Take Our Picture, Gary Leonard

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Vivid and far-reaching interview with photographer Gary moderated by LA Observed’a Kevin Roderick at DTLA’s Central Library yesterday afternoon.

Old-home week for me as well. I saw folks I haven’t seen for, honestly, I don’t know how long. Many of them from all corners of my journalism career. It was great to hear Leonard’s stories from his UCLA days and alt-press work which featured his punk club images (I first encountered him and his work at the LA Weekly) and now his “Take my picture Gary Leonard” body of work.

And as promised in the press info, he did indeed from the stage turn the camera on all those assembled.

Can’t wait to see that moment.

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Lagniappe

SERIOUSLY though … I think I may have found a close-by place to get my proper beans, hot sauce and smoked meats. Also, the promise is that they will be carrying Leidenheimer bread for the po’boys … praise be.

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The Little Jewel of New Orleans – a New Orleans market and deli situated at the edge of L.A.’s Chinatown — had its soft opening last weekend. I picked up quite few staples I’d been running low on — mustard, peppers, seasoning, hot sauce.

The deli portion won’t be open for another couple of weeks but I had a great talk with folks who are heading this project — a chat that was  paired with Community Coffee and some time paging through all manner of cookbooks. All of a sudden my quick “pit stop” had turned into a “pull a chair up” sit-down.

It was so well worth it.

Stay tuned here and I’ll be posting more as they get everything up and running.
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Sunday Drive: Remembering #42

JUST AS I finished snapping the photo,  a man standing at the threshold of his home just across the street began talking.

 

He spoke as if we had already been in conversation. In other words his statement sounded like a mid-sentence recitation ” . . . from China, from Mexico, from Europe. They come looking. Black people too.”

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Such a quiet street, Pepper Street, a cul-de-sac that’s a hodgepodge of structures, some single-family residences still standing alongside multifamily-dwelings. I had come knowing that Jackie Robinson’s house no longer stood but I wanted to find the plaque — I had walked by it the first time. It’s set in the sidewalk — flush– like a headstone.

Looking down, I wondered why it took me so long to come here to size up what was left. As Sunday Drives go, this was a blink.

Pasadena has named parks and baseball fields, post offices after Robinson. (I just dropped off a package to a friend there last week in fact.) Just across from Pasadena City Hall there is striking piece of public art by Ralph Helmick, Stu Schecter and John Outterbridge of Robinson and his brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson. (see below).

But I have to say there was something even more humbling about that simple plaque on a sort of afterthought of a street. I paused  to talk a little more to the gentleman who had come out of his house so early on a Sunday morning to share what he has seen over the years. New structures, new people, even since he’d been there, long long after the Robinsons had left the scene.

The only constant were the people who come, and continue to. They pause and just stand before that easy-to-miss plaque in silence. Paying respects.

“Not any man could have done with he did.”

 

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Native Language

Barbara Baxley in The Savage Eye

Barbara Baxley in The Savage Eye

THIS COMING Thursday, I will be doing a short reading at the beautiful little oasis of a spot in Frogtown (Elysian Valley) called Clockshop, as part of a summer series of readings/travelogues and films titled My Atlas.

I will be introducing a pretty incredible though not-often shown film — The Savage Eye shot over several years, in the 50s by Haskell Wexler, Helen Levitt and Jack Couffer and directed by Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers and Joseph Strick — and reading a short piece that was inspired by the film.

Any regular reader of this blog will know this spot has been a place for me to take a deeper look at L.A. — my home — a place that too often slides by our window (if we’re not in gridlock) at 55 mph-plus. In that time we’re suspended on an overpass or creeping ever-so-slowly toward our destination windows up, the city is being remade — over and over and over. What’s it like to grow up in and live place that constantly dramatically shifts? Disorienting? Dislocating? In the past, I’ve written about how important it is to commit your “personal city” to memory because it won’t always be there. Just recently, I finished a piece about how we Angelenos talk about locations as if they are something like a set of nesting dolls — instead of referring to what is there, we refer to what once was.

For all sorts of reasons of late, I’ve found myself wandering even more, through quiet, early-morning L.A. Through emptied-out, in-the-margins L.A. I’m trying to record bits and pieces of that old city — in notebooks, in essays and now in photographs — odd remnants that have eluded “redevelopment,” city blocks that have somehow slipped through the cracks and regulations. Precisely what I’m looking for, I couldn’t tell you. So many of us here are wandering, traveling, looking for something we can’t quite articulate. But often I know it when I stumble upon it — a lonely pillar of someone’s past dream, a faded fragment of a promise scrawled along a wall. Something that tethers us, something that makes the earth feel not like sand. Something that has eluded destruction or disaster — like the flourish of a freehand X on a map: “I was here.”