A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

Manhattan Murder Mystery, at the Echoplex

Manhattan Murder Mystery, at the Echoplex

Part IV: Echo Part Rising, Saturday Afternoon

I woke up on a floor in Echo Park to discover it was Charles Bukowski’s birthday. The public radio station KCRW, broadcasting from Santa Monica, was airing a special in honor of the legendary author, short story writer, novelist and poet. As I listened to his friend Harry Dean Stanton’s beautiful reading of the stark and gorgeous Bluebird, I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to prepare for the Echo Park Rising Festival than with streetwise and poignant words from this prolific Angeleno.

In the aftermath of the reading, I thought of my first few days in Los Angeles. There was the massive decompression at Echo Park Lake from so many layers of stress, and just wandering around the streets of Echo Park and Silver Lake in contemplation and what I’ll call “life evaluation.” My friend’s barrage of stories of his current state of mind and recent miseries, his supporting characters of the kind that Bukowski might like to write about, if he were still here. There was the young and naive female sub-letter he found on Craigslist, who put his belongings in bags and tossed them out into the yard, crashed his car and ran back to Pennsylvania after just a few days in the big city. The crack addict and “crack whore” hooker, who stole the car and took it on a joyride. The police. The disorientation. The restless days, locked out and temporarily among the lost and the homeless, out on the streets. The crack addict’s ex-wife and her ominous warnings, and other sordid and sundry characters who had come in and out of his life, wearing him down, taking, not giving, and leaving just a hollow shell in their wake. And through his and my sleepless nights, mysterious packs of barking dogs, like roving canine gangs. Interwoven with the dogs were the ubiquitous ghetto birds. It was horrible and yet gloriously romantic grit.

Besides just the joy of being there (and not being on the East Coast), there was that which strengthened and sustained me: a neighborhood that was relaxed, easy-going and filled with working-class Latino families. Bright, never-ending sunshine. The Tribal Cafe a short walk down the street, with their vegetarian Mexican dishes, amazing kale salads and powerful energy drinks. All of it dirt cheap and in a casual, bohemian setting. Tired as hell but strangely energized, I grabbed my things and headed out for an afternoon and evening of fine music with some old and new friends. It was time for Echo Park Rising.

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