Sunday Drive: Haunted Shack Gardens 

THIS SUNDAY DRIVE was both spur of the moment and serendipitous. I’ve been curious about the artist Shrine’s magical compound. There was an open studio event in the SGV on Sunday and I got lost in the details, in the best possible way.

I’m still floating on the mood.

“Watching, Thinking, Listening, Assessing”

SOME NEWS:

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Excited to now officially report that I’ve been awarded the Huntington Library’s Alan Jutzi Fellowship to support the next leg of my research this summer in the Octavia E. Butler archive. I’m so grateful that she’s left so much of her story to learn from. Now looking forward to delving deeper.

It has been an honor to spend time in the archive and see a much more complex portrait of this Southern California native slide into view.

Stay tuned for more info about Butler here.

 

 

landscapes, soundscapes, dreamscapes

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“Arden” — Image Courtesy John S. Reynolds

I HAVE been so buried in duty that I’m late in posting this piece that was up over at Artbound last month, but it’s an evergreen.

There is a particular L.A. that resides in native Angelenos’ minds. They are personal Los Angeles-es — of different moods, eras, compositions.  John Reynold’s work taps into that thread of memory.  He retains it so we don’t have to work as hard.

I profiled Reynolds, a musician  and painter,  whose era of speciality, as he’d say himself,
is “the period of time between the two big wars — First and Second.”

This piece was reported over a long period of time, mostly  because I wanted to be in both of Reynolds’ worlds — the music and the art — and really understand how they both occupied his imagaination. That meant I drove to Disneyland and California Adventure where he has a regular gig as part of several of the “atmosphere” bands. As well he plays clubs and bars, theaters and back rooms across the city and country for huge swing dance followings.

But the art is something that he’s been working on quietly over the years and it evokes, visually, the music that he finds himself most happy sailing around in. It’s also a powerful trigger of memory for those of us who have watched Los Angeles move away from us.

From the piece:

Reynolds knows it can be treacherous business dealing in nostalgia. There are all manner of trick wires, trap doors and uncomfortable — “Whose nostalgia?” — truths to confront. But as a musician and painter who firmly situates himself in the landscape of history and memory, conveying a sense of home, especially in a constantly remade Los Angeles, is its own tight-wire act. The things that both located and grounded you are sometimes gone before you can make full sense of them: “You look up one day and there’s just an empty lot and a tractor.”

For Reynolds, a fifth-generation Southern Californian, history has a heavy presence. It’s palpable at every turn. It’s often a past that most people can no longer discern: It’s been bulldozed, retrofitted, rethought or stuccoed-over. That’s why his creative output, for as long as he can remember, has been dedicated to bringing those stories to the surface and rekindling unfinished conversations about place: “I guess you can say I’m haunted —  in a positive and negative way,” he reflects. “I’m sorry that so much of it — that feeling is gone — but I am glad that I can remember it.” And there’s legacy to protect.

Months ago, I visited his home studio in Glendale and got a sense of his history (he’s the grandson old-Hollywood actress ZaSu Pitts) and over the last four decades has worked in music ensembles that specialize in playing early-20th Century popular music. The mosaic of images below are from that afternoon visit (before our walk around the “ghost” houses of Pasadena).

You can read the piece here at Artbound.  And check John’s page here for info about  upcoming shows.

 

 

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John S. Reynolds at The Brand Library Art Center – Photo by Lynell George

“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)

Green Space

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.

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The Backstory 

ONCE AGAIN Vromans Bookstore  in Pasadena outdoes itself with an elaborate Banned Books Week display. This time each title is outfitted with a backstory  — about where and why the “notorious” volume made the list. I haven’t picked my title yet but as you can see there are many to choose from. 

Exercise your right and freedom to choose.

  

Lit Fest SGV-Style

SOME MOMENTS from last weekend’s  LitFest Pasadena. 

  

Our LA On Foot Panel — with writer Geoff Nicholson, urban planer James T. Rojas and moderated by documentary filmmaker, Steven Reich — was well attenended and the audience asked great questions,suggesting there are a lot more of us out there who want to explore the urban environment without the barrier (and at the speed of) a car.  

Nice notes from Geoff about our conversational wanderings here.

We strolled around the theater district for the day-long event, taking in the renovations and additions — public art and new buildings designed to look older. There was poetry read on the steps, quick  lines written on-demand on the sidewalk– and lots of conversation swirling. (And in the grid above you’ll see Janet Fitch & Lisa Freeman, David Kipen, chef Roy Choi, Greg Nichols (and a side view of Mr. Nicholson. And Ms. Karineh Mahdessian at the lovely typewriter)  

Thanks to Jervey Tervalon for working tirelessly and on a shoestring  to make this event shine. 

Sunday Drive: Remembering #42

JUST AS I finished snapping the photo,  a man standing at the threshold of his home just across the street began talking.

 

He spoke as if we had already been in conversation. In other words his statement sounded like a mid-sentence recitation ” . . . from China, from Mexico, from Europe. They come looking. Black people too.”

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Such a quiet street, Pepper Street, a cul-de-sac that’s a hodgepodge of structures, some single-family residences still standing alongside multifamily-dwelings. I had come knowing that Jackie Robinson’s house no longer stood but I wanted to find the plaque — I had walked by it the first time. It’s set in the sidewalk — flush– like a headstone.

Looking down, I wondered why it took me so long to come here to size up what was left. As Sunday Drives go, this was a blink.

Pasadena has named parks and baseball fields, post offices after Robinson. (I just dropped off a package to a friend there last week in fact.) Just across from Pasadena City Hall there is striking piece of public art by Ralph Helmick, Stu Schecter and John Outterbridge of Robinson and his brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson. (see below).

But I have to say there was something even more humbling about that simple plaque on a sort of afterthought of a street. I paused  to talk a little more to the gentleman who had come out of his house so early on a Sunday morning to share what he has seen over the years. New structures, new people, even since he’d been there, long long after the Robinsons had left the scene.

The only constant were the people who come, and continue to. They pause and just stand before that easy-to-miss plaque in silence. Paying respects.

“Not any man could have done with he did.”

 

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