Places I have been and felt the event deserved mention.

Postcard from L.A.

I’ve never liked Los Angeles. It’s too hot, to begin with, and it’s the Platonic ideal of everything that’s been wrong with American urban planning since Eisenhower (if not longer): strangling on its own traffic yet still car-mad, built where the water isn’t, and smeared over a ludicrous expanse of landscape. In the nearly twenty years since I moved away, all these things have only gotten worse. I only come back out of family obligation (my parents still live here), which doesn’t help.

This time, though, I find that I am enjoying myself regardless. I’m here with my sister, who does like it here, knows fun things to do and people to hang out with. We’re not clear out at the west end of the San Fernando Valley near our parents’ house; we’re in North Hollywood, a surprisingly short subway ride from downtown. (There is a subway now. A heavily used, grungy, practical subway. I can hardly believe it.) People even seem to be building somewhat denser. I was able to walk to the nearest dry cleaners’, which is also hardly believable.

We went to a show at Theatre of NOTE last night, called Eat the Runt: billed as black comedy, but really more of a farce, packed full of in-jokes about museums, grantwriting, and the entertainment biz, and with the cast randomly assigned to roles by pulling names out of a hat before each show. It was hilarious, although I wonder how much it depends on those in-jokes.

At the corner of Hollywood and Vine, the Walk of Fame has a special plaque for the Apollo 11 astronauts, shaped like the moon instead of a star, but still with the little brass old-timey TV. (I suppose it was a television broadcast of great significance, although memorializing it as such seems to miss the point.) I am not sure how I have managed never to notice this before.

Tonight, there will be more theater. Tomorrow, there will be the Huntington Library. Monday, back on an airplane.

Notes from Poland

My grandfather David and his brothers grew up in the small city of Ostrowiec. They emigrated to the USA in 1938, and as far as I know, none of the family have set foot in Poland since. Until now; this academic year, my sister Dara is living in Warsaw on a Fulbright scholarship to study Polish theater and its relationship to the Greek chorus. Pam and I went to visit her over the winter holidays, continuing a family tradition of her studying abroad and me visiting. Here are highlights and selected photos. Full photo album, as usual, on Flickr.