In a conceptually challenging body of work, L.A. based video-artist Erika Suderburg has scrutinized an array of the discourses
that dictate how we think. With her newest video, the 70-minute experimental documentary, Somatography, (2000), Suderburg
continues that investigation by exploring a history of Los Angeles through the recollections of 15 of the city's denizens,
creating a history that starts with the specificity of the space/time of lived bodies. Deftly defying the notion that history
is a simple linear chronology told by dispassionate observers, Suderburg instead offers a dense matrix of passionate voices
and politics. Disparate story threads, many of them having to do with gay and lesbian lives in L.A., create a fractured polyvalent
heritage perfectly suited to our fissured landscapes and neighborhoods. The project as a whole is a daring gambol through
time and tales and the ways that they mark people; and it's an important one in that many histories of the city have been
silenced or forgotten. And while the voices range far and wide, Suderburg offers points of anchorage with her images, adroitly
grounding the stories in familiar locales. In the end Somatography's drift of historical sediment results in a refreshingly
nuanced, politicized portrait that undercuts the power of official history.
-Holly Willis, L.A Weekly November 10-16, 2000
S O M A T O G R A
P H Y
I have been given to understand that a very advantageous settlement is established on a fertile spot
somewhere in this neighborhood within sight of the ocean, though at the distance of some miles from the coast called Pueblo
de Los Angeles,the country town of the angels formed in the year 1781. This establishment was looked for in all directions,
but nothing was perceived that indicated either habitations or inhabitants- Capt. George Vancouver, British naval explorer,
They were sending out for volunteers help for a child who fell down a well.
George Van Noy:
I think that L.A is unexpected, unique, ineffable, unexplainable, in effect a place where there is no way to get what
it is and that is its quality, and that is why it is a creative center that creates ideas that are infectious. L.A. is a Koan,
A classic example what is the sound of one hand clapping?, what is the nature of you before you were born? Answers
to which are not to be found by rational processes of any kind-only to be found by deep interior introspection. L.A. is a
place that thunders down on you with a greater intensity so that you do not know who you are. What is essential is emptiness,
out of emptiness you can create. For example, contrast that with-when you are in a city like London when you create based
on the past-it is natural to do it there-L.A. doesn't really evolve, L.A. continuously quantum jumps into continuos self-transformation
in a jumping kind of way out of the void.
L.A. is a desert fundamentally you've got lack here to begin with, you have
emptiness, in fact what happens is you've maintained a strong spiritual center which means that when you feel L.A. you feel
empty. I want to fill something; I want to make some meaning here because there is no meaning here-I want to get rid of this
angst, this alienation. I feel of course that there are all kinds of opportunities to do that. You can do that with religion,
and making a lot of money or some superficial power glitz, with art, obviously with drugs. Still there is so much emptiness
that it provides a strong effect on the outcome, meaning you can always count on emptiness here, always ironically forcing
you to create.
Voice-over only (Norma Bowles)
The first time we slept together I insisted on keeping my pajamas
The tent was at a considerably later point in time. I have footage of you pitching it. You were my first love.
(A fact I didn't tell you). Hence the life and death decision I was faced with in this tent.
You were inside me (a
favorite place). I had never really been in love before; it was late in coming. Anyway, you were inside me, I think you might
remember. It is morning in the desert in high summer. We have used up most of the oxygen in the tent. I am ready to pass out.
I must make the decision whether to crawl out into the morning sun with you inside me and gasp for air or rip open the tent
and disengage your hand from the place that it belongs, or simply to die of oxygen deprivation. The decision is clear to me.
I will die here, hermetically sealed in this tent in the middle of the Anza Borego. They will find us here suffocated, glistening
But somehow your head slides between my legs and you are pushing my entire body with your tongue, and
then your whole mouth firmly and swiftly nudges me out of the tent flaps and onto the sand. (A stunning combination of sexual
symbiosis and life propulsion). You collapse on top of me and we breathe for the first time in minutes. You have saved my
life (and yours.) Later we lay in the tent and notice the roof dripping; it is dripping condensed water. It drips into the
hollow of your neck. We don't leave this campsite for quite some time.
We just breathe. It is only the second time
that year that I might have died. The first will have been when I almost drowned in the ocean.
I'd been working for two or three days on it. And each day I like
to take a walk around 6 PM. I turn off my computer and I'm just so charged up on this idea of schizophrenia and coincidence
and I've just bought the Red, Hot and Country CD and its got Patsy Clines' Crazy sung by Willie Nelson, and I think that I've
just got to play this song before I go out. It takes me too long to get myself together and I finally decide that it's too
late to play it. So I went on my usual walk up El Paseo, around 49th Terrace and as I round the corner of 49th Terrace. The
Patsy Cline version of the song is pouring, I mean pouring out the windows of a big yellow house. I just stood back and leaned
against a white picket fence and I watched the house levitate. It was one of those moments when sound and picture combine,
a really operatic or cinematic moment... and I leaned up against the fence. It was a beautiful L.A dusk and I thought, well,
L.A is like Hoboken, NJ the way Jack Kerouac described it in the 50's. There's mystery and it is a time and place where anything
can happen, there are all kinds of lives that go on behind closed doors.
How I came to L.A.-it
has always intrigued me because this is not someplace I panned to end up. I was raised in Pennsylvania and the East Coast
is the only place I thought I'd settle, probably do some teaching. I joined the Peace Corps and went to Ethiopia and then
got interested in African history, went back to Ethiopia several times. And in the summer of 1968 I was in Ethiopia doing
field research in the northern Aromo where I was interested in recreating a history of a people without written records. I
was engaged in this and collected all sorts of different stuff. I was awarded a scholarship to the London School of Economics
and to UCLA in African history. I couldn't make up my mind, where will I go? And finally I was in Addis Ababa ready to go
home and I didn't know where I was going. I couldn't make up my mind. I decided to flip a coin. I got out an Ethiopian $1
coin with Hallie Selassie's picture on one side and the Lion of Judah on the other. Hallie Sallaaie would be London, Lion
of Judah, Los Angeles. I flipped it, it came down the Lion of Judah and I said I'll take one ticket to L.A., which is how
I got here. As soon as I got here I thought this was the strangest place I'd ever visited and the thing that really made it
seem strange to me was that it was a city in which they spotlight trees. I knew I was someplace truly queer.
come in off of the Pacific, the caravans come in off the great plains, the caravans come from the north, come up from the
south and they all meet here in the city and there is no other spot in the world at this time today where this is happening.
The only place in the Western Hemisphere where I see the same analogy is in Alexandria under the Roman Empire-an incredible
city with incredible stuff taking place in terms of ideas, developing spiritual consciousness. Karl Jung, in the evolution
of his understanding of how the human psyche works took it back to Alexandria, a Gnostic thread that went through history,
through the Catarrhs, through alchemy, into the 20th century where his psychology is. I find L.A. to be just like that today.
You've mentioned that everyone from Europe seems to understand it here. One of the reasons why L.A. became a haven for European
intellectuals was that they pick up something about this place, it is in the air, light something about this spot that is
L.A has always attracted exotics, crazy people, and visionaries. I said that any community
that could produce Amy Sample McPherson and JP Getty, who was a billionaire and a nut. He was such a nut that he had a pay
phone installed in his castled in Britain. Any city that could create them could certainly create Morris Kite, couldn't it?
One more aberrant personality shouting never again will you be able to do this to us! Remember Liberty Hill in San Pedro?
Upton Sinclair leapt up onto a platform and recited the first amendment and was arrested, he got out and he came back and
was arrested again, day after day. That is great drama isn't it? I think the environment contributed to it, and we are all
rootless, no one in L.A. pays much attention to genealogy, family history, to hell with it, you can't be what you were in
the 12th century. We can't bring this with us!
Richard Gray (bubble man)
I wrote a poem about California, energy
coming form the east and hitting the ocean and then it doubles back. So I always think of L.A. as having this double wash
of energy, almost conflicting energy, hitting the ocean and coming back inwards. I have that sort of romantic notion. I love
Southern California it is so goofy. One quality I love, it just can't take itself too seriously. We have a history of bad
taste. So much room for permission. It has some problems; you have these pod people running around, in their little bubbles,
not really running into each other. Not really touching.
Las hadas (Radical)
I had been thinking about a brotherhood of people for which I did not have a word. I've told a lot
of people that the word homosexual doesn't appear in an American dictionary until fairly late in the 20's. The 3 volume American
Dictionary I have now only has it as a footnote.
And this identity of a homosexual as someone who
is identified as a sex act, their identity comes from a sex act, as a gay people we were playing out that identity, one that
was given to us-not one that came form us, people acting it out. Same way with the Black community, people who were shuffling
like Amos and Andy, because that was the stereotype. People living it out. We were doing the same thing. To understand that,
that we were living the myth of the homosexual, it was the only identity any of us had. Today there are emerging broader,
more substantial identities but in terms of the evolution of ourselves as a people. You have to remember that we are only
talking about 26-27 years. And in that 25 years we are just beginning to get the breathing room to explore some of the deeper
questions of what it means to be gay.
In the spring of 1979, we were putting stuff together. Mitch
Walker said what are you gonna call it? Who are we? What are we doing? So I did what we always do, I brushed the feathers
of the top of my head and whatever there was that is what it is. So I said why don't we call it a spiritual conference for
radical fairies. Mitch said oh my god! Don said wow and we put it down and this is what became a spiritual conference for
radical fairies. I still have those letters about it, like I came into my bookstore in Minneapolis and there it was hanging
on the wall and I read it and saw A Spiritual Conference for radical Faeries. And I thought oh my god that was me. Such a
revelation. All of a sudden we had made fairy which was a dirty word, a put down word and we'd made it into something golden
and beautiful, something possible. So I'd touched the golden brotherhood again. That's what Radical Fairies are about. They
are eventually the little sissies who always secretly love being the little sissies and still do. Our first workshops, how
they'd loved the same things, and how they had always been alone and had dreamed of this other. We are all saying the same
thing. But here in the same place we had unlocked it. This is where we've been. This is where we still are.
Hard to realize how much consciousness has changed in my lifetime. I have a nephew who is gay who came to visit me in
the early 1980's. I took him in to see a play about Edward Carpenter, by one of the early gay theater troops. And in the second
act they were doing a response to the Oscar Wilde trial and Carpenter stood up for Wilde, which was very heroic of Carpenter.
It was major thing that he stood up. And after the second act I asked my nephew how he liked the play. He said, well these
guys are suffering so much why don't they just move to West Hollywood? I thought OH no! And he really had zero consciousness.
Of course it was a primitive early production, they didn't have elaborate Victorian sets, but still! It showed the lack of
historical sense in the young people!
If you define a people as an identity based on a sex act,
than there is gonna be a lot of sex and part of what we are dealing with right now comes out of that identity. The Radical
Fairies is/was about exploring a different identity where we don't have the tail wagging the dog, the tail of sex wagging
the dog. Who we are, what does this mean, what is the place of sex in identity as human beings and our evolution as a people.
We need to look at whats been said about us historically, where have the great thinkers among our people been-what have they
said about us? This work goes on with Harry Hay, with Mitch Walker and myself. The Radical Fairies, this kind of exploration
that start with the premise that we really don't know who we are and that has to come from inside of us. And the sex part
might not be the most important dimension of it.
A I R
I picked up my lover today
Many lovers looked like they were being picked up today at LAX.
and careening baggage carts and cell phones fetching other lovers
to get the lovers that had just arrived.
to LAX. Or LAX to JFK depending on which lover you were since the plane just turns around and goes back. It probably does
this four times a day or so. I could call and check on this I still have a card in my wallet that features the 1-800 information
lines of most coast to coast airlines. My life was lived on a plane for a period of two and a half years. I flew at least
once a month from L.A. to NYC and vice versa. This gate became the one connection I had to being home, leaving home or coming
home. The definition of home became LAX-the airport and the word. When I saw the ticket counter fronting this gate I knew
that either I would be seeing my lover soon or I would be leaving. Our lives revolved around airfare wars and the traffic
patterns from LAX to JFK.
Two homes both of them confused
When I entered the freeway to pick her up (this afternoon-in
It is on a new freeway, one that was built while I was with you or with you on this coast or being with/
on the other coast or hoping that we were with each other or had two bodies, both of them fused or four bodies that were
with the fused bodies or. I am still not sure.
Anyway I was on this new freeway (that one that was new for you
me but not for her) the one that we would see the signs for when I would take you to TWA flight #45. We were rarely in the
air together and I would be driving you on the old freeway and you would ask:where is that new freeway supposed to go? And
I told you that (ironically) it will go to the airport. This new freeway runs parallel, roughly to the old one you and I were
taking many years ago, when I wanted to take you to the ocean for the day. And You had been talking about Gail, and I said:it
sounds like she was the love of your life (You were mine.),
I could tell you had turned towards me in response to
this question, although I couldn't see you because I was driving (you paused) and then you said: yes, I guess she was. It
was hot and straight on the freeway. I had never felt nor thought anyone like you nor formed the words love of my life before
I saw you and then touched you for the first time in your car on 42nd street. Now I can't help but extract that day on the
freeway every time I reach the spot where I (Would have) turned towards the ocean with you. I don't remember what I said after
that. I don't remember what you said
When we were together I was often alone listening to airport announcements. It
became so repetitious up in the air that on these roundtrips I would run into the same people flying back and forth or living
in both cities, usually working on some movie. Several times I sat next to the same BI-coastal editor couple. We vaguely acknowledged
that we had seen each other before wearing a rut into some jet stream. (Now) I don't fly those streams very often (Now) you
are with someone I knew once (who lives very close to the JFK airport)
(Voice-over only (Norma Bowles):
me for frozen mango mochi, a fitting melding of Mexico, Broadway and Japan. Frozen for desert heat, a skin of traditional
Japanese teacake of soy and rice boxed in Alhambra and shipped up the freeway into these freezer cases. Frozen convience.
A few blocks away small green, gold and red mountains of mangoes are lofted from the backs of trucks into boxes that will
land softly on my corner and be re-sold from the back of a wood paneled, 1975 Eldorado station wagon. Mango to Mango. Soy
In tropical Desert (Dessert) Tokyo, John and I sit in little Sushi chairs at the bar. I realize that
I had been living through his travel.
He travels every month. I had not been out of the country since I moved here.
I wanted to be near him because he moved, he traveled, and you could feel it on his person.. It might rub off, jump ship,
propel me through grazing off his clothing, noticing the objects: he would bring me Thai, Chinese and Japanese, I'd look for
their approximates in Little Tokyo, Little Saigon, Thai Town and on and on. My pretend Asia came from John. Hello Kitty in
a Honda, Penguin Bob eating an enchilada, Black Beans from Nancy, frozen beans this time soy and then mango mochi.
(Voice-over only Norma Bowles):
The planting of palm trees is a strategy much remarked
upon. Some neighborhoods even request them because no one can hide in them. So fragile. Like elephant trunks in the sand.
Morris Kite voice:
In the late 60's and early 70's gay men had liberated a hotel downtown called the Dover hotel
located at 555 S. Main St. Rented by a group of Asians and I never knew if they had cured themselves of their homophobia or
if they just didn't know what was going on with us. We took advantage of it too. Howard Efflin, a heterosexually married man,
that is also part of our tragic past-that many of us carried on heterosexual marriage they were facades-they really were travesties-they
really didn't have mutual love and respect. And so Howard Efflin with a wife and three children, with an excuse that he was
going out-came to the Dover hotel, got himself nude and laid himself face down, with his rear-end showing-which meant you
were into mutual anal intercourse, if you laid on your back, exposing your private parts, that indicated that you were into
mutual oral copulation. And so he was found, 5 police came into the room and hurled epithets at him, you faggot and so on.
And they started beating on him with their truncheons. And he said, please you're killing me-stop this-why are you doing this?
So they dragged him off the bed. Dragged him by his arms, dragged him down the hall, the front of the hotel-dragged him half
the way back to the alley behind Main St. They dragged him hands first down the steps his head hitting the steps, bang, bang,
bang-he said stop this you're torturing me. Losing his voice and his life. When they got to the bottom of the stairs, they
started putting him in the backseat of the police car. Happily his powerful heart gave out and he died.
We were horrified
and we did the first real organized protest about that in that we asked that a coroners jury of civilians was put together
and they had 2 days of testimony of police brutality (us mostly). With the police saying he was a dirty faggot.and so on.
The homicide was called justified. We didn't think it was justifiable. One year later the LAPD killed a black male cross-dresser,
named Larry Laverne Turner at 42nd and Central Ave. He was in female attire and on the sidewalk, cruising, hooking, and prostituting
himself. The Police came and arrested him and claimed that he had a pistol and then shot and killed him. Probably bogus because
he had recently been a member of the U.S. Navy and had been discharged because he had an antipathy to weapons-he had a physic
antipathy to that.
Each time I was accepted by a member of the gay community it was a surprise
and a shock to me. Still is. We have so many problems with sexism. We should be taking to the streets over our Lesbian sisters
that just got slaughtered. Not let it go unremarked. Gay boys just can't seem to pull it out of them cause they're Lesbians.
But they didn't do it for Scott Amador either. Who was shot down in the doorway of his own home. We'd rather do something
esoteric like gay marriage. Shakespeare said first kill all the lawyers. It just takes our power away. We should be having
anti-violence candellight marches. This violence against us has got to stop. And no one will stop it for us. We'll have to
stop it ourselves. We have to stand up and be counted. And it is not always gonna be clear like it was with AB 101. But we
need that kind of action behind gay violence. Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered violence. How we can focus on gay marriage when
our brothers are getting shot down in doorways, when drag queens in Latin America are being lined up against walls and slaughtered-lesbian
sisters murdered and it's easier for the murderer to get off because they killed lesbians. We play at our little organizations
with gay marriage. Before that is was gays in the military. Well who cares about gays in the military?! Who cares about gay
marriage? But yes I want our relationships acknowledged but it seems to be that that comes after we stop being slaughtered.
Now because we've been a racist society a lot of people in the lower economic class are people of color. But our problem in
America is not really about race its about class. Until we can value the life of those poor children as much as we value the
life of our preppie children we're in danger. There are dark times ahead for America.
Only thing you can do now is resign. I was completely shaken up. I mean here I am doing my darndest not to be
gay. He recommends a therapist in NYC and I went to a place that I knew and they said you don't want to go to that place.
Fortunately I went to a gay sympathetic therapist. A real terrible scene. People were dropping like flies around the state
department. We met in NYC. I just wasn't anything at all. I couldn't find a gay bar if it was floating in front of me. I couldn't
cruise on a bet. I would be in a bar and someone would say something to me and I'd be so embarrassed I didn't know what to
do. I certainly didn't want anything to happen that's how naďve I was. I was partially my own fault. I got fired out of the
place. But it was just as well I was out of it. It was time. I needed to come out. Otherwise I would have been in a terrible
I remember the first time I was exposed. In my case I was exposed to the FBI. This guy who had
been, as a matter of fact my wife and I, Benita and I had known him a long time and had introduced him to his wife in 1938.
And this guy in 1951 said to me: they knew all about you anyway. I was It's such a shock when all of a sudden somebody who
had been in your family, helped you find jobs, and helped with the rest of it. You never quite get over it. And you never
quite get over it because you also understand why they do it. And at the same time you don't understand why they do what they
do. And well anyway. That would happen to us gay guys all the time. We knew there were stool pigeons around. There were blackmailers.
People paying little blackmail or they were paying off to the cops. Probably in the community at least 40 percent of the community
was caught one way or another. So that was your life and that's how you lived it.
Where I lost my
sight, well he hit me. He didn't like the idea of me not paying him. He could come and work for me or stay down in the pueblos
and not work-with the idea of punishing me for it he had to serve about six months for that. He just punched me in the face
with his fist. Not too often but I wasn't going to fight him back or anything. I lost my sight behind it. At that time I had
quite a following that was strong enough then that there was a whole movement to get Leon. And they were ready to do him in,
which wouldn't have been a good idea. Sober minds were stopping this. I didn't know about it. I was hid. Charles was really
upset and he didn't want me ever to go back down to South Central. But I did anyway and especially I've done it since he passed
away. I don't feel anymore squeamish down there than I do in any other parts of the city. I can still live there but I've
lost my contacts. Since Charles passed away I don't have any daily contact with the Black community. I'm working with the
Mexican community here. I have pretty much daily contact with them here.
La colina rojo
We were the first ones on this street but far from the first one in the region. Interracial couples go way back
into the 1920's. Not gay couples but straight couples. This was the haven. The top of the hill is known as red hill. We had
a little nest of communists in the area. Unconventional social behavior was accepted in this region long before it was accepted
in other parts. Artists like Miss George, like I talked about and people with unconventional relationships were in the neighborhood
from quite early in the game.
Frank Bonetti lived across the street. Frank was born in Spain, or
France of Spanish decent. So in 1937 during the Spanish civil war that they fought against Franco. Frank went to Spain and
fought. He lost his leg there. And then when Frank came back, as he was re-entering the country he told them he was a communist.
And they readmitted him to this country. He wasn't a citizen or anything. So everything was all right. Then apparently during
the McCarthy era he decided to apply for citizenship and they started deportation actions against him.
I keep thinking about the Black Panthers. Outrageous! They didn't know stuff but they were trying to bypass, you know
we always try to subvert people with toys. If we can't control your revolution we'll give you toys. What kind of toys would
you like? A house, a Benz, whatever. And these kids were bypassing the toys with Mao's little red book. And they were in the
state building with guns. You know they had to go. And it worked. They came for them. They will come for you.
They came to me and they interviewed me. I was as naďve as I could possible be. I told them the truth and then
they really came down on me with the super investigators who were in the special business of getting rid of gays from the
State Department. They went through a star chamber business of three hours or more and I ended up in tears. I told them every
incident I'd ever been involved in.
Another incident in the Supreme Court. There was a man living
here named Raphael Könisburg. He lived on Echo Park Ave. up over the hill you know where its starts going down. And he went
to law school and he passed the bar. But when it came time for the State of California to give him a license. They said no
you're a communist.
McCarthy said at this point: I have a list of so many communists. And that's when
Cohn and were running around and both of them were faggots themselves. Cohn, the one gay person we don't wanna know was gay.
He died of AIDS. He is probably the lowest of the low in terms of gay people. We've got 'em all from people with halos to
people just short of Satan himself. The other one was FBI director Hoover.
(Voice off screen: they asked you and you
told them because you trusted them)
And they came around to check on one of the guys I was living with. He was not
gay. I don't know he might have been gay but I'm not going to say it under those circumstances.
Raphael took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. He won his case also. Raif won but the state of California refused
to give him a license. He lost his mind. He died afterwards.
You don't know. That's why they
can't stop it. That's why they can't control the gate cause you don't know how the path is. You know?
C-Span lady in door:
White is not right. What they need to do is get us together and try to talk to us
instead of saying we was wrong. It might be white but it's not right.
Stay inside until we can
get it under control
All this don't make no sense
Alfonso Contraras (National Guard):
they told us about what was gonna happen and using live ammo. We considered it-- just go out and shoot to kill. If it comes
to our life in danger. We have the right.
Powder keg about to explode. Now that it has exploded it
has affected everybody. Literally see a new fire every few feet.
They were sending out for volunteer help for a child who fell down a well)
George Van Noy:
L.A. is weak on things.
It does not have a lot of thingness to it. It has flow and flow is why it's like a river, ungraspable. At first with the rational
mind judging L.A. is really easy to put down because if somethings ungraspable what do you do with it? I'm suggesting that
what you do with it is allow it to be what it is and allow that to invoke from within you the creative process.
only (Norma Bowles)
It is the night of the flood; the flood that shuts down the city and which later appears on the news.
Her burnt orange Datsun 280 Z almost stalls at the intersection of Olympic and La Cienega, water rising up the wheel wells,
grazing the engine. It is still pouring and I am convinced that we will just float here forever, engine helplessly grinding
and her... INCREDIBLY angry with me for just being there, I think or for being her lover or For wanting her
Or. For something
that I couldn't figure out at that moment.
It will be one of the third or forth "storms of the century" A storm that
television news departments will construct a special glinting Storm Watch graphic for.
While floating in the booth
being hurt and very confused I am somehow very happy to be with her in the rain, thankful really that we are caught in this
storm of the century together, it distracts her from deciding she can't eat with me anymore, or kiss me or speak to me. Here
we have the disaster to watch a that will continue beyond water rising in the storm drains and surfacing in puddles on the
skin of tar pits. Later we can watch it on the news while her mother knocks on a damp door wondering if we made it home. It
is The Storm of the Century
George Van Noy:
a re-birthing of ourselves. It's not easy to do that. First of all it's not clear exactly what that means. But it is clear
you've got to be conscious to do that. You can't just be swept away. In the older model you know what to do then there are
the steps. Now I'm old now I'm young. Those are defined. Now I get married, whatever. Here they are indefinable, continuously
attacks you with what to do about it. Continuously puts the Koan onto you, which gives you, if you allow it to be the Koan
that it is. It seduces you into self-liberation continuously. You practice it. If you were in a Zen monastery its not so easy
to sit there staring at a wall. Let's face it. Or if you're in the other side. It's not easy to meditate for a year on what
is the nature of who you are before you are born. It can be boring. It can be futile. It can be a pain in the butt. But L.A.
is always offering you those things. It's giving it to you continuously. In that way it's spiritually inexhaustible.
(Voice-over only (Norma Bowles)
The day of his funeral a peacock rose up suddenly over the edge
of the fire road ringing Elysian Park. Up until this point, I was unaware that peacocks lived in Elysian (along with the wild
parrots, lost cockatoos and a smattering of liberated parakeets in yellow, green and blue.)
I wanted Paul to come
to California, I begged him in fact, out and out bribed him. He died before he ever made it west of the Mississippi.
peacock occupied my peripheral vision for a flash of time and then disappeared again over the edge of the embankment.
I started up the car to leave, the peacock reappeared, standing in the middle of the road, staunchly centered directly in
front of me. It stared me down and spread its tail feathers, which glinted that pearilized, psychedelic blue aqua. It wouldn't
let me pass, staring at me loftily and arrogantly spread about, impassable but somehow permeable.
I waited heartbeats
Engine running, until the peacock slowly moved aside.
Clearly, at that moment the peacock was Paul. I was glad he
had finally seen the place. It was him. It had to be. His blue feathers mimicked the blue of the marbles he gave me that used
to line his iced windowsill, deep in Minnesota winter. When he saw the glint of covetousness in my eye he relinquished the
blue prizes to my palm.
Today they line my windowsill, framing a California pepper tree.
But are peacocks