California Excursion Part IV: Extra Words on Long Beach

greetings-from-long-beach-california-c-1943-front

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).

LongBeach08171940

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.

IMG_5539

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.

 

Advertisements

California Excursion Part I: #EmoGeo 2017 in Long Beach

Last week, I returned to my alma mater Cal State Long Beach for the biennial Emotional Geographies Conference. This was the first time the heavily-international conference had been held in the United States, having been as far afield as New Zealand in the previous decade. As conference co-chair Deb Thien remarked, Long Beach had been selected as the host prior to the once-unimaginable political occurrences of the past year. A lot of members opted not to travel to the US for such reasons, which was disappointing at first, but it gave the conference a great silver lining. It enabled near-100% attendance for every paper presenter and a genuine intimate setting where it was possible to meet and actually have a meaningful interaction with everyone else there. At conferences like AAG or even smaller regional conferences, it may be impossible to have meaningful interactions with anyone, much less dozens of people devoted to your same sub-field. Such are the advantages of small conferences.

Bike Valet at the Art Theater

Via cobalb.com. A friend and I caught a screening of ‘Citizen Jane’ (a documentary about one of the 20th century’s great prophets Jane Jacobs) on Wednesday night. It wasn’t bad, but I mostly appreciated the two hours of down time in an air-conditioned theater.

Also, I can’t remember how much I’ve gone into it here, but Long Beach, California is a pretty sweet little city. Granted, nowhere in North America but LA’s shadow is a city of over 500,000 people “little,” but it can’t help if Los Angeles (45 minutes or 7 hours north, depending on what time you get on the 405) makes everything about it seem relatively laid-back and put-together. Also, seaside paradise San Pedro is a short drive across the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

I was able to present some of the emotional geography facets from my dissertation research on Wednesday morning. The diversity of papers and subjects was impressive; in just one session, the conference attendees learned about trans visibility in Roller Derby, queer spaces in Palestinian hip hop culture, DC punk’s impact on Paris, and the contested history of Long Beach’s rancho system (link for video).

It was also a real treat to be able to hear Liz Bondi speak about the relationship between psychotherapy and geography in her keynote. Another presenter, Mancunian Natalie Moss (who I mistook for Welsh based on her accent, for some reason) discussed the heavy psychological toll that human research can take on both the informants and the researchers, arguing for the value of therapy in praxis.

I’ll write more soon with some thoughts on the abbreviated paper session I was fortunate to chair on Friday morning and the bizarre places it steered my brain. For now, here are some pictures I took over the three days. More photos taken by Long Beach student Ken Fichtelman are available via Dropbox here.

A Quick Signal Boost: EmoGeo 2017 at CSU-Long Beach

Well, this looks interesting, doesn’t it? The international emotional geographies conference finally comes to the US, and it’s happening at my alma mater. Of course, it’s not that big of a surprise; it’s being co-produced by my friend and former adviser Deborah Thien along with her fellow human geography star Stuart Aitken (SDSU). I’m copying and pasting the information from the EmoGeo (easily a contender with DOPE for best conference shorthand in North America) page on the CSULB website, which from what I can tell also uses WordPress based on how cleanly it copied. Hope you find this interesting and feel free to pass it along! – Tyler

CONFERENCE INFORMATION

The 6th International Emotional Geographies conference will be held in the USA for the first time.

Co-hosted by Dr. Deborah Thien, CSULB, and Dr. Stuart Aitken, SDSU, with support from Emotion, Space and Society. We look forward to a wealth of interdisciplinary presentations, presenters and attendees, in Long Beach, California, June 14-16, 2017.

We encourage sessions, papers, panels and posters that investigate the emotional intersections between people and places including examinations of feelings and affect in various spatial and social contexts, environments and landscapes. Questions of emotion are relevant to several different disciplines – we seek considerations of the multiplicity of spaces and places that produce and are produced by emotional and affective life, representing an inclusive range of theoretical and methodological engagements with emotion as a social, cultural and spatial phenomenon.


KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Dr. Liz Bondi

LIZ BONDI

University of Edinburgh, UK

Dr. Lynda Johnston

LYNDA JOHNSTON

University of Waikato, NZ


JOIN US!

Conference registration fees and deadlines:

Registration & Abstracts

  • Earlybird : $150, register between February 11th, 2017 and April 13th, 2017
  • Regular: $175, register between April 14th, 2017 and May 11th, 2017
  • Late: $200, register on or after May 12th, 2017
  • Day Rate: $70
  • Student Conference Rates: $50 (Earlybird), $60 (Regular), $70 (Late)
  • Abstracts will be accepted during Earlybird and Regular registration periods

Join our contact list to be updated with news about the conference.

Interested in childcare options? Please write to emogeo@csulb.edu.

New Steve Propes volume ‘Old School’ now available

I really do have a (long overdue) post coming up about media geographies and the magic of A/V clubs in the 1980s, but I wanted to take a quick moment to plug a new book by Stephen Propes, a longtime Long Beach resident and a very helpful collaborator during my thesis research on vinyl record history. OLD SCHOOL: 77 Years of Southern California R&B & Vocal Group Harmony Records 1934 – 2011 may be the most comprehensive compendium ever written by Steve (or anyone else) on this style of music in Southern California. It is available on Amazon, where I found the following abstract:

A never before published chronological compendium of musicians and/or groups, titles, original record labels, local and select out-of-town radio and record store chart positions…combined with the stories of the records, either from those involved or from original research…and in notable cases, an idea of the value of these discs. Popular music in Southern California has a surprisingly short history prior to World War II. Though a recording scene existed in the early 1920s, for all intents and purposes, the aggressive recording, pressing and marketing of phonograph records in the L.A. area didn’t really take hold until the 1930s, and in fact, many of these 1930s releases were party records with double-entendre themes. However, the post WWII era was a different matter. With the emergence of some L.A.-based pop and race music stars, generally with radio, nightclub or motion picture connections in the early 1940s, the serious business of recording for the mass market began in earnest. The development of rhythm and blues and soul in any major market has never been fully documented in the way this book portrays over 1,400 record releases by over 850 groups or artists described here. Many of the records featured in this work hit either the local or national popularity charts, or both, however not all records made a visit to those lists of best sellers. Some of the artists described within had spectacular multi-decade careers, but many of them were of the one-off or best case, one hit variety. Though the work concentrates on rhythm and blues and soul music, there are other genres, such as novelty, jazz, gospel and pop sprinkled in when the story supports inclusion.

Long Beach’s Great Wall of Mulch

I know I don’t post on environmental science and physical geography nearly often enough (or…ever), so here is something fun for you all who may have stumbled upon my site.

from Mayor Foster’s site.

The city of my MA (and home for two wonderful years), Long Beach just completed the world’s first “Great Wall of Mulch.” At first, when I clicked on the link below, I was a bit confused. It seemed like Long Beach embarked on a massive publicity stunt. But, after reading on, I realized that it makes so much more sense than an eyesore concrete barrier, and is also sustainable, relatively inexpensive (only $150K) in addition to being just plain creative. It’ll be interesting to see where else around the world these alternative-material barrier walls start showing up.

For now, take a look at some other photos of Mayor Bob Foster’s dedication ceremony and pass this along to anyone wondering which CA cities are actually dedicated to sustainability.