Observations Atop the 134 Bridge After the Storm.

LA River/Griffith Park

After many days of successive, concussive waves of rain swirling into Los Angeles, the hills in Griffith Park were wet, green, and soaked.

I walked there, yesterday afternoon, along the bike path, and the bridle path, at the point where the 134 roars alongside the LA River.

LA River/Griffith Park griffith-park-after-rain-6

The storm, now depleted, had moved east, sent into exile. And in the distance, under dark clouds, I saw the Verdugo Mountains, the flat roofed towers of Glendale, and all the man-made highways and power lines: showered and renewed, glistening and spot lighted by sun.

The littered homeless encampment on the island in the middle of the river was vacated. There was nobody else around but me, except for a lone man riding a child’s bike.


A bridge over the waters and the freeway, a bridge under construction, its metal rods exposed, a messy conglomeration of concrete, lumber, fencing and plywood, that incomplete, torn-up bridge evoked others before her time destroyed by floods.

Angelenos in the 1930s and before lived in fear of the river and put their hope in President Roosevelt. Now we trust the river and fear our president.

Once we trembled under the fury of nature. Now we shudder under the drama of political malfeasance.

After 1940, the army conquered the unpredictable river, contained its fast water, and controlled its deadly fury.

Tomorrow, we trust, we hope, will fold out and reveal itself as it did in Genesis.

“Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. And God said

never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

 “As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night

will never cease.”

LA River/Griffith Park

Yesterday in Burbank.

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Yesterday in Burbank, the sky was clear, clouds sat high and moved fast, the sun sparkled, dust blew, and people rode horses on dirt trails.

On this day, a film student from Canada put on a thermal shirt, petted a horse, picked up a shovel, tried on a jean jacket, and impersonated a life without quite really actually believing in it.

Near the stables, roosters crowed and horses neighed. And the student carried a black bag out of a red barn and walked diagonally past the camera.

The muscular, tattooed man stood timidly next to a white horse in leather blinders. He said he was from the city and had never touched that animal.

In the equestrian district, the air smelled like hay and horse, horse shit and horse sweat.

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Later, along Victory, drops of rain fell and then stopped.

Under the concrete pillars holding up the Golden State, behind a steel fence, illuminated in the mellow end-of-day light, the student stood in mock incarceration, a dark skinned reminder of others who sit in prison, or move beyond borders to chase freedom in other lands.

He later stood shirtless next to a street sign, not unlike the thousands who stand on the streets of Los Angeles waiting for customers, or others who live on the streets because they have no home.

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Processed with VSCOcam with j4 presetAll of it was pretend, and all of it was about capturing light, and setting a mood, an imitation of life.

Yesterday in Burbank was make-believe.

But the light was real and the buildings threw off a gentle and enveloping glow, mitigating the harshness of the city, and offering an alternative imaginary story for jaded urbanites.

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Unstable Atmosphere/ Yesterday, a Strange Light

Yesterday, I went downtown. I took my camera. And I drove, in my meandering way, locally, hunting for light and shadow.

I left Van Nuys and went through Griffith Park and picked up Glendale Blvd where it emerges in Silver Lake and runs down into Echo Park.

1461 Alessandro St.

Near Effie Street, I stopped. And I saw dark clouds hover over the silver skyline, glass glistening coldly.

I parked where dozens of people sleep on the sidewalk next to a storage building and the street ends at steep, ugly concrete stairs. Climbing the steps, I stood near the metal rails and looked towards our downtown draped under an impending storm.

Yesterday, Sunday, a strange light and gentle gloom came in and out, an alternating atmosphere of rain and cold windy gray.

Thoughtlessly happy Los Angeles wore an unfamiliar face. The city everyone thinks they know once again confounded me.


Near 4th and Main- View NE

I drove on to my destination at 4th and Main.

Downtown, at the art loft, a show at 2A Gallery was closing. The works were those painted by my friend Tam Warner’s father, Orien Lowell Greenough. He died, poor, in 2008. He was a liberal who hated war. His creations on canvas satirized, in depth, the hypocrisy and brutality of the killers and statesmen who run this world. His time had Stalin, Hitler, and Khrushchev.

We have ISIS and Putin, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.

The men who put on the show, Clay and Calvin, and their 2A Gallery, had recently come into my friend’s life, nurturing, elevating and sanctifying the late painter and his work. His daughter, after a run of mistreatment by another gallery, was grateful for their care and love.

It seemed as if Orien Lowell Greenough and his work were again going to find recognition in Los Angeles, full validation that had eluded him when he was alive, the story of so many artists, and writers.

And then Calvin and Clay confirmed that they were not only closing the show, but closing out their life in Los Angeles. They would be packing up and moving to McComb, Mississippi to live in a more affordable area. They would leave in 30 days, and drive 4 days across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, eventually arriving in The Magnolia State, where the flag still flies the colors of The Confederacy.

Everyone was sad. But none more so than my friend, who had made a connection with the newly departing angels who had came out of nowhere to champion undervalued Orien Lowell Greenough.

Tomorrow, there may be money in art, but today you need to eat. Like the dead artist, the living gallery was squashed by the bottom line.

The truth is that they could not afford to live in Los Angeles any more. Or perhaps the truth is that they chose not to live in Los Angeles because home was somewhere else. Truth is subjective- so the artist claims.

Their departure is a loss to this city.

And when I left the loft, calmed by two evaporating beers, I drove in the dark rain through dystopian concrete canyons. I lost my way downtown, and found that my usual entrance onto the 101 was closed. I had to make a detour, a rerouting of my way home, that took me down old Temple Street, and over to Rampart, where I found a wet and slow, hidden and unfamiliar way to get onto the freeway and back home.


Protecting Privacy by Outlawing Street Photography.

Henri Cartier-Bresson FRANCE. Paris. Avenue du Maine. 1932.
Henri Cartier-Bresson
FRANCE. Paris. Avenue du Maine. 1932.

The New York Times writes today about a growing movement, especially in France, to limit public photography of strangers by so-called street photographers. In the land of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who used the term “Decisive Moment” , to describe that flash of life’s movements captured by lens, the art of unposed and candid snapshots may be restricted.

I find this trend odious and unwarranted.

The role of the photographer, capturing people out in the open, in public spaces, doing anything, must be a sacrosanct and protected part of a free society.

In response to the NYT article I wrote this letter:

As a photographer in the US, my observation is that the once clear lines between public and private presentation, where you put on a hat and gloves before leaving the house, where you didn’t use swear words in public, and people presumed that others were decent and honorable, well that whole world was upended by the 1960s.

Throw in the internet, which opens the whole private life of a person up for public display, and people are, naturally, feeling invaded by strangers. The easiest way to express their anger is by acting hostile towards the man on the street with a camera.

Is it rational? No. Is it legal to prevent street photography? No. Can children in a playground, a person being arrested, a woman sitting alone in a cafe be photographed? Yes.

We are ironically freer and more liberated in acting out our vulgarities and misbehaviors, our decadence and eccentricities, yet we are going back to that question of honor, privacy and human dignity that every culture struggles with.

Will we allow free and lawful street photography? Or will France and other Western countries cover the collective lens with a legal burqa?