Holy crap! Long Beach: Work in Progress really happened. The scenario seemed too good to be true: Come up with panels to illustrate and demonstrate the underrated heritage and upside of a city that I’ve been digging since I was a teenager. Crashing culture, colliding communities, and the power of subcultures–I’m all over that. Above you can see Long Beach skaters/activists Chad Tim Tim, Justin Reynolds, Paul Kwon, Dallas Rockvam, and Levi Brown with Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold.
The event took place in the historic Edison Theatre, which was built in 1917 as the Nippon Pool Room and went through phases as a sporting goods store, foot clinic, and beauty salon. Most recently it was home to CSULB’s theatre troupe but has been shuttered for five years until it was opened by the city just for Friday’s event. Keynote speaker John Jay (W+K Garage) spoke on the the creative crisis–how the need for creativity is at an all-time high in business, the arts, and society in general. His manifesto was followed by authors Cara Mullio and Jennifer Volland’s very cool study on local Case Study House architect Edward Killingsworth. (Yes, I bought a copy of their brand-new Hennessey+Ingalls book on Killingsworth and had them sign it.)
Jonathan Gold’s seemingly stream-of-consciousness-yet-completely-in-control ruminations on things he likes to eat in Long Beach (framed by recollections of sailors at The Pike, a roller-coaster decapitation, and bad metal shows at Fender’s) was so good it almost made me cry, and was followed by an otherworldly panel on Long Beach music moderated by my friend and member of The Vandals Joe Escalante. Somehow, he was able to balance the early hardcore punk stories of his longtime colleague Jack Grisham from T.S.O.L. with peeks into Little Cambodia via Dengue Fever’s Zac Holtzman and Chhom Nimol (who played an acoustic preview of a brand new song). Is that a mash-up of subcultures or what. The final panel was about the importance of skateboarding to Long Beach culture and its future with Justin, Chad, Ricki The Dude Bedenbaugh, and Paul. Of course, it ripped and generated a ton of responses.
The long day was capped by a round table discussion handled by jeffstaple and words from District 2 Councilperson Suja Lowenthal. Very legit to get seals of approval from a king of street culture and a city respresentative. And so awesome to witness my worlds colliding right in front of my eyes, with Jack and Joe (above, left) from years of going to punk shows to Tanya, Julia, and Renzei (above, right) from my current efforts to help the team build Long Beach (and everywhere else) through culture labs and backers in business.
Keep an eye out for more photos and even a video to be leaked in the near future… But until then I think the message of Long Beach: Work in Progress can be applied to anyone’s hometown. Look for what’s cool about it, and then seek to understand, grow, mix, and share it for the benefit of all.