My most recent trip to Los Angeles finally yielded a visit to the Watts Towers. I’m not sure what I expected to see but the effect of the towers rising, as their designer and builder Simon Rodia put it, “up to the sun,” was both breathtaking and calming. There, in the middle of a tidy, residential area, is the Watts Towers Arts Center, home to the single city block environed by the towers and their relevant structures, as well as a museum of contemporary art, a handfull of faded but still compelling murals, and some freestanding sculpture. It is a celebration of the neighborhood, the vibrancy of Watts, a full embrace of its past, and full advocacy of its present and future. There are artist residencies and music festivals, and jazz education and mentorship for emerging and developing youth musicians, but above all are the towers, Nuestro Pueblo.
My band, BELLS≥, recorded the first of our North American Spirituals this past weekend at the Magpie Cage in Baltimore. The piece is called “The First Ray.” We debuted it last year on tour, and although we’ve kept the overall structure intact from that version, there have been some significant changes that we hope familiar listeners will enjoy.
I was in Colorado last week for a family event and took these pictures in the course of a hike into a very small portion of Rocky Mountain National Park. What appealed to me about these subjects was the disarray, the contrast between cleared and nearly-uniform wooded areas and meadows, and the invasive presence of the root balls and fallen trees that previously contributed to that order. Each of these photos presents a sort of sore thumb.
This group of photos was taken midday last Saturday during the Dew NBA event at the basketball courts on Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The general sense of activity was rather loose when I happened by, and although there was play on each court, it appeared to be entirely unsupervised, so I couldn’t tell if it was part of the event or not. Maybe I showed up between rounds and these guys were playing pickup to fill the time.
I’m not aware of another city that has our quotidian relationship with handball courts. Anyone familiar with New York City’s park system recognizes these walls with unattended indifference. Should the walls, on the other hand, appear unused and mysteriously erect and their purpose unclear, it takes only a quick query to a local to learn that they’re for handball. Like eating pizza while walking or scaffold pull-ups, handball is a not infrequently-occurring phenomenon here in New York.