I Am Alive in Los Angeles Revisited

"I Am Alive in Los Angeles!"
Words by Mike the PoeT
Beats by DJ Dave
Starring Mear One
Shot by Motion


Over the years I have collaborated with numerous artists like PhiLLHarmonic, DJ Dave, Blackbird and the Los Angeles painter Mear One. This week's post is a video clip of Mear One walking across downtown L.A., and then completing a painting in Bunker Hill across from the Disney Concert Hall. Shot by Long Beach native Rick Estrada aka Motion, Mear One is walking across the gothic-designed Fourth Street Bridge from Boyle Heights into downtown, to the accompaniment of producer DJ Dave's electronica version of my poem "I Am Alive in Los Angeles!" This video clip is also the first scene in the documentary film about Mear One's live painting called "Live Art Experience."

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First gaining fame while still at Fairfax High School, Mear One emerged in the late 1980s as one of the city's most daring and talented street artists. His tales from his Hollywood childhood are no joke: "Growing up in Central, back lot Hollywood was as bizarre as watching one of its movies. Just traveling on the bus to school, youth see violent movie posters and over sexualized beer ads along with homelessness, drug addicts and prostitutes. It wasn't very reassuring, and it made me always wonder what I was going to do when I grew up. I watched L.A. burn for years and then we had the Riots."

The Riots politicized him, and he became an artist dedicated to improving our city, focused on educating and enlightening with his talent. I met Mear One about a decade ago and we connected on our mutual love for L.A. and activism. From this time we've done hundreds of live events together in Alaska, the Bay Area, Las Vegas and all over Southern California, with me performing poetry while he paints live. Mear One has painted murals all over the world and often paints live in L.A. at places like LACMA or the Low End Theory, with DJ's like the Gaslamp Killer. Recently he was in the news for a controversial mural he just painted in London.

In a previous post I've pontificated on what it means to be Alive in Los Angeles. "I Am Alive in Los Angeles!" was the title to my 2005 album and 2006 book. What started from a cycle of poems in the late 1990s about life in Los Angeles has evolved into a lifelong project with hundreds of stories and poems about the neighborhoods and people that make L.A. alive. I have performed the poem at several major literary festivals and at over 60 schools and universities over the years. Numerous schools have used the concept as a template for student writing in Creative Writing Classes and English classes, as well as being used as a talking point in courses on Urban Studies and Architecture.

Here's one of the short verses:


I Am Alive in Los Angeles!
Whether I'm listening to Miles Davis
or electronic music
I move thru traffic
loving the inner-city dynamics
midcity magic moves from happiness to tragic,
adversity to extravagance
like seeing Korean grandparents
moving slowly
while the Catholic children
are crossing fearlessly
I saw a stray dog that looked like Spud Mackenzie
by the Belmont Tunnel on 2nd Street
live and direct in the Rampart District.
I am alive in Los Angeles!


In this recording, PhiLLHarmonic rhymes between my opening and closing verses. At that time we were listening to "New Forms" by Roni Size, whose drum & bass flavor always hit. DJ Dave's production skills are so versatile that he even made his own electronica beats that had the same fervor as Roni Size. Dave's ability to create music with driving beats is why he's now made soundtracks for several movies. Filmmaker Motion used it to convey the moving skyline shot and spirit of the city. Writ Large Press is publishing the remixed and much longer 2nd Edition of my book "I Am Alive in Los Angeles!" in March 2013.


Neon crowns glow about the City of Angels
Haze hovers after another Nuclear Sunset
I love it all
I Am Alive in Los Angeles!


About the Author

Third-generation Angeleno Mike "The Poet" Sonksen is a poet, journalist, historian, tour guide, and teacher.
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