Friday, January 23, 2009

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Gentrification: Danny Hoch’s ‘Taking Over’ at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Now the Militant, in his infinite Militant Angeleno-ness, usually does not lavish any sort of praise on a native New Yorker (Vin Scully and the Dodgers exempted, of course).

But when he was given a chance to see a preview performance of Danny Hoch’s one-man play Taking Over at Culver City’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, the Militant was simply floored.

For those not familiar with Hoch, he’s a Gen-X-age writer, director and actor from Bwooklyn (his accent is expectedly blatant) known for his “Hip-Hop Theatre” productions, like 1998’s Jails, Hospitals & Hip Hop, where he plays a myriad of diverse characters endemic to his native borough environs, while exploring issues of race, class and societal issues in the story.

His current play, which explores gentrification in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg (think of the east coast equivalent to Echo Park/Silver Lake) through the portrayal of several characters: A Puerto Rican graduate student, a 60-something African American woman, a middle-aged Jewish landlord, a Dominican immigrant taxi dispatcher and a 20-something white hipster chick, among others.

Although the Militant has been to NYC a handful of times before, he’s never set foot in that particular part of Brooklyn, yet he totally identified with the subject matter.

For others, not so much. One performance earlier in the week had someone, visually offended, walking out of the theatre. In one scene the actor plays himself in an epilogic scene where he reads aloud some of his “hate mail.” Hey, art, after all, is supposed to elicit a reaction.

Though the Williamsburg situation seems more hyperbolic and extreme (million-dollar condos have not come to Echo Park – yet), and one of the characters’ indignant provincialism, though obviously well-intentioned, seemed a bit off-putting to even this Militant (or maybe us Californians are just more accommodating creatures, dunno…), in spirit, it was not a totally alien place for the Militant. Issues of how the locals enjoy things like safer streets and the availability of soy milk, only to discover that those trappings were not designed to be meant for them, or how one character is totally ignored by the hipster newcomers, are all too familiar themes for this Militant.

All is not heavy and brooding at all – a great deal of the play is presented as clever humor and well-executed comedic monologues (the reading of a coffeehouse’s weekly Calendar of Events is true comedy gold in its accurate portrayal of hipster entertainment). But some may find out that they are the ones being talked about here.

The Militant had a brief chat with Hoch after the show - one hardcore native New Yorker and one hardcore native Angeleno – and though they may not agree on sports or food, they both came to the accord that hipsters are a universal problem, and that it’s not just enclaves in New York and Los Angeles getting gentrified. One scene even confirmed the Militant’s belief that rampant gentrification can leave even the hipsters as victims of neighborhood change, as they get replaced by more upscale types.

Another aspect the Militant believes is praiseworthy is not just Hoch’s performance, but his endurance. The 90-minute play runs without any intermissions, and the actor has but seconds to transform from one character to the next. His voice was so thrashed after the show that when the Militant had his conversation with him, it was kinda like chatting with a mime.

Anyway, despite its NY origins, this play turns gentrification into a more universal issue. So with that, Danny Hoch’s Taking Over is 100% MILITANT APPROVED!

The show’s official premiere night is tonight, January 23. So run, don’t walk, to the Kirk Douglas Theatre by February 22. YOU. NEED. TO. SEE. THIS. And aside from spreading the word through this here blog and on his Facebook profile, he will also drop some flyers for this play at Intelligentsia Coffee in Silver Lake and at the American Apparel store in Echo Park. Heh heh heh...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Los Obamangeles

Obama banner outside Los Angeles Sentinel office on Crenshaw Blvd.

Obama sign outlined in lights, Conrad Hair Salon on Fountain Avenue, Silver Lake.

Now that President Barack Obama is officially livin' large and in charge, it makes the Militant proud that we have a president who was - at least for two years - an Angeleno. Though the president is more associated with Chicago, Honolulu, or even Jakarta, Los Angeles was one of the places where he once lived (his first exposure living in the continental United States), and it no doubt had an influence on him.

According to a Times article published last year, a high school-aged Obama met a tourist girl on the beaches of Hawaii who lived in Brentwood, and told him exciting stories about about her hometown, so the young Obama headed "out east" to Los Angeles' Occidental College in Eagle Rock for his undergraduate studies. He must have learned something here, since he arrived as "Barry" and left as Barack. So our City deserves some credit for shaping the guy.

Obama joins Richard Nixon (Yorba Linda, Whittier, San Clemente), Gerald Ford (Rancho Mirage), Ronald Reagan (Bel-Air, Santa Barbara, Brentwood) and George H.W. Bush (Ventura) as the only presidents who have lived in Southern California at some point in their lives (Only Reagan and Obama have lived in Los Angeles City proper).

After much Militant research, the Militant has compiled a map showing 15 points of interest around Los Angeles with a significant connection to the president:

View Larger Map

Click on the blue markers for a detailed description. Here are the places, in chronological order:

Occidental College's Haines Hall dormitory, Obama's first home in Los Angeles.
Courtesy of
Hijo De E-Ho.

1979-1981: Occidental College, Eagle Rock - Obama's first two years of college were spent here.

1979-1981: Casa Bianca, Eagle Rock - Obama's fave pizzeria.

Feb 20, 2007: Rancho Cienega Park, Crenshaw District - First campaign appearance, 10 days after announcing candidacy.

Feb 20, 2007: Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills - Celebrity fundraiser.

Oct 20, 2007: Garfield High School, East Los Angeles - Spoke at Town Hall event.

November 2007: The Wiltern, Koreatown - Former site of Shepard Fairey's art studio, where iconic Obama illustration was first designed.

Dec 10, 2007: Gibson Ampitheatre, Universal City - "Generation Obama" concert, also featuring Ne-Yo and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Jan 31, 2008: Los Angeles Trade Tech College, Downtown - Campaign appearance.

Jan 31, 2008: Kodak Theatre, Hollywood - Site of Democratic debate vs. Hillary Clinton.

Jan 2008: Shepard Fairey Studio One, Elysian Park - Fairey's new studio location, site of large Obama illustration.

Feb 1, 2008: East Los Angeles College, East Los Angeles - Site of Obama rally featuring Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Feb 3, 2008: UCLA Pauley Pavilion, Westwood - Site of Obama rally featuring Michelle Obama, Oprah Wonfrey, Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver.

June 23, 2008: Dorothy Chandler Paviliion, Downtown - Site of another celebrity fundraiser.

2008: Conrad Hair Salon, Silver Lake - Site of large "OBAMA" sign in lights.

2008-2009: Crenshaw Boulevard - Where Obama merchandise is sold by street vendors, mostly between Adams and Exposition.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A King For A Day, A Dream For Generations

Today Los Angeles observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Like many public figures, he has been immortalized in this City: A 6.5-mile east-west thoroughfare (formerly Santa Barbara Avenue), a vital, yet beleaguered medical center in South Los Angeles, a library (and a green one at that) on the Los Angeles City College campus in East Hollywood, an elementary school, a therapeutic recreation center for people with disabilities and of course, a grand parade in the Crenshaw District (the Militant took you there last year).

The surrounding 'burbs aren't left out, either: The City of Compton (City O' Comp-ton) has a memorial monument, a transit center and an elementary school. Long Beach has a park.

The man himself even preached at a couple local churches just weeks before the early morning April 4 where shots rang out over Memphis skies.

Like the song said, they took his life, but they could not take his pride.

When King gave his iconic "I Have A Dream" speech in August 1963, he made it clear his vision was not necessarily for the people listening but his children and generations after. That very moment, in the extreme opposite end of the country, there was a little 2-year old toddler who was probably more captivated with playing with toy fire trucks at the time.

Tomorrow, that toddler will stand on the steps of the Capitol and recite the oath of office as President of the United States. just goes to show that the fruits of one's labor, of one's passion, won't get to bloom for a while, but in time, it inevitably will. The Militant finds inspiration in that thought -- today the Militant types mere words into a web page. But who knows what will come of that decades from now?

Militant reader BradleyB made this awesome interactive Google Map with the locations the Militant described earlier in this post. Militant props!

View Larger Map

Photo: MLK Mural in Pacoima, circa 1980

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Epilogue: Sometimes, You Get Something For Nothing These Days

Just hours after the Militant beyotched about the new price of a newspaper, while riding on the (M)etro-o-ooo, it seems the Angels of the City were smiling down on him and gave him a free copy...on the floor of a light rail car (pictured above).

Considering that the paper was free of footprints, food stains or any other unpleasant blemishes, good enough.

He read the paper on his ride and even shared the Sports section with a fellow passenger who asked about it.

And in the interest of good karma, the golden rule, blind reciprocation, etc., on the Metro ride back to his compound, after reading what he wanted to read, he left it, neatly folded, on the seat of his train, for another passenger to enjoy a 75-cent break of their own.

That's So LAME!

Recently it was announced that the Los Angeles Convention and Visitor's Bureau decided, as a stop-gap measure to combat the effects of the recession with regard to our tourist industry, to employ a frequently-used derogatory phrase, which naturally capitalizes on frequent cliches and generalizations about Los Angeles.

The big money-shot phrase for this $2 million domestic tourism campaign: "THAT'S SO LA!"

The Militant facepalms.

Look, the Militant gets it, you're trying to re-claim the phrase to make it look like a positive one, and obviously the Militant generally supports any campaign meant to improve our image, but for a town whose ad geniuses love to tout its innovation and imagination, the said ad geniuses pick one of the least innovative and imaginative phrases of all.

According to the LACVB, the campaign highlights Walt Disney Concert Hall, Venice Beach, Universal Studios, the Hammer Museum and the Hollywood sign. Haven't most people who visit Los Angeles occasionally been to or seen most of these already? Do not we have neighborhoods in this town that are unlike any other in the country? It's just...argh...

[Okay Militant, calm down, reeeeelax. Think happy thoughts]

Oh well. Guess that's what this here blog is for.

You Get Less For More These Days

The Militant awoke from hiw winter hibernation a little earlier than expected -- he thought from the nice, warm, sunny weather it was April already but was surprised to know it's still only mid-January. So he decided to take a little stroll down an unspecified east-west thoroughfare when he took a peek at a newsstand to find out what's going on in the world and exactly what day it was today.

Then he noticed it.

Los Angeles Times...Daily: 75 cents!

Okay time out, let's let that sink in.


The Militant is well aware of some of the recent changes to the paper, the shrinking physical mass (and local coverage) notwithstanding. As mentioned before, the Militant still digs reading a physical paper, as it's a nice way to pass the time riding the (M)etro or sitting on the can (even one of these). And the Militant loves seeing the rear page of the Sports or Business sections to see what's on sale at Fry's this week for the latest high-tech gadgetry to blow his Militant income on. And surely people will mob and claw at each other in a Black Friday-like frenzy over copies of the January 21st edition of the Times...or any newspaper, for that matter.

But...75 cents?

Zell, please!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Militant's Mess Hall: Whatup, Homegirl?

The Militant decided to kick off the new year with some new places to check out, and some changes.

First of all, the Militant's wannabe-foodie spinoff blog, The Militant Angeleno's Mess Hall, has proven to be an abyssmal failure, resulting in all but one post in all of 2008. The Militant hangs his head in shame. But the good news (at least for anyone who cares), is that instead of being a separate blog, the Mess Hall posts will now be integrated into This Here Blog, so the Mess Hall will now live on as an ongoing series of posts.

Eventually, the Militant will migrate the archived Mess Hall posts from the other blog into this one.

In accordance with the Militant's own New Year's Resolutions, he continues to cover eateries of note. Today he visits Homegirl Cafe's new digs, located right on the edge of Chinatown, along Alameda Street.

For those not in the know, Homegirl Cafe is a subsidiary of Homeboy Industries, which is an awesome Angeleno story unto itself.

Homeboy Industries was created circa 1992 in The Eastside's Boyle Heights by priest and native Angeleno Fr. Gregory Boyle, who started a unique enterprise to get rival gang members off the streets and into jobs. The whole deal was to give gangbangers job skills training, a steady income and something to look forward to as a way out of the thug life. The enterprise started by making tortillas and bread, then t-shirts, and eventually branching out to serve the homegurlz.

The first Homegirl Cafe opened in Boyle Heights, along with the rest of the Homeboy operation. But as the enterprise grew, there called a need for larger digs. The cafe is located on the ground floor of the new Homeboy Industries building.

Situated on the eastern edge of Chinatown along Alameda street, the new headquarters of Homeboy industries is perched at a symbolic location: Within sight of the notorious Twin Towers Detention Facility across the tracks, yet closer to both Chinatown, a place built on prosperity and mutual financial community support; and Union Station, a symbol of mobility and central hub of movement.

The building had long been a curious sight for the Militant every time he rode the Gold Line, in which its elevated tracks skirt its southern end.

This time, he got off at the Chinatown station and walked across the street. The place looks clean and modern, with works by artist Jose Ramirez adorning the walls. And on this Friday after New Year's, the lunchtime crowd was rather busy. He didn't feel slighted, though, as three other tables were waiting as well. But the wait wasn't as extraneous as we all eventually got service within a few minutes.

The Militant ordered the half Yuyu's Sandwich (Turkey with dulce de mango and chipotle, lettuce, tomatoes, onion and mayo) and cup of soup, which was arroz caldo (chicken rice soup). The soup really hit the spot on this chilly winter day, and the little bit of jalapeno chile in there was a nice kick. The sammich was divine, the mango preserve added a sweet touch, the chipotle added some spiciness and the ciabatta-style bread that surrounded the contents worked together in an amazing way.

One would blindly assume that a staff of 25 made up of former gangmembers and at-risk youth would give people some 'tude, but not so at all (Ergo, the Militant would much rather eat at a restaurant staffed by former gangbangers than wannabe actors any day). The young ladies that serve here at Homegirl are perhaps the nicest, most courteous and polite restaurant staff you could find, and the Militant recommends you tip generously. The Militant also noticed the servers get most, if not all of their take, as after he paid at the counter, the woman at the counter gave his server the full contents of his food purchase, saying to her, "Here, this is yours." The operation is a non-profit enterprise, so the overhead, the Militant assumes, is handled by grants and donations. They also offer catering services.

According to the Homegirl Cafe website, the cafe has an agreement with local restaurants Ciudad and Border Grill offering a job training program for Homegirl Cafe staff to work in those eateries. Cool deal. Homegirl Cafe is definitely worth a visit. Show your love, you your supports, show your appetites.

Homegirl Cafe
130 W. Bruno St. (at Alameda St.)
Downtown Los Angeles

Open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Breakfast served until 11 a.m.; all day on Saturday

Free parking in rear or take (M) Gold Line (Chinatown Station).

Item: Soup and half sandwich ($6.50)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Foggy New Year!

The Militant began 2009 by attending not one, but two New Year's celebrations, in unspecified parts of the City. En route from the first celebration to the second one, he did notice that it was awfully foggy out there. So foggy, he had to turn on his foglamps. Pictured left was his first photo of the year, taken while driving up Arlington Avenue on his new Militant Phone, which was acquired recently.

Of course, there's a new law on the books, effective today, that prohibits texting while driving, but the Militant wasn't texting, just taking a picture (and has the picture to prove it, duh...). As far as he knows, there's no law against taking pictures while driving. But he need not worry, since the fog was so damn thick that no law enforcement office could even see what any other driver was doing.

There's a lot in 2009 that the Militant looks forward to, so it's gonna be a great year folks. At least this Militant thinks so. What do you most look forward to in this City this year? Feel free to post it in the Comments section.