Notes from “The Coast”


“Every new environment, particularly if one knows that one must make the effort to accustom oneself to working in it, risks being more than a little traumatic. One finds oneself nervously examining one’s new surroundings, searching for the terms of the adjustment; therefore, in the beginning, I made a somewhat too conscious effort to be pleased by Hollywood. There was the sky after all, which New Yorkers seldom see, and there was space, which New Yorkers have forgotten, there was the mighty and dramatic Pacific, there were hills. Some very valuable and attractive people had lived and functioned here for years, I reminded myself. I had a few friends and acquaintances here already, scattered from Watts to Baldwin Hills to Mullholland Drive, and I was sure they’d be happy if I decided to stay. If I were going to be in Hollywood for months, there was no point in raising the odds against me by hating it, or despising it; besides such an attitude seemed to obvious a defense against my fear of it. As hotels go, the Beverly hills is more congenial than most and certainly everyone there was very nice to me. And so I tried–too hard–to look about me with wonder, and be pleased. But I was already in trouble, and the odds against the venture were very long odds indeed.”

— James Baldwin, from “No Name in the Street”
Born 90 years ago on this day.

photo: James Baldwin in Los Angeles, 1969


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