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The Left Coast

The Left Coast: California on the Edge

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 126
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  • Book Info
    The Left Coast
    Book Description:

    Philip L. Fradkin, one of California's most acclaimed environmental historians, felt drawn to the coast as soon as he arrived in California in 1960. His first book,California: The Golden Coast, captured the wonder of the shoreline's natural beauty along with the controversies it engendered. InThe Left Coast, the author and his photographer son Alex Fradkin revisit some of the same places they explored together in the early 1970s. From their written and visual approaches, this father-son team brings a unique generational perspective to the subject. Mixing history, geography, interviews, personal experiences, and photographs, they find a wealth of stories and memorable sights in the multiplicity of landscapes, defined by them as the Wild, Agricultural, Residential, Tourist, Recreational, Industrial, Military, and Political coasts. Alex Fradkin's expressive photographs add a layer of meaning, enriching the subject with their distinctive eloquence while bringing a visual dimension to his father's words. In this way, the book becomes the story of a close relationship within a probing study of a varied and contested coastline.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94877-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-x)

    Until I began working on this book, I didn’t realize to what extent I was an aqueous person. True, I’m a Pisces, but byaqueousI mean I’m intensely drawn to salt water. Freshwater just won’t do it. It’s too thin. It knifes through my nostrils like cold air, leaving a momentary sting. Salt water is thick and pungent with the smells of distant continents and a blended decay that bespeaks an abundance of lifeforms. There have been just a few years—I view them as involuntary exile—when I haven’t lived, worked, or played near salt water, whether on...

    (pp. 1-7)

    I began my salt-water-oriented life in the pre–World War II years on the south shore of Long Island, where my family had a summer house. The half-day automobile journey began on a hillside in Montclair, New Jersey; progressed through or around the tip of Manhattan; and finally ended on the flat terminal moraine of Long Island in the small farm community and summer colony of East Quogue, which straddled Montauk Highway seventy-five miles east of New York City. East Quogue was an ordinary place set among the various Hamptons. My family owned ten acres, nine of them rented to...

    (pp. 8-16)

    There is no seven-foot barrier, no armed patrols backed by the technical wizardry of modern warfare directed against guerilla movements, no dense toxic sludge that breeds diseases at the northernmost coastal portal into the state of California. Those physical impediments are at the very southern end of the narrow coastal strip. The differences between Oregon and California are far more subtle and less dramatic than those between California and Mexico. Take, for example, the two units of the state park systems of Oregon and California that straddle the border within a quarter mile of each other.

    The short road into...

    (pp. 17-27)

    It is a summer Saturday morning in Point Reyes Station, just north of San Francisco and at the head of Tomales Bay. Time for the weekly farmer’s market—part marketplace, part social event, and part lesson in agricultural virtue and fervor. The spoken and written wordsartisan, heirloom, organic, grass-fed, sustainable, natural, healthy, farm fresh,andlocalare the lingua franca. In this small coastal town of fewer than one thousand inhabitants that serves as the commercial hub for a wider area in western Marin County, the word locavore, meaning someone who buys or eats food grown locally, was coined...

    (pp. 28-35)

    When the waves build in intensity, when the storm that has traversed the wide Pacific Ocean finally arrives, when torrential rains descend,

    and when the land starts slipping and sliding at speeds of up to forty miles per hour, then solid chunks of earth, trees, rocks and boulders, asphalt and concrete, fences, parts of homes and their furnishings, and sometimes human bodies tumble down steep slopes, through canyons, over cliffs, and into the ocean, where the currents, waves, and tides disperse the frothy, light-brown stew. When the waves decrease and all seems safe and serene again, people begin to build—...

    (pp. 36-45)

    Today I heard on the radio an interview with a commercial fisherman at Fort Bragg who said that 80 percent of his yearly income had been dependent on the salmon catch; but now, with the sudden collapse of that fishery, he will have to take people out whale watching in order to recover some of his lost income. A restaurant owner on the North Coast—whose customers insist on fresh, local salmon—said in the same interview that, given the loss of salmon and the earlier decline of the lumber industry, the region had become wholly dependent on tourists.


    (pp. 46-58)

    “Let’s go to the beach!” Millions of people heed that happy call each year and go to Los Angeles County beaches. Recreation is the most

    common connection California residents have with the coastline. Nowhere else along the shoreline is the recreational experience more massive,

    intense, or varied, or dramatized more extensively, than at the adjoining beach communities of Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey.

    A population exceeding ten million, a year-round temperate climate, warm water, long stretches of sandy beaches, and proximity to the television and movie industries have made Los Angeles beaches among the most heavily used and...

    (pp. 59-71)

    I have been camped for three days at Jalama Beach County Park, halfway between Point Conception and Point Arguello. The fall weather has been beyond perfect, once again giving the lie to the reputation of Point Conception as the Cape Horn of the Pacific. I watched surfers thread their way between deadly rocks at the appropriately named Tarantulas, got the soles of my walking shoes clogged with tar from natural oil seeps, and watched the southerly arc of the launch of a rocket from nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying an Italian satellite into space. Forty-four years earlier on another...

    (pp. 72-84)

    Without a harbor, San Diego would be just a very pleasant beach city near the Mexican border. “America’s Finest City,” as San Diego calls it self, can thank the accidents of geology and geography and its own perspicacity for its booming growth. The Rose Canyon Fault that progressively tore open the desert landscape of San Diego over tens of thousands of years in a north-south direction was the geological

    accident. The geographical accident was the proximity of the Pacific Ocean, whose waters flooded the fault zone and formed San Diego Bay. With the creation of the Silver Strand from the...

    (pp. 85-91)

    The California coast has been shaped not only by natural forces and the works of humans but also by laws, primarily the initiative measure known as Proposition 20 passed by voters in 1972, and its follow-on, the California Coastal Act of 1976, enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor. The act, somewhat amended, remains the toughest, most comprehensive land use law in the country, with jurisdiction

    over its most varied, extensive, and valuable piece of real estate. The law and its implementation by the California Coastal Commission sets the planning standards and regulatory practices for the coast. For...

    (pp. 92-95)

    Until I began photographing the California coast for this project, I hadn’t thought it would be so difficult to define. It was simply “home,” the place where some of my earliest and most evocative memories were formed, and where I was from. Some part of the coast was always my destination when I wanted to play, relax, discover, and escape. It was a specific and constant geography, always accessible, always yielding

    its intense beauty and revealing its diverse, unpredictable temperament.

    Like my dad, I have always lived near the water. I was born in Los Angeles, and after my parents...

    (pp. 97-99)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 100-104)
    (pp. 105-107)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 108-115)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 116-116)
  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)