The LASFS picnic to the Zoo was another success, provided you didn't mind walking your feet off. Except for our lunch break at noon, and a couple of snack rests, we were on our feet from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From the birds to the bison; we covered it all, and had fun doing it.
I'm not sure how many fans showed up. In the group I was with, we started out with the Pelzes, Barry Gold, and myself. The Craynes joined us about an hour and a half later, then Don Fitch. A bit after noon, we ran into Dave Hulan and Anne and Kevin Cox, who'd missed meeting us at the beginning of the day and were on a tour of their own -- working their way across the Zoo from the opposite direction, unfortunately, so we couldn't join up. And shortly before the end of the day, Dave and Barbara Pollard became the last additions to our group. I think that Ed Cox was there, too, but I didn't see him. Was anybody else there?
As far as I'm concerned, the main attraction is the walk-through bird cage. It's worth a whole day's watching in itself. In the other cages, most of the animals are lying motionless, or merely pacing back and forth; you look at one for a couple of minutes, and you're ready to go on to the next cage. But the bird cage is a very large miniature jungle, on two levels, with a lake at the bottom, and is filled with small, colorful birds of many varieties. We spent about an hour in this cage alone, watching the different birds and their different mannerisms; some flying back and forth, some wading in the pond, some preening each other. Every few minutes, a bird we hadn't seen before would scuttle through the underbrush. In the midst of all the imported varieties, we saw two native quail standing close together by the fencing, one inside the cage and the other outside. We couldn't figure if the one had gotten into the cage by accident, or if the other had escaped. On the path leading to the mountain section of the cage, we met a large, brown bird, about the size of a Canada goose, walking along in a dignified manner. We tried to make friends with it, with a fair amount of success as soon as it saw the rings on our fingers. Bright, shiny rings. Oh, it wanted our rings! It pecked at Dian's, and pulled at Bruce's. My ring has a large, flat surface, and after trying several grips to get it off my finger, it decided that it might be easier to snip my finger off, instead. I let it try until it got a good enough grip to break my skin; then I shooed it over to Barry who flashed his wristwatch band at it. A nice bird. We'll have to visit it again, someday.
Last week, on the Table of Contents, I asked if it weren't time to bring Apa L's existence to a halt? I don't expect that Apa L will die at this time, but that's not exactly the same thing. The question is: has Apa L outlived its span of interest, and should it be given a clean death at this time, rather than continuing to run on past momentum, slowly winding down, 20 pages this week, 18 the next, 15 the following, finally ending at a level of 10 or 12 pages of meaningless writing for week after week after week?
If we could continue to count on 10 or 12 pages of good material, Apa L might be worth continuing yet. But would it be good material? The lower the activity drops, the less material there is to comment upon, the more powerless even the active contributors are. Both Don Fitch and Tom Digby have said that if Apa L drops below a certain level of distribution and activity, they'll no longer consider it worth their while to contribute. It's hard to work up the inspiration to write interesting material when you feel that you're writing into a vacuum.
Let's look at what was in last week's dist'n. 14 items. A good cover, yes. A Table of Contents; meaningless by itself. A pleasant page of natter by Dian; worth reading, but nothing she had to say; nothing she couldn't have said in casual conversation. A page by Bruce, to keep up his unbroken string of dist'ns met -- an excuse for an amusing cartoon by Dian. A good zine of dist'n comments by Don Fitch, but what will he write about with less & less material in Apa L to comment upon? My zine; nothing I couldn't have said in conversation -- the map and picnic instructions could've been handed out in a special notice. Tom Locke's zine; an amusing comment, but again the sort of thing that could've been said just as well in a typical LASFS conversation. Flieg's commentary on Doc Smith's concept of inertialess; okay, this is worthwhile. Digby's zine; conversational comments on comments. The Articles of Incorporation; these should've been handed around separately for immediate individual reference, as indeed they were; their presence in Apa L is superfluous. Ruth's zine; worth reading, but nothing that would've been missed if she hadn't written it. Sally's zine; ditto. LeeJ's contribution; worthless junk. The LASFS newsletter; we all got a copy of it earlier, anyway. Not more than five pages that we would really have been poorer without, that wouldn't've been published if it weren't for Apa L.
Some people say that as long as anybody at all wants to continue Apa L, even if it's only 3 people producing 5 pages between them, Apa L should be continued for their benefit. I disagree. To me, Apa L was an organization with a spirit; it had a birth, a fantastic youth and adolescence, and a rich maturity subsiding slowly into old age. I'd prefer not to see it degenerate still further into senility. If there are a few people left who really want to continue publishing weekly fanzines, they can distribute them on an individual basis. But Apa L is almost dead, and I think that we should recognize the fact and be prepared to bury the corpse, rather than allowing it to lie out in the open and moulder publicly. If I thought that new blood could be found for Apa L once again, or that any or all of you could be sparked anew into contributing a worthwhile amount of good material, I'd be trying to persuade you to breathe new life into the apa once again. But I've become convinced that the time of Apa L's mortality has finally arrived. By all means, let's discuss this if you think that there is a chance of saving the group. Otherwise -- well, it'll probably take another three or four weeks of discussion to make sure that everybody is agreed to disband Apa L, even if everybody does feel the same way that I do. And Dist'n #175 will be a nice, round number to aim for as a valedictory and conclusion.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Whoops; I forgot to mention: it was agreed during the Zoo picnic that the next LASFS outing should be to the Huntington Library and Art Gallery, around the end of Feb. or the beginning of March. After that, it'll be time to return to the Arboretum, to see all the flowers and peacocks in full display.