Artwalkin’ with Stan ’n’ Al

This morning I am writing in pain.  That’s better than writhing in pain, but in this case, they are not far apart.  I was involved in a single-pedestrian accident on the sidewalk in front of Arty gallery last night.  The official report states that alcohol was not a contributing factor.  The victim had a blood-alcohol content of 0.02%.  Witnesses state that the victim, who wore a cheap hat, tripped on uneven sidewalk paving and fell face first onto the cement where, shocked, he briefly groaned in agony.  He was carrying a bag, the contents of which spilled onto the sidewalk revealing a signed copy of Stan Lerner’s Criminal.  The sole blame for the accident lay in the victim’s operation of his feet.

How this came to pass is trivial and I count myself fortunate not to be more seriously injured.  I recall Natasha Richardson, the beautiful and talented actress descended from British screen-acting royalty, who perished earlier this year after what appeared to be a minor concussion sustained on a “beginner ski slope”, as well as many other stories of fatalities resulting from tripping on sidewalks.  Nonetheless, the lyrics to a famous song by The Police have been running through my head during this too-early morning of pain-induced insomnia.  Those lyrics are: “…every move you make, every breath you take…”  It hurts to breathe, move, laugh or sneeze.   My injury is to the floating rib and my right wrist.  I can only humbly sit in awe of the pain tolerance and conditioning  boxers and other fighters have.  I cannot bend, turn or pick anything up without acute pain.  If I were fighting, I’d have to have my cornerman throw in the towel.  No way can I even throw a right jab.  Thank God I have no ring appearances scheduled for the next two months.

Last night, I finally got Stan to accompany me to Arty, one of my top three favorite galleries in the Historic Core area of LA’s downtown Art Walk.  It proved to be fateful and fruitful on many levels, my accident notwithstanding.  Quite by happy accident I may have lined up a new art critic for downtownster, Elizabeth Marcel, who was in attendance.  Also, I introduced Stan to Catherine Coan one of Arty’s artist/owners while reaffirming our interest in her work as a writer of short-short stories.  Catherine is an assemblage artist, a poet, a fiction writer and a former college creative writing teacher.  While Stan was becoming acquainted with Catherine it came to light that her husband, William (Bill) Lanting, is the president and general manager of the historic Cecil Hotel to which the gallery is attached.  There are also two showrooms attached which display two samples of hotel rooms available at the Cecil.  They, of course, have plate glass front walls, with half-inch thick glass doors.  Catherine explained that people sometimes stay in these aquarium-like rooms, including a group of fashion models and a Goth band.  There are privacy shades for sleeping hours.

This got Stan to thinking.  Maybe he could get three downtownster writers to have an extended slumber party in the room with the pair of bunk beds, leaving the fourth berth for a guest profile or blogger.  We could write about the hotel and the gallery as well as using them as the setting for fiction writing.  A sort of reality blog without cameras.  Being a former athlete with the associated competitive mentality he thought that, if he did it, he’d want to set the record for the most days of residence.  Catherine said: “That might be kind of difficult.  The band stayed there for two months.”  Anyway, I’m in, as well as Stan – who hatched the idea – if it comes to pass.  I, however, will not have a continuous, record-setting stay.  It was in the midst of this conversation that the three of us were joined by Bill Lanting who said he’d discuss it with the board members.  He sounded amenable and positive regarding the concept.  While I was enthusiastic, it cannot be said that this was the cause of the accident that immediately followed.  Though excitable, I was not, in fact, head over heels regarding the idea.

Last night’s Art Walk had remarkable attendance and vibrancy.  Stan posited that it may have been due to the overlapping schedule of the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival.  In any event, the vitality was thrilling.  Clever bands skirted the public sidewalk prohibition by setting up in private alleys.  One of them was an excellent, 5-piece blues and R&B band.  We discovered four new businesses on Spring, between 5th and 6th.  Two of them, in the Hotel Alexandria, are really exciting: a new restaurant called Gorbal’s and a vast bar named The Down and Out on the corner that is marvelously atmospheric.  Diagonally across from the bar, we walked into Rowan gallery, which is dedicated to digital art.  Outside, by the door, a musician played a cymbalom like a virtuoso.  The cymbalom is essentially a piano without a keyboard.  It is usually played with mallets to strike the strings like the hammers in a piano.  This player utilized thumb-picks (like a guitarist) and finger bows.  These are curved four-inch bows attached to the fingertips which allowed him to either bow or hammer the strings.  The number of voicings and the eerie sustain of the bowed strings is stunning and unlike any other instrument.  If I had heard it and not seen it, I would never have believed it was one person soloing live.  

There was an ingenious bit of performance art inside Rowan.  A young woman in a glass box posed as a fashion manikin/robot.  She had a fishbowl cum-retro-space-helmet with faux flowers and florescent lights inside it, a sleeveless floral top and an Astroturf maxiskirt that had three television monitors facing the front of the display.  In each of her hands, which she robotically moved, was a camera.  The audience could see themselves as they were being videoed live on the three screens in her skirt.  (I don’t know where the third camera was.)  The lovely girl had it down so cold that even the blinking of her eyes on her expressionless face was android-like.

Going down 5th to Main we once again found the excellent Pharmaka gallery having too great a population density to penetrate, much less view art.  The parking lot on Main, across the street, was much improved.  The lighting is now really up to par and permits viewing after dark.  The band is now located at the front and the flow of pedestrian traffic is smooth.  Further up Main (towards 4th), we espied a moving truck specially outfitted as a mobile art gallery.  It featured the work of two artists and good lighting.  Stan came to learn that the mobile gallery was funded by Avon (car and truck rental company).  Several paces further we arrived at Metropolis Books a great little independent bookstore with marvelous taste in fiction.  I immediately found three titles I am excited about reading in the future: The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, The Book of Murder and T.C. Boyle’s latest, The Women.  Stan certainly concurs as regards their taste in fiction.  This bookstore was one of the debut book-signing venues for his novel, Criminal.  Stan procured me a complimentary copy saying: “Now we have your criminal problem solved.”  Given the sinister nature of the title character, I should have known that this portended catastrophe in my near future.  

Stan and I fortified ourselves at the start of the evening at the relatively new Japanese restaurant, Octopus on 7th where they have half-price sushi.  This is an excellent and highly recommended value for downtownsters.  Be forewarned, the sashimi orders are not discounted.  The hamachi belly was superb.  Look foreword to profiles on downtown art gallery owners and their galleries by me in the coming weeks.

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