Sunday, April 29, 2012


Recently I had occasion to drive through downtown L.A. on the 110 South during rush hour. Traffic was at a standstill, a thick layer of smog shrouded us hapless motorists, and just as I was starting to sink into despair I thought to get out my camera and take some shots of completely "uninteresting" things (sorry about the execrable lighting) that I wouldn't ordinarily have a chance to take pictures of as I'd be moving at 60 to 70 mph. And to me that made them interesting.

Fyi, there were many items along the left shoulder: lots of clothing (are people having sex out there or what?), an aluminum extension ladder in what seemed to be good working order, and as you can see above, a drawer pull.

That trip, I was on my way to the Century Regional Detention Center in Watts where I go from time to time to talk to the gals who are incarcerated there. The next week I found myself downtown again, this time preparatory to a foray into Twin Towers, one of the several L.A. County men's jails. Having arrived early, I  took a stroll around the adjacent streets (Vignes, Alameda, several cul de sacs), again checking out the bridges and tunnels that may not look like much to you or me, but I bet if you were in a fetid windowless lock-down communal "pod" for a day or month or years as many of these folks have been, would look pretty damn sweet.


Then, Saturday night I went downtown with my friend Glenn. We had some killer ramen in Little Tokyo, then he dragged me to the Geffen Contemporary where I proceeded to totally not "get" the deafening music, flashing lights, giant swirling pinwheels ("Don't take any photos!," the guard in one gallery barked: Don't worry, I wanted to reply), and some artist who blows up huge amounts of firecrackers at once and large crowds of people gather and everybody holds their ears and looks alarmed. I said to Glenn, "And the point is?" He said, "It's public art." I said, "Oh. Can we go now?"

So we walked up to MOCA for the opening of an exhibit called "The Painting Factory: Abstraction After Warhol."  This didn't much grab me either (I'm sure due to my vast ignorance; Glenn, who studied art and is a complete museum maven
, was in his element), plus I get overstimulated by the milling throngs), but I did wend my way to some "older" (1950's-60's) work and became entranced by a Franz Kline painting called Alva (1958) and  a Mark Rothko called "No. 9 Dark Over Light Earth/Violent and Yellow in Rose" (1954). The photos don't nearly do either justice and I couldn't find any online much better so you're going to have to just come to L.A. and see them for yourselves.

Here are a couple of shots of Grand Street, across from the museum, just before we went in.

isn't that the greatest red wall ever?
lower level, MOCA, l.a.
photo: Glenn Lindsay


  1. Thanks for the meander. When I lived in CA I loved the forms of the curving concrete freeways. And that Franz Kline is gorgeous too.

  2. I love the way you notice and appreciate everything, paying special attention to places between places, walls, parking lots, lampposts, expanses of concrete and tossed out things on sides of roads. Maybe all a bit like the people you visit. You have such a feel for the forgotten and outcast things. And your embrace is so wide, it even includes the recognised and the praised - the art by Rothko, etc. I like those extremes. You love the outer edges of things ... and the popular art, the attention-grabbing displays, leave you cold. What good, sound instincts you have! So unlike those of the world. Thank you for everything you share - your thoughts, your daily life, yourself ... I just love this blog.

  3. Good morning. Your road shots are prompting me to comment and ask a little something that's been on my mind for a while.

    I attribute part of my love for performer Tom Waits to being Catholic and to my interest in some of the same characters and authors you are. I, however, do not have the added bonus of being from or living in the LA area.

    Do you know of him or like his music?

  4. Thanks for the road trip photo assay. ;-)

    Lovely red wall.

    & with paintings such as those two above the lovely red wall I should never be embarrassed by anything I paint again.

    P.S. I AM going to paint, today!

  5. When I drove to Santa Monica early one morning this February, the traffic seized up around Crenshaw and we came to a complete stop. I opened my door to look at the road surface and gasped at the beauty of it. The oil blotches were like flowers, and the angle of the sun did lovely things to the drainage lines milled into the road surface. Beauty is everywhere to be had.

  6. Oh thanks, everybody...forgive me if I've seemed a bit distracted these past couple of weeks--I'll be on a red-eye back to Boston tonight to visit my ailing mother and to be with my family.

    I don't claim to be a Tom Waits groupie but I like what I've heard so much, Francis...Altoon! Always good to hear from you. Jane--yes! The outer edge--and yet I hope in the middle somehow, too...Owen, no, we will not be embarrassed by anything we paint/write again! And Anonymous, I lived in K'Town for years and saw so many dusks at the intersection of Olympic and Crenshaw...a seemingly friendless spot at which, sometimes standing in line at the (also seemingly friendless) Rite-Aid there, I always tried to leave a little blessing...

  7. Love the photos and the photo of you. You notice so much. I tend to look at the entirety and did not remember the minute. Ah, perhaps in time.

    I hope your Mom is better.


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