Friday, June 29, 2007

The Bike Path To Summer

Although Memorial Day weekend was over a month ago, and the Summer Solstice came and went last week, for this Militant, it's not Summer until I visit the beach. Having some work responsibilities wrapped up by early afternoon, I found a unique window of opportunity to hit the coast on Thursday.

Since 1993, I've inaugurated the arrival of Summer with a ride down the 22-mile South Bay Bike Path.

Despite the beach being outside my driving ban territory, I still decided to save some gas anyway by taking advantage of Metro's new Rapid Line 704, which supposedly gets me to Santa Monica in an hour. To my dismay, the bus wasn't on time (or maybe I missed the last one?) and it wasn't a fancy red-colored bus, but rather a regular poppy-orange Metro Local with a "704 Santa Monica" headsign. Nevertheless, the bike went on the front rack, the iPod went in my ears, and I was on my way.

It did take about an hour to reach the beach, not bad. I disembarked at Colorado and started pedaling, passing the throngs of digital camera-snapping summer tourists outside iconic Santa Monica Pier sign, crossing the curiously-named Moomat Ahiko Way -- which is native American Chumash for "Breath of the Ocean" and not after some Arab-Japanese fellow as I had previously thought. Within a few minutes, I was finally on The Path.

My destination, the end of the path at Torrance County Beach was a virtually-unseen point in the distance, past the slight haze created by coastal moisture. Riding on the path during the summer is a unique experience; the sum beats down on your back and arms yet your face is cooled by the moist sea air, rewarded frequently by the delicate coastal breezes. The experience is just not the same during the winter, where it's considerably colder, and the flat, spanning aesthetic of the beach is dramatically altered by storm berms bulldozed in the sand. Yes, I can always come here in the winter, but I don't like to.

Having breezed past the Venice Boardwalk on my summer bike rides on The Path, I decided to play "tourist" and simply walk my bike along the Boardwalk (a misnomer since it's simply pavement). It was my first time on the actual Boardwalk since helping a friend visiting from Philadelphia realize her dream of rollerblading in Venice Beach a decade ago (for my newbie rollerblading ass though, it was a muscle-aching nightmare). Sometimes I wonder what it's like to be a tourist. If all I saw of Angelenos were stoned-out smelly dudes strumming guitars while selling ersatz paintings or hawking henna designs, I might not like this town all that much. Although I must report that I spotted the Silver Lake Walking Dude of all people, in all his sunburned glory, here on the Venice Boardwalk, well outside his home environs.

After Venice Beach, I got back on the bike and rode through the "street" segment of The Path, crossing one of Abbot Kinney's few surviving canals and navigating the perimeter of Marina Del Rey, finally reaching a dedicated bike path again where it junctions with the Ballona Creek Path. I think I'll shut up for now and let the pictures speak for themselves:

Gigantic crane birds (center) hang out in the Ballona Wetlands --
the last piece of land untouched since the native Tongva tribe roamed the area.

The Del Rey Lagoon, just south of Ballona Creek,
is the last vestige of a large span of marshland
that would eventually be dredged to create The Marina.

Looking back north, The El Segundo Power Plant hums and churns
while surfers ride the waves just yards away.

The surfer's monument at Hermosa Beach Pier.

The path ends here, next to the fortress-like cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Looking back, to think I came all this way.
Santa Monica can hardly be seen in the distance.

The sand, the surf, the foam, the kelp, the easy feeling of a
summer evening in Southern California.

When the sun sets over the Pacific...

My Summer initiation ritual is not complete without baptizing myself in the waters of the Pacific (okay, just a knee-deep wade would suffice this time), reminding me that I've completed my journey, and forming a connection to my ancestors who have similarly waded the other side. As the sun set, some music provided by the iPod orchestra completed the mood, of a day finishing off its business in this part of the world.

Now time for the journey back.

With night approaching, the environment suddenly changes, and it's not necessarily for the worse. The moist sea air embraced me like an invisible blanket, keeping me relatively warm as I speed through the cold of night. Pier lights served as decorative strings jutting out into the dark, unknown expanse of the ocean. As I raced back towards Santa Monica and the receding layer of remaining post-dusk sunlight fades into bands of orange and purple, the bonfires of Doheny State Beach formed seemed to form their own runway perpendicular to the paths of jet planes roaring above.

Come 9 p.m., in the dark, unlit expanses of Playa Del Rey, I felt like a western Pioneer navigating towards unknown territory, with only a small bike light guiding my way. Daunting, yes, but really very exciting. The full moon also provided quite a sight with its light reflecting on the waters of Ballona Creek (photo right).

But once I reached Santa Monica, the quiet solace of the beach at night ended suddenly, with the lights of the Pacific Park blaring on the Pier and throngs of people walking around both on the Path and on the sand. The energy of this beach continued as if the sun had never set. A free valet service was set up to accommodate people's bikes next to the path, and the lot was mostly full.

Navigating the Santa Monica streets by the 3rd Street Promenade, I had long left the dark, silent solitude of the beach at night and was back in the city again, waiting for the 4 bus to take my bike and my tired Militant self back home.

Yes. Summer is finally here.

When Ya Gotta Go, Go Metro!

Looks like the automatic pay toilets have hit my hood. A brand new Metro Latrine is being installed at the Metro Rail Vermont/Santa Monica station. About time, I say. Maybe the Metro Bus stop across the street won't reek of urine anymore. A week ago, the news racks were removed from the site, a rectangular hole dug out of the pavement and a large concrete base installed. When a water main was spotted protruding from the base, I knew it was Potty Time. The toilet, an off-the-shelf model by international street advertising company JCDecaux is identical to ones seen in Downtown, as well as in Frisco, Chicago and Paris.
A closer look at the pay toilet gave way to a definite nod to Los Angeles' rich diversity. Instructions on how to use the toilets are also given in German and French (pictured left), because, we all know that Los Angeles is famous for its large Deutsch- and Français- speaking immigrant communities. Oh well, it doesn't matter what race, ethnicity or nationality you are. You might be an American outside the toilet, but inside... You're-A-Peein.'

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yet Another Pinkberry-Related Los Angeles Blog Entry. Wheee!!!

Yes, this Militant is not above getting bitten by the Pinkberry bug. Yes, the whole fro-yo Cold War has been detailed several times over. Yes, this Militant has sampled competitors CeFiore and Kiwiberri (but not yet Yogotango, Roseberry, Mr. Snowberry, Berri Good, Chuckberry, Berri Gordy or Halleberri) but frankly I don't care. When the weather is warm, frozen yogurt, by any other name, really hits the spot (and so does ice cream, but I'll get to that in a future entry...). So I couldn't help it if there's a spankin' new P'berry on the northwestern fringe of Silver_Lake (underscore added to remind all the gentro-hipsters out there that it's actually spelled as two words) on Hyperion and Rowena (which is technically in Los Feliz due to the location of the community sign, but since there's already a P'berry in Los Feliz, I'll let this one slide). Everyone in both the Traditional Media and the Blogosphere has talked in detail about the flavor or content of the yogurt, whether it is actual yogurt, the choice of toppings or which nonfat frozen yogurt (NFY) chain is the best.

I'm here to talk about those stupid overpriced trinkets on sale on the P'berry shelves.

Unlike competitor CeFiore, P'berry makes no claims as to being Italian-style NFY, but for some reason they thought selling colored plastic trinkets from Italian design firm Alessi was cool. Gee, I dunno. Yes, they look neat on static display but that's about it. I don't think paying $69.00 for a stupid dog bowl is what I have in mind when craving some original flavor NFY topped with strawberries, mangoes and almonds on a warm summer day. I don't even think my dog would care if I did. But hooray for gratuitous consumerism, eh? During my P'berry visit today, a preschool-aged kid quietly begged his mom to get him a "Cico," a little blue alien-looking guy in a baseball cap holding a spoon. The store staff told the mom that they were out of stock, but the child was persistent and the mom relented. She even got the manager out and asked if she could buy the display model. The manager let her, and got a box to package it in. All this for $15 extra. All this while the NFY line was being held up. Turns out "Cico" is actually, according to the Alessi site, an "Egg cup with salt castor and spoon." Wow. I guess egg cups are really the in-thing with kids these days. And here I thought it was Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants or even Nintendo Wii. Looks like my four-year-old goddaughter down in San Diego is getting an egg cup this Christmas!

Maybe I'm a little too cynical. Some of those Alessi trinkets might actually be practical. I can get a small colored container and instead of ordering having cereal toppings on my P'berry, I can just go BYO Fruity Pebbles! Then again, some of those trinkets, in my Militant opinion, border on being racist.

Now some Silver_Lakers, whether longtime residents or gentro-hipsters, have lamented that P'berry represents a dangerous venture into the "corporatization" of New Ivanhoe. I guess having a Trader Joe's must really bother them, or even having not one, but two 7-Elevens. Besides, if these folks are as progressive as they claim to be, surely they would welcome a minority- and female- owned company, right?

Besides, 10 years from now when people in Podunk get into the NFY craze, you know where it all began.

Over The Hilton

So as I savored my P'berry, I spotted a Mistubishi Outlander in the tiny mini-mall parking lot (I rode my bike, no parking worries for me!) driving off onto Hyperion with the words "FREE PARIS!" painted on the rear window. Yeah, how nice. I mean I would totally agree with that sentiment...during the Nazi occupation. I guess one attention whore begets another.

Bain Gets Guitarded

Wetlake Village-based music store chain Guitar Center was sold today for $2.1 billion to Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital Partners, LLC (Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is one of its founding partners). GC, or as this very musically-inclined Militant calls it, "Guitard Center," is the largest musical instrument company in America and began here in Hollywood, across the street from its current location on Sunset Blvd's guitar row. Speaking of which, the reason for such a plethora of pickin' points of purchase? Guitar pioneer Les Paul once lived in the Sunset-Gardner neighborhood and several guitar companies wanted to be in close proximity to his lab.

Though GC is a popular subject of ridicule for the Militant elsewhere on the net, I lament the loss of yet another Southern California-based firm selling out to our East Coast colonizers, and this just makes me mad. DO WE !@#$% OWN ANYTHING ANYMORE?

Oh well, at least we still got Pinkberry.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nomar: 1st Base No Más?

Did you hear? It's the biggest buzz around town. One of Los Angeles' biggest celebrities is moving to a new location. No, you fool, it's not that that herpes-infested attention whore heiress getting out of jail like a game of Monopoly (This Militant knows full well all of that is a conspiracy by the East Coast-Controlled media (remember, the media is not controlled by Hollywood, but by Madison Avenue, NYC) to further bash on its far west colonial outpost in order to make it look culturally inferior to the rest of the country), but that SoCal native Nomar Garciaparra is moving to third base.

The Militant knows that a good number of you who read this are diehard Dodger fans, so I need not reiterate what's been already said. But for those of you lowlifes who proudly wear your Yankees or Mets caps or even insist that the "Bums belong back in Bwooklyn," I'll just say that a popular Los Angeles Dodger and fan favorite has moved his position both on the field and in the batting lineup, making room for young slugger James Loney to start at first base. And for those of you who wear those black caps with the red "B" on it, I'm going to take this opportunity to remind you that Nomarrrr - with rolling r's (not "Nomah") was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and not anywhere near Boston, despite what you all were led to believe all these years.

All I'll add to this discussion is my unyielding thought since late October 2006 that the key to success in the 2007 Dodger season is not "Nomar or Loney" but rather "Nomar and Loney." Nomar is a true gamer, he's going to rock 3rd base and frankly I think he got tired/bored at 1st.
Being closer to his classic position is gonna reinvigorate his playing style and I do believe he will be able to escape major injury this year. Remember when Brad Penny had his sudden, random "owie" back in '04, and how we though he was done? Look where he is now. Offensively, maybe it's because I still like the sound of (native Los Angeles band) WAR's "Low Rider" being blasted in The Stadium, but I think his offensive move to 6th will give him something to prove, after All Star-To-Be Russell Martin has without a doubt earned his lineup spot. And even if he doesn't bash any more game-ending walk-off homers like Nomar '06, Whittier's Wonderboy can still get the hits to get on base for 7th spot James Loney to drive in. I mean, we all want those countless OCD-fueled velcro glove strap adjustments at the plate to mean something, right?

Loney, on the other hand, after spending the past few months in Triple-A limbo and being more associated with "platoon" than Charlie Sheen, can simply concentrate on his game, now that the level of his Trade-ometer has lowered somewhat.

Welp, the game's on in a few minutes on KCAL. I think it'll be another good one. Besides, Gonzo's playing back at the airplane hangar and Andre Ethier is gonna work hard to impress his friends and family out in the Surface, er, I mean Valley of the Sun. Everyone knows how good ballplayers are when they play against their former teams or least it always works against the Dodgers...


Epilogue, 12:05 a.m., 6/27/07: Dodgers win 6-5 and are back in First Place! Boo-ya!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Police Conduct Sting Operation at The Stadium

Tonight was the night The Police wrapped a three- show stand in the Southland around their fingers. Performing to nearly 56,000 people at Dodger Stadium, Sting played the bas(s)es like Juan Pierre, Stewart Copeland bashed hits like Russell Martin and Andy Summers strummed pitches like Brad Penny. Okay, enough of the baseball-music puns.

Although I've been a Police fan since 1980, when "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" rocked the airwaves (on now-fallen Los Angeles radio stations like KIQQ and KMET), and own two cassettes, one LP and one CD of theirs and also consider them my all-time favorite rock band to exist in my lifetime, I never had the opportunity to see them in concert. So when I found out they would be burying their proverbial hatchets and reuniting for a tour to make tons of money off of hundreds of thousands of 30- and 40-somethings, I was sooo there. Besides, previous Los Angeles shows like their 1983 Hollywood Park concert on their Synchronicity tour (which also featured Thompson Twins, The Fixx and Berlin, like totally rad!) was the stuff of legend, perhaps the greatest Southland concert of the '80s (behind The US Festival and The Rolling Stones' 1981 Coliseum Show (where opening act Prince got booed offstage) of course). Furthermore, I had never been to Dodger Stadium for a non-baseball event, so seeing The Stadium in a different context was an additional incentive to go (not lost on religious Dodger fans in attendance were folks in caps and jerseys, those ubiquitous 99 Cent Only Store beach balls and a failed attempt to start a wave during an intermission).

Being only three miles away from home, and after finding out that my carpool plan involving a few other friends failed to materialize due to scheduling issues, I took the (M) Bus to The Stadium. No way was I paying $15 to park my car all by myself. I rode the Metro Local line 304 bus to Echo Park (which was notable since today was the final day of the 304's operation before being supplanted by Metro Rapid line 704). After a brief stop to the ATM and a quick bite to eat, I continued on line 2 to Elysian Park Ave. The walk up the hill was way easier than it looked. Besides, I didn't have to deal with the long queue of cars, the aforementioned $15 parking fee or the funneling of cars into adjacent lots.

Within 15 minutes I'm in The Stadium and located my seat, on the Field Level, about 30 feet from the right field foul pole. I had a skewed view of the stage but a way better view than, say Top Deck or even Infield Loge. After buying my requisite Police Tour t-shirt, I was set!

Opening act Fiction Plane got a polite-but- "Who-are-you-guys?" response from the crowd. If only they knew that the lead singer/bassist was a dude named Joe Sumner, who is the son of the headlining band's lead singer/bassist. They were alright, but what a way to get exposure, huh? I can only imagine how that came about:

JOE SUMNER: Hey dad, can my band open up for your band during your big reunion tour? We just started our own MySpace page!

STING: Excuse me, Joe? Can you get back to me later? I'm having tantric sex with your stepmother right now.

Next came The Foo Fighters, which was an unexpected treat for most of the fans in attendance. Though I'm not a big alternative rock fan, or even much of a Foo Fighters fan, I totally respect Dave Grohl as a musician, songwriter and frontman and even thought of him as the real musical genius in Nirvana. Grohl even found time to jump out into the crowd and do a guitar solo atop some equipment cases by the lighting tower. They even outdid The Police in terms of energy and stage presence.

After 9p.m., the lights dimmed and only the stage lights and the glow of concession stand signs lit The Stadium. Needing no introduction, The Police took to the stage, heralded by just the sound of Los Angeles resident Stewart Copeland striking a large gong behind his trademark Tama drum kit and Summers' opening arpeggiated guitar riff of "Message In A Bottle."

You know what? Here's the damn setlist for you trainspotters:
1. Message In A Bottle
2. Synchronicity II
3. Walking On The Moon
4. Voices In My Head/When The World Is Running Down
5. Don't Stand So Close To Me
6. Driven To Tears
7. The Bed's Too Big Without You
8. Truth Hits Everybody
9. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
10. Wrapped Around Your Finger
11. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
12. Invisible Sun
13. Walking In Your Footsteps
14. Can't Stand Losing You
15. Roxanne
16. King Of Pain
17. So Lonely
18. Every Breath You Take
19. Next To You

What can I say? It was a classy, no-frills rock show, devoid of dancers, skits and a "concept." Just lights, some fog, and a thrilling gigantic LED display that framed the stage and glowed with appropriate colors and designs (red, blue and yellow streaks for "Synchronicity II" and red lights for "Roxanne"). The display even projected video images like the lighted candles for "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and footage of Northern Ireland and Iraq for "Invisible Sun"). My personal highlights were songs like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "King Of Pain," when Copeland manned a large percussion setup behind his drumkit and played an assortment of cymbals, bells, large drums and chromatic percussion, the rhythmatist he is, only to deftly segue into his drumkit later in the song. And the whole show was one gigantic sing-along, with Sting still the showman he is, getting the crowd to sing his trademark vowel sounds ("EEEE-OHHHH!!!") en masse.

User sanvicente201 from YouTube posted this clip of The Police performing "Driven to Tears" from a similar vantage point as my seat.
The magnificent LED display can be seen here in action.

Though some have panned The Police's reunion concerts because of the "re-interpretations" of some of their songs, I say to those reviewers, don't spend your $125-$250 on the show, just stay home and listen to their albums instead. As a very musically-inclined person myself, I appreciated most of the re-interpretations (though "Don't Stand So Close To Me" was admittedly limp and awkward) and surely a trio of superbly talented musicians like The Police would tire of playing 20- and 30- year old songs the same way over again. Besides, Sting couldn't hit those high notes like he used to and the band tried to make do without the synthesizers that drove their last two studio albums or the use of additional musicians onstage.

From the very first note, something happened to me. I suddenly felt like I was 11 years old, listening to KIQQ 100.3 FM (remember Francesca Capucci?) and rocking out to The Police during their heyday. Just like the Star Wars prequels (and despite of any of its flaws), The Police made me feel just like a kid again. Every little thing they did was magic.

Oh yeah, the whole bus ride thing saved me $12 (I paid $3 for a (M) Day Pass). There was a busload of people waiting at the Douglas Ave. bus stop after the show - seems I'm not alone at being alone, as Sting would say. The line 2 bus got this militant back in its neighborhood some 40 minutes after leaving The Stadium structure. I pity the fools still stuck in the parking lot by then.

Everybody's Talkin'

After returning from the concert and checking this militant's blog, I didn't believe what I saw. A hundred billion bottles washed up on the...okay, okay, I'll stop the Police puns. But I got not only some additional comments but some props on not one but two other Los Angeles blogs. So Gracias, Salamat, Xie xie, Khawp khun, Shenorhagal em, Kamsahamnida and Thanks to my newest Rival Guerilla Factions, and DIY Downtown LA!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Militant Angeleno Gets Props from LA City Nerd

Revenge of The Nerd

Fellow Los Angeles blogger LA City Nerd gave this Militant Angeleno some props in his blog entry today.

The Nerd commented that he took offense about my assessment of other LA blogs, which isn't necessarily directed at his own, but hey, I'm just your everyday Militant Angeleno, trying to make it in this world (and educating the masses while freeing them from the oppression of East Coast Colonialism).

Promotion is a big part of getting The Militant's message out to the masses...hey, it's not what you know, and it's not even who you's really who knows what you know. So spread the word!

But overall I was flattered that The Nerd thought that I offered a fresh perspective that "covers a few LA stories not yet found in the blog mix of LA."

Most of all I get a link on his site as "LA Militant Nerd."

To that, The Nerd gets an honorary link in the "Rival Guerilla Factions" section (lower right) of this blog. Gracias, Salamat, Xie xie, Khawp khun, Shenorhagal em, Kamsahamnida, Thanks, LA City Nerd!

Zenyatta Mondodger

I'm also off to see The Police at The Stadium tonight! Can't wait to see that Sting hit a grand slam!

Friday, June 22, 2007

SONIC BOOM! Space Shuttle Lands at Edwards

The Space Shuttle Atlantis landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base at 12:49 p.m. today, just 80 miles north of Los Angeles, due to unsatisfactory weather conditions out in Florida.

For Angelenos, that means one thing: sonic boom!

Back in November 1981, as a wee Militant Angeleno, I witnessed (well, barely) the landing of the second space shuttle mission. The family took a day trip up to the desert and I got to see a small white dot flanked by two smaller dots land in the Mojave. I did hear two thundering sonic booms a couple minutes before the landing though.

Here in the city, one usually hears their windows slightly rattle, not as much as an earthquake but more like the sound of a child's fist lightly pounding on the window twice.

So I used my trusty Sharp MiniDisc recorder and placed it on my front porch to capture the moment. Interestingly enough, I couldn't hear it inside while I watched the landing on TV. But a review of the MD audio, amidst the sound of nearby construction equipment, wind chimes and the calls of chirping birds (refugees from the recent Griffith Park fire), came up with a couple booms. Turn up your speakers (a subwoofer is strongly recommended) and take a listen to this mp3 (Don't worry, the RIAA won't getcha)!

User Joehadenuf on however made a more dramatic-sounding recording (complete with a congratulatory, "Yeah!" and barking dogs). Check it out here.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hard Rock Cafe "Returns" to Downtown

Militant Angeleno isn't about boosterism as it is about education. Los Angeles is one of the most misunderstood cities in the world, and sadly its own inhabitants partake in that misunderstanding. A great deal of that has to do with the fact that this city never gets the credit it deserves.

It all started while perusing Chowhound Los Angeles. In between posts dealing with Pinkberry opening announcements and whiny NY transplants complaining how __(insert food here)__ isn't nearly as good as back home and how one can never find a decent [said food] "out heah," I stumbled on a post regarding the whereabouts of the iconic Hard Rock Cafe at the Beverly Center.

Unbeknownst to this Militant Angeleno, who rarely ventures west of La Cienega, the Hard Rock Cafe on Beverly and San Vicente has been closed since January. "Oh noes!" I said to myself, "Where might I find an overpriced $10 hamburger in this town in the presence of a Fender Telecaster guitar signed by Tom Petty himself?" Of course, the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Citywalk is still going strong, and yes, the irony of a gigantic Fender guitar within shouting distance of the Gibson Ampitheatre is not lost on me.

Anyway, thanks to the investigative handiwork of one Chowhounder named "Muskrat,"
so goes the post:

"At the risk of being obvious, I just called the Universal City Hard Rock.

Beverly Center is closed.

The person I spoke to says she's heard that two new L.A. locations are in the works: one near Staples Center, and one on the west side."

O RLY? Staples Center, eh?

Though the Hard Rock corporation credits its beginnings in London, England, its namesake was inspired by an eatery in Downtown Los Angeles which was referenced in the Doors 1970 album, Morrison Hotel. According to this site, the original Hard Rock Cafe was located on 300 E. Fifth Street (between Main and Los Angeles streets).

Moving the Los Angeles location of an iconic international establishment (the Bev Center location was the first HRC in the United States) from the (near) Westside to Downtown speaks volumes about the changing urban perspective of Los Angeles. If you still think Los Angeles "lacks a center," you need a serious update.

One can assume the future Downtown location would be located at or near the new L.A. Live! complex sprouting from the ground on Fig between Olympic and Chick Hearn Court. Hopefully the sunken convertible will find a new home there. So yes, you can once again has cheeseburger in Los Angeles. For $10.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Life is Good in Hollywood"

I was going to inaugurate this blog with some grandiose, and equally verbose prologue explaining this blog and how it's written not just from a Los Angeles native's viewpoint, but from the perspective of someone who participates in the community, etc. etc. Of course I thought of that months ago when I decided to create this blog, and thus time spent thinking equated into no time actually doing.

So I'm gonna jump into this feet first, cold turkey and countless other euphemisms.

Sitting In The Park

But yeah, life was good in Hollywood today. Being just 2 miles from home and within my 5-mile bicycling radius in my personal gas/traffic-saving program, I biked to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce building on The Boulevard next to the Roosevelt to attend a stakeholder workshop for the proposed Hollywood Freeway Central Park, the plan to cap the 101 with a 34-acre greenway and recreation area, filling just part of the dearth of park space in the Hollywood area, which currently has less than 3% of the City standard for park space (Even with the park,only 1/3 of our park space deficit would be fulfilled).

The meeting was put together by Don Scott, chair of the Hollywood Central Park coalition, and coordinated in conjunction with Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Portland, OR (hey, I dig em already)-based Fregonese Associates, the planning consultant for the project.

Fregonese's presentation was a slick PowerPoint, showing before-and-after CGI renderings of what could be and seemed highly inspirational, save for some of the towering developments and depictions of rather Aryan-looking folk in the pictures (the consultant recognized this, and attributed it to the Swedish-based firm that made the software).

The presentation also brought up some interesting facts that piqued my militant interest:

- There are 80,639 people who live in the above-mapped area.
- 80% of those people live within one mile of the park (That's Euro-type density right there).
- There are 30,323 households in the mapped area.
- 26% of the residents are children.
- 56% of the area is renter-occupied.

The rest of the meeting had us split into three groups and analyze the map to come up with some suggestions to shape the community's vision. Ideas ranged from parking facilities, a bike/pedestrian path between the park and the Hollywood/Western (M) station, an overlay zone (pioneered in NYC) to mitigate the effects of gentrification and allow longtime residents the ability to buy property in the area, banning commercial structures along the park, a sloping topography to allow for pedestrian/bike path bridges to cross over major thoroughfares, an Armenian Genocide Memorial (especially if portions of the project are ready by 2015) and more. Just when the ball was rolling, they called time. The next meeting would be sometime in July with a larger community meeting in September.

Of course this Militant Angeleno who lives in the park-deficient confines of the Hollywood area supports the park, and if done right can really transform the community, especially re-claiming the neighborhood fabric that was destroyed when the freeway cut through over 50 years ago.

Got My Juices Flowin'

While biking home I passed by some happy tourists on the perfect Los Angeles sunshiny day, snapping their cameras on the Walk of Fame, the El Cap and Ho-Hi. Then just before Vine, I came across a familiar sight:

To my delight, the wonderful Hollywood institution, The Juice Fountain, had survived its relocation (to make way for the gargantuan W Hotel Hollywood project) and is now located on The Boulevard (6332 Hollywood Blvd to be exact). It's not the shack anymore but the place is filled with the aroma of fresh fruit, and most notably, the blended fruit shakes are still there. Surely in this age of Jamba/Robeks I could have biked a few more blocks to get a smoothie fix, but this is a true Hollywood institution, anointed by Sir Huell of Howser (a photo of the filming day adorns the walls) and is still serving the community, so I felt they were more than worthy of earning my money today. I got the #1 shake with strawberries, and a bag of veggie chips.I told them I was glad they were still in business.

As I pedaled my bike ride home along The Boulevard, I felt hope in a greener future and the present smiling on me like the sun on this clear day, I had an Ice Cube-esque epiphany: "Life is good in Hollywood."

Some other pics along the way:


Channel 2/9's "Miss Saigon" Billboard.

Friday, June 15, 2007

City of (Thai) Angels

The long- awaited Thai Town Gateway was inaugurated this morning in a ceremony on a cordoned-off Hollywood Boulevard with a sizeable number of politicians, city staffers and community folk in attendance.
The project was spearheaded by the non-profit organization Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) which took six years to come to fruition.

The statue depicts a 6-foot tall bronze apsonsi, which is a guardian angel figure from traditional Thai folklore ("apson" being Thai for "angel" and "si" meaning "lion"). Situated on the southeast corner of Hollywood and Western, the statue will be joined by another sister which will be installed across The Boulevard, and two more sisters which will be placed on the eastern end of Thai Town near Hollywood and Normandie. The apsonsi were all made in Thailand and were transported to Los Angeles gratis by Thai Airways.

Speaking of Thailand, the name of its capital, Bangkok, is an abbreviated form of a phrase which is translated as "City of The Angels." So I need not explain the obvious similarity to El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio Porcincula. There are efforts to designate Bangkok as Los Angeles' 22nd Sister City, but the Thai capital already shares her wardrobe and goes shopping with the U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C. Still, with EPDNSLRDLADRP being the largest concentration of Thais outside of Thailand, the sister city boosters are trying to get D.C. to find anotha sista.

After comments by Councilman Eric Garcetti, Thai CDC Executive Director Chanchanit Martorell, Mayor Antonio Villar and Thai Consul General Jurk Boon-Long, the stragglers who stayed at the end were treated to some free Thai chow courtesy of Palms Thai Restaurant. Unfortunately, the great Kavee Thongpricha, a.k.a. Thai Elvis, was not present to grace us in song.

The unexpected highlight of the event happened while Garcetti was speaking at the podium, three gang wannabe-looking teenagers in black baggy clothes spotted Da Mayor, suddenly got star-struck and shouted, "YO! MR. MAYOR!" pointing and waving at him, one even took off his shirt. They did this about three times, and after the formal ceremony Da Mayor posed for pictures with them. They seemed to trip out at the fact that El Alcalde even acknowledged their presence, and even gave each other congratulatory high-fives and fist-pounds after their impromptu photo shoot with Antonio. Then one of the teens made some reference to his recent marital problems and shouted towards Da Mayor's way as he was leaving and said, "Blame it on ADHD, it's not your fault, Mr. Mayor!"