Nobody's Property Episode 02: Chaparral

When I was two years old, my parents and I lived for a while in a cottage up Laurel Canyon. There is a picture of me from this time: I'm wearing toddler-sized cowgirl buckskins, my red hair is in high pigtails poking out each side of my head, I'm smiling, and I'm holding a toothbrush. Remember, this was less than two years after the Manson Family came down from the Ranch and murdered Sharon Tate and her guests up on Cielo Drive. The crazed women tasted blood and used it to scrawl PIG on the door. They crashed more than a party; they crashed a culture. And across the continent and the ocean, people were looking for my Aunt Jenny.

Music by Kristin Hersh: or

Larry Harnisch mentions Pershing Square in a blog post.


  1. Listened to Episode 02 Friday night and have been debating ever since about alerting you to this. There is a correction. It's important but does not alter the gist.

    In the Summer of 1969, Phil and I did while away some afternoons at the Inverted Fountain at UCLA (not at Pershing Square) but only after a hard day of job hunting (not exactly accurate...maybe one or two tests requiring us to remember our Social Security numbers). We could easily have wound up at the fountain 6 or 7 times over the course of that endeavor, but maybe only 2 or 3. The fountain was new and situated in a less-well-traveled area of campus in front of the new psychology building. You (in a stroller) and I and your mother would rendezvous there from time to time while she was finishing up her degree.

    It was quite extraordinary to traipse across the cobbles and let yourself down into the center ring and disappear behind the falls. The only comparable experience that I am aware of is to make one's way behind Havasu Falls in a side canyon of the Grand Canyon and then dive into the falls from behind, letting the force of the water take you away...something I did with Jim K on successive hiking trips in 1965 and '66. (Your mother will remember him, as we all do, as the wacky fellow with strange habits in elevators. He went on to a career flying large airplanes filled with people.)
    It is completely reasonable to assume that I was trying to recapture that Havasu experience with all of its ...what?...physical daring (you know I've always shied away from that) or maybe just the thrill of being behind a wall of falling water. There is certainly magic in that.

    There was also magic in finding something like that smack in the heart of L.A., at least in those days, not to mention the charge that comes from defying the rules. Everyone else there tittered nervously...a few joined us, but I may be making that part up. In the end, by the time of our last visit, the powers-that-be had installed grates protecting us from ourselves and walling off the magic.

    The fountain remains at the top of my short list of "Designs That Make Me Jealous".

    Otherwise, your characterization is accurate.
    A little history:
    The design is attributed, alternately, to two landscape architects; Jere Hazlett, who was on staff at the UCLA Office of Architects and Engineers at the time, and Howard Troller, principal at Cornell Bridgers and Troller (CBT). Hazlett is credited throughout the UCLA online archives, Troller in the History found at:

    My guess is both contributed; Hazlett as “architect of record” and Troller as “consultant”.
    More important, there is a nugget buried in the History Project article re: the source of materials that gives a Möbius twist to this part of your story. The article also proves that Phil and I were not the first to take the plunge.

  2. Thanks, Dad. I think this either proves or disproves a ramble I've recorded in episode 03 that asserts "memoir is not history."

    The page from the history project is fascinating. So the rocks came from Claremont! The fountain does look strangely like a geyser pool at Yellowstone--the fact that Troller remembered these pools from his youth and wanted to recreate them perhaps suggesting that architecture, too, is memoir.

  3. Indeed, despite the fact that many architects attempt to convince clients that their designs are made from whole cloth. Sadly, they are often right.

    See Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words at for “whole cloth”.

    My personal take is that the best architecture derives from processed memories, the older the better, and rarely from what happened yesterday. This has some bearing on the work at hand. I’m just sure of it.

  4. Well, and maybe there's an explanation in there for how my errant memory of "Pershing Fountain" became "Pershing Square Fountain" and moved you Downtown from Westwood. Anyway, it gives me hope that my vision of this blog as a kind of digital exquisite corpse--a phrase which has its own unsettling resonance with the subject matter--may be realized.


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