By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
For another thing, Gilmore spent his young longhair years working as a gardener and landscaper at Mohonk House — a stately 19th-century upstate New York resort on 7,800 acres of Appalachian countryside that somehow still thrives today. Gilmore says that the idyllic surroundings and the hard-working and fastidious Smiley family who run the place taught him to become what he wanted to be: “We define ourselves more by our challenges than by our ideals.”
It’s hard to think of a bigger challenge than making Los Angeles’ old downtown attract, rather than repel, inhabitants. But that’s what’s happened to rundown districts of New York, Denver, Boston, Houston and, for that matter, Pasadena. As Gilmore says:
“Los Angeles is nowhere near its adulthood. It’s ready to grow.”
Get Well Soon, Tom Hayden
Years ago, my reporter’s beat included a genuine backwoods philosopher named Kenneth Burke. Burke’s little house was stuffed with books, music and a big grand piano, and as far as I could tell, he never stopped talking as long as there was another person in sight.
I once asked him why, and he told me the story of the genius wren he once saw, building a nest on his house. The wren, Burke said, had figured out how to use a long twig as a lever to build herself a better nest. “The problem for her was,” Burke said, “that she didn’t have the language to tell other wrens about her invention.” Because birds couldn’t tell one another things the way people can, he said, wren civilization never developed to challenge humanity’s.
If there’s anyone out there who ought to know the value of communication, it’s Tom Hayden. He’s been communicating ideas to the rest of us for nearly 40 years. To those whose thinking was changed for the better after encountering his writings in the ’60s and ’70s, his 20-year interregnum in public office seemed Hayden’s just reward for his own past struggles. But not his most intellectually productive years.
Then there was Hayden’s City Council–election debacle this year, and the heart attack from which he is said to be recovering. But I hear that he’s slower to heal from the bitterness of his June electoral defeat. That’s when he told the media:
“It was my wish to be Upton Sinclair or Lincoln Steffens inside City Hall, challenging the shameful insider culture of power that has turned Los Angeles more into a city of scandals than a city of angels.”
Several things are plainly wrong with this not un-Nixonian statement. First, of course, compared to a 20-year officeholder like Tom Hayden, winner Jack Weiss was an outsider’s outsider: This was part of Weiss’ appeal. And, as Hayden surely knows, authors Upton Sinclair and Lincoln Steffens never held elected office. Yet, via writings and speeches, both did far more to change America than any local officeholder ever has.
So if he really wants to become Sinclair or Steffens, Hayden should avoid public office, think and communicate. Lecture. Write more books. Divulge what he learned about power from 20 years inside. And what we can do to make that power more accessible. Surely this is a higher destiny than drafting ordinances and fixing Brentwood potholes could ever have been.