Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tickle Me St. Elmo - Drums, Blues and Jazz Fest This Weekend

Most people pass up the Mid-City section of Los Angeles as some random ghetto nothingness, but on the way along everyone's favorite non-freeway route to LAX, just southeast of Venice and La Brea, lies a small artists colony that's been practicing sustainability before it became a buzzword.

The place is St. Elmo Village, and if you have even the slightest inkling of Angeleno militantism, you will join the Militant (who may or may not be there) this weekend as the village celebrates its 40th anniversary.

This Saturday and Sunday, May 23-24, from 12 noon to 7 p.m., the village is throwing its annual Drums, Blues and Jazz festival, featuring an aentire weekend of music and good vibes all around. Sunday, jazz artist Dwight Trible, a familiar name and face to those familiar with the Leimert Park scene, will perform. St. Elmo Village is nestled in a residential neighborhood at 4830 St. Elmo Drive, just east of La Brea.

The Militant, of course, recommends biking (via from the nearby Venice Blvd bike lane) or taking Metro Local 212 down La Brea, because it's a residential neighborhood, and the locals will undoubetly get pissed if you take away their parking spaces. If you absolutely need to drive, park at the Mid-Town Shopping Center at Venice & Rimpau, and a shuttle will transport you to the village.

For those of you who have never been there, it's quite a sight, with painted walkways, uniquely designed gardens, and a commons area where human interaction isn't only encouraged, it's mandatory. One of the Militant's operatives even lived there an unspecified number of years ago.

The place was started in the late '60s by local artist Roderick Sykes and his late uncle Rozell as a community meant to inspire, foster and nurture people's creative and artistic spirit, especially in light of a tumultuous era both the City and the country as a whole were facing at the time. Those conditions are gone, or at least have changed, but St. Elmo's Village still remains.

So check it out and see a totally unique slice of Los Angeles. And if you do spot the Militant, quietly give him a "Stay Militant!" raised fist. He may or may not respond back.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


It's been in the news, out of the news and back in the news again, but the Swine Flu may or may not have been on everyone's mind.

At the peak of the disease's fame in late April/early May, the Militant recalled sharing an elevator ride in the North Hollywood Red Line station with a dozen other folks, two of whom tightly covered their mouth and noses with their shirt or a piece of cloth. The Militant started to laugh, but realized that he, too (though for Militant reasons only) was already wearing his camouflaged bandana mask over half of his face.

But the Swine Flu has certainly been on the minds of the folks at Metro, who've recently installed hand sanitizers next to the ticket machines at various stations (pictured). Interesting touch, to say the least, though the Militant wonders how the transit agency will deal with any sort of sanitizer goop, which, as you can see, already forms on the wall.

The Militant also wonders how long they will be there, and whether they're only there as long as the Swine Flu thing remains in the headlines or not. It must have cost some money to install them (and to purchase the sanitizer gel) and certainly it's gonna cost some money to remove them, if that happens. Or maybe it's a shape of things to come. If you got dry skin, try the (M)etro (M)oisturizer dispensers at the Red Line stations! And the Militant wonders if Metro already has some sort of health epidemic line item in their budget to provide these. But isn't the TAP system they're trying to fully implement supposed to be a contact-less technology?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Smile! You're On Militant Camera!

The Militant gets around, and we all know that. But the Militant may or may not run into some familiar (or unfamiliar) faces during his Militant activities. Sometimes he spots celebrities or other public figures, but he's more excited about spotting some of his fellow local bloggers!

On Tuesday, the Militant happened to spot Randall "BusTard" Fleming (pictured left, standing) of The Bus Bench blog, riding the (M) Red Line to Downtown! He was spotted doing some marketing, dropping "Bus Bench" promo cards into the subway car's pamphlet holder (bottom of the pic). The Militant wasn't sure whether it was really Mr. BusTard or not, but this video, of a Measure R debate last October (he was against it, btw, lol) confirms it was him (Since he appeared as himself in a public forum, that means that he is not maintaining anonymity -- the Militant respects the anonymity of his fellow anyonymous bloggers and will never reveal their identities on This Here Blog - Blogger's Honor!). So, whatup, Randall!?

The Militant can see you, but you can't see the Militant!

(Disclaimer: The Militant does not stalk, and never has stalked, anyone (Well okay, there was this one ex-girlfriend, but that was yeeeaarrrs ago). He's just a watchful observer!)

WTF Week: The Militant Walks From Union Station To Elysian Park (2.1 mi)

Now that the Militant has (self-) declared this week WTF (Walk This Far) week, it's time to, well, walk the walk! The result was a 2.1 mile route from Union Station to Elysian Park (link opens map route), which yielded some nice urban surprises.

After doing some unspecified business in the vicinity of Union Station, instead of just hopping on the train back to the compound, he decided to take a nice long walk over the hills. So the Militant crossed Alameda, then crossed Cesar E. Chavez to land in Chinatown proper, where he walked parts of Spring and New High streets to end up on North Broadway, where he partook in the simple, pedestrian-oriented urbanism of fruits being sold on the sidewalk outside the storefronts, and people making their way back and forth Chinatown's main thoroughfare on a Spring afternoon.

The Militant made a left onto College Street, where he contacted an operative who loved nearby on his Militant Phone. There was no response, but the Militant decided to forge on anyway. This time it was west on College St, up the hill and over the 110 Freeway, where he spotted an FDR-era plaque (pictured left) marking its construction, before the 110, before the 11, and even before the Arroyo Parkway, when the road below was simply "Figueroa Street." Never before, having driven over this bridge so many times in his life, did it dawn on him that it was the product of The New Deal.

Continuing up, marching against the forces of gravity, causing a couple beads of sweat to form, the Militant arrived at Stadium Way, where, if he chose to walk due north, he could reach the Chinatown gate of Dodger stadium and catch a game. Good thing they're on the road right now (Actually, uh, not a good thing...). Continuing even farther up College, he leaves Chinatown and is now in the neighborhood of Victor Heights (a.k.a. "The Forgotten Edge"). This time the Militant spots Chinese Lion statues outside an apartment building, and a hummingbird (pictured right) rapidly flapping about, pollinating the flowers of a tree.

Well that was nice. There were a flock of small birds flying nearby, and their chirps soothed the Militant's soul so relatively far above the din of the city. Where College ends at Beaudry, he turned around to see a Killer Downtown View (pictured left). Looks even more awesome at night!

The Militant headed south on Beaudry and around Holy Hill Community Church (a.k.a. the former site of the Metropolitan Water District headquarters, before they moved to Union Station - interesting connection to the Militant's foot journey) and on to Sunset. The Militant, figuring the most interesting thing he saw was the damn hummingbird, was ready to board the (M) Local bus back to the compound.

But while crossing Everett Street, out of the corner of his eye, he sees -- a patch of green. Hmmm. Interrressstingk. Could it be - a park? Maybe a vestigal portion of Elysian Park? Nay, this was a totally different park. The Militant braved the steep 20% grade up the hill, this time dripping in hot, sexy Militant sweat. And there it was, heralded in the familiar wooden City Rec & Parks sign: Everett Park (pictured right).

In all of his lifetime existence, there was a place right here smack dab in Central Los Angeles, in the shadows of the Downtown skyline that he's never seen before! The Militant had driven by millions of times, rode by on a bus thousands of times, and biked by hundreds of times, yet it took one simple walk for him to discover this little urban gem.

The park is a simple teardrop-shaped plot of grass, surrounded by a collection of apartments and craftsman-style homes that also gets a Killer Downtown View. The park, also at the steep grade, isn't great for any sort of sports that involve a ball (unless you like to play against the forces of gravity). There was a local couple playing with their dogs in the park, but even the dogs weren't too cool with catching thrown tennis balls.

Still, little Everett Park, though dwarfed by its much bigger brother Elysian nearby, was a nice little urban oasis for the Militant to chillax in and let the cooler evening breezes soothe him (one complaint, there were absolutely no benches, the only place to sit was the low stone wall in front of the wooden sign...). Where the growl of cars and buses on Sunset Blvd below were muffled by the sound of wind, chirping birds and rustling leaves. This may not be the actual Top of The World, but it almost damn feels like it.

For anyone sold on possibly living here, the Militant counted not one, not two, but four "for rent" signs in this here neighborhood. Come'n get it, kids. And let them know the Militant sent ya (And for you True Blue Dodger fans, you can actually walk to the stadium from here).

Another example of the wonder, beauty and sheer awexomeness of the Los Angeles that you can only see if you just ride a bike take a walk.

'Bike To Work' Week? Psssh. How 'Bout 'WTF' Week?

Yesterday, when the Militant visited his local post office, the postal clerk at the counter, spotting the Militant's camouflaged bike hemet, asked him if he rode his bike. After the Militant affirmed, she asked if he just started riding today, or if he rides all the time. You already know the answer to that one...

As most of you know by now, Today is "Bike To Work" week. Which is all nice and good, especially for those of you who don't bike (or just have yours in the garage, tires mostly in a deflated state, adorned with cobwebs - shame on you). So what does a cycle-prone Militant do this week, especially since he already bikes to work (Hey, being a Militant is a 24-7 endeavor!)?

Well, the Militant, ever one step ahead of the typical Angeleno, has decided, instead of Bike To Work (BTW) week, it's gonna be Walk This Far (WTF) week! Instead of being on the bike, he's gonna go on longer-than-normal pedestrian jaunts he never before considered, just to see what urban delights he can uncover for this here blog.

After all, for a city that's gotten a reputation for not walking, going pedestrian is even more Militant than riding a bike! Bike advocacy is hot right now, so pedestrian advocacy is the next frontier, and some communities are already starting to get into it.

So if you already tell yourself "BTW," you might want to say, "WTF" instead!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Craft Beer Fest LA: An Outbreak of the Stein Brew in Echo Park

When the Militant first heard of the Craft Beer Fest LA, he was concerned, by its imagery and location, that it would be some sort of annoying hipster circus that even his hipster repellent couldn't even overcome. But still, the Militant loves his beer, especially of the microbrew variety, so he decided to check it out after all on Saturday. At the very least, he won't see the hipsters suck on cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon (lol, the Militant just said "hipsters suck").

Then when he got there, not very long after the event began, there was a long-ass overflow line greeting him on Glendale Blvd, just below the Sunset Boulevard bridge. Fortunately an operative spotted the Militant and was able to fast-track his entrance through unspecified means (Militant connections, suckazz!)

So this is how it worked, at $30 a pop, each guest receives a beer glass and 15 tickets. Each ticket is good of one fill of beer, bringing the cost to $2 per fill. The event was also a benefit for a nonprofit called 826LA (the number, according to someone from their outreach booth, is a reference to the mother organization's address in SF) that does after-school tutoring for local kids. Pause for the cause!

This was the first time the Militant entered the Echoplex, at least to his recollection. It was like a dark dungeon of forgotten time...and lots of beer. Two lines formed, to the side and to the back. Brew flowed from the onsite bar taps or from makeshift taps fashioned from portable dispensers.
The Mlitant soon discovered the the line to the very far left in both instances yielded the shortest line by far, so that was were he was found.

About 28 beers were available to sample, from California craft brewers such as Craftsman, Hangar 24, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, Pizza Port and Firestone Walker. Most were of the ale variety, especially IPA (and the Militant isn't a huge IPA fan), but the stuff was still way better than any corporate American brew, and almost always high in its alcohol content, with some reaching as far as 10%.

Some of the Militant's favorites, as far as he could remember, included Hangar 24's Orange Wheat, TAPS' Belgian White and Lagunitas' Barleywine.

There was also free "pub grub" to satiate some appetites, but even two hours into the event, most of the food was gone, or was so little in supply that it went quick. East Hollywood's Scoops and Pure Luck Restaurant gave away beer-related ice cream and cupcakes respectively, and Echo Park's Masa from down the block offered pizzas, while the LA Burrito Project dispensed vegan burritos and Nicole's Gourmet Foods handed out cheese and roasted cashews and pecans all event long.

The latter even made a video and "discussion" presentation onstage in between musical entertainment to extol the virtues of beer and cheese, as an alternative to the wine-and-cheese culture. Surely the vegans would cringe with that one, but the Militant was cool wit dat.

Ther was a taco truck out in the back, but the tacos were not free. The Militant passed.

Overall, the Militant thought it was a very cool event for a first-time thang. The crowd was, thankfully, not total hispter but a good cross section of 20-to-40-something Southern Californians who are wired enough to know about these events, and the Militant saw random operatives in there as well. The main consensus complaint was crowd control -- not that the crowd was unruly (and for an event centered on lots and lots of high-octane brew, people were extremely cool and chill) -- but a long line of people had to wait outside while the crowd inside had to maintain legal crowd capacity (lest Fire Marshal Bill pays a visit and shuts the party down). Hopefully future Craft Beer Fests could take place in an outdoor setting.

As the Militant stumbled out of the place in a happy buzz, one sobering image hit him -- directlyacross the street was the "Ghost Bike" installation (pictured right) in memory of a local cyclist named Jesus Castillo who was carelessly struck and a drunk driver.

The Militant left towards the area of his compound on the (M) Local bus.

Train-ing Day

Saturday, as you may or may not know, was National Train Day, which was a day celebrated nationally, but not a national holiday per se. You follow?

The day, according to the event's organizer, Amtrak, was meant to commemorate the May 10, 1869 driving of the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah, that completed the Transcontinental Railroad. But since that was such a long-ass time ago, most people see it as a fun day to get the family out and see trains.

Amtrak, though has also used the day to market their rail passenger services, especially in this day and age of eco-consciousness and fluctuating gas prices. And especially this year, with not only the second-most powerful person in the US as one of their faithful customers (as well as the Militant himself), the rail service wanted to make people aware of how railroads drive the economy.

Locally, the festivities centered around Union Station, which actually turns 70 this month (but that fact was not mentioned). The events included free Metrolink, Santa Fe, Amtrak, Disney and private rail car exhibits, where one can walk through current and historic passenger cars, a concert in the old ticket lobby, train- transit- related groups offering info, an N-scale model railroad layout (pictured left), and a kids area, which was located in the old Harvey House restaurant next to the station.

Militant reader laluna_negra Twittered the Militant that she wanted to see pics, so, at your request, here goes!

Parents and kids gather at the AmtraKids Depot at the old Fred Harvey Restaurant site.
The parents weren't even alive when this was last used as an eatery.

Just so you won't get the Swine Flu...

Not part of the NTD festivities, but the Militant got to go right up to the Metro Gold Line
Eastside extension viaduct...Open Open Open!

21st century people lounge inside a 1930s-era passenger car. Now that was travelin'!

Another advantage of traveling by rail: You definitely don't get airline food!

Inside the Coast Starlight lounge-cafe car: Amtrak recycles! Yay!