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.

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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.

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Los Angeles, Oregon.


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Los Angeles is not, by nature, an introverted, bundled up, snuggly, gray, rainy city.

But this year, the rains came early.

And we have had several weeks of storms, cold nights, blustery evenings.
And sparkling days with intermittent showers and drizzles, puddles and frost.

Nearby, up in the mountains, the nights are much colder and snow has fallen, snow that is visible way down here in the San Fernando Valley.

These few days, between Christmas and New Year’s, transformed and tamed the City of Angels into a Portlandia: wool sweaters, hot green tea in gloved hands, dog walkers and hikers encased in down jackets and flannel shirts, Icelandic wool caps and long scarves.

In Studio City, at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon, Laurel Tavern was filled with down-vested drinkers.

In Van Nuys, there were hardly any barking dogs left outside at night.
Only the occasional swoop of the helicopter…

I went up to the rocky, steep and trampled dirt of Runyon Canyon a few days ago. From that high altitude, I climbed higher to a mountain overlook, a physical cliff, where the streets spread out below in every direction and I could see for miles from downtown to Catalina Island.

This is where you come with your parents when they visit from out of town.
And you can sometimes convince them of this city’s virtues, because they meet its bright views absent its shady people.

And again today I went up into Wilacre Park above Studio City to capture something as brief and beautiful as a child walking for the first time: a sun and smog cursed city magnificently and somberly draped in dark and gray clouds, chilled, sobered and intellectualized by the absence of suffocating heat and blinding light.

A meteorological delusion. This is not Los Angeles. But the camera captured it. It must be real.

Refreshed and purified, swept clean for the New Year, the city and the region, ready to welcome 2013, another year, which will once again dump its toxins of illness, worry, debt, violence, deceit, sadness and broken hearts into our lingering days.

I could live here happily if it just looked sadder a few more months of the year.