By Kari Howard
I was introduced to one of this week’s bands, Balmorhea, in a video for a song called “Pyrakantha.” If I needed an excuse, the short film made me fall in love with Los Angeles again.
Showing a skateboarder making his way through the city as darkness falls and streetlights and neon signs flicker on, it doesn’t romanticize Los Angeles. You see the incongruity of geese honking in the concrete of the L.A. River. Children eating ice cream cones outside Ray’s Market & Liquor. One red lantern unlit in a string over Chinatown. The striped pole spinning outside Vinny’s Barber Shop. People lined up at food truck next to a graffitied tree.
But oh, the glow of those lights over the city (especially the dreamy Silver Lake chandelier tree).
It’s our everyday life, made beautiful.
And sometimes that’s what the best Great Reads do. You pass by that corner every day, but you never knew about its secret, dazzling life. These stories illuminate the real world.
Anyway, in these roundups of the week gone by, I’d like to offer the first paragraphs of each Great Read (or, as they’re known in print, Column One) --maybe they’ll buy your eye and you can settle in for a good weekend read. And you’ll also get the songs that inspired me while editing the stories, or reading them later. A story-song combo!
Ensuring the Tenderloin's departed are not forgotten
Arnold Stringfellow lived alone in a single-room-occupancy hotel in the Tenderloin. He died alone in the county hospital. He was 64.
On a chilly morning not long after, the Rev. Glenda Hope stood before a small crowd in the community room of the Camelot Hotel. On a folding table behind the Presbyterian minister was a color copier image of Stringfellow, a big plate of cake in hand, smiling.
Hope adjusted her hearing aids and issued the greeting she had spoken many times before.
“Good morning, friends,” the minister began, solemn and gentle. “None of us wants to think that when we die, no notice will be taken and no respect given. So thank you for being here to take notice and give this final respect to Arnold.”
Since founding San Francisco Network Ministries more than 40 years ago, Hope has helped thousands of the city's most anonymous residents leave the world with grace. She has performed memorials on the streets of the Tenderloin and in its SRO hotels. She has arranged for obituaries to be placed in a neighborhood newspaper, which dubbed her the “Tenderloin closer.”
#storysongs combo: “Remembrance,” by Balmorhea. This might be the first combo song I’ve offered that’s instrumental. Lyrics are a tic of mine, I know. The music is spare, yet powerfull.
Women in India 'just aren't safe'
When she was a girl growing up in India's mountainous northeast, Sobhana Gazmer used to rough up boys who gave her lip. These days in the big city of New Delhi, she's scared to walk the streets, take public transportation, even sleep in her one-room apartment, with its single bed covered in stuffed animals.