Overland Avenue: A Backlot Tour: 

"Believe in the holy contours of your life"

          Jack Kerouac



"So you were saying, before this tour gig got started,

that your mother was hugging the wheel

and you were sitting next to her in the front seat.

Obviously, we're talking way before childhood airbag executions!

like you were four or five maybe--L.A. ready to explode into its

post-war Renaissance--and she told you the Mormons

tithed ninety-percent to buy all the empty land

and build their Temple, that Overland Avenue

wouldn't connect with Wilshire anymore."



"Interesting. But I need to begin this fin de siecle number--

that's fancy French for everybody's time ticking away,

'The End' of an era--and 20th century Fox better get its act together

and upload changes to their computer hardware before the Interenet

collapses at 0100 hours, January 1 '00!  You'll see this Avenue 

totally connects with everything that's coming down:

Rupert Murdock, track-home construction, the Century Plaza,

self-reflecting glass towers full of well-feed lawyers--

all that dwarfs today Golden-robed Gabriel as he trumpets

Apocalypse, all that drowns him out, so the traffic just ignores him

now that L.A.'s gone cellular, bouncing back from any earthquake.

As I promised, here we turn down Overland, heading south."



"'Overland? Over land? Where is the waterway alternative?

What does this mean?' Old guys like you would ask me!

And all I can tell you is that this mostly single-laned,

bumpy, pot-holed thoroughfare just happened

out of urban-sprawl necessity. Squeezed between gas-war

priorities of a tinsel-town, defense-oriented city

that yanked up the red-car trolley lines to Venice Beach.

Yeah, I used to have a job at Disney, then went to Universal;

I'm just doing a little moonlighting on this one."



"As we roll past stucco houses near Olympic,

let me lay on you a real estate ad from the era:

Track homes for sale, 10 to 14K!

Walk into any one of the three or four identical models

you can choose from so that you and your neighbors

and your neighbors' children will know exactly

how the other families live and at what angle

the bedrooms face the street. Your kids will run wild

in the still-vacant lots, quickly-vanishing celery fields,

or wood-frame houses under construction--

part of your Oregon forest got nailed right here!

This way those little monsters learn about thick mud

after a storm, when standing water has no place to drain."



"Now we are passing Pico Blvd, where nearby Nordstrom

has a sale on those pure cotton Calvin Klein briefs,

in which your swimmer's ass (excuse the expression!)

feels so smooth and tight. You say we're on the spot

where the Barnum and Bailey Circus had its freaky

side-shows. Hell, you sure are an old geezer.

When did you say you left L.A.?"



"Now don't miss this widened part of the Avenue

all the way past National to the Freeway. It's kind of like the way

things really should be on the road to Culver City.

You mentioned missing back lots at Fox, now how bout MGM?

That burned-out set of Atlanta from Gone with the Wind!

Doesn't that really say it all for you? Or the grace of Fontaine

and Nureyev's Swan Lake, late '60's, for the masses at the Hollywood

Bowl, and you whispered to Martha, your date, 'They do it all with mirrors.'

The houses around here now sell in the 6's and 7's (No, that's still

hundred thousands), and the same Rupert Murdock just made a deal

for the Dodgers--the number they're talking is 3.5. Yeah, million!"



"Now that there, you'll notice, is the Santa Monica Freeway!

More lanes of traffic on both sides than you'll find

anywhere else on Earth! It's I-10 to many, beginning somewhere

in the curve of the dark McClure Tunnel near the pier on a bay

of a world-class ocean, and it gets you all the way across Arizona, 

Texas, to New Orleans, if you so desire, Florida's Panhandle 

and good old Pensacola! What's this I see in the papers? 

ATT and SBC may merge ahead of the on-going traffic. 

The figure there is 50-plus and that's billions!"


"But this tour ends on the narrowest, lowest-lying part

of our now-famous street, where you still might find

a used-car lot. On the right, take a long, hard look at gated condos.

A whole world pre-existed them for almost two decades,

which you totally missed out on, having chosen exile

in the Pacific Northwest--and after all, probably, 'over the hill,'

already, so to speak, and perhaps born the wrong sex--

your genes definitely askew--a high-life place landed and took off

from right here--something totally L.A., a piece of the real action!"



"I mean Chippendales flung open its door--

the one with the biggest, hottest bat in town!

and white limos would drive down Overland,

loaded with high-heeled, stylish women

(each one a hairdresser's personal creation),

who would step out on cue and then be escorted

by tall, dark, handsome men in tight, black leather pants,

white cuffs and collars, and cute little bow ties.

But no shirts! Their smooth, well-pumped, naked torsos

setting a new "buff" standard in the business.

Who knows what really went on inside? It was, after all,

'For Ladies Only,' and the videos you might purchase

back there at the mall on Pico might not capture everything

that got stuffed inside those g-strings. In another life, you, too,

might have taken off your clothes for money, used that stage

as a springboard to jet-set London, Tahiti, Australia and

choreograph A Musical With Muscle.  I guess you might say

Chippendales finally got too big for its own breeches!"



"So, do you have any questions?

What's that? You escaped for one short year

from over-crowded public education

and learned to read, and sing full-throated hymns

at the Lutheran school right here on Hughes Street; 

and less than a decade later Marlene Dietrich

gifted you the performance of your life in Mexico City.

She was so confidently off key, giving so much more

than her all, and you fell deeply in love that summer

and temporarily abandoned religion. I say, let's drink 

to Rupert Murdock as he and his ilk swallow up

the few remaining landmarks in what's left

of your easeful dream of poise and youth

in our laptop town gone cybernetic. May their bottomless

greed trickle down enough cash to reconstruct

our new millennium so that everyone can sport a logo

as graceful and eloquent as Nike's defective boomerang!" 



"As you get off this bus and your feet pound the pavement,

remember, I want to see the money in large tips!

You've learned real fast: it takes wheels to tame

this Monster City. You'd better purchase triple-A insurance

for those all-too-frequent blow outs, medical and travelers'

with part-time, dead-end jobs like this one.  I guess for you

it's all part of the same contours: furrows, riverbeds, Bible stories,

dance, sex, high fashion, black and white limos--

the purest escape in music or poetic language--

and you'll never stop asking Martin Luther's question

at the start of every lesson: 'what does this mean?'"


                             Beyond Modesto (1997)