Monday, December 20, 2010

Sierra Madre Blvd, Christmastime

Driving Eastbound on S.M. Blvd. with Keith.

December in Sierra Madre at the corner of Sierra Madre Blvd. and Lima. They certainly are in the holiday spirit at Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Back before it morphed into KFC ; look at all those syllables!

It always seemed out of a place in Sierra Madre. But it was there for a long time - but is now, to use a  Kurt Vonnegut phrase; Defunct.

 This was my first winter in the Hotel Shirley so my guess is K and I were returning from Pasadena after dining some place a little bit tastier. There were few eateries in S.M. back then.

 As the rain falls, I  prepare my dedicated Sierra Madre Pages. History half-remembered, wholeheartedly idiosyncratic - with no skimping on the syllables as prescribed by the Piedmont School of Thought.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hotel Shirley - Pinney House- Sierra Madre

Weird confluence of two former residences. Drab pre-rehab Hotel Shirley, and flowery facsimile of  post- Rose Parade Pinney House parked on Kersting Court, early 1980's.

Hotel Shirley a few weeks ago.

A recent evening in Sierra Madre, California impelled the author to riffle through his archives. A page dedicated to my time in this small L.A. suburb shall be forthcoming.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Toward A History Of Needs

I borrowed the title from Ivan Illich.

This was my "convenient" supermarket stop on the way home from work. It was also was particularly depressing - even for a supermarket.  I passed figures slumped against the outside wall - the walkway wet and rank. Then the charity tables at the entrance.  "God bless you..."  always an admonishment as I walked heedlessly by.

 Inside was claustrophobic, sad and crowded with impatient people.

A few images; A  pair of unkempt metal tureens of soup on a steam table.

A flower section with "Happy Birthday" and "Get Well" balloons" stuck on the ceiling.

An odd little movie rental machine.

The new supermarket rising from the rubble will doubtless be bigger, brighter and serve us all better.
It will probably have some self-checkout machines -to reduce staffing.

Once a shoplifter dashed out the doors activating the alarm. Staff members (who had obviously been trained to work as a team) pursued and apprehended the man. As I was returning to my car, he was down on the the parking lot pavement -surrounded. I had an image of  " a fox run to ground."

My favorite cashier was possibly native American. She wore stunning silver jewelry both stylish and dignified - that was beautifully incongruous with her uniform and whatever smiley-faced slogan button she was compelled to wear.

The fallen plaster adorns the small pal, like a hair shirt, during its wretched final days of existence.


The "Market Place" exists for fulfillment of needs.

And just whose needs might those be?

The huddled destitute,

The cup rattling charities,

We "consumers" in our impatient rush,

The stockholders of the corporation,

The regional manager who'll cut the ribbon for the grand reopening,

The CEO of the whole shebang.

The rats picking through the wreckage?

Poem © Dorian Cohen

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Julia Morgan; Piedmont and Pasadena

 I was living in a solipsistic haze on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, California. Architect Julia Morgan and the buildings she designed were occluded by this fog, though I literally walked by them every day.

 As a kid I had taken a tour of Hearst Castle, her most famous design work. I'm sure the tour guide mentioned her name, but it was just another "fact" to forget.

Years later, I was living a mere block from the Turner Shopping Center  that she designed on Piedmont and 40th. I strolled by it many times, maybe into it as well -- though I don't remember what business resided there. At the time it was just another building to me.

 I loved walking north to the end of Piedmont past the Chapel of the Chimes,  yet another one of her works, and up into the Mountain View Cemetery.

 In fact she is buried in this famed cemetery, which on clear days offers  spectacular views of San Francisco Bay.

Ms. Morgan designed four homes on Berkeley's Piedmont Avenue and eleven in the city of Piedmont. Her YWCA Buildings are also celebrated; including the YWCA  in Pasadena, which I often drive by. Recently I was perusing a book and all of these threads of connection were belatedly revealed to me.

The Pasadena YWCA. Those awful  third floor louvered windows, probably added in the 1960s.
Buildings; coveted for functionality, beauty or investment.
Cared for or neglected.
Or a place of respite for the homeless.

Julia Morgan 1872-1957
I finally see her work after heedlessly passing it by all these years.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Art For Sale

Value Added Free Market Economics.

Art/ Wash.

Priced to sell on L.A. street.

Too many angles.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cannery Row Dedicated Page

I have launched another page devoted to a specific theme: Cannery Row in Monterey, California.

 As with the Bunker Hill page, it features all original material seen only by a handful of people until now. 

History seems to be a strong current at the moment, but  there's no telling what I'll post next...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Bunker Hill, Los Angeles Dedicated Page

I've just created my first dedicated page featuring newly unearthed family photos of historic Bunker Hill in Los Angeles, California.

They include the last days of the original Angels Flight and some final shots of the last two mansions before they were destroyed.

 Few have ever seen these, just click on Dorian's Bunker Hill Los Angeles Page on the right under "Pages".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Family Home

"Years pass in the blink of an eye on the pink and grey linoleum floor."
The blogger reflects on the sale of his family home.

What inspired this  floor covering  choice? Makes me think chipped beef.
 My parents'  home for more than 50 years. Sold this summer.
Who will remember all the life lived here?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Random Woman #4 (Chinatown)

I almost deleted this test shot taken from the train.

I ride the Gold Line light rail from the suburbs into downtown Los Angeles. A young couple are seated in front of me. I instantly like them. They both have "old" film SLR cameras. Both have a sense of personal style, but not overdone. I'm struck by the calm and lack of nervous distraction they seem to possess. For the entire ride neither takes  digital device to hand. Not even a cellphone! Instead, they talk quietly to each other or silently look out the window. Neither use their cameras, but look intently, like artists. They both point, as the train crosses the concrete constrained Los Angeles River. That's when I take a shot with my little digital camera, and another of a large building very close to the tracks as we approach Chinatown.

We all disembark at Union Station. I head for the connecting Red Line subway to Hollywood and Vine, they move in the opposing direction towards the entrance. I almost turn to catch them, to complement them on their cameras.  I hesitate, sparing us my awkward, gratuitous comment. I hope they have creative fulfilling lives.

The subject found her way into the photo of an inattentive photographer

Tonight editing my photo of that Chinatown building I discover the woman's face, which I inadvertently caught as a reflection in the train window, but she appears instead  as a spectral face gazing out of the window of the building. My test shot is chaotic and uninteresting and she was only revealed during editing, when I started paying attention.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Encinitas, California August 2010

"I wander 'round in a daze/I wonder what my skeleton weighs"
from Lying Again
by Peter Blegvad

Memento mori; Even on vacation.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Tuli Kupferberg 1923-2010

"Marriage is nothing,
(ain't divorce something), having kids is nothing...
they all grow up and leave you anyway,
lost sons and daughters of  NOTHING..."

" You mean this is it?

"This is It."


Nothing by Tuli Kupferberg,
Performed by the Fugs October, 1997,
From the Harry Smith Connection, Smithsonian/Folkways

The Fugs


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Encouraging Words

Robert Aitken 1917-2010

A brilliant and incisive mind and words I return to.

"When I was a teacher of creative writing, I had a hard time persuading my students to treat their first drafts as something preliminary. They thought of them as something sacred that could not be touched. With this emotional investment, they were unable to finish their work.
We all have this problem. When we do something, we feel obliged to defend our action. when we say something, we will then argue from those words as though they formed an irrefutable premise.
Yet our teacher Shakyamuni is still doing zazen and really is only halfway to complete enlightenment. Keep yourself open to correction, open to change. This is the Buddha Tao."


"Do you deplore waste? Live by cultivating. Cultivating begins with the agent of realization, the one drawing this breath. Use this breath.
Do you deplore violence? Live by nurturing. Nurturing begins with this spoon or with this friend.
Thus you ground yourself in awareness and compassion. Decisions about Right Livelihood and social action arise here".


When your eye is upon joy and misery, you are a person of joy and misery. When your eye is upon realization and ignorance, you are a person of realization and ignorance. But when you see clearly that all these concepts are transparent, with nothing to them at all, then you are a person of torch ginger.

From Encouraging Words by Robert Aitken, Pantheon Books, 1993

Robert Aitken Website

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"Neon Lights, Shimmering Neon Lights"

I live just off a busy street; a highway superseded by local freeways. It possesses a generic, terminal ugliness. Fast food joints thrive like weeds next to empty storefronts,  discount furniture outlets and massage parlors. Walking down the sidewalk I could be almost anywhere in America. A poison tawdriness is accented by signs. Crass, garish signs advertising nail salons, cell phones, cut-rate insurance, paycheck advances, palm readers, discount mattresses, acupuncture etc. There is even a business that specialises in banners and signs and for all I know is responsible for many that I see as I stroll. This is my favorite.

I could be almost anywhere. But I am not walking down Piedmont Avenue.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cannery Row Montery, California

"When the war came to Monterey and to Cannery Row everybody fought it more or less, in one way or another...the canneries themselves fought the war by getting the limit taken off fish and catching them all. It was done for patriotic reasons, but that didn't bring the fish back."
John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday, 1954, Viking Press

Cannery Row summer 1974. The last cannery closed in 1973, though the sardine population had been decimated decades before. Structures tottered on a grotty cusp, abandoned by those who wrung out their last profits and left to collapse into the sea, until the next set of business men moved in to make them "viable" again. Tourism was nascent; a few restaurants and shops.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Rust Bloom"

This photo was taken in an alley busy with foot traffic; students (including those studying photography), homeless people and those taking a short cut to Mc Donalds.

How many passersby notice this?  I call it a "Bloom", because there is a sense of "becoming" about it. However, it is actually no more "Bloom" than it is "Decay".  It is simply change; the interaction of myriad elements and conditions.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Saga Continues

Some years ago there was a clerk at the local Trader Joe's who always greeted me with the phrase;
 "The Saga Continues."
 This was the first sentence that she ever spoke to me --  and the only words from her mouth I remember; as she no longer works at this market.
 She was a truly charming young woman and
I always looked forward to her routine salutation  -- which never seemed forced or sarcastic.

I hope she's doing well, wherever she is.

This photo has no direct relation to my recollection. However, words and images act as mnemonic triggers for one another -- and also create their own pleasing synergy -- or at least they often have that effect on me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, California.

"Evening fog moves up Piedmont Avenue, a gray scarf pulled over the roof tops, toward Mountain View Cemetery..."

Portrait of the Blogger as a young poet, Piedmont Avenue, Oakland California.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blue Heart, Cup Of Plenty

This is a watercolor from 1999. " A Blue Heart Is A Cup Of Plenty" Lyrics to a yet to be written blues song...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Roper Range Polaroids Early 1990's

My grandmother purchased this Roper Range in the 1960's. It's technological gimmick was: THE BURNER WITH THE BRAIN.

Decades later when I took over her kitchen, it was brain dead and burned out.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chino, California

A collage I created in the early 1980s, incorporating a postcard from Chino California.
They used to graze Back Angus. Now it's urban sprawl.

© Dorian Cohen

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Low- Rent Information

This classic Jim Harrison sentence, written in a pre-internet context, could well describe most bloggers and on- line reviewers.

"He owned an imponderable urge to both create and consume low-rent information, an urge balanced by his superbly inaccurate observations. "

From the novel "Warlock" by Jim Harrison
Delacorte press/Seymour Lawrence, 1981

Just found out about forthcoming book/DVD
  The etiquette of the wild, collaboration between Harrison and Gary Snyder, two writers from my personal inspirational pantheon.

Or to quote the title of a Snyder poem - High quality information.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cotati California

Buttface -- your portal to a never to be repeated time of life and creative endeavor in Sonoma County California.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Angel's Flight Tickets

Tickets from Angels Flight. My father took me to ride the incline railroad on what was probably the last day operation. I remember the TV news was there. Until then it had run almost continuously since 1901.

Weird trip to the top of the decimated hill; weeds, shrubs and a few scruffy trees along the right of way - the only vegetation left. Most of the old buildings were gone, but construction of the Music Center was well underway.

Final rides were free . They must have handed out the tickets as souvenirs. Don't know why 1967 was printed on them. It was May 1969 when it was shut down, with the promise it would return.

Happily, these two tickets have survived all these years in a scrap book.

Angles Flight recently reopened, after many delays and a tragic accident .

Here's a link updating the Angels Flight Saga.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Angels Flight, Bunker Hill Los Angeles

A blurry dreamlike snapshot from car window on Hill Ave. Waning days of the 1960's; not much left. I got hooked on Bunker Hill after reading an article in the L.A. Times titled "Mansions Doomed To Demolition" about the two remaining historic houses, "The Salt Box" and "The Castle", both on Bunker Hill Ave.

Bunker Hill history, lore and images proved irresistible for an odd, depressive kid, out- of -sync with my own time. Plus that quirky funicular, Angels Flight. I poured over the magical Bunker Hill Los Angeles by Leo Politi.

Later, I learned of the hill's connection to writers including Raymond Chandler and John Fante. It was also used as a location for many movies. Criss Cross, Kiss Me Deadly and The Exiles were all filmed there.

I rode Angels Flight on it's last day. I also visited the two "Doomed Mansions" which were saved at the eleventh hour. They were moved with great fanfare to Highland Park; charter members of Heritage Square.

Vandals promptly burned them to the ground.

Bunker Hill itself was eradicated; many of the streets were obliterated , along with literally every structure. The topography was shaved, so not even the original contours remain.

I stumbled upon this terrific Bunker Hill blog.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Super Furry Gatefold

No, not The Super Furry Animals, but Ballet Foklorico De Mexico, a lavish production from "La Voz Del Amo"

Velveteen, and I like to pet it.

I've created a new blog, Record Odyssey- as a kind of adjunct (add junk) to Piedmont Ave. It will become a gallery of sorts (and justification perhaps) for my accumulated disks, packaging and ephemera languishing on shelves and in boxes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

John Fahey/Blind Joe Death

John Fahey's Days Have Gone By, on his own Takoma label, is the album I most strongly associate with my time in Oakland, and remains my favorite.

Drinking wine from my Totemic Oakland Mug, gazing out my  window on to rainy Piedmont Ave.

However, I discovered this perplexing reference to Piedmont on this second edition of his legendary first album, which I acquired a few years ago.

There's quite a Fahey cult, and while his Takoma albums continue to occupy a numinous niche in my L.P. collection; a few face to face encounters with the legendary guitarist, freed me from the thrall of his myth.

He's a favorite with the collectors as well; and though I am cursed with that same sort of pathology, I resist identifying myself as such. 

I also discovered this fine blog devoted to Mr. Fahey.

Updated 8/17/11

John Fahey Stomping Tonight On The Piedmont/Berkeley Border

This is the second edition of Fahey's coveted John Fahey/Blind Joe Death album. I believe he was living in Berkeley at this time and though the first edition of this album was recorded in Maryland; Takoma Records as an actual entity began in Berkeley with ED Denson.

Does anyone know what the "Piedmont" in "Piedmont/Takoma" label refers to?
 I am aware of the "Piedmont" blues style, but is it possible that this is a reference to the city of Piedmont next to Oakland or Piedmont Ave. in Oakland? Or is it Piedmont Ave. in Berkeley, also known as "Fraternity Row"?
 Or something entirely more obscure?

 It was removed from subsequent editions.

A currently available pressing of the legendary first addition
that apparently is a bootleg.

Updated 12/23/14

Are there any Fahey scholars out there who know the answer?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bukowski At The Golden Bear, Summer 1976

Los Angeles Times listing for Bukowski reading in 1976.

The Golden Bear was a scuzzy little club in Huntington Beach, CA. It was right across the street from the Pacific Ocean. Everyone from Janis Joplin to Stephane Grappelli played there. It was demolished in the 1980's. 

I saw Bukowski here twice. The first time, in July 1976. I was aware of a bulky video rig set up in the tiny club. Surfing the web decades later I stumble upon a snippet shot that very night while watching the documentary, "I'm Still Here".  Buk's girlfriend Pamela Wood, took the stage and playfully announced: "Charles Bukowski couldn't make it here tonight." The rowdy audience responded in a predictable manner -- the clip begins with a more straightforward introduction, after she had had her laugh. My friends and I would be clearly visible sitting in the front row, up against the stage, right next to Ms.Wood, however the atrocious, poorly lit black and white footage renders us murky spectral blurs.

What a night that was! My first encounter with the mighty Bukowski was the best -- and that the waitress served us beer, though we were underage -- Michelob in long tapered bottles, made it all the sweeter.

The second time I saw him at the Golden Bear, Hank managed to misplace his glasses, as he fumbled around in his pockets, he delivered a classic spontaneous line. "Senility has arrived."
  Updated 1/6/15

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Charles Bukowski

Updated 12/20/12

I discovered writer, Charles Bukowski when I stumbled upon a documentary by Hackford Taylor aired on KCET in Los Angeles. This would have been 1974 or 1975. A defining moment for an alienated high school student attempting my own poetry.

Bukowski was raw, exciting and he said the "F word" -- not once but several times on TV -- and it wasn't beeped! PBS was a different world back then. I misremembered his name as "Bullkowski" and unsuccessfully attempted to find his books at the mall book store. Finally, a cute girl at school showed me one of his poems, in a City Lights anthology. For many years I was held in his thrall.

I encountered him Mr. Bukowski six times; I attended three of his readings in Los Angeles, during the brief period he was booked in clubs. Our paths crossed in person, the result of several chance meetings A strange figure; international literary star, yet practically invisible on his home turf. To actually have contact with a hero, in my own city... How many get to experience this? As we move away from print, will there be any literary heroes?

No writer of note has traded so heavily on persona, or so vigorously recycled the same material.

Yet, his strongest work can still be moving.  

Here's my homage:

Taking My Afternoon Walk, I Encounter Buk

Charles Bukowski was not Charles Bukowski
I was not Charles Bukowski,
I was a young man from the suburbs,
 attempting poetry, drinking
trying so hard to be real, 
I couldn't be
more fake. Charles Bukowski was
so fake, he couldn't be more real, drinking
rewriting the same riffs, over again
as poetry, prose and anecdotes --
Both of us obsessed with authenticity.

I'm standing at the corner of 
Rosemead & California Blvd.
Unincorporated L.A. County
I spot a sports car
 top down -- ugly bastard seated inside

Buk and I for real.

© 2013 Dorian Cohen

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beatles 65

I'm gonna sell this "highly collectible" album on EBay and make a shitload of money!

Mars Hotel #3

Photo © 2013 Dorian Cohen

I stuck my camera out the window of my parents' Plymouth Satellite during a vacation in Summer 1974 or 75. I was unaware at that time of the numinous connections Hotel Mars had with both Jack Kerouac and Grateful Dead.

cf. "Big Sur", 1962 : Kerouac's novel detailing descent into terminal alcoholism.

cf. Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel , 1974 L.P. Contains "Unbroken Chain" a song about the linking together of things...

The Mars was razed not long after I shot these.

Mars Hotel #2

Photo © 2013 Dorian Cohen

Riding out on a cold railroad to the Mars Hotel...

"Coming 3000 miles from my home in Long Island in a pleasant roomette on the California Zephyr train watching America roll by..." To San Francisco where Jack stays "at my "secret" skid row hotel (the Mars on 4th and Howard).

From "Big Sur" by Jack Kerouac
First published 1962 by Farrar Straus and Giroux

Friday, March 26, 2010

Random Woman #3 (Las Vegas)

Summer 1994. Final day of road trip with Ralph. Grab quick lunch-- then drive straight home. We stop at Burger King in some casino. The aural and visual cacophony is absolutely enervating... Zombies pulling slot levers and a huge guy sitting near the women's room staring and jiggling his leg.

We have entered the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts.

Standing in line, in front of us, is an Asian family. A woman (early 20's?) is gently massaging the shoulders of an older woman (her aunt or mother?).

An image so incongruous in its tenderness; it suddenly returns to me today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kate and Anna Mc Garrigle Interview

I discovered Kate and Anna Mc Garrigle years ago. These Canadian sisters dignified the dread "Singer/Songwriter" idiom. They wrote terrific songs and sang wonderfully together. Kate and Anna delighted with wit, pathos and a genuine feminine sensibility. And sometimes they sang in french.

Years ago, fan that I am, I attempted to interview them. A grumpy Mc Garrigle sister (not sure which one) answered the Los Angeles hotel phone.

"We're trying to learn the National Anthem to sing at a hockey game tonight and we're having a hell of a time."


They should have performed one of their own songs.

"I could say baby, baby, baby, till my tongue spirals out of my head
when there's no one lookin' over my shoulder
I like to write rock and roll,
but it doesn't always hang together,
so what do I know
or anyone know about love.

"Love Over and Over"
Words and Music by Kate and Anna McGarrigle

Kate McGarrigle 1946 - 2010

Allen Ginsberg Has His Cake, Eats It Too and Screws Up His Inscription In My Copy Of "Howl"

Long signing line after the reading. Allen Ginsberg is eating cake with a plastic fork, when I present my copy of Howl. He is distracted: he starts to write the date - where he should place the letters A and H that straddle the City Lights logo. This is the particular way he signs the books.

 "I did it wrong." he corrects his mistake as best he can. I think the A and H refer to a vision young Allen had of William Blake chanting "Ah! Sunflower." after which he vowed to dedicate his life to poetry.

I Spot two celebrities in the lobby: Leonard Cohen and an actor from "Thirty Something" -- a TV show that was popular a while back.

Addendum: Don Was backed him with electric bass.