Human Creativity • 12 January 2009

I was in MacArthur Park this morning, practicing with friends in a grand century-old house that’s been a mansion and a craft shop of sorts, a fraternity, an apartment building, and now an ashtanga space. This—bohemian, in your erstwhile livingroom, with a man repairing furniture in the kitchen, a Salvadoran woman walking by the windows with fruit for sale and a Jack ‘n’ the Box billboard filling the driste of the farsighted—feels in a sense like how it should be. Kid on the instructor’s hip, unmufflered engines in the alley, vendors screaming in the street. Practice.

So much more creative than the way most choose to live in this town—antiseptic, paying the jacked-up rent, with dues to some corporate studio whose propaganda features stickthin yoga teachers spandexed in all white. MacArthur Park is teeming in creative risk-taking humanity, colorful, fecund, noisy. Yeah, scraping a life off the surface of society is a grimy affair. And beautiful. The things that people think up in order to live, and live well. Learn the insults, keep your head down, act a little knowing. Dodge the obvious punches and see so much beneath.

Bony Express

There’s this wave in me that rises and falls on my faith in humanity; and I drove home fast to Mountain Goats survival anthems, feeling so lucky to be part of the world now. Human creativity. The element that can never be predicted by any model nor explained by any theory. And it’s the main thing! Everything.

At the close of the day, the tide got sucked all the way to the floor. I sat in my car for the better part of an hour in the blocks surrounding the Federal building. This is where you go to demonstrate in LA. Yeah, I know the story of the conflict over the holy land, and am named decisively for one side. I know how everything that has happened the past 60 years is supposed to be god-made and how I’m not supposed to say I understand unless I have skin in the game. But this time, I’m just letting the celebratory violence and the death-wishes mystify me. What am I doing rejoicing in human creativity in these days—these months—of destruction? Yeah—I tried not to hear the lyric edge of John Darnielle’s flat out neuroticism this morning—but yeah. We are going to make it through this year if it kills us.



  • Posted 12 January 2009 at 2:16 pm | #

    There’s an ashtanga space in MacArthur Park? As in, the scary park? Am I thinking of the right place?

  • Charusheela
    Posted 12 January 2009 at 7:37 pm | #

    ovo, practice on moon day? walla. albeit, having two days off is hard, but worth the effort. deferring to and honoring the tradition. not because it was created for us, but because it exists in the form of that pulsating energy governing all life. there are many ways to die. by bullet or bread. human suffering cannot be quantified by laws that exist only in relation to a chosen ethniticity. the moon waxes and wanes for all alike. its cycles the state of yoga. honoring truth in all people and all things.

  • Posted 12 January 2009 at 8:28 pm | #

    I cannot know lead until I become gold…

    Full moon was Saturday. I do not heed arbitrary “moons.” 🙂

    Sonya, yes! The scary park. A teacher has a home practice space in a ramshackle mansion two blocks from MacArthur and two blocks from the Labor Federation where I used to do a lot of volunteering. The only reason it feels natural to me is from the years living in Central America… otherwise it would feel like another world and I wouldn’t engage so easily.

    I wasn’t expecting this, but practicing there feels much gutsier and juicier than perfect spaces. God knows how people (practitioners I’ve never seen anywhere, maybe because they’re turned off by the cultural homogeneity of the whole studio thing) find it, but there is as they say much shakti. Much!

  • Posted 12 January 2009 at 11:29 pm | #

    What a curious tattoo.

    I wonder if the combat in the ‘holy lands’ will never end.

  • Posted 13 January 2009 at 4:16 am | #

    I like how you describe your faith in humanity rising and falling on a wave; that’s beautiful.

    This house in MacArthur park sounds like a wonderful place, good energy. Like the little art gallery and performance space my friends set up in the old Teamsters Local 312. You see the same little group of hardcores supporting the locally-owned business and galleries and theatres in Flint. Murder capital, schmurder capital! There is definitely a lot of creativity, people trying to scratch a living off the surface, as you say. Grow it ourselves.

  • knl
    Posted 13 January 2009 at 5:39 pm | #

    I don’t think you’re saying poverty engenders “creativity” (whatever that is) — right? “Survival” may demand some creative thinking, but I can’t/won’t make the leap that that’s the only way to get there. There’s something vaguely social-Darwinian in all that. It might be enough to simply dig the energy of a place like the MacArthur Park neighborhood. Because, I agree: it’s a much more swinging place than most of the west side.

  • Posted 13 January 2009 at 5:39 pm | #

    good morning (0v0)
    i had to google before asking, i thought the tatoo had to do with the elements, and yes, “lead to gold”, but PBAU also stands for Palm Beach Atlantic University, a painting by Matt Gardner, and a transportation consultancy in Australia.

  • katie
    Posted 14 January 2009 at 5:23 am | #

    well, at the risk of sounding obnoxious, I must name-check and virtually dap your Mountain Goats reference by saying that D. often plays with one of their collaborators and sometimes this collaborator even comes over for dinner and if you ever do get your 3-hours-behind california ass to this primary-but-not-superior coast where it is now way past ashtangi bedtime, maybe we can all meet.

  • Posted 15 January 2009 at 2:46 am | #

    Yes KNL, that would be really creepily social-Darwinian. I’m more just saying it is good in the east. …but three hours east? Katie, I need to get my ass and et cetera to you. I knew there was good music in your house, but wow.


    A close mentor, friend and PhD adviser was killed in a motorcycle accident this week. He was 49. I am taking some time away.

  • Posted 15 January 2009 at 8:36 am | #

    Oh! I’m sorry.

  • knl
    Posted 15 January 2009 at 1:49 pm | #

    So sorry to hear about your friend.

  • V
    Posted 15 January 2009 at 3:41 pm | #

    Oh no, how horrible! I’m really sorry, Owl.

  • katie
    Posted 15 January 2009 at 4:40 pm | #

    Ouch. So sorry for the loss, Owlie.

  • Posted 15 January 2009 at 11:35 pm | #

    sorry about your loss!

  • Posted 16 January 2009 at 9:55 pm | #

    We’ll miss you, but your energy is obviously needed elsewhere.
    Take care of yourself while you take care of others. Sorry to hear of this loss.

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