Downtown Trifecta

The Food Court of the Grand Central Market

Today was a perfect day to go downtown. Instead of the usual bright sun and searing heat, we had a heavy marine layer with a light drizzle. The temperature could not have gone over 68º Fahrenheit (20º Celsius).

I started by returning three books at the Central Library and picking up three other books to read in the next month or so:

  • Argentinian Juan José Saer’s The Regal Lemon Tree
  • Italian Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Street Kids
  • Nina Revoyr’s Southland

From the library, I hoofed it to the Grand Central Market, where I had a delicious everything bagel with smoked sturgeon at Wexler’s Deli, which specializes in smoked fish.

Then it was on to the Last Bookstore at 5th and Spring. I picked up nice copies of two Sir Walter Scott novels at a good price: Kenilworth and Woodstock. I’m perhaps the only person I know who has the patience to read one of Sir Walter’s long and dilatory novels. Although he is not much read today, partly because he wrote in a difficult South Scottish dialect, I have always loved reading his novels. So I’ll have to consult the glossary at the rear of both books frequently. No problem there.

With my books in tow, I walked south on Broadway to 7th Street, past the abandoned old movie theaters where I used to watch all-night triple features with my old friend Norm Witty, then cut right on 7th Street to the Metro Rail station at 7th and Flower Street.

It was a good day, and I look forward to reading some good books.

Hot! Hot!! Hot!!!

They Weren’t Whistling Dixie

I returned yesterday from the Coachella Valley after four days of excess 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) temperatures. When summer temperatures arrive in the lower desert, it is time to seek air-conditioned comfort. No walkies, no hikes, no outdoor activities of any sort: It is simply time to seek air-conditioned comfort and hunker down. Even the steering wheel of my Subaru Forester was hot to the touch.

Knowing full well what was in store for me, I had a god time nonetheless. My brother’s house in Palm Desert is comfortable, and I enjoyed reading and talking with him and with my sister-in-law Lori. Yesterday, before setting out for Los Angeles, I had breakfast with Dan and my niece Hilary, who had just arrived by plane from Seattle. After an hour of pleasant chatter, I hit the road with only a single rest stop in Rowland Heights.

The Los Angeles temperature was a full 40° Fahrenheit (22° Celsius) cooler than the Coachella Valley. I found I needed a jacket when I unloaded the luggage from my car.

The net result: I didn’t really go anywhere which I could feature in my blog posts. Sometimes, it just happens that way. Fortunately, the hot weather did not stop me from enjoying myself.

Off to Hide Out in the Desert

The Cactus Garden at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage

I will not be posting any blogs this weekend as I will be out of town visiting my brother in the Coachella Valley. My next post will likely be on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Unfortunately, the temperature is expected to be in excess of 100° Fahrenheit (37° Celsius) for the four days I will be there, but I will not likely be doing a lot of outdoor exercise, unless it involves a cooling dip in the pool. More than likely, I will be watching some of the NBA playoff games, especially the ones in which the Lakers are playing.

I will also be reading Robert M. Utley’s The Indian Frontier of the American West 1846-1890. That will be in addition to eating some of my brother’s excellent cooking, watching films with him and my sister-in-law, and talking up a storm.

Magyar Blood

Folk Dancers from the Kárpátok Troupe at Grace Hungarian Reformed Church

For the first time since the Covid lockdown began, Martine and I were able to attend a church festival, in this case the Hungarian festival at Grace Hungarian Reformed Church in Reseda. I was raised on Hungarian food, and Martine, although French, prefers Hungarian food to the cuisine of her native land.

So we chowed down on stuffed cabbage and krémes (Hungarian style cheesecake) and watched a program of folk dancing. Plus I had the opportunity of practicing my rusty Hungarian. Although it is my native language, my vocabulary and grammar are atrocious. Yet my pronunciation is still pretty accurate. As I’ve mentioned before, I speak a rural Fehérmegye dialect dating back to the 1930s. This is what we spoke at home in Cleveland.

Still and all, I want to stay close to my Magyar roots as much as possible. I see it as an escape hatch when I get too disgusted with my fellow Americans. I like to stay current with Hungarian literature, even though I have to rely on translations into English, of which there are few.

Below is the announcement for the festival we attended today:

Not a single word is in English, and yet I understood most of it. And what I didn’t understand, I looked up.

Martine and I have been attending this church’s spring festivals for most of the last eleven or twelve years. Great fun!

Visiting Kuruvungna Springs

As I wrote in my last post, I wanted to introduce Martine to the sacred Tongva/Gabrieleño springs that exist as an enclave at West L.A.’s University High School. Apparently, the springs are closed to the public except on the first Saturday of each month.

Today, we showed up around noon and spent a few minutes walking around the springs and visiting the little cultural center with its exhibits. The tribe forbids photography of their cultural center, so I was unable to present any views of the exhibits. Below, however, is what the springs look like:

Kuruvungna Springs with High Rise Apartments in Background

I was surprised to see so many people in attendance. For one thing, a number of volunteers were doing yard work; and my guess is that most of the other visitors are locals who know about the Springs’ rare opening times.


Kuruvungna Springs in West Los Angeles

Not a mile from my front door, on the grounds of University High School in West Los Angeles is a spring that is sacred to the Tongva (aka Gabrieleño or Fernandeño or Kizh) tribe that inhabited this area. For many years, it was vandalized and graffitied until the State of California provided funds for restoring it. Today, it is a cool enclave of the Uni Hi campus.

(Uni High, by the way, was where Roger Vadim’s Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971) was shot, starring Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, and Telly Savalas.)

The Tongva tribe has no reservation, but there is a small cultural center on the grounds of Kuruvungna Springs. I found an old newspaper article which gave the original Tongva names of many Southern California places.

Several years ago, I visited the Springs. I understand that they will be open on Saturday. With luck, I can talk Martine into visiting it with me. It is one of those secret little places that make Los Angeles endlessly interesting.

My Safe Spaces

Day of the Dead Celebration in the San Fernando Valley

Ever since my first visit to Mexico in 1975, I no longer felt myself superior to Mexican-Americans. It didn’t take long before I felt that way about African-Americans and Asian-Americans. My safe space was becoming larger with each year. Now when I encounter prejudiced white people, I don’t even regard myself as being white. In fact, I’ve always felt particularly safe thinking of myself as a Hungarian.

That is a bit of a joke, really, as I am only 25% Hungarian. I am also 25% Slovak, 25% Czech, and 25% Bavarian German. The only difference is that Hungarian was my first language, and I can still think in Hungarian.

At the Los Angeles Times Book Festival this past weekend, I enjoyed the work of three black poets (Roger Reeves, Courtney Faye Taylor, and D. Manuel II) and one Hispanic poet (Brenda Cárdenas). Oh, and don’t forget Eloise Klein Healy, a white poet from El Paso, Texas, whose courage impressed me so much (see yesterday’s post).

I was presented with multiple templates of Los Angeles, all of which I accepted—if not exactly as my own, still as plausible worlds understandable to me. Probably the scariest Los Angeles was that of Eloise Klein Healy, because she fought successfully against the horrors of encephalitis and aphasia and recovered her verbal skills as a poet.

My reaction to the paranoia of white supremacists like Tucker Carlson is to regard them as broken people who are unable to join in the incredible richness of other ethnicities.

The LA Times Book Festival

Book Dealers at the 2023 Los Angeles Times Book Festival

I have always loved attending the Los Angeles Times Book Festival at the University of Southern California (USC). Last year, Martine and I showed up; but I wasn’t feeling well, so we didn’t stick around for long. This year, I feel fine; and I intend to attend both days of the festival. Today was uncomfortably warm. Fortunately, the morning was comfortable. Around two in the afternoon, I took the E-Line back to West L.A.

As in previous festivals, I was most interested in the poetry readings, which are sponsored by Small World Books on the Venice Boardwalk. I listened to several readings, and after lunch I dropped in at the Kurt Vonnegut Library’s booth. (Kurt and I go way back, at least half a century since I first read Slaughterhouse Five.)

By the afternoon, the festival was starting to get too crowded. Morning is definitely the best time to attend. I hope to write several posts in the coming week describing my impressions.

Zero Tolerance Policy

The Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Downtown Los Angeles

Martine likes to spend a day in downtown L.A. once a week. While there, she spends some time around the Twin Towers Correctional Facility operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It holds more than 2,000 inmates. Crumpled up outside the jail are interesting sheets of paper which give a lurid picture of life in stir.

Today, Martine handed me an information sheet entitled “Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Comprehensive Inmate Education.” It and other informative pieces of paper are tossed away by released inmates. At the top of the sheet is the usual administrative huffing and puffing by the Sheriff’s Department (which refers to itself as the LASD):

LASD maintains a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for sexual harassment or sexual abuse of all inmates in its custody.

This means you have the right to be free from sexual harassment and sexual abuse by anyone, including staff, volunteers, contractors, medical and mental health staff, and other inmates, while in LASD’s custody.

You have the right to report if you have been sexually abused/sexually harassed, or if you know of someone else who has been or is being sexually abused/sexually harassed. No one deserves to be sexually abused/sexually harassed.

You have the right to report if you have a suspicion or know of threats that you or someone else will be sexually abused/sexually harassed.

Of course, if you have a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY, it pretty much means that it is probably widespread across the institution. It is typical that the prison administrators will wish the problem away by burying it in reams of paperwork, of which this Inmate Education sheet is an example. It gives detailed information on whom to contact and how. Also included are the following tips on how to protect yourself from being victimized:

  • Stay away from gambling or trading goods with other inmates.
  • Do not use drugs or alcohol [about which there is another ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY]. Being intoxicated puts you at higher risk for sexual abuse.
  • Do not accept gifts or offers of protection from other inmates.
  • Keep this information sheet with you for future reference.
  • There are PREA posters in each housing unit that provide this information.
  • You will also see a video about PREA in your housing unit that is played on a regular basis.
  • PREA is also discussed during town hall meetings with staff.

Nowhere is the point made that if you stay out of prison, you are more likely not to be raped, abused, or harassed.

Traffic Island Paradise

The Traffic Island at the Corner of Ohio Avenue and Santa Monica Blvd

You have not heard me say many good things about the legions of homeless that live in the streets of Los Angeles. Today, I will make an exception. Two blocks east of me is a little traffic island where Ohio Avenue intersects at an angle with Santa Monica Blvd.

The City of Los Angeles does not get the credit for digging up the earth of the island and planting it with succulents and other water-saving plants. The man responsible is a homeless man who lives in a tent to the left of the traffic island. Martine and I have seen him at work planting and weeding.

It is more often the case that the homeless who live in tents in West Los Angeles are known for accumulations of garbage, vandalism, panhandling, and getting into fights with other homeless in the wee hours of the morning.

I have not spoken to the man who created this little garden, but I wish him well. May he find a home where his talent at gardening will be more appreciated. I also hope that some idiotic city administrator does not decide to dig up the garden and replace it with something more boring.