Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Coordinates: Unearthing Vanished L.A.

SURFING THE internet a couple weeks back, I happened upon a website selling handmade trinkets -- mostly charms for bracelets, unusual earrings or cufflinks. They were conversation pieces; items that  commemorated buildings, streetcars, supermarkets, bakeries and beer-brands that hailed from New Orleans,  Louisiana  yet were physically no longer in existence. The webmaster had titled the page  -- "Ain't There No More" -- and I could hear that sentence delivered rapid-fire in one of my friend's or relative's idiosyncratic Louisiana Creole accents.

I have to say though, I thought, immediately, that the other L.A. -- our Los Angeles -- could have not occupied just a page, but an entire other city dedicated to what isn't here any longer.

Often, you'll hear Angelenos dolling out directions by referencing markers that were once in its place. It's a strange way to live in the present.  Our memories are cluttered with such locations. Some addresses have had multiple identities and lives within one building -- like a brick-and-mortar nesting doll;  others sites continue to be razed entirely and built up over and over again and so often, Angelenos really have to force  the recollection, because even the landmarks nearby have been "updated," "renovated," "retrofitted."

We live in a place filled with the promise of new beginnings and the impatient expectation of them. We want Los Angeles to be "the fix," the geographical solution to our problems. That's a lot to heap on a city's shoulders.

Above, you'll see a charming building, one that when I look at it conjures F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories or the beautiful black-and-white movies I would stay up at night to bathe in the blue glow of   on the old Channel 11-KTTV (decades before it was known as Fox). This was once the old  Hollywood Hotel and it stood  at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, which many of you know now looks - sigh -- like this below. 

As if we needed another mall, really.

In the next few weeks under the tag  "Coordinates" you'll be reading  posts from a couple of guest bloggers weighing in on various spots on L.A.'s vast grid  --   former empty lots, college hangouts, late-night watering holes,  down-at-the-heels  hotels  -- now turned into McMansions or coffee chains or any number of   mixed-use playgrounds.  What sort of memories and histories do these re-imagined spots hold or trigger? What old boundary lines did they once draw? What community did they once host?   

The above images come from the wonderful Facebook page, Vintage Los Angeles. Check it out for a mind-blowing compare and contrast of then-and-now L.A.

And below, check out the trailer for the film "Hollywood Hotel" in its black and white glory.

-- L.G.

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