Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Militant's 2009 Round-Up!

Whatup?! Looks like another year is a wrap. So it's time to reminisce and look back on the year that was.

First off, the Militant would like to apologize to all his loyal readers for the lack of consistency/prolificity in his posts this year. Eighty-four posts? PATHETIC! That's inexcusable for the Militant! But alas, without revealing much, it may or may not had to do with one or more or none of the following: His busy schedule, work, lack of work, travel (yes, the Militant leaves town, he just won't tell you when), health, extramilitant activities, The Witness Relocation Program, alien abduction, pirates, zombies, vampires (none of that Twilight crap though), robots, ninjas, robot ninjas, pure laziness, or the fact that it's sometimes better to use your time to live live rather than write about it. But the Militant will resolve to do a better job in 2010 (how do you pronounce that anyway? "Two-thousand-ten?" "Two-thousand-and-ten?" "Twenty-ten?") Oh well, he'll worry about that tomorrow.


2009 began very foggy, but as soon as it cleared, he had himself a good meal at the Homegirl Cafe. The price of the Los Angeles Times went up to 75 cents, but sometimes you can get a copy for free if you just keep looking. For Martin Luther King, Jr. day, the Militant mapped out the places in town named after the civil rights leader. And speaking of leaders, as our country had a new one sworn in and made history, the Militant made another map where the one-time Oxy student named Barry Obama left his mark on this City.

The Militant also took a trip to the Grammy Museum at LA LIVE (gotta be all caps...), which was also an on-location filming site for the upcoming Iron Man sequel.

The Militant did a little re-branding for his 2nd year of operations. Techwise, he jumped on the Twitter bandwagon in April, but in the fall, Facebook booted him off, accusing him of being "fake" (like all the other Angelenos, that's what they all say, right?). Oh well, the solution? Just start a new account, lol.

The Lakers did it, and Angelenos partied hard (sometimes a little too hard). But he did get to see the Coliseum decked in purple and gold for the very first time. The Dodgers almost did it, but just like last year, fell short in the final four. Still, it was another great season that began with an "O"utrageous "O"pening Day, was marred by Manny's suspension, then celebrated his eventual return, and found them winning the West (again), sweeping the NLDS (again) and being beaten in 5 by the Phillies...again. But win or lose, this was Dodgertown, and the street signs prove it all.
In other sports news, the Militant threw the first-ever Militant Bowl, where Bruins and Trojans got to duke it out on this here blog. This time around, it went to USC.

The Big-Ass Station Fire (is it STILL burning?), among the many brushfires we see (and breathe) in Southern California was one of the huge local stories of the year. So massive props to the firefighters who put their lives on the line, and even pay the ultimate price.

Analog television signed off, and Michael Jackson was sent off, and the Militant was one of the 20,000 to be there at Staples Center for the star-studded memorial service. He even made a map of MJ-related sights and landmarks around town.

Conan O' Brien moved his show to Universal City, and further down the Cahuenga Pass, Gustavo "The Dude" Dudamel made his debut at The Bowl.

Also making its debut was the long-awaited (M) Gold Line Eastside Extension, opening up real rapid transit to The Real Eastside, homes. It was such a huge occasion, the Militant showed his face (well, kinda) again. The Militant also gave you an exclusive Militant tour of the O.G. Gold Line.

As usual, the Militant took you places, from Encino to San Dimas, dude, from Florence and Normandie to Figueroa and Sepulveda (yes, there is such an intersection), from the top of Mt. Hollywood to the beach by the Marina, and he will no doubt take you to more places in 2010.

Bar none, the highlight of the Militant's year was being interviewed in September by's website for their "Better Know A Blogger" series. Obviously he couldn't reveal that much about himself, but it was a huge ego boost for the Militant and was proof positive that the Militant Angeleno is a force to be reckoned with in this City. RECOGNIZE!

Who knows what adventures (or mis-adventures) we'll face in Los Angeles in 2010? Leave it up to the Militant to take you there.

Happy 2010, Angelenos! Hope it'll be a good one for y'allz.

Militant L. Angeleno

Friday, December 25, 2009

Go Tell It On The Mountain: The Militant's Mt. Hollywood Christmas Hike

First off, the Militant wishes you all a very Militant Christmas! There's nothing like Christmas in Los Angeles; the sky is clear, the air is clean, traffic is flowing and most transplants are out of town! It's rare days like this when the true Angelenos can have the City all to themselves!

The Militant has a holiday tradition of climbing Mt. Hollywood (and by meaning "holiday," it's not just the multireligious/multicultural confluence of feast days around year's end; the Militant has done this on other legal holidays, such as the 4th of July and New Year's Day). The peak is the highest publicly-accessible point in Central Los Angeles, roughly 600 feet higher than our USBank Tower and about the same height as Shanghai's World Financial Center (the world's 3rd tallest building).

The Militant decided to take a Christmas Day sunset hike up Mt. Hollywood, taking the drive up, up, up and up Vermont, parking in the Griffith Observatory parking lot (since the domes were closed today, everyone was there for the view). Within a few yards, he entered the Charlie Turner Trailhead for the hike up the mountain.

For those of you on street level, Mt. Hollywood's peak looks like an easy climb. But lurking behind the Berlin Forest (named after Los Angeles' Sister City 5,795 miles to the east; pictured right), is a winding, 1.5-mile trail that takes from 40 to 90 minutes to traverse, depending on your pace.

The Militant wasn't alone, as dozens of other Angelenos of all ages decided to make this their own Holiday tradition, some accompanied by their own canine companions.

As the Militant ascended, the sun descended, offering a free show for many who paused to watch the dusk (pictured left). Too bad the marine layer in the horizon muted the sunset in the distance somewhat, marring what could have been a clean orange disc lowering itself over the Pacific. But still a decent sunset nonetheless.

Almost halfway through, the Militant found a dirt ravine, of which he could possibly circumvent the half-mile of path towards the west slope of the mountain. So he did a little rock climbing.

Okay, it was kind of embarrassing, the Militant forgot to wear his boots and was wearing his sneaks at the time - which is fine for the trail path, but lacked enough tread for his little climb. So he made the 100-foot ascent making careful steps, getting his hands dirty, grabbing onto bushes and roots, and improvising stakes out of tree branches. But he made it, without succumbing to gravity and taking a shameful tumble.

Halfway up his shortcut climb, the Militant was reminded of the 2007 conflagration that charred this very hillside. But the natural growth within the past two years made it not-so-obvious; a lone burnt tree trunk (pictured right) became one of the few visible monuments of the brushfire.

The final 1/3rd of the hike presents one with the proverbial fork-in-the road: take the eastern path and you get up to the peak faster, or take the more lengthy western route and you enjoy the simultaneous view of Hollywood, the Westside, Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign and the San Fernando Valley.

Since it was already past dusk, the Militant wanted to just get the heck up there.

Walking along the eastern flank of the mount, the Militant found a nice view of the San Gabriels in the distance, Glendale down below and the DWP Holiday Light Festival - appearing as a glowing purple line from hundreds of feet up (pictured left).

Finally, he sees it - a sloping plain of bare dirt, bearing recent erosion channels from the recent rainstorms, and a small promontory with a few picnic tables, wooden railing and an elevation marker, indicating its 1,619 feet height above sea level.

It was already night, with only the faint orange glowing remnant of daylight looming towards the west. Before the Militant lay some 26 miles urban expanse. It was a perfect view for Christmas. Why settle for a light display made up of mere hundreds of lights when you can gawk at millions? What else could a Militant Angeleno do up there but pause, reflect, enjoy...and snap some pictures?

Aside from the muffled rumble of the city below, it was a perfectly "Silent Night" up there, but for the sound of the crisp, cold wind roaring occasionally.

It's a unique place in Los Angeles - where else can you look down on the Downtown skyline? Where else can you see Hollywood and Ventura boulevards from the same view?

There were a few people up there: A Korean couple pointing down towards Koreatown, a young boy using his dad's iPhone letting his mom know they've made it up the peak, a young woman on a solo hike, taking her own time to reflect about life from above the din of the City.

Though this is perhaps the fourth or fifth time for the Militant to ascend Mt. Hollywood, the wonders of the view never cease. He could stay up there forever if he could (of course, his blog entries wouldn't be as interesting...)

Then it was time to leave.

Though it was dark, the gridded glow of city lights below and the half moon shining above were enough illumination for the Militant. And what a juxtaposition of man-made and the natural: The Militant was treated to the sounds of a solitary owl, coyotes howling in the distance and the constant chorus of crickets.

It was only about 6 p.m., but the shade of night kept most people away. On his way down, only one ascending hiker passed the Militant. After the Militant passed the location of his 100-foot shortcut climb, he opted to just stick to the path on the way down. In retrospect, he probably didn't really shave off that much time. But hey, it was all about the experience, the experience...

After crossing through the wooded corridor that was the Berlin Forest, the Militant made it back to the Observatory parking lot, and back to the creature comforts of his car.

Once he was back on Vermont near Hollywood, the Militant reflected on being "back up there" and realizing he was now "down here." It helps to see the bigger picture. Your world can only be so small.

Since Los Angeles doesn't have an observation deck on it's highest structure, this is probably the equivalent. And best of all, it's free. And maybe it's the perfect allegory for Los Angeles life: Where in other cities one can take a quick, but pricey elevator ride to the grand view, it takes a little time, patience and work to get up to our promontory. No one's entitled to an easy break.

But when you do get there, the reward is breathtakingly priceless.

Monday, December 7, 2009


The Militant may or may not have missed yesterday's 65th Annual Northeast Los Angeles Holiday Parade, but thanks to NELA resident Cathy Davies, who sent the Militant this link, you don't have to either! And it only takes a minute! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Militant's Excellent Adventure In San Dimas

Ask most Angelenos what comes to mind when they hear of "San Dimas," and they will list two things: Raging Waters and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

The Militant found himself here Monday afternoon in the far-eastern stretches of the San Gabriel Valley (though he has been even farther east before) due to unspecified circumstances. Call it fate, or mere curiosity, but the Militant found a historically fascinating locale.

While most So Cal 'burbs mark their central business district with some faux-Main Street getup, or even worse, a large, auto-oriented retail development (anchored by one or more of the following: A Target, a Best Buy, a Home Depot and a smattering of fast food chains, including a Chick-Fil-A), San Dimas was surprisingly different.

From the moment one exits the 210 at San Dimas Avenue, the environs are different from most of the arid pueblos that lie in the shadows of the San Gabriel Mountains - there's considerably more trees and shade here. Part of that lay in the town's history as a former early 19th-century settlement named Mud Springs, and later named after this saint.

Bonita Avenue, the town's main street, boasts a total Old West flair, right down to the wooden boardwalk that lines the town's shopping promenade, the architecture of the buildings (even the local Thai restaurant doesn't look out of place in Old West San Dimas) and the large-serif fonts on nearly all of the street signs. Shops ranged from a vintage Ford automobile garage (pictured right), to a gourmet food market, to a pet store, a model train shop and a hardware emporium.

For history buffs (like the Militant), pictorial markers are positioned right across the street from various historic buildings, depicting them in an earlier life, and explaining their historic significance. Some buildings were relatively self-explanatory, like the old Santa Fe train depot that now functions as the Pacific Rail Museum. But next to it stood even more morsels of history: a restored water trough for horses, a stretch of the original Santa Fe railroad track first laid here in 1887 and an old water pump that once brought the plentiful groundwater up for human consumption.

Speaking of which, the town bears its own still-natural river, Cinnamon Creek, which runs just south of the city center. The street named Cataract Ave. refers not to an opthamologist's office but to a waterfall made by the creek.

Another surprise were the people of San Dimas: Expecting a total lilywhite town where the Militant would stick out like a sore thumb and may or may not feel welcome, at least from the people walking down the street it looked surprisingly diverse. A South Asian mother and daughter stroll through the shops on Bonita, while later down the street, an African American couple point to a new dessert shop and exclaim that "This used to be a Quiznos!"

Half-jokingly, and half-honoring his '80s nostalgia, lo and behold a few blocks east on Bonita yields - yes - a Circle K mini-mart.

[Say it with the Militant now: "EXCELLENT!"]

No, the Militant didn't notice any strange things afoot here, nor did he run into some dude named Rufus, but the Militant wouldn't be surprised if other non-locals would instinctively look for a Circle-K in San Dimas. Even though, in actuality, the "Bill and Ted" films were shot on Arizona.

[Say it with the Militant now: "BOGUS!"]

Heading back on Bonita, the Militant passed the San Dimas City Hall building and saw some sort of Jebediah Springfield-type statue (pictured left).

Which was all funny until he read the marker:


[Say it with the Militant now: "NO WAY!"]

Turns out Smith was an Old West explorer/hunter type famous for being the first American to arrive in California over land from the east (Yo transplants, there's your forefather! LOL) and lived to the ripe old age of...32. He led an exploration party from Utah, over the Nevada desert and California mountain ranges and into Mud Springs, 183 years ago last Thursday.

Even the accoutrements of the modern retail world did not feel out of place here. A shopping center blended with the local architecture without looking faux-historically tacky. The requisite local Starbucks seemed to fit in. And the nearby Albertson's supermarket even had a public space next to it -- a pocket park with a fountain, benches and rose bushes (pictured right).

The premature dusk skies typical of mid-Autumn soon fell upon San Dimas, and the Militant naturally had to set off into the sunset (he drove here, BTW, though Foothil Transit's line 492 takes you here from the El Monte Transit Center, and one fine day in the future, the proposed Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line may or may not take you here as well).

The beauty of Southern California lies in its surprises that reveal themselves before you if only you pay attention, get out of the car and walk around a little. San Dimas proved to be an, um, excellent example of that.