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Our Own Day Here

Our Own Day Here

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Our Own Day Here

141 pagine
2 ore
Aug 4, 2014


These essays on urbanity were written between 1997 and 2014. Most, though not all, have to do with Los Angeles, a city much loved and much maligned, and justly so in either case. Although Sustainable City News, first home of most of these observations, is devoted to the structures of cities, these essays are less about urban development and more about urban cultures. More specifically, they are about the sensations of city living, and the relationships of people across time and space.

In them are examined issues of transportation and development, urban wildlife, the accidental poetry of city living, the discords of politics and plutocracy and the ways in which people of the different urban cultures react to them, and the often comical contretemps that all of us spark in trying to make sense of life, work, and love in an ever-busier and more intricate and interdependent society.

Aug 4, 2014

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Our Own Day Here - Richard Risemberg

Our Own Day Here

Observations on Community

by Richard Risemberg

Copyright 1997-2014

Crow Tree Publications

Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you did not purchase this ebook, or it was not purchased for you, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of contents


Crow Call

The Self Service Economy

Machine Tools

Longitude and Attitude

A Call to Open Arms

The Real Revolutionaries

Communing with Human Nature

Coffee Clash

The Doctrine of Imaginary Value

The Climbing Tree

Imprisoned River

The Tyrant of Lawns

Downwind of Trinity

Perilous Pals

Tour de Fiasco

Our Own Day Here

In the Slow Line

The Appeal of Fascism

Redefinition Munitions

The Zephyr and the Street

The World in Detail

Stars in Our Windows

Rhapsody in Gray

Architecture, Money, Graffiti and Birds


These essays on urbanity were written between 1997 and 2014. Most, though not all, have to do with Los Angeles, a city much loved and much maligned, and justly so in either case. I wrote most of them for the online publication presently known as Sustainable City News, which exists in no particular physical space, and whose other editor, Eric Miller, has never lived less than three hundred and fifty miles away from me. This gives us, perhaps, an added perspective on the value of relationships in real time and space as they happen in towns.

Some of these pieces were published elsewhere --Asia Times, Eclectica, and the Los Angeles Business Journal, mostly. One, Redefinition Munitions, has not been published before, and the opening essay, Crow Call, is something I wrote especially for this selection. The collection is not in chronological order, and is only loosely organized here.

Although Sustainable City News, first home of most of these observations, is devoted to the structures of cities, these essays are less about urban development and more about urban cultures. More specifically, they are about the sensations of city living, and the relationships of people across time and space.

And, inevitably, they are about the writer, who has been shaped by the places and people he lives among and has come to love.

Crow Call

In the city, you are never in one place at a time; multiple worlds occupy the territory you think of as your own, which you define largely by what you choose not to notice. The corner you stand on waiting for the light to change is entirely different to you, to the potbellied Black businessman at your side, to the cyclist balancing on his pedals at the curb, to the weary bleached blonde woman slumped in the driver's seat, to the homeless man crouching by his ragged blankets in the shade. I once walked along the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River near Long Beach with a friend of mine, also a photographer, and at one point I stood immediately behind her—she was very short—and shot a photo over her head, of distant freeway ramps looping over the water. Our very similar cameras clicked almost simultaneously. The two pictures were so different when we compared them later (this was in the days of film) that they could have been taken a thousand miles apart. Yet we were close friends who discussed our craft endlessly and had similar artistic philosophies. Even in our own little closed-in world, we were worlds apart.

One recent morning a sudden racket of crows awoke my wife and me just after dawn. We're used to crow conferences taking place on our roof or in the jacaranda tree across the street, but this time it sounded more like a battle. The calls were harsher and louder, and expressed unmistakable aggression; more crows than usual were participating; and they were swooping in the gulf between our building and the tall brick apartment across from ours in a focused and agitated way. They were evidently upset. As it had been a particularly hot week in Los Angeles, our window was wide open, with a light curtain drawn part way across it--we are on the second floor, and sleep with that window open most of the year. The racket of harsh gullets and the flapping of broad black wings became so intense that I felt as though the crows were about to burst into the room.

As it happens, in a small way I was right. As I finally dragged myself out of bed, I heard a scrabbling sound on the windowsill. I walked carefully around to the window, and there saw a large and somewhat bedraggled crow perched on it, looking casually if alertly into the room. His head seemed to be missing its full complement of feathers, and the area between his shoulder blades--if crows have shoulder blades--looked ragged and showed bits of white down, which surprised me. I assume he was either an outcast or an intruder, and had been the cause and center of all the corvine agitation. So there I was, stark naked, staring at a very large crow on my windowsill an arm's reach away--or I should say, an arm's reach plus a little margin, which the crow was careful to maintain when I moved slightly closer.

He kept his distance, but did not fly away. I considered trying to tempt him in, but of course there was no food of any kind in the bedroom. Cleaning up a spot of crow shit would have been a modest cost to pay for having a crow in the house, even if for a while. However, I also worried that perhaps he was sick, though he seemed strong. So we stood there, the crow on the windowsill, and I by the foot of the bed, while I made the usual sort of inane conversation one makes when trying to soothe a nervous animal. I asked my wife to come around so she could see the bird--she was sitting on the far edge of the bed by then--but when she finally did stand up, the crow flew off. The ruckus had died down by then.

In fact, close encounters with wildlife are not uncommon in Los Angeles, despite its present vast and dreary sprawl. I have seen a coyote loping along the flowerbeds of hoity-toity Hancock Park, nearly five miles from the nearest hills; unless it crawled through the stygian darkness of the storm drain system, which is unlikely, the animal would have had to cross several dozen streets, some of them busy nearly twenty-fours hours a day. There are regular reports of coyotes in that neighborhood, which is only a few blocks from my own street in the Miracle Mile, one of the most densely-populated districts in the city. And the Hollywood Hills, which divide the basin, or central Los Angeles, from the San Fernando Valley (which is still officially Los Angeles, except in little enclaves where it is not), provide a wildlife corridor that is traveled by deer and cougars as well as coyotes and any number of smaller, cuter beasts. There is a resident cougar in Griffith Park, four thousand acres very close to Downtown, and others in Will Rogers State Park, on the northwestern extremity of town. Less than a block away from my apartment, a falcon nests at the top of an Art Deco skyscraper on Wilshire Boulevard; I hear his plaintive morning shrieks on days when I step out early, just after dawn. And red-tailed hawks gyre relentlessly in the high air all over LA, scanning the roofs and yards for unwary squirrels, which also abound.

The flock of crows in my neighborhood, the one that may have been persecuting my acquaintance of the windowsill, is particularly intolerant of hawks: I have often seen three crows escorting an errant hawk away from the territory, one large crow on each wingtip and a third following behind. When they reach a comfortable distance, the crows peel off and flap home. The hawk does not attempt to return. Oddly enough, the crows seem unbothered by the falcon, who is in any case considerably smaller than a hawk.

Los Angeles is bisected by a range of hills that is largely though not entirely populated by the rich and reclusive. There are also extensive areas of designated wildland in them, including some, such as Griffith Park and Franklin Canyon, which are quite large. I spent, probably, thousands of hours in Griffith Park as a child and young man, but in later years transferred my allegiance to Franklin Canyon, a smaller but more remote park straddling Beverly Hills and Mulholland Drive, and said to encompass the geographical center of the City of Los Angeles. Los Angeles is an irregularly shaped city, and so its balance point could indeed be close to its border with one of its enclaves, and I have seen the official plaque designating the spot, a few yards to the side of a scruffy footpath not far from the park's little museum. And while there, with some friends who had bicycled up with me, I heard the footfall of some evidently heavy creature that could, despite the size it would have had to be to make even the soft noise it caused among the underbrush, pass unseen only yards from us. The area was, according to the museum ranger, home to at least two mountain lions, and that is likely what passed in near silence by our chattering crowd. We later that day saw a very large female red-tailed hawk carrying a snake in her talons from tree to tree, and becoming visibly annoyed as one of our party stumbled along far below her trying to record her on a cellphone video.

The approach to Franklin Canyon from below is almost programmatic. First you pass through downtown Beverly Hills, with all the bustle and pretention of that terminally self-conscious little burgh. Then you move up through the neighborhoods where the merely immensely wealthy live, between Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards, after which you cross Sunset into a zone reserved for the obscenely rich, with houses that may be a city block long and which curve to follow the meander of the road. At one point you start up Coldwater Canyon road but immediately turn off at a very standard-looking neighborhood park, and wind along a narrow canyon through a gantlet of small but expensive mid-century houses, till at last you angle steeply up what is certainly nothing more than a paved firebreak, quite challenging on a bicycle, to a

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