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Setting L.A. Times stories to song: The week's Column One features

March 16, 2013 | 12:32 pm

Photo: Marlaena Arhwin, 18, stands in the door way of her aunt, Jamie Drears, kitchen. Arhwin, still in high school, attends after school programs at the Jordan Downs Community Center. Credit: Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times

Story songsCalling all lovers of good storytelling and good music (and not necessarily in that order).

So you don’t have to do all the work, here’s a curated list of the week’s offerings of the signature Times feature called the Column One, which I’m pretty jazzed to be editing. And because I listen to music as I edit, you’ll also get the songs that inspired me while I was editing the stories, or reading them later. A curated story-song combo!

Column One is a proud tradition at The Times. In fact, if you’re under 40, it’s older than you are. But great writing is timeless.

Here’s how I like to sum up Column One: There’s a scene in the movie “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” where the Warren Beatty character is sitting on his bed, fretting over the fact that the Julie Christie character doesn’t love him. It’s a lovely, rambling, mumbled monologue, and the line I love is: “I’ve got poetry in me.” Column One has poetry in it.

In these roundups of the week gone by, I’d like to offer the first paragraphs of the story -- maybe they’ll buy your eye. If so, there’s a helpful link to the story, and the song that pairs with it.


Monday’s Column One:

It's a long way from Christy Walton's ocean-view manse near La Jolla to the arid plains of 1940s New Mexico.

But over the decades, the billionaire heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune has found solace and inspiration in Rudolfo Anaya's coming-of-age novel, “Bless Me, Ultima,” set in that unforgiving landscape, and in the mystical story of a Mexican American boy named Tony who lives there.

Finally, a realization hit her.

“One of the things I wanted to do before I died was to see this book made into a movie,” Walton said one recent morning, gazing from her cliffside home toward the Pacific. “It's the only book I've ever felt that way about."

Story: 'Bless Me, Ultima's' journey to the big screen

Song: “Guyamas Sonora,” by Beirut (chosen because this wonderful band is from New Mexico, and the song has an old Mexico vibe).



Tuesday’s Column One:

Once there was a little boy who rode Henry Huntington's trolleys.

He was 4 when he first took a Yellow Car all by himself, along Vermont Avenue to nursery school. His mother handed him off to the motorman and said he was going to the end of the line.

Now that little boy is 88, his mother and the trolleys long gone.

Story: Trolley buff guides others down the tracks of memory

Song: The jazzy theme from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” by Alex North.


Wednesday’s Column One:

Announcements of a well-funded research project at a major university often elicit, welcome or not, professional and amateur advice. But those messages usually don't recount a dead cat's spirit flitting into the afterlife.

UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer has been besieged with hundreds of such unusual missives for the last few months as word spread that he had won a $5-million grant to study something that, in the end, is probably unknowable: immortality.

Story: Using the here and now to get a handle on the hereafter

Song: “Live Forever,” by Oasis. (I loved this pairing, and not only because it’s a brilliant song.)



Thursday’s Column One:

On Thursday, we held the Column One to make room for the coverage of the new pope. (We do that occasionally when big news breaks. But you can always go to latimes.com/columnone to get your Column One fix.)

Instead, I offered a tango by the great Astor Piazzolla in honor of the Argentine pope. It’s called “Angel del Milongo.”

Friday’s Column One:

Roshawne Mackey walked into the Jordan Downs community center clutching a pink pamphlet from a funeral over the weekend, her face like stone.

Her niece had been 11 — a diabetic who wasn't given her insulin shots. The dozen or so women in the parenting class listened as Mackey described how the little girl used to make backpacks out of cereal boxes, how she'd adored Hello Kitty. Mackey's expression remained stoic, but tears slid from her eyes.

Story: Class on parenting becomes a journey through loss, grief and hope

Song: “Safe From Harm,” by Massive Attack.


If you have ideas for story-song pairings of your own, tweet the title and artist @karihow or @LATimesColumn1 with the hashtag #storysongs.

I’d love to hear if the stories inspire you to reach for your turntable, or your CD player, or your MP3 player, or whatever device brings you your listening pleasure. (Any eight-track tape buffs out there?)


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-- Kari Howard

kari.howard@latimes.com / @karihow

Photo: Marlaena Arhwin, 18, in an image that accompanies Friday's Column One about classes at the Jordan Downs community center. Credit: Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times