Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garden Grove Strawberry Festival: Your Mileage May Berry

Last weekend, The Militant headed up Highway 1 to Ventura County and had a berry good time at the California Strawberry Festival in Oxnard. In short, it was a celebration of all things strawberry, with everything from strawberry beer to strawberry nachos, plus an arts and crafts bazaar, rides for the kids, a neato shuttle bus service and the exotic sight of rural farmland just a couple miles away.

The Militant soon caught wind of another Strawberry Festival, this time somewhat closer to home, in Orange County - the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival, going on this Memorial Day weekend.

As good as the Oxnard festival was, the Garden Grove has a lot going for it: 53 years of tradition, four days of fest (Friday-Monday) going as late as 10 p.m., and the best admission price of all: FREE. The Militant never had a chance to check this one out before, so on Saturday, he got his ass down the 5 (Well, more like down the 5, the 605, the 405 and the 22) to check it out.

Unlike the Oxnard fest, this isn't sequestered in a relatively inaccessible part of town: This is the heart of Garden Grove, in its Civic Center, at the triangle-shaped Euclid Park, surrounded by its city hall, library, community center, high school, a community college and a few churches - meaning parking is near and free.

Unfortunately for The Militant, that's where its advantages end.

Upon first glance, the crowd looked the same, though replace the Dodger gear in Oxnard with Angels apparel and switch the VC baby boomers with OC teenagers.

The Militant was so looking forward to eclectic strawberry-themed foods, but pretty much all they really had were strawberry shortcakes, funnel cake and smoothies (which was more of a watery, pink drink than the awesome thick red slush at Oxnard). There was a lot of action though, but more in the way of carnival rides and the usual crafts and marketing items booths.

In general, the "Garden Grove Strawberry Festival" is just a regular carnival that happens to have a strawberry theme.

The Militant did have, in addition to the smoothie, a "Strawberry Royale" (Is that a strawberry quarter pounder in France?) - pictured right, which is more or less a strawberry shortcake, albeit with strawberry bread. And that pretty much was it.

Sorry, no strawberry beer or strawberry margaritas here. Remember, this is Orange County.

Actually there were slightly more: One booth had strawberry crepes (though it was nothing more than a standard nutella crepe with two berries added), another had strawberry cheesecake (again, regular cheesecake with a couple strawberrys put on top). Still, it lacked the strawber-riety the Oxnard festival had.

The food prices were higher ($4 for the watery smoothie vs. $2.50 for the awesome Oxnard smoothie) but to be fair, the Garden Grove festival was free and all proceeds (over $100,000 worth) go to various charities, nonprofits, scholarships, school and youth organizations in the area. Nothing here was unreasonably overpriced (except for the one booth that sold baskets and flats of strawberries -- at twice the Oxnard price). Worst of all, The Militant didn't see any off-site (or even on-site) strawberry stands. Boooo!

As for the entertainment, for some reason the Garden Grove fest's organizers placed the main band stage several hundred feet away from the rest of the action. The Oxnard fest's stages were much more closer and actually felt like a part of the festival. And furthermore, though both strawberry festivals had old school R&B-ish cover bands, the quality of music was much better in Oxnard (Guess it really is true that Ventura County is the 4th biggest music area in the US).

Now don't get The Militant wrong -- if you're looking for something fun to do with the family on Memorial Day weekend, by all means come to the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival. The kids will have fun on the rides, but don't expect to get all "Berry'd Out."

The Militant will stop short of saying this event is a fail. It is, after all, a community-run, community-sustaining event with over a half-century of tradition. Admission and parking are free so, it's no ripoff by any means. But who ever knew that semi-rural Ventura County would be a much more happening place than the suburban (and thus relatively more dense) Orange County?

The Garden Grove Strawberry Festival continues Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Memorial Day Monday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.

In honor of the 2011 Garden Grove Strawberry Festival's theme, "Celebrates The Sweet Sounds Of Comedy" (What is that, Engrish or something?), here's some more pics The Militant took:

Parents, think twice about a festival that allows your kids to "ride Michael Jackson."
(Actually this ride was so-named because it was one of the original rides
from MJ's Neverland Ranch)

Unlike the real thing, you can't search for the "Double Rainbow" here.

The one redeeming quality of having all these carnival rides was that
The Militant can just wave around his Militant Cam and take pictures like this...

...and this.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Militant's Response to 'Some Guidelines On How To Be A True Angeleno'

As if in a flash, the Militant's Facebooks and Twitters blew up with people forwarding the link to Los Angeles Times columnist Hector Tobar's entry today, entitled, "Some guidelines on how to be a true Angeleno."

First off, this blog post is not about hateration. In fact, Tobar (pictured left) is one of The Militant's favorite Times columnists. And The Militant pretty much agrees with what Tobar is saying in the column. Although, The Militant may or may not be tickled that the mainstream media is finally talking about the things that yours truly has been writing about for years. But hey, even though the Hector Tobar isn't the Militant Angeleno, he certainly is the closest thing to it down there at Times Mirror Square.

This post is not so much a rebuttal to Tobar's column, but more of an addendum to the conversation. And damnit, this kind of subject matter is The Militant's virtual gang turf. So he's gotta represent!

So let's do this:

1. Don't fawn over celebrities.
True dat. The Militant never learned it in school (they don't really teach you anything that pertains to the real world at the LAUSD), but somehow he's instinctively learned not to be starstruck. First of all, it's sort of understood that one needs to respect celebs' privacy. The other matter is, when The Militant actually sees celebs on the street or at the supermarket, he isn't quite sure it's them. You'd feel like a total ass and a half if what you thought was a celebrity turned out to be Just Someone Who Happens To Look Like Them...or worse - an actual wannabe who is hoping you'd fall into their trap.

There is one exception, and that is celebrities who you truly, totally, admire. The Militant met an unspecified celebrity randomly once while shopping at an unspecified store. He was shaking in his boots. But he got his composure together and, in a casual manner, approached the unspecified star during an opportune moment after the salesperson left that unspecified celeb alone. But there were no autograph or photograph (well, this was the days before everyone had digital cameras and smartphones) requests. The Militant just wanted to have a brief conversation with the unnamed famous person, shake their hand and tell them how influential that person has been to him. Done and done and done, and it was one of The Militant's greatest experiences.

2. Use your turn signals.
Word. You paid for your car, right? So get your freaking money's worth. Use the turn signals.

3. Barbecue, garden, enjoy the outdoors
Definitely. Barbecue? Check. Garden? That's not The Militant's thing, but one of The Militant's operatives keeps preaching the gospel of California native plants. The Militant is gradually learning about them (if only for the historical perspective), so he may or may not cover this subject later. But this Militant Angeleno will not drive 20 miles just to go for a walk. He can walk, bike or Metro there. It's part of the adventure. You can, however drive just an hour away and be in the mountains, or on a farm. Because we can do that here.

4. Be cool with ethnic diversity.
Be cool? This is part of the Militant's freaking life! He lives ethnic diversity. If diversity is some foreign concept you have to learn how to merely "be cool" with, The Militant does not want to waste his time on your podunk n00b Why-Is-There-No-Cheese-In-My-Taco ass. Next!

(Although people do ask the Militant in person, "What are you?" He chooses to have lots of fun with that...)

5. Know your shortcuts.
If you use your GPS for anything other than locating a house on an obscure sidestreet or finding the nearest applicable ATM, you need to be slapped. The Militant has the Thomas Guide memorized. BOTH VERSIONS.

6. Appreciate Vin Scully.
The bigger Militant issue is more like, how can one actually appreciate a Dodger game when it's not called by Vinny? And, when the time comes where Scully retires or meets The Great Dodger In The Sky (later than sooner! later than sooner!)...Will AI technology be advanced enough to replicate the legendary announcer's voice, diction, prose and idiosyncracies?

7. Acknowledge and respect local traditions.
Yeah. And this includes spelling Silver Lake as two words, and knowing that "The Eastside" is east of the Los Angeles River, damnit.

8. Don't ever say: "L.A. doesn't have any seasons."
Because, as you might have been noticing lately, we can go through all four seasons in the span of a week or two.

9. Don't wear your civic pride on your sleeve.
Okay, this is the only one where The Militant vehemently disagrees on. The Militant will dissect Tobar's explanation:

Your typical Boston or Seattle resident can get pretty snippety about how great his city is. A real Angeleno, however, is too world-wise to claim his city is perfect.

Yes, we all know about the snippety transplant. But does civic pride always have to mean one's city is perfect? Of course not, and shame on you Tobar for assuming that. Of course a transplant, as proud as they are, wearing their stupid little Yankees cap around this town may not admit openly that their hometown is perfect, but the fact that they live here is an unspoken admission of its imperfectness. After all, if it were perfect, they would still be living there.

But what is wrong with having civic pride? The Militant has long believed this is something we need to change. Don't let yourself be drowned out by the civic pride of the transplanted on YOUR TURF. That is an insult to you. Stand up! REPRESENT!

We know ours is a flawed paradise. We recognize and complain about its faults, but we still wouldn't live anywhere else.

Is any place free from flaws, really? Even the most Liveable Cities According To Forbes Or The Economist Or Mercer's has their own problems and issues. But you don't know about them because you don't live there.

But recognizing and complaining and complaining about faults shouldn't just be the end of the game. You can get involved, you can do something about it. The Militant is, why aren't you?

10. Define it your own way.
Yeah, it's called BOO-YA!

Guess there are Angelenos, and True Angelenos. But then there are Militant Angelenos.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

California Strawberry Festival: A Berry Good Time

Okay, it's Spring and what to do...within a few miles radius of The Militant Compound is the Silver Lake Jubilee, but from his experience during last year's inaugural event, it was just a bunch of awful hipster bands, redeemed only by a large collection of food trucks. Besides, by the definition of the word "jubilee," isn't the next one supposed to be in 2060 instead of this weekend?

So f dat. The Militant decided to leave the bike at the compound and head on up the coast and to Oxnard (which you all should know by now is one of the great music capitals of America), where the annual California Strawberry Festival is also on this weekend.

Deciding to drive up the coast (No Metrolink Ventura County service on weekends, sorry to say) turned out to be a nice decision; The Militant opted to take PCH straight up from Santa Monica through Malibu and on to Ventura County, where the ocean view alone struck up a swelling of California pride in the Militant.

Arriving in Oxnard around an hour later, he decided to take advantage of the festival's free shuttle bus service, from five park-n-ride locations around Oxnard feeding into the festival grounds at that city's College Park. It was surprisingly convenient, coming from the Centerpoint Mall parking lot, where the Militant only had to wait but one minute before the shuttle bus (a re-commissioned school bus actually, but 'tis cool) arrived. Sweet!

For those who haven't been, this festival is about anything and everything fragaria ananassa. There's all sorts of strawberry-related food and drink, strawberry-themed rides and an arts and crafts bazaar which may or may not be strawberry-related. There's also a bunch of local cover bands that perform (guess that whole music city thing was no joke after all...) on a few stages.

The Militant had been to the Strawberry Festival before, back in 2004. While it was a great fete in honor of the area's top agricultural crop, he also not-so-fondly remembered dusty parking lots, muddy grassy fields and long-ass lines for food.

Severn years later, things were different -- in the good way. The park had been remodeled somewhat since last time and the configuration of the festival had changed and grown. Most of all, there were two food court areas instead of just one, and the lines were considerably shorter (although the Militant got there quite late in the day, with only but an hour and 20 minutes to enjoy the festival).

With but 80 minutes to enjoy this thing, there was no time to spare! Right upon entry, he tried the reasonably-priced $2.50 strawberry smoothie, which really hit the spot. After navigating the arts & crafts section, he tried a glass of strawberry beer ($10, reeeeeeal subtle, folks...but hey you get a nice souvenir glass). Then came the popular build-your-own strawberry shortcake pavilion ($5 for all the strawberries, strawberry jelly, pound cake and whipped cream you can cram in a bowl). By then The Militant was almost all berry'd out. The strawberry pizza and strawberry nachos would have to wait until next year (relax, they're both dessert-type foods with only a slight resemblance to their namesakes).

Though there were strawberry vendors onsite at the festival, the Militant went out into the nearby Oxnard farmlands to get the real deals. He was even recognized by the vendors of one of the certified farmer's markets he frequents regularly, who set up a stand at their farm. They even gave him a discount after he bought two flats of strawberries (he can be rather hardcore with these things...)

With the sun setting over the agricultural wonderland that is Oxnard, The Militant headed back to Los Angeles via the 101 and made it back to The Compound in around an hour. He had almost forgotten that the large metropolis of Los Angeles is only an hour away from farming areas; a slight reminder of Los Angeles' past and how fortunate we are to be relatively close to places that are decidedly non-urban, if we choose to get away from the concrete and asphalt of our environment, if only for a few hours.

The California Strawberry Festival continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is $12. Parking is $10 so you should really take advantage of that shuttle. If you missed this one, fear not, for there is another strawberry festival next weekend (Friday-Monday), this time in Garden Grove.

Snapshot: Can You Say LAWSUIT?

The Militant sure hopes the operator of this food truck has a good legal team (Berendo St and Beverly Blvd, Koreatown).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dreams Of Field

At approximately 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, The Militant received a voice mail from one of his operatives:

"Hey [name withheld], call me up, I got a ticket to the game today..."

The Militant knew he was talking about the Dodger game, which was a 12:10 p.m. "businessman's special" match against the Chicago Cubs. He had a few militant and extramilitant activities to do that day, but he is also all about spontaneity. So a call to the operative yielded further information.

"Dude, one of my friends got us VIP field level seats, I got an extra one. You down?"

Hmmmmmm....The Militant thought hard about this one. Although he attended Opening Day, he does want to honor his "Deport McCourt" quasi-boycott, just like nearly every other Dodger fan these days...but Field Level seats? For free? That adds to the ethical conundru....

Wait, this is a free Field Level ticket -- Okay, he was down.

After hopping on a (M) Red Line train and meeting with the operative at an undisclosed location in Chinatown, he carpooled with the operative and two of the operative's friends to The Stadium. Normally, those involved in a carpool would have to fork over a percentage of the $15 parking cost, but the person driving showed a VIP parking pass, so nothing out-of-pocket for us so far!

Upon arriving at the mostly-empty stadium (even the annual UCLA-USC games here seem to get more people...) he was also on the look out for the Dodgertown Police State, with tons of uniformed LAPD officers standing guard to avoid another Bryan Stow incident. Yes, they were present, but it wasn't like we were in Soviet Russia or anything like that.

Then we took our seats. DAYUMN.

The Militant, more accustomed to sitting in Infield Reserve, occasionally Top Deck, and once in a while Loge when he wants to spoil himself, isn't used to Field Level. He only sat in Field two or three times before, but not this close. He was three rows behind the actual field. Had he knew he would have been this close, he would have brought a glove. Seriously, because this was potential foul territory.

The vantage point of the game was radically different here. It was actually a little harder to follow, since you're nearly at level with the field, and don't have the full view of the diamond below you. Line drives towards the left field side are hard to discern, as with any base calls at third. However, double plays were awesome from here. James Loney becomes your homeboy by default. Davey Freaking Lopes was like standing right on front of you.

To add to the situation, this was a different game altogether. Most of all the team wore their baby-blue Kansas City Royals Brooklyn Dodgers (circa 1940s) throwback uniforms. And because it was a "throwback" game, the Cubs also wore their own retro threads. Likewise, the contemporary rock/hip-hop/reggaeton/merengue at-bat music was nixed altogether to simulate an old-school baseball experience. Even the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" performances were done as instrumentals courtesy of Nancy Bea Hefley.

The game was pretty lame anyway; Andre Streak-ier was not in the lineup, Jay Gibbons batted in the three-hole (Whaaat?) and former-former-Dodger Dioner Navarro (and not The Pride of Norwalk, Rod Barajas) was behind the plate. It's as if they planned on losing the game. On top of that there was this freaking annoying Cubs fan in the row in front of us. Arrrrrgh!

But what mitigated all that was The Prime Ticket Club. Our fancy-schmancy tickets (From a business associate of a friend of the Militant's operative) entitled us to access the exclusive bar/buffet area towards the end of the Field Level, where we could treat ourselves - for free - to a salad bar, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, hot wings, roast beef, pasta and Dodger Dogs. There was also a full-service bar (not free though) and free fountain drinks, coffee and soft-serve frozen yogurt. Like whoah. You show your ticket on the first visit, they stamp a "?" on your inner left wrist, and you've gained AYCE status for the rest of the game (Sitting in the 90-degree heat, though, left The Militant sunbaked, and multiple trips for soft serve frozen yogurt were made).

It was the free grub alone that made a 5-1 loss to the Cubs not that bad. Can you imagine if every fan in the stadium had this luxury? Stadium violence would be rendered nonexistent (Unless you're talking about a food fight...). Perhaps the team should just spend the money they're forking over for all that overkill police protection on subsidizing the stadium food (Got that, Mr. Schieffer?).

But the best part of Wednesday's game was that The Militant and the others in his group didn't have to pay a cent for the tickets, for parking nor for food. Nada. Zip. $0.00. The Militant got to take in a Dodger game and not a single cent went to the McCourt Regime! Bahahaha! Up yours, Frankie boy!