Pop-Up Broadway



THIS POEM, by my friend and longtime colleague Rubén Martinez, graces the marquee of the grand Orpheum theater in Downtown L.A. As part of the Pop-Up Broadway arts and culture showcase highlighting Los Angeles’ vital cultural resources.
It’s a part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative

Congratulations, Rubén.


On Broadway

ITS BEEN a year  (or more) since I began stepping up my return visits to the Grand Central Market because I know it will be a very different place sooner rather than later.


I’ve taken quick walk-throughs some days. On others I’ll sit with one friend or another for a leisurely visit and watch the old and new cross and merge — customers, produce, menus and conversations — all of it on display. So many different Los Angeleses on display among the dried chilies and the fresh corn. I miss the old butcher and the curious arrangements of meats (heads and hooves) — but then I think, maybe he’s not gone — not just yet — only around a corner I haven’t turned yet. But then I am distracted by some new site or stand — the deli, the cheese shop, the new butcher. As I walk around now, I am having trouble even remembering what I remember.



The original six-story building on Broadway was designed in 1896 by architect John B. Parkinson (whose firm served as architects for other L.A.-signature structures such as City Hall, Bullock’s Wilshire and the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal — Union Station). Built by Homer Laughlin an Ohio-based businessman. the building’s first ground-floor tenant was he Ville de Paris Department store, but in 1917 the space was remained as a public market that has been shape-shifting to serve the population of downtown ever since.




Up until the 60s, the market served both downtown businesses as well as the residential communities above along Bunker Hill.  Now that Broadway and many surrounding downtown boulevards and adjacent neighborhoods are repopulating with loft and condo-dwellers, just who downtown residents are — as well as what their needs might be — have become much more complex subject of discussion.

Change always seems sudden here in L.A., even if it isn’t really. It might have to do with the way we navigate the city. If you uproot from an old neighborhood or a job the familiar haunts slide away to make room for others. Time shifts and it “seems like yesterday.” But it more time has passed than we think.



I took a writer friend who, though she passed the Laughlin building weekly, hadn’t stuck her head inside the Market for some time. In her head it was the same as it always had been: The fruit signs, the neon, the dry goods, the heads and hooves on ice.  But after just a few steps inside she saw not what was there but what wasn’t: the old map of her childhood visits, the vendors she had relationships with (whom she asked after by first name.)

Her reaction was instant and deep. The raw emotion — the upset — surprised even her.  At first glimpse, It felt like another impending erasure.  Full and total. And it wouldn’t be the first time.

The hope for these visits, I realized,  is to be able to slow time down a bit so I can absorb and document change in motion.

I too have been bowled over by complete re-imaginings of locations I have considered to be anchors of periods of my life here, backdrops that I thought would be ever-present like the mountains in the distance behind the skyline.

But I know better now.



The Open-Ended Road

FOR ABOUT two years now, I have been following artist Dominique Moody’s story. I mentioned Dominique here just a couple of posts back as we were finishing up the final stages of this part of her journey.


She has been working on constructing a tiny, mobile dwelling — The Nomad — that will not only both be her residence and her studio — but in many ways a stage.

Moody has been deeply enmeshed in the process of collage and assemblage for decades, but this piece is in certain ways the one she’s been working toward for decades. It will allow her, as an artist, to move into regions where she won’t only be an artist in residence, but an artist with residence — a sense of home, a sense of rootedness — something she has struggled with for much of her life.

The photos below show the NOMAD just a few months back in Pasadena. My full piece about Dominique just went up yesterday, here, at KCET’s Artbound blog.




all photos: copyright Lynell George

Go West


LAST NIGHT, I took time away from the keyboard to attend the opening of a new exhibition on display at the Central Library Downtown about the history of Union Station. It was so well worth it. No Further West: The Story of Union Station opens to the public today and will be up until August. Anyone who is interested in architecture, L.A. history and the evolution of downtown Los Angeles should make time to take a glimpse. It was an evening of quality time travel.

For more information about the exhibit — and some slideshows and history — click here.




AS LONG as I can remember, I have been obsessed trains. Not just the grand locomotives and passenger cars, but the stories that fill and surround them, the symphony of comings and goings that comprise the story of railstations

Growing up,  I connected the trip across town to Union Station with the much-anticipated visits from my New Orleans grandfather. Although he’s now been gone more years I had with him,  I still do; I still hope to be the first to spot him in his stingy-brim straw fedora  and his crisp summer blazer, keeping his own rhythm. Union Station — the “Last Great Station” was his daughter’s —  my mother — gateway into Los Angeles as well; it was her first glimpse of the “pretty city.” These stories still swirl around inside me, feel very present so many decades gone.

Next month marks the 75th anniversary of Union Station and to commemorate  there are a couple of new books  about the station and an exhibit at downtown’s Central Library that opens next week. All of it serves to celebrate this auspicious milestone, and so I know that this means similar there-to-here narratives still swirl around within many other Angelenos, as well.


Yesterday on my way to a meeting, I passed through the terminal and found myself lingering — dithering, really —   taking in all the busy rehab and refurbishing progressing  around me. I’m still sad about the now roped-off leather chairs  that edge the concourse.  An intricate web of scaffolding  laced across the grand entrance windows. Crews in hard hats and emergency-hued-neon vests spidered up ladders. There are both subtle and dramatic signage changes you’ll encounter; new destination and arrival boards and even the ceiling has been given a big scrubbing so you can glimpse the beautiful tile and wood. As happy as I was to see so much effort put into beautifying the building (readying it for its birthday close-up) — it’s hard to watch the change from the past to the future. I don’t want all of the those stories, conversations, memories to be stripped away.

As I made my way from across the concourse to meet my ride, a lone traveler stopped me. She didn’t have a question,  she wasn’t lost, I quickly discerned. She just wanted to chat. She was from the South — Arkansas — and was staying with her daughter and son-in-law, she told me. Her story circled around: She’d been in L.A. for three days and in that time had criss-crossed the region, “pretty remarkably,” I had to tell her, for such a short stay. “I’m leaving tomorrow. I don’t want to wear out my welcome. I want to be invited back. Longer next time.” Before I knew it, I was being introduced to the daughter and the son-in-law. It was like something out of not just another place or another time — but another lost impulse.

What made her stop me? I don’t know. She said it was “something about my face.” But the reassuring message I took away from our intersecting was that despite upgrades, the elbow-grease that was rapidly sloughing off  generations of dust and more, was that there was something about the spirit of that place — of train stations — that still encourages old-fashioned encounters — conversations and stories  that don’t have goals but rather are gateways to something else — a need to make all manner of connections.


Life’s Bits and Pieces

WHAT CHERI PANN reminded me of yesterday as she generously led me and my friend Patricia through the twists and turns of her home — the Mosaic Tile House in Venice — is that life is all about repurposing — plans, dreams, discards, old ideas of ourselves.



Pann and her husband Gonzalo Duran have been collaborating on this living work of art for more than a decade — adding rooms, levels and studio workspaces. As Cheri told us at the beginning of our walk through, the problem was, “It was a really ugly house. Really. We had to figure out something to do with it.


Both artists are native Angelenos entrenched not just in soil, but in the spirit of the place. Their personal story winds through the old bungalow — in the details day-to-day living as well as on whimsical canvases and within the intricate mosaics themselves.

As Patricia remarked as we prepared to depart to go and find some place to have a meal, wait out traffic and look at the water, “It really is a love song, isn’t it?”










for more info about the Mosaic Tile House click here.

Meet Me at the Station


THE UNION STATION L.A. Conservancy Tour was today. Informative, but the huge disappointment was not being able to get access to two key areas of the grounds–the former ticket area and the beautiful Fred Harvey restaurant.

Really wish we had been warned, as those are the best perks of this behind-the-scene glimpse of North America’s last great railroad station. I’ve been there for events and parties but the journalist in me was hoping to see the working parts and connect the dots of the city’s past.

We fully understand there are scheduling mixups and logistical snafus, but an email warning beforehand or a rain-check or re-do offered would have gone a long way to ease the sting. It was just too bad.


“Meanwhile Stories”

The New Main Exhibition Hall

A COUPLE weeks back, I was invited to a press preview of the Huntington Library’s Main Hall renovation. It’s pretty spectacular.

Afterward, I spoke at-length with Karina White, the curator charged with the rethinking, who shared the organizing thesis behind the 12 key objects (Shakespeare folios or, say, the charred remains of Jack London’s original manuscript of The Sea-Wolf, as touchstones — windows onto other events that were occurring simultaneously. Working collectively, the curators dubbed these moments as “Meanwhile Stories” — so that museum visitors will get a sense of the historical context within which these letters, books photographs, journals etc. were a part.

When you visit, make sure to make time to stop by the adjoining Trustee’s Room to take a look at filmmaker Kate Lain’s piece Hand/Study, a 63-minute film projected on an elegant conference table that features disembodied hands executing various tasks often performed in library and/or museum preservation. It’s mesmerizing.



My piece is up here at KCET Artbound

Turquoise House 14


AS SERENDIPITY would have it, I turned down the block to shoot something completely different — an odd mural, signage or some-such — but instead happened upon a particularly well-tended and stately collection of California Craftsman and Victorian homes on a tidy block just south of downtown. I hadn’t spotted any solid specimens in a while so thought I might be through with this little side project, but no, not quite…