Safer at Home: No Trick of Light: L.A. Stories

LAST WEEK, I was in the last stretch of finishing up an essay about Los Angeles—what it looks, feels, sounds like and the histories we all on. All this, just as we received the order from the state of California and the city and county of Los Angeles to stay at home. Not a lock down, but to limit our movements around the city due to the novel coronavirus.

On Broadway

During a teleconference with my editor, we sorted out a way to include this new and unprecedented chapter in the story of the city. Last weekend, on the way to do morning groceries, I wound through my old neighborhood to see what an emptied-out L.A. was beginning to look like.

These photos illustrate this.

It was heartening to see how quickly people acted and yet heartbreaking to see the city stilled in such a dramatic way..

You can read my essay up at High County News here.

We can only take this one day at a time …

California Souls

A FEW months back, I had the pleasure to sit down for a few hours with San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck for a wide-ranging conversation facilitated by Denise Sullivan for Boom: A Journal of California. You can find it here.

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Wandering North Beach: My Home Away From Home

For two cities that are so very different on the surface, we found we had similar experiences  growing up  in our respective home towns. I have lived both places and have watched both cities shift around me.  Each one has left its mark in ways that are measurable and indelible.

Shifting Tenses

AND THE NEWS keeps coming today —

I’ve been trying to get all the blogs caught up with upcoming projects. It’s been a bit of a logjam lately around here and so I hope to be getting back to some regular posting.

I’m happy to announce my new (and very first!) chapbook, “Shifting Tenses”  from the wonderful Writ Large Press, Founded in 2007 by Chiwan Choi, Peter Woods,  Judeth Oden Choi and Jessica Ceballos, the press’ mandate has been to publish, connect  and promote overlooked voices and communities across the region and beyond.  A limited number of copies will be available today at L.A. Zine Fest in downtown Los Angeles. 100% of the proceeds go to nonprofit/social justice organizations. 

If you’re not able to make it downtown,  you can still order it directly from Writ Large by clicking over  here.

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Bok Choy to Broccoli: Farewell, Hop Louie 

SOME PHOTOS  from the penultimate dinner service at Hop Louie Restaurant in Chinatown.  Among my favorite moments was watching multi-generational families slide in for their last meal trying to recreate dinners long past. Too: the young Emo couple slouched over sweet & sour which they paid Dutch for with a pile of crumpled bills and change.  One waitress said she was ready for a long vacation after 25 years. One of the owner’s children gave us a crash course on the historic hows and whys of “Chop Suey cuisine.” “If you don’t have bok choy you use broccoli.”

I hadn’t been in that building for dinner since the 80s. Which of course was the echo of the evening.  A fact about which the ready-for-vacation waitress quipped: “If we had only been busy like this every night….”

Yes. If only.

The first floor bar is to remain open for now. Upstairs? “Maybe movies.” Another server speculated. Always some scratch in location filming.

Those spareribs and crab Rangoon were just as I remembered from Sunday downtown dinners with the extended family decades ago.

Happy to have the memories but sad to say farewell to all of that.

L. A.  leaves us bit by bit by bit.

A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

WHEN WE think about the place we’re from, what we are really pondering is something something much deeper than a recitation or f street and family names. How you get there and who lived where, tell just one layer of the story.

Here in Los Angeles, for as long as I can remember,  I’ve noticed when someone wants to place (or categorize) you, the first question often is: “What high school did you go to?” Geography/affiliation is supposed to give away an essential clue or bIMG_9665uilding block.  (Or feeds a perception.) But with so many remade Southland neighborhoods, that location on the map we once knew so well for decades, may vanish overnight. Consequently, we hold onto our neighborhoods most reliably,  and most vividly,  in our heads, and through a series of personal sense memories.

Poet, playwright and journalist Jerry Quickley deeply understands this. For the last seven months, in collaboration with Center Theatre Group and the Community as Creators project, he has been working closely with members of two ethnically disparate crosstown neighborhoods — Montebello and Leimert Park –to tell their stories: the histories, struggles and joys.

I’ve been peeking in and out of their work in progress since early last year,  and met with Quickley before he and his team had identified both the community “connectors” (networkers and facilitators) and the writer/actors themselves.  (I’ll be writing a  piece for CTG looking at the process and the community impact). The play, Through The Looking Glasswill fold these individual observations, histories, and remembrances into an on-stage “across the fence” conversation, but one that, as rehearsals already suggest, goes deeper than one might think.

Participants took part in several weeks of writing workshops — asking and answering questions about what it meant to be from a particular place. Drilling toward a working definition meant reaching for precise language and examples. For both groups, the goal has been to shatter misconceptions — starting with their own.

We’re getting close. This past two weeks’ rehearsals revealed something rare and beautiful about creating safe and sacred spaces for dealing with unresolved business  and their attendant emotions — something this city is still rife with.  The play will be performed both in Leimert Park and Montebello with a final performance at the Kirk Douglas Theatre on February 8.

For more information about the project and upcoming performances click here.

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The combined cast of Through the Looking Glass in rehearsal at @CTGLA in DTLA                 All photos by Lynell George