Sunday, July 29, 2007


Friday, July 27, 2007


Reporting from Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

I've passed by this Bronze on my endless rapturous trips into and out of the Little Tokyo Starbucks. I figured (incorrectly) that this "man on bench" was part of a city-wide series by the same artist as the "man with head in wall" over by the plaza at 8th & Figueroa.

I can honestly say I was startled by "him" only when the bench was occupied by carbon-based friends--creating the necessary juxtaposition for a true cognitive dissonance. Too bad for me that nobody sat down on the bench today for my pic.

So today, I paused. I wasn't as overly enthusiastic to get my Starbucks as I was (back in the old days) when I was rushing to work. I paused and wondered why the man was holding a pamphlet and noticed (for the 1st time) that he was Asian. At the top of the plaque was, of all things, a quote from the Talmud: "He who saves one life, saves the entire world". Followed by the unbelievable but true story of Chinune "Sempo" Sugihara. "A Japanese consul in Lithuania who issued handwritten visas to 1000's of Jewish refugees, against the express order of his government, and saved innocent lives during the Holocaust."

Why was Sempo or any Japanese man working in, of all places, Lithuania during WWII? I don't know, but there he was and he did what one man could do for Justice. And now he sits, in front of Starbucks, something we can be sure, he could never have imagined.

Credits: The sculptor: Ramon G. Velazco; I haven't found anything about the artist online. Anybody know more?


Unrelated but something else wonderful I came across on my search for LA sculptures, which led me to LA Neon Signs, etc.

In 1949, Raymond Chandler wrote in The Little Sister (via Michael Web)

 "I smelled Los Angeles before I got to it. It smelled stale and old like a living room that had been closed too long. But the colored lights fooled you. The lights were wonderful. There ought to be a monument to the man who invented neon lights."
Is Chandler God-like or what?


I wonder if the sculpture is part of one of the downtown LA tours (probably not the Raymond Chandler tour, but one never knows). The company: Esotouric "bus adventures into the secret heart of Los Angeles." This writer recently breakfasted with fellow blogger Richard Schave, husband of tour guide/founder-owner Kim Cooper.  

Disclaimer: We have no business relationship, financial or otherwise; but let me take a risk and call them my (wait for it...) partners in crime? I've been carrying around their brochure for months. Time for me to hop on that bus!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


How to Describe Happiness in Downtown LA

Anyone remember the little Charles Schultz book "Happiness is a Warm Puppy"? It came out in 1963 and was around through the early '70's. From then on "Happiness is..." became ubiquitous. At the height of the Vietnam War, the release of the Beatles White Album with it's infamous track "Happiness is a Warm Gun", reflected the transformation of America's youth from innocence to cynicism. The fab-four crooned the lyrics to a sweet 1950's "shoop shoop" tune, giving the hard edged 'I need a fix cause I'm goin' down' a painful punch.

Nearly Forty Years Later...(ouch that hurt to write)...I find myself still evoking the "Happiness Is..." form. My office sits at the corner of Olympic and Hope. A crash at the intersection is a weekly event. At each screeching stop, our office staff tense, and when there is no crunch, you can almost hear the collective sigh. When there is a crunch, a crowd runs to open the windows. One day we watched a hit-and-run (sad little car dragging it's bumper tried to limp away with newly bruised car giving chase). The race at a staggering 20 mph ended at the corner gas station when neither car could muster an other rev).

This particular week, there was a screech, it was a long screech, and then nothing. I typed on. Later there was another long screech and then nothing. "I've never heard so many of those before" I remarked to a co-worker. "They are shooting a movie" he replied.

Another misunderstanding so common now as to be unremarkable (okay I remarked, so sue me!) After all I live in a place where fiction and reality are one and the same. Later the same week, stopped at a red light, weary-eyed, I gazed at the glass windows of an office building. The windows were covered with bullet holes. Large, large bullet holes. As was the window above it and the window next to it. A man who appeared to be a window washer, carefully ran his squeegee over them. This time the reality break didn't phase me as I saw he was pasting ON the bullet hole decals, not washing off the remains. Another day, another movie.

Really it is remarkable that it is unremarkable, but I digress.

I also live on a very busy street. Each night there are one or two screeches outside my window. And "Happiness is a screech without a crunch" has become my credo.