MY LATEST, now up online at Preservation magazine, explores the deep history of the Wilfandel Club in the Los Angeles’s West Adams district.
The club, for more than seven decades, has been a integral meeting-spot in Los Angeles for many generations of African American Angelenos. As West Adams undergoes the same shifts in gentrification as some of the older, established yet “under-the-radar” neighborhoods in L.A, the Wilfandel women are gearing up to ready to protect what was hard won.
The Wilfandel Clubhouse is a Mediterranean Revival house was built in 1912 via Preservation
From the piece:
Founded in 1945 by Della Williams and Fannie Williams (the two were not related), the Wilfandel Club House offered a singular experience: an elegant gathering place for black Angelenos to meet or celebrate in style. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently awarded the club a $75,000 grant through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF) to assist the women of the Wilfandel with essential infrastructure upkeep. Preserving this property is a way to honor all that’s come before—that struggle to acquire and protect one’s place in an ever-evolving Los Angeles.
You can read more here.
THE OTHER big news really came out of the blue.
I wrote the album notes for the fancy re-issue of Otis Redding Live at the Whisky A Go Go and got the news that the essay received a Grammy nomination. To say that I was surprised is an understatement. I’m really happy that it puts Redding’s legacy in the spotlight. Truly gone too soon.
Here’s a short reaction interview that appeared on the Angel City Press site.
Awards announced this year in New York City, January 28.
JOIN US tomorrow afternoon at 826LA Echo Park for Roar Shack. On the bill: Chip Jacobs, Dana Johnson Geza X, Steve Hodel, David Kukoff and yours truly. The event: “I Remember That: L.A. in the 70s.” We’ll be reading pieces looking back at when L.A. was a bit more open, wild and it took only 30 minutes to get just about anywhere…. See you there.
LOOK OUT, Otis Redding is back.
A new Concord compilation gathers for the first time all three nights and all sets of Redding’s famous Whisky A Go Go run here on the Sunset Strip fifty years ago.
I provided liner notes and the package is gorgeously designed with a vintage-style poster to boot.
Release day, today 10/28.
Got to go get one!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Love, Los Angeles —
Thanks Marisela and Mark, that was a sublime ride there and back ….
OH, 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.
oh, and PS: I should be getting back to regular posting very soon.