A DEEPLY involving and bittersweet presentation at #LAPL’s Central Library on Saturday afternoon. Annie Laskey and her mother Marlene hatched a plan to walk the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard from its downtown high-rises and mid-town department stores to the edges of the sea. Annie mentioned that the thrill at first was less about the walk and more about getting to operate the Minolta SLR. Annie shot and Marlene made note (see the notebook in the grid below). While Marlene and many of the iconic locations that the Laskeys recorded are no longer with us, the absences were filled with vivid stories. Grateful for the Laskeys and their. sticktoitiveness Hundreds of sites have now been preserved on Kodachrome slides. The Wilshire Boulevard — the Carnation Building, Mutual of Omaha, Ambassador Hotel– that still exists in my head flickered to life with her stories. You can glimpse 100 of those images in a new book, “The Wilshire Slides 1978–1979” put out through LAPL’s Photo Collection and Photo Friends the nonprofit organization formed to support & promote the collection.
I’M MORE THAN a little tardy posting this but projects have been flying in and out the door, and my fingers are trying their very best to keep up. But this afternoon from a couple of weeks back remains on my mind.
Mike Sonksen (AKA Mike the Poet) is a civic treasure. He’s one of those faces that float into view at almost every poetry event and almost every corner of town. He’s a many-generation native of Los Angeles and with that he’s taken a multilayered interest in the city. All of it is up for exploration and inquiry.
Mike is also known around the poetry scene for his indiosyncratic city tours — on foot, by bus, via Metro — that have always featured the energy and of freestyle poetry and history. For as many years as I have known him, this was the very first time I had been able to take part in one of the downtown walkabouts. This round he featured other poets along the way, among them — Traci Akemi Kato-kiriyama, Rocío Carlos and F. Douglas Brown — who paused to share observations or self-reflections about sense of place or considered their personal place within with ever-shifting landscape of Los Angeles.
Much of the day and night before, it had been storming. Uncharacteristic downpours for May. But by mid morning the rain eased and the clouds pushed back enough to give the sky depth and offer a poem itself. We walked up and down hills, stood on overpasses and beneath flowering jacaranda trees to listen to aural snapshots of the city. Tourists in our own town. Just as we finished for the day, the clouds gathered again and the rain made an encore. Polite enough, however, to wait until the very last word. It was as if Mike had arranged it. Not once did he appear worried that we’d rain out, have to run for cover. Not one minute. He knows better. He knows how to read not just the streets, but the skies and the promises they won’t break.
To read Mike’s latest about L.A. new poet laureate, Robin Coste Lewis, click here.
PLEASE JOIN us tonight at The Last Bookstore for Boom California’s Winter Reading. Details here. We will be discussing the great Golden State.
FOR A COUPLE of months now, I’ve been telling a friend about an ongoing issue I’ve had with one of the baggers at my local market. Not a huge issue, but a head scratcher. Strangeness sunk into the mundane.
A few weeks ago, he refused to sort or bag my purchases. Just walked away, arms folded, head-shaking — to the checker’s chagrin. My friend suggested that I stop spending money in the market — especially since it hadn’t been the first time (this head-shaking incident was just a bit more dramatic than others prior). “That’s why you pay a little more. Avoid that mess.”
Well today, I needed to make a quick neighborhood run. No time for fancy. I head to my old spot. I’m almost out the door with my essentials — my coffee stash, fixings for dinner. I have almost successfully avoided him when, just as I near his checkout lane, he does a quick double take and then pauses to crook his finger in that “come-over-I-have-something-special-&-top-secret-to-share” manner.
So I do.
He asks: “Do you know Mike Jackson?”
I say no. (Not realizing where this is going.)
He says: “Well he’s in heaven. Prince is on his way too, you know.” He winks. Like we’re old friends, sharing some insider 411.
Then comes the smile.
I suppose all this must be his version of a truce.
(image via mashable)
YOU WOULD have to be living beneath a rock to not know that we Angelenos are deep in the throes of a drought. Even my friends, thousands of miles away, ask about what that might mean, are versed in the details. So, with a sense of great surprise, I’ve been noting how many residents are still showering their beloved front lawns with affection — read: lots of water — despite fines and the threat of other penalties.
It’s hardly something that one can hide.
Now, months into no rain and state-imposed water restrictions, the dramatic side-by-side differences are everywhere. That checkerboard of front yards made me realize just how much our symbolic first impression might still mean to us.
My short meditation on lawns and how they figure into the Southern California imagination is up here at Zócalo Public Square.
TONIGHT we discuss LA on foot and David L. Ulin’s new book SIDEWALKING at the Ruskin Art Club. For information about the event and tickets, please click here