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October 21, 2012

The “Two Americas” Shuttle: Endeavour’s Voyage Through South L.A.

There has been almost universal agog over scenes of decommissioned Space Shuttles in and over cities near you. I had a different reaction, though, to the LA Times slideshow of the Endeavor being hauled through South L.A., home to some of  the city’s poorer neighborhoods. In general, streets that would hardly ever show up in the media served like curiosities, especially as the Shuttle passed by L.A.’s kitsch landmarks like Randy’s Donuts.

If you consider the larger picture though, what you can also see is the parade we never had for returning veterans, service members confined to limbo for a war that made no sense. The woman saluting and crying above is veteran Sharon Landers, the t-shirt behind her speaking of monuments and shrines.

I also see a brilliant visual example (click for full sizes) of the stranglehold fast food companies hold over urban neighborhoods:

I see Americans eager for something to cheer about, especially in this election year.

I see deep irony in this paragraph that accompanies the spectacular-of-a-slideshow. Before the feature was updated, this was the only copy accompanying the images:

The 12-mile route, which includes major thoroughfares such as Manchester, Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, looks radically different than it did months ago. Power lines have been lifted and trees have been removed. Nearly 2,700 steel plates were placed on streets to better distribute Endeavour’s weight and protect the century-old infrastructure underneath.

Yes, amazing how money can get freed up for civic investment and infrastructure … for one trip to the museum.

What I mostly see, though, are two Americas:

(photo 1:Wally Skalij/LA Times caption: Veteran Sharon Landers cries as the shuttle Endeavour moves along Crenshaw Blvd. photo 2: Don Kelson/LA Times caption: The space shuttle Endeavour travels north on Crenshaw approaching Florence Avenue en route to the California Science Center. photo 3: Brian van der Brug/LA Times. caption: Esteban Zaiyas, 7, right, waves a flag along route of space shuttle Endeavour as it moves along Crenshaw Blvd. photo 4: Wally Skalij/LA Times caption: People in cherry pickers take photos of the space shuttle Endeavour as it moves along Crenshaw Drive in Inglewood. photo 5: Luis Sinco/LA Times caption: The space shuttle Endeavour is illuminated under a night sky as it moves slowly through the Crenshaw district on its way to the California Science Center on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. photo 6: Wally Skalij/LA Times caption: Traymond Harris, left, and Ryan Hudge play basketball as the space shuttle Endeavour passes by on Crenshaw Avenue in Inglewood. photo 7: Rick Loomis/LA Times. caption: People watch as the Endeavour Space Shuttle makes its way toward the California Science Center. linked image: Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters via Atlantic.)

  • Scarabus

    Wow! I love that shot of the two kids playing basketball. (Please don’t tell me it was staged!)

    Personal Aside: Everyone has had the experience of seeing something wonderful and wishing she or he had a camera. Well, I saw such a wonderful thing, and I did have a camera … sort of.

    My wife and I were sitting on the balcony outside our hotel room in Ormond Beach (just north of Daytona). Totally clear blue sky. Suddenly, about a quarter-mile out to sea, appeared one of the shuttles, riding atop its 737 like Romney’s dog atop the family car. I grabbed my camera, braced it on the balcony, and discovered that the lens was totally fogged: I’d brought it from the air-conditioned room out into the heat and 98-99% humidity. Wouldn’t be usable until it warmed up.

    • Michael Shaw

      Still (though I’m sorry about the camera), you have the picture in your mind.

    • Scarabus

      I couldn’t get that photo of the kids out of my mind, and ended up writing a blog post about it:

  • Glennis Waterman

    Yes, amazing how money can get freed up for civic investment and infrastructure … for one trip to the museum.

    You should know that the cost of the Shuttle’s trip to the museum was totally paid for with private, not public, funds.

    Still, it was a wonderful occasion. And though those neighborhoods are poor, they are not as grim as you might think, and the tone of some of the coverage about this strikes me as very condescending. I have several friends who live there and were thrilled to see it travel through. Hundreds of school kids will be inspired by it, perhaps for future careers in science.

    The top photo of Ms. Landers is beautiful.

    • bystander

      You should know that the cost of the Shuttle’s trip to the museum was totally paid for with private, not public, funds.

      Given the 40 years direction of all wealth in the economy, your observation suggests that we should imagine a future in which all “public” infrastructure improvements are at the mercy of some philanthropist’s tastes and preferences.

  • Catherine McCallum

    We saw the shuttle circle the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where my husband and daughter both work. It was an intensely moving sight. I wanted to shout to the world: We built this TOGETHER!

  • Pingback: The Endeavour ceases its endeavors « Scarabus

  • Lynne Monds

    Would all those trees have been torn up if the Shuttle wanted to take a trip through Beverly Hills?

    • Glennis Waterman

      You could probably run it up Santa Monica Boulevard without having to prune a single twig.

  • Scarabus

    So true, Michael! Being depressive, I tend to perceive memories more and more negatively in hindsight. But in this instance, since we were there for radiation therapy that left my wife cancer-free, the memory is better than any mere photo could capture. I’ll write about it instead, trusting to my own and my readers’ (if any!) imagination. Thanks for the boost. What you do on this site is important to me — and, obviously, to many others as well.

  • JPD in MT

    Move to Cuba. Oh, wait, Castro’s old and the capitalist’s have “invaded” there too.

  • Glennis Waterman

    No, I’m just saying in this particular case, the assumptions that were made are incorrect.

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