March 15, 2007
â€œWell, dear boy, I suppose you thought you were through.â€
â€œYes, I did.â€
â€œGood grief! Do you see this bridge over the Gold Line? It looks like itâ€™s held up with hairpins and spit!â€
â€œSaliva, dear boy. And what is the Gold Line?â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s sort of a streetcar, except it doesnâ€™t run on the street.â€
She leaned back in her ghostly chair. â€œAnd what did you think of our little year?â€
â€œI was quite wrong, wasnâ€™t I?â€
She merely nodded.
â€œYou could have at least told me.â€
â€œDear boy, you needed to find out for yourself.â€
â€œOK, so there were movie theaters in Los Angeles.â€
â€œAnd there were comics in the paper.â€
â€œLittle Nemo is one of my favorites.â€
â€œI couldnâ€™t believe all the domestic violence. Awful stuff.â€
â€œIt was terrible,â€ she said.
â€œAnd getting a divorce was so difficult.â€
â€œThat was horrible,â€ she said.
â€œAnd the rotten doctors, the fakes and charlatans, dirty restaurants, the drinking and alcoholism. The exploding gasoline stoves.â€
â€œWell,â€ she said chidingly, â€œyou didnâ€™t write very much about people who were nice. You newspaper folks never do.â€
â€œMost of all, we havenâ€™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. Itâ€™s the same story, with different details, that we had in 1947.â€
â€œAnd why do you think that is?â€
â€œMaâ€™am, thatâ€™s a short question with a long answer. You could tell me, couldnâ€™t you?â€
â€œBut youâ€™re not going to, because I have to figure it out for myself, is that it?â€
â€œIâ€™ll miss all of you so much.â€
â€œYou know where to find us,â€ she said.
â€œWas it a kinder, simpler time?â€ I asked.
â€œMaybe in some ways, but mostly no.â€ And then she paused for a moment. â€œGo take a picture of your bridge. It hasnâ€™t fallen down yet, has it?â€
â€œNope, itâ€™s still there. Or at least some bridge is still there.â€
I didnâ€™t know what else to say: â€œThanks for everything.â€
â€œYou are most welcome. And thank you.â€
And then she was gone.
E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com