Open during construction

March 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

20 DVDMysterious happenings at the Glendale Blvd. strip mall in Silverlake: Enterprises are shutting down, slipping away silently into the night.

Ralph’s is still there and CVS has a big sign announcing it will be open during construction. But what construction?

It’s whispered that a make-over is planned. Only it’s been more than a year, maybe two, since stores began closing their doors. For now, as with other Silverlake construction projects, it’s in limbo.

Gone are Baskin-Robbins, Roundtable Pizza, 20 DVD (once known as 20 Video), KFC, and a barber shop. Wong Wok and Winchell’s are hanging on.

I didn’t patronize any of the closed businesses, 20 DVD excepted and that only when we didn’t feel like driving over to Video Journeys. (It was staffed by stereotypical adolescent male  clerks with zero interest in customer service.) But the empty storefronts make our neighborhood mall look like collateral damage from the Great Recession: It’s dirty and down-at-the-heels. And, despite fewer stores, the parking isn’t even better!

Another place in the ‘hood where Something Better is supposed to come along, but all we’ve gotten is Nothing.

Going native

March 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

The move to native plants appears to have leveled off in Silverlake. There are still too many rose beds and banks of English ivy. Grassy lawns abound despite the turf removal program  offered by Metropolitan Water District: $1.50 for every square foot of grass replaced.

Native garden 1  But on a block-long side street less than 100 steps from the walking path you will find the ultimate native garden, a model for how to go native and not rely solely on century plants (Agave americana) and crushed rock as so many do.

I think of this garden as native planting in the English tradition. You know how their gardens burst with blooms, seemingly growing of their own free will? Only they’re carefully planned–planned to look casual, which is hard to do!

Native garden 6There’s one of everything in this garden, well spaced and carefully placed. Though it looks like an oasis you might stumble upon, I don’t think you’d find all of these plants together. Yet it looks natural.

Alas, what I cannot convey is how wonderful the plot smells when plants are blooming, especially after rain. For that you’ll have to find Lakeview Terrace West and visit it yourself.

Native Garden 3  Native garden 4

We are here.

March 6, 2013 § 1 Comment

Los Angeles is a global city: people come here from all over the world, bringing their food, customs, and languages. Most of the time, that makes living here fun, or at least interesting. Other times, this global reach smacks you upside the head and demands that you pay attention to where people are from and how they ended up here.

Last week, it was the latter at a production entitled, “We Are Here.” 

A tall woman with dark skin stands framed by a spotlight on an empty stage. In an even voice marked by the lilt of her native Uganda, she tells us how she was thrown into prison and tortured by her government. Her offense? Campaigning for an opposition candidate.

One night, after more than a year of imprisonment, she was dragged her from her cell, beaten viciously, blindfolded and bound, shoved into a car and driven deep into the countryside. Her captors then began to argue.

“First one said, ‘You kill her,’ then another said, ‘Just leave her, wild animals will finish her off.’ And they argued like that until finally they drove off and left me. I expected to die.”

But Josephine Athieno did not die. She survived and after many hardships, she is here, in the United States, telling us her story, as do half-a-dozen other refugees and torture suvivors from Cameroon, Russia, El Salvador and Guatemala.

We Are Here - torture victims

You might think stories of repression, rape, torture, and death would add up to an evening of anguish, but in fact it was a display of human resilience and passion for justice. In part, that is because the story-tellers had found their way to the Program for Torture Victims, which since 1982, has provided physical, emotional, and social support to torture victims.

Dr. Jose Quiroga, founder of PTV, along with Ana Deutsch, told us, “The fact that [the performers] can get up on stage and tell their stories means they have integrated these experiences and have moved on with their lives.”

The production of “We Are Here” was the work of Hector Aristazabal, himself a torture survivor from Columbia, and his codirector Alessia Cartoni, of ImaginAction. They interviewed participants at length and helped shape their presentations, also adding theatrical elements and soundscape.

A deep bow of gratitude to the performers in “We Are Here”: Josephine Athieno (Uganda), Mario Avila (Guatemala), Edison Bandeeba (Uganda,) Masha Choporova (Russia), Rossana Perez (El Salvador), and Boniface Talla (Cameroon).

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