Last weekend was a busy one for me, so much so I think I may just be coming out of recovery. As I think back on it, I realize that last weekend was not only exhausting and immensely satisfying, it reminded me of all the things I love and hate about LA.
It started Thursday night with the fifties-themed reception for the Leimert Park Book Fair at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall. As much fun as I had dressing the part in a pin-striped sheath dress and pearls, I had to really rally up the energy to go and only planned to stay an hour. I ended up staying until the sundae bar was packed up, the Eartha Kitt impersonator had sang her last song, and women who had taken off their shoes to dance were trying to match them back up. The night blended the cultural, cooky, and classy, with waitresses in candy striper outfits serving fried macaroni and cheese, swing dance and poetry performances, Black folks taking fifties-theme dress to mean anything from mink coats to poodle girl costumes. As Miss Black California I went to a lot of fancy black events, many not on our side of town, serving dry chicken dinners, and playing elevator music. The book fair reception was refreshingly us.
Friday night I checked out a play produced by Stillwaters at Stage 52 LA. The sold-out attendance spoke to the word-of mouth power of poetry scene dream team Fud and Socks, as everyone outside had bought $20 tickets without having a clue what the play was actually about. The three person show, featuring Fud4Thot, Socks, and Deana “Deanverse” Reed was actually the poets playing themselves, in a skit that served as a frame for interconnected and at times synchronized spoken word. The theme of the culminating piece, “Big City, Bright Lights” was an exploration of the painful, unpublicized world of LA: the assault of materialism and capitalism on personhood, community, and the humanity of those in impoverished conditions, a call for attention to the LA beyond palm trees and celebrities, and a demand for healing. Even more touching was the tribute to Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, who were present but not asked to read or perform at the event, just to come, relax, and be honored. The night was a testament to Fud and Socks' ongoing efforts to connect generations in LA's spoken word community.
I was up early for the Leimert Park Book Fair the next day, at which I performed in the Poetry Salon, ran my author's table to promote and sell my novel, Butterfly Jar, and moderated a stimulating panel on Black women's speculative fiction at Adassa Cafe with sister scholars and writers Nicole Sconiers, Monica Coleman, and Tosin Williams. It was crazy, but I sold a lot of books, made it through the day, and even made it to a truly grown-folks party at one of my mentors that night. Full of poets, artists, and scholars mostly older than my partner and I, everyone was still dancing and keeping up the neighbors when we left at two am.
Sunday we did a beach day in Malibu and caught up with some family. We probably should have quit while we were ahead but were on such a great streak, we decided to hit a BET Awards after-party in Hollywood. We are not big fans of BET and Hollywood, is, needless to say, not our usual scene, but my boyfriend had an invite from a friend in the industry who wanted us to check out his new artists. So I put myself together in about half an hour, we piled into our Rav 4, and pulled up to a scene of rented luxury cars, limos, lots of half-naked women who looked like they had been primping all day and thirsty dudes craning their necks to look for a way in to the packed club. Holding true to a promise made back in our post-college years to never wait more than ten minutes to get into a party, we headed home. It made me feel strange to even be in that environment after the remarkable weekend full of what I value about LA: poetry, arts, the ocean, the drums and jazz and books and vibe of Leimert, and all the people I love. What's interesting is that to so many people, a lot of breast and thigh and hair outside of a flashy bumping club, where people submit to the dehumanization of rude, shouting bouncers, velvet ropes, and pressing seas of yearning, glittering people, is what LA is all about. I'm so glad that I know better.