On Friday, October 18, I grunted up into the saddle of a huge mule named Jake and began Day One of a 240 mile ride from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. I can’t confirm that Jake was named after Jake Gettes, Jack Nicholson’s character in the classic film Chinatown, but there was a certain wild-eye look to him. ‘One Hundred Mules Walking’ is a moving art installation created by Metabolic Studio’s Lauren Bon. One hundred mules will ride the length of the 1913 Los Angeles Aqueduct from The Intake north of Independence all the way south to Los Angeles. Follow the water downhill in a conversation about the next 100 years.
Riding along with me were three members of Mayor Garcetti’s staff who deal with the LA Department of Water and Power. I chair the Inyo County Water Commission so this was like Christmas – a captive audience. The narrative ranged from Owens Lake dust to LADWP solar on undisturbed desert land in our valley to the Inyo County/LA Longterm Water Agreement to the future survival of our valley’s small towns.. In between the Deputy Mayors suffered through me singing every cowboy/western song that I knew. “One Hundred Mules Walking’ was art meeting bureaucracy and much more.
Day Two didn’t include me and my ass, not Jake, told me that was fine. The ten mule strings moved on to Manzanar National Historic Site where the United States of America interned 10,000 Japanese-Americans and ‘aliens’ during WWII. Manzanar was the largest community in the Owens Valley in a very sad way. This ride is through the 1860’s ethnic cleansing of the Owens Valley Paiute by the US Calvary, through the complete destruction of Lone Pine in the 1872 Earthquake. There are more stories than can be told, but I just kept on talking. I hope all other riders do converse for the entire 27 days.
Day Three – the moving conversation rode into Lone Pine and trouble.
Not surprising, I guess, was the Saturday LA Times page one story that editorialized ‘One Hundred Mules Walking’ as a silly, locally unnoticed mule ride created by a rich woman and her bought-off non-profit followers. There was even a quote by the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce Director saying no one was paying any attention at all. Having a quote-hungry diva as our town’s face and voice is an embarrassment. And having a similar writer for the LA Times helped editorialize an article about an event that actually brings much value to our Owens Valley and to the ‘conversation’ as a whole. We are talking history, water, economic survival here!
The road into Lone Pine from my home in the alabama Hills was packed with locals in cars and the back of pickups. I saw many visitors to the valley who just happened to meet the mules. I waded through through the Lion’s Club BBQ and a quilt raffle for scholarships. I dodged the Lone Pine High School cheerleaders belting out their ‘Movin’ Mules’ cheer. It seemed obvious to me that Lone Pine was fully engaged in this 100 mule thing. What’s up with the LATimes and our Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce lady.?
Join in the conversation. Opinions are welcome although facts are more valued. What are the questions? What are the solutions?