Friday, April 20, 2012

Watts: Beauty and Tumult

Thinking back on what we have covered for the Los Angeles portion of the class, out of the readings and movie, it was Killer of Sheep that had the most impact for me.  While at first I was trying to make sense of the movie as I watched it unfold, it was upon our reflection in class that it all came together.  Though the film was rather random, it was a succinct portrayal of life.  As I thought about Stan and what his life was like, my thoughts began to move towards the city of Watts.  What more is there to Watts?   

Two major things come up when you look up Watts on the internet; the August 1965 riots and the Watts Towers.  The Watts Towers are what I find to be quite intriguing.  Built between 1921 and 1955 by Italian immigrant Sam Rodia, the Towers are a wonderful piece of folk art situated in a city that most have forsaken.  There is a documentary, "The Towers", that brought together for me many parallels between the the Watts of Sam Roida in the mid-50's and that of Stan in Killer of Sheep circa the early 70's.  

The railroad tracks are an important aspect of both temporal periods.  They are place for the children to play in Killer of Sheep while for Sam Rodia they also play an important aspect in his life.  The railroad tracks are place he wanders to find discarded pieces of glass, pottery, metal and other items.  He also uses the tracks as a tool to bend the metal for his towers.  Unlike Stan who has been beaten down by life, Sam Rodia embraces life and spends all his free time working on his creation.  Poverty is prevalent in both 1950's and 1970's Watts but there is living going on in spite of this.  It's a matter of how people deal with their lives and what they actually make of it.

Because of their location, the Watts Towers are generally not a top destination for people in the greater L.A. basin.  Part of it is based on lingering notions that Watts is not safe even though the riots occurred  almost 47 years ago.  The other aspect for people not visiting is that it is not near other area attractions.  In spite of all this, the Towers remain an important landmark reflecting the human spirit and how it prevails even under harsh economic conditions.


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