IN LA – ROCK AND ROLL AND BEING BLESSED BY AN ANGEL

I visit the Annenberg Space for Photography to see a show called ‘Who Shot Rock and Roll?’ a retrospective selection of music photographer’s work from 1955 to the present. A film also plays in the show and rather than being curtained off ina  separate room it shows on two screens at each end of an oval shaped space on which the photographs hang, both on the interior and exterior surfaces. This is a good idea as the commentary from some of the photographers speaking in the film sometimes happens to correspond with a photograph of theirs you are looking at. The soundtrack of the film also provides energy in the space and one can view the photographs and nod ones head simultaneously.

It is a great selection of photographs and I really liked the rarely-seen pictures of Elvis at 21 years of age. In these images Elvis is a stupidly good-looking young man, who was still ‘The Kid’ and yet to become ‘The King”.

It was interesting to note how the ‘Access All Areas’ culture has changed over the years and nowadays it is rare for a band to allow a photographer to follow them around on tour and have access to their private and intimate moments. Jill Furmansky and Oasis being a notable exception. Noel Gallagher talks about how he would rather have Furmansky shoot him candidly for 18 hours than stand in a studio for a one-hour shoot.

The section where photographs of now-famous bands shot by now- famous photographers, both at the start of their careers, was fascinating as it showed the simultaneous reliance of one on the other. Anton Corbijn, with U2 for example.

On the way back from the exhibition I take the number 7 ‘Big Blue Bus’ back to my hostel, it’s the same bus that I took on the way to the show but it terminates instead at a bus station some way from my desired destination. I ask the driver for the best way to Crenshaw and he tells me its five minutes that direction (gesturing vaguely to his right) I stand on a street corner for less than one minute to get my bearings, when a woman says from my side, “You look lost – are you lost?”

I agree that I am and tell her that I thought the bus would be taking me to Crenshaw Boulevard and that it stopped here. I’m thinking of walking and does she know the direction? “Are you crazy?” she says,  “Crenshaw is a long, long road, what number you lookin’ for?” I tell her and she says that’s not too bad. I tell her if she will point me in the right direction, I will walk it.  She pauses and looks at me intently for a moment then says, “Show me your I.D. – I might just give you a ride.” Somewhat taken aback I don’t comprehend why I should show my passport to a person who (might) be giving me a lift.  I hold my passport open for her and put it in front of her face, she reads my name, looks intently at me again and turns to a man queuing at a nearby ATM and says “Hey, what’s your name?”, “Will” he answers, “Well, Mr. Will”, she says, “Take a good look at my face, my name is Janice from Hollywood”. “Uh Huh” says Will.

“Now Will, while you’re at it, take a good look at this man’s face too”, she gestures to me, “His name is Stephen Mepsted and he’s from England”. ”I am gonna give this man a ride, as he is lost”. “Uh Huh”, nods Will slowly.

“And Will” says Janice, “If you see my name or face in the morning papers or on TV and I’m like all dead and raped, then you make sure to remember the name ‘Mr. Stephen Mepsted’ from England!”

At this point I burst out laughing, but Janice from Hollywood is deadly serious and I am about to make a joke to a bemused looking Will: “Hey Will…should ‘Steve Mepsted from England’ turns up on the news dead and raped then please remember the name ‘Janice from Hollywood’!” but I think better of it.

Now I don’t know LA that well of course, so I guess Janice is absolutely right to get a witness to her good deed just in case it turns out to be a bad deed…on my part. The contract is made and she shows me to her massive station wagon and drives me along the freeway towards Crenshaw. I try to give her some landmarks to head for, ones that are near my hostel, as I am notoriously bad at directions – no sense at all and can’t remember street names, in a strange place I navigate by a building I’ve seen and by a striking location I can work my way back to.

“I remember a big tall building called ‘Harbor’” I say, and she says she knows it and that’s fine, we can go there…its not too far.

On the way she says to me. “You know, that’s not a great place to stand around looking lost”, “The bus depot”? I ask,

“Yea, its not a good neighborhood – not really a neighborhood at all.” I express my thanks for picking me up.

She asks me, “What are you doing in Los Angeles” I tell her I am travelling around on Amtrak trains from place to place, taking photographs and writing and thinking”, she seems impressed but wrinkles her brow at me like I am a bit odd.

Janice then says, with sudden passion in her voice, “Deaths coming! – Live!”

I am not quite sure how to respond to this slightly startling utterance but take it as an inspirational quote, which I am sure I am meant to.

She says in a less urgent voice, “Sorry about the ID thing earlier, but my husband is sick and tired of me picking up lost people – you see I am a God fearing Christian and I have to pick up Gods lost children,” I nod, worried that there may be some converting-the-English-man-preaching-talk about to be done, but no….she continues, “My husband says there are too many lost children out there and one day you are going to pick up the wrong one and end up dead, I guess he worries about me.”

I tell her I am thankful and that she is a good person,” I add ludicrously, “I’m not going to kill you.” She smiles and says that she can tell I wont.

She asks me if I am never scared, she means in strange places, not generally scared in life. I tell her I am always getting lost, I don’t drive, I rely on public transport and walking and it gets me into areas that might be considered dangerous but because I don’t know they are dangerous I am not scared. It’s all a part of gaining new experiences and I point out that our current situation is a perfect illustration of that. She agrees.

Janice tells me about her work: church charity missions, and networking for funding, she travels a lot with ministers of the church and considers herself to be a lucky person. She believes that ‘givers’, by giving, gain everything, and ‘takers’ only want more and will never be satisfied.  I agree with her and ask if she gets scared – she says her faith keeps her confident that God looks after her and that she is not scared of death. She admits that she is, however, scared of driving on the high-speed freeways and that she has to listen to inspirational CD’s while she is doing so.

As we approach the hostel she asks what I am going to do this evening? I tell her I am tired from arriving at 5.20am and walking all day, that I will have an early night. I will go to the 7 Eleven to get some groceries, make a meal and crash. She is then kind enough to take me a further half mile to the 7 Eleven.

Before I get out of the car I implore her not to get killed tonight because I might get the blame if ‘Mr. Will’ is on the ball! She says she’ll try not to, and laughs. We say goodbye in the parking lot and I forget to take her picture. Oh well…thanks, and goodbye Janice – Bless You!

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