....in Los Angeles one day. She was striding determinedly across an overpass that spans the Hollywood Freeway just north of downtown..."
For reporter Al Martinez, the guy who looks like a Hispanic Einstein, this woman is type and metaphor of Los Angeles herself--and so it is, and so she is, to any one of us who've lived within her flashpoint gunpowder confines.
If you want to get under the skin of L.A., start with this book. I'm giving it a 4 rather than a 5 only because I've read Al's columns and have something to compare this book to. I know of only one newsman with the heart and guts and literary power of the author, let alone the worldweary humor that never wearies, and it's not Mencken, although his work sometimes reminds me of Mencken's. It's Mark Twain, who asked: "Can we afford Civilization?"
Here are two rather serious quotations from this oft-humorous gem:
You'd think that after all that anguish [he means the riots] we'd come up with some stable course of action to make things better between the races generally and in the South-Central section particularly. But what emerged wasn't a powerful program to enfranchise the forgotten, but a call, you guessed it, to improve our image. Keep the naked fat lady who in her madness strides no-where, but tie a nice little ribbon in her hair.
We create our own Skid Rows by turning our backs on segments of the population who no longer attract our interest. Because they dwell in economic brackets that allow their homes and apartments to fall into disrepair, we either label their dwellings slums and allow them to rot, or rip them out in the name of urban renewal. What we don't see won't hurt us, though we've learned the hard way that what we don't see now we'll later see in the crimes and riots that are the handmaidens of despair.