Monday, July 4, 2011

How green was my valley, the asphalt jungle

Up there, not very high - nothing in San Francisco is very high, it would be indecent - you could get a sense of it. The cool breeze from the bay, the bright, clear sun, the benign light helped you to count, at ease, the pedestrians on California's real street of dreams, and make your move. The game was not chess, it was business and it was played for keeps. Hyman Roth always made money for his partners. And 25 percent of the people down below would pay their rent to him. But it's perfect: it's not really their money. What's not deducted is expensed, and does not go near the bottom line. Most of them don't even know it's happening. And you, my friend, have just come to what you may think is the most beautiful street on the Coast, without the least idea of its cost. But what's really cool is this: every unsheltered taxpaying dolt in America is footing the bill, from wages that haven't risen since his adolescent child was born - and guess who wants it that way.

Now, the only way for this thing to work, to go on, for this power to be sustained and its leverage to be felt, is to keep on building; and if you can't build, you buy - with somebody else's cash, of course. I'll never forget, sitting in a meeting with representatives of the largest food corporation in the world, and a lawyer for the firm where I'd invited them. They wanted to see the loan documents on the 320 million dollar edifice of which they were to lease a few thousand square feet. "There aren't any," was the courteous reply. And they believed what they had sensed, without a word.

And so these people on the street found lives at the end of the transit lines, for the pezza novante to come in, and pay, and pay more for glittering amenities - Philip Johnson's client, Hines, was famous for his bordello marble elevators; and now the slot machines are noted for their greenery - because the game that isn't chess cannot come to a draw. Laurent was not only in the heart of this; he was in his jammies in its kitchen to learn from the master, himself - to push the button, to bring the pot to boil. 

Those were not his days, not his California.

Francis Ford Coppola, director
Mario Puzo and
  Francis Ford Coppola, screenplay
The Godfather: Part ii
Paramount, 1974©

John Huston, director
Ben Maddow and
  John Huston, screenplay
The Asphalt Jungle
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1950©

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