Jon Christensen writes: Heyday--an independent, nonprofit publisher--this year celebrated its 40th anniversary of publishing books, spawning magazines, and creating cultural events to promote widespread awareness and celebration of California's many cultures, landscapes, and boundary-breaking ideas. Over four decades, Heyday has created an astonishing catalog of California.
This spring Heyday will publish LAtitudes: An Angeleno's Atlas, containing 19 imaginative maps and infographics offering deep insights into our supposedly superficial city from the indigenous Tongva presence in the Los Angeles Basin to the cowboy-and-spacemen-themed landscapes of the San Fernando Valley, freeways that take the shape of a dove when seen from high above, lost buildings, ugly buildings, mustachioed golden carp in the LA River, urban forests, and much more.
Malcolm Margolin is the wise, witty, and wonderful genius in the heart and soul of Heyday. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Malcolm for a long, leisurely interview in the winter issue of Boom: A Journal of California.
Sitting down to talk with Malcolm is like settling into the shotgun seat of an old pickup truck. You know you're in for a ride. You're going to go places you've never been before, explore back roads and byways, stop in on some old friends, and sit and chat for a while. Malcolm doesn't answer questions. He tells stories.
As I contemplate the environment and people in LA, the theme of this column, as the old year ends and a new year is about to begin, I keep thinking of Malcom's answer to a question that I asked at the end of our interview.
Thinking about the stories of ancient Polynesians setting out on boats to colonize Hawaii, and packing seeds of things to grow for the future, I asked Malcolm: "What would you pack for the future of California?" I was thinking of a shelf of books from Heyday. Malcolm had a different answer.
"I think what you would end up packing for the future are environments," Malcolm replied. "I think there are environments that need to be protected, and I think that what has to be protected is not the species that live on these places but the capacity of a place to change, the capacity of a place to be fruitful and fecund and healthy, and I think it's the underlying health of a place that has to be preserved. And I think that great areas of land have to be taken into the future. I think that we have to preserve the limited waters that we have. I think for California, the future is in the natural resources that have to be preserved.
"I would love to be able to preserve the literature of California. I once created something called the California Legacy Project over at Santa Clara University, to get that older literature out. Somehow, there's been no cultural interest in it. There've been no courses in it. The state of the new, this worship of the new, nobody wants to read this Gold Rush stuff anymore. Nobody wants to read these marvelous works from the past. And somehow or other, I would like to see these preserved. I would like to see these memories preserved of what places were like, what the tonalities of people's lives were like, what the hopes of the people that came here were, what their aspirations were, how these aspirations got molded and realized or obliterated. I think I would love to keep alive the lives of people.
"I would love to see more deep hanging out. This art of deep hanging out, it's not done too often. People have become like billiard balls on a table. They click against one another, and they bounce off into their separate worlds. I go into these Indian communities. I'll go to somebody's house. I'll knock at the door and somebody will open the door, and this old woman will look at me--this has happened recently--and she'll look at me and she'll say, "Malcolm. How good to see you." And you know you're in for a three-hour visit, in which nothing much may get said, but you sit there for three hours and you absorb each other's personality, and the bigness of their lives, the sadness of their lives, the humor of their lives, and this whole business of just getting to know one another. It's so essential."