A DEEPLY involving and bittersweet presentation at #LAPL’s Central Library on Saturday afternoon. Annie Laskey and her mother Marlene hatched a plan to walk the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard from its downtown high-rises and mid-town department stores to the edges of the sea. Annie mentioned that the thrill at first was less about the walk and more about getting to operate the Minolta SLR. Annie shot and Marlene made note (see the notebook in the grid below). While Marlene and many of the iconic locations that the Laskeys recorded are no longer with us, the absences were filled with vivid stories. Grateful for the Laskeys and their. sticktoitiveness Hundreds of sites have now been preserved on Kodachrome slides. The Wilshire Boulevard — the Carnation Building, Mutual of Omaha, Ambassador Hotel– that still exists in my head flickered to life with her stories. You can glimpse 100 of those images in a new book, “The Wilshire Slides 1978–1979” put out through LAPL’s Photo Collection and Photo Friends the nonprofit organization formed to support & promote the collection.
I’M MORE THAN a little tardy posting this but projects have been flying in and out the door, and my fingers are trying their very best to keep up. But this afternoon from a couple of weeks back remains on my mind.
Mike Sonksen (AKA Mike the Poet) is a civic treasure. He’s one of those faces that float into view at almost every poetry event and almost every corner of town. He’s a many-generation native of Los Angeles and with that he’s taken a multilayered interest in the city. All of it is up for exploration and inquiry.
Mike is also known around the poetry scene for his indiosyncratic city tours — on foot, by bus, via Metro — that have always featured the energy and of freestyle poetry and history. For as many years as I have known him, this was the very first time I had been able to take part in one of the downtown walkabouts. This round he featured other poets along the way, among them — Traci Akemi Kato-kiriyama, Rocío Carlos and F. Douglas Brown — who paused to share observations or self-reflections about sense of place or considered their personal place within with ever-shifting landscape of Los Angeles.
Much of the day and night before, it had been storming. Uncharacteristic downpours for May. But by mid morning the rain eased and the clouds pushed back enough to give the sky depth and offer a poem itself. We walked up and down hills, stood on overpasses and beneath flowering jacaranda trees to listen to aural snapshots of the city. Tourists in our own town. Just as we finished for the day, the clouds gathered again and the rain made an encore. Polite enough, however, to wait until the very last word. It was as if Mike had arranged it. Not once did he appear worried that we’d rain out, have to run for cover. Not one minute. He knows better. He knows how to read not just the streets, but the skies and the promises they won’t break.
To read Mike’s latest about L.A. new poet laureate, Robin Coste Lewis, 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
EVERY ONCE in a while it’s good to be reminded what a new perspective can do.
I finally paused last week to watch this video, and yes, there is my pretty city.
… has a story …
This weekend, the Los Angeles Conservancy is offering a series of tours featuring historic neighborhoods in Los Angeles: Windsor Village, County Club Park, Wilshire Park are among them. As well the day-long event will offer sessions and workshops on sustainability, greening your home and balancing redevelopment and preservation.
And even if you can make it in the flesh, all of Los Angeles has been invited to participate in the discussion by using the hashtag, #LAStoryhood, to document the uniqueness of their own neighborhood in photographs via Twitter and Instagram… Looking forward to these personal virtual tours.
For more info on the project click here.
THIS WEEKEND at Cinefamily: Los Angeles Plays Itself