Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Dorothy Parker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dorothy Parker. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

SUBURBAN STRAINS


It being a Sunday afternoon, I combined my afternoon drift with a visit to Skylight Books to see Lynell George read from her book After/Image.  And to get a signed copy, of course. Lynell George is a flâneuse, a pedestrienne, and above all a woman who walks and looks and takes photographs and writes about it.  Also an Emmy winner.  Cool.  



As is the way of these things, I opened the book at random and found a reference to Dorothy Parker describing Los Angeles as “seventy-two suburbs in search of a city.”  This is apparently a well-known sneer but I’d never heard it before.  You’d think I would have.  And, as Lynell says in her book, some of us don’t think that’s such a terrible thing.  One of the 57 books I regularly think about writing but probably never will is titled In Defense of Suburbia.

I’ve been trying to find the source of that Dorothy Parker quotation, and as far as I can tell there isn’t one.  Adrienne Crew president of the LA Chapter of the Dorothy Parker Society and a tour guide says in a blog post, “I am asked on a regular basis if Dorothy Parker actually said that Los Angeles is ‘72  suburbs in search of a city.’  The answer is...probably not. 
“The quote has been attributed to Dorothy Parker but it's really a paraphrase of Aldous Huxley's bon mots found his 1925 book, Americana. He wrote that Los Angeles was "nineteen suburbs in search of a metropolis" and he was probably quoting someone else who initially said Los Angeles was seven or six suburbs in search of a city. The witticism expanded from there. At times it was attributed to H.L. Menken, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott and Dorothy Parker.  Most likely it was Mencken who used the phrase in an essay published in the April 1927 issue of Photoplay magazine after visiting Los Angeles for three weeks in 1926.” 
         And yes, it does sound like the kind of thing you might say after three weeks.
        

I don’t know if Dorothy Parker got around much when she worked in LA but the only places she lived were Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, thereby leaving her some 70 suburbs short.  This is her, perfectly nice suburban bungalow on Norma Place.


But I did wonder about the basic premise:  just how many suburbs are there in LA?  Wikipedia has a “List of districts and neighborhoods of Los Angeles” which numbers just under 200, but by no means all of them are suburbs. “The Old Bank Distrct” for instance is just the area where the banks are in downtown, and therefore part of the “urb.”  And some of the places I’ve never heard of such as  the “Platinum Triangle.”

As a local, I could probably tell you the difference between Hollywood, East Hollywood, Hollywood Hills, Hollywood Hills West, and Hollywood Dell, though I’m sure you wouldn’t thank me for it, and suburban though they may all be, I’m pretty sure they don’t constiture four separate suburbs.  Still, with bit of casuistry, I think you probably could identify 72 distinct and separate suburbs in LA, if that’s your pleasure.

 

While I was in the bookstore I saw this intruiguing volume by Ed and Deanna Templeton titled  Contemporary Suburbium.   The suburb in question is Huntington Beach, and the book is one of those concertina jobs and I was tempted to but a copy, but I had already spent my book dollars for the day.  Next time.

 




Some of the suburban stuff I saw on my walk looked like this:

 


And this – Jesus and the Gnomes (which could easily be the name of a band from Huntington Beach):

 


And I couldn’t help thinking they were raising expectations a little too high at the Dresden:

 


 

 

 

 

 



Friday, June 9, 2017

SOME NEW THOMASSONS

Well, new to me anyway, and seen while out walking, though I suppose, by definition, a Thomasson is never brand new, since it’s always a relic or an abandoned and repurposed architectural feature that can subsequently be perceived, however ironically, as a piece of art.  That’s my own definition by the way: there may well be better ones out there.


Let’s start with a couple of empty pedestals or plinths – the one above is in the shadow of the Barbican Center in London, which is to say it’s also very close to the old city wall.  I’m intrigued by the dense black coating up at the top of the molding.  Is that industrial pollution?  Did the whole thing used to be that color?  It doesn’t look like anybody cleaned it – they’d surely have done a better job - so has the grime just fallen away?  These are not entirely rhetorical questions.  And presumably it once had a statue on top of it, I wonder of who or what.


The one above, less ornate, chunkier, cleaner, is to be found just outside the Inner Ring in Vienna, a city where the most incredible bits of statuary are everywhere, but this pedestal would be completely overwhelmed by any of the “typical” Viennese statues you see.  And looking at that rather smooth top, I tend to think it maybe never had anything on it at all, and it’s probably just waiting for some artist to use it and give it life.


An artist like Eduardo Paolozzi perhaps, dead now, so not him specifically, though he’d definitely have done a good job. But I was thinking of him because not so long ago I went to an exhibition of his work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and I looked out of one of the windows adjacent to the staircase and saw this:


I guess if you saw it elsewhere you might think of it as just another bricked up window, but the combination of Paolozzi, the Thomason mindset, and the presence of art at the Whitechapel makes you, or at any rate me, see things a bit differently.

Meanwhile in my own neighborhood in Hollywood I saw this:


Kind of looks like a niche, the kind of thing you might put a statue of the Virgin Mary in.  (As Dorothy Parker may or may not have said: “Upon my honor/ I saw a Madonna/
/Standing in a niche …” The rest is just abuse and you can look it up for yourself if you need to).  But a closer inspection of the niche reveals some electrical wires up at the top, and a broader view shows a shiny new electricity meter off to the left, so I’m guessing the niche was formerly the home of an old meter.



But I do think I'd put some kind of statuary in there if it were mine.

And finally in my own own street, this thing;


Eyes without a face I suppose, although there is kind of a face, or am I just indulging in pareidolia?  In any case I can’t imagine what this was ever part of but I’m very glad it’s still there.