SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 304: “The Great Wall Of Topanga”

In inadvertently meet California royalty today. The kind leader who seeks not applauds of the general populace or the ratifying vote of the house floor, but the kind of man who promotes self-control and unity through actions. A claim that he does not speak of in any boastful way, or arrogantly scream from the rooftops to a numbed audience.

His name is Rick and I run into him, unsuspected, at a local shopping center.

Ricks quite claim to fame is an iconic display that he has constructed in the highly trafficked Topanga Canyon pass; a route that I frequent in my daily travels from inland to the coast.

Rick calls it The Great Wall Of Topanga.”

I call it a funky little doorway to humanity. One that if not paying attention passes ever so quickly as you drive by it. But non-impactful it is not. For in grasping it’s meaning… it’s presence projects an impression that is lasting and impactful.

For businessman to homemaker, for the poor to the rich, for Christian to Jew, and regardless of whatever creed or perspective one may have. The Great Wall Of Topanga rises as a testament to diversity and in a quite way is becoming a centralized, and uniting, talking point for many a person. So much so that it is rapidly gaining press in mainstream publications the like of LA Weekly.

From oversized mousetrap to much subtler content this Southern California point of interest is holding strong in making a cultural stance. A stance that creator Rick humbly takes no credit for as he quotes American cultural anthropologist, the late Margaret Mead.

Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Rick is so to the point in using Margaret Mead’s observation. For in it, the purpose of 365 is again defined. How often have we talked of passing it on and of the power each one of us possesses to evoke positive change in our daily lives? And for this purpose, Rick has summed it up perfectly with his choice of reference.

An athlete, Rick has competed in many a velo cycling event in his younger years. And to this day human-powered transport is key to his healthy outlook on life.

“If fear for the future…” Rick sobers up with a projection, “’…I guess the image that comes to mind is the movie ‘WALL-E,’ where you see the succession of the captains of the spaceship just going from large… to larger… to larger… to larger… to larger… then to immense. We have basically invented ourselves into complacency about our size and such.

There are fewer and fewer people who live in a healthy way. We have to go back to the basics of walking, cycling and human power. Using our muscles for life in a way that our species has forgotten. How important that is!

And we are just turning into these blobs of fat. Everything is too easy for us. Society is now built on drive to… and then sit down. I fight that all I can with cycling.

I cycle with my kids. My five-year old rode sixty-five miles with me on our tandem. Now… he did not do that all at once… We took breaks… but he did it.’”

Rick goes on to tell me of the many way he and his family conserve through riding bikes and the reasoning behind the Great Wall he has created.

In all, I pick up on two agendas telegraphed by Rick. One: His desire to bring us together, and Two: To respect the planet.

Rick, prior to meeting you the clock was ticking and I was feeling rather stressed in not knowing where to turn in meeting a friend today. Nothing was working out, and as always, the moment I let go to speak to whomever was in front of me, you appeared.  I thanks you for that.

And in knowing you, I have come closer to a local landmark that has grown to be part of my daily commute. An Icon that has touched me greatly, and an Icon that I am now proud to say is the results of someone I know.

Rick you are right in referencing Margaret Mead, Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

You are doing it my fine friend.