State of Mind/State of Being

MY ESSAY — in words and pictures —  about what it means to be a Californian is now up at Boom California.

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At the edge of it

I have been thinking more and more of late about how being both  an inheritor and a native of a place,  shapes the way you see and move through territory as well as how you  understand your place within it.

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Keepsakes and Souvenirs

I want to thank especially my former SF roommate, Shelley,  for spending endless hours with me  roaming around our old spaces and chasing vanished addresses in the Bay Area. I can do that for hours and hours.  I do a fair amount of this roaming on my own when I’m here in Los Angeles but it was great to have a second set of eyes and someone with whom to bounce ideas back and forth.

California, I do love you, but I have to wonder sometimes if you’re moving faster than I am.

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Boom Winter Issue 2016

All images by Lynell George

“Slippery Oasis”

image by Damon Casarez linked via Los Angeles Magazine

NICE PIECE up at Los Angeles Magazine by Jesse Katz about Westlake’s “slippery oasis” known as MacArthur Park.

A snip:

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

The Spirits of the City

“Figueroa Spectres, 1935-1997,” a photo montage by Philip J. Ethington. via USC Dornsife

A FEW weeks ago I spoke with Philip Ethington, a professor of history and political science at USC Dornsife, about his 15-years-in-the making project, Ghost Metropolis. Due out next year, the multimedia “book” explores layers of Los Angeles — its history, its built environment, its contested territories, its major arteries and industries — in hopes of examining and cataloging the distinguishing details of Los Angeles, past and present.

“I see myself making ghosts visible,” he explained.

Those pieces of from the past that so many Angelenoes consider to be razed or lost, haven’t been entirely erased, they are often, Ethington points out, just hiding in plain sight.

The project — which assembles a series of essays, interactive maps, photographs (his own set alongside archival images) and video — will tell a 4D story about the region across epochs.

From the piece:

“I just want to tell a great story about a great city. Great in a massive sense, but also in a creative sense. Because it’s not all about the bad guys and the injustices and the oppressions. I also want achieve accountability. That’s a real big goal.”

To read the piece and see some of time images and maps, click over to USC Dornsife’s site here.

Post-Script

How Los Angeles Looked, 1850s | Photo courtesy LA Public Library via KCET | Departures

IT WAS great to see D.J. Waldie’s thoughtful consideration of our online conversation.

Some of his musings:

We haven’t yet learned to speak the language of the Los Angeles that is coming. It’s a post-sprawl city, where “sprawl” had been the clichéd label for the city’s multi-centered urban form. It’s a post-diversity city, where “diversity” talk is both a sign of Anglo anxiety about the new people living next door and a word of self-congratulation about not being too anxious. Los Angeles is post “middle-class” as well, having been made into a city of struggling working-class aspirants below and a crust of oblivious wealth above.

You can catch the rest here at KCET Departures

Seeking Los Angeles

The View from the Old Hill -- by Lynell George

The View from the Old Hill — by Lynell George

SOME YEARS back, not too long before I became a journalist, I noted that I seemed stricken by writers block when it came to fixing Los Angeles on the page.

Maybe I was just too deep in it, or standing far too close to really see it — my own day-to-day life here, and my place in it. Consequently it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco briefly that I began to write deeply and vividly about the city I was born and raised in. And then it seemed, I couldn’t’ stop.

More recently, I have found myself wrestling with a different sort of writing challenge as I encounter the city — both physically and philosophically. Mostly of late it feels like I am chasing ghosts and, in a certain way, still writing about L.A. from a distance — but one of time and change.

The ever-sharp Carolina Miranda over at the L.A. Times convened three L.A. writers to talk about L.A.: the worn-out tropes, the city’s elusiveness. I had a great time having a virtual conversation with D.J. Waldie and Josh Kun, two Angelenos who also press into the city from unexpected angles.

Here’s the link to our online chat.

And thanks again Carolina for asking us to help pull L.A.into sharper focus.

Where is the love, Los Angeles?

aloudOH, THERE’S been a big reason why things have been a little quiet around here.

Lots of deadlines and projects and talks but here’s the biggest endeavor that’s been occupying a lot of my brain space and is going to be taking off in about a week and a half.

I’ve been working on a collaboration for ALOUD with the poet Mariesela Norte about Los Angeles — life along the margins of the big frame. Also in the big mix is DJ Mark “frosty” McNeil of dublab who will be weaving a live mix to accompany our words and images.

This will be our kick off for the summer.

We’re completely sold out but you can try to fly stand-by.

Info here.

oh, and PS: I should be getting back to regular posting very soon.

Stay tuned.