Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jason, at Binkley Elementary School, Santa Rosa, CA, circa 1981



It was during the early 1980s when developmentally disabled kids were being mainstreamed into the public schools. Not because it seemed like a cool idea, but because we had a governor who decommissioned the state funded mental hospitals, and there were all these kids who were formerly institutionalized, suddenly foisted into the classroom.

Marilyn Stocks was a brilliant 5th grade teacher who was able to successfully integrate Jason, who had Downs Syndrome, into the classroom. He was a big lumbering hulk in an 8th grader's body, and I thought my God, how will I ever teach poetry to him? She said give him a job, he was the class pencil and paper monitor, and he also collected the poetry journals at the end of class. He was the best classroom helper ever. He never forgot, never missed a beat. She said, now take it a step further, have him write poetry too. And so I did.

So I tailored CPITS lessons so that he too could write, and write he did. (We took dictation too.) She said treat him just like another student. The magic began to happen was when he had a poem typed up. The class cheered him on. I try to type up eight to ten kid poems per workshop and then we revise them in class. So by the time I've seen the students five times, the entire class has had a poem typed up, 1.5 times. At the end, we made an anthology of student and Jason proudly read his poem. The class went wild.

Ten years later, I was giving a poetry reading in Santa Rosa, and this man got up to read at open mike, he was celebrating a new chapbook, with a handmade red cover. It was Jason, still writing his poetry a decade later.

Friday, August 19, 2016

NAMESLAKE


We floated like mermaids in the hot springs 
and talked about the process of writing. 
Funny, how names arise. She said, Billy Collins. 
How his voice inhabited hers.
Don't we all take on the mantle 
every time we write?

Susan is shuddering because we are writing 
in the chapel. She perceives all the crosses 
as something evil and sinister, 
whereas I see how the Carmelite nuns 
revered this place as much as they did their religion.
But failing, they saw the light opened their doors, 
those wimpled recluses who sought the light of God.

I am drawn to the past where my namesake, 
María Concepción de Arguello retreated 
to a beach in Carmel, to commune with God, 
rather than marry. Her first love, Count Rezanov, 
who died of a fall from his horse,  
he never came back 
and she waited ten years for his return.

Did she find him in the ashes of the past? 
And the cloistered rooms, where other nuns 
came to join her, first in Carmel, then in Benecia.
Why am I telling you this story of Conchita?
Because of the one who got away?
Because sometimes the only honorable way 
is to retreat from the world.











What do you do, when the one you love 
holds words to his breasts, suckles them, 
strokes them, until they become hardened—
as if that were a way out.

My mother tried that more than once.
The dynamics of certain words:
faith, love, suicide, evoke visceral reactions.
Why can't he see that? 
Just the other day he said he was ready 
for his exit strategy, then he stayed out late. 
No phone call, no way to reach him,
the bridge with its red thighs and amber necklaces, 


Ellen Bass workshop
8/19/2016






How we floated in the hot springs 
and talked about the process of writing. 
Funny, how names arise. Billy Collins. 
I have been reading for school 
and she said his voice inhabited hers.
Don't we all take on the mantle 
every time we write ?

Susan is shuddering because we are writing 
in the chapel. She can only perceive her horror 
of crosses as something evil and sinister, 
whereas I see how the Carmelite nuns 
revered this place is much as they did their religion.
But failing, they saw the light opens their doors, 
those wimpled recluses who sought he light of God.

I am drawn to the past where my namesake, 
María Concepción de Arguello retreated 
to a beach in Carmel, to commune with God, 
rather than marry. Her first love, Count Rezanov
who died from a fall from his horse, 
never came back and she waited ten years for his return.

Did she find him in the ashes of the past? 
And the cloistered rooms, where other nuns 
came to join her, first in Carmel, then in Benecia.
Why am I telling you this story of Conchita?
Because of the one who got away?
Because sometimes the only honorable way 
is to retreat from the world.

What do you do, when the one you love 
holds words to his breasts, suckles them, 
strokes them, until they become hardened—
as if that were a way out.

My mother tried that more than once.
The dynamics of certain words:
faith, love, suicide, evoke visceral reactions.
Why can't he see that? 
Just the other day he said he was ready 
for his exit strategy, then he stayed out late. 
No phone call, no way to reach him,
the bridge with its red thighs and amber necklaces, 
shrouded in fog the buoys moaning.
While he lifted another pint to his lips, 
at that no-name bar, my mother's old haunt. 
Waiting for open mic. Business as usual. 
The show must go on.

What is my role in all this?
My complicity in it? 
Did I seek out my mother?
After all the things which I most dread, 
I have become, has become me.

Ellen Bass workshop
8/19/2016

POET'S VEST



When I wear the poet's vest,
people stop and stare.
When I walk down the street, 
they follow me. As if mellifluous words 
were trapped in the hemline.
My poet's vest has bolstered me 
through many poetry readings where 
I doubted my words, but they became whole 
and imbued with context. 
My poet's vest made from war-torn Highland
huipils of women no longer alive.
Their voices speak to me 
when I wear the poet's vest. 

Indigo flowers teach the fabric 
of the midnight skies, 
where an Aurora flits and dances 
like a raucous parrots and star clusters 
contemplate the sky's jewels.

My poet's vest, older than all my relationships, 
I bought on sale, it cost a month rent. 
My friends urging me on, saying: it's so you.
It was a great thing to do, I am so frugal, 
especially when it comes to the self, 
I counted out my money, 
friends chipping in $10 here, $5 there. 
Leap of faith that all would work out in the end.

See, I had just given a reading in the gallery 
where the walls were cloud banks. 
All that investment of summer sky 
and night secrets. Susan says 
nichtallaludi, a Greek word 
of hidden muses wanting to dance 
on the tongue of night.
To paint flowers on the tongue
iI was not a feathered cloak,
but it was my passage to another world.

8/19/2016
Ellen Bass Workshop

THE SUNLIGHT, TINGED ORANGE

  first draft

The sunlight, tinged orange
smoke roiling through the bowl of valley
blue shadows, curl of spine
An engine whines in a pocket canyon
a one-note song for lost kin
Harbinger of the fall with chainsaw choruses
But the trees are dying, they are dying
It's not about the smoke,
or the fires raging to the four directions
Black Death, the trees weeping,
their sap collects in amber lakes
Is this what happened when
Precambrian amber was new?
Did the trees die off then too?
Did they weep lachrymosal tears,
where insects clamored
and became stuck in time?
Our tears, the ones unshed, fossilized inside the heart
like occluded smoke, frozen in time
The hum of an air conditioner keeps the smoke at bay
But the trees visit us,
they coat our cars with their secret heartwood
like ladies at their toilette, escaped from the war years,
dusting themselves with lilac-scented talcum
But the powder is gritty, as if from a volcanic eruption
I write my name in the dust on the back window of my car
And taste its acrid ash, the carbon sum of trees
Unshed tears and grief, how do we manifest in in this century,
stuck and frozen in time? The parched earth summons.
At summer's end, naked ladies at the pond
all face east towards the sun. Belladonna,
beauty by any other name Amaryllis,
the scent of funerary offerings.
The sound of a bird singing in the classroom.
Eva cups the phone to the shell of her ear
and talks in low earthtones
only the mountains will understand.

Ellen Bass workshop
8/19/2016

WHAT WE'VE FORGOTTEN

       first draft

She says to write about the things I've forgotten
But if I've forgotten them
how can I possibly remember what was forgotten?
She says the poet wrote an entire booklength poem
on what he remembered, and when he reached the end,
he committed suicide.. He had remembered enough for a lifetime.
And in this way I realized that the things we've forgotten
have committed an involuntary suicide of memory
The synapse, gone I imagine the ganglion as large rubber bands
like sergeants standing to attention yelling hoorah
What we remember, what once was forgotten,
gathering proverbial dust on the shelf of memory.
snapping to attention like the nuns with their match boxes,
as we lined up for confirmation, all in rows,
with our blue capes, the color of the sky.

8/19/2016
Ellen Bass Workshop

Ellen Bass poetry workshop, Presentation Center, Los Gatos


Ellen Bass poetry workshop notes:

What's at the heart of poetry is something we don't know. When we write the poem. if it is a successful poem and we learned something of ourselves that we didn't know before, and the reader is also not the same person after they've heard the poem, then it's successful.
There's not a lot of monetary rewards in poetry, but that I get to teach it gives me a way to grapple with it. She gives us handouts of poems of Joe malar Mark Jody and Sharon Olds.

Ellen continues: We have to enter into the poem it's a state of not knowing.
Ann Sexton said to put your ear to the ground, the pattern is an instrument of discovery. A poem is a flashlight, or a Geiger counter, not a recording device says Billy Collins. And Robert Frost said, No surprise for the riter, no surprise for the reader. Vivian Garnet said to look to the saturation of the story, i.e., the context of the emotional experience.

Ellen elaborated: Truth in memory is not a recording or recital of actual events. What matters is what happens to the writer, and to the reader. The writer is on a voyage of discovery, moving from unerring certainty to thoughtful reconstructed emotion, to self-knowledge. This clarification process leads to empathy, compassion. Poets using your life as a stand-in for all people.

An absence of sympathy shuts down the mind, versus empathy which provides movement. The loneliness of the monster, the innocence of the self.

Quality of discovery. In Joe Millar's poem, there's a foreshadowing of the discovery. I can hear you all now saying: "Oh, I forgot to foreshadow." Everything you do, you can connect to the outside world. Note the use of artless lines; for example, "I should be happier. " The physical description conveys emotion. Note the use of realistic dialogue. In real life, people don't answer each other's questions. "Have you ever done it with someone you don't love? Eat slowly, I say."

Write about what is said, and unsaid, versus the Hallmark card. You learn more by focusing on what you can steal from other writers, versus what you don't like. What we want most is to become stronger poets. Ask the poem; What can I learn from you?

Gregory Orr shot his brother in a hunting accident. Which brings us back to poetry. It saves lives. The emotional and the chaotic. Poetry makes order from the chaos of life. The use of our ordinary language. Let's look at Sharon Old's work. Sharon says also try to be accurate. The breast, beautiful but accurate.

In Stephen Dobbins' poem, the end is surprising and inevitable.

Susan Wooldridge mentions that imagery conveys emotions in its specificity. Mark Doty and Stanley Kunitz say avoid clichés.

Some instructions for your writing. Stay open to the new direction, to the leaps of association. Allow yourself to make associations you don't understand.

Dina Metzger: just say yes. Be willing to disturb the story you know. How to lose your story completely, find the story you most love to tell. What was your role? Look for another angle—especially if you were a victim. It's not about what happened to you. You are a stand-in for the human condition. Write to save your life. Use this as an opportunity to look for the real subject.

Richard Hugo said to write of the triggering subject.
Be brave, be willing to not know. Write about what you don't know. Put pressure on the assumptions of the poem. Move the frame off dead center.
Practice asking questions: use investigative questions versus writing in the expository mode or the declarative mode.

Embrace frustration. When you hear the inner censor, say stop, then write about it. Look at it and then let it happen. Don't hold the reins so tight.


We do a 10 minute freewrite, then she asks us to go back in and underline all the verbs.

THE SUNLIGHT, TINGED ORANGE
  first draft

The sunlight, tinged orange

Smoke roiling through the bowl of valley
Blue shadows, curl of spine
The way an engine whine in a pocket canyon
lonesome for lost kin
disruption of chainsaws.
But the trees are dying, they are dying,

It's not about the smoke, or the fires

Black Death, the trees weep,
their sap collects in amber lakes.
Is this what happened when
amber was new?
Did the trees die off then too?
Did they weep lachrymosal tears,
where insects clamored
And became frozen in time?

Our tears, the ones unshed, fossilized inside the heart

occluded smoke, frozen in time
The hum of an air conditioner keeps the smoke at bay
But the trees visit us, they coat our cars with ash
As if ladies escaped from the 1940s
dusted themselves with lilac-scented talcum powder
Only the powder is gritty, as if from a volcanic eruption

I write my name in the dust on the back window

taste its acrid ash, the carbon sum of trees
Unshed tears and grief, parched earth summons revenge
Dare I flush? Naked ladies all face east towards the pond. 
Belladonna, beautiful woman, Amaryllis  by any other name,

Eva cups the phone to the shell of her ear

And talks in low earthtones
only the mountains will understand.

Ellen Bass workshop

8/19/2016



How we floated in the hot springs 
and talked about the process of writing. 
Funny, how names arise. Billy Collins. 
I have been reading for school 
and she saidhis voice inhabited hers.
Don't we all take on the mantle 
every timewe write ?

Susan is shuddering because we are writing 
in the chapel. She can onlyperceive her horror 
of crosses as something evil and sinister, 
whereas I see how the Carmelite nuns 
revered this place is much as they did their religion.
But failing, they saw the light opens their doors, 
those wimpled recluses who sought he light of God.

I am drawn to the past where my namesake, 
María Concepción de Arguello retreated 
to a beach in Carmel, to commune with God, 
rather than marry. Her first love, Count Rezanov
who died from a fall from his horse, 
never came back and she waited ten years for his return.

Did she find him in the ashes of the past? 
And the cloistered rooms, where other nuns 
came to join her, first in Carmel, then in Benecia.
Why am I telling you this story of Conchita?
Because of the one who got away?
Because sometimes the only honorable way 
is to retreat from the world.

What do you do, when the one you love 
holds words to his breasts, suckles them, 
strokes them, until they become hardened—
as if that were a way out.

My mother tried that more than once.
The dynamics of certain words:
faith, love, suicide, evoke visceral reactions.
Why can't he see that? 
Just the other day he said he was ready 
for his exit strategy, then he stayed out late. 
No phone call, no way to reach him,
the bridge with its red thighs and amber necklaces, 
shrouded in fog the buoys moaning.
While he lifted another pint to his lips, 
at that no-name bar, my mother's old haunt. 
Waiting for open mic. Business as usual. 
The show must go on.

What is my role in all this?
My complicity in it? 
Did I seek out my mother?
After all the things which I most dread, 
I have become, has become me.

Ellen Bass workshop
8/19/2016


Ellen says look for the places where the poem fat or thin, then add metaphor.
Lose the excess, cut what is not needed, lose three syllables in each line. Make line breaks, and look at each line.  Underline all the verbs look for 3 to 5 substitutes. Replace verbs.

Either make the poem more accurate, or contradict yourself. Rearrange the order of things. Share in a group of three maybe confidential. Say, I noticed rather then add information or judgments.

Holly O'Meara chose to write from images; she went first; then Linda went. There wasn't any time for me. Typical. 

Ellen says: Talk about using words you don't know, and find exactly right word.
She reads a poem with Scottish tartle in it. 
In August heat. Boiled apricots.

What is the word that conveys freshness?
The small country of our bed with two native speakers 
She reads the first draft, untranslatable words from the German, versus the Brazilian,  introducing someone who's name you've forgotten.

"Everything is in service  to the poem."

The whittling down begins. Do you need more lemon blossoms in the poem? Do some serious pruning and try reversing the images.

"The first draft is a garden in need of weeding." MH

It comes down to how much to tell the reader who inhabits the same world and its probably smarter than you, so don't overexplain. I don't take the conservationist approach to writing. I don't put them in the scrapbook and save them. If it's important will come back. Not to go back and salvage something.

If one in 20 makes it, great, the rest go to the poetry cemetery. The longer I can stay in the moment it's clear, then I am in the process.

When I was younger, I wrote every day. I don't now. Don't beat yourself up. Do as much as you love to do, as much as possible, do what you love.

Workshopping: no one will be right about your work. I take that into consideration.



Assignment # 2

Describe an item of clothing. Many associations. write about someone you knew and loved from the past, and write about it.



       first draft

When I wear the poet's vest,
people stop and stare.
When I walk down the street, 
they follow me. As if mellifluous words 
were trapped in the hemline.
My poet's vest has bolstered me 
through many poetry readings where 
I doubted my words, but they became whole 
and imbued with context. 
My poet's vest made from war-torn Highland
huipils of women no longer alive.
Their voices speak to me 
when I wear the poet's vest. 

Indigo flowers teach the fabric 
of the midnight skies, 
where an Aurora flits and dances 
like a raucous parrots and star clusters 
contemplate the sky's jewels.

My poet's vest, older than all my relationships, 
I bought on sale, it cost a month rent. 
My friends urging me on, saying: it's so you.
It was a great thing to do, I am so frugal, 
especially when it comes to the self, 
I counted out my money, 
friends chipping in $10 here, $5 there. 
Leap of faith that all would work out in the end.

See, I had just given a reading in the gallery 
where the walls were cloud banks. 
All that investment of summer sky 
and night secrets. Susan says 
nichtallaludi, a Greek word 
of hidden muses wanting to dance 
on the tongue of night.
To paint flowers on the tongue
iI was not a feathered cloak,
but it was my passage to another world.

8/19/2016
Ellen Bass Workshop




In this poem you want to close the aperture or stop the lens even more. Narrow your depth of field. "Narrow your aperture through which the words come out." (Sharon Olds) The balance of the self-conscious, and the unbalance of self-conscious. Work harder if you're a facile writer, put more effort into it.



Assignment # 3

       first draft

She says to write about the things I've forgotten
But if I've forgotten them
how can I possibly remember what was forgotten?
She says the poet wrote an entire booklength poem
on what he remembered, and when he reached the end,
he committed suicide.. He had remembered enough for a lifetime.
And in this way I realized that the things we've forgotten
have committed an involuntary suicide of memory
The synapse, gone I imagine the ganglion as large rubber bands
like sergeants standing to attention yelling hoorah
What we remember, what once was forgotten,
gathering proverbial dust on the shelf of memory.
snapping to attention like the nuns with their match boxes,
as we lined up for confirmation, all in rows,
with our blue capes, the color of the sky.

8/19/2016
Ellen Bass Workshop

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pat D'Arcy Memorial

Still in recovery mode from yesterday's memorial and grand sendoff. We sent Cousin Pat off in style, we did. Neil sang Morning has Broken. Jerry D'Arcy, who lost his twin, gave an eulogy that had us rolling in the aisle with laughter, and then he sang a rendition of Danny Boy that knocked us right outta the ballpark. John McCormack move over. Jerry has some pipes. I get goosebumps thinking of it.

A kilted SFPD bagpiper led us out of the church, and onto the party at the Irish Cultural Center where we ate and drank and told stories. The stories. One favorite: Jerry and Pat moved to Treat Street in Hunter's Point. To say it was a rough hood, is practically gentrification. Anyway, there were some incidents. Then, one morning Jerry heard Pat fire up the chainsaw. Only thing was, there were no trees on Treat St. There was Pat outside cutting up a huge pile of cardboard boxes with a chainsaw. To his way of thinking, it was the most expedient method. There were no more incidents after that. Crazed Irishman with chainsaw drew some serious street cred. 

It must've been quite successful, as the din was so loud we could hardly hear ourselves talk. The PA system didn't work in the church or in the hall. we sang anyway. Lots more men than women, unusual turnout. 

Lovely touch: photos of Pat on every table. 

Afterparty number one was in the pub downstairs, and afterparty number two was in the hotel rooms at Seal Rock Inn. We took armloads of funeral flowers home, rather than let them go to waste (apparently mortuaries don't recycle flowers...they imprison them in a backlot until they rot.) Pat, an arborist, kept Golden Gate Park's trees in fine fettle. Even the trees will miss him.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Droughtful Musings on the LA Basin: Desert, or No?


There's a raging conversation going on at the Facebook California Native Plant Society page: a furor over a LA Times article Will replacing thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant plants make L.A. hotter?

People are tearing up lawns at an unprecedented rate, and the speculation is that using native plants will make LA hotter, and more arid than it already is. I considered it seriously slovenly journalism. Teacup tempestuousness. Not enough news, today?
  
The solution seems simple: plant more street trees.
Plant native oaks and sycamores. Focus on native plants instead of exotic plants and lawns.

Native plants are not the problem...it's the sheer square mileage of pavements grey that's the real problem in LA—mind-boggling square mileage of endless freeways and surface streets, shopping mall parking lot of black asphalt, and don't forget all those tarred roofs. sidewalks, bricks, patio pavers. Those stupid lava rocks and Astroturf people use to replace their lawns are not helping the problem. White reflect heat, black absorbs. There's a reason why Greek villages are painted white.

This is the crux of the article i
n a nutshell:
...what would happen to the city’s overall temperature during the month of July if every lawn were replaced with drought-tolerant plants.... a lawn-less Los Angeles would be up to 3.4 degrees warmer during the day than it is now....
But the scientists also discovered that
transforming lawns to drought-tolerant vegetation has an average nighttime cooling effect of about 5.4 degrees that more than makes up for the daytime warming....
There's concern that the
average summertime temperature be affected if all the city’s vegetation — lawns and trees — were ripped out and replaced with drought-tolerant shrubs.
What they discovered was that
the average daytime air temperatures actually dropped by 0.4 degrees. That’s because, with no trees in Los Angeles, sea breezes would blow through the region unhindered by tree trunks, counteracting the warming you’d expect from the lack of irrigation.... Plants and trees provide shade and transpire moisture to cool the air; gravel and artificial turf don't. ...when it comes to the climate in Los Angeles, nothing is ever simple. Will replacing thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant plants make L.A. hotter?

CNPS member Thomas Yeary is an advocate for repopulating the LA Basin with California native plant species endemic to the area: "Coastal and Alluvial Sage Scrub, Chaparral, Oak Woodland, Gallery Forests, Riparian Corridors, Coastal Prairies, Yellow Pine forest, Southern California Walnut woodlands, Dune scrub, Salt and Fresh water marsh all historically have naturally occurred in the Los Angeles area."

He speculated that 
up to 90% or more of this natural landscape has been modified and in most cases completely removed leaving most species of plants and animals extirpated. This and the disruption of the natural processes of material deposition by creating flood control networks, dams, hardscapes, buildings and storm channels are the real underlying issues that should be addressed here. Non-site specific native vegetation, long term will never work and that's the truth.
Another CNPS member, of the lawn persuasion, said that lawns transpirate and don't reflect the sun so on a hot day so a lawn  is cooler than bare ground.  I like walking barefoot on lawns, but lawns are, for the most part, an abomination in California, where it doesn't rain in summer. It's an east coast thing.

Andrew Glazier said: "I tore my lawn out almost a decade ago. I have more birds in my yard than my birder friends can count. I have butterflies like mad each year. native bees give me loads of fruits and vegetables.... I tear out lawns and plant natives for a living and I can't keep up with demand. I lived in L.A. for many years. I now know the mere existence of water in these great quantities has already been an environmental crime and part of a real estate windfall. L.A. was a desert before."

Thomas Yeary queried the assumption that LA was a vast desert: "When was Los Angeles a desert?" 

Another member chimed in and said that LA is a Mediterranean climate with fickle winter rainfall and no summer rainfall. About half of all years (?) are as dry as a desert but some years are very wet.
  
All this talk about the weather got me to Googling my own assumptions. The LA Basin is Mediterranean, not a desert? I thought: no way! By the time I got done Googling, I did an about face with my own assumptions. Los Angeles Is Not a Desert. Stop Calling It One.

I guess I've always defined LA as desert, because for over two centuries they've exceeded their water supplies—destroying Owens Lake, and Mono Lake in the process of stealing water from the back side of the Sierras. I worked on the Save Mono Lake campaign—with Barbara Boxer. I also live in northern California, where some years, we get so much rain, we could almost join rain forest status. Everything's relative.

The LA Basin may be Mediterranean, and if weather and rainfall are averaged out, then it is Mediterranean. But it is also facing the worst drought in 1,200 years. Maybe we need to define what the process of desertification is. The basin has never traditionally supported a large population because water was not plentiful. 

I was surprised to find there were mountain-fed wetlands in the LA Basin. Imagine marshes south of Wilshire Boulevard, and streams flowing from the Hollywood Hills. Apparently one stream still flows across Wilshire Country Club to Hancock Park. The rancho where Beverly Hills sits, was called Rodeo de las Aguas or the "gathering of the waters." And who knew that La Cienega means springs. But there were also wetlands in Las Vegas too. So what defines a place as Mediterranean?

The LA Basin, a vast alluvial plain, has a Mediterranean climate with winter rains (averaging 12-15" year—much higher in the mountains) with warm summers. Butt much of LA also has desert conditions with extremes—either a profound lack of water, or a deluge with flash floods. The LA River and most groundwater disappeared by 1903; pop. was 100,000.

Still unwilling to let go of the idea that LA isn't a desert, I looked at average rainfall, since water—or a lack of it—seems to be at the crux of the CNPS thread. I discovered that there were quite a few years of little rain—less than 10 inches. Some definitions of desert include an average rainfall of 10" or less—with an average of 7 inches; but some deserts receive 12+ inches a year—The Mojave receives more rainfall than most deserts. So, apparently there's no hard and fast rule. 


That's 27 cumulative  years of little rain (only 10 deluge years 20-30") in the past 70 years. Not quite half of all years but 3/7ths of the time LA, with its lack of rainfall qualifies as desert.

2015-2016 - (56% of normal)
2014-2015 - 8.52"
2013-2014 - 6.08"
2012-2013 - 8.69
2008-2009 - 9.08
2006-2007 - 3.21
2003-2004 - 9.25
2001-2002 - 4.42
1998-1999 - 9.09
1993-1994 - 8.11
1989-1990 - 7.35
1988-1989 - 8.08
1986-1987 - 7.66
1980-1981 - 8.96
1975-1976 - 7.21
1971-1972 - 7.17
1969-1970 - 7.74
1963-1964 - 7.93
1962-1963 - 8.38
1960-1961 - 4.85
1959-1960 - 8.18
1958-1959 - 5.58
1956-1957 - 9.54
1952-1953 - 9.46
1950-1951 - 8.21
1948-1949 - 7.99
1947-1948 - 7.22

http://www.laalmanac.com/weather/we13.htm

IN 1500, about 25 Tongva villages exist in what is now Los Angeles County. Population: 300 to 500. Population didn't increase when the padres founded San Gabriel Mission, the pueblo, etc. Even statehood didn't affect it. The pueblo of old Los Angeles, remained small until the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad 1885. By 1903, the population exploded to 100,000. They sucked the LA River dry. Enter Mulholland, with a dream of water.


Glendora resident,  Thomas Yeary wrote that: "Los Angeles receives plenty of water suited for the natural vegetation, climate and geological processes that take place here. In our San Gabriel Mountains we receive on average between 25-and 50 inches of rainfall annually with El Niño years pushing us up to an average of 70 inches. Snow will usually fall above 4,000 feet elevation between October and April, with most of it coming December through March. There are countless natural springs and water sources in the mountains. Coastal Fog creeps in nightly through the basin into the valleys. We receive summer thunder showers as well. Quite a bit of water compared to the surrounding deserts. Just not at the flick of the switch all year round like so so many :( currently demand it."

LA's water came at a great cost to Eastern Sierra lakes; most are gone, some a re mere puddles of themselves

Most people seem to agree that Southern California is an arid place, and that high water use on plants raises humidity, and creates changes to environments. Certainly taking away all the available groundwater and pumping it to LA Basin has had a huge negative impact on the entire Eastern Sierras. When the wind blows, the region is laden with toxic alkali dust.



For example, Owens Lake, once a vast inland freshwater sea, with an average depth of 250 ft., is now a dry playa with a shallow alkali puddle in the middle. To give you an idea how big it was, Highways 395. 136, and 190 skirt the former shores of Owens Lake. You can see how vast the lake was if you go up Whitney Portal Road. Watch Chinatown too, it covers the LA Water Wars.Andrew Glazier said: "L.A. residents and all folks who care need to drive the Owens valley to Mono Lake once in their lifetime to see where the water running down the gutters comes from. Please do this. You will not regret it."


Owens Lake from Whitney Portal Road. Alabama Hills to the left. 
Road leads to Lone Pine. The White Mountains in the distance.




"William Mulholland, superintendent of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) planned the 223-mile (359 km) Los Angeles Aqueduct, completed in 1913, which diverted water from the Owens River. The water rights were acquired in a deceitful manner.... Los Angeles acquired a large portion of the water rights to over 300,000 acres (121,000 ha) of land in the valley, almost completely diverting the inflows of water away from Owens Lake....  —Wiki

Alkali storm, Mono Lake. Most of the Eastern Sierra lakes were destroyed by LA Water
"In 1970, LADWP completed a second aqueduct from Owens Valley. More surface water was diverted and groundwater was pumped to feed the aqueduct. Owens Valley springs and seeps dried and disappeared, and groundwater-dependent vegetation began to die. Years of litigation followed. In 1997, Inyo County, Los Angeles, the Owens Valley Committee, the Sierra Club, and other concerned parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding that specified terms by which the lower Owens River would be re-watered by June 2003."  Wiki
 
Yeah. Didn't happen.
The
Owens River, or the LA River have not been re-watered. When it comes to water, LA is thirsty as a desert. C'mon, LA, pull up those lawns, plant some native species. It's the right thing to do.