I Am Los Angeles is a video portrait series created by journalist and filmmaker Joris Debeij, showcasing the unique people and their ideas that make L.A. what it is. KCET Departures will be featuring these videos as part of our continuing coverage of the shifting cultures of Los Angeles.
There are many reasons why a part of us clings to the past, as time marches on toward our future. We all have memories of times when the pace of life seemed to be more controlled, and things were simpler. The question of who you were was straight-forward and the unknown of what you and the world would become seemed more a hopeful promise than a challenge. Thinking back on these times can make them seem quite a daydream. And a daydream it has seemed to be for many a young boy who saw the Goodyear Blimp in the sky for the first time.
Los Angeles hosts the residency of a rather majestic guest from Akron, Ohio -- one who leaves people with those thoughts of the past. This guest is a symbol, an American icon that has been flying the U.S. and beyond it since 1920. It is the Spirit of America, one of three Goodyear Blimps still in operation today. Goodyear started building these majestic airships in 1920 when commercial flying was still in its early stages. The Goodyear Blimp channeled what was in many ways an American obsession: triumph. During World War II, Zeppelins escorted Navy ships through out their routes on the Pacific. Though there are now larger, more sophisticated, and higher-flying aircraft, it's a warmly nostalgic indulgence to see that Goodyear has kept the Blimps flying throughout the decades.
Spirit of America pilot David Bowling first saw the Goodyear Blimp flying when he was about nine years old, and he chased it as long and as far as he could. Early on, David knew he wanted to become a pilot -- but it had never crossed his mind that some day he would fly the Goodyear Blimp. Stealth fighter, Commercials Airlines and private jets sounded much more his speed. But when the opportunity to fly this historic airship came along after years of flying airplanes, he snatched it, and hasn't regretted the choice since. "It is flying history, when you are sitting up there in the sky," he says.
As Angelenos, we're a bit spoiled to see this American icon floating in the skies. In a city with such a relatively short history, and a tendency to reinvent itself, such reminders of our past are rare. I Am Los Angeles has it on good confirmation that Goodyear plans on keeping this American icon up in the air, and that it will sent out a brand new blimp in the near future...lest we forget who we are and where we've been.
Check out more video portraits at I Am Los Angeles.