There was a moment when I was leaving L.A. last year and, in the car on the way to the airport, I knew it would be the last time I’d be in the city while Jonathan Gold was alive.
He and I had formed a friendship in the years before he died and, being one of a handful of people who knew he was sick during the short time he was, I flew out from New York twice to visit him. He thought he’d get better and didn’t want me to see him strapped down with tubes; I waited and saw his family for dinner and hoped that the next day would be different. It never was and then we ran out of days.
I had that realization when I was on the 101 going south, right where it meets the 110 cutting through downtown, where there was an epic demolition project happening — some big boxy white-ish building getting taken down by wrecking balls. I felt like that was me and that it would soon be all of us, because nobody knew but everyone would soon.
A year later, that intersection is one I pass on my commute to the office, to a job I have more or less because he willed it to be so. The site spent months as a mess, then was dug into a deeper and deeper pit. Lately they’ve been reinforcing the outer walls of the man-made crater, and I guess that means there will be a building there eventually.
I don’t know what was there before or who that building meant something to. And I doubt, though I haven’t looked into it, that something meaningful will rise in its place. But to me it’s an urban earthworks clock, a reminder that time keeps moving, with us and certainly without.
Which brings us here: the one-year mark of a city without Gold. Los Angeles memorialized, feted and celebrated his passing in a way that was as extraordinary as it was appropriate. He was the city and the city was him. I thought we could remember him here, in his newspaper, in what would have been his section, with the gift he gave to everybody whether they ate with him or not: his words.
I miss him. I bet you miss him too. But take a moment to read through and remember. The beauty of words and ideas is that they can’t be knocked down or paved over. They can be built upon though: They are there forever, for us, for whenever we need them.
“If you gaze long into an abyss,” Nietzsche wrote, “the abyss also gazes into you.”
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Slake in February 2011 Visitors to the Norton Simon Museum, the collections jimmied into the corpse of the former Pasadena Art Museum, come to admire the handsome Frank Gehry garden, the shimmering tiles by Edith Heath, and what is probably the most impressive group of Rembrandt paintings on the West Coast.
It is possible that Jonathan Gold knew everything.