Most of us call it "living," settling in a space with furnished memories manufactured to place a new history where cobwebs once created shadows. Los Angeles dines on those cobwebs and lives in its shadows. It can be impossible to live in this place without a proper map. This place woven together by fragments of unknown pasts and make believe roads ahead. Meet me at the four level interchange, where the past catches up to the 110 and the 101, and where dreams slow down to talk about today. Meet me there so that we can talk about what living in Los Angeles means, and if we remember to wear white we'll be able to see where the cobwebs and shadows call home.
Los Angeles speaks to us in symbols cultivated by a collective soul. Today only variations of a few whispers in primary colors are heard by a select few. Tomorrow English will be heard in Spanish, storefront signs along Sunset Blvd will be written in Hangul and apologies will be painted on walls that only this cities culture can translate. This city, in absence of voicelessness, is where the universe can begin... and end.
Top photo - Laminated copy of the first ever issue of Gidra. What is Gidra?
"In April 1969 a group of students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) founded a newspaper dubbed Gidra, a monthly publication that took a radically progressive political position. These five students—Mike Murase, Dinora Gil, Laura Ho, Colin Watanabe, and Tracy Okida—desired a visual media that would bring to light issues not featured in the mainstream media. Dubbed by the authors as the “Voice of the Asian American Movement” Gidra ran from 1969 until its final issue was published in April 1974. " (More on Gidra Here)
Bottom photo - to the right of Traci Akemi Kato-Kiryama are several of the founding staff members of Gidra; Mike Murase, Evelyn Yoshimura, Doug Aihara, and unfortunately I didn’t get the name of the woman in the red coat.
These photos were taken last night at the 1st & 3rd Tuesday Night Cafe in Little Tokyo. As part of the programming of the Tuesday Night Project, the Tuesday Night Cafe is on it’s 15th year…woohoo! Last nights reading was standing room only, making it obvious that TNP’s mission and the communities needs are aligned just right. The amount of creativity and caliber of talent was just a tiny bit of proof of how much this city has to offer.
But what I wasn’t aware of was Gidra. Another layer of Los Angeles, proof yet again that there’s more to Los Angeles than just creativity and talent. The people of Los Angeles have a history of using creativity to build a foundation of strength, a voice for political advocacy.
And these guys are still active in the community. Last night they were asked how they avoided “burn-out,” something I’ve personally been researching a lot lately, and Mike Murase’s response was -
"We never became cynical, we still have hope, and we still believe in what we do."
Some call it peace, some call it heaven. It's that space between the moments of collapse. Found between our ancestors wisdom that we choose to never follow, and those arms we only go to when we shouldn't. It's that place we learn from, but only realize its importance once we choose to forget it ever existed. Some call it peace, some call it heaven. I call it Los Angeles.
(photo San Pasqual Stables / Lower Arroyo hiking trail)
There hasn’t been a month in my life when I didn’t think about Ray Manzarek at least once. That organ was a staple in my family home. I was a little girl when I found poetry, I was even younger when I discovered The Doors. My father would sing their songs to me on the long drives back home after spending the weekend with him, just outside the city limits. Repeating the words,
“I see your hair is burnin’
was his way of telling me that he loved me, and that I was his childhood version of Los Angeles incarnate. I wanted to become Los Angeles, I wanted to make my father proud. More as a child than now, I understood what embellishment meant, and I understood what it meant for a soul to be on fire, in a city of lights. When the music played, I felt my father’s heart through his eyes.
But then, I’d go home. Home was where my Mother and Stepfather raised me; another version of Los Angeles, within the cities’ limits. My stepfather was a musician, with an ego to match. The nine year old version of me wanted to be Jim Morrison. Wanted to move like him, to be free like him. I wanted to make music through words, just like him. But my stepfather had none of it. He tried to make certain I knew from early on, that Jim Morrison was “garbage”. “Manzarek was the sound behind the music, and the music is what we’ll always remember,” He tried to convince me. “Manzarek is a genius”. Of course I’d argue, “but Jim is soooo cool,” so as soon as we moved into a bigger house, my stepfather bought us a Vox organ that he found at St. Vincent de Paul’s .
I was nine years old when I discovered that a band didn’t need a bass player. But as I grew older, I realized no one else made such powerful and transcendent music without one. Manzarek was one of a kind.
Jim Morrison crept into my thoughts often, as I’m sure most LA poet’s and “musicians” can relate to. But, I always felt guilty for not mentioning Manzarek first, when talking about the Doors. It was his sound that brought the words to life. He created a venue for poetry to dance in. Manzarek provided the soundtrack to a moving mind. He was able to not only catch up to a rip tide of words, he made sense of them, through colors and waves of sound. Such inspiration. If it weren’t for Manzarek, Morrison would have been heard in mono.
“Listen, real poetry doesn’t say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through anyone that suits you.” -Jim Morrison
(I noted this on a facebook post yesterday, after a wonderful afternoon at a poetry reading, and today I thought about the magic behind music and poetry collaborations. Morrison, Densmore, Krieger, and Manzarek’s keyboards made that shit real. )