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Why the Space Shuttle Feels Right at Home Along L.A.'s Grand Boulevards

It wasn't Angelenos' supposed love of the artificial and exaggerated that brought crowds of people to the city's streets to see Endeavour's slow crawl across town, but an appreciation for authentic spectacle and the pleasures of public space.
October 16, 2012, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Christopher Hawthorne celebrates last weekend's march of the space shuttle Endeavour from the airport to the California Science Center, which was witnessed by throngs of people along crowded sidewalks and strip-mall parking lots, as "a natural expression of L.A. character."

"The cynical take on Angelenos - an idea that a surprising number of us continue to subscribe to - is that we are somehow afraid or dubious of public space and prefer to gather within protected, sanitized developments like CityWalk or the Grove shopping center," says Hawthorne. "But the truth is that we desire real interaction as much as the residents of any big city. We just happen to live, work and drive along boulevards that have been remade over the last five or six decades to favor cars to such a degree that such interaction has become difficult, and in some places nearly impossible."

"We may not have great public squares and many big neighborhood parks in Southern California, at least not compared to more traditionally organized cities such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago. But we have a vast network of wide, palm-lined boulevards, which along with our beaches and thanks to the climate - it was in the mid-80s Sunday, the 14th of October - give us a particular kind of public space that other cities lack."

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Published on Monday, October 15, 2012 in Los Angeles Times
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