I know what it means …

A FEW weeks back, I received a  voicemail from a friend who was on a desperate search for crawfish. He knows all the same Louisiana spots that I know, so I was at first confused by the phone call. I was on my way to a conference and prepping my final notes in the car so admittedly I was distracted. But I kept listening. When he got to, “My usual spot on Arlington and Vernon is gone!”

That snapped me to attention.

He kept repeating: “It’s just rubble. Like fresh rubble. Like this just happened.”

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The remains of the New Orleans Fish Market

There are places we frequent and then there are places that define us—places that make neighborhoods truly neighborhoods for us. The New Orleans Fish Market was mine.

It was plain and worn around the edges, but you knew they would have precisely what you needed. Plus you got a little taste of “home: People asking about the Saints, carrying on about “Your people and ’em” and of course, “So, when you going home?”

I have been shopping at the New Orleans Fish Market for decades. And before that, I followed my mother into a Louisiana Fish Market that was just a little further down the street, on the north side, if I recall correctly. It had a little yellow shingle sign that lit up at dusk, but most of all I remember that it would bring New Orleans back to my mother.

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“It’s just rubble. Like fresh rubble. Like this just happened.”

This was an essential stop for her to get the proper ingredients for her gumbo, jambalaya and étouffée. No other market had the proper crab or shrimp. Sometimes she would have special items flown in (Creole Cream Cheese). I know for my mother, having this market an easy ten minute drive from our home meant that she wouldn’t ever be *that* far away from New Orleans.

It was the fact that it was so specific and specialized and that if you were “in-group” or at least in the know, you knew to stop there. You also knew that if you didn’t have time to get over to Pete’s to get your hot links, the Fish Market stocked them as well. They knew that sometimes you needed to grab everything at once in a pinch. Save extra steps.

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Mel Melcon via L.A. Times

 

Word is that the business owners are looking for another spot. I know a tearful group of folks have been posting on their Facebook page wondering what happened. With the holidays coming up and gumbo season in full swing, I know there will be plenty of patrons who will be as slack-jawed as I and my friend Darryl were to here this news.

I had to see it with my own eyes to believe that it was true. And even still, I can’t.

Missing New Orleans in Los Angeles, for sure.

It wasn’t just a building, it was an extension of a community. It was a hub and a place  for Southern families to reconnect. I wasn’t born in the South but the South lives in me. This was a place to nourish that small but significant part of me. That home inside of home.

 

 

 

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California Souls

A FEW months back, I had the pleasure to sit down for a few hours with San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck for a wide-ranging conversation facilitated by Denise Sullivan for Boom: A Journal of California. You can find it here.

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Wandering North Beach: My Home Away From Home

For two cities that are so very different on the surface, we found we had similar experiences  growing up  in our respective home towns. I have lived both places and have watched both cities shift around me.  Each one has left its mark in ways that are measurable and indelible.

Out and About

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TWO EVENTS this week as we ease into the end of the year:

On Thursday evening,  I’ll be heading over to the Pasadena Central Library to join our lively and opinionated crew for a far-ranging conversation. We’ll be discussing and reading from the anthology:  L.A. Baseball: From the Pacific Coast League to the Major Leagues. We get started at 6:30pm in the beautiful Donald R. Wright Auditorium. There will be a reception afterward and we’ll be  signing books.

On Sunday afternoon, Angel City Press will be hosting a holiday party and signing, featuring books honoring Los Angeles’s rich history and culture.

Authors include:

  • Bill Bradley, Los Angeles Union Station: Tracks to the FutureAfterImageCover

  • Stephen Gee, Los Angeles City Hall: An American Icon, Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Central Library: A History of its Art and Architecture

  • Rachel Surls and Judith Gerber, From Cows to Concrete: The Rise and Fall of Farming in Los Angeles

  • Jim Harris, Santa Monica Pier

  • Robert Landau, Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboard of the Sunset Strip,  Hollywood Poolside, Tales from The Strip: A Century in the Fast Lane

 

And, I  will be there as well signing and discussing After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame.

Join us from 2 to 4pm at Traxx Restaurant in Union Station (we’ll be gathering inside, adjacent to the concourse) near the Alameda entrance to the terminal).

 

 

 

Honk!: Drive-Time Stories

I HAD one of my first birthday parties at the Bob Baker Marrionette Theater, oh so many years ago. Puppets and sugar, who wouldn’t be happy?  So it will be a thrill to be part of this event next Wednesday evening, November 14.  Join me and these fine folks for a new episode of “Tom Explores Los Angeles” for an evening of  puppetry and storytelling, “told through the windshield.”

This will be one of the final performances at the treasure of an old space that miraculously still sits at that busy crossing where Glendale Boulevard meets Second Street at the edges of downtown Los Angeles.

To purchase tickets, follow this link. 

We will have a reception afterwards and books will be available for purchase.

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After/Image at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

BOOK FESTIVAL time is upon us. I will be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books next weekend signing “After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame.” 

Both days, I will be at the Angel City Press booth (#119 near Tommy Trojan).  You can find me on Saturday from 12pm to 2pm and  on Sunday from 2pm to 4pm. Please come by and say hello.

On Sunday afternoon 4/22, from 12:30pm to 1pm,  I will be in conversation with Karen Tei Yamashita and Geoff Dyer on the topic of “Photography & Narrative” moderated by David L. Ulin. It’s free, but to reserve your tickets click here.

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