All posts by Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters

Lulu awoke himself, halfway through life's journey, in the darkness of Los Angeles, having lost a straight road in a sleepy New England town. During these last couple years, he's found delight and bewilderment in this urban left-coast adventure. More banal: if you want to ask Google about me, you might try either this frequent nom-de-guerre, or the name "David Mertz."

Mindshare: Enlightened debauchery

More restaurants need sawdust floors
More restaurants need sawdust floors

Being only a first-time attendee, I cannot quite say exactly what Mindshare LA is, but I’m sure it is something I want to go back to for future monthly events.  Mindshare advertises itself–beyond with the “enlightened debauchery” slogan–as “an evening of inspiration and interaction in Downtown LA.” (on the third Thursday of each month).  It’s a mixture of a trance club, a museum, and a lecture series.  Perhaps its program of past events gives my dear readers a sense.  Think of it as “TED light”, or maybe Wired Magazine with dancing.  A short talk I enjoyed, for example, was A Short History of Hollywood’s Genitalia Coverups.

I was taken to this event by my lovely Virgil, with whom I had the pleasure of visiting for the first time the nearby Philippe’s Restaurant.  Philippe’s is one of two Los Angeles restaurants claiming to have originated the french dip sandwich.  Whatever  exegetic judgment one might make of the competing claims of Philippe’s and Cole’s, we figured the visit was of fair historical value.  A diner simply has to love any restaurant with the good graces of sprinkling sawdust on its floor.  Who ever claimed Los Angeles wasn’t the deep south?

Mindshare itself is currently held at The Firehouse at Santa Fe and E 7th, one of those hipster industrial zones that proudly proclaim their artistic credentials once properly reutilized.  This space, I understand from speaking with organizers and attendees at the event, is the expanded space after attendance grew past 300 and outgrew previous spaces.  Future events may or may not be here, but by all means sign up for their mailing list to find out future schedules.

Speaking of death and traffic…

Memento mori
Memento mori

In keeping with the fact that this bumper sticker was found on a Prius, we might expect the moral being conveyed is that one brings about death by unsafely talking on a cell phone while driving.  Of course, with Obama’s admirable push for increased fuel efficiency in automobiles, hybrid cars will probably no longer carry quite the ethical cache they have for the last few years (heck, some American car maker might actually, finally, start making the damn things).

I prefer just to read the sticker as indicating that the driver on board is in a conversation with death (aren’t we all).  Sort of Max von Sydow leaving the set of The Seventh Seal and heading on up to a goth party in Hollywood.

Pictures of things (L8s Ang3les)

I am not sure why The Annenberg Space for Photography, in Century City, has adopted 133tspeak to title their inaugural exhibition, but whatever their choice of typography, they have currently on exhibition a nice retrospective of Los Angeles photographers.

What would you photograph in LA
What in LA would you photograph?

The exhibit, through the end of June, features works by eight photographers, from several styles. Julius Shulman and Tim Street-Porter capture architectural elements of LA, often homes designed by well-known architects. Douglas Kirkland and Greg Gorman do the artsy pictures of famous people that act as marketing staples of our local culture industry. More interesting to me were the images of Lauren Greenfield and Catherine Opie (and, of course, John Baldessari) who try to perform some cultural analyses with portraits of the ordinary people of Los Angeles, considered from the perspective of how they are shaped by socio-culture forces. Also in the mix is international reporting by LA Times photojournalists Carolyn Cole, Lawrence Ho, Kirk McKoy, and Genaro Molina–not pictures of LA, but perhaps ones inspired in style by the LA base of these reporters.

Cola Dysphoria Disorder

On 3rd St, Near Fairfax
"The first diet cola for men" (3rd St, Near Fairfax)I

Your author, Lulu, is a manly man. Brimming with machismo and testosterone. And yet I never knew until just recently how badly I was threatening this masculinity by consumption of those girlish, effeminate colas I drank until I learned of the virtues of “Pepsi Max”!

It is true that I had already learned, through the joys of commercial advertising, to conform with my gender identity by choosing shampoos, perfumes (sorry, colognes), razors, vitamin, cocktails (though I drink rarely), yogurt (I know to drink mannish kefir), and media, that flatter my swagger.  I am happy my local corner alerted me to this additional constraint.  Oh, the pitfalls of gender!

Our ideas are in everyone’s cell phone

Long live the wildcat strike
Long live the wildcat strike

Sorry for the absence, readers. Whimsy brings me back though.  Somewhere in LA, perhaps everywhere in LA, chaos reigns this week.  Or at least such is the hope of some artists from UCLA’s REMAP (Research in Engineering, Media and Performance).  This community art project–inspired, so we are told, by situationism–brings ludic activity to geographic loci of LA.  Hmmm… putting that is smaller words, they want us to play this week, and report the results.  In the words of enGage ludiCity:

enGage ludiCity is a process-driven cultural performance composed of three distinct stages:

1) ludus constituo ~ personal disruptive ludic actions (June 13-19)

2) ludus locus ~ collective situationist ludic engagement (June 20)

3) ludus meditor ~ dialogic ludic reflection (After June 20)

It’s simple really… or at least my first impression seems to be. Register for the Situationist Messaging System (SMS), and do things.  After all, Los Angeles will not be sunny until the day when the last bureaucrat has been hung with the guts of the last capitalist!

More parking palimpsests

parkingMy dearest native informant has insisted since I arrived in the City of Angels that the parking notices are self-evident.  I think it is a point of pride for the natives that they know the secret to these matters… I joke that my informant “knows a guy who knows a guy in the parking department.”

I am a bit alarmed, actually, that I no longer have too much difficulty deciphering signs like the ones shown (though this is not the worst of them). Or at least I can understand them to a first brush, enough to park or not with a moderate degree of confidence.  Of course, it is all relative, since I have found that being in clear conformance with signage does not necessarily prevent tickets, in any case.  You have the right to contest a $40 ticket, of course… as long as you are willing to spend a full day, at an unspecified future date, waiting in lines at court (and probably being ticketed outside the course building).

There are corner cases still, naturally.  Were I to have that district no. 13 permit, would I be ticketed on Tuesday mornings? Do readers have any more convoluted examples to add to my bag of arcana; I am sure I’ve seen five adjoined signs at times, but cannot remember exactly where now that I’ve thought of posting these mysteries. Continue reading More parking palimpsests



It is not advisable, nor was it ever, to lead a Dada life.

— Andrei Codrescu

The Los Angeles Public Library runs a wonderful speaker series called ALOUD (really it is “lectures, readings, performances & discussions” according to its billing) at the Central Library). These sessions are free of charge, but it is a good idea to reserve tickets in advance, since they sometimes “sell out.” Better still, readers should definitely subscribe to the mailing list to get helpful reminders of what is coming up.

This Tuesday I had the great pleasure of seeing a relic of DADA, in from LA, New Orleans’ and Louisiana State University’s Andrei Codrescu. Somewhere before his LA to LA trip, our poet had some vampiric Transylvanian origin, much as did his favorite subject of the evening Samy Rosenstock (sometimes known by the more Romanian sounding “Tristan Tzara”), and also did Codrescu’s charming young interlocutor Oana Sanziana Marian (Transylvanian Yankee poet).

Continue reading ALOUD from LA

Restroom art of Los Angeles: Gates of India

Please pass the saccharine
Please pass the saccharine

For the third installment of this occasional series, I again fail to stay within the actual borders of Los Angeles proper, straying again into one of those Island municipalities that dot our landscape within LA county.  Tonight found a strange lesson in the kitsch back rooms of the ever hip city of Santa Monica.

My journey for the evening took me first to Santa Monica’s Laemmle theater to see the documentary Enlighten Up!, which carries the tagline “A skeptics journey into the world of yoga.” I will return to this after the fold, but let me foreshadow the after-movie dinner at Gates of India, around the corner from the theater.  Such is the source of this installment’s artistic sampler.  In defense of the restaurant, it has a distinct disconnect between its serving area and its restroom, a pattern I somehow expect to find throughout this series.  The front room is quite replete with fairly interesting Indian artifacts, with nary a whiff of Hallmark Americana schlock.

Continue reading Restroom art of Los Angeles: Gates of India

Restroom art of Los Angeles: At the Beverly Hills border

Lesbian tires grip well
Lesbian tires grip well

Already two posts into the series, I am compelled to confess I am breaking genre slightly.  Not too badly, I believe still within the conceit of the title.  My dearest native informant had me over recently for a very lovely dinner, with cold trays of priscutto, smoked salmon, radishes, and fresh guacamole, to match the hot weather in which baking and frying would be altogether too much.

My informant lives in one of the apartment buildings to the south of Burton, and east of Robertson, in Beverly Hills.  That is, this was in that 90211 zip code area that was built for working class residents in the post-war (WWII, that is) era. It’s not a cheap place to live, but it is an area of apartments and moderate sized single-family houses (with just a few ugly McMansions scattered among its fifth-of-an-acre lots).  My informant’s apartment, or anyway the bathroom art (by conceit, a “restroom”) fittingly matches its neighborhood. Continue reading Restroom art of Los Angeles: At the Beverly Hills border

Songs about Los Angeles: “Rooming House on Venice Beach” by Johnathan Richman

veniceI have always loved Johnathan Richman.  Apart from, y’know setting the stage for punk music to exist (along with, admittedly, Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, the Velvet Underground, and Television), Johnathan has the special virtue of having never sung a lyric that was negative or really critical of any topic he addresses, after 35 years of performing.  No cynicism, no biting wit, no sour recollections.  Sure, Johnathan has presumably been in, and definitely sung about relationships, cities around the world, social situations, and whatnot, but he always finds joy and humor in everything.  He also seems to have a special attachment to singing about places, though most especially of his hometown, Boston.

Johnathan sings of “Nature’s Mosquito” that “You see, God put me here just the same as he put you, so I’m nature’s mosquito. And that means I’m gonna go bite-bite-bitie-witie-wite-sir.”  Or of a discarded “Chewing Gum Wrapper,” “These colors move me more than most of what I see today.  I love the faded colors like would end up at the dump,  My heart goes bumpety, bumpety, bumpety bump.” Or yet again, of his “Dodge VegOMatic” that although it sits in the parking lot, with brakes of glass and tires of vinyl, he “likes this car a lot.”

Not all of his songs are quite as silly, but they all have a joie de vivre to them.  Singing about Los Angeles is not different.  […] Continue reading Songs about Los Angeles: “Rooming House on Venice Beach” by Johnathan Richman

Restroom art of Los Angeles: Pho 999

I am often intrigued by the art that proprietors decide to hang in their restrooms, particularly in restaurants, though other establishments have their quirks too.  I suppose there is an inherent sample bias here, since I am more likely to stay long enough, and drink enough beverage,  in a restaurant to want to see the restroom than I am in a grocery, clothing store, or other types of establishments.  In fact, I think these quirky choices are worthy of their own new, occasional, series of posts.

A taste of Egypt?!

There is a Vietnamese restaurant I sometimes go to in the Valley, called Pho 999. Apparently the one at 12905 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, is one of three Valley restaurants under the same name and ownership (the other two are in Van Nuys and Reseda).  I have not been to the others, so have no idea about their choice of artwork.  Pho 999 is the sort of place one expects to find situated in a small strip mall, with formica diner tables, and condiments and utensils in a rack on each table.  The food is inexpensive and quite excellent; there are quite a dizzying array of items on the menu, though that basically amounts to every permutation of Pho and Bún, so it is really just a matter of deciding which proteins you want and whether you want broth or dry noodles.

Continue reading Restroom art of Los Angeles: Pho 999

A Lost Weekend: Tuesday in LA

I was an impostor at the Silent Movie Theater this Tuesday evening. This was the second screening in Writers in Treatment‘s Reel Recovery Film Series, Billy Wilder’s amazing 1945 film The Lost Weekend.  Our Metblogs colleague has already written about this series in her posts More on the Reel Recovery Film Fest and The All-Addiction Film Fest, so we might consider mine an extension of this mini-blog series.

My first impersonation was of our colleage, who was unable to attend, but had already purchased will-call tickets, and suggested I go instead.  I would note that I never claimed to be anyone else than your own Lulu, but simply stated I was picking up the tickets under the name Travis Koplow.  Substitution in name was a minor prologue to wrapped layers of simulacra (however, dissimulation is anathema to your author).  Accompanying me was my dearest native informant, who happens to be something of a SMT aficionado and member.

The night was interesting, largely because the anonymous crowd was interesting in unexpected ways.  The attendance overall was pretty sparse, maybe filling half the theater, which is often brimming during other film series.  This sparsity had little to do with the general appeal of the film, but rather with WIT’s publicity strategy which lists the series on its own page but not in the SMT’s general schedule.  It is hard for me to guess exactly what motivations underlay this; I think WIT wants to reach out to a specific audience who “needs” this film series; but at the same time, organizer Leonard Buschel made a point of noting that the series was a fundraising effort by WIT.  The latter goal seems harmed by less broadly targeted audience outreach. […]

Continue reading A Lost Weekend: Tuesday in LA

Songs about Los Angeles: Fuck Tha Police by NWA

OK, so Compton isn’t actually Los Angeles, but then neither is Beverly Hills which is widely featured in other songs of this series. Perhaps the series title refers to the county rather than the city. In any case, there is a striking lacuna of songs south of I-10, let alone south of I-105.  And South Central is even in the city proper.


Police brutality and police corruption is certainly not a distinguishing feature of Los Angeles, per se.  Other American, and worldwide, cities have more than their share of it.  But few other places can match the breadth, scope, or duration of persistent abuse, and its incendiary results, that our city has managed, from the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, to the 1965 Watts Riots, to the 1992 Rodney King uprising, to the long-standing, systematically brutal Rampart Division, to the 2007 Police riot in McArthur park.  Sure, Hollywood’s culture industry is venal, and the plastic people of Melrose and Ventura Avenues are trite and foolish; but it is the century long culture of official violence that has shaped the city more fundamentally.

Continue reading Songs about Los Angeles: Fuck Tha Police by NWA

Counting homelessness

Back on March 10, the National Center on Family Homelessness released a report with the widely reported headline 1 in 50 children in America are homeless each year. Its summary continues, “Without a voice, more than 1.5 million of our nation’s children go to sleep without a home each year. ” This is certainly a provocative number, and one that was presented in most places with either a hint of skepticism or, over at the Murdoch and Moonie press, with outright ridicule.

Looking at the report, I tend to think the mainstream press, for once, got their tone more or less right.  The NCFH seems to have overreached, which is probably a shame given the reality of our growing poverty and foreclosure crisis… Continue reading Counting homelessness

Bonhams & Butterfields

"Provident Children disposing of their deceased Mother's Effects for the Benefit of the Creditors!"
"Provident Children disposing of their deceased Mother's Effects for the Benefit of the Creditors!"

A couple weeks ago, the lovely Mrs. Lulu had the chance to find her own little niche in our charming global depression. Below is a guest commentary:

Wednesday March 25th, 11 am in LA. The line of people hoping to sell their family treasures stretches around the corner onto Sunset Blvd. I am at Bonhams & Butterfields‘ monthly free appraisal event in West Hollywood. I am here to get an appraisal for three Salvador Dali lithographs that my father gave me for my seventeenth birthday. I’ve loved them, displayed them, kept them through decades, carried them through several moves, but now, as one of the 10.5% LA unemployed, I’m ready to sacrifice them for the sake of more basic needs. […] Continue reading Bonhams & Butterfields