Years ago, a series of monthly mishaps took place that, even taken in a singular fashion much less as a group, were life-changing for me. The year of 2016 started with an accident after I backed my car out of my driveway and was hit by another vehicle (it was clear that the driver should have been cited, but it was determined otherwise). A month or so later, I almost flipped on an electrical switch at my house and avoided electrocution only because I felt compelled to look up, and then, to my horror, saw the ceiling light fixture full of water, evidently caused by the leaky roof neglected by my slumlord. Shortly thereafter, as I witnessed a three-car collision in the distance, I fell into an open manhole when I was walking my dogs on the 6th Street Bridge in Downtown Los Angeles — bridge demolition was slated to start the next day. My final “hit me on the head” realization that my life needed to change happened literally — I suffered a sucker-punch assault by a murderer on parole in broad daylight near Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the city’s most stellar cultural venues. I was lucky that I “came to” in time to photograph him as he left the scene. While this experience was the literal “ending” of these mishaps, it was the “beginning” of my determination to leave Los Angeles, and unfortunately, launched a series of panic attacks — symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — that I continue to battle.
These events reminded me of a story by my father told to me often over the years about recognizing signs and taking personal responsibility for moving on. The story goes something like this: a man was stranded on a deserted island, and prayed to God, asking to get saved. The skies opened, and God answered that he would save him. The next day, a tanker came near the island, and the sailors invited the man to hop aboard, but he declined, stating that “God said he’d save me.” Eventually, a man in a canoe paddled by, and offered assistance, yet the man once again declined. Soon, a yacht stopped near the shore, then a cruise ship … any offers of help were brushed aside by the man, sharing to all that he was waiting for God. He soon died, and as a good man should, he went to heaven where he asked God, “Why didn’t you help me?” to which God stated, “Heck, I sent you a tanker, a canoe, a yacht, and even a cruise ship.” The message, of course, was that help is evident if you take the initiative to accept what is offered.
For me, the aforementioned events were collectively a sign … a sign that I needed to observe what was happening around me, and to take action in some way. As my beloved Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles changed over the years when I lived and worked there, I already knew in my heart that I needed to change, but everything else was swirling around me … I just wasn’t ready. My photography documenting this urban neighborhood during this time was really a long good-bye … something I shared when I first launched my book with an exhibition in 2014, but quickly brushed aside inquiries about if I truly thought it was over. I had hope, and I didn’t want to be a naysayer, so I stood taller, and bravely said that I was happy with the changes, and that everything would be all right.
Yes, things have changed, and many could be construed as good, but it’s hard to believe that the memories of my time in the Arts District were anything lesser than what is happening now. Today is not any better … it’s just different. I miss the characters of years past. I miss walking out of my loft and greeting people who knew me, too. I miss seeing art pop up in unexplained places. I miss hearing the bellowing voice of the late community advocate Joel Bloom when I walked to his corner store for necessities not available anywhere else near by. I miss the weirdness of it all. In comparison, today’s Arts District seems too clean, too contrived, too forced. The neighborhood and the people were “cooler” when life was not so tightly planned.
So, in late July 2016, I made the choice to move to Houston while maintaining a second residence and keeping my business in Los Angeles. I wanted to be closer to my family, physically and emotionally. I didn’t want to freak anyone out who worked with me, so I told my clients that I was going on a road trip … so like I did in late July 1993 when I moved from Texas to California, I packed my bags and started to move on.
NOTE ABOUT THE ARTWORK: This poignant painting by Glenn Waggner is the latest acquisition into my art collection. Its title of “It was Time to Move On” is timely and appropriate … As of May 31, 2017, I vacated my loft in the Arts District after 20 years (I’ve lived in Downtown Los Angeles even longer … since 1993!). I started dividing my time between California and Texas, and relocated my business CauseConnect LLC to Houston. With the recent announcement of The Cheech Center for Chicano Art & Culture in Riverside where I will play a key role, the expansion of my work with long-time national clients such as Toyota and Target, and the significant changes in my beloved Arts District, IT WAS TIME. In this day and age, I can serve my clients wherever I am, and after three years of flying back and forth across two states, I decided having multiple residences and work spaces was too much. I can be mobile, nimble, flexible, and free.
And, as Glenn’s painting so eloquently conveys, “It was time to move on …”