dark lights, splendid histories

In the passing silence of January and February, I can at least report that I've been busy behind the green scrim, and if you were to jerk back the curtain and see what's happening backstage- I'd say you'd be pretty amazed yourself.

First of all, the impossible has actually been realized as possible: I have left my beloved city of Oakland and moved nearly 300 lbs of books and an additional 1000 lbs of lead type, linoleum block archives and my c&p pilot press to the balmy climes of Los Angeles. Yes, my dear readers- I closed my eyes and walked right off the deep end into the abyss, all for the temptation that comes with a thrilling new job. So many possibilities, I mused...as I packed the eight bookshelves and a snake.

On February 2nd, I became the new curator of history at the Japanese American National Museum, located in Lil' Tokyo, First and Alameda. All is well here, despite a sense of befuddlement and lack of routine- one loses oneself with disturbing ease in Los Angeles clamor. Luckily, I found a place just off of a train line close to Little Tokyo (a neighborhood known as Boyle Heights, once a melting pot of Jews, Japanese, Mexicans and Blacks. Now 98% Mexican, but hey! we have the best selection of paleteria and taco trucks). There's a lot of wandering discovery, sans car, thanks to this Gold Line train. It goes all the way to Pasadena, and stops through Chinatown, Union Station, Little Tokyo, through the eastern neighborhoods of LA.

The Japanese American National Museum, not to my surprise, is all so familiar. And familial. There is an army of grandparents (something in the order of 250 volunteer docents who work here at least once a week. Many have been doing this forever (20 years and counting?) surrounding us with coffeecakes and questions about our health and children and which camp our parents were in. Sort of dizzying, but mostly pleasant and dare I say, a comfort? These docents also inform a good deal of the programming and exhibitions since they constitute a fair chunk of our audience, though they are rapidly aging and every week brings a report of someone else in recovery or at home for an ailment. Busloads of children also come daily, for their first exposure to the JA story and camps....

My main duty as Curator of History in the coming months and years will be exhibitions; in particular I am in charge of re-envisioning our core exhibition on the history of Japanese Americans and rebuilding it, from our collections of 80,000 + artifacts and documents. For those of you who haven't visited the Japanese American National Museum, I assure you that there is nothing quite like it in the country. I encourage each of you to come and experience both the temporary and permanent exhibits, which are both profound with pathos and beautiful for their design and content. The museum is right in the middle of Lil' Tokyo, full of yumyums and awesome old Japanese hardware stores full of saws and tomato seedlings. There is a Kinokuniya bookstore and a restaurant dedicated to japanese curries.

So in coming weeks I hope to get the press and studio back into working order, esp since I have another special announcement I'd like to illustrate and print. More soon, my darklings, more soon.