Back to LA

WeHo Lamppost Poet Reading
(Photo by Joshua Barash)
I just got back from a hectic and exciting week in Los Angeles. It was a week full of poetry, catching up with friends, good food, a little shopping and treating myself to a nice hotel.

Let's start with the hotel. Ever since I was a kid, I had wanted to stay at the Westin Bonaventure in Downtown. I first saw it on the old sitcom It's A Living, about waitresses working in the top floor restaurants, and later in movies like True Lies, Forget Paris, In the Line of Fire and Strange Days. Its iconic cylindrical towers, glass elevators and lobby fountains are both futuristic and retro at the same time. A little wish-fulfillment never hurt anyone, so I booked a room on the 25th floor for two nights. It was totally worth it.

My view from the 25th floor at the Bonaventure.
I had a spectacular view of Downtown from my room and all of the city from the revolving lounge. For the first time ever, I treated myself to room service (the flourless chocolate torte was heaven) and even had a little time to write in the lobby lounge overlooking the bubbling fountains. 

Sadly, I could only afford a couple of nights, but friend and fellow poet Cecilia Woloch opened up her fab little apartment in Mid-Wilshire for the rest of my stay. She's got the comfiest couch in LA. 

My first event was the West Hollywood Lamppost Poet Reading at the WeHo Library on April 25. It was a gorgeous space and I was thrilled to share the podium with Michael Klein, Amy Gerstler, Teka-Lark Fleming, Eloise Klein Healy, Terry Wolverton and organizer/WeHo City Poet Steven Reigns. There were more than 100 in the audience – a great number for a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon in LA. And it was surreal to see my face on a banner along busy Santa Monica Boulevard to mark National Poetry Month. 

My finds at Amoeba Records on Sunset Blvd.
Sunday was fairly lazy, but Cecilia and I met up with her friend and author Heather Lyle for dinner at an LA institution – El Cholo on Western Avenue. Incredible margaritas, enchiladas and company. We talked for hours and closed the place down.

On Monday, I headed over to Amoeba Records on Sunset Boulevard. I had a mile-long list of vinyl and CDs that I wanted. Before I knew it, I had a shopping basket full of stuff. I put most of it back except for the 180-gram vinyl reissue of Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and the expanded re-release of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Brian Eno and David Byrne. Those were my must-haves and I have them. 

Steven Reigns picked me up and we headed for dinner at In-n-Out in North Hollywood, because I can't leave LA without a Double Double and fries. So damn good! Then we headed over to the KPFK studios for our interview on the IMRU Radio Magazine show. Steven interviewed me about my poetry and fiction, I read a couple of poems and there were laughs with the other DJs about my love of pop culture. You can listen to the show at this link (just scroll down to the April 27 episode).

Filming the Leaving Paris video with Vanessa Daou.
Tuesday afternoon was set aside for what was a secret project, but the cat is now out of the bag. My friend and musician Vanessa Daou has written a song called "Leaving Paris," which is based on my books in The Venus Trilogy. The song, a collaboration with brokenkites, will be featured on her new album and will be released as a single in the autumn. There will be a digital booklet available for download with the song featuring sample chapters from Leaving Paris. There will also be a music video. Yep, you heard me – a music video. Vanessa and I spent Tuesday afternoon filming the first part and we are thrilled with the footage. The second part will be filmed in Paris at the end of summer. If you had told me that I would be directing a music video for one of my longtime inspirations, I would have said you were crazy. This collaboration with Vanessa has been amazing and I am eternally grateful for her friendship and support. We can't wait for you to see this video!

I was still on floating on a cloud from the video shoot as I went to meet friend and fellow author Kate Evans and her husband Dave for dinner. We decided on a little place called West End on Westwood Avenue and it was delicious. Great martinis, sliders and "dirt" fries (beer battered and rolled in garlic, herbs and olive oil), not to mention catching up with Kate after so many years. She and Dave have become "nomads," traveling and exploring all over the world. They had just come from driving up the Baja California peninsula and were headed to Jazz Fest in New Orleans. 

Leaving Los Angeles
Wednesday was my final full day in LA. I met up with Steven again and we drove down to the city of Orange in Orange County for our feature at The Ugly Mug. This was my fourth feature at The Mug, and hosts Ben Trigg and Steve Ramirez are sweethearts for having me back whenever I can get to the West Coast. It was a lively reading and open mic (Cecilia even drove down to read a few poems), and remains one of my favorite places to read poetry.

And then it was Thursday and time to fly home. I'm still a bit jet lagged, but already planning my next trip to LA. It just so happens that the AWP conference is there in 2016, so with a book to promote and any excuse for a visit, I'll be back in the City of Angels in no time.


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