D.J. Waldie is the author of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir and Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles among other books. His essays on the politics and history of Los Angeles appear weekly at KCET.org. Portions of these pieces, in a substantially different form, were originally posted to KCET.
Place. The other day while walking to mass, I crossed the cement apron that leads out of the alley behind the houses on Clark Avenue. I’ve crossed the alley from the time I was a boy and through the 32 years I walked to work following my father’s death.
But this time, a sheet of water—probably leaking from a backyard hose—spilled across the concrete.
For the ﬁrst time, I noticed that inscribed in the concrete were names, but almost worn smooth. Children had written awkwardly, haphazardly in the wet concrete but with respect for each other. Their names didn’t overlap.
The loose water had brought out the faint letters.
I’m not inattentive. The qualities of the everyday interest me. Yet here were persistent marks of lives that had neighbored mine for years and which I had never seen, would never have seen except for the contingencies of that moment.
I stopped. Continue reading