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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

LA Story

December 18, 2013 | by

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I have just moved to Los Angeles from the Middle East, and everyone keeps asking me if the city is too quiet—Am I bored? Is it safe?—and the answer is, No, I am not bored; yes, it seems safe, and yes, that’s fine by me. Mostly I am in a state of awe, blown away by a grocery store, the knock of the mailman at the door, the speed of the Internet; the easy friends you can make on the sidewalk or on the bus or while watching your kids play soccer or walking down Venice Boulevard, waiting for a light to change, en route to the University of Southern California, where I found myself the other day, seeking out the next thing I might do with my life, right before things went wrong again.

I was facing new and mostly pleasant options. Such as: Should I wish to travel across the east-west spine of Lost Angeles, in the fall of 2013, from Venice to the urban campus of USC, did I want to walk four or five hours, doing ten miles on foot; drive thirty minutes; ride a bike for an hour and a half; or, as I ultimately resolved to do, take a city bus to the Culver City train line.

Showering, lacing up a pair of suede boots, donning a clean shirt, loading up a satchel with books and water, I crossed Lincoln Boulevard, behind a smog-check shop, whose sign made it clear they’s only do checks, not repairs, and then I followed an alley parallel to six lanes of heavy afternoon traffic.

In front of a crumbling apartment complex, on a set of concrete stairs, I admired a selection of jars, bowls, fire-rimmed tin cans, and handmade signs. Next to one pagan cup leaned a pair of tongs, perhaps for a hookah, and then I was accosted by a man who stood beside the open door of a midnineties Ford Explorer. Read More »

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Beached

October 24, 2013 | by

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There is something brutal about Philip Glass’s opera. The way it stops and starts, the taunting tease of a story, then the way it’s anything but narrative. Composed of nine twenty-minute scenes, the whole of Einstein on the Beach—first produced in 1976 and shown in L.A. for the first time this month—is interspersed by five so-called “knee plays,” in which two women sit or stand or writhe around on plastic platforms, or search dreamily inside gently moving glass boxes. It’s not easy to watch.

“This was a very American month.”

It’s thirty days since we moved to California after five years in the Middle East and in the darkened pavilion I start memorizing lines. I’m sitting beside one of my oldest friends. I am fearful my glasses will fall from my head. I picture my phone tumbling from my hand—possibly injuring Jack Nicholson, who is seated below—and I think about the car I am borrowing from my mom, parked deep underground, at least until the show is over, a car that is mine until we buy one of our own, or decide to go back.

We started eight levels down, in an auxiliary parking lot under a mall. Space for thousands. Walking to the opera, I’m dazzled by simple things, like the cool hush of an elevator, the absence of tanks, and the clothes people in L.A. wear when they aren’t going to a Dodgers game. The lights go down and two women in black suspenders and white shirts begin to murmur about Toyotas and the price and a certain number of coins. I think about our house in Venice, with its brittle wooden walls and a heater the size of a VW, glowing hot under the floorboards. I think about Beirut, and how far we’lve come since a brutal spring. Dancers curl through the smoke, scissoring around on a dimly lit stage. A boy throws paper airplanes from a metal aerie, and a violinist with grey hair scratches across the strings, both as long as it should be, and about as beautiful as it could be. So far.

“Any one asks you please it was trees it it it it it it it it it it is like that.” Read More »

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Challenges, and Other News

April 17, 2013 | by

richmarchplowman

  • “At times of tragedy, the mind goes to certain favored zones; mine goes automatically to poetry.” Dan Chiasson offers the tested comforts of William Langland.
  • The Los Angeles Times brings us a nifty map of literary LA.
  • The most frequently challenged library book of 2012? Captain Underpants.
  • Bells, whistles, and animation: the so-called next generation of e-books.
  • Flann O’Brien’s “alleged role as author of an allegedly fake interview with John Stanislaus Joyce, father of James Joyce.”
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    The Hollywood Subway: Against the Horizontal City

    January 28, 2013 | by

    Last train 2, Toluca Yard, 1955, courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

    The entrance to Los Angeles’s original subway system lies hidden on a brushy slope next to an apartment building that resembles a Holiday Inn. Known as the “Hollywood Subway,” the line opened in 1925; ran 4,325 feet underground, between downtown and the Westlake District; and closed in 1955. After Pacific Electric Railway decommissioned the tracks, homeless people started sleeping in the old Belmont Tunnel. Crews filmed movies such as While the City Sleeps and MacArthur in it. City officials briefly used it to store impounded vehicles, as well as first aid and 329,700 pounds of crackers during part of the Cold War. By the time the entrance was sealed around 2006, graffiti artists had been using it as a canvas for decades, endowing it with legendary status in street mural culture, and earning it numerous appearances in skateboard and other magazine shoots. Now the tunnel sits at the end of a dead-end street, incorporated into the apartment’s small garden area, resembling nothing more than another spigot in Los Angeles’s vast flood control system. Read More »

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    Wild Cats and Meadowlarks: Creating in L.A.

    October 24, 2012 | by

    Hollywood was then a small town, quiet though excited. Just across our meadow, and across one more open lot, was a movie studio where they were using a troop of lions in pictures. The dreamlike romance of the place came vividly to mind in the mornings when we would be wakened by lions and meadowlarks roaring and singing.

    Beth Gates Warren’s Artful Lives tells the story of a group of artists living in Los Angeles at the beginning of the twentieth century. It focuses on the artistic and personal growth of photographers Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston over the course of ten years, from their meeting in 1913, until Weston’s departure for Mexico in 1923. Mather, though a talented photographer with an undeniably rigorous and progressive vision, has remained in relative obscurity, and this book attempts to correct her omission from the history of photography. In doing so it also sheds light on the group of artists, actors, activists, and socialites who were a part of dreaming Los Angeles into existence.

    In one tantalizing vignette, a pair of lovers—an artist and an actress—relate hearing the roars of the on-set lions from a local picture company blending with the song of meadowlarks in their backyard, painting a bizarre and idyllic picture of 1920s Los Angeles—a land of wild and exotic ambition, fueled by deep pockets and artistic dreamers. The romantic vision of a young Hollywood, with animals roaming the lot and artists frolicking in their rural studios, may feel far from the contemporary urban landscape, but the tension between fast-paced ambition and sun-drenched creative freedom still holds Los Angeles’s sprawl precariously together. We are both the home of the mainstream—a city decorated with strip malls and billboards—and a renegade network of backyard studios, converted garages, and performance artists out on the frontier.

    One of the trail-blazing studios was the Selig Polyscope Company. Founded by William Selig, the studio made a host of jungle movies and in order to populate those movies, Selig needed a menagerie of lions, tigers, elephants, and apes. To house—and presumably profit from—these animals, Selig built an ambitious zoo. Read More »

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    See You There: The Paris Review in L.A.

    October 22, 2012 | by

    Los Angeles friends! Please join us tomorrow as we celebrate the art of the short story at the Hammer Museum! Author Mona Simpson, Paris Review editor Lorin Stein, and yours truly will discuss literary life and read selected stories from the new Paris Review anthology Object Lessons, with Q&A to follow. Event details here.

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