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.
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.”
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.
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)
YOU WOULD have to be living beneath a rock to not know that we Angelenos are deep in the throes of a drought. Even my friends, thousands of miles away, ask about what that might mean, are versed in the details. So, with a sense of great surprise, I’ve been noting how many residents are still showering their beloved front lawns with affection — read: lots of water — despite fines and the threat of other penalties.
It’s hardly something that one can hide.
Now, months into no rain and state-imposed water restrictions, the dramatic side-by-side differences are everywhere. That checkerboard of front yards made me realize just how much our symbolic first impression might still mean to us.
My short meditation on lawns and how they figure into the Southern California imagination is up here at Zócalo Public Square.
TONIGHT we discuss LA on foot and David L. Ulin’s new book SIDEWALKING at the Ruskin Art Club. For information about the event and tickets, please click here
NICE PIECE up at Los Angeles Magazine by Jesse Katz about Westlake’s “slippery oasis” known as MacArthur Park.
The people who turn up in the lake these days may look different from those who perished a century ago. They may come from different parts of the world and inhabit different social echelons. We may have a more sophisticated vocabulary for their breakdowns, a more nuanced understanding of addiction and despair. But the guile of the lake—the melodrama of our city—is not a modern condition.
Every fall, I think about my old across-the-landing neighbor who worked graveyards undercover with LAPD, his beat to spin around those shadows in the Park. I know he could write a book or two. Jesse’s piece brought all that back…me standing, balancing with my laundry listening to native noir stories.
More of Jesse’s wonderful, moody piece here