Amoeblog

Memorial for John Leech

Posted by Whitmore, May 10, 2009 10:47am | Post a Comment

Selaco - The Soul of Suburban Sprawl - The (mostly) unsung character and charms of the communities of Southeast L.A. county

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 28, 2009 06:52pm | Post a Comment
SELACO - Southeast Los Angeles County

Map of SELACO
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Southeast Los Angeles County


Introduction to Southeast Los Angeles County

One of my favorite aspects of the Southland is that there is no single, dominant center. Whereas many bemoan the region’s sprawl, I prefer to think of it as a vast, occasionally smoggy theme park, with scattered neighborhoods and cities all exhibiting their own charms just like the rides at “the happiest place on Earth.” But instead of Critter Country, Mickey's Toontown or Tomorrowland, we have the IE (Inland Empire), the Valley (the San Fernando Valley), the Eastside, the Westside, South LA, the Pomona Valley, The Harbor, the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, the Santa Monica Mountains, Angeles Forest, the Channel Islands, Northeast LA (NELA), the Antelope Valley, Northwest County, the Verdugos, Downtown, Midtown, the Mideast Side, &c.

SOUNDTRACK SERIES #2

Posted by Job O Brother, April 21, 2009 07:30pm | Post a Comment
Directions: Imagine Mr. Brother living another day, as always, with music playing. Whether it’s one of his trusty iPods, or his home stereo, or working the soundtracks section of Amoeba Music Hollywood, Mr. Brother is eating, sonically, with the mouths of his ears.

To simulate this experience, as you read the below story of a day lived, you will be given certain music clips to play. These are inserted to provide you with the same tunes Job was hearing as he was doing what you’ll be reading.


For example, while he was writing the above directions, he was listening to this:


I’m moving. My boyfriend and I are finally shacking up together. We had to pick between our two homes: my tiny bachelor, located in the heart of Hollywood, with decaying floors, rotted walls, and endless episodes of water and power failures – you know, what real estate agents refer to as a building “with real character and Old World charm,” or his two-floor townhouse on the Miracle Mile, a building so nice that even the landlord keeps a room in it, and the only creatures that crawl around are the snails in the pretty gardens out front.

I said, “How about I move in with you.”

So, I’ve been packing up my collections of antique religious paintings, record albums, spooky bad-luck charms, record albums, various flavors of vinegar, record albums, biographies on various dead people I have crushes on, record albums, and plants.

John Fante, Ask the Dust ...

Posted by Whitmore, April 8, 2009 10:39pm | Post a Comment
 
Today is the centennial of John Fante’s birth. The author of Ask the Dust, Dago Red and Wait Until Spring, Bandini was born in Denver, Colorado, April 8th, 1909. But along with the likes of Raymond Chandler (born in Chicago, raised in England – his first novel, The Big Sleep, published the same year as Ask the Dust, 1939), Charles Bukowski (born in Andernach, Germany, raised in Baltimore) and James Ellroy (actually born in L.A., raised in El Monte), Fante helped create the literary vision of Los Angeles. John Fante just may be the quintessential L.A. writer, if not its literary patron saint.
 
Here are some snippets from his novels:
 
“I took the steps down Angel's Flight to Hill Street: a hundred and forty steps, with tight fists, frightened of no man, but scared of the Third Street Tunnel, scared to walk through it—claustrophobia. Scared of high places, too, and of blood, and of earthquakes; otherwise, quite fearless, excepting death, except the fear I'll scream in a crowd, except the fear of appendicitis, except the fear of heart trouble . . . Otherwise, quite fearless.”
 
"We talked, she and I. She asked about my work and it was a pretense, she was not interested in my work. And when I answered, it was a pretense. I was not interested in my work either. There was only one thing that interested us, and she knew it. She had made it plain by her coming."
 
"I have wanted women whose very shoes are worth all I have ever possessed."
 
"So fuck you, Los Angeles, fuck your palm trees, and your highassed women, and your fancy streets, for I am going home, back to Colorado, back to the best damned town in the USA -- Boulder, Colorado."
 
"It was a bad one, the Winter of 1933. Wading home that night through flames of snow, my toes burning, my ears on fire, the snow swirling around me like a flock of angry nuns, I stopped dead in my tracks. The time had come to take stock. Fair weather or foul, certain forces in the world were at work trying to destroy me." 
 
"Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!”
 
“ ‘Arturo,' she said. 'Why do we fight all the time?'
I didn't know. I said something about temperaments, but she shook her head and crossed her knees, and a sense of her fine thighs being lifted lay heavily in my mind, thick suffocating sensation, warm lush desire to take them in my hands. Every move she made, the soft turn of her neck, the large breasts swelling under the smock, her fine hands upon the bed, the fingers spread out, these things disturbed me, a sweet painful heaviness dragging me into stupor. Then the sound of her voice, restrained, hinting of mockery, a voice that talked to my blood and bones.”
 
“When the last had been destroyed the pieces blanketed the surface of the water, and the water was invisible beneath. Sadly I stirred it up. The water was a blackish color of fading ink. It was finished. The show was over. I was glad I had made this bold step and put them away all at once. I congratulated myself for having the strength of purpose, such ability to see a job through to the end. In the face of sentimentality I had gone ruthlessly forward. I was a hero, and my deed was sneered at. I stood up and looked at them before I pulled the plug. Little pieces of departed love.”
 
“Come down out of the skies, you God, come on down and I'll hammer your face all over the city of Los Angeles, you miserable unpardonable prankster.”

John Leech, rest in peace

Posted by Whitmore, March 20, 2009 10:00pm | Post a Comment
I’ve been sitting here all day trying to write something perfect.
 
I didn’t get much sleep. After I crawled out of bed on Thursday morning, out of nowhere, a heavy fog rolled in; but it made complete sense to me, it was more than a sign -- it was my destination. I was already there. The previous night I got the phone call I didn’t expect to receive for a while. I wasn’t at all prepared for the news: John Leech, the owner and founder of LA’s great arts hangout and bohemian cafe, The Onyx, had died.
 
John had no blood relatives, though he did leave behind a close knit extended family of former customers and employees who loved him as kin. I worked for John for some 14 years, and back then I saw him on a daily basis. Now that he’s gone I realize I needed to spend more time with him. Once the Onyx was closed in 1998, John retired and he started trekking across the US and Canada, often by train. Briefly John chased the idea of opening up another café, maybe here in LA or up in Portland, Oregon, but I think his renewed interest in travel got the best of those plans. While I bounced around the west coast, living for a while up in the Puget Sound, John was spending a lot of time in his cabin on the Russian River. I had excuses, but too many excuses. We’d get together for lunch or dinner every once in a while, but never as often as I wished we had now.
 
Though we were friends for some 26 years, there was so much I never knew about John. He was a man of many secrets. For example, I never knew his birthday. No one did. I once actually figured out how old he was; he laughed because he knew I’d forget it. I did. I swear with a wave of his hand the number vanished. John created a public space and even though he was the face of the Onyx, he was an incredibly private person.
 
John however, was truly an odd bird who stood out in the crowd of weirdly plumed eccentrics. Years ago he took to wearing Hawaiian shirts, but as the time went on he found it necessary to wear two, if not three shirts at the same time. My opinion may be a bit skewed, if not perfectly preposterous -- and why wouldn’t it be -- but only John could look so damned dapper wearing three Hawaiian shirts. No, he wasn’t batty, he just had a lot of Hawaiian shirts the world needed to experience. John was not exactly subtle but he did have an air of mystery about him. One part Bohemian, one part drill-sergeant, one part raconteur and muckraker, one part doting step-dad, he was a genuine man of the world. He hated bullshit, though a good bullshitter would be welcomed at his table. John had no patience for fools, but he knew when foolishness was a breath of fresh air. A few mediocre cups of coffee may have been poured at the Onyx now and then, but there was more pulsating life on that vibrant stretch of Vermont Ave than most any other part of Los Angeles during the 1980’s and 90’s. The cafe and the gallery next door was a genuine sanctuary from the volatile, irritating, confounding world outside. During the LA riots in 1992 John kept the Onyx open 24 hours a day so that the community had somewhere to gather and talk and be still. He believed in an unfettered creative experience, personal choice, personal responsibility, freedom of expression, the independence to live your life as you saw fit. And goddamn did he hate bureaucracy!
 
I would have to say John was not particularly blessed with many organizational skills -- trust me on that! -- somehow, either by luck, pluck or design, he created a home for hundreds of artists, musicians, writers and poets. The Onyx was a place where the odd, oddly beautiful or simply unconventional endeavors -- often excluded from the mainstream venues and galleries -- could find an audience and find a life. John’s support of the arts was an essential element of the café; he never took a percentage of the art sales and never charged at the door for music or theatrical performances. The bar-b-ques John concocted in the parking lot behind the Onyx and the champagne soaked art openings are legendary. We owe him so, so much; I am incredibly indebted to John. My life is so much better because of his efforts. At the Onyx I found life-long friends, direction, and most significantly, I met my wife there almost 18 years ago.
 
There is a votive memorial at the former Onyx location at 1802 N. Vermont Ave in front of what is now Cafe Figaro in Los Feliz. Another memorial is in front of the original Onyx location next to the Vista Theater at the Virgil Ave and Sunset Blvd intersection. Tributes can also be found on several sites on Facebook. There are tentative plans for a memorial service in late April or May.
 
John Leech in his own very peculiar way was a great man. He was a hell of a man, unique and one of a kind. People like John Leech don’t come down the pike every day; it’s a huge loss, I can’t even begin to explain it, I just can’t.
 
With our love, my love, rest in peace John.

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