Tarzana Is My Heroine

a poet considers the imaginary and reality of Tarzana

Hell Is A Shell Game @ Reseda x Ventura Blvds.

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Jane Rocks These Red Pumps, But Why?

Tarzan & Jane

This image of Tarzan and Jane is in one of the mosaic fountains on Tarzana’s Safari Walk. This mosaic, just like the mosaic I set as this blog’s header, was created by Jose Antonio Aguirre, an artist who specializes in public art. The image is pretty, but also . . . preposterous!

Why have Jane wear an impractical dress to swing through the jungle in Tarzan’s arms? Any woman knows that skirt would fly up–how embarrassing! And the fashionable red pumps, while darling, would fall off the minute she left the ground.

In this whimsical, impossible scene, there’s no trace of the determined woman Jane was, even in Disney’s silly, animated Tarzan and Jane. She’s also a long way from the aristocratic Jane of Tarzan The Tiger (1929), who leaves her posh life to live in the wild.

This Jane is a fun-loving, svelte lady who does Pilates and drinks Diet Pepsi–a perfect “California girl” who doesn’t for a minute look like she’s in a jungle–unless it’s the ‘concrete jungle’ of L.A., for which she is, come to think of it, well-prepared.

First credit for Natalie Kingston as Lady Jane...

First credit for Natalie Kingston as Lady Jane in Tarzan the Tiger (1929) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Natalie Kingston as Lady Jane in Tarzan the Ti...

Natalie Kingston as Lady Jane in Tarzan the Tiger (1929)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Safari Walk mosaic, Jane is wearing her best summer dress and fun fuck-me pumps. I’ve been trying to figure out the subtext–that is, something deeper than the obvious rescue/adventure fantasy?

Here’s the subtext I see: this pulp-fiction Tarzan is Tarzana’s resident celebrity. Safari Walk is his private theme park, his own backlot. He is expected to swoop in anytime there’s a beautiful young woman in distress, even if it’s just to be rescued from a boring birthday lunch at Il Tramezzino. The rescue goes down using the romance-novel script–the rescuer is a bad-boy who’s completely macho, yet capable of giving every tender attention.

Ladies, that’s a harmonic convergence that happens, oh, maybe once a millennium!

Here’s a close-up of underwater Jane’s red pumps. They’re just not for swinging on vines–which nowadays would be zip-lining.

Jane’s Red Pumps

For her next appearance in a mosaic, mural, or poster, please give Jane a flak jacket, pith helmet, and some proper footwear. Then she won’t need any saving!

English: French Navy pith helmet of the early ...

French Navy pith helmet of the early 20th century. On display at Toulon naval museum, access number 49 AR 91 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vasque Hiking Boots

Vasque Hiking Boots (Photo credit: Digitalnative)

Btw, here’s a link to the Tarzan Movie Guide website. It lists all of the Tarzan movies since 1915, with capsule reviews:


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Premier Car Wash, Encino

Premier Car Wash

This is my local car wash, and they do a good job and they don’t do the hard-sell of higher-priced services like some other places do.

And they are honest–they once found my son’s Playstation, left in the car, and kept it carefully put away for me, assuming I’d eventually come back for it.

They’ve updated the look of the carwash since I took this photo some months ago, but with the retro features intact. Kudos to the owners!

That said, I can’t properly convey how this particular photo hits me. It’s not as bad as some visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard, but there is something jarring about it.

I think it just screams “Valley!” It’s a microcosm of Valley style: one endless mash-up of signage, ads, colors, and architecture styles. Or should I say “architecture” styles?

The bright blues, yellows, and reds compound the garish effect here and everywhere in the Valley, and the starburst–or is it a sunburst?–feature atop each column of the carwash gives a dated, space-age look to the place. (The Space Age of the 1960s, that is.)

It’s a kitsch-meets-mindlessly-trashy look all the way, so I’m going to file this photo under my new “Valley Ugly/Valley Pretty” blog category.

Or is it just this particular photo?

Did my mind skew my eye so that I made the kind of visual I expect to see in the Valley–you know, *that* Valley!

To prove my own point, stay tuned for another post in which I show that the same car wash can look perfectly tasteful and fetchingly retro.

And I’ll even turn it into Vispo–visual poetry–wait and see!


If anyone has a photo they think is the epitome of “Valley Ugly” or “Valley Pretty,” please include it–or a link to it–in the comment section!


2500 Random Things, part II: 3 Views Of A Tree In Encino

II.   3 Views of A Tree In Encino

When I got back to the Valley after Matias’s book party and reading, I pulled over in Encino to take a photo of this quarter moon which just seemed to hang off the left of this tree lit up near the Baha’i Center on Balboa.

Tree With Moon

Then, when I was trying to get a good shot of the moon and tree, this happened. I have no idea how!

Blue Tree

The next morning I went back to see what the tree looked like in daylight. Here it is–without the streetlight or moonlight or the blue effect. Just a tree on a nondescript street corner.

Daytime Tree
Daytime Tree


After juxta-posting [to coin a term] 2500 Random Things About Me Too and these 3 versions of a random tree, I realize I don’t even know what kind of tree it is . . . !

Can any arborists or tree lovers out there help me with this? Matias?

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Re: 2500 Random Things About Me Too, part I

I.   2500 Random Things About Me Too (Viegener, 2012)

I went to LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) in Hollywood last Thursday for my friend Matias Viegener’s book release party. He teaches writing and critical studies at CalArts and is part of the Fallen Fruit public art collective. Matias actually lives in Silver Lake, so I’m going back ‘over the hill’ here to include him, but I’ll get back to the Valley in part II of this post (look for it tomorrow!).

His new book, 2500 Random Things About Me Too was just published by Les Figues Press, with which I’m associated. The book is a great and engaging read. The text consists of 100 different “25 Random Things About Me” Facebook lists. For those who’ve forgotten already, that was a meme that went around FB what, two years ago now?

Matias’s sustained reiteration of these lists results in a work that reworks the eternal dilemmas: Is my life random or coherent? Does my life fit a traditional or an experimental ‘narrative’? Who would play me in the movie version of my life? And . . . . Is it even a life, if there’s no ‘story’?

In the beginning of the book, Matias says, “Narrative is overrated. An addiction to transparency . . . It doesn’t have much to do with real life. . . . Of course I love a good story.”

This tension is sustained through the book as Matias (randomly) discusses and ruminates on:

1. his immigrant parents and their complex identities;

2. his dog Peggy’s declining health;

3.  many gay liaisons and loves;

4. a friend’s struggle with cancer;

5. What is art? What makes a good life? What is death?

Matias begins his first list saying, “People think I’m American but inside I’m foreign.” Five lines later he says, “I don’t want to tell people things they don’t know about me.”  This was posted on FB one list at a time, where his 3,500+ ‘friends’ and counting could read them. Or not.

The irony here isn’t a knowing tone, but is rather, and thus more seriously, in the work’s bones.

The act of continuing to write versions of a singular list puts questions of self-presentation, voice, and time in the foreground. As the lists progress through the book, it’s the repetition itself that builds the implicit formal structure that ends up both superseding the list format and serving as plot. Or not.

Matias told me it was his FB readers/friends who pointed out repetitions of which he’d been unconscious. He chose to leave these in. I think this stylistic evidence of his ‘repetition compulsions’ is more revelatory than any individual, racy detail (of which there are also many) could be. The structure of the book, in a way, is a self-psychoanalysis. Genius!

The echoic layering of themes and phrasings builds as the lists keep coming and coming, along with all the sex he keeps having! The ‘random’ facts accrete and then compound–poignant, throwaway, and indelible all at the same time. Even though I know the writer very well, I saw a unique and literary character emerge out of the queer marriage of formal constraint and maximallist repetition in this book of 25 x 100 things.

2500 Random Things is a sustained interrogation of self and surroundings in which the reader is handed roles that keep morphing: confidante, student, stranger-on-a-plane, voyeur, beloved. Who [besides Les Figues editor Vanessa Place] could have guessed that a faddish FB meme could yield something so artful and so thoughtful?

Read more about the book, or buy it here:


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Tarzana Is A Neon Sunset

We were on our way home after a weekend away. There were mares’ tails striping the sky as we came driving back on the 101, yes, into the west. A knockout sunset got going. Not some schmaltzy, Happy-Trails thing, but a nitrous, virulent-neon apocalypse thing! The sky went skink-yellow, fright-white, bruised-peach. We tailed the red-eye of tail lights that starting blinking into dusk like the eyes of hyenas caught in the glare of a night-vision camera.


Tail lights on the 101

It was 15 years ago, in the twilight of a day like this one, that I decided to move back & be with you.

That day the sunset’s napalm colors came from the after-burn of a Minuteman rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base up in Lompoc. The Technicolor color riot unhinged me. I was wild for the possibilities of beauty, even if toxic. In ebb-&-flow riffs of conversation, you made a flaming word-cocktail out of something daily gone over to otherworldly .

Tarzana: I moved back for your Rocket-Man words, girl, & the fireworks.


Sunset on the 101


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Tarzana Is My Ripened Fig

It’s the end of fig season, but my new tree has only been in my Encino yard for two years so the fig crop was a total of one: just one perfectly wrinkled purple fig. It was petite, but buxom of bottom. Here is a close-up of some of the tree’s disproportionately large leaves. The one in the center could serve as a plus-size cover-up.

All leaves and no fruit

In 2009, I wrote two pieces (slightly revised here) for the “Give A Fig” blog of independent L.A. publisher Les Figues Press, where I’m on the board and curate the literary salon, Mrs. Porter’s. [N.B., Les Figues means figs in French. See http://www.lesfigues.blogspot.com.] I’m re-posting the pieces here, in honor of my one shapely fig:

1.  April 16  (re. Fig Etymology)
So here’s the fruit of a little armchair etymology tracing the connection between figs as fruit and Les Figues. “Fig” is feague—‘whipping’ or ‘beating,’ from the German fegen—‘polish.’ Feg = fake flattery = “fig shower.” “A fig tree displays its roots.” It also descends from sycophant, from sykon (Greek) also “vulva.” Yes, the fig/female genital connection is as old as the Greeks and older (see below).

On fig reproduction: “The tiny flowers of the fig are out of sight, clustered inside the green ‘fruits’, technically a synconium . . . In the case of the common fig the flowers are all female and need no pollination.” (California Rare Fruit Growers, http://www.crfg.org). Who knew the Inland Empire was a hot bed of fig hybridization? — the “Excel,” “Flanders,” “Judy” and “Len” varieties originated in Riverside or Pasadena.

N.B. I’ll remind you figs aren’t the only fruit where a whole stands for a part that’s a hole. The pomegranate, la grenade, does that too, & in the same Romance languages.

Figs are also fig.ures—they’re the dope on tropes, as in representation, con.fig.ured. Which shows off another con our forked tongue pulls off: con (French., n.m.), is “idiot” and “female genital,” pardon my French.

Fig. leaves keep covering up women already under/between covers (of themselves) — ‘down there’ where fig. figs literally symbolize.

Fig./fig, try out this: “I like to make things that look like one thing even as they contain another….”

Fig leaves are large; they’re cover-ups. Leaves go figure. “Leaves”—as a fig.—as pages of a book. Pressed figs. Paper was skin first, papyrus, then wood by-product. Paper grows on trees, & books would be made of fig. leaves, cover to cover.

2. March 3  (“Figs Do Put Out”)

Figs and Les Figues have started to meld in my thinking about ‘the Southland’ — the fabulous media market of Greater Los Angeles. We’ve cultivated orange groves, olive trees, pomegranates, avocados, vineyards, and figs forever, wanting to be Mediterranean. And more, the Southland has always been sold as a Heaven on earth. A bill of goods, you may say.

In church, they teach the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree as a lesson to ‘ya about having faith and the need to put out the goods. The tree got cursed for not putting out. My theory is that ministers use the story as a way to chastize their wives secretly, in public.

It’s true that figs don’t put out. You can’t ship them. They’re not commodifiable. They don’t keep. They’ll never be a lollipop flavor. You don’t put figs in a rum fool. When fresh, they ooze, then rot, attracting gnats. Figs are strictly hand-to-mouth. You can’t pick figs by the handful. To pick them requires deliberation. You cradle the bottom of the fig in your palm, put a finger on the sappy white stem and snap the stem from the branch. Otherwise you blow the top.

Figs do get themselves into jams. They like a chocolate bath. They sit on their netherworlds and deliquesce, wasp traps. Oh fig, thou art sick!

“Conceptual poetry is poetry pregnant with thought.” (Charles Bernstein)

I have a fig tree at my childhood home in Redlands. More figs fall than we can eat. They plop on the ground, bottom-heavy; bruised and stoic odalisques posing in a random yet constrained pattern under the leaf canopy. They may be staging a critique of Christianity’s prejudice against figs, fags, & fogs of doubt. Or it may be a visual poem honoring the slow food movement & innovative writing by women. That’s how figs put out, here in the Southland.