Filtering by Tag: LOS ANGELES

Last Weekend

Last weekend, I went to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I'd been to the FoB before, but when it was at UCLA, and it's now at USC, which I'd never been to before. USC is sprawling and nice, but there's something sort of flat and banal about it. Although there is some interesting architecture. I was there to see my friend Matt Young sit on a panel and discuss his new memoir, EAT THE APPLE, which is an amazing and experimental memoir that explores what multiple deployments do to a young Marine's mind. I highly recommend it. I got to meet BLACK HAWK DOWN author Mark Bowden, who was on the panel and discussing his new book, HUE 1968; read his rave of Matt's book in the New York Times. We didn't stay long at the FoB, because there were amazing shrimp tacos to be had at the appropriately named Best Fish Taco in Los Feliz. That inspired choice was thanks to Maggie Waz, a great young, talented, and hilarious writer who has an alter ego that is going to Mars.

Buy "The Tumor" -- a new digital short story that's been called "a masterpiece."

Quiet

I took this photo the other day near Fairfax, I think, in Los Angeles. Earlier, I'd been to LACMA. It's a billboard for "A Quiet Place." People responded positively to the image. I like it because it reminded me of the photos I used to take in LA, when I lived here before (I moved back to LA last October). There's something fantastical about LA -- the blurring between reality and fiction, the larger than life facade, the staggering sprawl. I'm very happy to be embedded in it.

My shocking short story "The Tumor" has been called "a masterpiece." Buy it today!

LA, Changed

It's been some time since I've lived in Los Angeles, and I'm happy to have moved back last month.

Here are a few ways it's changed.

It's more politically correct

It used to be that California was a bifurcated state. The North was where the hippies lived in politically correctness. The South was where the heathens lived in political incorrectness. Now LA is more politically correct. The recycling. The bag policing. The Priuses. Still, there's a layer of muck below the surface. Thick black tar, underneath it all. It's PC as performance.

It's more crowded

In LA proper, the streets are glutted with traffic. Nobody can agree upon the driving rules. The drivers are more aggressive. It takes forever to get anywhere. After dark, the freeways are red and white glowing streams of people trying to get somewhere, anywhere but where they are.

It's more expensive

In Los Feliz, the one bedroom apartment that I used to rent for $725 a month is now $1,850 a month. $2,000 a month gets you a dump near a busy street and maybe no refrigerator. Hollywood, the Valley, and the areas east are a bit more affordable. This is New York City, without the brownstones.

The food is better

Poke bowls. Handmade mozzarella. Fried Thai ice cream. Pop up restaurants. Food trucks. Fine dining with a side order of attitude. It's all there. And it's fucking delicious. Every bite of it.

There's a lot of art

The sculptures made of dead bodies. Whatever the hipsters are doing these days in Echo Park. Those loaded Broads. It ain't the Met, but I'll take it. Because the palm trees are Rodins, and the faces of the ladies on Rodeo Drive are Cindy Shermans, and the Hollywood sign is a Barbara Kruger.

Sunday Brunch

Last Night

Last night I went to a reading in Echo Park. It was held at Time Travel Mart, which is ostensibly a storefront where you buy time travel related items, but is also 826LA. I didn't know anyone there and was late because traffic, so I sat by myself at a table. There were 3 x 5 cards and cups of pencils on every table, and I was instructed to write a writing prompt on the card, which I did: A GIRL WITH NO NOSE. Several people read. Then it was time for the intermission game, which was basically: two volunteers, one writing prompt selected from the bucket of them, and five minutes to write something. Then you would read what you wrote. Then the audience would vote on who won. So I volunteered because #YOLOLA. And I wrote a story about a man named Martin Feeble who meets a girl at a dance and the girl has an "attractively lumpy disposition." Then we read our stories. Then the two of us who were competing put our head on our table, and the rest of the room voted. It was a tie. Afterwards, I went and looked around in the faux storefront. It had curious things like a soda case of dinosaur eggs, and a TIME-FREEZY HYPER SLUSH machine. I decided to buy a can of PRIMORDIAL SOUP and asked the man, who was a bit rumpled, working the front desk what was in it. He stayed in time travel character and said some confusing things about the past, present, and future. In other words, he did not answer my question. Then he asked me if I enjoyed myself, and I said I did, but, I said, I was "angry" that I hadn't won the write-off, that it was a tie. I was staying in character: my character of a chagrined writer. I'm not sure if he thought I was joking or not. Then I took my can of primordial soup and left.

The Reading

falling-and-flying.jpg

Last weekend, I went to a literary reading in Highland Park. It was held at a curious bookstore with all kinds of curious books and curios, and the event was hosted by a guy I know, although I hadn't seen him in over a dozen years. It ended up being a bit crowded, and the guy I knew who was hosting it didn't recognize me, and I had gone by myself, so I ended up sitting in a chair and just sort of observing, which was fine. The reading started, and it was fun. The first woman sang before she read, in Spanish, which was lovely, and the lights were dim, and there were books all around. As it turned out, one of the readers was named Ben Loory, who has a new collection of short stories out called Tales of Falling and Flying. Loory's writing is itself a bit curious; how can I describe it? Like a child's story on crack? Maybe. In any case, I hadn't read anything by Loory -- TBH, I don't think I'd heard of him before -- and he read a story called "The Writer," which dazzled me. It's moving and sad and beautiful and inspiring. It has lines it it like: "Late that night, the man broke into the writer's room, and stood over his bed in the dark." I was so taken by this fiction that I bought a copy of his book and despite the fact that it made me feel sort of silly, I asked Loory to sign it, which he did, writing: "To Susannah! Amazing! Enjoy!" Then I went home. For the following weekend, I'd made plans to go to another reading. This one more in LA proper. This time going with a friend. This one in a nightclub, which was sort of an odd venue for a literary reading, as it was very cold, and rather dark, and people filled the floor of the club to stare at the stage, and it kind of looked like the literary version of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." When I'd decided to go, I hadn't really registered who was reading, and the day of the event or maybe the day before I noticed that Loory was reading at this reading, too. This struck me as kind of odd. I told my friend about this fact as we ate dinner beforehand. Maybe Loory would think I was some kind of groupie, following him from reading to reading. Regardless, we went, and eventually we were standing in this cold, dark room listening to various people of dubious talent read stories of little interest to me, until, of course, Loory took the stage. Ah, but, see, I'm sorry. I've forgotten part of the story. While my friend and I were standing there -- "I'm scared of literary types," some guy in the crowd sneered, as we waited -- a woman was wandering around the club and handing out large homemade signs with people's names scrawled on them in pen markers of various colors. I watched as she handed a sign to a woman leaning against a column. The sign read "JESSICA." At some point, the woman appeared in front of me, holding a sign, and she asked me, would I hold this sign up while the person who has this name is reading? Sure, I said. About a month previous, a friend of mine told me say yes to everything, and I have been trying to do that. So I said yes, and she handed me the sign, and I looked at the sign, which, to be clear, in case there is any confusion, I didn't make, and the sign said "BEN" in big letters, and someone had gone through the painstaking task of filling the big B with dots, and there were several hearts floating around -- below the B, above the E, under the N -- and in two of the corners there were stickers in the shape of green glitter covered arrows, like shooting stars, like you were going somewhere. Christ, I thought. Now I am really going to look like a groupie. There is that six-one woman in the back of the club holding up the giant handmade sign while Loory reads on the stage. Regardless, a woman came to the stage to read and stated that she couldn't see anyone in the audience, due to the lighting, I presume, so I figured that while I had considered, you know, hiding the sign, or not holding it up, I might as well do it, and Loory would never know. Finally, about halfway through the reading, Loory took the stage. This time, he read a story called "Fernando." It's about a man who forgets his name and what happens to you when you lose your identity and must go to war to get it. It has lines in it like: "Fernando is my name! the angry man screams." When Loory took the stage, I did as I had been instructed: I held the sign in the air. I waved it a little. Then I listened to the story, and I started laughing, quietly, because the entire thing was so great: I was out in LA, I was in this place, I was listening to someone read a story about what it takes to find yourself, even when you are there all the time, hiding within you. After Loory was done, my friend and I consulted one another. Should we stay or should we go? It isn't going to get any better than this, I told her. So we left, and I took the sign with me. I held it while we walked through the bustling dark night of the city. And then I went home.

The Real Mannequins of Hollywood Boulevard

I started taking photos of mannequins on Hollywood Boulevard maybe 15 years ago. There are several shops that have a lot in the windows, including a certain wig and costume shop. I've photographed mannequins in various places; for some reason, I feel drawn to them. They're human but remote, moody but still, glamorous but fixed. This one was dressed for Halloween.