Here's the notice posted by Beyond Baroque President Fred Dewey:
"On Monday Dec. 22, 2008, Beyond Baroque signed a lease with the city assuring its home at 681 Venice Blvd for the next 25 years. We are grateful to the City, 11th District Councilman Bill Rosendahl and his staff, and to all the many, many people who helped make this historic day possible. -- Fred Dewey."
We're lucky here in L.A. to live among the public works and civic monuments created by Robert Graham, who died last week. That's a photo of one his women, a sculpture in Windward Circle in Venice, where two bouquets and a note made up a modest memorial yesterday. On the jump I've put together a little map of some of Graham's local works. More of his works and commissions here.
If you're ever fortunate enough to be granted a National Medal of Arts, then you'll also have the good fortune of owning a Robert Graham original -- the medal was designed by the artist in 1985. And, ever devoted to his adopted state, Graham also designed the “Spirit of California” Award in 2006.
You can read tributes and memorials to Robert Graham here.
Click for the larger map, or use the hand tool to shift the image to include sites to the west and east.
When the men approached, the black foal might have been nursing. Or she might have been on her side, giving her wobbly legs a rest, leaning into her mother under the starry desert sky. At the sound of the vehicle, the band prepared to move and did move at once, for horses are animals of prey and so their withers twitched, their ears stiffened, their perfect, unshod hooves dug into the scrub for traction and then they began to run. The black foal might have taken a second or two longer than the others to rise. Perhaps the mare, already upright, bolted instantly, turning her head to see if the foal had followed. The headlights of the vehicle appeared on a rise. The men were shouting and then there was another bright light – it trained from the roof of the vehicle across the sunken bajada and it swept the sands, illuminating the wild and running four-legged spirits as their legs stretched in full perfect extension, flashing across their hides which were dun and paint and bay, making a living mural in 3-D in which the American story – all of it – was frozen here forever, in the desert as it always is, as bullets hissed from the vehicle through the patches of juniper and into the wild horses of the old frontier. It was Christmas. Two-thousand years earlier, Christ had been born in a stable.
Two months later on a cold and sunny afternoon, a man was hiking in the mountains outside of Reno. Something made him look to his left, up a hill. He saw a dark foal lying down in the sagebrush, not able to get up. A bachelor stallion had been watching from a distance and now came over and nibbled at the foal’s neck. She tried to get up but couldn’t and the stallion rejoined his little band. The hiker called for help. A vet arrived and could find no injuries. As it grew dark, a trailer was pulled across the washes and gulleys until it approached the filly, about a hundred yards away and down hill. The stars were particularly bright that night and helped the rescue party, equipped only with flashlights, lumber across the sands and up the rocky rise where the filly was down. Four men lifted her onto a platform and carried her down the hill and into the trailer. “She was a carcass with a winter coat,” Betty Lee Kelly, a rescuer, later told me. She was covered with ticks and parasites, weak and anemic. She was six months old. Two days later, at a sanctuary near Carson City called Wild Horse Spirit, Betty and her partner Bobbi Royle helped her stand. But she kept falling. Over the weeks, they nourished her and she grew strong and regained muscle and she began to walk without falling down. But she was nervous, not skittish like a lot of horses are, especially wild ones, but distracted, preoccupied, perhaps even haunted. Because of her location when rescued, which was near Lagomarsino Canyon, and because she was starving, her rescuers reasoned that she had been a nursing foal who had recently lost her mother. Without mother’s milk, a foal can last for a while in the wilderness, sometimes as long as a couple of months. And because a band of bachelor stallions had been nearby when she was found, her rescuers figured that they had taken her in, looking after her until they could no more, standing guard as she lay down in the brush to die. As it turned out, the filly was the lone survivor of the Christmas massacre and they called her Bugz.
Bugz was a member of the historic Virginia Range herd, the first mustangs in the country to win legal protection (which have since been eroded). Like the other mustangs of the West, their history in this land runs deep, as DNA has shown; they are direct descendants of the horses of the Ice Age, which flourished in the West, crossed the Bering land bridge, fanned out across the world, went extinct here and then returned with conquistadors, quickly reestablishing themselves in their homeland, blazing our trails and fighting our wars, ultimately – like many others - heading into the nether reaches of Nevada to be left alone.
This Christmas marks the ten-year anniversary of the Reno horse massacre. Over the years, I’ve visited the kill site several times, to pay respects and mark its change. On my latest pilgrimage with Betty Kelly, we climbed up the rutted road leading into the mountains, past sites where men used to trap wild horses and haul them away. Soon, we were near the place where the wild horses of Nevada are making their last stand. We parked and walked up a rise. It had recently rained and the stands of sage were puffy and fragrant. Except for our footsteps, it was quiet. The horse skulls and cages of ribs and shins and intact hooves and manes and tails were still there, forever preserved in the dry Mojave air. There was a pair of leg bones and they were crossed, as if running in repose, polished and caressed and battered by the winds of the Great Basin, radiating almost, a reverse silhouette of wildness paralyzed in movement and time. Betty knew exactly which horse this was, and had told me about her on our first visit to the site. Of the 34 horses killed in the massacre, she was horse #1 in the court record, or Hope, as she and Bobbi had named her after being called to the scene on the day the bodies were discovered, as they always are when mustangs are in need. Branded as pests that steal food from livestock or renegades that range into town and destroy lawns, they have been under siege for decades, enduring voracious government round-ups and vicious killings. The murders are rarely solved, although in the case of the 1998 massacre, three men were arrested and one of them ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge – killing a horse that another member of the trio had already shot to put it out of its misery. In the tradition of old-time mustangers, they had been heading into the mountains since their high school days, with at least one of them firing into the beleaguered herd and boasting about it to friends. And so had a long list of other suspects.
“She had probably been here for a day or two,” Betty recalled, and as she continued, it was like a prayer. “She was lying in the sand. She had dug a small hole with her front legs, intermittently trying to get up.” I knew the story well and in the bearing witness there was comfort and then Betty’s voice trailed off and we walked on. After awhile, we came across the horse known in the Nevada court system as #4. Like the others, Bobby and Betty gave him a name. It was Alvin. He was the one who was shot in the chest and whose eye was mutilated with a fire extinguisher. His carcass – the barrel of his chest – was picked and blown clean by time, wind, and critters, rooted always in the great wide open. His spine was vanishing, but still flush against the sand and his ribs curved towards the sky. “There was a stallion watching us that day,” Betty had told me long ago, now reciting the rest of the prayer. “Just standing at the perimeter as we found each dead horse. When the sun went down and we got in our cars, he trotted on down the road. His family had been wiped out but we still didn’t know how bad it was.”
As I walked the site this time, I saw that someone or something, maybe a coyote or perhaps the weather, had moved a few of the large stones in the cross under a juniper tree that Betty had made on the one-year anniversary. But it was still very much a cross and I decided that a natural force had disturbed the stones – a person who wanted to vandalize the scene would have done more damage. And then I discovered something new: an empty box of Winchester cartridges, lodged between the branches of another juniper tree. Winchester – the gun that won the West, the ammo that brought it to its knees – now back as a reminder, probably placed intentionally and maybe by the people who killed the horses. Did someone have us in their sights? I wondered as I looked across the range. “I think it’s time to go,” I said, but as we walked back to the pick-up, there came a wonderful sight – a few horses, down from a rise. Since the massacre, Betty rarely saw them in the canyon, and she had visited it several times a year, as a kind of a groundskeeper for the cemetery. On my visits, I had not seen any horses either, nor had I seen any hoofprints, which made me think that they had been avoiding the area because in the desert, tracks last for a very long time.
The horses that approached were brown with black manes – the scruffy and beautiful Nevada horses that nobody asks for at the adoption centers. We stopped in our tracks and watched them and they watched us back. After awhile, we bid them farewell. As we headed down the mountain, I turned for one more look. They were walking across the boneyard towards the stone cross, reclaiming their home.
For more about our wild horses, read Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, a Los Angeles Times best book of 2008.
The new off-street pathway between the Silver Lake Reservoir and the busy stretch of Silver Lake Boulevard is (finally) officially open. And it's great. In addition to the pair of paint strips that for decades were the sole divider between racing traffic and pedestrians, there now stands a heavy-duty concrete barrier reinforcing the divide. The path itself is padded with the same gravel mix found along the opposite side. Deodar saplings dot the landscape and in some parts the path has a wide open feel. Now runners and walkers can go all the way around the reservoir without risking life and limb. A long time coming and worth the wait.
Remember the first time you drove a new car off the lot?
I do. I was in my 20s in New Mexico, unworldly in all kinds of ways, but alert enough to realize the portent of my first new-car purchase. I spent weeks preparing for it, read three books about the typical car-salesmen cons, and, in the process, eeked out what last few miles were left in my Chevrolet Chevette, which was already a well-used vehicle when I purchased it as a college student.
Despite all that, the deal still went horribly wrong.
Before I even stepped on the car lot, the Detroit voices in my head were castigating me. Hell, I wasn't even buying a car, but a pickup -- a cherry-red, four-cylinder with neither air conditioning, nor a radio -- the kind of two-seater that those imaginary voices said were for "hicks and farmers." But that was hardly the most heinous aspect of the transaction. What really upset the assembly-line philistines in my psyche was that I was about to buy a rice burner, which in Detroit was only slightly more vile than ransacking your best friend's house, shooting his favorite dog, then bragging about it by having "I shot the bitch" tattooed on your forehead.
But that was Detroit, and I had no intention of ever going back. I worked hard for my money and I wanted quality in return, which I doubted Detroit could provide. I learned first hand from the mothers and fathers of friends and girlfriends who toiled in the plants of the Big Three to always be wary of those sour rides that rolled off the line in the late afternoon, when weary workers were less attentive to detail. Imperfections that became "the dealer's problem" inevitably became the source of some sorry buyer's regret (and no doubt the inspiration for so-called "lemon" laws). As for buying a pickup, I needed a vehicle with clearance enough to traverse the worst of high-desert dirt roads, both for recreational and journalistic purposes.
Too many times had that dying Chevette of mine bottomed out en route to report on some back-road standoff with a drug-crazed unfortunate holed up in his grandmother's clapboard house, putting holes in the dirt and sky with a .45-caliber ACP while begging the deputies to do what he was too scared to do himself.
I bought a foreign pickup assembled in America from a typical American car dealership and, try as I did to get a fair deal, my hopes ended up shot full of holes.
The way I figured afterward, I probably paid about $1,000 too much for what was then a truck with a $10,000 sticker in the window. I did everything those books had said, negotiated the trade-in before bargaining for the new vehicle, then spent five hours dickering down 15 percent from the price tag. But, in those pre-Internet days, I had far less information than the dealer did. When the suit brought out a piece of paper labeled "Invoice Cost," I had nothing with which to fire back.
Later on, it stung a little more. The vehicle I'd been told had "tens" of miles on it actually had hundreds. The odometer had no tenths column.
Intent on embarrassing myself professionally as well as personally, I had to ask why such swindling wasn't worth reporting. A friend drew my attention to the obvious answer -- all those full-page ads in every mid-sized daily newspaper. These guys were big advertisers. What newspaper would want to piss them off? I expect a few took on their local dealerships over the years, but it doesn't appear to have made any difference.
Getting ripped off by the local car dealer has been a part of American life since ... forever.
Just business, they say.
That's how life is.
Which brings us to 2008 with US taxpayers being begged to bail out the very industry that's primary connection to the end user is the lying, cheating, swindling salesperson.
We all know it. We can buy books about it. Movie plots have focused on it. Stand-up comics have put legions of kids through college telling jokes about it. Indeed, it's the very reason that manufacturers began promoting what-you-see-is-what-you-get pricing just as the Internet began providing consumers with access to more information.
I grew up in Detroit, in the city itself. Some of my closest friends and immediate family work in the industry, on the noisy assembly lines, in the partitioned offices, and in the
coat-and-dagger coat-and-tie dealerships. Their stake in this is bigger than mine, though there's no doubt in my mind that if their jobs go away, many more of our jobs will go away too.
Those who have taken the time to look at the data and the implications can't help but see the need for pre-emptive financial assistance. But a bail-out?
If the salesperson who sold you your car were to call from jail, weeping and begging for you to please, God, please come bail them out, would you? Or would you remember that line they fed you as they handed you the keys, the one about how they usually don't let cars as good as this go for such a low, low price ... or what a great deal you got ... or what a shrewd negotiator you are ...
Why don't Americans want to bail out the auto industry?
Remember the first time you drove a new car off the lot?
Not that the readers of these pages need to be reminded, but the past week alone has been bad by any measure. We've learned that two once-great newspapers in Detroit (my hometown) are mulling a plan to cease home delivery most days of the week. We learned National Public Radio intends to lay off 64 staffers companywide, most of them here in Los Angeles. And a mere seven days ago the Monday morning bankruptcy bomb was dropped by Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co.
Tragic as all that sounds, it's nothing compared to the many other layoffs and closures of the past few years, the most recent of which was the announcement by E.W. Scripps Co. that Denver's Rocky Mountain News has been put up for sale. (Does anyone doubt how that's sure to end up? Remember how well the sale of The Albuquerque Tribune went?)
Yet, Carr writes in today's edition of The New York Times that this industry in search of relevance has "found a compelling spokesman" in Democratic Illinois governor Rod R. Blagojevich.
Blaggy's scandal, Carr says, is justification for the importance of investigative journalism:
The governor said he would withhold financial assistance from the Tribune Company in its effort to sell Wrigley Field unless the newspaper got rid of the editorial writers. “Our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ’em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support,” he told his chief of staff, John Harris.
Who says the modern American newspaper doesn’t matter?
Newspapers don't matter. Otherwise people would be reading them.
And, besides that, I'll ask the more important question -- Why wasn't Blaggy calling for the head of a reporter instead of a deputy editorial page editor?
Carr doesn't sidestep any of this. As he points out, "much of the current investigation is being led by the office of the United States attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald," not a newspaper.
Sure, Chicago's skilled journalists were on the story, reporting that the governor’s wife, Patti, rode the real-estate bubble like everyone else and pocketed more than $700,000 in commissions, a lot of it from people doing business with the state, but that's not the scandal.
In the words of Ben Bradlee, "you haven't got it … not good enough," which is in no way intended as a cut on Chicago's talented journalists, but rather an example of the tragic casualties we can all expect as a result of cutbacks industrywide.
Carr highlights that no evidence suggests Tribune cooperated with Blaggy's desire that pink slips be rained down on that deputy editorial editor, but that we even have to wonder about it says more than anything else.
There's an oft-quoted statement by Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell in Carr's piece. It's the one that goes: "I haven’t figured out how to cash in a Pulitzer Prize.”
Relevant? What's been most relevant in newspapers for the past decade, at least, has been the struggle to hold onto readers and revenue at any cost. The public service role of journalism has been shorted and continues to dim more each day, so much so that I feel torn each time I'm asked to provide a letter of recommendation for a former student interested in pursuing a graduate degree in journalism.
Newspaper readers — mostly former readers — don't sympathize with this situation, which is why it's bound to get worse before it gets better.
The public is not going look at the Blaggy scandal and slap itself on the forehead in recognition of the threat posed to democracy by shrinking newsrooms. The public is learning everything it cares to know about Blaggy from TV and blogs. Newspapers? You mean those things to which the blogs hyperlink out? Face it, we are losing a generation of readers, and if you doubt how serious that may be, ask a Gen-Xer when they last went to a horse track — now there's a dying industry that's now lost a couple generations.
More newspapers will close and, soon, some journalism schools will close too. And, in the meantime, crooks and liars are getting a lot more comfortable.
As I often tend to quote:
Thomas Jefferson said: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
More scandals will happen. Far more damage to democracy will be done. It's inevitable. The only way the public is going to realize why newspapers matter is when the harm caused by their absence is undeniable.
The reason it's come to this is complicated. No one thing caused it. But, newspapers have to know that they're to blame for a lot of it. They poisoned their own ink wells. They've been so focused on profit for so long that the public no longer sees them as a public service, but rather as just another business.
Can Blaggy change that? Yes. But it's going to take a lot more Blaggys, dozens, in states and counties and cities and everywhere that the watchdog of the print media is no longer on duty.
Ever wonder what the world would have been like if Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein hadn't uncovered Watergate? I fear we'll learn the answer in the next couple decades.
I swear to my book-loving God I do, and, yes, I know for a fact he/she loves books because the bible has sold more than five billion copies since 1815, which I'm pretty sure is better than even JK Rowling, not that I mean any disrespect at all ... to Ms. Rowling.
But something about this whole Kindle craze just doesn't figure.
We're still in so-called "trying" times. Things are still supposed to get a lot worse. Layoffs have hit nearly every industry, including book publishing, kids are writing tragic letters of loss and heartache to Santa Claus, and Jay Leno is moving to prime time because "with the economic situation a lot of people go to bed earlier."
Ok, so I have NO idea where Leno got that little factoid about how the onset of poverty improves sleeping habits, but the stuff about the layoffs and the Santa letters has been verified, and yet Amazon.com has somehow managed to SELL OUT its entire stock of Kindles at a cost of $359.00 each!
It's revolutionary. It's cool. I get all that. I've held one, used one, envied a person who owned one but ... How? Why?
And if the answer is simply the fact that Oprah Winfrey touched a Kindle and said it was good, then somebody get that woman to Wall Street, give her a megaphone and get out of her way!
In the meantime, I'll just have to envy those who have Kindles, marvel at all the books they can carry all at once, and hope that soon they'll be carrying mine in there too.
Robin Rauzi, an articles editor on the LA Times opinion pages, gave notice Wednesday that she's leaving to become head flak at UCLA Live.
This is a big loss for journalism. It's also a major loss for me, as an occasional contributer to the Times' opinion pages. Robin is a sharp thinker who knows how to make a garbled piece sing. She does it not by wielding a bludgeon, but by coaxing the best possible work out of her writers. Robin is a seasoned journalist -- the kind the industry should be doing its damnedest to hang onto. She's been on staff at the Times for 13 years, making her way around the paper's sections, working in the San Fernando Valley, in Calendar and in Travel before moving to opinion a couple of years ago.
When I spoke with Robin earlier today about her decision to leave, she told me that she was sitting at her desk looking at a list of all the freelance writers who were not going to get paid as a result of the bankruptcy filing. Nearly all of her writers are freelance, and I can't imagine what it must be like to be the bearer of that news. She also told me that with all the layoffs, "it's just too sad" to be at the Times right now.
As a writer, I straddle the worlds of MSM and the blogosphere. Many are the times I've cringed at my own unedited -- yet published -- blog copy. In the era of blogs, my deep respect for the work that editors do has only grown. At a time when sloppy stuff called "opinion" is oozing out of every Internet pore, we need good opinion editors more than ever. I know I'm shouting into the wind, but here goes: LA Times, do whatever it takes, but don't let Robin go!
Photo credit: Beastandbean on Flickr
Once upon a time, our city grid was a morality lesson offering residents a chance to ponder the power of virtue as they crossed Calle de Esperanza (Hope Street) to Calle de Caridad (Charity Street, renamed Grand Avenue after 1880, when upwardly mobile residents petitioned to change the name from Charity Street-- Anglicized when the Yanks took over in 1849--so that visitors would not infer that street dwellers needed financial assistance). A few miles north, one could walk Calle de Eternidad which headed toward the town's cemetery. East Market street now covers the pueblito of the San Gabriel Indians who struggled to find a financial footing after surviving both Mexican and Anglo colonists. The street that ran through their little town was named (sarcastically?) Calle de Libertad until it was changed to Requeno Street to honor Manuel Requeno, a property owner and statesman. *
If the names had never altered, would we live in a different Los Angeles? Would it be better planned city with more greensward, less traffic and gentler residents? What kind of day would I have if I hopped the F Dash bus down Grasshopper Street to USC? I just hope that such a bizarro Los Angeles cherishes and nurtures its library system, which in our world does its best with limited resources to help us grow and dream about the city's potential. I guess it's telling that the city never named a street "Calle de Conocimiento"...
Gloria Gerace and Glen Creason co-curated this excellent show and programmed really smart supplemental ALOUD conversations to go with it. Trevor Paglen’s 10/26/08 talk on secret military operations hidden in the Southern California landscape blew my mind.
It's not too late to check it all out. A family festival is scheduled for January 18th, from 2 to 4 pm, where folks can try their hand at map making. The exhibit ends January 22, 2008.
*If you want to know more about Los Angeles street names check out this essay in the 1914 edition of the Historical Society of Southern California. All mistakes in names and locations are mine and feel free to correct me.
Good news indeed, but perhaps better than that was the announcement of a sizable financial contribution, coincidentally in the same amount as the organization's reported cost of maintenance for one year:
To mark the launch of the 40th Anniversary Campaign, [Beyond Baroque President Fred] Dewey announced a $20,000 donation from a major LA artist living in Venice who, though preferring anononymity, began in the underground and is very sympathetic to the institution’s spirit. He joins internationally celebrated donors to Beyond Baroque Ed Ruscha, Mike Kelley, and others.
Also in the release, Beyond Baroque announced the names (brief bios included) of newly installed members of its board of trustees. I couldn't find the news release on the Beyond Baroque Web site, so I posted a copy of what Dewey emailed this week. It's at this link.
Though employees at the Tribune Co.'s benefits and payroll departments didn't offer updates on Wednesday regarding ex-LAT staffers' severance payments, the Times' own HR department had this good news to impart:
From: Denley, Susan
Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 4:48 PM
Subject: an answer to one question....
For those of you who have been expressing concern about what is going to happen to all our friends and former colleagues who were laid off or took a buyout this year, I am happy to report that, contrary to public speculation, they WILL receive their separation packages.
Our Human Resources Department here in LA was notified yesterday that payments will go forward as planned. There will be a little change in the paperwork people need to file in order to complete the transaction, and HR is in the process of sending letters to every individual who is affected to explain what to do.
Looks like little Maisie won't have to get a job after all.
*Not so fast: according to E&P, there's "a cap of $10,950 per person but excludes payments for health care, long-term disability, reimbursable expenses, workers' compensation and retiree medical care."
I was on staff for barely a year so my package wasn't so much a parachute as a Kleenex. Still, the sudden freeze of those last few checks makes life perilous. For colleagues who are owed much, much more, and who thought they had a bit of breathing room to find new work in an industry evaporating beneath their feet, the news is devastating.
If you're in search of information, let me save you some time. Awakened by anxiety at 4 a.m., I fret and pace and freak out the pets until the Trib's Chicago offices are open. First call: Tribune Benefits Service Center at 800-872-2222. A nice man tells me that yes, my checks have now stopped. Will this week's check, at least, still arrive? He doesn't know. How about the payment for my unused vacation time? He doesn't know. Call Payroll at 800-435-7186, he says.
A nice man at Payroll reads from the same script as the Benefits guy, then tells me to call the bankruptcy hotline, which is 888-287-7568. There, a nice woman named Brenda asks for my name, phone number and address, which I can hear her typing into a data base. I'm asking my questions and she's typing them into that data base and in the end she doesn't have any answers and suggests I call the Benefits Center. Which is where this rondelay began. I tell her as much and it's clear there's nothing left to do but wait.
"I'm so sorry for what's happening," she says just as we hang up. But what, exactly, is happening? That's what we need to know.
Photo: Arne Nćvra
In yet another lesson on how to make a bad newspaper ...
Among the many reports this morning on the arrest of Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Gawker spotted this wretchedly juicy bit of unethical non-journalisticness, which was allegedly perpetrated by Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co.
Buried within the 76-page FBI affidavit dealing with the governor's alleged bribery efforts lay the details of a diabolical exchange between Tribune Co. and the Gov's office.
According to the text of the affidavit, it appears that a Tribune financial advisor signaled the willingness of Tribune's owner — we assume that's our own Sam Zell — to use reorganizations and budget cuts to eliminate a wrong-thinking deputy editorial page editor, whose opinion of the Illinois governor was less than favorable. Less than two weeks later, guess who was suddenly willing to talk about funneling a few tax dollars to the debt-ridden Tribune's Wrigley Field?
From the affidavit via Gawker:
In a November 11 intercepted call, [Blagojevich's chief of staff John] Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner "got the message and is very sensitive to the issue." Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be "certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he's going after that section." Blagojevich allegedly responded. "Oh. That's fantastic." After further discussion, Blagojevich said, "Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You're the man. Good job, John."
In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune's deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, "as somebody who was the most biased and unfair." After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field.
Nonetheless, the details might help explain why some LA Times staffers cringe when Zell refers to them as "partners" in e-mail.
OK, technically the name is Diesel, A Book Store, perhaps to distinguish if from Diesel, the dog, for whom the original Oakland store was named almost 20 years ago. But to ardent readers and devoted fans who love books and appreciate the store's smart, funny and community-minded owners, John Evans and Alison Reid, it's just plain Diesel.
At the grand opening in the Brentwood Country Mart on Sunday book sellers poured champagne and stocked the buffet, helped browsers and buyers, and explained (repeatedly) that the chocolate-dipped crystallized ginger (omg) comes from Trader Joes. The space is lovely, like a period library with crown molding, crisp white shelves and a walnut floor. And the books, oh, the books, an eclectic, surprising and deeply satisfying selection that seems impossible for the size of the store.
So who are these people who open an indie book store in such challenging times? Here's a good profile from the LA Weekly, a more recent story from the LA Times, and a nuts-and-bolts piece from Book Web. I'm a fan of this story from the SF Chronicle.
Put your money where your heart is -- buy a book from an independent book store today.
I updated my status yesterday on Facebook to include a trip I am planning to Panama. Within hours, I had re-allied with a college friend who lives there, who, after an offer to shepherd my husband and me and find us whatever we needed, added, “As for the Jewish geography, the family names you want to know are: Btesh, Heskey, Malca, Bachtel…”
I thought to tell him my history of being taken for Jewish, but realized it would never fit in a Status Update, starting as it did in kindergarten, when the teacher went around the circle asking each child whether he or she would be celebrating Hanukkah or Christmas. When I said the latter, she said, “No, Nancy, you’ll be celebrating Hanukkah,” after which (according to my mother) I came home crying because we wouldn’t be having Christmas.
Because I grew up in New York, I was under the impression half of America was Jewish. This, because half my friends were Jewish, probably more than half, probably ninety percent, but this was the secular Seventies and none of the families I knew celebrated holidays with much more than booze. Tory might have been Jewish, but she had a Christmas tree. Sarah was half-Jewish, which meant they hid the matzo under a bust of the Pope. (I’m not kidding.) There were no Seders, no Bar Mitzvahs; no one asked my religious background, and if they had, I’d have said I’d been baptized Catholic and had gone through religious instruction long enough to make First Communion, which also turned out to be my last.
But they didn’t ask; why would they? The last name, the New York-i-ness, the lots of brown hair, the opinions, I looked and sounded like everybody else. In college, I was not only thought to be Jewish but told by one girl exactly what part of Israel my people were from.
“You have green eyes,” she said. “That means you're Sabra.”
I could tell by the happiness it gave her to tell me this that she wanted me to be Sabra. Let me make clear I never told anyone I was Jewish, and if the subject came up, said I was not. But it didn’t come up, and I think it didn’t because my friends who were Jewish just assumed I was. Sometimes this went on for years, especially after I moved to Los Angeles. My screenwriter friend Loren, whom I met while working on a film in 1984, invited me to Passover dinner in 1989. I told her I’d love to; that I’d never been to one.
“What do you mean, you never went to Passover?” she asked. “Not even at your grandmother’s?” I told her, my grandmother had been Italian, that I wasn’t Jewish…
“Wait,” she said, placed a hand on her chest, closed her eyes for about ten seconds, and then said, “Okay.” She needed to process the information that one of her closest friends, someone who looked nearly identical to her and had a near-identical past, was not of the tribe. I was pregnant at the time and welcomed heartily by her family; at the end of the meal, her father took me aside and slipped me a Haggadah, “for the baby.” A few years later at a baby shower, I ate a fantastic casserole the pregnant woman’s mother had made. What was it?
“You never ate a kugel?” the woman’s mother asked, and when I said no, called to the other attendees, “She never ate a kugel!” Then she sat me in the kitchen and had me write down the recipe, for macaroni and cheese with Frosted Flakes on top. What’s not to like?
When I moved to Portland, Oregon, I found myself missing something I could not quite lay a finger on. Of course, it was the Jews, the quickness, the sharpness, the cadence of speech, the getting the joke without explaining the joke. None of my friends in New York or LA would ever say, in the midst of a heated conversation, “Calm down, don’t get so excited!” the way people sometimes do here. Not get excited? I live to get excited.
Today, I ran into a chef whose restaurant is in the same complex as my husband’s business, a little spitfire who’s always hustling and yakking and smiling. I congratulated her on her recent lauding in the press for a holiday dish she’s got on the menu: an apple pie with a lattice crust made of bacon. She laughed, explaining how when her rabbi had seen it, even he said it was tempting.
“And you know how rabbis are!” she said, clapping me on the shoulder. I did not correct her.
As the art of good writing seems to grow more imperiled by the day, last night’s PEN Center USA awards dinner was a welcome celebration of the glorious work that continues to happen.
I found even more to celebrate in one of my table mates, a teenager named Lali Foster who recently founded a literary magazine called Polygon.
Lali, who attended the awards dinner with her dad, poet Sesshu Foster (who was a judge in the poetry category), is a student at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Despite (or because of ?) the Internet and iPods and MySpace and the 24-hour news cycle, Lali and several classmates created an old-fashioned, paper and ink journal in which to express their innermost thoughts and feelings (of course there’s a website too).
The work covers the requisite sex and anxiety-driven adolescent angst. But it also employs sophisticated imagery and word play to plumb the harsh realities of growing up.
Here’s one entry, by a contributor identified as Natalie:
Angel Honey, Cover Your Mouth
He was a baby fresh doper
Mama's grilled cheese:
Salt & Oil,
Same things he used to
rub on his knuckles
to fight the slugs
on the stone gnome outside.
And he'd put ketchup on
And grape jelly to stain
And kick his squished opponent,
spitting Chiclets out of
So that it was a true victory.
Now he spends time with
The kind who slather their bodies
not with adolescent condiments,
But premium, under-the-table
Slick film to slide out of
And they know what it means
to look at a
Mark the spot.