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Who's Reading What

March 25, 1994|David Wharton

Marta Bohn-Meyer, crew member on the SR-71 Blackbird at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base

- "What Every American Should Know About American History" by Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips

"My husband and I read it aloud as we drive to work. I was surprised at how much I had forgotten about American history. We're using this as a way to bring ourselves back up to speed." Dr. Christopher Jessen, orthopedic surgeon and medical director at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank

- "The Scorpio Illusion" by Robert Ludlum

"I have my medical journals, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, and the hospital trade journals. But what do I really like to read? A James Bond type of book. You get that flair, that twisting intrigue." Steven Lavine, president of CalArts in Valencia

- "Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles" by Margaret Leslie Davis

"I picked it up in the wake of the earthquake, trying to understand what we were all doing living in this dangerous place. It turns out, it's really a story of what the creativity and will of a person and a community can accomplish. That's what Los Angeles is, an accomplishment of will and creativity. That's what keeps us going."

"Rivers in the Desert," an excerpt

Standing bareheaded in the chill, William Mulholland beheld for the first time the breathtaking, spectacular body of water called the Owens River. Gleaming too brilliantly to look at directly in the morning sun, the vast expanse appeared in the distance like a great, silvered mirror. It meandered down the length of the valley where it discharged its waters into a large alkaline lake at the lower end. Bordered by lush salt grass, reeds, water birch, and willows, the banks of the roaring river were lined in red columbine, orchids, and tiger lilies.

Mulholland's engineering mind could not help calculating--even amidst all this beauty--that within the Owens River were flowing at least four hundred cubic feet of water per second, enough water to provide for a city not of two hundred thousand, but of two million people. The distance to Los Angeles was overwhelming, but Mulholland knew the Owens River sat at an elevation of four thousand feet, whereas Los Angeles lay only a few feet above sea level. The water, carried in open and closed aqueducts and siphons, could arrive at Los Angeles 250 miles south by power of gravity alone. As (Former Mayor Fred) Eaton had told Mulholland earlier, costly pumping plants would not be necessary, and not one watt of pumping power would be required. Without a doubt, Eaton had discovered the resource that, once tapped, would free their city from stagnation.

"I thought you were crazy," Mulholland shouted to his friend over the noise of the rapidly moving water. "But our supply of water is indeed in the Owens Valley." It was one of the supreme moments of his life, and his thoughts would return to it many times, especially during his later years, after tragedy had struck.

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