is so high. They shove this greased protein down with salt and fries and run back out in the commission sales world in which these young Koreans thrive.

I wonder if people in Iraq eat mystery burgers, for package deals at five dollars a pop.

In the Carl’s Junior windowed room looking out on a parking lot and Sixth Street, the lot across the street advertises several services necessary in the neighborhood, such as “Bed Bugs? Call ----"

Okay, I'm this little old white lady who is the foreigner in L.A. today. Most little old white ladies moved to Burbank or Long Beach at least a decade ago. But I have this affinity with Sunset Boulevard and the way the hills roll in on each other. I don't want to get too far away from it. I thank god for the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard that runs parallel along just the parts of Sunset that a person doesn't want to walk on today, so you can take that detour, then return to Sunset at Fairfax, where the hills really begin to start rolling.

That West Hollywood section used to be the part of Sunset Boulevard to which I had the most affinity, but today it’s a strange glitch of metropolis.

There’s no freeway or transit going out to Beverly Hills on Sunset Boulevard, it’s like transportation froze in time with the original street that runs from downtown to the ocean. Sunset Boulevard winds and winds through the mansions of Belair, with no easy way to get there, other than to take the slow winding road, Sunset Boulevard.

As a result the West Hollywood area that used to be the Jiving Sunset Strip is now kind of decaying. The buildings have peeled paint, there’s a lot of trash, a lot of window sized “FOR LEASE” signs on the office buildings.

Plus for some reason the folding hills are working against the boulevard. You can’t get a breath of fresh air. The gazillion cars running within those square miles are all burning cheap gas and the exhaust is going nowhere, just sitting there folded into the hills. There’s so much gas in the air when you walk on Sunset Boulevard from Fairfax to La Cienega that you almost can’t even breathe.

Sometimes I don't know where to go. I just come home and go back to playing Space Station, just have food work clothes furniture - everything delivered and communicate with the other humans via electrons.

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