Ode To Los Angeles

Driving L.A.
from the ocean
east into the city

and back again
at 4:19 a.m.

No cars on the road,
no copter blades in the sky,
high and peaceful -
the phone is finally off -

No one screwing you
and no one you're trying to screw
in broad daylight -

just don't let us,
the descendants of the
forked tongue fool you;
the real vampires sleep just fine
at night -

and as the
empty streets blow by,
the memories of you
fade out and in,
for that single moment,
I disappear,

and the only
thing that ever
really mattered,
matters now
like it never should
have stopped:

the street lights
dotted green
as far as the eye
can see

and the


Blazing the trail
to everywhere
I long ago forgot.

Los Angeles - 7/25/07


R.I.P. Sherman Torgan, Owner and Operator of The New Beverly Cinema, The Best Movie Theatre In The World - 1944 - 2007

Thank you, Sherman, for everything. Your run down little theatre has given me an education a livelihood and sometimes even a home in this mad city.

You also let me pay in change when that was all I had.

I will never forget you.


Sherman Torgan, who turned an adult movie house in Los Angeles into the New Beverly Cinema, an arty repertory theater that screens classic, independent and foreign films, died Wednesday. He was 63.

Torgan suffered an apparent heart attack while on a bicycle ride in Santa Monica. He was pronounced dead at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Jeff Rosen, a longtime friend.

From the time "the Beverly" opened in 1978 with a Marlon Brando double bill — "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Last Tango in Paris" — Torgan did everything from plan the programs to work the box office.

His limited budget didn't allow for flashy decor. He said he would rather keep ticket prices down than redecorate. Currently, general admission is $7, less for students and senior citizens.

When Torgan took over the theater, he and friends tore out the runway that had been used for erotic dance acts and replaced it with seats. Over time all of the theater's 300 seats became battered, and the projection room was "held together by spit and glue," said Rosen, who sometimes was the theater's projectionist. Torgan acknowledged that the place was "a little rough around the edges."

That look was part of the appeal for Torgan's clientele. Famous film directors and actors turned up unexpectedly to see the movies. Francois Truffaut once attended a screening of "Mildred Pierce," the 1940s film noir starring Joan Crawford. Eva Marie Saint was once in the audience for "North by Northwest," the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock thriller that featured her and Cary Grant. "She said she hadn't seen the movie in years," Rosen recalled.

One patron, actor-writer-director Quentin Tarantino, organized a Grindhouse Festival at the Beverly this year. The festival title referred to the movie houses that used to "grind" away their projectors, showing three features in a row. Among the many "deliriously bad films" in the festival, Times arts writer Geoff Boucher noted, were "Autopsy," "Jailbait Babysitter" and "Chinese Hercules."

Revival, repertory and second-run movie theaters — the Vagabond near MacArthur Park, the Fox Venice near the beach — came and went, but Torgan's New Beverly Cinema remained. The rise of multiplex theaters, the increasing number of classic film programs at Los Angeles museums and the DVD industry cut into his business, but film buffs, students and people in the movie business still sprinkled the audience.

"A lot of people got their film education at the Beverly," Rosen said.

Torgan was born in Philadelphia on June 18, 1944, and moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s. After graduating from UCLA he moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a location scout for movie production companies. He returned to Los Angeles in the mid-'70s to be nearer the studios.

He and two friends, Martin Ford and Donald Rappaport, opened the New Beverly Cinema in 1978. A year or so later Torgan took it over, Ford said in an interview with The Times this week.

Many patrons recognized Torgan on sight. He was slim and wiry with a dark beard and a full head of hair in the early days of the theater, when he was in his 30s. Later, he shaved off the beard but always kept his weight down.

In recent years his son, Michael, worked with him at the theater.

Programming has been canceled through the weekend. Further plans regarding the schedule will be announced on the theater's website, www.newbevcinema.com .

"The theater was Sherman," Rosen said.

Besides his son, Torgan is survived by his wife, Mary, and a brother, Marvin.


You look into the set of eyes across from you

and do not notice

the color,
the hue,
if they blink,

or whether they match the blouse
so carefully chosen,

Only that they do not look away,


Is it
the sheer bravado
of that gaze

that makes your mind spin,
your palms sweat,

that makes you look around
to see if anyone else has noticed?

Is it
the total fearlessness in
this girl's 1000 yard gaze
that makes you wonder?

Is it
because she doesn't know
how to smoke yet

no matter
how hard
she tries
to inhale?

Is it because her book is unmarked

though she clutches the pen in her hand
as if waiting
for someone to tell her
it's okay
to begin?

Is it because this is who she is



All you know is

right now


Take everything,


or, at least,

she thinks
she can.

Los Angeles - 12/22/05


L.A. - Spring, 2003

L.A. - Spring, 2003, originally uploaded by levari.


Never Sent To Spain

Every day they were there.

For weeks
I came home
in the afternoon
pretending to have

any sort of purpose
other then smoking
and working as
a telemarketer
in that dingy
23rd floor office
in Grammercy Park.

I was sending out
color-coded tickets
to free screenings
of new TV shows
to retired couples
in Pebble Beach.

When I came home
the two of them
were always sitting
on the top stair
whether it was
raining or sunny,
warm or cold.

They looked about
fourteen years old,
and though I rarely
saw them touch,

nor even hold hands,

the obvious feelings
they were trying so
hard to hide
from this city
and each other,

the fact that two kids could
find one another,

was only one more sign of my utter
incompetence and despair.

I hated them for this,
hated their guarded happiness,
hated his Jets
hat cocked perfectly
to the side,
his bleached white
turtleneck beneath his
Sprewell jersey,
and the gold link
chain he wore proudly
over top.

I hated her hair in tight braids,
hated her clear pale skin,
hated those expressive,
ancient, blue eyes,
and that
slightest trace of unbleached,
black down
above her lip that only
made her more mysterious
to him.

I hated the luxury
and patience
of the game
they played
with their youth.

I don't know what they talked about,
their language was neither
English nor Spanish
but something in between,
and even when I tried to do
my "private eye" thing

I was totally unable to penetrate
the secret of their fascination
with one another.

Sometimes, though, I caught him
getting up and mimicking
somebody, a friend
or mutual acquaintance,
a member of his family
or maybe hers
(I imagined all this.)

Sometimes, when she looked away,
wouldn't give him the time of day,
he'd break into a funny little dance
that was all elbows and knees.

I half recognized this dance
as if it was a dance I could have once
danced for someone a long time ago,
and I often wondered if he made it up on the spot,
or saw it somewhere on TV.

She would try
her best not to,
but she'd finally
then act all pissed off
that she did,
whine three words,

"O.K. Enuffff. Stoppppppp!"

And he'd quickly sit back

adjust his hat back to that
perfect angle, and
turn his face back to stone
as the silence of the
city returned.

Sometimes, though,
in the late afternoon,
when she thought
no one was looking,
she'd lean her head
on his shoulder and close
her eyes.

Always he'd let her.

I'd watch them from across
the street,
stand like that for minutes,
just watch them.

one day
three weeks ago,
right after my career
as a telemarketer
was unexpectedly
for sending
the wrong color tickets to
the wrong retired couples in
the wrong city,
the two were gone.

I haven't seen
either of them
on the stoop,
in the streets,
in the park, or

The stairwell is empty
when I return and
when I leave.

I no longer
have to wait for
them to endure my
one more time
as they part
their two sets
of bony legs
for me to
step through.

They no longer
have to pretend
not to notice
me as I take
the garbage out
or run to the bodega
for my cigarettes...

I don't know
how much longer
I can take it here,

and I dream
it was there first


New York - 1/99



The bandits attacked
in the woods.

They took nothing,
merely cut out
the eyes
of the children.

They did not touch
the adults
who lay
in fear

pretending not to see.

the only painters
work in time
with no apprentice.

The poets?

They draw secretly,
using the teeth
of the dead for pens,
pull them
out one by one
after composing.

The sounds of her
rage across paper,

a foreign language
can be spoken but
never felt.

Her secrets are greater than yours,

and her emptiness
more than you
could ever be.

In black and white
I watch
her flicker
she weeps

The cries
of our neighbors'
love echo
between windows


Los Angeles - 10/27/06


Spoiled Rotten

Never had to fight a war

(bought your way out
just like you born your way in),

but lucky little rich boys
still get to declare one



The Joke

When you're poor and a failure
you're just another
pain in the ass...

When you're suddenly
you've become
an iconoclast!



China Moon

summer moon yellow night restlessly dreaming movement in her forever chair watching the screen flicker what is never there summer moon coward night coming for us i wish wouldn't let go money that slips through fingers turning into bills piled on the floor spiders fall from the ceiling instead of walking through the doors summer moon fearless night she breathes you in and memories out only to be drank in again, gargled and spit like my home like my home like everyone i've known like the house i was born in so far away from summer moon day becomes night i shake rise anoint thy self mythologize when you dare to sleep for me




when I was a child
for reasons I still don't completely
understand (is it because I was sick
and alone came so easy, or
is because
there was nothing left to do)

i made a deal
with somebody
or something,
anything out there
i could not name
that might be listening...

(i never believed in God
or anything that could be

there was no
to names
in me at all)

the deal i made
in fourth grade:

i'd trade everything
for the moment
of my fingers,

for whatever form
that moment

all of it,
and promised
to live by this vow
no matter where
my fingers drove me,
what corner
lit or unlit,
to what people
cruel or shy,
criminal or priest,
to what street
in no matter
what part of town,
to what checking account,
to what family,
to what lover,
to what death,

what death
what is death

if not
the moment
of my fingers...

and i've alway lived
up to my
end of the deal.

(it was never feet,
it never could
be with me
for there is
no negotiating
with feet)

now this moment
of my fingers,

i don't
know if
i made the right
choice or not,

if I've won
or lost,

let alone
how many
real moments
of my fingers
there have been,


how many
there is
left to be...

it's just that
street lights are bleeding
across the sky tonight

and I'm no
longer fearless
with death

i can see
my fingers
are only the bones
of my ancestors
the earth,
and only ever were...

end of poem.
end of youth.

6/4/07 - Frigillana, Esp


1st ride across the good ol' U.S.A - 8/17/95

Cue the Springsteen...

You know...

...that perhaps it's time to get out of town when you've lived in a city for eight years and you're still asking strangers if they know a good, quiet bar.


Time Trickster

"I just had the longest day..."

Why is it the longest day can never, ever be the best day, but more than likely the worst?

When's the last time someone walked in and said:

"I just had the longest day! Man, it was the best. I want to do it all over again."

It's not bad enough that the moment's bad, but on top of that a minute seems to turn into hours, and hours into weeks within the blink of an eye...

Time is a nasty little trickster that way.