How to build a tower everyone likes?
Sam Rodia’s recycled metal sculpture, Watts Towers holds incredible relevance and inspiration not just for the L.A. native or So. Cal tourist, but for the self-doubting entrepreneur. It is a reminder that to build something new takes time, energy and a lot of cement to make the pieces stick.
Despite calling Los Angeles my home for fourteen years, I only learned this week about the Watts Tower during a parking-lot conversation at my children’s school (Moms gossiping about field-trips and fundraisers). Yesterday, I mentioned it to my husband. “Watts What?” he said. This Sunday, we found the address and piled into the car.
Watts Towers is, for lack of a more creative description, an urban, Gaudi-esque sculpture designed out of broken tile & glass, encrusted plaster and metal spires in a triangle-shaped plot of land in South Los Angeles. It was started in the 1920s by Sam Rodia, an Italian immigrant and took 34 years to complete. Once finished, Rodia deeded the property to his neighbor and moved away. It resembles a ship. There’s a locked fence around it and admission is $7 for adults, free for kids. Tours are given on the half-hour.
In a world of digital advancements, it is wonderful reminder of what it means to be human.
While the structure was impressive (Rodia built it alone & without any scaffolding, cranes or support wires) and the design was fun (mosaics made of broken ceramic bowl rims and beer bottle bottoms are always a kick), it was Rodia’s words that resonated most profoundly for me. He was an uneducated man. He spoke in grammatically incorrect sentences. He kicked me in my Sunday pants.
“Some of the people, they say ‘What is he doing? Some of the people, they think' I was crazy’" - Rodia
You see, Saturday nights have suddenly become my depot for depression. They are my nights of insecurity and self-doubt. I tried to build an internet startup, without true success. Now, I'm trying to write a novel.
And coming off the failure of my startup dream, I am mired in insecurity and self-questioning.
Then suddenly, I stumble upon Watts Towers.
“And some people, they say ‘He’s gonna do something.’" - Rodia
What began as an educational, cultural trip for the kids turned into a personal lesson for me. Watts Tower is a testament to individual initiative and vision. It is a reminder that sometimes, you have to go out into your backyard and start building the towers, bottle-by-bottle, brick-by-brick, regardless of what your neighbors say. You can’t be afraid of doing something different. You can’t be afraid of climbing to the top without a net.
You just have to build it. If it’s good, the people will come.