Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Quite a few people, including some who live here in Los Angeles, have said they don’t “get” the cover of the fall edition of the Los Angeles Review of Books.  That’s it above, and I love it.  The photograph is by Mike Slack.  One person whose opinion in other circumstances I more or less respect said it looked like a furniture catalogue, and now that I look at it more closely I’m not sure whether that chair has been dumped on the sidewalk or whether it’s for sale.  At first I assumed the former but then I saw there’s a little yellow sticker on the back which could be a price tag, so maybe it’s outside a  store waiting to be bought, in which case I got hold of the wrong end of the stick altogether.  Still, I think there are good reasons for my confusion, and indeed for my love of that cover: chiefly my ongoing obsession with feral furniture.

I was going to say that people who don’t “get” the cover should do a bit more walking in L.A.  As I’ve written elsewhere, every time I walk down the street anywhere in L.A., and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with whether it’s a rich or a poor neighborhood, there’s always some “feral furniture” lurking at the curb.  

I know that unwanted stuff gets dumped everywhere in the world but there does seem to be something quintessentially L.A. about throwing out more or less serviceable sofas and chairs and letting them sit out in the sun, providing a place where somebody might sit, in this city that has remarkably few public sitting places.  And if most of the abandoned chairs and couches don’t look quite as good as that one on the cover of the LARB, there have certainly been times in my life when I’ve lived with and sat on far worse things. 

Other stuff is less admittedly less appealing.  It’s hard to love somebody else’s used mattress, and certainly nobody has much use for an old TV.  I mean, I have a couple of dead TVs taking up space in my own garage, and I would like to be rid of them, but I’m not thinking of dumping them out on the street.  And this one - flat screen! - looks as good as the one I'm currently using:

So on Sunday afternoon I went for walk around Atwater Village, and yes feral furniture was on my mind, and indeed on the street.  There was this chair – which had obviously seen better days but didn’t seem completely unusable.

There was this TV, and yes it’s a TV that’s beyond redemption, but see how the wreckage is cheered up by the presence of a yucca plant sprouting up through the ground.

And then there were these really quite cool speaker cabinets, and yes sure, it would be better if they had speakers in them but still they’re very nicely positioned in front of that car, colored an orange seldom seen in nature.

And then I thought that taking pictures of household detritus in this suburban neighbourhood might have been construed by the locals as a weird thing to be doing, so I put my camera away and almost immediately spotted a feral cat grooming itself right in the middle of the street. 

By the time I’m got the camera out again the cat had stopped its grooming and was just sort of posing (above) and then finally it wandered away (below).  I guess L.A. isn’t the worst place to be feral.

Mick Slack incidentally is a top photographer, not obsessed with feral furniture per se, but clearly a man who does a good amount of walking and keeps his eyes open for intriguing, defining curiosities.  You can see more of his work at:

You could even buy one of his books.  I did.  

And then I just found this artist’s statement by him: 

“If I have a method, it’s basically to wander aimlessly, preferably on foot, using the camera as an excuse to stop and stare, to push into the visual arrangement of things, for no other purpose than to be doing just that: shutting off my verbal brain, letting the light hit my eyeballs. Over time, pictures (or, lately, image files) stack up and an editing impulse takes over—more of a game with its own purpose. But the first and most important step is always to wander.”

Hell yes, Mike.  Hell yes.  Seems he's been known to take the occasional cat picture too.

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