A festival for the likes of us
Red Emma had his usual booth--he edits a respected literary journal--and so we checked that out and visited. Gary Stewart--formally top A&R guy at Rhino--dropped by. Lots of great people came around.
Right next door was the L. Ron Hubbard booth. Despite warnings from Red, I wandered over there and inspected the lively and garrish (and, indeed, impressive) covers of Mr. Hubbard's numerous sci-fi books.
The two people in the booth--they were disturbingly clean-cut, like Young Republicans--wouldn't leave me alone. I kept sayin' that I didn't need any help, but they kept asking. Finally, they handed me a small box of playing cards. "Hubbard" cards, I guess. They said it was free. They seemed to want me to go.
At 11:00 a.m., we attended the panel discussion on disasters, which featured Timothy Egan (cute, but probably gay, a gal there opined), Philip Fradkin (uncute, but funny, said the same lady), and Scott Gold (I dunno). The discussion was moderated by public radio's own Larry "Earnest" Mantle. (One gal offered this appraisal of the fellow: "I cannot imagine a less sexual being." Ouch!)
Egan was there to talk about the Oklahoma Dustbowl disaster, which was caused by the systematic destruction of prairy grass. You see, after the war, there was a huge demand for wheat, and so they tore out the grass in and around Oklahoma to farm the land. Then all hell broke loose, smack dab in the middle of the Depression.
It took but two generations to ruin the land. Sheesh. They saw it comin', but that didn't slow 'em down one little bit. Lemmings!
Fradkin was there to discuss the San Francisco earthquake, which happened at a time when the feds and the state did exactly zip to help people during disasters. San Francisco pretty much had to fend for itself, although it did manage to attract international assistance.
Anybody looting--including, sometimes, those who were told to take whatever they needed--were shot on sight. Good grief!
Gold was there to talk about Katrina. He was mighty glum. He talked about just how bad it was in New Orleans, during the first few days of that disaster. He explained about looting--he himself was forced to steal gasoline and other things. There was no avoiding it, he said. Most people had no way to leave before or after the hurricane. There was no way to eat if one did not take what one needed wherever one could find it.
These speakers were compelling. They said lots of the expected things: we're not prepared for disasters; if the "big one" hits, it'll make Katrina look like a day in the park; everybody failed in the case of Katrina; people are mighty stupid, etc.
--And unexpected things. The "cute" guy explained that those Okies were often heroic, despite messing up the grasslands (at the urging of the federal government). You wanted to hate 'em, he said, but you ended up admiring lots of 'em.
At one point, a mob grabbed a banker (a foreclosing rat bastard!) and took him out to the dust for a neck-tie party (I don't think they went through with it; whew!). But mostly people behaved well, and two-thirds stuck it out. Amazingly, the land is now returning to its original condition, now that small farming is nearly dead. Towns are dying there. Only old people remain, with their memories.
UCLA sure is a beautiful campus. And they take good care of it, too. Here are some snaps:
At 1:00, we headed over to magnificent Royce Hall to see Joan Didion. We were accompanied by Rebel Girl, who showed up to the festival with Limber Lou in a little red wagon.
Royce Hall is one of my favorite buildings. It was named after the idealist philosopher Josiah Royce, who was born in a California mining camp (in the 1850s) and went on to become one of the most influential intellectuals of his time.
Royce wouldn't be pleased by the corrupt fools who are messing up our college district. I learned about him at UCI, back in 1976, from Frederick Will, a philosopher, and the father of George Will.
Fact is, I really liked that old man, despite his stuffed-shirt son, and I remember everything he said. He'd sit behind a table in front of class and kind of think out loud. Sometimes, he'd think in silence for maybe a minute or two before saying something, but he made every word count. I was the only kid in the room who thought Will's method was cool.
Silence is powerful. Sometimes I use silence just like that old man did.
The Janster and I always seem to end up in the balcony at Royce Hall, and that's just swell by me, because the interior of Royce Hall is as impressive as its exterior, and the view from the balcony is tops. Here are some pics (of the stage and the balcony and the ceiling):
Here's a detail of the ceiling:
Joan Didion was interesting, I suppose, but she sure is soft-spoken, and I'm kind of deaf, and so I didn't hear much.
Every once in a while, she'd say something funny. I know this because people laughed. I stared at the ceiling. "Wow," I said.
Royce Hall is cavernous, and so a tiny woman in a chair on the stage is hard to see. To help out, they set up a big screen--just behind Didion--which projected her image. That lady is thin. Her hand looked like it was all sinew and bone, and it was wrinkly and incredibly long.
I guess anything will look weird if you blow it up to the size of a wall. Mostly, Didion is unweird.
Later, with Red Emma, we showed up again at Royce Hall for an interview of Gore Vidal by Ariana Huffington. On my way into the hall, Ariana ran past and nearly ran me down. She's tall. She sounds like she's from Transylvania. I think she said "Dahling" to me.
They rolled Mr. Vidal out in his wheelchair, and that inspired a standing O. As always, Vidal was funny and clever and actorish. Occasionally, he'd find himself on a rhetorical roll, and then he'd pull out all the stops (incidentally, there's a huge organ in Royce Hall) with that great voice of his. The old guy was shameless. The audience gobbled it up. Me too.
Huffington did a great job, though she didn't need to add much, cuz Mr. Vidal makes his own sauce. He noted that there's considerable evidence that the 2004 election was stolen. How come the New York Times is ignoring this? he asked. It's a pretty undemocratic democracy, he said, when people can steal elections and then get away with it. And they're getting away with it.
Ariana proclaimed that Mr. Bush is the most incompetent and corrupt president ever, and Mr. Vidal did not disagree. Neither did the audience. It was lovely being among such people for once!
Mr. Vidal explained that the media have really dropped the ball on reporting the Bush Administration's scandals and outrages. W is getting away with murder, he said. It'll be at least two generations, he added, before we will recover what we've lost. It took but two terms for these creeps to ruin what took many years to build.
We soon left Royce Hall and emerged to a beautiful day of bright sunlight and cool breezes. Perfect!
On our way out, we ran into a lady with anti-Bush signs, who insisted that there's gotta be a revolution. I nodded, wondering what kind of revolution she had in mind.
It's great hangin' out all day with tens of thousands of people--they're called readers--who, it seems, without exception agree that the President of the United States is a phenomenally evil and stupid man.
It's impossible to have that experience in the O.C. But we went back there anyway, smilin'.