Archive for the ‘Nostalgia is dangerous.’ Category

My memory fails me.

July 7, 2008


Someone sent me a link to this video today.  The person framing it is Zoe Kravitz, the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet.  I was struck first of all at how much the kid looks like her mom.  Then I was struck by how vividly I remember how the birth of that kid got Bonet booted from The Cosby Show because nothing about the whole thing fit the image the show’s producers wanted to project.  

I watched it twice, trying to move faces that only seemed familiar into the category of fully recognized and then to remember the names of people I really recognize.  I have a Rolodex in my head, an old fashioned one. It spins slowly.

I thnk I hate reality TV.

April 21, 2008


The picture is of this high speed chase broadcast live a few days ago.

This is the point where my greatest contradictions come to the forefront. I hate reality TV (American Idol, Top Chef) but I love spectacle (Lucha Libre, streakers, all of Las Vegas). The high speed chase falls somewhere in between. There’s something about it that fascinates me. I often wonder, but somehow understand how drivers gain so much faith in the freeway system. When you’re on a freeway and find yourself on top of a big cloverleaf looking down at spiraling traffic, or coming upon the ocean, or heading into Mexico, it’s not hard to believe that the freeway can take you anywhere. But if you’ve seen TV at all, you have to know there are helicopters. If you steal a car with OnStar, you have to know they will find you.

I couldn’t look away. at least not while the driving was happening. Neither could the exiled Angelenos with me. We delayed our meal to see the end, commenting on how women drive better than men and wondering aloud (betting) who this particular woman was.

Those chases are familiar and balletic and exciting and worrying at the same time. As long as no one gets hit, they manage to seem undangerous (I know that’s not a word.) until you hit the 10-second delay portion of the broadcast. Then everyone starts looking for something else to do.

catching up–Thursday’s really weird mood

April 21, 2008


This is Harold Washington‘s chair. It’s on display at Roosevelt University, his alma mater. I once applied for a job there. They didn’t hire me; but they did ask me to repeat some of my classroom activities so that they could write them down and use them later. I had the perverse impulse to go in and ask people why they didn’t want me. I don’t remember the names of folks who interviewed me–only one reason why the impulse was absurd.

Harold Washington reentered my consciousness after I heard a show about his candidacy on This American Life last fall. I was the only person browsing the photography exhibit at the time. There were two men there setting up a catering spread for a reception. My iPod’s random was playing mean tricks on me. But I guess that’s what happens when I have multiple versions of “Louisiana 1927” and “Strange Fruit” for the machine to choose.

There’s nothing to see here.

April 13, 2008

I think this is a recording of the last show I saw in LA. There’s not enough information on the YouTube clip. And I don’t exactly remember the date. But it was a Wednesday. That seems right. I went to the show with my friend Julie and a friend of hers from school. Yep, school.  All my friends are always after a bit more.  As I said, it was a Wednesday and folks were tired. The thing about that show is that it was filled with working folks, men in those blue shirts with briefcases and women who had just come from someplace and had to get home early for work in the morning. My 8:00 am start time was the latest among our group.  It was a hip hop show for 30-somethings.

Peanut Butter Wolf was doing a show a night for a week. Each show was in a different club. This one was in a place called Little Temple, after the bigger, west side Temple Bar. He was spinning old school hip hop 45s. That probably had a lot to do with the older crowd.

I was told before I moved here that there are no hip hop clubs left, that they’re almost always shut down quickly. So much of the hip hop has to happen on campus. While I’m glad that it does happen on campus, the limitation is frightening. And the idea that most of the shows will be filled with only kids is really odd and quite disheartening.

By the way, the YouTube post is here for a few reasons. One is that I didn’t see anything that I wanted to take a picture of today. Given the errands and attempts at errands from today, my commentary would have been snarky.

There are a few things I’ve seen over the past few days that I haven’t recorded but wanted to.

1. A few days ago I saw Christmas trees on lawns. I know that the organic matter pick up has just begun for the first time since it started snowing in November. But that doesn’t explain where people hid those dead trees. (I couldn’t photograph them because I was driving.)

2. I found myself thinking about my friends Tania and Beau this morning. Then when I went into the student union, I noticed that the cashier had his nails (fingernails) painted a blue/teal color. That reminded me of Beau, who always painted his toenails that color.  The site of the cashier felt especially surprising because the color, and weather nice enough to wear flip-flops, were among the things I was remembering. One doesn’t usually ask to take pictures of a stranger’s hands.

WordPress should have a spot for choosing a mood via multiple choice the way that LiveJournal does. Then all this would be clearer.

I remember a moment when I thought I might learn to do this.

April 11, 2008

One of my friends, Dawn Smith-Camacho, started the organization shown in the clip, J.U.i.C.E in Los Angeles. It’s a non-profit serving area young people interested in working with and through the various branches of hip hop. At one of my nights there I saw a two-year-old attempting some moves. His mom brought him in when they were passing by. He loved it so much that if she left before the night was over, he cried to be brought back to the church. So she started bringing him every week. It was pretty funny to see a tiny chubby body attempting moves that are usually associated with angles.

That may have also been the night I wandered into the music production part of the workshop and saw one of the members of my dissertation committee, Cheryl Keyes. She worked with the group on some grants and spends time with the board and the participants. It’s all good work.

As you can tell, I’m in a looking back mode.

In Search

April 6, 2008

I saw this movie today in a film festival.

My interest was purely nostalgic. I wanted to see Los Angeles. I’m not sure I would have bothered had I not moved. If seeing the city had been my only goal of the day, I could be feeling quite successful now. I got to remind myself that I have sat at the same table the lead characters occupy when they first meet. But not on blind dates, only with people I already knew well. One of those times I I was watching B- and C-list actors (Gunther from Friends, anyone?) display themselves and celebrating my friend Mercy’s leaving her job with a few afternoon drinks. As I remember that was the perfect place for a feeling of decadence, pretty, with outside seating and well-presented food, but without any real expense.

I once watched a movie in the gigantic beautiful Orpheum theater near the end of its run as a regular movie house. I saw Mission Impossible with Spanish subtitles. There were maybe 20 people on opening night in a theater that seats thousands. This was before the downtown “renaissance.” Many people avoided the neighborhood. So that’s where I went if I wanted to avoid those people and check out the bargains and great buildings. I remember that day because it was the first time I had tacos made from tongue and the first time in LA I worried about police shooting me. Why stop me and not the white friend in front of me or the one behind. But I digress.

I felt like a ghost haunting the film. I had the eerie feeling that they were walking around in my footsteps and a sense of having disappeared. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. Have you ever seen a movie setting that’s so familiar that you can feel when the pavement changes when they’re walking or can remember the graffiti on the ATM a character uses? I guess that alone wouldn’t be so weird without the feeling that I can’t get back, but haven’t really gone anywhere. It feels as though instead of arriving someplace I’ve started doing things. I know one can’t actually take the place of the other and that people are always somewhere. But much of the time I can’t make sense of this place except as something happening to me, or something that I’m doing. It would help if people would stop saying strange things at me on the street.

I liked the movie, though I don’t know if I would have liked the characters had they been real and had I encountered them. I would have enjoyed watching them from a nice safe ironic distance. Still I might have found myself at their loft party or run into them while loving downtown. I sure as hell would have visited the lost shoe website.

blue sky, remembrance

April 2, 2008

Cesar Chavez

Students use this hill for acknowledgment.  MEChA put up this tribute to Cesar Chavez’s life and work.  I know the picture doesn’t show everything, so I’ll fill in a few details.  At the base of the sign, there are cut-outs of crops.  Most of the flags have the eagle, but a few have pictures of Chavez and some facts about his life.  I was hoping for other people in the flags, but didn’t see any.

I’ve seen a few other displays here.  Like this one, they’ve been of things.  Maybe people conduct demonstrations here; I haven’t seen any.  The building in the background is Bascom, the campus administration building.  I go there at least once a month because I am a faculty senator.

Why did I stop today as opposed to the other days?

  • I took the bus.  My walk from the bus brings me past this spot.
  • I’m on this 30 day project.
  • It’s bright and sunny.  Among other things, that leads to me walking with my head up instead of hunched over looking at my feet.
  • It was early, before 8 a.m.  No students were on the hill.  When people are working on displays, I often feel as though my gaze and picture taking might be an invasion of privacy.
  • Even with my nearsightedness, I could see the eagle and name and was curious.

I wonder about the history of the UFW in Wisconsin.  I can imagine so many different responses, but have little useful knowledge.  There’s nothing like a feeling of total ignorance and a cold breeze to wake me up in the morning.

Does the picture need a story?

March 9, 2008

Elliott’s old house

I knew this house. The porch had rattan furniture with big soft flowered cushions, so soft that my uncle came home late one night to find a neighborhood woman sitting there, enjoying the limited evening breezes. The security door wasn’t there. It had a wooden screen door that made a satisfying knock each time it fell closed. The biggest room in the front of the house was for sewing, this most favored machines being the old pedal-powered black Singers. Spools of thread hung from the walls, but not just small ones like the ones in stores. The living room had flowery furniture on delicate wooden legs. Oh, and there was a parquet floor. The kitchen had a handmade table and bench. Butt grooves were beginning. Upstairs held an always-bright pink room with twin white beds and a dressing table. There was an always dark room with heavy drapes and a big bed. And there was a teeenaged boy’s room with a velvet painting. I think it was a tiger. The stairs creaked.

The lot to the right wasn’t always empty. My sixth-grade classmate, Curtis and his family lived there at one point. I even remember my pre-school classmate Frederick living there with what seemed like an amazing number of brothers and sisters. The lot on the left was empty for longer. My uncle parked his flatbed trucks, which I called “fence trucks” there. In the backyard, I learned how to catch pheasants if I ever needed to hunt for my own food. I saw a German Shepherd named Thor adopt a litter of kittens. Some summers I ran around there nearly every day.

At least a half-dozen of my dreams every year take place there. Often I’m wandering around at night looking in the shadows for someone else and imagining that someone might be watching me from someplace in the neighborhood, but not coming outside to join me. Other times, it’s sunny and bright. I’m approaching the house, but something is not quite right. Sometimes it’s that I have a cell phone and it’s 1978. Sometimes I’m with friends who have never seen this part of my life, no matter how I tried to convey it. Sometimes I’m with childhood versions of acquaintences and friends, while I’m an adult. Then there are the times when I’m walking around in the dark with people I know to be long-dead.

In only one dream do I make it as far as the porch. I can never get back in to the house again.

flashback

March 6, 2008

Obey Giant Obama

Thank you Shepard Fairey. I’ve loved you for a long time without ever knowing your name. Madison is all about Obama. But I didn’t come across this picture in the real world. Somehow it came up in my internet wanderings. I recognized the style immediately and flashed back to first seeing the Andre the Giant posters, the ones that said “Andre the Giant has a posse,” in downtown LA when I used to look for abandoned and semi-abandoned buildings to take photos. Several of my friends had or have those graphics on their stuff. They’re the wallpaper on people’s computer screens and phones. Stickers found their way onto all sorts of cases. People always seemed to have cases. As far as I can tell, the only stickers here are bumper stickers. No one bothers the two construction fences in this town. I’ve never lived in a place where people really post no bills.

Imagine my surprise at being made homesick by an Obama poster.