The exact point of change seems to not exist. Maybe it happens in minute evolutions, so pint size that only if you were paying close attention and knew what to look for you’d see it. Trees in the north, grew even larger by Northern California and transformed into mammoth sequoias, muting the light from the sun, a natural roof of green and brown. Wild flowers were more colourful in So Cal, yellow, purple floral lining between the road and the endless stretch of baked white beach. Even bushes, one of the most unrecognized plant for it’s beauty, now grew up the side of steep inclines, A Van Gogh of dotted, precise colours, that as that landscaper could tell you quite frankly, needed constant maintenance or it would burst forward, a continuous growth of foliage, enveloping all living and inanimate things in it’s path, a picturesque, less gelatinous blob. Kudos California bushes, Canadian bushes….take note, that’s how you get attention, not by being prickly.
Growing up as a big fan of hip hop I recognized the name Crenshaw Blvd as I pulled into the parking lot of a small strip mall on the corner containing a bank, a Chinese restaurant, a KFC and something that was either a laundry mat or an old folks home (hard to tell). The street’s name was synonymous with gangsta music to me with images of 2pac riding by in a Cadillac, screaming profanities at the 5-0 and Eazy-E playing bones on the corner with his homiez. I didn’t relate to that life style, no, and never tried to emulate it all too much (I did have a FUBU shirt, that was multicolored and glowed in the dark…I wore it once). I admired the spirit behind the music, the unabashed enthusiasm, a window into a world I didn’t know. I wasn’t interested in “the struggle”, “the hustle”, “the grind” or anything else political, economic or social relating to the music, I was infected by the fat beats and the stories from a place that was as far away as Mars.
So here I was. After biking through the pretty arty streets of Malibu, and catching the Bohemian vibes and reefer induced rhythms of Venice Beach, 20 minutes or less away, I was smack dab right in the middle of my musical oasis, something I had heard of countless times, but had never thought would ever live up to it’s hype. But with everything, that music describes no just a place, but a time, and a right exact time to be exact.
I had met up with my friend in Santa Monica and she was showing me around the city for a few days. Chance had it that I really needed to use the restroom. My friend spotted the random parking strip and pulled in. As I stepped out into the humid air, the glint of the blue, swinging sign with white lettering above the intersection caught my eye immediately. BAM. There I was. Crenshaw. I took a deep breath. My friend waited in the car, gave me the thumbs up. I looked around. Just an average intersection in a big city, nothing too special. My first choice for bathrooms was the Chinese restaurant. Nope, no English and no bathrooms for non-patrons. Wasn’t too keen on entering the non-descript purpose buildings, men stood at the window staring out like inmates shoved into a holding cell that was too small to do anything but be squeezed against the caged walls, eyes bulging towards a dissipating freedom. So it was KFC.
And how gangster a KFC was it? It actually was! I entered into a stark room. There was no open counter, no waiters with smiles to greet you, just a two way glass wall with small slots in it. It felt like I had entered the visiting centre of a prison. I approached the glass, not knowing where I was to address, I started into my own reflection…..”Hello?”
“Hello, welcome to KFC, can I take your order?”
“I just need to use the restroom, please”
Click. Click. Clackity. A door, appeared out of no where.
I braced myself, I expected a flickering fly filled single florescent bulb highlighting all the murky, gut wrenching details of all types of matter. Quite the opposite, I could eat, say, a popcorn chicken, off the ground it was so clean. Crenshaw, a real mind fuck it was, but I am so glad that the bottomless Mimosas had kicked in and I had to stop and see this shit hole to most, but this childhood fairytale to me.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria. While the city is filled to the brim with Roman, Ottoman and many other historical people’s traces, I found this piece of art exceptional. As modernist as it is, it fits in perfect harmony with it’s ancient surroundings. Plovdiv is such a hodge podge city as I found many of the larger Eastern European cities. Weird clubs shoved in between mosques shoved in between a mall and an odd out door/in door restaurant. This was one of those few moments of perfect symmetry.