A SLOW EXPLOSION
On Main Street. But it would appear the nuclear cloud is here to stay.
“Chain Reaction” is that big, honkin’ 26’ tall, 5.5 ton pile of chain links anti-nuke, anti-war construct by three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and sculptor Paul Conrad, that rests on a narrow strip of green between Main and the parking lot, twixt the Civic and our Courthouse. It was paid for by philanthropist and peace activist Joan Kroc (McDonald’s) and donated to the City of Santa Monica in 1991. Beverly Hills rejected it but we were an appropriate home, given our long reputation as a progressive community, and also, ironically, as the world headquarters of the RAND Corporation, a very influential think tank best known for its “defense” strategy of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction (love that “Dr. Strangelove”), dependent on having lots and lots and lots of nuclear weapons, on land, at sea and in the air, ready to rip.
There was a remarkable gathering at the refurbished sculpture Monday evening, to celebrate its fiercely fought-for survival, its restoration, its new “peace garden” planting encircling the base, its message, and what would have been the 93rd birthday the next day of artist Paul Conrad. (He died in 2010, perhaps a blessing, because less than a year later began the concerted, bogus effort to remove and even scrap the world-famous art piece.)
The program was led of course by our own Professional Peacenik (and I say that with
affection), the redoubtable Jerry Rubin, and it was quite the assemblage of local leftie
luminaries, most of whom were actively involved in the fight to preserve it, right there on that spot.
WHY, WHY, WHY?
Many echoed the sentiment, now that the City’s planned destruction of the art piece was defeated — why was this fight even necessary? (I find myself muttering that ALL the time, about too many fights.) Why did we citizens have to raise more than $100,000 to help restore it? How can a city accept something as a gift, not maintain it, and then want to toss it? Why is this sculpture considered controversial by some? It’s a plea for world peace, for goodness sakes, a stark, graphic reminder of the ominous nuclear mushroom cloud. One person even noted that she’s had people condemn it as glorifying and promoting the atomic bomb. Huh?
But art is like that. Even the most obvious works can be interpreted as many ways as there are observers, and many never get that art stands on its own and must be measured by an aesthetic yardstick that doesn’t always include the usual ideas of beauty or likability. Does it make some stop and think and perhaps reconsider their world? Then it’s probably art.
There were more mayors there than you could shake a referendum at, many members of the Conrad family (including Paul’s widow Kay, smiling sweetly from her wheelchair), a lot of commission members, artists, writers, activists, a City Manager, and they even allowed a few of those distasteful creatures, journalists, to hang out there in broad daylight. One was the final speaker, and longtime columnist/activist Robert Scheer (Ramparts magazine, LA Times, Truthdig), who was instrumental in the effort and gave a
rousing final speech about why that sculpture is still so important. (I’ll never forget
reading about President-elect Trump, in a security briefing — twice — “… but if we have
nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”)
There was also a fight over the location, some saying move it from there, perhaps even to an indoor site. More out of the public eye, you know. But several speakers made the link with RAND, one asserting he always responded to the “where?” question with, “it is no accident that ‘Chain Reaction’ is here, in their faces, and must remain.”
I saw so many people I disagree strongly with on many local development issues, yet they were all on the right side of “Chain Reaction.” Jerry Rubin and I are a classic example. As I ended my brief speech, I looked over at him and said, “OK Jerry, now that ‘Chain Reaction’ is taken care of, we’ve got to save that Muir Woods mural (at Lincoln and Ocean Park)!”
MO’ MAIN STREET — PARADE!
Mo’ music. Barely had the notes faded from Make Music Day last Wednesday, when Main Street was humming all day Saturday with another annual Summer Soulstice music celebration. Mostly it’s tribute bands performing, sounding very much like The Pretenders or AC/DC or Neil Young or Dylan, and that’s fun, but I’ve seen them all several times over the years, so I went looking for more original bands, but it was slim pickin’s, for both quantity and quality. Why can’t it be more of a mix?
And now, you’ll be headed for Main Street again on Tuesday, for our famous 4th of July
Main Street Parade, the 11th annual! We are still a small town — well, a small city — and this fits us perfectly. It’s a parade of locals, in convertibles, on flatbed trucks, bicycles, unicycles, skates and skateboards, on foot, from the schools, churches, Kiwanis and Lions, newspapers, businesses. You might see Carmen Miranda or a WWII WAC or a sexy spaceship captain. Look! There’s the mayor, looking silly! There’s a big time property manager in a goofy tall Uncle Sam hat, why, there’s the Daily Press publisher on stilts! (C’mon, Rob…)
Unlike Summer Soulstice, I never get tired of this one. Call me corny. And thanks, OPA (Ocean Park neighborhood Association).
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Make Music Day was so great, why can’t we do that all year ‘round? We have so much talent here and so few places where they can play before an audience. We have the weather for it year ‘round. What if Santa Monica became world-famous as an arts destination, and particularly for music, music, everywhere? Instead of for high rises Downtown, absolute gridlock, concerts on the Pier that few can hear that cost us a million bucks a shot, and tiny box apartments near the sea for five Gs a month, for, you know, a year or so til you get bored because there aren’t enough all night dance clubs?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” — Frank Zappa
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com