I had never heard of the passenger pigeon, or I didn't remember. On Sunday I drove to Koreatown to see a performance piece called Gone: The Life and Demise of the Passenger Pigeon, a One and a Half Woman Show. Well, you know Chicken Corner wouldn't miss such an event. Pigeons, a woman and a half, and Industrial-age-style photographs featuring taxidermy (an aesthetic Yours Truly finds irresistible, for better or worse). Not to be missed. I was thinking homing pigeons; I was thinking dry-wit and irony. I got there early.
But it was heartbreak -- and industrial-scale amnesia. The passenger pigeon is extinct. A resident of northeastern North America, at the beginning of the 19th century it was the most numerous bird on Earth. Its "infinite" numbers impressed themselves on American consciousness in a guileless way: The birds lived in enormous flocks. We saw huge numbers in one place, so we figured they must be everywhere. We're only animals, after all. We believe what we see. We believe what we hear. We saw hundreds of millions of birds. In less than a hundred years, we gleefully killed almost all of them. The last of the species, a bird named Martha Washington, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.
One of our collective myth-memories is of the miles-long darkening of the sky due to birds, the 14 hours it took for a single flock to pass a specific point. This memory of the sky-darkening flock of birds came back to me as Christian Kasperkovitz delivered her "lecture" in the manner of a late-19th century lecturist. Kasperkovitz's captivating presentation, co-written-produced by Tamar Brott (a friend of mine), was a thing of beauty, delivered in a manner that exists only in zoos, and performance spaces.
There seems never to have been any passenger pigeons in Los Angeles. Socal is, after all, a great place to forget things like Martha the last passenger pigeon. But we are haunted by the way they disappeared nonetheless. The past does have a way of spreading in all directions.
Last year, Yours Truly read entries from Chicken Corner. Other storytellers took the stage in the school's adorably proportioned auditorium and simply talked. I particularly liked watching/hearing a 20-something-year-old guy sitting on stage in what I remember as a rocking chair, "tellin' lies" and making us laugh. It was a blast. Watch out, The Moth: The school that spawned the legend of Room 8 is licking its chops! This year (shameless plug alert!) Chicken Corner's husband, RJ Smith, will be telling Echo Park stories of an as-yet-unrevealed nature.
Meanwhile, there will be music, food, games, the whole shabang.
Kim Pesenti, one of the organizers, writes:
Friends of Elysian Heights is excited to host our 2nd annual Echo Park Stories and Festival this Saturday from 4-8 at Elysian Heights Elementary.
The stories and music program starts at 5:30 and we've got some great participants lined up: Olentangy John and Fort King will be playing and our own RJ Smith, author of the The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, will be one of our neighborhood storytellers.
This year the mission of this fundraiser is to raise money for the after school enrichment program, which is a FREE arts and athletics program for the kids.
*More shameless plugging alert: To read Al Sharpton's review of RJ Smith's book The One, go here.
Chicken Corner simply could not resist taking a peek over her shoulder Saturday evening, and so she drove straight to the west valley to attend a real-time reunion of Daily News workers at the Sagebrush Cantina.
I mention "real-time" because for a few months, a virtual reunion has been taking place on Facebook.
At the Sagebrush, I did indeed reunite with some of the newsdeskers with whom I worked during the Jack Kent Cooke ownership days. The newspaper is one hundred years old.
Beth Laski, James Hames, Erwin Washington, and Ray Richmond were instigators of all the memory sharing. Richmond prepared a memorable parting gift, one of the best party favors I've seen: Boxes of custom-made fortune cookies. The box promised "77% more accurate than regular fortune cookies*" (Yes, there was an asterisk: "*Leading fortune cookie authorities.")
Sample fortunes say:
UNFORTUNATE SLOGAN #1 "You're in Daily News country. Interesting, isn't it?"
Secretary: "Haulin' Oats called."
Reporter: "That's Hall AND Oates"
Xmas Bonus (1978): Two weeks' pay.
Xmas Bonus (1992) $15 gift cert.
Decades of DN Memories: Priceless.
Chicken Corner appreciated that the copyediting was so stellar on her fortunes. That's not something you can take for granted.
Another spin of the 12-month wheel, and it was time for the annual Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park dinner on Sunday. As always, the ballroom at Grace Simons lodge was packed, all the tables appeared to be full, the garden filled with chatting friends and neighbors, activists, the whole assortment. The pond water remains the same mysterious deep, bright turquoise color it was last year and the year before. Councilman Ed Reyes was there, among other pols.
On Monday, I mentioned what a nice time it had been to a friend (yes, Chicken Corner does have friends who do not live in Echo Park), and she asked "what does Elysian Park need to be saved from?" Then she guessed, "Dodger Stadium?"
Try a tin-can lid on top of the reservoir. Try an 888-unit residential development on the property that Barlow Hospital owns. No, I wasn't/am not kidding. The picture below is what is proposed. June 11 is the deadline for public comment for the draft environmental impact report.
Eastsider has more details: here.
Around the turn of the century, there were people who tried to turn Elysian Park into an oil field. That was stopped at great effort. Keeping this park a park requires constant effort. Which is one of the reasons why the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park is aptly named. Or maybe it could be called, "The Citizens Committee to Save Us From Ourselves." Nah, too long.