Desultory thoughts, written most days on my phone app.
LA revisited. The feeling of an old stomping ground, workplace and home, combined with the association of parenthood. Sitting outside a cafe on Wilshire Blvd, sun on my back. Feels like total bliss. Music reminding of my kids. Tears. People all say hello. Plants grow in winter. City of interstice. Liminal spaces only seen when walking. I walk. Not many people do. Hasidic Jews walk too. To temple.
I see so many extraordinary things when walking. LA must be the best place to urban walk. So many curious visual vignettes.
I had a dream a couple of months ago that a friend Peter and I met at a red theatre in Brighton. Today he invited me to a Hollywood screening of our old friends. It was prophetic. The theatre was so similar, painted red in the foyer and the seats like in my dream and Hollywood Blvd a super similar vibe to the Brighton street in my dream. Other details matched in bizarre ways..
Went for a drink with Todd and Peter after the screening in an old Hollywood wood-panelled bar. Lovely to see them both, and Todd again as we were such an item back in the day, and how we hook back into the old banter and laughter.
Today I am going to an art supplier. E says to get an Uber but it’s only a ten minute walk. It is the loveliest climate and mostly flat but barely anyone walks. What is extraordinary is the scale of the place. When I lived here, I got used to the vast scale of the roads and freeways and the vast distances between things. Now my brain is fully European again, and I still can’t get my head around the hugeness of it all. How I used to drive such vast distances without a second thought, down freeways with bright sunlight with blocky buildings and strip malls. Now all the shops and businesses are going out of business, and the tents of the homeless springing up daily adding to the polarity between rich and poor. There is still extraordinary wealth of course.
Elizabeth and I met. She drove up from La Jolla. She is my soul sister. I love how we communicate, based on mutual and equal communication and heartfelt exchange of thoughts, pathos, depth, humour and honesty. We walked around Lake Hollywood and even saw a pack of coyotes coming down from the hills.
Today I am visiting a friend in Santa Monica. She came to the retreat in Spain. We said how much we missed the layers of history, romantic ruins and the old men sitting in rows along a street bench, spending time. Here people rush around with yoga mats to Starbucks in bright light and all the cars are shiny… The light is intoxicating as it is in Spain but the lack of history and culture feels sorely lacking. Perhaps today I am revisiting melancholy, but it’s okay. Still no suggestion or instruction of what to paint from Evie. I will just paint my commission from Olivia anyway.
Evie finally told me what she wants and we discussed options. Perhaps a Chinoiserie design on the fireplace in her therapy room. I also got a commission from clients in Switzerland so can work on that in the meantime.
This morning I walked to find a cafe and found a few pavements covered in graffiti so snapped them. Everyone is on computers in cafes so no one engages any more. It is a less friendly place than it used to be somehow. Still so many curious things to see when walking.
So lovely to stay with Brad and Evie and see all my old painting and murals. I am missing my kids and the music scene in Hastings but am hoping to see more friends again soon. Everything is so expensive here. When I lived here before it wasn’t so. London prices are similar but here feels like a city for the rich and exclusive. All my friends are rich now too, through inheritance and some really hard work. Rents seem to have gone up a thousand per cent, adding to the homeless situation. It has to be seen to be believed. I am so happy I discovered Spain to dream towards.
Several days later, and I have settled into a rhythm of being here. Painting, seeing friends occasionally, coffee in discovered cafes, walking, noticing interstitial details, early nights. I went to see the phenomenon that is Denise last night and her menagerie of animals and birds nestled in the Hollywood hills just under the Hollywood sign in a tree-lined canyon street of north Beechwood. So beautiful and heartening to see her. How joyful she is, in spite of her incredible schedule as restaurateur and caterer. Still has time for every animal or bird she can rescue. She even saved a sewer rat once, spending thousands on him. I adore her. She still has so much of my art on my walls.
Last night Elizabeth and I went to an art opening entitled Perceive Me. E was one of the artists invited to represent the woman in whatever visual medium she chose. The show questions and analyses notions and definitions of beauty, the male gaze and perceptions and representation of the larger female form.
Brad and Evie took me to the Broad Museum in downtown L.A and it was an incredible exhibition of contemporary art. What stood out were the Infinity Rooms by Yayoi Kusama.
I met my old friend Jamie who used to be the guitarist for Harry Dean Stanton and now plays with Dennis Quaid.. We went to Venice beach and I looked at my old apartment. Beautiful to revisit the Pacific Ocean. When we walked onto the pier between Venice and Marina del Rey, some guys were fishing and playing Rocket Man on their speaker system. How wonderful that music can create a moment and make it forever memorable. That really was a magic moment.
Am now in La Jolla with Elizabeth and the beauty of la Jolla cove is breathtaking. This town is deeply privileged and charming with houses on the waterfront. It is so delightful but feels like such a white enclave. The little coffee shops and bakeries with expensive boutiques are all within walking distance from E’s home. It feels like almost the most privileged beautiful place on earth.
La Jolla is so breathtakingly gorgeous and we walked along the coast again today and also through a park which curved up against a small mountain. The plants, trees and flowers in bloom in January were abundant and everyone we passed said hello. People largely over forty or fifty out jogging or power walking. We watched surfers ride the waves. The aqua blue of the cylindrical waves and the biggest splashes as the waves crashed into the beach and rocks. Seals bathe and pup in certain coves.
I took the train from San Diego to Los Angeles Union station and looked out of the window the entire time, transfixed by the light as the sun slowly edged toward sunset, the light growing more warm and golden as it set. I passed vast beaches, large areas of swamp land and trailer parks, expensive communities, ordinary California communities with their grid iron format reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands. I thought how la Jolla reminded me of Stepford Wives or the Truman Show, wondering if I could ever live there…even if I could afford to.
From Union station I took a cab and saw the homeless people and their tents, pitched on grassland next to the freeways or in rows along streets. It is unbelievable how a country with so much wealth can create such a dehumanised situation.
Somehow though the light fills me with such a sanguine feeling and I know California has got me under its charm spell again.
Thoughts on the homeless situation in L.A.
Whatever I think about politics, Brexit, Trump, multinationals, capitalism, sunshine versus rain, doesn’t really matter as I have seen what the cult of individualism, Reaganomics, the financial crash and the cuts in services for the vulnerable can do and my trip to Los Angeles has shown me the most important thing, and that is the obscene dehumanised situation that is the result of the ‘me’ culture. That of homelessness. It is pandemic in almost every part of this city. Encampments of tents along pavements, on grassy areas next to freeways, under bridges. I saw an exhibition by photographer David Livingston, a lovely man who dared to photograph the people that society will not look at. Of course he asked their permission and the photographs were so hard to look at. So raw. Most close-up portraits. Some say the homeless situation is 60,000 to 80,000 people.
“To raise consciousness about what’s going on. I felt I had to do something to address the issue and this is my way,” said Livingston.
Instead of using his fancy cameras, Livingston used his iPhone, so he’d be less intrusive. He spent months capturing these images for an exhibit he calls: “Still Lives: iPhone Street Photography of The Less Fortunate among Us.” The photos have been taped to the walls of a gallery just south of Beechwood Avenue. Can’t remember the address. It was previously in Little Ethiopia.
“The photographs are as disposable as society sees the people. So that’s sort of the quote/unquote symbolism of why we did it this way,” said Livingston. “The pictures are not for sale. This was an altruistic project. I’m not interesting in making money or selling the photographs.”
Livingston is hoping people who visit the gallery will bring non-perishable food items, hygiene products and clothing that will all be donated to the Hollywood Food Coalition.
The best thing about my trip was revisiting my old friends, seeing my work on the walls and ceilings and seeing how frankly astounding it was that I used to paint on the ceiling with such agility!
The places that my friend Monika took me to were really interesting. She lives in Lomita, near Rancho Palos Verdes, and there was something there that felt more ‘real’ to me. Point Fermin, where we stopped for kombucha at a bohemian café where they were playing live music. An old guy singing country music with his guitar, a little gallery and book shop next door, the beaches and cliffs at Palos Verdes, the wild peacocks nesting in trees and the vast view of Long Beach, the giant harbour with all the container ships, giant docks, cranes and industry. The sunken city of San Pedro, where the city had literally fallen from the edge of the cliff and collapsed into a cave below in 1929. Parts of the city’s infrastructure remains; old tarmacked roads, pieces of rail track. It was amazing and with a backdrop of the ocean. All the ruins are now graffitied on, adding to it a surreal and abstracted look. We were taken to the sunken city by a young dreadlocked hippy dude,smoking a joint, who was watching, approached us saying he had manifested us, and asked if we would like to know how to get to the sunken city, because that was what we were trying to figure out as it was all fenced off. So he took us the secret way accompanied by Bodhi the cutest dog, clambering over walls and under fences til we got there.
L.A. lacks character now and it feels like a harsher place, and the divide between rich and poor is outrageous. Talking to an Egyptian Uber driver one night he told me that most people think ‘it’s their own fault’ ie, the homeless and their situation. When I discussed it in depth with him he said that my analytical and compassionate opinion was rare in L.A. and how exceptional I was and how happy he was to have met me. I said I would not be able to live in the city again. Once Laurel Canyon and Beechwood Canyon were inhabited by the musicians, artists and hippies. Now it is billionaires’ territory. I am glad I experienced life there when I did. It was once like paradise to me.