“So be it! See to it!”


THANKS TO everyone involved and to all of those who attended Clockshop’s “Radio Imagination” reading honoring Octavia E. Butler last Saturday night. Our goal was to pay fitting tribute, but by all accounts we conjured her. From teaching herself — “guiding her own hand,” to warring constantly with isolation, to writing herself into being, Butler steered herself through a professional universe that could be as aloof as it was alienating.

She found an opening in a seam and made a place for herself. A roadblock was something to circumvent, just another plot-pont puzzle on a page  By articulating her desires, goals and plans — for decades — she built a sure path toward them.

“So be it. See to it!”

It was an honor to be a part of keeping her personal story aloft.

There will be more Radio Imagination events to come in this year-long celebration. A podcast of Saturday’s program will be available shortly. Stay tuned.


(Photos courtesy Clockshop)

Tuning in for Radio Imagination

A FEW MONTHS back, I posted a note about being poised to go down a rabbit hole.

I didn’t realize how true that was going to be.

I apologize for the radio silence, but I’ve been working on “Radio Imagination.”

Since the beginning of this year, along with my other usual reporting, writing and city wandering, I’ve been doing weekly research at the Huntington Library, preparing for a big project for Clockshop, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit art organization. Clockshop’s founder, filmmaker Julia Meltzer approached me, and several other writers, artists, academics, to discuss an idea that she’d been fleshing out for sometime.

Her plan was to create a year-long series of events, spanning the city all dedicated to the legacy and impact of  San Gabriel Valley-based, science fiction writer, Octavia E. Butler.  Going in, I only knew the boldfaced details about Butler and her work, but I was tasked with creating a “posthumous interview.” Though I wasn’t quite sure what that would look or sound like, I liked the places it allowed my brain to go.

A few weeks into the Octavia E. Butler archive at the Huntington Library, I knew it would become less and less clear before it would  find focus. She had a big, busy life and there were many possible paths to travel — I  just had to trust the process.

I’ve never quite been inside someone’s head the way in which Butler has allowed us  to be in hers. She was a avid and honest chronicler of her life — her work, her surroundings, her worries, her triumphs and disasters. Moving through pages of journals, letters, commonplace books,  mimics the effect of her whispering to herself as she goes about her tasks. We’re eavesdropping on process, the roundabout road in building narratives — both on the page and in life. Tomorrow four writers, Robin Coste Lewis,  Tisa Bryant, Fred Moten and I —  will premiere new pieces inspired by our time in the archives, listening to Octavia spin stories about life on so many different planes.

I can’t express what a gift this experience has been.

We are sold out (!) for tomorrow night’s event at Clockshop, but if you want to try to fly standby,  those waiting will be admitted if ticket holders do not show. A podcast of the event will be forthcoming so stay tuned.

“call it what you like . . .”

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FOR A COUPLE of months now, I’ve been telling a friend about an ongoing issue  I’ve had with one of the baggers at my local market.  Not a huge issue, but a head scratcher. Strangeness sunk into the mundane.

A few weeks ago,  he refused to sort or bag my purchases. Just walked away, arms folded, head-shaking — to the checker’s chagrin.  My friend suggested that I stop spending money in the market  — especially since it hadn’t been  the first time (this head-shaking incident was just a bit more dramatic than others prior).  “That’s why you pay a little more. Avoid that mess.”

True.

Well today, I needed to  make a quick neighborhood run. No time for fancy. I head to my old spot. I’m almost out the door with my essentials —  my coffee stash, fixings for dinner. I have almost successfully avoided him when, just as I near his checkout lane,  he does a quick double take and then pauses to  crook his finger in that “come-over-I-have-something-special-&-top-secret-to-share” manner.

So I do.

With reservations.

He asks: “Do you know Mike Jackson?”

I say no. (Not realizing where this is going.)

He says: “Well he’s in heaven. Prince is on his way too, you know.” He winks. Like we’re old friends, sharing some insider 411.

Then comes the smile.

I suppose all this must be his version of a truce.

 

(image via mashable)

Voice (27)

kitchenettefront

“In the ‘Kitchenette’ area on South Parkway. Chicago, Illinois. April, 1941 — Edwin Rosskam

Kitchenette Building 

by Gwendolyn Brooks

 

“We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,

Grayed in, and gray. “Dream” makes a giddy sound, not strong

Like “rent,” “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.”

 

But could a dream send up through onion fumes

Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes

And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall,

Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms

 

Even if we were willing to let it in,

Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,

Anticipate a message, let it begin?

 

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!

Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,

We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

 

 

Type, Writer 

TO CELEBRATE this year’s Big Read title,  Fahrenheit  451 —  and its author, the late Ray Bradbury — we’ll be convening 4/17 at the Craft and Folk Art Museum to chronicle  your L. A. stories on the spot. The event  “Type Writer: An Afternoon of L.A. Stories Typed Before Your Eyes” will be held from 4 to 7pm in the Museum courtyard. Bring your typewriter and join in. For more information about the event and The Big Read click here.

I’d better get my “home row” fingers limbered up.

Radio Imagination

IT’S BEEN oh-so-quiet around here because I have had to corral my attention. I feel lucky to say that I have had several big, deeply-involving  projects occupying my imagination.

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This one truly has been an honor to participate in. For the last few months, I’ve been paging through science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s papers achieved at the Huntington Library in San Marino.

It has been a rare and singular experience to be so up-close to an author in the middle of her process. It is a bit like walking around in the echoing expanses of her head.

I am in the midst of stitching together a new piece based on the experience for the project, “Radio Imagination” — a year-long tribute to Butler and her powerful legacy. I’ve been tasked with putting together what we’re calling a “Posthumous Interview” — I’ll write little here about that except to say the images you see above re just a sample of the items from the vast archive I’ve been using as inspiration.

We’ll be previewing our works-in-progress on April 23rd at 6::30pm at Clockshop in Frogtown. The evening’s event features readings from Tisa Bryant Robin Coste Lewis, Fred Moten and me. You *must* RSVP. . Space is limited. Click here for info and tickets (Suggested donation is $10).

(images courtesy of the Octavia E. Butler papers at The Huntington Library)