God almighty, there’s going to be 40 hours straight coverage of Super Tuesday on CNN. The national affairs desk of Crikey, convened for the past couple of days in the Best Western Green Dragon Inn in Chinatown, is in advanced demolition stage, owing chiefly to the fact that the liquor store next door is selling half pints of Chivas for eight bucks. It can’t really be Chivas at that price, but really who gives a damn. They did some test somewhere that shows that people enjoy wine a lot more if they think it’s overpriced, so what the hell. I’m buying a Chivas label, who cares.
The lamp is wrecked and the maid is freaked out because I hung a bedsheet over the wall mirror – doesn’t everyone? No? – and I’m thinking I’m going to need to tip, but I accidentally left a $30 dollar, rather than $3 tip, in the last joint. When I walk out the door at night, the clerk on reception, one of the voluminous American-Chinese family who own this joint looks at me like I’m crazy. Forget it Mac, it’s Chinatown.
Actually it’s not really Chinatown. Most of that was demolished in the late ’30s when LA’s Union Station – one of the great civic art deco masterpieces of all time, yet another testament to the best and worst of the New Deal – was built, and this is Chinatown north, where people were basically herded to.
God, I love LA. From the first time I set eyes on the place in the 90s, no city has lived up to its image so exactly, so perfectly, a great shimmering nowhere, a place that looks like your dreams solidified outside your head. No mystery why – the place has been so featured in movies and TV that it has been the raw material of your dreams this past thirty years and more, every multistorey car park or stop sign lurking in the background of a Columbo episode somewhere. You walk down the street and strange sights rear up from every corner, a gas station that looks like the starship enterprise, a 1930s faux Egyptian shopfront that was once a upmarket Bonwit and Teller’s frequented by the stars.
LA’s downtown was so deserted so quickly that no one even bothered to pull it down. Consequently it’s now one of the best preserved 1930s cities in the world, and the place is filling up with loft spaces. Its limitless deserted art-deco is the past’s idea of the future, profoundly forlorn in its naive hopes. I was in a cafe on Sunset Boulevard when I read that Paddy McGuinness had died, which was almost to apt to be true, but there it is. Goodbye Mac, it’s Chinatown.
No better place really to see Super Tuesday go to the wire. The roller-coaster of hope and despair, the sine wave of ambition … this peculiar process generates a febrile pulse of ambivalence. Go to a rally and you could feel like we are building Jerusalem, then read the Democrats health care proposals and see they are both well to the right of anything even Nick Minchin would think he could get away with, and you’re back on Sunset Boulevard again. On the one hand, there is such a sense of change, of possibility, of empowerment – yet on the other hand, what really got people excited was the accumulating tally of celebrity endorsements on both sides.
The Kennedys was what really did it – Senator Ted leading the pack. Well, at least he’s been an actual powerbroker, but it was Caroline, daughter of JFK, coming out for Bama that really did it. It was a second hand sort of endorsement – “Barack inspires the sought of hope that people say my father did” – but the touch of the hem did the trick. Even better was getting Kennedy’s niece, Maria Shriver – wife of Republican Arnie Schwarzenegger – to endorse Obama. Sitcom fun in the Sacramento statehouse tonight I’ll bet. And on it goes. Hillary gets Sally Field, Obama gets Oprah, and John McCain gets … Wilfred Brimley, the tubby guy in The China Syndrome, a man they stand next to Ned Beatty to make him look svelte.
The process is mad, a surrendering of democratic power to exactly the sort of pseudo-aristocracy the founding fathers worried about. The NY Times listed all endorsements soberly alternating between Senate leaders and Scarlett Johannsen without comment.
But everyone’s throwing the kitchen sink at everything. As I write, Clinton and Obama are neck and neck, McCain is killing Romney by 15 points. And Hillary is going to have a nationwide town hall meeting tonight to be broadcast on the Hallmark channel. Yeah, we ain’t in Kansas anymore. It’s LA. Forget it Mac, it’s Chinatown.