A Blogside Chat With City Councilwoman Jan Perry
It is late at night or early in the morning, hour fifteen of work has passed by some hours ago, and as the quiet of the night will often lead me to, I find myself reflective. My screenwriting obligations have precluded me from blogging the past few weeks as much as I would liked to have, but many of downtownster’s twenty-four writers / soldiers of truth and enlightenment, have made up the difference. And to them I say, THANK YOU.
The fact that I have not posted more than a piece or two a week does not however mean that I have been remiss in working on stories. Admittedly, I am backlogged, there is simply more to write about than I have time in the day and that would be true even if I were not busying myself with two screen adaptations and a television pilot. But one story must begin and that is the story of something I think to be unique to downtownster—I call it the blogside chat.
We live in challenging times. And if we are to be honest with our collective selves, most generations can claim such. Of course the challenges differ from generation to generation, but almost all are challenged nontheless. What are our difficulties? How are they resolved? These are questions that should be first and foremost on all Americans’ minds. The answers to these questions and their many tangents are rooted in our ability to communicate with each other. And for the purpose of this blog, and all to come, it is imperative to recognize that communication begins with understanding the concept of common reality.
Think of concentric circles at the middle of which is the greatest common reality. The one thing we can all agree on—perhaps gravity. I know of no one that will step off the roof of the fifteen-story building, which I live in to prove me wrong. Interestingly, those who believe that they can fly without the help of modern invention are usually considered to have broken from sanity—they no longer share in the same common reality as the rest of the world around them. The results of an individual jumping from a building such as mine, arms flapping to no avail, are not comical—they are ruinous. And such is the fate of a society that has lost its ability to communicate and broken with itself.
Today, it is incumbent on leaders, and those with vision to communicate their ideas in the way that people not only want to hear but trust and understand. The great leaders of times past wrote and delivered speeches. Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, and King all delivered leadership and vision with their words. Their words, the people knew these men through their words. In person, in print, on radio, on film, on television, past generations heard their leaders in their own words and they trusted and understood them.
And because downtownster is nothing if not intensely interested in all things—I started floating the idea to the business and political leaders of our world that we’d like to chat. Not interview—CHAT. An invitation, if you will, to speak to people in the way that they now listen. BEWARE: no recorded speeches, written by someone else, with no opportunity to be questioned will be passed off as real communication on downtownster.
Imagine an ongoing dialogue, that can take hours at a time to have, taking place in public places, sometimes over a meal and sometimes over coffee—my drink. Imagine a person of power in business or politics that is willing to talk to you, albeit through downtownster, no speeches, no teleprompters, no handlers, no questions in advance, no ground rules. Clearly, this person has said much about themselves before saying anything to us at all. But be sure much more will be said.
Because much of Downtown is encompassed by the 9th District, let us put this fact into a greater perspective, Downtown Los Angeles is the heart of the biggest city, in the largest state, of the most powerful nation on Earth, I could not think of someone better to chat with than 9th District City Councilwoman Jan Perry.
“Are you Stan?” asked Eva Kandarpa Councilwoman Jan Perry’s Communication Director.
We had met once before at the Grand Opening party for Bottega Louie—I look much different in writing mode than I do at a party. I feel bad about this. Perhaps one day I’ll resolve to wear suit and tie at all times.
I looked up from my computer. “I am.” Fighting the stiffness in my legs I rose from my seat and shook hands with Eva. I turned to my left. “Hi Jan, it’s good to see you again.” I glanced down at my computer. “Sorry, let me put this thing away…I was just trying to get as much work done as possible.”
Jan was pulling another table over before I was even back in my seat. “What type of computer is that?” she asked.
I should interject here that the tables in the café area of Bottega Louie are topped with solid marble, they’re heavy, so I felt bad that Jan had undertaken the task of moving one without my help.
“Good old, Mac Pro,” I answered.
“Don’t leave your purse open. And don’t put it over the back of your chair like that,” Jan lovingly advised Eva. She looked at me, “And it’s bad luck to put them on the ground.”
I smiled and put my computer into its’ bag, which was sitting on the chair next to me.
Jan let out a deep breath. “What a day.”
“What a day, good or what a day busy?” I asked, Bottega Louie staff converging from all directions.
I chose Bottega Louie for the first downtownster blogside chat, because if feels like a place where important things should happen.
I can’t help but to pause and think about the dinner I once had with the great English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the Downtown Biltmore. Or the lunch I had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Solo in New York City. I wish there had been a downtownster blogside chat in which to share both of those phenomenal experiences. Prime Minister Thatcher, had nothing short of a Royal presence—it was, I imagine the closest one could come to dining with the Queen, of course without actually dining with Her Majesty. And Prime Minister Netanyahu had an astounding intellect and certitude—perhaps most striking was his voice, the voice of a battle hardened General sworn to protect the Bible’s Chosen People.
“We spent all day in closed session,” Jan answered. Then turning to our waiter. “I just want some carrots.”
“Coffee,” said Eva.
“Cappuccino,” said I, not so shockingly. Turning to Jan. “You didn’t eat?”
“No. We went through lunch.”
Carrots at Bottega Louie are not a mundane affair. I myself had thought this a rather sparse selection until a large dish of grilled carrots appeared in a variety of colors that I did not know existed. Jan immediately spread some plates around and began to share.
Since this is the first blogside chat I’ve endeavored to write, I’m not exactly sure of the appropriate voice and or balance. I know that an entirely script like recollection certainly won’t do. Nor would lengthy academic prose. Rather, at least as we begin this journey, I’ll just write free-form—whatever comes to mind with no respect to structure.
A description of Jan goes something like this: AFFABLE. Our paths had crossed several times before our chat and each and every time my impression was the same. You just like Jan Perry. And I’m not being absurd to say that you just like her in the way you liked Ronald Reagan. Politics, I think Jan is a Democrat (I’m not sure), gender, she’s definitely a woman, and race, she’s African American (her ancestors were Southern slaves), all aside—she’s Reaganest. This is one of the rarest of breeds because it takes a broad variety of characteristics to congeal into such character. And no, it is not possible in one chat to ascertain what they all are. But I gathered a few.
For some reason I feel compelled to inform you that Jan is from the Midwest, Ohio to be precise. Reason one for being nice. A trip to Los Angeles her freshman year of college and an encounter with a Jackson Five concert, part of some Rose Parade festivities, convinced her to transfer to USC, where she majored in journalism, which is enough biography for now.
“So what’s going on with the budget? Are there really going to be drastic cuts,” I asked.
And this is why I skipped some biography and small talk for the moment. The question posed and how it was answered gives the reader a look into the real character of their elected leader.
“It’s real. And it’s going to be painful,” answered Jan.
Straightforward, honest and no “but”—meaning no excuse or blame to try and capitalize on the crisis of the day. The tone of Jan’s words was a mixture of compassion and confidence. Compassion for those whom will suffer the reduction of services and confidence that the challenges facing our community will be successfully endured. And this “be calm and carry on” attitude is what makes a great leader.
Since I have a proclivity to stretch blog word counts into the realm of the essay, I will pause now. But for my next blogside chat with Jan—I leave you with this. Leaders who have accomplished much, possess the quiet confidence of a man or woman doing what it is they were born to do.
To be continued…