Reporter Joseph Serna took a different approach to reporting on a fateful dare in Koreatown earlier today:
'Twas the nightmare before Christmas, for one man in K-Town.
He got stuck in a chimney Friday, about 30 feet down.
He climbed in the passageway because of a dare.
His only hope of rescue: that L.A firefighters would be there.
For four long, cramped hours, his friends tried to save him.
But as sunrise approached, his chances looked slim.
Firefighters were called; the chimney was just 18 inches wide.
They looked through the top, the bottom — thought of cutting open the side.
In the end, the 20-year-old was freed. He managed to shimmy out.
But there’s vandalism to the chimney that cops are citing him about.
The pals were drinking and daring, Sgt. Raul Pedroza said.
They were doing “silly things,” not using their heads.
Serna recounted the process that led to a bit of journalistic poetry:
I was reading out loud what a possible lead could be, thinking of playing off the idea of a man stuck in a chimney so Christmas coming early, or just the idea of not following through on a dare.
Then Kimi [one of our editors] said what this kid when through was “a nightmare before Christmas.”
When I wrote “It was the nightmare before Christmas,” in my head I reflexively began reciting the Twas the Night Before Christmas poem. So I went with it!
For the full story, making up for its lack of rhyme with solid reporting, head over to L.A. Now.
Made-to-order poetry in Los Angeles
Jacqueline Suskin, a writer and former vegetable gardener, has taken to the Hollywood Farmers Market for her latest venture: The Poem Store.
Sitting with her typewriter, Suskin takes requests from curious passersby and regulars, taking requests for poems on back pain to making verse fit the title “Since Wednesday.”
As for the most popular request?
"Everyone is always asking for love poems," she says. "We are all obsessed with love."But love, as a topic, is deeply unspecific. When someone asks her to write a poem about love, she responds by asking what kind of love. That usually leads to a story about a girlfriend living far away, or a person new to Los Angeles desperately missing her family, or the love a mother has for her new baby.
She thinks people ask for poems that help them understand their path or direction in life.
"They want hope, or confidence, or they just need someone to see who they are," she says. "Half the time I feel like I am a therapist or a psychic."
Photos: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times
An NPR host’s tweeted bereavement
"Weekend Edition Saturday" host Scott Simon lost his mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman Monday night, but not before spending, and sharing, many hours at her side.
His more than 1.2 million Twitter followers have, over the course of the month, witnessed Simon documenting her struggles in the ICU, and his own difficulties in seeing his mother’s life ebb away before him.
Simon’s tweets show just how social media allows for new ways of coping with the inevitability of death, and the weight of the final moments spent with loved ones:
Many followers praised Simon’s openness for giving them the sense that they were not suffering alone. As one user put it, “comforting to know others are going through the same thing as my fam. May your mom pass peacefully, as I hope my father will.”
For just a sample of Simon’s poignant messages (more can be found via NPR):
Mother asks, “Will this go on forever?” She means pain, dread. “No.” She says, “But we’ll go on forever. You & me.” Yes.— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon)
I love holding my mother’s hand. Haven’t held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap.— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon)
Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles
Preserving ancient teachings in Timbuktu
Boubacar Sadeck, the youngest of Timbuktu’s scribes at 38, is a master of an ancient art - one that ties him closely to the historical writings that he spends his days transcribing and preserving.
"My weakness, my love, is calligraphy," said the scribe, who fled Timbuktu, famed for its collection of centuries-old manuscripts, when Islamist militias invaded last year. "If I go a day without writing, I feel as if something is missing or strange. When I sit down with my paper and my pen, I feel wonderful. I feel at ease."
Many of Timbuktu’s ancient scripts are now refugees separated from their former home in Ahmed Baba Institute after Islamist militias invaded. The rest have been either lost or destroyed in the chaos caused by the successful fight to drive the militias out of the city. Now, the future of these artifacts from the past is up in the air.
Read more in reporter Robyn Dixon’s story here
Photos: Evan Schneide / UN, Eric Feferberg / AFP/Getty Images
The intersections between Los Angeles and literature
Yesterday marked the debut of our Literary L.A. feature, which highlights literary hotspots across the city. Want to go where Ray Bradbury wrote “Fahrenheit 451” on a type writer fueled by dimes? We have you covered.
And of course, the tool’s a work-in-progress, so send over your feedback on authors, works or mentions you’d like to see included!
Check out the tool here, or get psyched for this weekend’s Festival of Books, running from April 20-21 at the USC Campus.
Happy birthday, Robert Frost: Asked at his 80th birthday party (in 1954) about the most important thing he had learned about life, Robert Frost had this to say: “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles … with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged … tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.”
Frost’s comments were published in the L.A. Times on Sept. 5, 1954. You can read them in full here (the slider at the top right of the page allows you to zoom).
Remembering Sylvia Plath: Fifty years ago today, Plath, now a titan of literature, killed herself in a tragic end to a talent appreciated far too belatedly.
Just a month earlier, Plath’s now-classic novel “The Bell Jar,” had been published under a pseudonym in England, but it wasn’t until the 1965 posthumous publication of her poetry collection “Ariel,” and the 1971 U.S. release of “The Bell Jar,” that a wide audience realized what had been lost when the 30-year-old Plath resigned from her tumultuous life.
Read our own Carolyn Kellogg’s reflection on Plath’s legacy, or
read more of Plath’s work over at the Poetry Foundation.
(Photo via Faber and Faber / Los Angeles Times)
A totally Californian poet laureate: Juan Felipe Herrera, 63, is the son of migrant farmworkers and plugged in to modern culture. He’d like to make the entire state a democratic, virtual poetry workshop.
Photo: Professor Juan Felipe Herrera, recently appointed California’s poet laureate by Gov. Jerry Brown, leads a poetry workshop at UC Riverside. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times