The Kinship of Memory

Friday, February 23, 2024

Of the quartet of photographs in today’s post, only one somersaults back over 30 years ago: the second one, which features painted wooden panels leaning against a wall. I first saw those panels in the late summer of 1993, when I read with poet-actor Harry Northup at Portfolio Coffee House in Long Beach. Kitty-corner to the coffee house was an elementary school playground with a block-long chain-link fence on which the panels gleamed as public art. Harry and I were celebrating the release of our spoken word albums, VEHEMENCE and PERSONAL CRIME, along with fellow spoken word performer, the late Linda Albertano, and a local poet Pam Nielsen.

Portfolio Coffee House was forced to move by the landlord over a year ago, after being a landmark gathering place for poets and the occasional musician. Other coffee shops have opened up on Fourth Street, including Coffee Drunk and Rose Park Coffee. I have met and talked with young poets at both these places, but I miss Portfolio. My hair is all gray now. How dark still was, back then, 30 years ago. Of course, what do I expect of inevitability but its unwobbling fulfillment? I sit ere, grateful to be able to still move my fingers on a keyboard and to know that I will be reading my poetry on Harry’s Poetry Hour this coming Tuesday, February 27th.

I took the photograph of the panels a couple weeks ago, before a set of rainstorms pumped up the snow levels in the Sierra Nevada and pushed the annual precipitation totals in Los Angeles County above normal. I should walk over this weekend and see if they are still there, leaning agains the wall in the subdued, but vigilant light of a Southern California winter.

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