Ray Bradbury: Symbiosis and Metaphors
By Leon Worden February 22, 1995
February 22, 1995
First of two parts.
[PART 1][PART 2][2003 INTERVIEW]
"Eating is the secret of cities," the acclaimed science fiction author said. "People go out to eat. They don't go out to shop. After they've eaten, then they go shop. Eating makes you convivial, and then you spend money you shouldn't be spending."
"Go down any street in Paris," he said. "You've got 40 restaurants on one side, 40 on the other. People go and shop and walk across. You can spend the whole day walking and sitting and enjoying the weather."
Several years ago, Bradbury told Century City planners to "build 30 restaurants, indoors and outdoors. Put out 500 tables, 500 parasols, 1000 chairs, so that people can sit around and people-watch."
So they did. The result is a "perfect symbiotic relationship" between restaurants, cinemas, bookstores and the various shops. "Now, by God, the place is working," he said.
"There's a wonderful confluence of influences in the center of the marketplace. You've got 10 cinemas upstairs and a waterfall of steps that come down. At 6 o'clock, 8 o'clock, 10 o'clock at night people flow out of the theaters, into the bookstore.
"A good movie makes a hunger for a good book. A good book makes a hunger for a good movie. You've got to know these things about people's interests and make it easy for them to knock elbows and have everything come together in one place. Most cities don't have enough restaurants close to a theater or a bookstore right next to a theater.
"Palm Canyon Drive (in Palm Springs) has turned into a semi- disaster because they allowed about 10 cinemas to be built about 3 blocks away from the main street instead of putting them on the main street where they would increase the flow of pedestrian traffic. People will not walk those 3 blocks. They get in their cars and go somewhere else."
Alright, already. Why trouble the world-renowned author of masterpieces like The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 about city revitalization, you ask?
Because he's got more knowledge of cities and people in his little finger than most politicians have in their whole bodies.
"Science fiction," Bradbury writes, "is the history of towns and cities yet unbuilt, ghosting our imaginations and lifting us to rise up and find hammers and nails to build our dreams before they blow away."
At 74, Bradbury still pursues his dreams, routinely advising architectural designers and urban planners across the continent on ways to make their endeavors appealing to potential tourists and shoppers.
Last week he was in New Orleans, talking to 800 mall producers. The week before, he was keynote speaker at the Antelope Valley business conference.
This self-described "master of the obvious" applies to the here-and-now his uncanny ability to see things for what they are, and as they could be.
In Yestermorrow, subtitled "Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures" and dedicated to Walt Disney, Bradbury discusses how he has sat in "with groups, sometimes with museums, sometimes with corporations, to tell them who they are ... (to) find their metaphor."
You must know who you are, before you can broadcast it to others.
"The gift of being able to compact experience, life, into convenient packets is pivotal," he writes. "Most people wouldn't know a metaphor if it bit them," he told me.
He cites examples. Weapons are metaphors for, or extensions of, men throwing rocks. Computers are metaphors for books and libraries. The Viking probe on Mars is a metaphor for the dream of touching another world.
"We live metaphors all the time," he said. "People are metaphors. Think of Hitler, Churchill, Ghandi these are all human metaphors. You can describe them quite easily."
Just like Ray Bradbury is a "futurist."
In this context the author said Newhall must find its metaphor.
We discussed Newhall's western heritage. Its Walk of Western Stars. Tom Mix and Gene Autry and Bill Hart. Hart Park and Museum, which draw 180,000 visitors a year.
"It makes sense, with the history of the place" to create the metaphor that captures Newhall's heritage.
Newhall needs "something that represents your community, one building at the center which people can point to and say 'this is us.'" City Hall once did that for Los Angeles, he said.
"You either go back to your root system or you do something so incredibly different that people say 'I've got to go look at it.'
"You've got a tough road to travel," he said in closing. "But it's certainly worth it."
Urban designer Mike Freedman, hired by the city of Santa Clarita to help Newhall find its metaphor, will conduct his second Newhall revitalization workshop at 6:30 p.m. next Monday, Feb. 27, 1995 at the Newhall Community Center, 24406 San Fernando Road.
Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident.
©1995 LEON WORDEN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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