Reading The Streets

Lit Crawl '15


To get there I traveled far. I missed on-ramps. I got on freeways. I passed over passes laden with homeless encampments. I crept past a man in a cowboy hat and boa dancing wildly on an island. I crawled over downtown. I slithered under Universal Studios. I ended at a region of the world yet unexplored, by me.

What awaited me was a literary choose-your-own-adventure fantasy. Young ladies performed poetry in a way that tinged one’s soul. There were strange ideas uttered; talk of “genre fiction awareness” and “literary atlas.” There were book-mobiles, book talks, book readings. They took place in restaurants, buses, cafes, and in the streets. It was as magical and urgent as Halloween – a mad dash – I must imbibe all the reading I can before the night is over.

The first stop on my magical mystery literary tour was Creepy Crawlies presented by Shades & Shadows and taking place at Blastoff Comics. Robert Payne Cabeen, Tiffany Tang, Derek Kim, Thomas Voorhies, and Nicole D. Sconiers read from their macabre but methodical pieces.

Next I walked as fast as my legs could carry me to Choose Your Own Los Angeles with Heyday Publishing happening at Tamashii Ramen House. John Bwarie, Jen Hofer, Rosten Woo, and Jeremy Rosenberg talked about LAtitudes and Under Spring. LAtitudes was not new to me, I had been to the Archives Bazaar and was already intrigued by this idea of LA maps speaking volumes about LA people. Under Spring is an animal all its own, imagine one single space in Los Angeles – in this case a bridge- where so much of LA’s diversity meets and meshes, changes and remains. Under Spring is a collection of oral histories about one bridge from various walks of life – everyone is allowed to say their piece in this piece.

My last stop was The Federal Bar to drink in From The Mouths of Musicians from the empire of fun. Music writers filled the dark back room speakeasy with music, stories, and beat poetry.

Venue to venue, author to author – all of it new and all of it up and down the street. The readings and talks were so small and candid. The energy was so great. I was so enthralled with then unknown-to-me Nicole D. Sconiers that I hastily bought Escape From Beckyville and then ran half a block to catch up with her and request that she sign it for me. The next time I was at the library I placed a hold on Quarantine which was read by half of the writing duo Lex Thomas, Thomas Voorhies. I now have Under Spring in my book collection. I’m planning to ask for LAtitudes for Christmas.

On the drive home I was elated. I was buzzed off of books.

I suggest you imbibe:

Lit Crawl LA

Heyday Publishing / Under Spring

Shades and Shadows – Literature but with Monsters

Gimme All Your Ephemera!

Archives Bazaar

.-3 -5: -6

I started my Bazaar day with the Researching LA 101 panel. First was the lingo lecture: primary, secondary, ephemera. Next was the thinking aspect: who created the record and why? Then there was the major reminders: look for multiple perspectives, even death certificates can be inaccurate, keep notes on where you’ve been and what you’ve found. And lastly was the hard truth: if you want to dabble in the archive arts you’re going to eventually be in a reading room. It’s estimated that only 5% of archives are digitized, and only some of those digitized are online. The reading room will be cold, and you will be asked to use pencil and special colored paper. When the panel was over, I felt ready for the main exhibit hall.

I can’t cover all that I learned or what organizations were represented that day. The room was packed with tables of black and white photos, memories, and stories; tables of different regions, cultures, and businesses. Tables that were surrounded by us – those that feed off of the mana that is history. I made the best haste I could; I had to see it all before the tour of TBD LA started – it was by the grace of the Almighty that I covered a good portion of one of the floors before the tour started.

The TBD LA tour was led by one of its creators, Geoff Manaugh. To hear the explanation through him brought the concept into focus. This exhibit was a pensive look at the multiple possible futures of Los Angeles and how the city has a strange energy that pulls people to it. It’s a city of cults, traffic, and movements both social and geological. The reality of the Los Angles earthquake was poignantly described as a sleeping monster, one we generally choose to avoid thinking about. We always know this monster will awaken but we do not know when. After this dreamy look into the futures of Los Angeles I had to – in true Angeleno fashion – rush to the next big thing: The Pecha Kucha.

The Pecha Kucha was accurately described as archives speed dating. The audience briefly learned about advances in the histories of the Lanternmean House, the Filipino American library, the Metro, LACMA, CSU Dominguez Hills, and the newly budding Punk Rock archives of USC.

In Pecha Kucha fashion I’ll briefly share what was of particular interest to me:

-The Ninja Turtles were at the grand opening of the Metro Blue Line

-Some of Los Angeles’ famous Red Cars (the center of the plot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) were sent to Argentina and Paraguay after their dismantlement

-CSU Dominguez Hills’ location was originally considered as a place to build Dodger Stadium. Meanwhile, the pending college was to be built in Palos Verdes where it would have aspired to be a sort of Harvard of the west coast

-When LACMA first opened all of its pieces were loans and the establishment was surrounded by reflecting pools

When the Pecha Kucha was over I stayed seated, it was time for the LAtitudes panel. LAtitudes is a recently released literary atlas published by the non profit publisher Heyday Books. Imagine; 19 essays written by very different people with accompanying maps illustrating a variety of geological concepts – all of it regarding the one and only Los Angeles. I only heard four of the authors speak about their contributions and the variety and the enthusiasm for this project shone through like a spotlight. I NEED this book.

I wanted to stay for one more panel – Imbibing LA with the historian from the Museum of American Cocktails – but I needed to leave. I was exhausted. My stomach was growling – the only food I imbibed during my Bazaar day was a Clif bar, which I hastily ate on a nearby bench because I did not want to leave the Bazaar to find real food. My right hand was tired from all of my insane scribbling. My phone was dead from all the historical society websites I was book marking and from all the forays into GoodReads I was making. My mind was buzzing with the LA history, with the LA story.

If you like history too, check these out:

CSUDH Commemoration of Watts Rebellion

Metro Archives

Heyday Publishing / LAtitudes

LA as Subject


Sarah Screams

Rosewood Library Lobby

The City of Commerce’s Rosewood Library had a series of horror movie screenings this Halloween season that they aptly named Commerce Screams. This undertaking was truly a community service. One can’t always access quality horror movies. Check Netflix- you’re lucky if you get a part 2 or 3 of something from the 80s, most likely you’ll be besieged with awful remakes. Check Redbox – by the time you get off of work and drive over the machine has probably been picked clean. Check your local video store – oops – wait – you probably can’t find one. Did you think to go to the library?

Yes, the place with all the books has movies too – and magazines – and people.

Libraries are a place where you can find free books, air conditioning, wifi, and magazines. A place where you can disconnect from the mundane and follow what intrigues you. A place where kids and adults can have fun and lose themselves into story and imagination. A place of magazines, movies, events, and book clubs. A place to build community.

I fricking love libraries.

The magic librarians behind Commerce Screams curated a month of true classics: Poltergeist, Carrie, Ju-On (The Grudge), Nightmare on Elm Street, and Ringu (The Ring). They were all hand selected because of their status as unique originals that have since been remade – but – who’s remake is arguably eclipsed by the exquisiteness of the original.

If not for Commerce Screams most of us library patrons in attendance may have lived our whole lives without seeing these films. I wouldn’t spend the money to buy them on amazon sight unseen. These kids may not have given them a second glance at the RedBox or any other place of movie lending or purchasing. These parents would have had them on as background noise while texting, facebooking, folding laundry, or doing that other stuff I imagine parents do.

The movies themselves were shown in a medium sized room with a large-ish tv. The seats were simple straight back chairs placed in evenly spaced rows. There was a light that stayed on the entire time, probably for safety reasons. There was a table with water bottles and popcorn. No recliners, no darkness, no leather seats, and no sound system. This did not take away from my movie-watching experience.

The first movie I partook in was Poltergeist – the original. At first I wasn’t sure what I was doing there, I thought maybe it was a bad idea and that I should go home. The seats in front were filled with noisy kids. Their complacent parents were in the back. Disinterested looking teens were scattered throughout. Most of these people were more enthralled with chatting and eating free popcorn than in watching Poltergeist… at first. As the movie played on the kids were literally on the edge of their seats. More people came in – it soon became floor seating only.

Towards the end when the music changed and one could sense it was about to get real- the kids covered their eyes with their hands. Nothing happened. Their hands fell from their faces – smiles and giggles of relief were heard, “haha I wasn’t scared.” Then – BAM – the clown pops out from under the bed. The front row jumped out of their seats with a shriek and ran to the back of the room – where they stayed for the remainder of the film.

This is what community is about –coming together – being scared – screaming – and covering your eyes with your hands.

Amongst the Wild Things


As a child I could NOT walk down the Hall of African Mammals, or it’s brother the Hall of North American Mammals without being directly between my parents and having my head on a swivel; looking back, forth, to the side, and quickly back again. The elephants, lions, water buffalo,  and monkeys- all of them were just moments away from coming alive and leaping from their displays to eat me.

Last Friday, as an adult, I  had the good fortune to be at the Natural History Museum as part of the 1:00pm Gallery Exploration Tour. Our guide made it clear that she was leading us that day to our certain death – to the Hall of African Mammals.

When one starts down the Hall of African Mammals the beacon that calls to them is the scene of enchanting elephants holding court at an empty watering hole situated at the end of the hall. These well-lit, tusked, larger than life sirens command the attention of museum guests the moment their guest eyes even glimpse the Hall. The Mammals that flank either side of the Hall are only a backdrop, a quickly glanced “oh that’s cool” on one’s journey to see The Elephants.

While my group initially fell victim to the elephantine call – our guide led us to admire a more humble creature. On the left, towards the middle, alone, and in a decidedly smaller than most diorama was a gorilla named Chris.

In life Chris was an Angeleno who lived in Los Feliz (in the LA Zoo). In death his body was meticulously measured, sculpted, and taxidermied so he may be here gracing us in the Natural History Museum –forever.

Behind Chris is a depiction the life he knew as a child, a mural recreated by an artist through the photographs and documentation from actual travelers from Chris’ region. Surrounding Chris are the plants and leaves of his homeland. Every piece of foliage is a researched replication of the plants native to his homeland of West Africa. Every single leaf is crafted from a special plastic and then colored, cut, and distressed by hand. The floor alone is strewn with countless hours of hand work. Placed strategically on the foreground is a small circular mirror, the purpose of this mirror at first glance is not clear. A mirror? Who put it there? Why? That mirror was placed there by the detail-oriented craftsman of this diorama in order to reflect the light from above into Chris’ eyes, so they may be as illuminated as they were in life.

Each one of these dioramas is a moment that due to extinction, human population, globalization, and climate change will never, ever be seen again – except here.

For those wanting to see the beauty that is the Hall of African Mammals, more information about the Natural History Museum can be found at

NOTE: I highly recommend taking the 1:00pm Gallery Exploration Tour; every Gallery Exploration Tour is led by a different person who brings to life their own perceived highlights of the Museum. While your guide may not lead  you to Chris directly, they will surely lead you to something magical. See the Natural History Museum website’s Calendar for further details.

To learn more about the majestic creature that Chris was in life, please see the LA Times article that was published at his death

Suburbanite’s Journey into the Darkness of LA

Night Outside Union Station

I wasn’t looking for a portal to the spirit world, but I found one.

It all started on a weekday evening, I was alone, I wanted to be spooked in the worst way and was googling myself into a frenzy. I fell into and a call to ride aboard the Ecto Metro, dare I?

I decided to tempt fate. I set a date, cleared my schedule, and packed my travelling bag. With my faithful metro day pass, my trusty notebook, and a bottle of hand sanitizer it was time to journey to a part of the earth unexplored by me – North Hollywood.

The journey from my San Gabriel Valley apartment to the North Hollywood Metro Station was long and arduous. It was hot, there was traffic, I was scared, and there was nothing good on the radio. Where am I? Who am I? Why are there mannequins in that parking structure advertising Toyotas? Bravely I drove on. After navigating the complex paid/unpaid parking system I check and triple check the doors and car alarm. I don’t know what to expect in this foreign North Hollywoodland.

It was time.

I held my bag tight and descended the long staircase into the subterranean nether world that is The Red Line. Alone I made my way to Union Station. Alone I looked away awkwardly as various strange people took turns sitting next to me. Alone I checked and re-checked the stops desperate to see where I was and how much longer I had to go. Alone in The Red Line there is no cell phone service. Alone you can’t text a scream.

I arrived.

I ascended to the surface and looked frantically for the friend I arranged to meet. The friend I coaxed into this madcap adventure with me. I found her by the Amtrak wing, she was elated at having survived her own odyssey to get to Union Station, the 110. We were thankful. We were alive.

We had to find our guide, Mr

He was amongst the palms of Union Station, as promised. He was surrounded by those like us, adventurers waiting to be led into the depths of darkness.

Soon the stragglers were corralled and the group was formed, Mr began, and we were transported to an early, ugly, more sinister version of LA that could not be imagined. I could see the atrocities that were committed before my ancestors thought to set foot here. I could see the victims’ spirits that still cannot rest. They all walk among us on Alameda Blvd.

As the tour progressed, we were led down The Red Line and into the richness that is Los Angeles. There are haunts from every time period: the early Native Americans, the Californios who lived this land when it was still Mexico, the actors and actresses of old Hollywood, they all exist congruently within our reality. The architecture, the spirits, the history – all of it together feels as though this city is as filled with the supernatural as it is the natural. We live quite literally in the city of angels, ghosts, and spirits.

The tour moved through time, space, places, and lore of LA unknown to me. The tour guide was excellent, he is someone who clearly “gets it” and puts in the effort and care to truly study the history of these ghost sightings and how LA became a hub of supernatural activity. In between stops he is highly approachable so one can inquire about their own ghost curiosities or historical tidbits. At the end of the night – when asked how the tour was – I could only stare into space and reply “amazing.”

For those wanting to take the journey for themselves go to if you dare!