somebody leave a light on, just in case i like the dancing…

(tori amos, “mother”, little earthquakes)

I always tell my mom the details of what I’m doing in L.A., where I’ve been, what I’ve seen. But it’s difficult to explain sometimes, because of how much L.A. has changed in forty years. Tonight, I was telling Mom about how I’m planning to go to the wake for the Ambassador Hotel on Thursday, and I was trying to explain where the HMS Bounty bar was, without using the word, “Koreatown”, because there was no K-Town forty years ago.

But Mom didn’t remember the Ambassador, and I was trying to explain (again, without being able to use half the references that exist today) and finally said, “It was attached to the Cocoanut Grove”. That triggered her memory. Apparently, Mom had been out to the Cocoanut Grove a few times in her day. I think that, and the Biltmore hotel bar, are some of the only old L.A. nightspots that are still standing, and with their original names, that she’d been to. And the Cocoanut Grove is no more.

So the nightclubs and bars that my grandmother went to, and then my mother somehow got into without being carded, have disappeared from Los Angeles, one by one. I find new, tenuous connections to the history I study and search for, every day. It gives me a definite sense of place, because I can feel like I’m following in my mother, or my grandmother’s footsteps. I just wish Los Angeles would stop rewriting itself, and demolishing places like the Ambassador, long enough for me to really understand what I, a third-generation Angelino, may have missed in the years between when my mother left for San Francisco, and when I came back to L.A.

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