When a murder goes unsolved for some time, Sal LaBarbera
will commonly receive the phone calls from a victim's friends and family, inquiring about a case on the birthday or the anniversary of their loved ones' death. Sal is a detective in the homicide division of South Los Angeles, one of the most infamous urban areas in the United States. He's seen thousands of cases since joining the division in 1986. At that time in the city's history, Los Angeles was experiencing a crime epidemic brought by rock-cocaine. The area still comprises about 40% of the homicide activity in Los Angeles, but these days the number of homicides is at a record low owing in part to the LAPD's gang intervention plans and work with the community.
There's no question that murder is a senseless, incomprehensible act of violence, and one of the ugliest of crimes committed by humankind. To be impacted by such an event is utterly shocking and tragic, and for those who've experienced this loss, a full emotional recovery will always be out of reach. Few will understand this as intimately as a homicide detective. In their service to the community, they drift in and out of circles of grief and loss created by a victim's death. Nonetheless, they must also find their way back to their own lives and families each day.
Sal joined the fire brigade as a volunteer when he was just a teenager. There he learned that while life is precious, it can be ended brutally over a minor occurrence. Everyone in the homicide division has his or her own way of coping with this realization. Sal, now 27 years older than he was when he started out in homicide, finds joy in the littlest joke or a smile, and in spending time with his daughter. Still, to compensate for the degree to which his own life is occupied by the death of others, he must perpetually seek access to a certain balance; a way to be wholly, and happily present in the moments of his own life.
There are many reasons why a part of us clings to the past, as time marches on toward our future. We all have memories of times when the pace of life seemed to be more controlled, and things were simpler. The question of who you were was straight-forward and the unknown of what you and the world would become seemed more a hopeful promise than a challenge. Thinking back on these times can make them seem quite a daydream. And a daydream it has seemed to be for many a young boy who saw the Goodyear Blimp in the sky for the first time.
Los Angeles hosts the residency of a rather majestic guest from Akron, Ohio -- one who leaves people with those thoughts of the past. This guest is a symbol, an American icon that has been flying the US and beyond it since 1920. It is the Spirit of America, one of three Goodyear Blimps still in operation today. Goodyear started building these majestic airships in 1920 when commercial flying was still in its early stages. The Goodyear Blimp channeled what was in many ways an American obsession: triumph. During World War II, Zeppelins escorted Navy ships through out their routes on the Pacific. Though there are now larger, more sophisticated, and higher-flying aircraft --- it's a warmly nostalgic indulgence to see that Goodyear has kept the Blimps flying throughout the decades.
Spirit of America pilot David Bowling, first saw the Goodyear Blimp
flying when he was about nine years old, and he chased it as long and as far as he could. Early on, David knew he wanted to become a pilot -- but it had never crossed his mind that some day he would fly the Goodyear Blimp. Stealth fighter, Commercials Airlines and private jets sounded much more his speed. But when the opportunity to fly this historic airship came along after years of flying airplanes, he snatched it, and hasn't regretted the choice since. 'It is flying history, when you are sitting up there in the sky," he says.
As Angelenos, we're a bit spoiled to see this American icon floating in the skies. In a city with such a relatively short history, and a tendency to reinvent itself, such reminders of our past are rare. I Am Los Angeles has it on good confirmation that Goodyear plans on keeping this American icon up in the air, and that it will sent out a brand new blimp in the near future...lest we forget who we are and where we've been.
Despite having two professional teams and many European stars in Los Angeles, soccer still struggles to compete in popularity with American sports like Basketball, Football and Baseball. In Southern California, Chivas Guadalajara, a team that is hugely popular in Mexico, has brought many of the area’s most dedicated fans to soccer.
Leo, who used to be a Galaxy fan but now plays for the Under 14 league of Chivas USA, usually can’t wait the school day to be over so he can practice soccer. He may be young, but he knows that repetition and conditioning are the best ways to hone his skills. One of his favorite tricks is this one: while juggling, you move your foot in a circle around the ball. He managed to do it once, but he tries tirelessly to master it…he works on it over and over again after school and homework are done.
On the rare occasion that he gets tired, he thinks about how great would it be to play for one of Europe’s best soccer teams–FC Barcelona, with one of the if not the best player in the world Lionel Messi. But if he ended up on a professional team in the US, well, Leo says that would be great too.
It has been estimated that a resident of LA County will spend an estimated 4 days each year stuck in traffic. There’s an extensive network of freeways that’s been built to handle over twelve million cars on a daily basis. But traffic here is still so notoriously congested that even if you’re from out of town, you’re not likely to be surprised by the excruciatingly slow crawl that is the 405 freeway during rush hour.
Sitting in gridlocked traffic is boring, frustrating, even lonely. Listening to traffic on the radio isn’t likely to make you feel much better, but if there’s just one traffic reporter who would snap you out of your bitter mood, it would be Kajon Cermak on KCRW. There is something different about the way Kajon does her traffic reporting — her voice seems to express just the right amount of empathy for your plight, even if she never says the words.
When Kajon Cermak came to Southern California on one of the very same freeways traversed by daily commuters, she had little more than what was packed in her car. Driving through the palm tree lined landscape, she was far from the midwestern city where she had spent most of her life. On her journey bridging the old and new chapters in her life were friendly voices, tunes and information — all courtesy of local radio stations along the route to Los Angeles.
It was later that Kajon, a one-time aspiring actress, would find herself working for a Southern California radio station. She had gotten her start working at a smaller station in Thousand Oaks, when a surprise call from the local NPR affiliated station, KCRW, gave her a new break. Today Kajon runs the board and does the traffic for All Things Considered on KCRW.
It doesn’t matter whether if you are new in town or a long-time Angeleno, the rush hour commute is really never enjoyable. But have you ever been surprised to find yourself sitting an extra minute in the driveway or the garage while your local radio correspondent finishes up a report or story? Now, if only they could find a way to report on tomorrow’s traffic, the night before…
It takes a lot to intimidate Josh, a native Texan, who moved with his family to Venice Beach in the mid 80′s. Venice was a different place then, the streets were ruled by gangs, surfers and skaters. Sometimes you had to run and sometimes you had to fight for your ground. It wasn’t long before Josh was going by the nickname Texas in surfing and skating.
Life throws curve balls including the occasional economical downturn. Josh works as a wood floor maker, and times have not been easy. As challenging that can be, Josh is in balance because of his passion for music.
But music has always been in Josh‘s life. He was raised in a very musical family, and he was just a kid when he chose the trumpet to be his voice. Josh has been jamming ever since he was young, and learning more and more every day. When Josh was introduced to the world of jazz in Los Angeles he started going to spots like the World Stage in Leimart Park– where the doors were opened by the legendary Billy Higgins.
It can be intimidating at times… if you don’t know the song, then you have to stay seated until a song you recognize comes along. Josh walks into the World Stage, and the joint is filled with experienced jazz musicians. The jam session rolls on and Josh takes a seat. When his chance comes he stands up and walks onto the stage. As he puts the horn to his lips and begins to jam, you can practically see the rest of everything begin to drift away.
The Jams Sessions at the World Stage are every Thursday night. We highly recommend checking it out! Click below to listen to the snippets from the night when ‘I Am Los Angeles’ was at the world stage:
There’s something a true artist of any discipline knows better than everyone else in Los Angeles. It’s the fact that opening up your heart and expressing yourself to the world without reservation sounds simple but can be one of the most difficult things a person will ever do. Balancing this act with the natural inclination to seek acceptance and approval from others is an extremely delicate thing.
Eliot Rausch was an emotional kid growing up in the South Bay area, and he could tell that not many others were like him. He didn’t feel like he fit in, but he did grow up in a loving and supportive family. Once he was a teenager Eliot found himself on a very dark path involving heavy substance abuse, which continued for some time. Some people never make it out of this mode, but Eliot would have an experience that would change everything for him.
One night when Eliot was out riding in a car with a friend, there was a terrible accident and the car crashed. Both Eliot and his friend walked away. It was a miracle, and a sign too strong to be ignored. Eliot had to face himself, and consider whether he would keep walking this path or make a drastic change in his life. Eliot chose courage, and embraced the love from his friends and family. With time he learned to accept himself and his vision as an artist. He resumed work on his craft of filmmaking and today enjoys considerable success on account of his talent and vision.
We highly recommend taking a look at his work
This is the unlikely story of how Katy Haber became the City of Compton’s Ambassador to cricket, and how learning the game became a life-changing experience for a team of former gang members, one of them named Sergio.
Katy Haber was born in England and played cricket at school there. Many years later the film business brought Katy to LA. In the 90’s she worked at the Dome Village Homeless shelter, where she worked with the renowned homeless activist Ted Hayes. Katy and Ted had discovered a common passion for helping the less privileged, and they decided to start the Compton Cricket Club. Offering the youth of Compton an alternative to the ravages of gang activities through the ethical, gentlemanly sport of cricket.
When Ted and Katy brought cricket to Compton, Sergio had never heard of the game. At first he visualized a small race track with actual crickets. He had no way of knowing that this game would change his life forever. But drawn to the novelty of the little known sport of Cricket, and the idea that he could be a part of an elite, unique team from Compton, Sergio dedicated himself to the game with purpose.
Ever since then, Sergio has been a member of the team and Katy has been the Manager of a club that has toured through many continents as Cricket Ambassadors of Good Will. This unique Cricket Team has gone way Out of the Boundary by showing the world a positive image of Compton, and they are now planning to bring the game to other disenfranchised youth around the US.
It goes without saying that there are a lot of people striving to become actors in Hollywood. But for every bright young talent that arrives in Los Angeles aiming to work hard at honing his or her acting skills in the hopes of one day becoming an actor, there are few more aspiring actors of a different variety that showed up on the same day.
This second type really just wants to be able to tell folks back home that they’re here — and for as long as they manage to stay, they’ve made it. Gradually they become part of the landscape, and will continue to put in minimal effort for years, content to say the world missed out on their acting genius before they head home. That still leaves Los Angeles with a lot of people working really hard toward their dream, and they conjure a certain stereotype: the struggling actor, bussing tables and standing in line at auditions.
But generalizations about aspiring actors don’t accurately represent how Jason H. Christopher sees himself or the road he’s traveling. He’s carrying out a carefully calculated plan, and to some extent he’s at the mercy of others for their attention. But he isn’t helpless and struggling. He is creating and using the inertia that will help him in his pursuit to become a successful working actor. Jason grew up in Redlands, California, and he always enjoyed acting and showing off for a crowd. After a brief career in real estate, he took the money he made and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his passion for acting. Here he is the man with a plan, and so far that plan has brought him relative success — the actor has played in numerous national commercial campaigns and several web series. Day in and day out, he works relentlessly on every aspect of himself and his craft, including exercising his mind and his fitness level. Jason tells us what it takes to stay at the top of your game in Hollywood despite the pressure.
Paul Mitchel grew up in Seattle Washington, in what he calls a fairy-tale neighborhood. By this he says, he means the kind of place where kids play in the open streets, the landscape is green, and everyone seems generally happy, being that they’re supported by a sense of family and community. As an adult, Paul started construction work and did well enough to support himself, enabling to live a good life. There was then suddenly a very dark chapter that began for Paul, and disrupted the harmony that existed in his life up until that point. Paul had trouble managing through the challenges of daily life, and things began to unravel. He soon found himself incapable of holding reliable work. Sometime later, he ended up on the streets.
Paul made his way to Southern California to live in a place where the climate is more merciful to someone living in the streets, and where he believed there may be hope to begin again. Here in LA, Paul’s dark chapter continued for years with a few ups and a lot of downs.
Fortunately, Paul found the support he needed and a safe place to stay with the Skid Row Housing Trust. Skid Row is an area of about 50 square blocks just east of downtown LA, and it has a longstanding history as a residential neighborhood occupied by those with the least. Through the federal Shelter Plus Care program, Paul and other homeless persons with disabilities (and their families) are provided with safe housing and supportive services on a long-term basis.
This support and assistance has afforded Paul a chance to start a new chapter in his life. Paul, who was “on his way back” when he shared his heartfelt and inspirational story with I Am Los Angeles, recently got his drivers license back again and is enthusiastic about going back so he can start a new life.
To learn more about the Skid Row Housing Trust, go to their website
Being that he was named after Neil Young, it’s fitting for music to be at the center of life for Neil Schield. The Origami Vinyl shop owner grew up in a family of music lovers and recalls that his parents have always had a particularly strong attachment their album collection.
Even before Origami Vinyl, Neil spent his fair share of time on the commercial side of the music industry — he worked in the industry during the landmark period when music’s transition to iTunes began and started to take hold. Facing a big decision following a brief career stall, Neil took a chance, and broke from his work in digital music. He decided to go back to where his love of music started when he was younger, which was with vinyl. Now, well frankly, he lives in the best of all possible worlds. He’s carved out his little space in the world of music at Origami Vinyl. Neil spends his days surrounded by the music that has meaning to him, and he makes a living by sharing it with others who have a similar appreciation.
Neil is a back to basics kind of guy, and he wanted to go back in time to be closer to the experience and the authenticity he cherished in one of recorded music’s first carriers. If you ask Neil, he’ll tell you how vinyl brings back the warmth in the room. How it gathers everybody to go and stand around the record player, experiencing the music in a more complete way. But instead of taking his word for it, you should probably just take those earbuds out and go experience some vinyl for yourself. It’s good for the soul!
Welcome to the Freedom Barbershop at the Veterans Affairs campus in West LA. To many Veterans, this little trailer shop something akin to an island oasis in the thrashing sea. It is a place where personal burdens, internal pressures and anxieties gathered from life experience willingly recede, for here is the forgiving company and calming presence of a fellow comrade. Sit in the chair and receive a shave, a haircut, or a few shared jokes. And for the ones who need it, gentle advice flows from a man who dedicates his time to serve to Veterans who proudly served us, but now walk all paths of life. Some of their spirits are still proud, others broken.
Dreamer, they call him, is himself a Veteran, and has an effortlessly strong and tranquil presence that seems to give him the ability to gently wash away his customers’ thoughts of the world’s troubles. Dreamer believes it’s important to give this back to the men and women who served their country. It may seem a little thing, to give a haircut for free or for whatever the customer can afford. From time to time, Dreamer might be paid with a few rumpled bills found in a jacket pocket or with the gift of a rubber band ball. But he has a good heart, and he offers his time and his service while he listens to his customers’ stories of past and present day.
At night, Dreamer goes out onto the streets, talking, living and surviving the darker hours of the day with fellow Veterans who live on the streets of West LA. Dreamer has amassed memories of many men their stories, which he shares so willingly, so compassionately, and empathetically you’d think they were his own. We highly recommend a visit to meet Dreamer, and the other brave men sharing a few relaxed moments in his little barbershop on any given day.
It isn’t enough to dare to dream. If you want something you can keep dreaming about it, or you can dare to do what it takes to make your dream come true. This positive way of looking at things seems to work out very well for this European transplant in LA.
If you haven’t noticed, the street artist and avid skater called Chase is on a campaign to help you stay mindful of the power of positive thinking and living a life that feels true to your soul. The artist’s murals, paintings, and stencil art makes abundant use of bright 60s pop colors, humor and uplifting messages to bring positive energy to others, and his work graces more than 200 murals in LA and other cities. Chase has items for sale in stores and has collaborated with Puma, Adidas, Levis (just to name a few).
The principles Chase strives to motivate through his work are representative of the artist’s approach to his own life. Like a lot of kids from broken families, the young skater got into his share of trouble growing up in Antwerp (Belgium), and the artist developed his positive mindset as a kind of survival mechanism. Chase figured out early that doing what you love is the key to being happy, and he began dreaming of getting to Los Angeles to skate. His artwork has been a huge part of what has made his dream possible. Most often, the artist can be found in the streets working on murals, cars, complete stores or billboards. Chase believes that every object presents an opportunity to create something and spread the word about his positive message.