David L. Ulin's essay finds William Mulholland doubly generous—he gave LA both water and a motto to live by. Ulin begins with the Los Angeles Aqueduct's inauguration photographs taken in November 1913. Here is where Mulholland said the five words that Ulin proposes as LA's manifesto. As Ulin reports, within the last one hundred years many (in)famous Angelenos, like oil baron Edward Doheny, studio head Louis B. Mayer, and gambling kingpin Charlie Crawford, followed Mulholland's prescription. For popular writers Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain, "There it is. Take it" describes their license to fictionalize scandal. But obeying Mulholland's imperative, as Ulin reveals, was not without negative consequences. Mulholland, especially, with the 1928 collapse of the St. Francis Dam, for which he held himself responsible, found out the hard way the cost of trusting his authority. In the end, "There it is. Take it," Mulholland's directive for the future, is a lesson from the past that haunts us today.
There it is. Take it.: Mulholland gave L A water and a motto to live by.
David L. Ulin is the author, most recently, of the novella Labyrinth. His other books include The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which received a 2002 California Book Award. He is a book critic for the Los Angeles Times.
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David L. Ulin; There it is. Take it.: Mulholland gave L A water and a motto to live by.. Boom 1 September 2013; 3 (3): 28–37. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/boom.2013.3.3.28
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