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.
Showing posts with label Los Angeles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Los Angeles. Show all posts

Thursday, December 31, 2015


One of the things about walking in my neighbourhood immediately after Christmas is that you see more walkers than usual.  I suspect part of it may be that people have relatives staying with them and don’t know what else to do with them.  Some no doubt think it’s a good for the soul to take a walk at least once a year.  Maybe the odd one has got a new puppy for Christmas and is swiftly realizing what a terrible responsibility that is.

However, my unscientific observation is that this year there were far fewer walkers than usual.  And a man who had acquired a new camera lens for Christmas pretty much had the streets to himself, which was fine but just a little surprising.

Of course Christmas decorations persist for a while after Christmas  – not sure if that Santa is breaking into that upstairs window or breaking out:

And just because a Santa is small that doesn’t mean he isn’t security conscious:

 This presiding demon stays in place whatever the season:

But the spirit of good cheer is not universal.  This sign appears on the door of the last house before you get to one of the entrances to Griffith Park, and you can understand the guy’s sentiments whatever the time of year:

And you can never quite escape the John Cage influence, nor would I want to.  Whereas he had mycological expeditions that involved walking deep into the woods, I found these beauties by the side of the road, just a few hundred yards from my own front door. 

I took a couple home, tried to identify them, couldn’t altogether, though I suspected they might be the evocatively named Funeral Bells, and even if they weren’t, and even though I’m generally all in favor of Cagean chance operations, I really didn’t want to take a chance on these.  I left them where they were.  Next day walking the same route I saw they were half eaten, though not sure by what – possibly one of the new, though unseen, puppies.

But I think the best thing seen while walking over the holidays was this electronic keyboard left out for the garbage men.  And I wonder what the story was there.  Had Santa brought a brand new one, or had the owner made a resolution, 2016 will be a year without electronic keyboards?

Friday, May 31, 2013


Here’s something from Henry Rollins’ column in this week’s LA Weekly:

“I don't do much walking in Los Angeles. I am sure there is a lot to enjoy as a pedestrian in our city, it just never occurs to me to do it. Years ago, when I lived in Silver Lake, I used to walk for miles all the time. As I would make these epic, biped journeys into Hollywood to see shows, I always had the same feeling that I wasn't really going anywhere except deeper into the seemingly endless sprawl of Sargassoid stucco.
“In Washington, D.C., I walk for hours, take a break for food or writing and then set out again. Most of my walks are referential, having to do with music. Places I saw bands, places where bands used to practice, houses I used to hang out in and listen to records. I go to these places over and over again, decade after decade. I know that sounds strange and it probably is, but to me, it's like a Kata or a meditation. The walk, the arrival at the spot. A moment to dwell on the significance and then to walk elsewhere, is to me what it means to be 'poetry in motion.'"

I think any even half-way serious walker would completely agree with what he says in the second paragraph; I think we’re talking psychogeography, or deep topography, or conceivably Proustian remembrance.  I’ll drink to that.

But I wonder if I get his point in the first para. “Endless sprawl of Sargassoid stucco” is a nice, if slightly opaque, phrase, and I assume it’s a reference to the Sargasso Sea: a two million square mile gyre (another nice phrase) – i.e. rotating currents - in the middle of the North Atlantic. It’s a seaweed-choked place of mystery, discovered by Columbus, where ships have historically been becalmed and where uncanny things have happened.  These days apparently it’s also a vortex of swirling plastic waste, much like the North Atlantic Garbage Patch.  So, not much walking to be done there.

Still, be that as it may, I think I’m enthralled by the idea of walking “deeper into the seemingly endless sprawl of Sargassoid stucco,” in fact I think it’s what much what I do it all the time.  Here’s a pictures of Henry Rollins, walking (sort of), not in seaweed, but on the red carpet:

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Now, I am not for a moment suggesting that Berholt Brecht was some kind of hypocritical leftwing blowhard, but I have been reading his Journals, and he certainly is damn annoying.

He moved to LA in 1941, and you’d have thought he might at the very least be somewhat happy to be there, and out of Europe, but hell no – he makes all the usual jejune complaints about LA – it’s artificial, it doesn’t have seasons, people are materialistic. Ho hum.

There are in fact one or two things that he finds “rather amusing” – California oak tress, lemon thickets, the occasional gas station, but complains “all this lies behind plate glass.”  By which he means that he sees it all through the window of a car "going to Beverley Hills": he actually lived in Santa Monica, in this house, so you can see how he suffered.  

The blindingly obvious response is, well if you object so strongly to seeing things through plate glass, why not get out of the damn car and walk?

But just when you think yes, possibly he is some hypocritcial leftwing blowhard you might turn to “A Worker Looks at History” written in 1936, which contains the lines:

     I hear Mexicans are taking your jobs away.
     Do they sneak into town at night,
     and as you’re walking home with a whore,
     do they mug you, a knife at your throat,
     saying, I want your job?

This is a sentiment that ought to find plenty of traction in Los Angeles today.