To start things off in this 'food' theme issue of Mimosa, here's an appetizer
from Walt Willis. In some of our previous issues, we've referred to Walt's 1952
trip to the United States for the Great Chicago Worldcon, but we haven't mentioned
that Chicon II was just one stop in a much larger coast-to-coast fan fund trip
that was eventually chronicled in the magnificent trip report, The Harp
Stateside. Following the 1952 Chicon, Walt went west to Los Angeles as the
guest of Forry Ackerman, and while in L.A., he met up with many of the fan groups
active at that time. Here's an excerpt reprinted from THS, about that Los
Next morning we set out for the Pacific Ocean. This ranked up with the Insurgents on my private list of the sights of the West Coast, and since as far as I knew it had never carried on a vendetta against Forry Ackerman, I expressed a wish to see it. I had quite a clear picture of what it would be like. There would be this spectacular cliff road and beside it a beautiful golden strand, deserted except for an occasional beautiful film star committing suicide or playing immersion heaters with Burt Lancaster. You can imagine my surprise then, when after a drive of about half an hour -- I'd always thought Los Angeles was on the coast -- we pulled up at a sort of fun-fair. Hot dog stands, ice cream vendors, shooting galleries, the lot. One of the sideshows turned out to be the Pacific Ocean. It had a concession of a few square yards of rather dirty sand, and looked depressingly like the Atlantic. I valiantly tried to feel like stout Cortez, silent upon a hot dog stand in Darien (I am now equally valiantly trying not to attempt a joke about a Peke) and sat down at the water's edge to take off my shoes and socks.
It was my intention to wade out a short distance, thinking appropriately solemn thoughts -- such that I had now reached the furthermost point in my journey westwards and this was the turning point -- and feeling as poetic as I could in bare feet with my trousers rolled up, I stalked rapidly into the Pacific Ocean. Only to slow down abruptly with an aching sense of injustice. It was COLD. My Ghod, the Pacific was cold! It was intolerable.
However, I suppressed my indignation and continued on to where the water got deep. I paused, savouring the solemnity of the occasion. Here I was in the Pacific Ocean... My romantic reflections were shattered by a shout from Forry. I looked round. He pointed. I looked down. There, sailing past in line ahead at a good fifteen knots, were my only pair of shoes in 7,000 miles. With a strangled cry I leaped after them, letting go my rolled-up trouser legs, which immediately fell down into the water. I overtook my shoes halfway to Hawaii and struggled back to dry land. I regret to have to tell you that Forrest J Ackerman, a fine man in many ways, failed to show the quiet sympathy which would have been appropriate at this tragic moment. He was rolling on the sand, laughing. And as I trudged up to him, he said, "A slow boot to China."
I wrung out my trousers, put on my shoes and squelched back to the hot dog stand for a chocolate malt to restore my faith in life. Feeling hungry after the afternoon's surf sports, I also ordered a hamburger. Then I took my shoes off again and began to drip quietly on the floor. I realised the hamburger man was speaking to me.
"What?" I said.
"With?" asked the man.
"With," I said. Whatever it was, it was evidently free and I wasn't going to pass it up.
"With onions?" asked the man.
"With everything," I said recklessly. Forry looked at me.
"Everything?" asked the man, with an air of incredulous hope.
"Everything," I said. I was beginning to have vague premonitions, but since I didn't know what he was going to put in, I didn't know what to tell him to leave out.
A wild gleam came into the fellow's eye, and he momentarily disappeared in a blur of motion. He was leaping about his booth like a mad thing, collecting sam-ples of every organic substance within a radius of ten feet and piling them onto the foundation stone of my hamburger. I stared aghast. Obviously this man had dedicated his life to thinking up things which could be incorporated in a hamburger. I could see him waking in the middle of the night and noting down the name of some edible Peruvian root he had overlooked. But then as the years went by, his simple faith in his mission in life must have been disturbed: was it, he must have asked himself during the long frustrating years of preparing commonplace six-ply hamburgers, was it all worthwhile? Would his genius ever be recognized? And then, at last, I had come along, his soul mate, the Perfect Customer, the Man Who Wanted Everything. This was his destiny, the culmination of his career.
The hamburger rose to the sky like an edible Tower of Babel, an awesome monument to the ambition and ingenuity of Man. And still it grew, tier after tier, higher and higher. Until finally the human whirlwind subsided and looked about distractedly at his depleted shelves. I kicked my shoes out of his reach. After a few more moments of ... meditation, he sighed and delicately added the roof to the hamburger, like a great artist signing his masterpiece. He stepped back and gazed at it, tears of pride in his eyes.
Cowering in the shade of the edifice, I looked helplessly at Forry. He pretended he wasn't with me, and went to make a phone call. Looking round the hamburger, I could see the fierce eyes of its creator on me. I nibbled guiltily at the fringes of the thing for a while, and then desperately lifted it in both hands and began to gnaw at it. A shower of mustard, onions, beetroot, pickles, lettuce, and countless other foodstuffs began to descend over me and the immediate neighbourhood. I hoped Forry was warning the Fortean Society.
After some time, I had absorbed, either internally or externally, enough of The Hamburger to give me courage to make a break for it. I stole guiltily away, resolving to make a will leaving the remains of it to the United Nations Famine Relief Fund.
In the evening, Forry took me out for a last drive. I saw Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard and everything, including Grauman's Chinese Theater where they have the impressions in cement of such anatomical characteristics as Joe E. Brown's mouth and Durante's nose. I noted that for some reason, Jane Russell was represented by her feet.
I know I didn't see much of California, but what I saw was a bit disappointing. I'd been thinking of it as a green and golden paradise, and hadn't realised it was largely reclaimed desert. The surrounding hills were unexpectedly barren and ugly, and the houses among them looked from the distance like matchboxes scattered among uncompleted excavations. Los Angeles had some fine streets and buildings, but seemed too diffuse to have an integrated personality, and the most lasting impression I took away with me was a café sign advertising 'The Original Rain On The Roof'. The notion of simulating the sound of rain as a seasonal attraction seemed to me quite startling.
All illustrations by Steve Stiles