Tag Archives: Ocean Park

Recollections of the Distant Past: Ocean Park and Culver City

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Recollections of the Distant Past: Ocean Park (Bill Mohr) and Culver City (Larry Goldstein)

One of the first projects of the upcoming summer will be my interviews for the Oral History Project (OHP) at UCLA. I received an invitation to contribute to the OHP slightly over a year ago, but both Jane Collings, who will conduct the interviews, and I have been too involved in other tasks to sit down with a tape recorder. We almost got started this past January, but since the process entails a half-dozen sessions lasting an hour and a half each, we decided not to engage in intermittent recall. In a fortnight, however, this oral memoir will get at last get underway, and I am both grateful this opportunity and honored to be asked.

Jane has said that she will drive from UCLA to Long Beach to conduct the interviews, which will probably happen in the morning, since traffic on the 405 will flow best for her at that time. I wish somehow I could persuade her to conduct at least one interview in Ocean Park, where I lived for 20 years (1973-1993) and did the most important work of my life. I never visit that area but that I am seized with a pervasive, ambivalent nostalgia. As much as I would have enjoyed spending the rest of my life there, it would have left so many other tasks incomplete. I had to leave, though it broke my heart to do so.

In my sojourn of the past two decades, I was often uncertain of where I would be living in the near future. Moving to Long Island from San Diego certainly caught both Linda and me off-guard, as did the precise location of the return move to the West Coast. I never anticipated that I would end up teaching at Cal State Long Beach, a campus I first visited when Michael Horowitz, the British poet who edited Children of Albion, came and gave a reading back in 1973. I had met Michael when I spent a month in London in September, 1971. Ah! It strikes me that I ought to forestall this recoil of memory and let it unfold when the tape recorder is running. Once I write this out, the oral history will end up as a recitation rather than a rediscovery when Jane pushes the “on” button. Until the upcoming sessions are done, therefore, I think it will be best if I focus on the less personal in my blog posts.

In abruptly terminating these references to being a young poet, I find myself wanting to give the reader some recompense. By chance, one of my newest friends, Larry Goldstein, has just had an article published that delves back into his origins as a writer; the link to it can be found at the end of this post. The way that cinematic careers (in all their frequent brevity) and serious book reviewing blend in Larry’s article might surprise many people outside of Los Angeles, but even those who do not know of Robert Kirsch will savor this glimpse of a young man’s life emboldened by the spontaneous hunches of his on-the-spot mentors.


The Temptation to Grip and Hold Closely


The morning began with an ordinary ritual of eating: I had just finished eating an initial repast of a slice of sourdough toast, one half of it slathered with peanut butter and the other with jelly, accompanied by about two-thirds of a cup of coffee. The remainder has been sipped at as I thought about and typed the following:

As I looked at one jar each of peanut butter and jelly on the kitchen counter, I considered leaving them out. It’s not as if they took up a lot of space and would hinder Linda from making her own breakfast. Yet as soon as I picked them up and turned towards the refrigerator, I noticed that the counter seemed disproportionately “empty,” which is to say that objects take up more perceptual than actual space. An art exhibit suggested itself: two rooms, one with a table and a peanut-butter jar atop it, perhaps in the lower left-hand corner, and another with only the same model of table. (It should be a table and not a desk, since a desk would have drawers and would suggest that other objects are present, but hidden.) In the room with only a table, a photograph of the cup should be projected, off-center, on each of three walls. A print version of the photograph should be on the inside of the door leading to the second room. The door should remain closed, except to allow visitors to enter and exit.

Title: The Temptation to Grip and Hold Closely

Something like this has probably already been done, more than once.

I am certain that I am not alone in recording the sensory displacement noted in the second paragraph.


Last night, I dreamed once again that I was in my old apartment in Ocean Park. The dream was as palpably real as the feel of these buttons on the keyboard as I type. I touched the walls. The apartment was in a state of transition. I was being allowed to live there for a few weeks. I felt very happy. I walked both up and downstairs. The old green rug was still on the downstairs floor. This is the second time that I have had a dream about this apartment in the past month or so.

Yesterday evening, Linda and I went to a party on Roycroft Street at a house owned by a woman named Barbara. Apostrophe Books was having a private celebration for Suzanne Greenberg’s new novel, “Lesson Plans.” Linda and I spent time with Lisa Glatt and David Hernandez, who were talking with Anna Mavromati when we first arrived. After Lisa and David left, we had a chance to talk with Anna, who is one of the most promising young fiction writers I know of. It may be ten or fifteen years before she writes the novel or collection of stories that makes her work well known, but she will surprise future readers with her quiet mastery of tone and droll notations.

She is not alone in displaying this potential. Just as a generation born after World War II had to rise to the contingent occasions of its youthful turbulence, so too is a generation born since the first economic collapse of the late 1980s (the so-called Savings and Loan debacle) beginning to describe a new density of cultural regurgitation. This new generation may be slower to ripen than the baby boomers, but its resilience should never be doubted: it has already been challenged by a global economic collapse, and I admire how it is still willing to undertake the perils of an imaginative life.

For each generation still present, however, the lessons from that collapse should be closely held to, especially as we can see how it has played out locally. Santa Monica, for instance, seems to have become the domain of people who have only begun to live there in the past decade, but who feel that the city is theirs to saunter about in by right of privileged economic status, as if somehow they had built it all themselves, or that all along it had been built with just them in mind. The spatial squeeze on Fourth Street, for instance, in recent years has had a genuine impact on the ability of those who are aging to use the bus system. There is no longer a bus route on Fourth Street between Ocean Park and northern Santa Monica. One must trek to Lincoln Boulevard or to Main Street, both of which involve hills that will be challenges for those who are aging in apartments abutting Fourth Street. This kind of alteration in public transportation is symbolic of the slow eviction of the generation that transformed the culture of this beach-front city between 1960 and 1980.

An absent bus is idling at the corner of Fourth and Hill….