By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
“I don’t know,” he said, “bamboo?”
A few feet away, a young handyman from the East Village (which is sort of Long Beach’s Little Seattle) had rigged up a bicycle-powered smoothie blender. I climbed on and spent about 10 minutes making the blades barely overpower a soft banana, then poured the paste into Dixie cups so that my children could nourish themselves without having to chew anything.
One of the event’s featured speakers was an efficiency expert named Dolores Kaytes, whose talk I missed, but her presence suggested that Simplicity has entered its strange-corporate-bedfellow stage. Kaytes’ Web site, which promotes her as a guru to businesses and pack rats drowning in clutter, contains factoids like “80 percent of paperwork filed is never accessed again” and slogans like “Don’t put it down, put it away!” — good artillery to use against your housemates, really. I’d thought efficiency experts were the enemy: Time is already managed to the decimal; who has time for time management? Yet every such tribal bias will need to be overcome on the path to the simpler planet.
I was happiest at the ecological booths, full of things to see and touch: solar pizza ovens, reusable cookie-sheet liners, Depression-era recipes to make cleaning products out of Borax and vinegar. Every booth had been ordered to offer hands-on activities for children — lots of times this meant staple-gunned coloring books starring environmental superheroes, but mud-brick making was a popular exception. And there were sign-ups for neighborhood Simplicity Circles, in which people would pledge to support each other to downsize their lifestyles without condemning each other’s excesses. The sign caught my eye: ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM AFFLUENZA? Just as I wrote down my name, my wife called to me from the parking booth, delivering sandwiches. (Did she have to just drive up like that, in the minivan?)
At its peak, the festival saw possibly a thousand people wandering about the grounds. The organizers were so voluntarily simple, they were wary of anything bigger. “The overcast weather actually helped,” said Tanya Quinn, a former Peace Corps volunteer and current coordinator of Discover Long Beach Parks. She had long dark curls and was wearing chiffon wings on her back as generic parade costume (bird or bug, she didn’t care). Beside her stood environmental-programs coordinator Christopher Ward, a curly-topped ranger with a big bearish grin, who compared the event to “a nice, old-fashioned be-in.” To spend time at the El Dorado Nature Center, it turns out, is to join a niche of kindred spirits who keep changing hats with each other: The leader of the band onstage, Delta Novae, turned out to be Tanya’s man, whom Christopher remembered as a substitute schoolteacher who brought third-graders to the nature trails.
Not to mention the potential for running into people you wouldn’t expect to see. The longing for simple living cuts across demographics, possibly a disturbing preview of heaven. “Barry Rothstein!?” You fraud! I nearly shouted. Barry does not live “simply.” He lives in an elegant two-story in Rossmoor that has seen a succession of maids. Today, though, he was displaying his rustic, pre-video-game hobby — wooden Viewmasters for antique 3-D post cards of forest scenes. The children grabbed for them. On this common ground, we were all sharing a break, chasing the same vanishing sliver of natural light.
We Have Our IssuesLooking back at 25 years of L.A. Weekly
We lost ourselves in whole summers chasing dream and desire: We wereWally Moon, Sandy Koufax, Jim Gilliam, Charlie Neal. That was 35 years ago, and I was foolish enough to believe that youth would never end, and that there would always be the Dodgers. This, I think, is what constitutes myth. It is a way of connecting self to past and place, our way of seeing, not in rational terms, or even by the accumulation of knowledge, but by positive feeling and sentiment . . . I feel a little sorry for our social institutions. The world is changing too fast, and they are ill-equipped to fathom the new requirements of myth. But in this epoch we are being told something new — that far from wishing to bury mystery, the people want to re-engage it. To re-encounter myth, but not in denigration of science. And this is why the spiritual health of baseball is so crucial to us now. Simply put, it is the American institution best suited for creating new and unifying myth.
—Greg Tanaka,“The Myth of Baseball: Why the National Pastime Has Failed Us,” March 31, 1995
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