Los Angeles is a really interesting place, a megalopolis that exploded before anyone had a chance to think about “urban planning,” let alone coin the term. As a result, it’s a somewhat-random amalgam of a bunch of smaller cities. On the Westside – Santa Monica and Venice. On the East – Silverlake and Echo Park. There’s the valley – Sherman Oaks and Studio City – and the Southside, which houses Compton. And then there’s downtown.
Many major financial-services’ firms and other “professional” firms have offices downtown. Location scouts suggest it for shoots because certain streets look like New York City on-screen. Downtown LA is bustling during the day, part of a proper city. But at night? Crickets.
It’s the weirdest thing.
There have been efforts to revamp it – notably Tim Leiweke‘s hope to bring a professional football team to the city and his company’s horrifically sad LA Live complex – for which Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Mauricio Umansky sells luxury condos – but they still haven’t caught on. And downtown is dangerous; it’s home to LA’s Skid Row, a neighborhood which houses one of the nation’s most stable populations of homeless individuals.
So downtown LA is basically bipolar, experiencing mania during the day and depression at night.
Randomly last fall I got an email that featured an interview with Zack Herrera, a photographer who worked with downtown LA’s natural evening light to develop a photo series in which he likened downtown to Frank Baum’s land of Oz. (HERRERA DIDN’T USE A FLASH. I CAN’T FIGURE OUT A BETTER WAY OF SAYING THAT SO, CAPS.) The pictures brought to mind the depiction of downtown LA in the 2011 movie Drive; they captured a different kind of underbelly to downtown LA, with their cool streaks of purples, greens and greys. I love them.
The thing with these pictures is…they make downtown LA at night look – well – warm. Magical. For some of us, downtown LA really is an Emerald City, and now we have proof.
Sundays are my day to get my freelance butt in gear; this week I had elected to write a piece on Fox’s comedy Ben and Kate for a web site I contribute to (Ask Miss A). The review was to be under the banner “Best Shows You’re Not Watching.” I’m googling an actor’s name to put in the review (200 words in at this point), and GASP! Fox cancelled the show on Friday. Review over. Life over.
I feel strangely powerless.
I found Ben and Kate one random Tuesday evening in late December 2012. My first thought – WOW! The lead guy’s crooked teeth – do they let that kind of stuff on TV anymore? And because I was so surprised to see a character on TV who didn’t have veneers, or InvisAlign, I kept watching, and it turned out I loved it. The 30-minute, “single-camera” comedy centered around the lives of twenty-something single-mom Kate (Dakota Johnson – YES! Melanie Griffith’s daughter) and her older, clueless brother Ben (improv-actor Nat Faxon) after he moves back home to San Diego to live with Kate and help her take care of her five-year-old daughter Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). For the first time in a long time, I had a TV show to call my own!
I tweeted. I DVR’d. I on-demanded. I googled. I did all the things my peers with their favorite shows do. I finally had a TV identity – a show that kept me relevant at the water cooler at work , that is…if we had a water cooler and if all my co-workers weren’t guys. The point is I would have had something to say in my hypothetical workplace, and that’s what matters.
Why did the show work? For me, it’s just fun to watch a show where you can tell the actors are having as much fun filming the show as you are watching it. There was an authenticity to it that couldn’t be feigned. It’s that and the feeling of community and willingness to fail – the bad jokes made the good ones even funnier – that I will miss. The show was cute and sarcastic and redeeming but also rough-around-the-edges. It was the underdog. Kind of like me, maybe.
So long Ben and Kate. Now I have to find your unfinished season 1 on dvd AND attempt to replace you. Because who are we without a favorite tv show?
My friend and I went to see the French-language film Amour – which translates to “Love” in English, obvi – Friday night. Because, Oscars. And the poster makes it look like we’re dealing with the ultimately redemptive power of love in a time of sickness and old age. SCORE
Well, this isn’t The Notebook friends. Amour has the old-age part, but not the redemptive-power-of-love theme. The film – directed and penned by the very Austrian Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher) – tells the story of the lives of a retired Parisian couple after the wife suffers a stroke. She has an aversion to hospitals, and after an unsuccessful operation to clear the blocked artery that caused her stroke, she asks her husband to take care of her from then on only in their home. Having little contact with the outside world, the couple is forced to turn to and look at only one another and how they have lived their relationship.
Our protagonist husband, ever dutiful, is the shaky rock (is that possible?) for his wife as her health declines. Sometimes she is mopey and demanding. Other times, she seems content just to be with him. They read together. They reminisce. She learns new things about him, perhaps listening to him for the first time. Over the course of the film, her right side succumbs to paralysis and she suffers another stroke that leaves her bedridden. One remarkable scene ends with our husband slapping his wife out of frustration when she won’t drink the water he must feed her. The film ends with her death, which has its own implications.
Amour was jarring, uncomfortable, minimalistic. It had no score and no music aside from that which was a part of the actual story. The most thought-provoking aspect of Amour, for me, was the idea that love perhaps doesn’t have its own definition; it is instead an amalgam of things – at times confusion, dependency, despondency, intimacy, friendship, devotion. It cannot be defined itself, but only analyzed moment-by-moment for us to have any grasp of it. Could it even be reduced to being a “habit?”
And what of death in Amour? Perhaps it is human nature that will have us believe we are dead the moment we are diagnosed with a terminal illness or sick. But our immobilized, “dying” wife is still very much alive while lying in bed – capable of fear, contentment, frustration, the ability to feel physical pain and to continue to interact with her husband. Haneke seems to be saying that the quality of our lives can deteriorate, but our lives can still change up until the moment we take our last breath.
It’s a brave and purposeful move to title a film Amour. Your audience comes to you with preconceived, idealistic notions. Haneke – himself an aging, married artist – is ready to break you of those notions, however uncomfortable you may be, and considering I’m still thinking about the effed-up movie two days later, he succeeded.
Verdict: A well-done film. Not for everyone. Thought-provoking, depressing and European. Some could see it as hopeful; its sparseness and characterization were too gritty for me to want to label it optimistic.
Travel – for business and pleasure – is kind of an unavoidable luxury these days. Part of the fabric of our culture, and certainly a favorite pastime for many a man with an online dating profile. It’s just not cool to admit you don’t like traveling. So…yeah! Of course I love it!
For me, it means a few months of pre-travel panic. Everything must be perfect – legs shaved, eyebrows plucked, pores extracted, hair highlighted and cut, teeth whitened, pounds lost. It’s anxiety. And when you’re away from home, it’s living in the moment, feeling the heartbeat of life and not having enough “familiar” around you to ignore what you’ve been repressing. Travel is a jolt, a way to shock yourself into looking at things as they really are. Scary.
But not liking travel doesn’t mean you don’t see the beauty in it.
My favorite part is getting home. Unpacking. cleaning. Ah, sweet routine. I thought I lost you!
But your eyes are new too. You can’t look at things quite the same way again.
A trip last year to Monaco to visit a dear friend actually turned out to be my saving grace. After a year at a job that I wasn’t sure I was a good fit for, it was an opportunity for me to realize – I can still function in groups! I haven’t lost the ability to laugh so hard it feels like a 9-year-old David Beckham kicked a soccer ball directly into my abdomen! While my daily routine at home was different from what it felt like it should have been, it didn’t mean I had lost who I was. I needed space – apparently a distance as wide as that between Los Angeles and Monte Carlo – to see it.
I do feel grateful I got to go on the cruise last week, but it’s a mindful struggle to remind myself I didn’t fail. It’s a struggle that apparently requires outside assistance: “Dad – are you sure it wasn’t a failure? I mean, I didn’t have the right amount of fun! It didn’t meet my expectations!”
We are told we have to like to travel, that everyone wants to travel. That we should be grateful. Well, Jeneration Why, travel IS a revelation, but it’s also a crapshoot. Maybe we don’t always have to go so far from home to cultivate a new perspective. Or to “fit in.”
I was getting gas near West Hollywood today, and LO AND BEHOLD, a Banksy blast. At least I think. Another pissing animal. And another statement on the complacency of modern-day human beings in first-world countries. Fittingly, I purchased a number of bottled coffees, a Squirt and a tub of butter from the gas station after taking this picture. Banksy = spot-on.
I went to a puppet show this past weekend. I hope you don’t think I’ve been keeping the life-changing news from you. We went on Sunday, but I wanted to take a few days to digest it. I had first/seen heard about Bob Baker and his little puppets when I saw his theater whilst driving around . I immediately thought – anyone with half a mind is all up in this shit; I have to go, and there I eventually went.
Google research proved fruitful. Come to find the damn thing is kinda popular or at least historic – oldest surviving children’s theater in LA. Dates to the 1920s. LA Historic-Cultural Monument.
I was surprisingly excited about the whole thing. And then we got there.
When I read over the summer that Peter Gabriel was touring around the 1986 album “So,” I got a leetle beet OCD, didn’t consider whether or not I truly wanted to see the show and bought tickets.
Of course last night, I’m like whatever. I totes didn’t want to go. I’m glad I did. John Cusack was there.
Today I was lucky. I was driving, AND I encountered this. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS – I have apparently run into a new Banksy piece just days after its “installation!” WINNING (See article at Complex.com)
I lurve it. Interesting to note – it was in Beverly Hills. Not exactly known for its street art – potentially because it’s its own incorporated city within LA, so the police and residents blahblahblah are perhaps a little more stringent with “rules.” Anyhoo, it was on the side of one of the buildings that is under renovation somewhat near Rodeo.
Update: Google search reveals: There is another far more dark (emotionally) piece in Hollywood!
I have a friend. Let’s call her Kirsten.
Kirsten is a bit of a conspiracy theorist. She has a dad with a machete, so it’s best to have her on your team. A year or so ago, we were gchatting and she sent me a link to a story about a home in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles that had been the scene of two murders in the late 1950s. From what peeps surmise, the owner of the home – Dr. Harold Perelson – found himself in financial straits, despite running a cardiology practice in Inglewood. That or he was depressed. One night in December 1959, he went bat-shit crazy and bludgeoned his wife to death with a ball-peen hammer, beat his daughter like, really badly (she got away), told the two younger children to go back to bed when they got up to find out what was happening (“It’s just a nightmare”) and poisoned himself with acid before the police got there. Case closed. (The three children are still alive but their whereabouts are unknown.)
But that’s not the nutso part. Apparently the house was sold the next year in a probate auction (whatever that means), and the two people who purchased the home (Emily and Julian Enriquez) never actually lived in it. They have since died, and their son Rudy – who is based in the valley – is now the owner. AND THE HOUSE REMAINS IN THE CONDITION IT WAS IN WHEN THE MURDERS TOOK PLACE.
I took my cousin and mom to see it last weekend, because – let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be a part of such a miracle trip? (A disgusting number of pics after the jump.)
If I was ever to leave LA, there’s one thing in particular I would miss. The street art.
I went through a phase last year – you know, work was hard and I was really lost blahblahblah – and the thought of working toward street-art fame became the answer to all my problems. I had a street name – Bumble Bea – and I created a motto image at work by remotely accessing the Adobe Creative Suite on my home laptop. I had plans to mass produce the image and subsequently worked to figure out how to pull a “Shepard Fairey” and brush an enlarged version of my signature “bee” onto the side of a vacant building in the Fairfax District. #pipedreams