My Life in the Sunshine …

APOLOGIES FOR being so behind on posting articles. Trying to play catch up. Things have been back-to-back.

This was a piece that I didn’t know I needed to write, but when the opportunity arrived I knew I had to wrestle with some themes that had been drifting through in conversations for years.

It’s an ode to a Los Angeles that is holding on with a very specific vividness and richness, but every time I revisit, I see features that appear slightly different, feel a rhythm that feels somewhat sped up or askew. At moments,, it’s difficult to put into words, but this is a reflection of what it is to be not just in a place but of a place.

The view North from the Avenues

From the piece:

As a journalist, I keep my eye trained on statistics — census numbers, pie charts, bar graphs — that indicate shifts that we may not detect with a naked eye. Therein blooms stories. As a Black Angeleno those charts and calculations aren’t abstractions. They are something you feel in your body, some sort of undertow in your day to day existence. Something has changed, power has shifted. Census numbers, like a Ouija planchette, pull attention toward power or possibility — the vote, the money, the influence. 

For many decades, Los Angeles had been known as a Black migrant “magnet.” Folks came for the promise and the sunshine. The Black population in L.A. has dropped 30% since 1990, according to census data.

Home is always in us…

My piece for KPCC/LAist on Nipsey Hussle and the soul and heart of Black Los Angeles is here.

Analog Life (& Letters)

LIKE SO many of us I have been trying to figure out ways to manage my new reality. I miss convening with friends near and far and moving about the city, state and country.

I’ve watched many of my friends and colleagues attempting to close their socializing gaps with a rigorous schedule of video conferencing. (I’ve even had to do some of it for my reporting activity in the last few months). But nothing really replaces face-to-face. And for long-stretch conversions, I prefer the phone. (Something about the screen feels distancing to my head.).

There’s nothing like print

Very early on when California went to “Safer at Home” regulations, I began writing letters. I pulled out old stationery and my pens and just tried to find my old correspondence voice. It took awhile. Letters are different from texts and emails, they have a different feel, flavor and pace. They should anyway…

I wrote about this for the L.A. Times a few weeks back. Here’s the piece

Troubling Calm

IN THE EARLY DAYS, of our “shut down,” I was asked to file a report from my corner of the region. The world had changed so abruptly and I am not clairvoyant, but I kept looking at what was right in front of me until the words circled and un-scrolled. Here’s a piece I did last Spring for LMU Magazine.

“Take what you want/need”

“Days before everything turned inside out, when I still had access to the full stretch of my old world, I attended an opera based on science fiction author Octavia E. Butler’s prescient novel “Parable of the Sower.” Fittingly, the story is set in a 21st century dystopian Los Angeles — a city ravaged by long-term drought and upturned by grim social disorder. Butler, who was born and raised minutes from where I now live, shrugged out of the label “seer.” Rather, she often spoke about how one can read the future just by being attentive to what’s outside the window. “Learn from the past,” she warned. But, too: “Count on surprises.”

Learn to read the cycles, Butler knew.

Of late, Los Angeles has been at its most impossibly lush: The mountains and their contours aren’t hidden by a scrim of haze. The sunsets bloom paint-box vivid — ribbons of lilac and blush pink. The air offers a perfume of new blooms — jasmine, citrus, sharp lavender. And now, with so much at a standstill — no conversations in the street, no rush-hour car horns blasting — nature is at the forefront.

This beauty, in other instances, would be comforting, but each day the world outside the door feels more threatening. How can these spring days be so dazzling, and yet they don’t quiet the sense of unease? They underscore it.

Since early March, with the arrival of the novel coronavirus, the sense of unease and sadness that I, and so many others, have been swimming through is as novel as the pathogen itself. Its slow approach is something we can neither hide nor run from. It’s a force we can’t even see.

Silence has become a shelter. I’ve begun telling people I know and love that language has not caught up with the expanse of my emotions; my feelings are too new and seem to occupy some unexplored territory of both place and self.

I am a journalist, so it is often difficult for me to take a break from the news. In these weeks of sheltering, I cook to radio analysis. Over coffee, I keep scrolling, absorbing stats, reading charts, hitting share buttons to disseminate best-practices advice. But the more information I have the more it feeds anxiety — the “what ifs” and “if onlys …”

To read the whole piece click here:

Who Is Los Angeles?

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Dana Johnson: Moments before our Interview after being circumvented. Union Station, Fall 2016. Photo by Lynell George

I SPEAK to Dana Johnson about her evocative new book,  In the Not Quite Dark for USC Dornsife. IIt’s a tough look at changing Los Angeles.

If you are moving through these changing corridors, you’ll find yourself somewhere on her pages.

From my piece:

Poetic and, at turns, unflinchingly raw, the 11 stories explore a wide-ranging Los Angeles experience: People pulled from elsewhere seeking transformation; natives sprung up from L.A.’s soil carving out life around the noise. It considers that projected dream — the West as a site of transformation — but its inverse, too: What happens when you chase a dream that dissolves each time you reach out to capture it.

The L.A. that many of Johnson’s stories pull into focus is not the telegenic region of rolling lawns, beaches and opulence. Rather, it’s a series of backdrops and situations that most Angelenos move through daily — city dwellers overwhelmed by traffic, keeping one step ahead of gentrification, at turns bewildered and humbled by homelessness.

As I consider in the piece, “one story overtakes another; some have more weight” All we can do is write our stories, our presents and pasts.

You can read the entire profile here.

Notes from the Nomad

  FALL IS here just about, though the temps are  still spiking into the high 90s.  It’s typical L.A. Indian Summer. That’s why I had an early-morning visit this week with the artist Dominique Moody. She’s been taking her artist’s residence on wheels on short trips around Southern California.  It’s a tiny house, but one built by a trained assemblage artist. Both portrait and theater, Moody’s Nomad is the product of a series of serendipitous encounters that very early on took root in her imagination. 

I wrote about her for KCET’s Artbound not too long ago. She’s almost ready to take the first of her longer journeys. 

Here are some quick moments from my visit in Altadena. 

More to come.    

Exploring Psychedelia

Slyfamstone-dance

TODAY I’M thinking it’s going to take the cape that Sly Stone wears on the cover of this classic LP.

This afternoon we celebrate the launch of Black Clock 20 at Mandrake, at 4pm. Info including coordinates here.

Following close on this event’s heels, I hope to slide by in time for the official launch party for Latitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas, also this afternoon, at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, info here.

And a big thanks to all who came out last night to Clockshop to show us love and help us welcome this book and its ideas out into the world. We appreciated it.

What Happened to the Creative Class?

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“If we’re not careful, culture work will become a luxury like a vacation home. Just as a democratic nation benefits from a large, secure, and informed middle class, so too we need a robust creative class. Painting a landscape or playing a jazz solo does not guarantee that an individual will become nobler or more virtuous. But a broad-based class making its living in culture ensures a better society. This book is about why they are worth saving.”

— Scott Timberg. from “Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class”

We’ll be in Larchmont Village on Thursday discussing the shifting landscape of the arts.
Bring your stories.

Touchstones and Keepsakes: Chinatown’s New Orleans in L.A.

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A FEW months back, I’d heard word about a spot opening up in Chinatown that was going to bring a little bit of New Orleans to L.A. It got my hopes up, but I also knew to be sure to be a bit measured with my expectations. We’ve been disappointed before. Frankly New Orleans is difficult to get right — the accent as well as the food.

Slipping into Little Jewel back in August, I saw from the start that this was going to be different. Strikingly so. Since then,
I’ve been following the evolution of this market/deli and rendezvous for the last six months.

For many transplanted New Orleanians it’s already become a freeway-close home away from home.

You can click here to find my piece about Chinatown’s Little Jewel of New Orleans.

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans -- photo by Lynell George

Executive Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger greets customers at The Little Jewel of New Orleans — photo by Lynell George