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Ghost Town: A Venice California Life

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Gate, a painting by Pat Hartman that appears on the cover of Ghost Town

 

 

 

 

Topics in
Ghost Town: A Venice California Life
by Pat Hartman

crime

Up close and personal with members of the Shoreline Crips and V13 gangs and the LAPD. Burglarized, mugged, purse-snatched, held up at gunpoint, vandalized, menaced, and visited by men in suits who travel in pairs. The murder of Sarai Ribicoff, the senator's niece, one of the most controversial and highly publicized murder trials in LA history. The archetypically senseless murder of a convenience store clerk. An exceptionally vile rape/robbery spree.

people and community dynamics

Few people wind up in Venice by accident. With its low vacancy rate and high rents, you have to want to live there, and some have for generations. How people wind up in Venice and how they manage to stay: weird folk, professional characters, full-time eccentrics, grifters, substance abusers, deadbeats, and families just trying to survive and raise their kids. Neighbors who become wonderful friends and those other neighbors, the ones from Hell. Vicious dogs, fires, ants, trash, noise and bad plumbing. Block club meetings, block parties, extreme holiday celebrations, a Venice wedding, activist organizations of many kinds, cooperative efforts and hassles, child care, parks and playgrounds, animal control issues, programs for the aged and disadvantaged, etc.

politics

Posters, flyers, graffiti, the Free Venice Beachhead, demonstrations, Councilwoman-for-Life Pat Russell. How Oakwood changed me from a knee-jerk liberal bleeding heart hippie into some variety of libertarian.

drugs

This chronicle is relevant to the marijuana decriminalization movement. While the neighborhood was rife with problems related to hard drugs, in the hipster community, marijuana was a social lubricant, part of the everyday exchange of goods and services; the cement that, with responsible use, bonded neighbors in benign mutual dependence.

economics

Intense free-market activity and a flourishing underground economy. Neighborhood cohesiveness based on sharing, barter, and co-operative enterprises. Crumbling infrastructure, horrible HUD buildings, tenant versus landlord wars, the impact of the Olympics, relationships between haves and have-nots.

religion

Krishnas, Sufis, Buddhists, fundamentalist Christians, among others, including highly idiosyncratic individual belief systems.

popular culture

Oakwood is one of the places where ghetto style (and ultimately mainstream style, usually diluted) is born. Rasta dreadlocks, backward baseball hats, break dancing and drooping pants show up here, reggae and rap are heard here, way before almost anywhere else. Oakwood houses and yards are often wildly individualistic. Public art and murals are taken seriously.

the future

Venice has been proclaimed the "Living National Monument to the Achievement of the American Dream," the quintessential American community, a microcosm of everything that's good and bad about the country. In Oakwood as in the trendier and quieter parts of Venice, the Sixties, everybody's favorite era, came to stay. At the same time, Venice is heralded as the place where the future starts. Is it?

the aesthetic factor

Men have oftener suffered from the mockery of a place too smiling for their reason than from the oppression of surroundings oversadly tinged ...................Thomas Hardy

Nothing is harder to bear than a succession of fair days .................... Goethe

Warmest climes but nurse the cruelest fangs ..............Herman Melville

 

Authorial Trivia

The working title of this book was Ghost Town 90291, a takeoff on the TV show Beverly Hills 90210 - but then I figure, the book will be around long after the TV show is forgotten. A hundred years from now, nobody will get the reference or comprehend the finely-tuned irony. So it's not called that any more.

 

 

 

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