Photo by Edie Vonnegut
“So this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which I throw over my shoulders as I travel in time back to November eleventh, nineteen hundred and twenty-two.
I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And so is music”
From Breakfast of Champions
Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut
“Sometimes at home, after someone dies, people will ask the closest relatives, ‘How is Joe?’ It’s kind of an accident, one they will correct if they notice what they’ve said. But it’s also an actual question, acknowledging that a man does not die all at once, even when a corpse takes the place of the man. The question means, ‘How is Joe in you? How is Joe’s death going with you?’ And even, ‘Have you heard from Joe, and what does he say?’ Acknowledging the permeable borders between the living and the dead, the transmigration of souls. Dreams.”
— “Brooklyn Journals” from The Public Gardens by Linda Norton
found party – pittsburgh
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by theopressed. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
LAST WEEK, I met up for dinner with my friend Victoria who wanted to make sure we checked out Las Posadas at Olvera Street. It was my first full day back in Los Angeles after a very immersive trip to New Orleans. We had a leisurely dinner and talk about all manner of things Los Angeles. And then the procession passed by — the air fragrant with frankincense laced with accordion and brass and voices. Later we happened upon the remains of a piñata and the scent of spicy hot chocolate.
It felt good to be home. It’s become a state of mind that is more difficult for me to locate lately. But there was something about the weather and the ritual and the conversation that conjured a feeling that felt familiar and calming.
Union Station Passenger Terminal, December 2015. Image by Lynell George
What capped off our night was a lovely moment of serendipity. Here we were, two L.A. daughters making our way across the plaza, talking about holidays past and present and sort of struggling to find the words to talk about absence. When we look up, just across Alameda, we see something out of the ordinary — the facade of Union Station in a wash of ruby and emerald lights. Elegant and transporting in its own way.
As it turned out, they’d just flipped the switch the moment we’d emerged from El Pueblo. When I had disembarked the Metro earlier that evening, the station was lit as usual, crisp ,clear white light. I had wanted to come back and photograph the tree. But this? I couldn’t have wished for a better way to re-enter the city. Thank you Metro.
And Happy Holidays to you all from the Coast.
“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” – Gwendolyn Brooks
Wishing you all a sumptuous and satisfying Thanksgiving.
SUNDAYS OFTEN meant a long drive through the heart of the city, when I was growing up.
Fathers’ Day would be no different.
Thank you, Dad for indulging us always.
I CAN’T remember when I wasn’t radio-obsessed. Growing up in Los Angeles, the radio was my first set of keys. You could visit so many far-flung places by way of announcers, DJs and deep, loose mixes that brought together textures of a vivid city. The radio could inspire. It could also be a release valve. Call letters were addresses to places where you could wander in and sit a spell.
Tonight at Clockshop in Frogtwon we are having our first “LAtitudes: An Agneleno’s Atlas” event, bringing together four writers from the project. Wendy Gilmartin, Josh Kun, Michael-Jamie Becera and I will talk about ugly buildings, L.A. soundscapes, tacos and ghost frequencies, respectively.
You can read an excerpt of Latitudes here, now up at KCET|Artbound (thanks!) And here is a little tumbler I created to go with the piece if you want to hear some of the touchstones, music, voices I’ve referenced in the essay. Click here.
After tonight’s formal presentations , Josh and I will be playing music either inspired by or recorded in Los Angeles.
And of course, there will be tacos and L.A. spirits to go with the stories …
Come share your L.A. with us.