Often when I post here, I try to consider Los Angeles less a focus and more a prism. That said: I couldn’t help but not linger on the passages about Los Angeles in the new collection of Lawrence Ferlinghetti journals, Writing Across the Landscapes.
Though there wasn’t room to cite it in my review, I keep thinking about this vivid glimpse of an unexpected Los Angeles.
This entry reads like the photographs of Gordon Parks, Robert Frank — or the photo above captured by Larry Winogrand from the same period.
Here’s a little fragment of an image/thought montage.
It’s just a moment. A 50-year-old L.A. moment
Came upon Los Angeles by bus at night … Ah the crazy hotels, crazy streets, sad signs of America –Jesus Saves!–Tom’s Tattoo–The Electric Rembrandt–Snooker Parlor–“Acres of Autos”– Hotel Small — Ice Rink–Greyhound — Los Angeles Street -TV in Rooms –eat–Barber and Beauty Supply–Pawnshop–“Shave Yourself” —
Might as well be on the Trans-Siberian Railway …
Strange people waiting in Greyhound Bus Depot: One all-leather cat with cowboy hat — tight motorcycle pants with zippers on slash pockets and lithe padlocks on each zipper–same on tight jacket — all black leather ….Animated, talking to a Negro also in cycle suit only much less flashy.
And lonely the hotel doors, gaping. And lonely the lobbies, lonely the beds! Forever & ever…Lonely the lunchrooms, lonely the cars running in the streets … Lonely Los Angeles, lonely world!
Sure are a lot of defeated people in this here America …”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti –Los Angeles, 1964
Letters are available at City Lights Books. The journals publish, Sept. 7