Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Although excited about our drive to Big Sur, we were sad to be leaving Los Angeles, wishing we had at least a couple more days to visit galleries, museums, bookstores and friends returning from trips of their own.

That said, we were fortunate to catch the last panel at the Red Cat’s State of Independence: A Global Forum on Alternative Practice, where we heard from directors and artists involved in art spaces in Vietnam, Taiwan and Indonesia, and the Paul Thek exhibition at the Hammer, which, though poignant for its story of an artist who started strong and became distracted by “success”, took a mawkish turn with its recreation of his final show, in 1988, before his death from AIDS.

Given the Thek narrative, we should have thought twice about our next stop (Gagosian of Beverly Hills), where, en route to Piero Golia’s exhibition, we passed the installation of a group show that included an artist so new to the game you could hear her retching from the washroom downstairs.

But all that was behind us Thursday morning as we drove west on Sunset to the Pacific Coast Highway, up Malibu, past the industrial berry farms at Oxnard, then a quick lunch at San Luis Obispo, where, unlike the missionary schools of Canada, SLO’s mission has been restored and turned into a tourist attraction, renowned for its architecture -- but not its (social) engineering. From there, a leisurely three hour drive to Big Sur’s Fernwood Hotel, checking in before a brisk walk along Pfeifer Beach and yet another fine dinner, this time at the Big Sur Restaurant and Bakery.

Yesterday’s drive from Big Sur to San Francisco included a detour through Carmel-by-the-Sea, a West Vancouver wet dream of restaurants and print shops, where I had hoped to recognize at least one location from the film Play Misty for Me (1973) (but did not). After that, a takeout lunch from Monterey’s moribund tourist wharf and a GPS mess up that had us driving through the Hispanic workers’ town of Castroville, my second favorite stop after Big Sur.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This morning Judy and I drove to Griffith Park for a walk along her dusty yellow trails. Fortunately we did this before the Observatory opened, because when we re-emerged an hour later, the parking lot, all but empty when we arrived, was a mass of orange school buses, each of which had disgorged a hundred screaming kids. From there, a calming drive to Atwater Village, where we purchased books at Alias East (Ed Dorn’s By the Sound, 1971!) and had yet another remarkable meal, this time at Viet Noodle.

Besides the increasing redefinition of Los Angeles’ neighbourhoods, many of which have returned to the self-contained towns they began as, it is the restaurants I am most impressed with. Though by no means a foodie, I enjoy healthy, creative meals made with locally-sourced ingredients, all of which we have had in abundance during our first 72 hours in L.A. Cheebo, around the corner from us at 7533 West Sunset, is one such place; Elf, at 2135 West Sunset, is another.

Tonight being our final night, Judy and I have arranged to meet some friends for dinner and drinks at what might be the opposite of Cheebo, Elf and Viet Noodle, a throwback to the high-cholesterol, tallow-friendly surf and turf days of Frank, Dino, Sammy and Peter -- Musso and Frank of Hollywood. Not sure why we are doing this, apart from it being Aram and Vish’s idea, both of whom eat cleaner than we do. But whatever. Part of eating well is getting to eat at places that might kill you if you were to eat there more often.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For the first thirty-six years of my life, Los Angeles was where my grandmother Tamara lived. When she died in 1998, I had few reasons to go there. Prior to that I had visited Los Angeles maybe a dozen times, first as a child, when she and her second husband, the lawyer Alexander Fishman (aka the novelist Alexander Moskoyov), lived at Pacific Palisades, and then as a young man, when she moved to 2nd and Wilshire in Santa Monica after Alex passed away and she resumed the work she did in Shanghai before her marriage to my grandfather, Jack Turner, in 1935, a year before my father John was born, and four years before their interment at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

The apartment at 2nd and Wilshire (in the Mission-moderne style, long since torn down) was up a flight of twenty concrete stairs: a suite to the left and a studio to the right, where babushka practiced massage and reflexology. Many of her clients were TV actors, but she also worked with musicians like David Bowie, whose autographed Station to Station album (cassette) lies somewhere in my abstracted box of treasures. When she died I received a number of letters from those who knew and loved her – TV actors, but also politicians and theosophists, shop owners and health care workers. Many of these letters used words like “unique” and “extraordinary” to describe her, while some spoke of how important she was in helping them chart a life that never would have occurred to them had it not been for her “guiding presence.”

Yesterday, on our second day in Los Angeles, Judy and I stopped for lunch at the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica en route to Malibu so we could burn our bodies at the appropriately named Carbon Beach. Prior to that I had suggested we go across the street and see if the camera obscura was still in what is now the Santa Monica Senior Recreation Centre, the one constant in all my trips to Los Angeles, something that, upon stepping into its darkened room, activates a feature-film’s worth of memories, yet something I would have missed had I not seen it out of the corner of my eye while looking for a place to park.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Escaped grey-ceilinged Vancouver for two nights in Victoria, where this afternoon I will visit my former Film and Literary Theory prof Stephen Scobie to look at his bpNichols for possible inclusion in an exhibition I am curating at the Belkin Gallery this January on concrete poetry.

Not much has changed since I left Victoria in '86, after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree. Southern Cook Street, where I once had my morning coffee and washed my clothes, has fattened, and now goes by the name of Cook Street Village. The area just east of the Empress Hotel, a narrow shelf dotted with large houses where nuns once lived when not working at the hospital, is now condos. As for the people on the streets, fewer old folks, and more young ones, sunny ones, but also tough upcountry kids bursting out of alleys, beers in hand. Somehow these kids have more in common now than they did then.

I am sure where I am staying has bearing on my perspective. Usually when I come to Victoria I stay at the bucolic James Bay Inn, only this time the Inn was full, and I am at another Inn, this one at the grittier north end of the city, Paul’s Motor Inn, where, as a student, I spent more than a few late nights at her diner, drinking coffee, eating French fries, arguing with long haul truckers over the examined life, how it is worth living.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

A small room above a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

The TV next door is louder than usual, and in French. Every few seconds I can make out a word, usually a verb. Go, do, wait, owe. Then a full sentence: "The United States is dying."

My neighbour switches channels. The voice of South Park's "Cartman" singing "O Holy Night." Do I need to post the video?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Elee and I began our latest Adventures in Social Writing event not with Breton's illot-mollot but with a fill-in-the-blanks exercise using a text ("The Good Old Days") by former Province sports reporter and Bowen Island resident Jim Kearney.

What you see below is what we handed out to the audience. Below that, Kearney in full.

"The Good Old Days"*

Some of the _______________ were whooping it up – not in Robert Service’s Malemute Saloon – but in the Bowen Island house belonging to Hughie Watson’s _______________. She wasn’t there, of course, but _______________was – leading, as it happened, a rather bibulous _________________________.

The subject, long before _______________’s latest_____________, was the feasibility of going over _______________ in a _______________ and living to tell about it. Watson was leading the _______________ for the _______________ and getting nowhere when the group suggested an empirical solution:

There was a _______________ at one corner of the house. How about wrestling it into the _______________, stuffing _______________ inside and _______________ it off? “__________ idea,” or something to that effect, said Watson, and the experiment was_________________.

"The Good Old Days"

Some of the boys were whooping it up – not in Robert Service’s Malemute Saloon – but in the Bowen Island house belonging to Hughie Watson’s grandmother. She wasn’t there, of course, but Hughie was – leading, as it happened, a rather bibulous discussion group.

The subject, long before Pierre Berton’s latest book, was the feasibility of going over Niagara Falls in a barrel and living to tell about it. Watson was leading the argument for the affirmative and getting nowhere when the group suggested an empirical solution:

There was a rain barrel at one corner of the house. How about wrestling it into the roof, stuffing Hughie inside and rolling it off? “Splendid idea,” or something to that effect, said Watson, and the experiment was on.

*Jim Kearney, "The Good Old Days," Howe Sounds: Fact, fiction and fantasy from the writers of Bowen Island (A Bowen Island Anthology), Richard Littlemore, ed. (Bowen Island Arts Council: Bowen Island), p. 145

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This Saturday I will be on Bowen taking part in the island's annual writing festival, Write on Bowen. Between 2:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. I will be leading a workshop entitled "Writing Daily" at the Montessori School at Artisan Square, and later, between 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Elee Kraljii-Gardiner and I will reprise our Adventures in Social Writing project at The Gallery, also at Artisan Square (dinner included).

Here is an interview with Oliver Reed, who, along with Rita Tushingham, starred in The Trap (1966), a film shot on Bowen Island:

For those in Vancouver this weekend, I have contributed two curatorial projects to the time-based component of the free Summer Live Vancouver 125 program at Brockton Oval. The first, entitled Approaches to Literature, features film/video of bill bissett (Maurice Embra, CBC, 1964), Gerry Gilbert (Western Front Media Archive, 1983) and Judy Radul (Penelope Buitenhuis, Moving Pictures, 1991); the second, Act Natural, is comprised of film/video work by Julia Feyrer (The Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar, 2009), Damian Moppett (1815/1962, 2003) and Althea Thauberger (i'm not afaraid to die, 2001).

Here are directions on how to get to Brockton Oval:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

mothers in summer
dresses bend
boobs into an arch

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

Untitled (125)