Monday, September 8, 2014

Baby, I'm Yours

All this time, I've been looking for something I could hold onto, that wouldn't be taken away from me.

I've been wanting to be able to say, "You're mine," when maybe just the thing I needed was to say, "I'm yours."

To possess or be possessed?

To have or to give?

I really don't need anything except to feel wanted and needed.

I've dreamed for someone to belong to me...
...but now I belong to someone.

And I don't want to be shared.

And maybe that's enough.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Photo Essay: Barnsdall Art Park's Hollyhock House, Closed for Renovations

Most people probably only go to Barnsdall Art Park for their summer winetasting events on Friday nights...

...but I've found myself gravitating there on hot summer afternoons, when I'm looking for some peace and quiet...

...and a place to sit, far removed from the Hollywood traffic below, yet with a view of the Hollywood Sign.

It's a good place to bring out-of-town visitors (as I did with Edith a couple years ago)...

...and an even better place to meet up with local friends...

...when you just want to see each other, and talk, and hang out, and don't require coffee or food or booze to do so.

Besides the seasonal winetasting events, and the occasional farmer's market, there's also a number of gallery events and studio workshops in the park... well as Frank Lloyd Wright's first LA project (and second in California), the Hollyhock House.

It's a leaky thing (typical of Frank Lloyd Wright), and currently closed for restoration.

It was supposed to reopen by now, but apparently they're still working on it.

Thanks to its somewhat remote and unpatrolled location, it's also fallen victim to vandalism...

...and provides a safe haven for homeless encampments.

When you can get close to it...

...if you use your imagination... can see the design inspiration for the house:

...the hollyhock, the favorite flower of Aline Barnsdall, the oil heiress for whom the house was built.

It is, of course, a more geometric representation of the flower...

...and the geometry so typical of Wright's architecture and interior design is evident inside the house as well.

From the leaded art glass... the furniture...

...the Hollyhock House is a preserved showcase of Frank Lloyd Wright's style...

...if you can get inside of it.

These photos were taken three years ago, when the Hollyhock House was still open for public tours (during those winetasting events)...

...and considering many of the interior elements were original (and in good condition)...'s unclear how much will be changed (or unchanged) when it reopens.

For now, you can still visit Barnsdall Park and view the house from afar...

...atop what was once known as Olive Hill, as far removed from LA as you can be, while smack dab in the middle of Hollywood.

Sometimes you need to get away, without going very far.

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Photo Essay: Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, Exterior
Photo Essay: Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, Interior
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Reinvention Worth Waiting For

I've been thinking a lot about reinvention lately.

I tried reinventing myself in 2009 when I quit my job in the music industry and applied to join the Peace Corps. When I didn't get in, I settled for a new career at a dot-com. When I got laid off from that career-changing position, I ran back to the music industry with my tail between my legs.

I gave it a year, but it was clear I no longer belonged at a record label. I had changed too much. Although I had the opportunity to help a musician with his humanitarian efforts, I was still very much in a for-profit business, and I just wanted to do more with my life than make money – or, rather, than make other people money.

I've just been scraping by since then, but what keeps me going is the prospect of reinventing myself, eventually. It's taking a long time, but I think it's going to happen. I'm not sure what I'll become, but it will be something...else. I'm already so different than what I was before.

And whatever I change into next, it doesn't have to be the final version of me.

I get inspired by reinventions in architecture, especially those cases of adaptive reuse – when some old building (a factory, warehouse, theater, church) gets a new life as a hotel or a nightclub or live/work lofts or whatever some developer imagines. Some old buildings, after all, are worth saving – no matter how bad they've gotten, or how neglected they've been.

The Elysian in Echo Park is such a case.

Originally built as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District... consisted of two components:

...a low-rise (1963), and an 8-story high-rise tower (1973)...

...the latter of which has recently been converted into residential units...

...after standing vacant for nearly 20 years.

Its steel and concrete structure is gorgeous to admire from the outside...

...and, inside, a photo montage pays tribute to the building's history, showing it in various stages of construction.

The Elysian has a tremendous architectural pedigree, designed by William Pereira...

...the architect best-known for his design of buildings like the Geisel Library, and (a favorite of mine) the LAX Theme Building (formerly the "Encounter" restaurant, recently vacated as well).

But now? Perhaps the Elysian is better-known for its views of Downtown LA and City Hall... it looks down upon Echo Park and Chinatown, across the street from Angelino Heights.

How many people who move into their new penthouses will actually notice the building?

Or will it just provide a glass shell with a balcony from which to peer out into the world?

Regardless of how it's being used, or how much those units cost, or how they are tiled and floored and upholstered and painted...

...what's important is that it's no longer empty, that it's finally being used and enjoyed again...

...after waiting so long for someone to pay it some attention. (Now, onto the adjacent vacant church...)

It took some time, but it was worth the wait.

I hope that holds true for the rest of us.

Related Posts:
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Threat Assessment

I was so constantly under siege as a child, never quite sure when I'd be jerked out of a deep sleep and dragged downstairs for a bright kitchen light interrogation, that I learned to be on the non-stop lookout for perils. I always watched my mother's demeanor carefully, alert to the moment when it would switch from jovial and joking to vindictive, violent, and downright menacing. I waited for my father to come home from work, for the 35 minutes he gave himself for dinner between his two jobs, to find out how I would be punished for the things I did, for the things I didn't do, and for who I was as a person.

Although I was overprotected from the world, locked in a sterile house away from stranger danger and germs and dirt, I was overexposed to all of the threats within the house: the chemical warfare of cleaning fluid, the splinters of the wooden board that spanked my bottom, and the stifling hot attic where I spent much of my summers, exiled.

I had a habit of hiding in my closet, deep in the corner under where the clothes hung. By then, I was too big to hide under my bed anymore.

Maybe it was better that my parents didn't let me out out of the house to hang out with friends or go to the movies or the mall. If I couldn't trust my own parents (or sister) in my own house, who could I trust out there? How could I trust the world?

I became brave with the hitting. I didn't cower. I defiantly presented my face for slapping, though occasionally I would be caught off guard, and get walloped with the vacuum cleaner while lying on the living room rug watching MTV.

After that, I learned to sit with my back against the wall.

I noticed my father did that, too.

I didn't grow up on the streets, but I was always assessing threats to my safety. I tried making occasional escapes from my reality by taking extra-long hot baths, rubbing a wet washcloth between my legs. But my mother required the bathroom door to be left partially open at all times, which meant anyone could walk by – or walk in – at any time.

I considered running away from home many times, even hatching a plan once with my sister that went as far as writing notes telling our mother she could finally have Dad all to herself, but when my sister got scared and aborted the plan, I was too scared to venture out into the world by myself. I knew the danger I was in within the confines within my known prison, but I was weak, overweight, sickly, astigmatic, and naive.

I decided to stick it out.

But this kind of upbringing taught me a way of life that only criminals would seem to earn: one eye on the door, one finger on the trigger. Anticipate your opponents' moves. Plan your escape route.

Fortunately, I never ended up on the streets, instead being taken in by my friends' families who never asked for rent and who fed me and loved me and protected me. They tried to teach me how to be a normal teenager, but it was hopeless by that point. I couldn't accept their love and affection without suspicion. I waited for them to withdraw it, and, eventually, they did. I knew any sense of security I felt was false, and I spent my first three years in New York City walking around the streets, gripping my keys under my sleeve so I could use them as a knife on an attacker.

So how does this threat assessment now serve me, a nearly-40 year old woman living in Beverly Hills, where it's sunny all of the time? Why am I forecasting tornadoes and tsunamis and earthquakes and floods? What can I possibly see in my crystal ball that will actually happen? And even if it does, what can I possibly do about it?

There's a comfort in preparing yourself for the worst, and there's a relief when it actually happens. You trust your own instincts. You're usually right. Taking an educated guess gives you something tangible to hold onto, rather than the terrifying release of admitting, "I don't know."

But the truth is: I don't know.

I don't know if I will ever be able to hold down a real job again. I don't know who will lay me off from another job, or when.

I don't know who will insult me, hurt my feelings, forget to invite me to something, or stand me up.

I don't know what they're thinking.

I don't know if he will call back.

I don't know if I will ever be loved back.

I don't know if I will ever marry.

I don't know what I'm supposed to do.

I don't know what will happen. I don't know how to make anything happen.

I don't know anything.

I'm just going to try to do good things, cause no harm, and stay calm.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Photo Essay: Hansen Dam, from Floods to Drought

Considering the drought we're in now here in California, it's hard to believe that flooding was once a major concern in the LA area – enough to channelize the lush LA River with concrete walls and bottom, and institute other flood control measures, like the massive horseshoe-shaped Hansen Dam.

Located at the foot of the Angeles National Forest, near Big Tujunga Wash, the dam (at the time, the world's largest of its kind) was built by nearly 1000 men after the catastrophic floods of 1938  – though, as evidenced by the nearby Verdugo Hills Cemetery, it didn't necessarily fix the area's flooding problem altogether.

These days, with everything all dried up, Hansen Dam is known more as just a recreation area...

...its earthen wall creating a nice elevated surface for a bike path...

...for people to wheel, run, and push their strollers high above the bridle trails to the north, and the golf course to the south. (It's a good spot to witness any horses sinking into the reported quicksand below, too.)

But as you reach the middle of the dam... area reminded of its function...

...with a spillway topped by a bridge...

...and a channel that doesn't stop the water from flowing...

...but merely slows it down to prevent another flooding catastrophe.

Out there...

...with the mountains in the distance...

 ...and the horses below...

...Hansen Dam is an engineering marvel that offers panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley...

...whether or not there's any flowing water to be slowed down.

As for now, despite the drought, you can still find plenty of water in the nearby recreation lake (which offers fishing and boating)...

... and at Hansen Dam Aquatic Center's "swim lake," which provides 1.5 acres of chlorinated water for swimming, two water slides, a manmade beach, and all those mountain valley vistas.

For me, this place is far more interesting than any of LA's more popular beaches (many of which I've visited, but have had nothing to write about).

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