At Large

California on Four Billion Dollars

A travelogue.

By 6.23.06

Send to Kindle

Your roving reporter has spent his week... well, roving. Coast to coast, Florida to California, to see how the more pacific half lives. A celebrity sighting of Sigourney Weaver punctuated my landing at Los Angeles Airport. Yes, the only one in the United States which brags of having LAX SECURITY without being scary. I entered and prised my rental car from a company I won't name. There I was, free as a jay. Which means that you get to experience life in a pose of relaxation, on the condition that you recall it well enough to later write home and tell all.

The proximate cause of my peregrinations was the nuptials on Monday evening of a great friend of this column, Barry Ingber. (Note to purists: If "nuptials" is the singular, then "was" is correct in that sentence.) Mr. I has been teaching English and Political Science at a Los Angeles high school for two years, using our weekly offering as the model for style and presentation. One of his students went so far as to tell me: "You have been our real English teacher for two years." Barry had managed to traverse five decades without committing matrimony, but he heeded the two cues in "quinquagenarian." As you might imagine, the festivities bordered on the ecstatic.

But let us leave him, in his newfound bliss, at the altar, and visit a different temple entirely. Arriving a few days early, with Sunday untamed by schedules, I opted to visit the Xanadu bequeathed by the late J. Paul Getty. The gigantic and the artistic are rarely met in compatibility, so my hopes for locating beauty amid the vastness of the Getty Center in Los Angeles were diminutive. Happily, I am here to report my pleasant surprise.

Some four billion dollars were spent -- if "spent" is the word I want -- in the construction of the campus and the procurement of artwork, a sum that strikes one as unforgivable, if not downright absurd. Yet, putting aside the question of whether it was worth doing in the abstract, it is clearly a real achievement in the concrete. It has achieved that status so elusive in the saga of modernity: meaningfulness.

The magnificent landscaping merges seamlessly into a series of cleverly arranged waterfalls, springs and ponds. There, water cascades nonchalantly over piquantly laid out stones of various sizes and shapes. Somehow all of this leads inevitably up to the palatial main building, housing some of the greatest paintings of human history. (I even learned something I did not know, that painter Richard Dadd had murdered his Dad. A chilling thought to ponder on Father's Day.)

I was struck by the manner in which the layout poignantly and puissantly conveyed the point of transition, the handoff from God's creativity in Nature to man's creativity in art.

There was art aplenty on Tuesday night, of the dramatic variety. My friend of sixteen years, Todd Salovey, director of the San Diego Repertory Theater, staged a performance that verged on the miraculous. Actress Lisa Robins stunningly portrayed Sherri Mandell, in a stage adaptation of Sherri's best-selling memoir, Blessings of a Broken Heart. In it she describes the tragedy of the murder of her 13-year-old son, Koby. The boy and a school chum had drifted away from their homes in Israel in May 2001, to do some spelunking in neighboring caves. They were discovered by a mob of Arabs, who bludgeoned them to death with stones.

The portrayal by Lisa Robins was so astonishingly evocative that some audience members were certain that she was the grieving mother herself, come to read from her own work. This was a world premiere for the play, and if it goes on the road, I recommend it as a must-see.

And so, far from home, on a writer's holiday, I was sought out by life's lessons. They taught that the handiwork of the Creator must be built upon by the creativity of mankind. Also, that life is composed of joy tempered by sadness -- sadness that can shock at thirteen and joy that can shock at fifty.

Back we go to our friend, Barry, as he slips a ring unto the finger of his beloved and betrothed. I can read his mind after all these years, so here is his thought at that moment: "Jay has been trying to transform me into a Reaganite for years, and now he has succeeded: I have my Nancy."

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.