“A Seat at the Table”

THIS IS my old neighborhood. Literally a stone’s throw away our old house and long-ago routines.

It was a deep-dose of nostalgia to sit on a patio beneath a canopy of green to conduct interviews and see the high-rise office building where my mother would take us for our pediatrician appointments. We shopped steps away in the now-vanished Santa Barbara Plaza and the old Crenshaw mall. It’s encouraging to see the shifts and additions as well as the fact that two savvy restauranteurs have decided to set down roots here.

“The space serves as a touchstone for Angelenos who have grown up in one of these contiguous neighborhoods and may want to travel back, not just to a physical place, but to a time. “There’s a reason why this is a neighborhood,” Brad Johnson reflects. “So many did stay rooted here emotionally, even after they moved away.” from my profile on Brad Johnson and Govind Armstrong and their restaurant Post & Beam now up at at KCET DEPARTURES.


Photo byTeresa A. Mendoza via KCET Departures

“Los Angeles Plays Itself” Is Ready for Its Close-up

I CAN’T express how happy I am to finally hear that Los Angeles Plays itself, Thom Anderson’s inclusive all over the map — literally– look at L.A. on film will finally be available for purchase this Fall.

from Alissa Walker’s post on Gizmodo:

If you haven’t seen it before, Los Angeles Plays Itself is innately entertaining as a cinematic experiment, even to the Angeleno-agnostic. Narrated with Andersen’s own commentary, the documentary features over 200 clips from films about Los Angeles, examining everything from the stereotypes surrounding the city’s automobile culture to an oft-repeated thesis that villains live in modernist houses (below). In short, it’s probably the most important media study ever conducted on the city—maybe any city!—and no one has been able to see it.

When I was teaching my “Telling L.A.’s Story” course, I used the film as a sort of red carpet into a Los Angeles my students hadn’t seen. My hope too was that it would at the same time get them thinking a differently about the city they traversed and interacted with daily. City as set. City as City. Each semester though, I had to hunt around for links because they would often be removed — only to be replaced by others. It will be great to have this sprawling moving canvass at the ready.

I feel a series of “Plays Itself” viewing parties in our near future…

Forget it, Jake

oviatt penthouse

INSPIRING DAY at the Tales of Two Cities conference at the Central Library downtown. I was on a panel titled “Exiles & Place” with Lisa See, Naomi Hirahara and Hector Tobar. Moderated by Brighde Mullin, the panel was tasked with sorting out the idea of place in a city that constantly shape-shifts and whose “story” often is overshadowed by outsiders’ notions of it.

Great side-chats and vivid anecdotes collected in the common areas with rooms full of L.A. lovers. Wrapping it up, the big group took a quick walk over to the Oviatt and swooped up to the penthouse for an elegant indoor/outdoor after-party.

The above photo, a scene from the roof, was about as dreamscape-L.A. as it gets.

Thanks all for a great day.

Chasing Chandler’s Ghost

THE LAST couple of months have been a crush of trying to make it to the finish line on several projects, but I took a little time out to check out the Esouteric’s Raymond Chandler tour.


Esotouric does a number of L.A. historical/cultural off-the-beaten track explorations of L.A. — you can check them out here. Our four-hour tour in a big fancy air-cooled bus (this seems to be a theme of mine of late — to be a tourist in my own town) was led authoritatively by Kim Cooper and Richard Schave. Deeply researched, it wound us along Chandler’s meandering trail through Los Angeles — downtown and Hollywood — with both historical and literary context provided — even some clips from Chandler-inspired films.


We made stops at the lavish Oviatt building, the Barclay Hotel in the heart of downtown’s historic core, then snaked into Hollywood past Paramount Studios, the Crossroads of the World and then wound back to the industrial district where we’d met up.

at the hotel barclay -- downtown

at the hotel barclay

Coming at the city from all of these different angles shifts the perspective, allows you to both see L.A. from the inside out and arms you with a ready come-back for those who want to tell you that L.A. has no history. Often the problem, we Angelenos know, is that people just don’t know where to look when they are out to chase ghosts.

Esoutouric seems to know where the best ones are hidden.


Echoes of Echo Park


I HADN’T had a chance to actually walk through Echo Park since it’s grand renovation. Part of it was trepidation. But Sunday last, I decided to make it my morning walk. It was still, to my happy surprise, filled with the old neighborhood dwellers taking a turn around the water — walking, jogging, gossiping. I feared the worst as so much else has changed — at least my old street that has condos growing out of a lot which used to host an old,decaying Victorian that was eventually removed and transported just across Sunset (we were told) to Angelino Heights.
For the most part, the changes are subtle and tasteful. It was a pleasant turn in the early sun. I was there so early that I wasn’t able to really see the boathouse and the new coffee space in action, but I was quite happy to see that Queen of the Angels (AKA “Lady of the Lake”) statue has been restored to the grounds and now stands on the north end of the park, her back to the skyline, but her face to the neighborhood.

Good morning.