Downtown
It’s not that there’s no heart,

it’s that the heart has been vacated,

made small,

turnicated by highways

and squeezed

bloodless.

 /

It’s not that there’s no past

but that the past has been paved,

bulldozed, left to rot,

rails dug up

and marquees shuttered,

the seats inside

molding like teeth.

 /

It’s not that there’s no center but that the center has been forsaken

and grown shadows,

here in a city
where nothing else is shadowed.

All that remains are the facades,

the pawn shops and farmacias,

indifferent high-rises

and the ghosts who walk beneath them,

barefoot, red-eyed,

scratching,

hustling—

 /

Who would do that?

To their heart?—

Bleed it and leave it for dead?

Who would abandon oneself,

one’s history,

tie it off like that

and live in the extremities,

the slim limbs
gleaming, racing
towards a horizon,
a coastline,
an apocalypse
/

that just ends in break lights.

Downtown

It’s not that there’s no heart,

it’s that the heart has been vacated,

made small,

turnicated by highways

and squeezed

bloodless.

 /

It’s not that there’s no past

but that the past has been paved,

bulldozed, left to rot,

rails dug up

and marquees shuttered,

the seats inside

molding like teeth.

 /

It’s not that there’s no center but that the center has been forsaken

and grown shadows,

here in a city

where nothing else is shadowed.

All that remains are the facades,

the pawn shops and farmacias,

indifferent high-rises

and the ghosts who walk beneath them,

barefoot, red-eyed,

scratching,

hustling—

 /

Who would do that?

To their heart?—

Bleed it and leave it for dead?

Who would abandon oneself,

one’s history,

tie it off like that

and live in the extremities,

the slim limbs

gleaming, racing

towards a horizon,

a coastline,

an apocalypse

/

that just ends in break lights.

Old Punks

It was all an aberration—the fame, the house, the promo photos and royalties—and now it’s back to what it’s always been: a boy shoved under the house. “Because I was small,” you tell me, your chapped and tattooed hands on the steering wheel.

We drive through the old town, clapboard and train tracks. We grew up in this, years apart but the same story. We rode the same buses, avoided the same schools, slept on the same kind of floors. You lived in this shit town where I went to high school, the same years, and you couldn’t keep the lawn clean and I couldn’t keep my nose clean and we probably walked past each other a bunch, we say, without even knowing it.

They made you root around down there, you tell me, find the cracks that would wrench those houses apart when the earth shook hard enough, and seal them back together, bolts and metal. They made an industry of it, making those foundations stronger, tougher—but you were the one who did it, weren’t you? The one who learned to play drums in the crawl space, all the places where you couldn’t stand up, I think, a life like that, under there like that, until they fired you: “You’ve gotta pick which life you want, boy,” and you did.

That’s what it always was and what it’s come back to, you sliding beneath those cars, their metallic bellies dripping, your overalls and oil-stained hands, their whole bodies revealed to you. “Make this run for me,” they tell you, and you do.

We don’t say anything as we sat in the cabin, waiting for the girls to come out of the house, the sky of our whole past lives stretched out before us. We were always broken this way, I want to say, always crawling under someone else’s house, drilling the foundations of what wasn’t ours, putting our fingers in their cracks, feeling where they might split open and sealing them shut. And a big enough earthquake hasn’t come yet, I want to say, but the two of us are still waiting, not saying, not touching, in case we might break each other. Which we would.

“Aaron Cometbus used to live inbetween the boards of that sign,” you tell me. “Built a whole loft up there and lived there for a year, until they found him and kicked him out.”

Okonomiyaki

The way in which the moment froze: three of us, wooden table with the metal grill in the middle, thick brown sauce and the quiet sizzle, back corner, a bathroom so small the sink was sideways, the paper towel dispenser was sideways, “Everything’s so small and efficient in this country!”

I sat facing them and they told me how they wanted to go back—back to California, to be nurses there where the sunsets are long and the hours are long but the life is better. I imagined them driving those highways, wide and apocalyptic, cement straight into that sunset, and the way they both had to leave: alone, with a luggage limit, back into the low skies and overpopulated quiet of what they already knew and didn’t want to live again: this city, this tiny table, this efficiency, this overwork and stifle of clean.

This is how the moment froze: us on either sides of table, inverses of each other. My last night on the continent and I’m wearing a skirt that no longer fits, shirt tucked in and bunching that shows. I’m eating too much and my hair is matted and my shoes are thin and old, and I’m going to the place they were removed from, kicked out of, and they are staying in the place I am leaving, the continent where I brought my youth to die. We’re speaking the language they want to practice, and the one with the slightest accent thinks her English is worse. There are three of us and we are all no longer young, all in our thirties; our skin is tired and our hips are widening on the wooden benches and we order a dessert we all share, and I think: there is a thing about being a woman in a place you don’t belong, or don’t want to belong. There is a thing about being in your thirties and longing for somewhere else, that moment in your youth when something other than efficiency was possible. There is something of me in them and them in me, something that is staying at that table, that restaurant, that waiter with the towel around his head, all the waiters with the towels around their heads, and toilets that don’t flush all that way, and the person I was then a sealed and contained thing—all of us, eating okonomiyaki.

"There’s one restaurant in Torrence that makes it," they tell me. "But only one."

image

Wrote about my childhood swim team and growing up in Oakland’s Flatlands for Guernica’s Class In America issue

Wrote about my childhood swim team and growing up in Oakland’s Flatlands for Guernica’s Class In America issue

Siem Reap Well Claims Seven Lives

 “Seven people, including four children, died at the bottom of a well in Siem Reap province on Saturday evening in a tragic sequence of events that started with the father of a poor family dropping 3,000 riel and a cigarette lighter into the five-metre-deep shaft.”

 /

They imagined

It fluttering down

/

Without saying a word,

Each vowed

 /

To be the one

To retrieve what was lost

 /

Each descended

Into that pit, following

 /

The silent flutter

Until they too stood still,

 /

Crumbled at the bottom.

Another climbed down

 /

A procession like that,

None knowing

 /

What they were chasing anymore,

I imagine,

 /

The lure of the darkness,

That final flutter

 /

The sad dance

The real thing they sought.

 /

Or maybe it was the money,

The way it’s always the money, not the money

 /

But what the money stands for

What it can buy—

 /

Escape from the dance

Which becomes its own dance

 /

The airless still

 /

Of the after

Remember when you used to make
that shadow?
that shape, stretched out
and slid across, side
walks and under
passes with the tiles busted out
and the trace of you
tracing them,
fingers on the braille
of those cities,
that shape of you

they swallowed

Remember when you used to make

that shadow?

that shape, stretched out

and slid across, side

walks and under

passes with the tiles busted out

and the trace of you

tracing them,

fingers on the braille

of those cities,

that shape of you

they swallowed

Hey look, it’s a picture of me reeeeeally faded as a teenager. Propped up by my friends who are still my friends. Kinda wedged between them, actually, Weekend At Bernie’s style. 

Well, that was fun. Now read this: http://velamag.com/the-ism-and-the-alcohol/

Hey look, it’s a picture of me reeeeeally faded as a teenager. Propped up by my friends who are still my friends. Kinda wedged between them, actually, Weekend At Bernie’s style.

Well, that was fun. Now read this: http://velamag.com/the-ism-and-the-alcohol/

americanguide:

A BRIEF GUIDE TO LOS ANGELES IN SEVEN FACES 

There is a large transient population of tourists, job-hunters, climate-seekers, elderly retired persons, and Hollywood hopefuls.

With these comparative newcomers, who form the majority of the population, ties with the home state remain strong. Angelenos dearly love to reminisce about “back East” and “back East” may be anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains.

This attachment for the old home furnishes a clue to the character of the City of the Angels and its people. It suggests that the transplanted settler has never quite grown used to living here, has never quite been able to regard Los Angeles as his true home. Coming largely from the prairie regions, of rigorous climate and even more rigorous conventions, he suddenly finds himself in an exotic land of lofty purple mountains, azure ocean, and mild, seductive climate, where the romance of old Spain is nurtured and blends with the gaudiness of Hollywood, where rigid conventions are relaxed and comparative tolerance is the rule. To many a newcomer, Los Angeles is a modern Promised Land. It amazes and delights him, and thaws him out physically and spiritually. There is a heady fragrance in the air, and a spaciousness of sky and land and sea that give him a new sense of freedom and tempt him to taste new pleasures, new habits of living, new religions. Finding himself in the amusement capital of the West and at the hub of a vast natural playground offering every variety of sport from surf boarding to skijoring, he proceeds to have more fun than he ever dreamed was possible. He is fascinated by strange new industries and new agricultural products: movie studios, oil fields, almond orchards, vineyards, olive and orange groves. He encounters new and exotic types of people: movie actors and sombreroed Mexicans, kimonoed Japanese and turbaned Hindus. He develops an urge to try things that are novel and exciting, from Chinese herb doctors to Indian medicine men, from social credit to nudism, from a wine-colored stucco dwelling to a restaurant shaped like a hat. And because the array of things to do and see is so dazzlingly different from everything he has known, his curiosity is always whetted, his appetite never sated. He feels a certain strangeness in this place he now calls his home, a strangeness that is at once exhilarating and disturbing, and that he had not known in his native place “back East.”

Los Angeles, A Guide To the City and Its Environs (WPA, 1941)

* * *

Julie Grace Immink is a social documentary photographer living in Los Angeles. She was born in the wagon of a traveling show. Exploring the streets with her camera is how she connects to the surrounding world. Her photographs are saturated with thoughts on life, death, faith and community. She gains inspiration from anything old and broken but believes in healing and restoration. Follow on tumblr at juliegracephotography.tumblr.com.

This dispatch arrived care of THE AMERICAN GUIDE submission page. Be a guide yourself and send a post from your state: theamericanguide.org/submit.

Oh, how amped am I to inhabit *this* LA soon??