New Article Published in ‘Arts and the Market’ Journal

Aside

aamcoverJust a quick announcement that I have a new article out this week! I wrote a piece about the idea of the vinyl record as a souvenir for the Emerald Publishing journal Arts and the Market. Thanks to the editorial staff for helping me sculpt this one, which originated as a research paper for a seminar on tourism. I drew equally on some older MA thesis research on the marketplace around vinyl as well as some PhD research on the seismic legend around harDCore.

Sonnichsen, T. (2017). Vinyl tourism: records as souvenirs of underground musical landscapes. Arts and the Market 7 (2), 235-248.

You can check out this issue as well as prior issues of Arts and the Market on the Emerald Insight page here. Depending on your institutional access, you may be able to find the HTML or PDF version of the article directly from there. If not, then don’t hesitate to contact me and I can help get you a copy.

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Ben Irving Visits Historic Westwood Tomorrow (9/15) at Noon

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I’ll be bringing my presentation about the life and somewhat-unintentional legacy of Ben Irving (and our collective digital heritage) to Knox Heritage tomorrow for their ‘Lost & Found Luncheon’ series. This will be my first time presenting about Irving in Knoxville since I presented a (heavily truncated) version of the talk at Pecha Kucha last November, and my first time presenting the full version since Western MA last Thanksgiving. I’m very excited to bring this to Historic Westwood.

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More info on the event is available at their website, which I’ll paste below. You can also RSVP to the Facebook event, which I found just now.

Lunch is available on a first-come, first-served basis at 11:30 a.m. The talk will begin promptly at noon. Please RSVP to Hollie Cook at hcook@knoxheritage.org or at 865-523-8008. FREE. ALL ARE WELCOME.

‘Exploring Europe’ Preview: The Time I Got Very Lost in Segovia

CIMG9195This fall, I will have the privilege of teaching my second 300-level Geography course at the University of Tennessee, and my first focusing specifically on Europe. I am still in the teeth of designing the curriculum, but I have been enjoying combing through my Europe travel archives for possible lectures and lesson plans. I’ve already found at least four places of interest for separate case studies, one of which I’m excited to share here:

The Time I Got Very Lost in Segovia

In July 2015, I took a weekend trip to Madrid to see some friends in the middle of my fieldwork month in Paris. After spending time in northern France, it truly struck me just how off-center Spain (particularly Madrid) was from the socio-economic core of Europe (clustered between Paris, Frankfurt, and the Low Countries). Prior to this trip, Spain had always been my base of travel and tourism in Europe, so it never really hit me how relatively distant Spain was from the core of the continent. It wasn’t necessarily a positive or a negative attribute; it was just the first time it hit me.

On my second day there, I saw my hosts off to work and walked over to the nearby RENFE station. Apparently, Spain (or at least the Capital region) had upgraded its regional rail system a bit since I had last visited in 2009. The most profound difference was that, because I took a commuter bullet train up there, it dropped us off in a brand new, state of the art, station in the middle of nowhere. In 2009, my train stopped at the station on the south side of town, a lengthy walk from the Cathedral and Aqueduct but still walk-able. Because I was leaving Northern Madrid, I was taking an AVE train to the specialized AVE station, which had clearly been built within the previous few years. It stood in the middle of a giant pasture off of the highway, connected to downtown Segovia by incredibly inexpensive shuttle buses. I got in line to wait for the shuttle, eager to get there realizing that trying to walk would end with me recreating the opening scene from Paris, TX.

CIMG9180On the shuttle, I met a friendly newlywed couple from Massachusetts who complimented my Red Sox cap. I quickly admitted that I’d shifted my allegiance to the Nationals, but still loved being from New England and I’d had the hat forever. We broke into conversation about our experiences in Spain over the years. He explained that he was a Spanish teacher who periodically led high school trips there; his new wife had never been, so there was little doubt where they were going to spend their delayed honeymoon. When we got to the Aqueduct, we grabbed coffee and I told him that the reason I fell in love with travel, geography, and Spain at large was because I went on one of the high school group trips that he fought administrations and budget cuts to lead. Even though none of us had ever met before, it felt strangely full circle to be back in Segovia with a Spanish teacher from New England, talking about the importance of foreign language education. Tragically, I have forgotten both of their names. I probably wrote them down somewhere, but it’s been two years. I am pretty sure I gave him one of my cards, but I know how easily those get misplaced. On the outside chance that anyone who sees this knows these kind people, let me know.

After we said our goodbyes, I honed in on my mission for this visit. Ever since I first visited Segovia in 2000, a little cathedral outside the city walls had piqued my curiosity. My sense of perspective was a little off, so I assumed that it was a few kilometers (not an impossible walk) outside of the city walls, next to the Alcazar. Keep in mind here that I did not have an international data plan, so unless I could duck into or saddle up next to a cafe or business with free and open WiFi (a rarity in any tourism epicenter), I was travelling largely unmoored by technology. Strangely, it felt like 2000 all over again.

Here is the spoiler: the little cathedral, which was called La Iglesia de la Veracruz (simple enough) was actually not even one kilometer outside of the city’s northwestern entry point; it turned out to be, as I would find out later, sweaty and exhausted, about a five minute walk back into Segovia proper. It just seemed like a mysterious little outpost, a tiny monastery-looking thing residing in my memory on the outskirts of the city. In 2000, when we were touring the Alcazar and looking out over the vast, beautiful plains that surrounded the town, I was really into Sierra Role Playing Games like Quest for Glory IV and my all-time favorite, King’s Quest VI. La Iglesia de la Veracruz reminded me of those outposts your character would encounter after screens of vast nothingness. Somehow, you needed to get your character into that outpost, because somewhere in there was a key to your journey, or at least a weird but friendly loner who had a valuable piece of information for you.

If I had walked to the Alcazar, then I may have spotted the church from the city’s northern wall. However, I wandered along a road toward the city’s western expanse, stopping at the Bar Los Claveles for some tapas. Further down el Paseo Ezequiel Gonzalez, I saw an interesting set of signs, which included a fancy view of the city’s southern wall and a… Jewish cemetery?

I headed further out, not realizing how desolate the landscape got so quickly. Undeterred, I kept going, convinced that this would turn into a ring-road that would hook around the Alcazar right to this mysterious little church I’d been wondering about for almost two decades. What I found wasn’t just a Jewish cemetery – it was a Jewish necropolis.

As most of you know, the Spanish regents Ferdinand and Isabella cast all Jews and Muslims out of Spain in 1492 as part of their historically short-sighted decree to “unify” the Spanish peninsula under their Catholic God and a strange new law of the land that somehow had no use for a middle class. This meant that this cemetery predated 1492, which was interesting in itself. The fact that Judaism was essentially put in exile by a despotic order less than one kilometer from where this necropolis sat made it even more geographically and symbolically unbelievable.

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I took this picture of the castle where Ferdinand and Isabella ruled standing less than 500m down the hill from a Jewish necropolis.

I continued down the road, spotting a faded painting of Marty Feldman as Igor on a rock outcropping (see above). I’m glad that Mel Brooks’ influence is still as pervasive in Spain as it is in the States. Granted, it could have been American street artists who painted it, but I’m going to assume it was locals.

And then I kept walking. And walking. And walking. The city’s walls and all signs of tourism infrastructure (the shuttle bus routes) started to disappear. The cloud system I saw on the horizon wasn’t getting close enough to protect me from the sun’s searing heat. I wandered by what felt like a portion of Segovia’s hinterland; I stopped to take a photo of a shuttered plant of some kind. After what felt like another kilometer, I finally came to a right turn. I saw a restaurant that had a few cars parked in front of it, so I decided to stop in and see if anybody had any idea what I was looking for, and where I could find it. Bear in mind that I was covered in sweat and people rarely, if ever, just walked in there on foot from the walled city over three kilometers away.  After looking at this area on Google Maps, I remember that this restaurant was called San Pedro Abanto, and it was part of an old Inn. I ordered a Coke and asked the young woman at the bar about this little church. She started asking me some specifics that I did not know the answer to, but fortunately, a group of elderly folks was leaving lunch and they overheard my question. One older woman told me the name of the church, and that I had to walk a few minutes back and take the road up the hill to my left. I thanked everyone profusely, too grateful that I had directions to realize how much more walking that entailed.

As I headed up the road for the next two-kilometer stretch, the clouds that I had spotted an hour earlier were now overhead. I took a few more pictures of the sky, which now looked stunning, draped over the scenic hillside. Then something occurred to me; I was probably about to get soaked. My fourth trip to Segovia had already been my most interesting but had been veering towards officially becoming my worst. By the time I reached the next stop, a little township called Zamarramala (HOW HAD I WALKED TO ANOTHER TOWN?), I had walked at least 5 kilometers due to a wrong turn and didn’t even have any disease research to sponsor. I wound up stopping in yet another restaurant, an empty bar built next to a yellow train car.

CIMG9221All I remember was seeing a placard having to do with Antonio Machado, the legendary Generation of ’98 poet. I went inside and had a similar conversation with the woman behind the bar, asking her if she could call me a cab if it started pouring. Fortunately, the rain held off and she told me I could get back to Segovia proper (and the little church) following the road headed Southeast. The clouds started to pass, so I set back out on foot.

After another kilometer back in the direction of the Alcazar, I reached the crest of a hill. There it was. La Iglesia de la Vera Cruz. It looked just as secluded, mysterious, yet oddly inviting as I had remembered it for all those years. I took a moment to be furious at myself, seeing how close it was to the North wall of the Alcazar – I had left the city on the wrong side. As it turns out, I could have also doubled back over a hill with another landmark cathedral and saved myself a solid hour and a half of walking. But what would the fun have been in that? I chose to look at the bright side and reflect upon the random spots outside the city I would likely have died never knowing existed had I not taken that stupidly wrong turn past the Jewish Cemetery. Writing this now makes me want to go back to San Pedro Abanto someday for a proper meal, in fact.

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I walked past the church and into its nearly empty parking lot, save for one small car. I noticed there was an older man sitting in it. Strange, I thought. The church didn’t appear to be open, so I paced around it a few times. I felt somewhat dejected, going through all that I had to find this place and then finding it closed. I wasn’t shocked, though – I had no idea what it was called, and even if I had it would have involved a laundry list of complicated steps to contact them and ask if they were “open.” Did they even sell anything besides the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit? It didn’t seem to be much of a tourist destination, dwarfed by one of Spain’s biggest tourist magnets less than one kilometer down the road. As I rounded the opposite corner back toward the parking lot, I thought – at least I got to see it up clo-

The man was out of his car. He was standing on the ledge next to his parking space, looking out into the gigantic ravine with his hands in his pockets. Despite how many strangers I had engaged with in two languages that afternoon, I was getting a bad vibe from this man. He acted like there wasn’t a stranger there, wandering around and looking at the building inquisitively. I paced around and took a couple of photos, thinking that maybe I should leave. Without looking at me, the man turned, got down off the giant curb next to his car and walked toward the church door. He produced a key – a big lunk of a key.

‘Wait,’ I thought to myself, ‘Is this…’

He unlocked the massive door, slipped inside, and closed it behind him.

I stood there for a minute, rethinking my impending decision to walk back to the city wall. For all I remember, I could have boded my time by pacing around the church again. I had a lot of nerve I needed to conjure in order to go up and knock on that door. I was thousands of miles from home and I had nearly worn out my legs getting to this place, nearly collapsing from dehydration in the process. 17-year-old Tyler would have been furious if 32-year-old Tyler finally got to that little church on the outskirts and didn’t get inside. I walked up the steps, reached up, and knocked on the door twice. Three times.

After a pregnant moment, I heard something jostling the other side of the door. CLICK. The inset door opened; the quiet man saw me, said “espere” inaudibly, and shut the door immediately.

Uhhh. Huh. Had I just blown my chance? Or did I do something (read: existing) to annoy him and shut me out of the church? Either way, for the next 15 seconds, I was crushed. If I could have heard him better and he had enunciated, I would have realized he just told me to wait. As I turned around and stepped down from the stairs onto the parking lot, I heard the door creek open again. I turned and practically ran in the door. The quiet old man was sitting in a white booth, a box office on the left of the entryway, reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich. I wanted to minimize my interaction with this person, but I also wanted to avoid doing anything (read: breathing) to aggravate him even more. I saw a vague price guide, so I pulled out my wallet and a few Euro coins. “Eh, es gratuito” he said, waving his hand dismissively without even looking up from his paper.

CIMG9242At the risk of sounding sacrilegious: holy crap, I was inside that little church. After 15 years of wondering about it, I had finally made my way inside. I had to compose my thoughts for a second as I pulled my camera out, making sure that I had turned off the flash. The last thing I wanted, after clearly bothering the old man in the booth next to the door, was to give him an excuse to kick me out. I walked a circle around the pulpit, reading through some of the historical displays that surrounded it. I even took a selfie with a mannequin dressed as a nurse from the Guerra Civil. For those of you  who are curious, there are a lot of better-quality shots from the interior of the church on Wikimedia commons here. I’m still trying to discover what those red flags with the white arrows pointing inward are supposed to represent. It didn’t feel quite like the Church saw a whole lot of revenue from tithes anymore; it felt like a living memorial geared toward curious foreign visitors like me. The quiet man in the box office hardly had any game-winning strategic advice for me, but he did save me a couple of Euro by waiving the admission fee, so maybe he was sent out of some early-90s RPG. Either way, it was worth that trek, though next time I’m taking the short cut.

 

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I may need to lay clear my Spanglophilia on the first day of class, considering how its still the country where I’ve spent the most time outside the United States. Sonically, the course will probably include music from all over peninsula, including Asturian bagpipe jams, stereotypical Sevillano flamenco-style crooning, and even Malaguense power-pop from our friends in Airbag. One of my students contacted me from Basque country, where she is currently working on an archaeological field expedition. You can read her blog updates here.

 

California Excursion Part IV: Extra Words on Long Beach

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I wrote this about three weeks ago and somehow forgot to publish it. It began as an extra chunk to Part III of my LA writings, but I separated it into its own entry because, like I write below, Long Beach deserves to be so much more than just a footnote to LA. Enjoy! More updates this week on my Fall and Spring teaching schedule. – Ty

It’s difficult for me to write about Los Angeles without abbreviating it as LA/LB, because for most of this decade, Long Beach has felt like my Western home rather than the juggernaut dwarfing it from up the 405 and 710. Despite one legendary Long Beach poet’s references to “so much drama in the LBC,” the city’s actually a subdued counterpart to Los Angeles. If Long Beach were located anywhere outside of LA’s orbit, it would be considered a major city and maybe even have its own NBA team (seeing as how Anaheim has an MLB team and an NHL team with about 200,000 fewer people). All that being said, anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in Long Beach is reticent to consider it as part of Los Angeles. “Greater Los Angeles,” perhaps, mostly because the red blotch in so many atlases I grew up reading enveloped both cities and the Metro Blue Line does connect the two efficiently (or, as efficiently as possible… you try to get from Downtown Long Beach to Downtown Los Angeles in under an hour for the grand total of $1.50).

So, whenever I told anyone where I was the other week, I said “LA/LB,” because I was spending quality time in both cities and taking advantage of what they respectively had to offer. Los Angeles has taco trucks and delicious street dog stands on every corner, Amoeba Records, the Hollywood Bowl, not to mention Western epicenters of North American comedy, film and theater. Long Beach has a better bus system, fewer taco trucks (that are still delicious), Fingerprints Records and Cafe, the biggest port in North America, and the single most beautiful urban place to see a sunset (I lived off of 4th Street for a year and it never got an iota less wonderful).

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Long Beach has gone a long way over the past two generations to establish its identity. Before World War II, it was viewed by outsiders (and many insiders) as a weekend getaway for Los Angeles’ swelling petite bourgeoisie. At least until the city erected a massive breakwater (which may very well come down soon depending on the results of an Army Corps of Engineers study), it resembled other blown-out mid-Century party harbors like Ocean City, Coney Island, and (shudder) Atlantic City. Of course, this depiction of the city belied the growing indigenous population (not to mention the actual indigenous population of Gabrielino Indians). The Long Beach items from the Ben Irving postcard collection, particularly this one above, shows off how the city prided itself back during Wartime. Irving sent this one home to my grandmother in Brooklyn on August 16, 1940. You can just see the Pike off in the back left of this image, Long Beach’s response to the Santa Monica pier, which had been devised around the turn of the century as a way to disguise sewage dumping but quickly turned into a fishing and amusement pier (more detailed history here).

The Pike was, for generations, an amusement park that stuck out into Long Beach’s own chunk of the Pacific, nestled next to the port and to the sea of oil refineries. Today, The Pike is perhaps better known to young Long Beach as a restaurant and bar near 4th and Cherry where DJs spin tunes by Social Distortion (for whom the owner Chris Reece, in the hat, used to play drums), burlesque troupes perform, and Hot Rod lovers converge. The area where the Pike pier sat has become a weird simulacrum that’s still tourist-friendly but filled with a convention center, a P. F. Changs, and a walkway decorated with lights that make it feel like the ghost of the roller coaster from last century. When I lived there, I barely ever went down there, other than to occasionally catch special events at the movie theater.

Anyway, between the EmoGeo conference and quick trips back and forth to LA, I didn’t have the chance to re-frame any of the Ben Irving Long Beach postcards. That was no excuse to omit some personal/professional reflection on the city, though, because I miss it an awful lot these days.

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Bret, me, Abel. An impromptu reunion of The Casual Geographer at The Pike Bar in Long Beach in June. We took about 15 of these, most of them blurry.

 

California Excursion Part III: Revisiting Los Angeles

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OPENING SIDETRACK: THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL

As I plan to return to Los Angeles at least once a year for the foreseeable future, I’ve started to build a mental list of landmarks to see that I never had the chance while I was living out there. Believe it or not, I’d never been to the Hollywood Bowl until my visit a couple weeks ago. Also believe it or not, I had never seen The Specials either (I’ve been a ska fan for well over half my life now; Dick Hebdige would either be proud or pity me). Fortunately, the Hollywood Bowl’s Reggae Night on June 18th helped me check off both of those bucket list items. Here is a fuzzy photo that accurately reflects my thoughts on the matter:

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You can’t make out the details in that photo, but Lynval Golding, 65, was rocking out after loudly declaring that Black Lives Matter, a true testament to Rude Boys everywhere. My longtime friend Kat, my new friend James, and I saw them play a slew of classics, including “Gangsters,” “Monkey Man,” and the eternal crowd-pleaser “A Message to You Rudy” as the sun set over the Hollywood Hills. It was euphoric. Here are a couple of better pictures…

 

The Hollywood Bowl is a true marvel of landscape architecture and engineering; I wonder if it gets enough credit as such. We had to leave a couple of songs into Ziggy Marley’s headlining set in order to get me to LAX in time for my flight, but it was still a night I won’t forget anytime soon.

Now that I’ve gone off on my musical tangent, I’ll rewind to earlier in the week and get to the focus of this entry: the Ben Irving Postcard collection and depictions of wartime Los Angeles to now.


ACTUAL INTRO: REPHOTOGRAPHING LOS ANGELES

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On Tuesday night before heading down to Long Beach for the start of EmoGeo, I had the rare opportunity to talk about Irving on Modern Vaudeville, a weekly variety show held at the Lyric Hyperion Theater in Los Feliz. It was a rare opportunity because not only did it represent my professional and performing life intersecting, but I was also on a bill with a number of great comedians, including Scott Thompson (doing a new Buddy Cole monologue) and the always-delightful Sklar Brothers (don’t miss their Netflix special). Despite the broken A/C and my own lack of time to prepare and refine the 8-minute set, it was well-received and the crowd joined in to sing one of his songs, the first time it had probably been performed in over 70 years. Thanks to Christy Coffey and Ian Abramson for the opportunity.


THE HOTEL ALEXANDRIA / PERSHING SQUARE

One of the DTLA landmarks I featured in my presentation was the old Hotel Alexandria, located at 500 S. Spring Street. Though I was in the area for over a week, I did not get a chance to visit the site, which I’m pretty confident I’ve walked by dozens of times without knowing Irving had once stayed there. I Sweded an image via Google Street view, commenting on how a once-upper-grade hotel had turned an SRO by the time that Tom Waits or Charles Bukowski could have lived there in the 70’s. The message on the back of the postcard that he sent on August 15, 1940 read “Hotel Alexandria: Where you meet America’s most famous people.” It may have been a bit of a stretch then; now, you might luck out if one of them’s filming something in there, but probably not.

 

I hope to ground-truth this image the next time I’m in LA and take a proper photo that I didn’t need to hijack from Google’s server. That being said, another place I have clear memories of visiting is Pershing Square. My classmates at CSU Long Beach and I did a walk-through as part of Norman Carter’s encyclopedic tour of downtown LA in 2012, and then we revisited the block as the (Millennium) Biltmore Hotel was one of the venues for AAG 2013. Unsurprisingly, when Pershing Square became a watering hole for many of the city’s homeless, the Biltmore re-oriented their main entrance away from the park side. What’s funny about looking at an early-1940’s depiction of Pershing Square and the Biltmore Hotel versus seeing how it looks now (at least as it did in February) is how relatively little the Hotel façade has changed, but how drastically the park across the street has (post-)modernized. As much as I can’t blame the Google Street View car operator for driving in one of the middle lanes down Olive Street, I’m putting a re-photographing of this vantage point at the top of my priorities for the next time I’m in DTLA. Either way, I hope you find this interesting.

 

Here are some photos I found that I took in 2013, including one which is actually not far from this vantage point, on the park side of the street. It seriously looks like Fritz Lang and Salvador Dali got together and directed this park. Seeing these photos again after a few years makes me even more excited to go back to Pershing and see what changes (if any) the city has made, and if any tent cities have figured out how to appear.


THE HOLLYWOOD PLAZA HOTEL

When I did have opportunities to ground-truth sites depicted on the postcards, it often times didn’t work out due to the encapsulating site not existing anymore. This happened to me in two separate manner in Savannah last month (which I completely ran out of time to write about here, but I plan to soon). Earlier in the week, I found myself in Hollywood to see what kind of deals Amoeba had to offer,  and I wandered over to Vine Avenue to see what had become of the once-luxurious Hollywood Plaza Hotel. All I had was a postcard (mailed June 9, 1941) that depicted the lobby lounge, rather than anything on the exterior of the building:

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What I found at the site was a strange combination of nostalgia and blatant disregard: the large neon sign remained on the roof of the block (as designated an LA Historic-Cultural Monument), but it appeared that little of the actual building had been preserved or made accessible. The second level was actually beautifully adorned on the outside (and possibly on the inside, but I wouldn’t know), but the chocolate-centric cafe on the street level outside hung an imposing banner. A historic placard about the Hotel hung on the light post nearby. I walked inside the main office entrance, greeted by a security guard with (I gathered) pretty strict bosses. I wanted to make up a story about someone I had an appointment with, but I didn’t have time to spin anything. Also, my brain was fried from the Hollywood heat and traffic I had navigated to get there.

The conclusion here is that I have no idea if that Lounge still exists in any architectural form. The historical information I’ve found indicates that the hotel had gone derelict by the late 1960’s and was converted into a senior living facility. Also, in 1937 (a few years before Irving passed through there), Clara Bow opened up the troubled “It” Club off of the Hotel’s Lounge. It closed within a year, so I guess Irving never got to experience that piece of Hollywood Babylon. A real shame.

 


LANGER’S DELI AND WESTLAKE/MACARTHUR PARK

For every LA landmark within the touristic purview that I feature here, I like to feature one that has, for whatever reason(s), straddled or slipped off of it. On Saturday, after EmoGeo had wrapped up, I had the opportunity to take my Mom (who was in LA to visit family) to one of Jewish Los Angeles’ legendary eateries, Langer’s Deli. Somehow, I had never heard of Langer’s prior to this trip. I had been through MacArthur Park a couple of times, but had somehow never noticed this prominent deli at the corner of 7th and Alvarado Street. For similarly dubious reasons, my brother-in-law (who grew up in Los Angeles and lives there now with my recently-relocated sister and recently-born niece) had never mentioned the Deli to us, despite it being the best one in the city (high praise indeed).

It just so happened that one of the Postcards that my great-grandfather had mailed home from California featured Westlake Park, as it was known when he posted it in 1940.

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A bit of admittedly overdue background: During his life as a salesman, he visited California twice, once in 1940 and once in 1941. From what I could tell, Irving was pretty amazed at what he found out there. Obviously, pre-War Los Angeles and Long Beach were much different cities. Many of the nodal cities like Pasadena, Inglewood, and Carson which eventually bled together into modern Greater Los Angeles were still somewhat isolated yet well-connected by… you guessed it…

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via Museum of the City.

Ironically, as the neighborhood around Langer’s Deli languished after the GM-led dismemberment of the Pacific Electric system by the early 1960s, it was the emergence of the Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro station that pumped new life into the block. Today, CiclaVia runs through there and gentrification bites at the area’s ankles. You can read more about it here at the restaurant’s official history.

What my Mom and I didn’t know as we drove down to MacArthur Park the other weekend was that we were about to stumble into a new moment in Langer’s history: its 70th anniversary celebration. The line of eager new customers and longtime regulars wound around a barrier by the entrance. Fortunately, much of the line was underneath an awning, with portable air conditioning units blasting sweet, sweet cool air on them, young women on Langer’s staff handing out “I ♥ Langer’s” pins and free bottles of water.

We headed across the street into MacArthur Park, passing by a large strip of Mexican street vendors and a series of encampments spread throughout the periphery. MacArthur Park, like Pershing Square, has clearly become a magnet for much of the region’s homeless population. However, the city has not taken as much of a scalpel to MacArthur Park, letting it serve its municipal function even if many people who planners find undesirable are populating it. The easily recognizable Elks Club Lodge building sat at the far corner of the park, which made it a cinch to locate the original vantage point depicted in the Irving postcard above. Below are a couple of results:

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That’s better. The highly recognizable old Elks Lodge (now the Parkview Hotel) made this one very straightforward.

After taking these pictures, we headed back to Langer’s to get in line. After about 30 minutes, several free bottles of water, and giving a completely useless sound-byte to a KNX reporter, we got seated at the counter inside. My mom quickly charmed the owner Norm Langer, who had passed by to say hello and thank you to customers for the special occasion. Because he was almost as old as the establishment (his father Albert opened it in 1947), we asked him what he remembered about Westlake/MacArthur Park from his youth. He was convinced that there had never actually been water on the East side of where Wilshire Boulevard bisected the park; it had always been a field and the actual lake had always been confined to the other side of Wilshire. This seemed odd, but not unbelievable considering the liberties that Curt Teich postcard artists took when trying to sell cities with controversial water histories. That’s my theory, anyway; it’s possible that Norm was thinking about his childhood in the post-War era and not in the 1930s when the postcard was first published. This may require more digging.

I’ll finish this mammoth series of CA reflections soon with a bonus entry on Long Beach. For now, I’ll finish this post with a quick dedication to my Mom – she was really nice to put up with me and buy me lunch. She did, however, fill my ears with her rendition of the hit song of her teenage years “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris, eventually giving up and playing it on her phone as we left Downtown LA. I’m not sure exactly how the park inspired Jimmy Webb to write the song, but I’ll link to this megapost about it and hopefully not regret that later. The song has an interesting history and and interesting cult, for sure. I can’t help but imagine a young Neil Hannon hearing it and having a light bulb appear over his head. Enjoy the majesty:

 

Catching Up with the Farragut Hotel

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I took this when I walked by the site on Wednesday afternoon, mostly because of the shiny new “Coming Fall 2017” Hyatt banner.

I can’t remember how much I’ve covered the Farragut Hotel and its intersection with the Ben Irving Postcard Project, but from what I can tell, he stayed there at least once in 1935 and then possibly again in 1940. That’s really all I could ascertain from the notes and the dates on the cards.

Regarding the development’s news, the Knoxville News Sentinel published this article last year about the official development plans, which stated their plan was to reopen during the summer of 2017. So, knowing the pace of development in Knoxville, I looked forward to being able to see their finished product in late 2019.

I was fortunate to be able to visit the project as it currently sits when Knox Heritage had a special event there last Fall. I took several pictures while wandering around the construction site and I never did anything with them in October, so I figured I would post some highlights here. Forgive any unintentional trespassing I may have done.

Knox Heritage has been teasing a follow-up event where their members will get a free preview of the hotel when it’s ready to officially reopen this fall. I’ll do my best to recreate these photos, but I can’t make any promises with the ones of gigantic death-hazard holes. I imagine they’ll patch those up.

RIP Wombleton Records

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via the LA Weekly

In planning my trip out to Los Angeles for EmoGeo (the Emotional Geographies Conference) next month, I stumbled upon some sad news. Wombleton Records, one of the three shops upon which I focused my chapter in The Production and Consumption of Music in the Digital Age (2015; B. Hracs, M. Seman, T. Virani, eds), closed its doors this past February. I somehow missed this news when it first came out in February; their normally fantastic newsletters stopped arriving and I guess I didn’t notice because I haven’t lived in California for a while now.

I’m mostly disappointed on behalf of anyone who stumbles upon my chapter in that book, gets excited to visit the store, looks it up, and realizes they’ll never get to. I hold no grudges over one of my case studies disappearing; it only emphasizes how transient these types of places are and how difficult it is to stay solvent in the modern urban economic landscape. It mainly sucks because it was such a cool little shop; the owners Ian and Jade emphasized design and atmosphere and curated their vinyl collection beautifully. I couldn’t even count the number of UK and European titles I found there that I would be highly unlikely to find anywhere else in the United States. I was already getting excited to flip through their 7″ section in the back trying to find any rogue single by the likes of Blur, Supergrass, or Manic Street Preachers.

At least LA (even the Highland Park area) isn’t particularly starving for good record shops these days. Wombleton was a clear labor of vinyl love, and the LA Weekly published a great retrospective on the storefront’s 7-year history the week it shut down. Best of luck to everybody who was involved!

Have a great weekend, everyone. More info about my California trip soon, as well as (while on the subject of Blur, ‘Grass, Manics, et al) a lengthy diatribe about the value of Britpop in Geography. Also, why Blur are categorically better than Oasis.