March 15, 2007
“Well, dear boy, I suppose you thought you were through.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Good grief! Do you see this bridge over the Gold Line? It looks like it’s held up with hairpins and spit!”
“Saliva, dear boy. And what is the Gold Line?”
“Well, it’s sort of a streetcar, except it doesn’t run on the street.”
She leaned back in her ghostly chair. “And what did you think of our little year?”
“I was quite wrong, wasn’t I?”
She merely nodded.
“You could have at least told me.”
“Dear boy, you needed to find out for yourself.”
“OK, so there were movie theaters in Los Angeles.”
“And there were comics in the paper.”
“Little Nemo is one of my favorites.”
“I couldn’t believe all the domestic violence. Awful stuff.”
“It was terrible,” she said.
“And getting a divorce was so difficult.”
“That was horrible,” she said.
“And the rotten doctors, the fakes and charlatans, dirty restaurants, the drinking and alcoholism. The exploding gasoline stoves.”
“Well,” she said chidingly, “you didn’t write very much about people who were nice. You newspaper folks never do.”
“Most of all, we haven’t changed very much, have we? I mean, look at our problems with transportation… with sanitation… with growth… with housing… immigration… ethnic discrimination… education… polluting the ocean. A century later, the Police Department is still pleading for more officers. It’s the same story, with different details, that we had in 1947.”
“And why do you think that is?”
“Ma’am, that’s a short question with a long answer. You could tell me, couldn’t you?”
“But you’re not going to, because I have to figure it out for myself, is that it?”
“I’ll miss all of you so much.”
“You know where to find us,” she said.
“Was it a kinder, simpler time?” I asked.
“Maybe in some ways, but mostly no.” And then she paused for a moment. “Go take a picture of your bridge. It hasn’t fallen down yet, has it?”
“Nope, it’s still there. Or at least some bridge is still there.”
I didn’t know what else to say: “Thanks for everything.”
“You are most welcome. And thank you.”
And then she was gone.
E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com