Happy Birthday, Orson Bean! Rest in Power!
Editor’s Note: Shared by legendary activist, artist, poet and Venetian Maryjane on the occasion of what would have been Bean’s 92nd birthday — July 22, 2020.
What did the father say as they settled in the Carroll Canal rowboat?
Oh! We need another ORSON!
What did the mother say as they alighted in the Carroll Canal rowboat?
Oh! We are missing our ORSON!
What did the grandmother say as they perched in the Carroll Canal rowboat?
Oh! We each need our ORSON!
What did the other grandmother say as they readied in the Carroll Canal row boat?
Oh! How can we do this without ORSON? We could try paddles, old boards, a strong tree branch, a pole…or two. But it is best done with ORSON!
A Quest to House a Worthy Soul
I noticed a couple of months ago that there was this lady always sitting on the bus bench at Venice and Lincoln — a lady, kind of hiding behind a big head of curly red-blond hair. At first, I just said “Hello,” and she sweetly nodded and said “Hello” back, then I’d see her there late at night and I’d give her a few dollars. Once I gave her a twenty and she said, “Are you sure you can afford this?”
Anyway, I started talking to her each time I went by and got to know Liza Cox a little. She’s 59, has terrible back issues, a spine problem that makes it difficult for her to walk. She has been beaten by strangers and at one time had a stroke. She’s a delicate person with a soft-spoken voice. My heart truly went out to her! Turns out she’s been on that hard metal bench for months and months. But she always had a smile for me.
I asked her if she wanted to have a room to call her own, and she said “That would be lovely.” I joked with her about her name being “Liza,” that it’s like Eliza Doolittle, who sang “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” in “My Fair Lady.” Liza knew that the musical was based on “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw…meaning she’s very bright!
I started in earnest about three weeks ago to get her housed. I thought it might be a little easier to fast-track her now, because of COVID and all the hotels being empty, and with that lush HHH budget, that she could get a hotel room for the short term, under Project RoomKey while we looked for a permanent place for her. I first called St. Joseph Center — no response. Then I contacted Councilman Mike Bonin’s office, and he got right back to me (!), put me onto an assistant, Nick, (who I have been in touch with almost daily) who contacted a team to go interview her a few days later.
The interview went well and Liza cried a little when she told me she was optimistic. It’s now been about two weeks, but I guess they have found no room for her yet. I also contacted VCHC (Venice Community Housing Corporation), and they told me they don’t do direct outreach, said I should call “211” and “LASHA” (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority), which I did. (211 is just for emergency shelter for one night… not at all what Liza wants or needs, the latter is basically the city’s central point, with which Bonin’s office and all the Los Angeles Councilpersons work.)
Essentially, every day I’m trying to coordinate with different organizations to get her a room where she can lay down her head. She’s very gentle, and can’t handle being in a shelter where there are other people …and where she’d be more vulnerable to COVID. I’m hoping that someone who reads this may know about a new hotel opening up — some good news for Liza.
Prioritize People over Personal Automobiles in Pandemic Urban Planning
Dr. Fauci said yesterday, “The fundamentals. Wear a mask. Avoid crowds. Close the bars. Bars are the hot spots. ….What people are missing is something fundamental: By getting infected themselves — even if they never get a symptom — they are part of the propagation of a pandemic. They are fueling the pandemic.”
Pandemic realities should teach our leaders to focus on building roads to the future rather than trying to build roads back to the past. Main Street’s spatial reorganization for Al Fresco only fractionally restored lost inside table service with small parklets under the rationale that businesses must be preserved, but that left crowding customers into narrow outdoor corridors as businesses only route to survival.
Authorities were misguided to dedicate nearly half the roadway to traffic rather than including it in a forward-looking plan that values people over personal automobiles.
I hope our decision makers can break through their cognitive dissonance to see how fundamental social distancing is to urban planning. Until they realize this, vital time and resources are misdirected.
Ocean Park, Santa Monica