world war ii portraits

At the Palm Springs Air Museum, artist Chris Demarest talks with museum visitors Lenore Crilly and her grandson Ethan Jordan. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / July 29, 2014)

The soundtrack to Friday’s Great Read is from Frank Sinatra’s wonderful “concept” album, “September of My Years.”

I’m pretty sure I was the only kid in my junior high who had a thing for Sinatra, who wasn’t even a singer of my parents’ generation. Still, they had a stash of his albums, and I would sneak them away and play them on my (personal) turntable. Sure, I loved jazzy albums like “Come Fly With Me” and “Come Swing With Me.” But one of my favorites was the tinged-with-melancholy “September of My Years.”

How did this album, full of wisdom and regret, resonate with a teenager? Many years later, I feel like Sinatra in the album, looking back at his younger self and wishing he could talk to him, give him advice.

Sinatra did the album when he was about to turn 50, and you can hear a lifetime of experience in his voice. It’s not the thing of beauty of his younger years, but I love the deeper tone, the slight rasp that cigarettes and booze have given him. Always a master of timing, he pauses often here, as if to reflect on the life he has lived.

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 if my fellow editor Millie Quan ushered them through. A story soundtrack!

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Monday’s Great Read:

Thai Muslim mosque in Azusa is a work of faith

It is near midnight. The Ramadan prayers have just been said, the congregants have paid respect to Allah and headed home. Only the gray-haired imam and his wife remain at the little house of faith they have devoted their lives to.

They walk to their car, looking at the stars, reminiscing about a journey that began 50 years ago and a world away from a low-slung neighborhood up against the Los Angeles foothills.

“This has been quite something, all we have gone through leading us here,” says Rahmat Phyakul. With his wife, Sukatee, at his side, he points proudly to a tall green-and-white sign.

Masjid Al-Fatiha.

On the same sign, another message, this one in the flowing script of their native land. He pauses to translate: First Mosque Established by Thai Muslims in America.

“This place,” he says, “it's our purpose in life.”

#soundtrack: “True Faith,” by New Order. Any song that starts with “I feel so extraordinary/something’s got a hold on me” is OK in my book.

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Tuesday’s Great Read:

Theater troupe takes on Jewish female stereotypes

Ronda Spinak squeezed more folding chairs into a Brentwood living room, which that afternoon had been transformed, with much shuffling of couches and tables, into a temporary theater.
Moving around the space, she listened for echoes and background noise.

Just past 7:30 p.m., she scurried to the patio and kitchen to shoo 70 theatergoers to their seats. Lights were dimmed. Five actors filed in and perched on stools in front of the brick fireplace.