Monday, March 31, 2008

Vlogstyle 02: The Militant Takes You To The Coliseum!

So maybe the Militant is trying to make up for lost time and "pad up" his post count, but he really wanted to go all vloggy on you with the Coliseum game, so here it is, the Militant's second installment of "Vlogstyle!" -- especially for those of you who weren't there and didn't get to go because you had to fly back to another west coast state that day (That operative knows exactly who the Militant is talking about). Not only that, but the Militant wants his video to be one of the top-viewed YouTube vids for those of you who search for "Dodgers Coliseum." And come on, the Militant and his operatives worked real hard on this one.

The first person to spot Councilman Tom LaBonge in the video wins a Dodger-related prize! Email the Militant with the YouTube time code to enter!

The Festival For Bangladesh

The Militant takes time off from talking about the Dodgers to bring you coverage of a local cultural event!

The local Bangladeshi community threw a two-day festival this weekend featuring a parade and cultural fair at the Shatto Recreation Center, near 4th and Vermont in Koreatown. The Militant, who mentioned the community before in a previous post, rode down there Militant-style on Sunday afternoon to check out all the action and learn more about one of Los Angeles' newer immigrant communities.

The South Asian country of Bangladesh, relatively small in size, lies under the eastern "panhandle" of India and faces the Bay of Bengal, whch is part of the Indian Ocean. Bearing cultural similarities to certain regions of India, Bangladeshis speak Bengali and are predominantly Islamic.

Numbering roughly 2,000 and growing in Los Angeles County, the Bangladeshi community is currently centered around the northeast corner of Koreatown, in and around the Vermont and 3rd Street corridors. Many of them attend prayer services at the nearby Islamic Center of Southern California any Bangladeshi markets and restaurants, marked by their availability of Halal products and menus makes them a culturally visible community among those of many other cultures in the area.

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the area, was an invited guest in the festival's program and said, "If you put a pin on a map on 3rd on Vermont and drew a 1-mile radius circle around it, you'd have more people from countries than the United Nations." The organizers from the Bangladesh Unity Federation of Los Angeles told the councilman that the community desires to have a community center and a "Little Bangladesh" designation somewhere in the area.

Though the Militant unfortunately missed the parade, he was able to catch the festival-- which, apologies to all you Dodger-weary readers seeking a diversion - took place on the recreation center's baseball field -- which was very similar to other cultural festivals the Militant had attended. There was a main stage, seats for an audience and tents with food and clothing vendors, and booths offering satellite TV services, political awareness and one from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dept. (Sheriff Lee Baca was there earlier in the day).

And like other ethnic festivals, there were various generations represented -- the older native-speaking crowd, and the English-speaking, American-bred youths, of which one group of teens raved about the latest Bluetooth cellphone headsets amongst each other.

The Militant's main draw was the food. His first exposure to Bangladeshi cuisine was not a very impressive one, but he was willing to give it a second chance, and wasn't disappointed this time. He had Bangladeshi poori, a similar fried, puffed bread as its similarly-named Indian cousin, but this version was stuffed with a thin layer of lentils and served with a ketchup-like sweet and spicy sauce. He also had something called "zapuri" (sp?) which was a tasty salad made up of puffed rice, dried lentils and wheat sticks, peanuts, chopped cilantros, diced chiles, oil and salt, shaken up together. Pretty good and healthy too! He also treated himself to a cup of mango lassi and a small bag of kotkoti, which is a Cheeto-shaped crunchy fried wheat snack with glazed sugar.

In addition to the Militant, there were other non-Bangladeshis there, sampling the culture, including local African Americans, Latinos and Koreans, also sampling the food and perhaps getting their first taste of this culture.

One commonality of immigrant cultures is a connection to a tragic historical event in its native country. For the Bangladeshis, it was the 1971 Bamgladesh Liberation War in which Bangladeshis ultimately gained independence from Pakistan, but not without the loss of three million Bangladeshi lives during that war which they consider to be a genocide. The late former Beatles guitarist George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh was the western world's likely first introduction to the country and its turmoil, and Harrison is regarded as a cultural hero among many Bangladeshis today. The organizers at the festival evoked Harrison's name and even LaBonge brought up his Los Anga-les connections and invited the Bangladeshi community to join him in a future Griffith Park hike (because that's how LaBonge does it) as they plan to dedicate a section of the park to Harrison.

The Militant looks forward to hearing more about this growing community and awaits the arrival of "Little Bangladesh" one day soon.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Exhibition at Exposition a.k.a. DODGER-CON '08!

The Militant, along with 115,249 other Dodger Fans (and about 50 Red Sox fans) made history Saturday night as the largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum contained a crowd the size of two Dodger Stadiums, with enough left over to fill the Kodak Theatre.

Though the Dodgers lost 7-4, it didn't matter much since not only did the game not count towards the standings anyway, but the Militant, along with others in his generation and younger, simply went for the experience of watching a baseball game at the Coliseum. Besides, never before had so many Dodger fans, decked out in blue, assembled in one place before. From the moment the first tailgate canopy went up to the last person who got on the shuttle bus back to the Dodger Stadium parking lot (which should have been about 4:10 a.m. on Sunday morning), the whole day could have been called, "DODGER-CON '08!"

Perhaps the most storied of existing sports venues in the world, the Militant doesn't have to tell you the Coliseum hosted two Olympics, the first Super Bowl, a World Series, international soccer events, motocross, popes, presidents and rock concerts. But he just did.

But for all that history, watching a Dodger home game at another venue aside from The Stadium sure messed up everyone's baseball game paradigm.

The differences skewed with everyone's senses.

At the Stadium, the scent of Dodger Dog vapors and the aroma of beer fills the air. At the Coliseum, there were no Dodger Dogs (well there was a facsimile called the "Colosso Dog," also of Farmer John stock, but still not a Dodger Dog) and pre-game, the prevalent scent was the smell of kettle popcorn. The addition of funnel cake and other sorts of food stands gave the Coliseum a county fair-type atmosphere. But at least some of the booths, such as the nachos and jumbo dog booths, gave you a hefty portion for your money.

The acoustics were markedly different, without the reverberant concrete hallways under stadium tiers to amplify the sound, and with the Coliseum seats slowly rotting away, perhaps no one wanted to band their fists on them. The Militant was expecting deafening roars from the crowd, but it didn't really sound that much louder than a crowd at The Stadium.

It was also clear that the Coliseum's public address system was more antiquated than that at The Stadium, with Dodger announcer Eric Smith's trademark baritone voice missing a great deal of its characteristic bass. Even organist Nancy Bea Hefley sounded different, without the luxury of her Roland Atelier organ, she was relegated to playing a standard keyboard instrument up in the cruise ship-like Coliseum press box structure. And the Coliseum's scoreboard and videoscreen were less-than-adequate substitutes for the ones that loom over the Stadium Pavilions.

The Coliseum crew, decked out in yellow rain jackets, were way more chill than the Bermuda shorts army that tends The Stadium. When beach balls were thrown throughout the stands, not only did the Coliseum crew tolerate it, they helped hit the balls over the crowd! They weren't as chill when it came to fans in the extreme top row of the Coliseum taking down the blue and white Dodger flags that adorned the rim of the venue. Watch for them on eBay soon!

With no Pavilion section, where was the rowdy crowd to be seen? Where does The Wave generate? Never feat, for the section behind the 60-foot high left field (or lack thereof?) screen played the surrogate role of the Pavilion section on Saturday night. Of course, the dimensions of the field (and that dang screen) needed no mention. Neither did the 5-man infield the Dodgers decided to play. But hey, James Loney will go down in history as the only post-1961 Dodger to hit a Moon Shot in the Coliseum....

...That is, until 2058.

Most importantly, the Dodgers' Think Cure! charity raised at least $1 million for cancer research, which directly benefits Children's Hospital Los Angeles and The City of Hope.

But Saturday night had all the trappings of the right kind of event for the Militant -- The Dodgers, Los Angeles history and tons of Angelenos there to share in the sheer excitement (and also for the Militant to conceal himself in so he won't get noticed).

Even The Coliseum Has Better Bike Parking

Despite having massively skewed baseball field dimensions, peculiar acoustics and the lack of Dodger Dogs, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum does have at least one distinct advantage over The Stadium: Better bicycle parking.

Yes, one enterprising cyclist (in a rare declaration of specificity - not the Militant (otherwise the bike would be pixelated out in this photo)) not only had the ballz to chain his bike against the railing inside the Coliseum during the big Dodger game on Saturday, but apparently none of the yellowjackets who staffed the venue gave that person a hard time.

Something to think about next time you're off to Exposition Park for a USC football game, an international soccer event or a rock concert.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Dodger Pregame Show

Monday might be a holiday (for many reasons) in the City, as the Los Angeles Dodgers initiate their big 50th Anniversary Season with the games that actually count, but tonight, Friday night, is the dress rehearsal, so to speak for The Stadium as gets ready to host its first-ever baseball game of the year, kicking off a three-game exhibition series against the Boston BoraSox.

The Militant, who biked there (and got to park his bike there as well) to pick up his Opening Day tix, snapped a few pix for all y'all.

Enjoy...(click to ginormnify)

Goodie bags o' swag lie in waiting in the front office lobby for some Dodger greats (top center is for "Steve Garvey"). As if they really need that stuff.

Boys in Blue on the field. Finally.

Stadium crews lay down the on-deck circle for the visiting Boston BoraSox.

Look closely. This is as clean as it gets, guys.

This year's Stadium banners. You might have heard of some of these dudes.

Scores of Frank-McCourts-in-training assemble just outside the gate before working the lots.


The Militant rode his bike up to Chavez Ravine on Friday afternoon to pick up his Opening Day tickets, and what a fine opportunity to check out this new bike parking facility that's been talked about lately.

So behold: standing some 50 feet west of the main ticket office outside of the Stadium's Top Of The Park souvenir shop is your Dodger Stadium bicycle parking facility -- all eight feet of it in its shining aluminum splendor.

On the awesome side, the Militant (who has definitely done this kind of thing before) may or may not have been the first cyclist evar to lock up his bike in the new Dodger Stadium bicycle parking facility (pictured above). The Militant Makes History!

But on the foul side, designed for 20 bicycles (perhaps more if you're creative enough), this bike rack, known in cycling circles as a "wheelbender" is normally frowned upon by more experienced bicyclists, as not only, as its moniker suggests, do they allow thinner-wheeled bikes to get bent more than a Bart Simpsonesque insult, but if you don't park your bike correctly, they can leave you with 2/3rds of your bicycle missing.

Truly, with this being the Dodgers' Golden Anniversary season, and with owner Frank McCourt having more money in his pocket than the Militant probably has in his entire bank account and credit spending limit combined, the organization could have put up a bunch of horseshoe racks, wonderfully painted in Dodger Blue, in Lot P, but nooooo.

It's like getting underwear for Christmas from Santa Claus. Certainly functional, but not quite the Nintendo 64 that Wii we asked for.

Well, that's strike one. Maybe the Dodgers can go yard in the future if they heed cyclists' advice and implement better bike parking design.

Journey To The Center of Town...Or...The Militant Puts His Foot Down On The Whole Eastside / Westside Nonsense

(Click to enlarge). Memorize this people; you will be quizzed at the end of class.

Last weekend, when hundreds of Angelenos brought pillows to Downtown's Pershing Square and had a go at it for an hour, the Militant (who wasn't there, but an unspecified number of his siblings did participate), had mixed feelings on this. On one hand, it's one of those meaningless silly quasi-hipster activities meant to make up for people's lost childhoods. On another, the Militant digs flash mobs. On yet another (for you three-handed people out there - represent!), it's a sign that the populace finally yearns for a city center and makes use of the one we have (it was, after all, called "Central Park" over 110 years ago).

So this got the Militant's big cerebral wheels toynin', after reading the most recent of an endless stream of "Eastside vs. Westside" boundary definition debates flung forth on all local blogdom. The Militant said it millions of times on blog comments, but he finally wants to make it visible for all the world to see on This Here Blog.

In short, the following axioms:

1. WHEREAS, The Eastside, in all absolute terms, is east, the Militant repeats, east of the Los Angeles River.

2. WHEREAS, The Westside, for all intents and purposes, is west of La Cienega Blvd (yes, the Militant realizes there are various self-defined variations on this, like the 405, or La Brea or even Lincoln Blvd, but just like concepts like "racism," we will go absolutely nowhere on the subject unless we have a consensus on the definition of the word, so the Militant chooses to use the general dividing line between 323- and 310- dom). There it is, take it.

3. THEREFORE, west of the Los Angeles River is NOT "The Westside" nor is east of La Cienega Blvd "The Eastside." There is no dividing line between the two. You cannot be on the Westside and throw crap across the street to the "Eastside." You cannot be on the Eastside and hock a loogie across the street to the Westside. You cannot jump between Westside and Eastside in a precisely-located game of hopscotch. Stop thinking binary here.

4. WHEREAS, there is a region between The Eastside and The Westside (The crowd silences, the earth quakes, the veil of the temple is torn in two).

5. WHEREAS, The region between The Eastside and The Westside is the center of the city.

6. THEREFORE, those of you transies who love to spout, "L.A. has no center," better go download Los Angeles Geography 3.0 - because you need an upgrade.

In addition, according to the map above (prepared by one of the Militant's most cartographically- and Photoshopically-inclined operatives under the direct supervision of The Militant), The Valley is everything north of the Santa Monica Mountains ridge line or, when present, Mulholland Drive. Essentially Glendale is part of the The Valley, separated from NELA (That's NorthEast Los Angeles - which is technically part of the Eastside, but in certain instances can stand on its own) by the 2 Freeway. Why is Glendale part of the Valley? 818 area code. End of discussion.

Now, the Militant uses "The Center" as a general term and not as the be-all-end-all identifiable moniker for The Center of Town. He leaves that open to you, the reader and perhaps other bloggistas, provided they recognize the fact that Los Angeles actually has a center now. Because let's face it, that's where the density is, that's where the transit lines converge, that's where the variety of good food is, where you go to clubs, where you watch movies, where the diversity is, that's where the rest of the region follows suit, and don't you forget it.

Now the Eastcoastcentric transies will inevitably balk and say, "B-b-but, that's no center! It's too big!" Well Los Angeles is a big region, so it's perfectly proportionate. Duh.

As for the geographic center of "The Center," (not to be confused with the actual geographical center of the entire City of Los Angeles), it appears to be around the Los Angeles City College campus. Perhaps the folks who live or work around there should take heed.

So Silver_Lakers and Echo Parkers, you are no longer "Eastsiders." And you never were in the first place. You belong to the heart of the city. Get used to it, damnit.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Scritti Politi

The Militant went on a secret mission to Downtown Los Angeles on Friday and ended up walking down Grand Avenue with one of his favorite female operatives who has previously accompanied him on walks through other parts of town. Before the Militant hopped on his Red Line ride back to the compound, he stopped by the Los Angeles Central Library (The Militant has omitted the name of a certain former mayor intentionally) just before it closed for the day.

He discovered the little 1st-floor hallway nooks that host mini galleries is currently displaying artworks from legendary Angeleno artist Leo Politi.

The Italian American and California native artist's works, which are primarily watercolor paintings portraying depictions of middle-20th centruty Angeleno life in locales such as Bunker Hill, are on display at the library's gallery and coincides with Politi's 100th birth annivarsary this year.

The Bunker Hill paintings on display are rare "outtakes" from his illustrated books on the famed Downtown neighborhood. Colorful and lively, many of them seemingly depic the inclined green space that ran above the 3rd Street tunnel as the virtual center of the universe, with pedestrians, automobiles, trolleys and the Angels Flight funicular all going about their business. His paintings, which are largely composed of lively contrasting shades of green, orange and various earth tones show a slice of Los Angeles life so vividly, one would expect an animated scene play out in front of their eyes. Indeed, some of the paintings resemble a cross between classic Walt Disney animated cels and an Al Hirschfeld illustration, a stark contrast from the more utilitarian look of the senior living condominium that replaces that exact same scene today.

Most of all, his paintings reflected the community and diversity that was present even back then, as the Bunker Hill paintings feature the residences of his former neighbors, accompanied by an anecdote and a character description of some of the residents.

Politi's, who died in 1996, was also famous for painting scenes from Olvera Street, Angelino Heights and Watts, as he illustrated the towering work of his old pal, Simon Rodia.

The Los Angeles Central Library's Bunker Hill by Leo Politi exhibit lasts until June 14. It's free, of course. Politi's 100th birthday would have been on Novbember 3 of this year and his official website, run by members of his family, describes several other events scheduled throughout the year to commemorate his centennial.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eleven Days and Counting....

The Militant can't believe it, That Time Of The Year is almost here. Yes, 11 days to go until Opening Day at Dodger Stadium.

As every Dodger fan knows, this is no ordinary season. In fact, the Militant just got his tickets to the big March 29 Coliseum Game this week, and the stoke factor is extremely high.

To celebrate the first day of Spring (Winter, YOU SUCK!) and the approaching of Dodger season, the Militant rode to the Stadium on Thursday and snapped a pic of the currently-vacant baseball cathedral (pictured left). Upon arriving, the dude at the gate did a double-take but let him in assuming he was a bike messenger. Of course, this was not the first time the Militant rode his bike to the Stadium, nor would it be the last. In fact, for the first time Dodgers management is accepting the notion of people arriving to the game on bike. Coincidence? The Militant thinks not. Of course, there's still more work to be done in terms of transportation options for the only major sports venue in the United States not served by transit.

The Stadium looks pretty much the same, with the oversized banners of the much-beleaguered 2007 Dodgers still hanging on its outside walls. There have been small changes to the parking lot, namely the planting of large bonsai-style trees around the stadium and the establishment of traffic flow-dictating plastic water-filled barriers around the lot (pictured right).

As for Torre Time, Kuroda, Nomar's wrist, I Don't Know's On 3rd and Mr. (Andruw) Jones, the Militant will save all that talk until the season begins just days from now. In the meantime, watch this for your amusement:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

There's A Kind Of Hush

While going on a 2.7-mile jaunt around the vicinity of his compound with his trusty K-9 unit on Monday night, which included a delivery mission to a nearby operative, a visit to the local financial institution's automatic teller machine to deposit newly-acquired Militant funds and overall non-bicycling exercise, at about 10:02 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (the Militant loved typing that out...) on March 10, he heard it, and it was quite fascinating.

Actually it wasn't what he heard, but, to paraphrase the late Miles Davis, what he didn't hear that was fascinating.

The Militant resides in the central region of Los Angeles (neither absolute Westside nor Eastside - and regardless of what the hiptards say on the latter) and inevitably hears all sorts of sounds - the hollow roar of the 101 in the distance, the sneezing air brake compressor of the articulated Metro buses passing by, even the occasional ghetto bird chopper circling (as it is doing while the Militant types this entry), the city is a cacophony of all sorts of noises and sounds. Born into this environment, he has alwas felt it's an inherent part of the terrain. Occasionally he will make an excursion outside of the City, even outside of the country to enjoy the change in scenery, but this particular moment he noticed - albeit temporarily - things sounded different.

He heard the sound...of silence.

Not absolute, deafening silence, but that the usual background urban noise orchestra took a tacet for a few measures and allowed the sound of a gentle breeze to take a solo. The silence that allowed the Militant to hear only the sounds of his own footsteps, the light jangling of his K-9 unit's collar tags and an infant crying across the street. Perhaps two passing cars made their presence, but even their sound was rather muted, and most noticeably, the sound of crosstown traffic on a nearby unspecified major avenue was noticeably absent for those few minutes. At first it felt like a Twilight Zonesque moment of altered reality, but after it had sunk in, the Militant took the time to relish this rare moment of utter calm.

As the Militant and his K-9 unit approached the compound's street, he took pause on the corner to take it in. The hush continued, the only sound was his K-9 unit panting.

But within moments, the distant roar of traffic emanating from the heart of Hollywood could gradually be heard, like an audio engineer slowly turning up the volume level on a mixing console, and as he walked even closer to the compound, the usual noises gradually faded in. "Welcome back," reality told the Militant, as the sound of sneezing bus brakes passed by along the nearest cross-street.

But the Militant was glad to hear it - or not hear it - while it lasted.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Militant Springs Forward...

The Militant knew something was weird when, after arriving back at the compound at 2:00 a.m. Saturday night/early Sunday morning and spending some time online, Mr. Toolbar Clock read "3:44 a.m." Did time really fly by that quickly?

Surely in this day and age one does not need to physically change one's clocks, since they seem to do it themselves (at least the ones on the computers, cellphones and whatnot).

But the greatest thing was seeing the sun shine still in full strength at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Hallelujah!!! It's over! It's finally over! Standard Time is OVER! Daylight Savings Time is here!!! No more does the Militant lull in a state of semi-depression at the fact that the sun only shines for a limited amount of hours per day (though the people of the arctic regions would not be amused). As of 7 p.m. the dusky sky still had a faint orange glow to the west, which means more time for utter Militancy (apparently Militancy, aside from mass nocturnal bicycle excursions, is not very feasible for some reason). So what if DST doesn't actually save energy? This solar-powered Militant has SPRUNG BACK! er, no wait...this solar-powered Militant will be FALLING FORWARD! that how it goes? [consulting Google search for "Daylight Savings Time"] Okay, now the Militant's got it...This solar-powered Militant has SPRUNG FORWARD!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Filipinos in Hollywood in Historic Filipinotown

Three things rock the Militant's world: Culture, History and Los Angeles. Put the three together and you get...well, you get This Here Blog.

But aside from that, when an operative of the Militant tipped him off about a launching of a book on Saturday covering the history of an ethnic group in Hollywood, the Militant got his ass on the bike and rode down (and up, and down again) Temple Street to the Filipino American Library.

The library, located in a residence just shouting distance from the iconic The Original Tommy's burger stand, hosted a well-attended backyard reception for the book launch of the Arcadia publication, Filipinos in Hollywood. The author, Carina Monica Montoya, was there to do a "reading" (which wasn't a reading insomuch as it was the author's live commentary on certain aspects of the book, which like many Arcadia books, is mostly historical photos with descriptive captions).

The Militant, has some Filipino operatives, a few of whom even live in Hollywood, but he may or may not have been aware there was already a long history of Filipinos in Hollywood -- both the community and the industry.

A great deal of the book shows photos and descriptions of the lives of Filipino immigrants in Hollywood since the 1920s, most of whom were men who worked menial tasks as busboys, waiters, cooks and janitors, who were allowed to work in and around the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, yet as individuals outside the job they had to face the harsh realities discrimination and prejudice.

Montoya highlighted the late Ray Buhen, a Philippine immigrant, who worked as a bartender in the swanky establishments of the Hollywood of yesteryear, such as the old Polynesian-themed Don The Beachcomber on McCadden Place. It was there that Buhen invented the Zombie cocktail (but which was historically credited to Beachcomber owner Donn Beach - since back then immigrants never got credit for anything), a drink which was served to many a celebrity back in the day. Eventually in the 1960s, Buhen opened his own bar, the Tiki Ti bar in the East Hollywood-Los Feliz area, which is now run by his sons.

Montoya also mentioned that the book highlights modern-day Hollywood celebrities of Philippine descent, such as Lou Diamond Phillips (RICHIIIIEEE!!!), Tia Carrere (Schwing!), comedian Rob Schneider and The Black Eyed Peas' Apl De Ap. There were a bunch of folks in the book the Militant wasn't familiar with, but it was great to see something that gives a community a semblance of pride.

Before arriving at the book launch event, the Militant stopped by a Filipino market on Temple Street to get his own taste of Historic Filipinotown. Thirsty after his bike ride, he bought some tropical fruit juice drinks -- a can of guava juice and another juice can of a Philippine citrus fruit called kalamansi, which was pretty refreshing. And best of all the two cans cost the Militant all but $1.48 (Militant Deal!) of course, upon arrival at the library, there was some free Filipino food there, such as lumpia egg rolls and pancit noodles courtesy of a local restaurant. He almost forgot that it's customary for there to be free food at Filipino community events. So maybe he'll hang around this neighborhood more often.

Speaking of the neighborhood, he noticed it had these tiny community street banners (pictured right) hanging from the light standards (that's "streetlights" in bureaucratic-ese), which appear to be new. Thing is, they seem impossible to see driving 35 miles per hour in a car, much less at night. According to one of the Militant's Filipino operatives, the written inscription in the middle (below the birds), which reads "Bayang magiliw/Perlas ng Silanganan" is the first two lines of the national anthem of the Philippines in the Tagalog language, which translates as "Land of the Morning/Pearl of the Orient."

Like the Militant always says, you see and appreciate much more from the seat of a bike.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rails To Trails: Ride-Arc's "Trolly!" Ride

It's Friday night, the first of the month. Looks like a prime opportunity to go on a ride.

In his first Ride-Arc ride of 2008, the Militant joined about 90 cyclists in a 14.5-mile old-school urban transit themed ride where they looped around from East Hollywood towards Downtown and through Elysian Valley to Silver Lake which took them to the last remaining remnants of the Pacific Electric's Red Cars and the Los Angeles Railway's Yellow Cars, as well as other related points of interest.

Relics witnessed by the group were the old "H"-line Yellow Car tracks by the site of the old Bimini Baths - still existing in a very short section, the old Pacific Electric Subway Tunnel (now covered by an apartment complex), the "SUBVAY TERMINAL BVILDING" [sic] (now an expensive loft complex) and the old Pacific Electric headquarters (gee, you'll never guess what kind of building it is now...). The riders also paused in front of Angels Flight (pictured above), wondering - as much as the Militant does - when the hell it'll start running again.

The group also walked through Union Station (pictured right) to the other side (no, it's not lofts now, but they did build one next door, guess that counts too) and ended their trip by the site of the old concrete pilings of the old Pacific Electric Fletcher Drive Bridge.

The hard part for the Militant was keeping his mouth shut, which he was able to do. Why? Because there was sooo much the ride missed in terms of Red and Yellow Car relics, some of which have been covered by the Militant in previous posts, which the ride organizers would have been able to find had they been enlightened enough to read This Here Blog. But in case you went on this ride, you probably would have missed stuff like the old "V"-Line Yellow Car tracks by Los Angeles City College, which are still somewhat visible through the asphalt (the fact that the ride originated just yards from this site and the Ride-Arc organizers overlooked this made the Militant ROTFL) and of course the Militant's "H"-line "crack addiction" find at Heliotrope Drive and Rosewood Avenue. And no mention of the Orange Empire Railway Museum was mentioned at all, which is one of the few places in the world one can ride the surviving Los Angeles trolley cars (and the fact that the Militant vlogged it recently was testament to the fact that they obviously don't read This Here Blog). Hmph. Oh well, just proves no one in the blogging scene gives the old trolleys as much love as the Militant does.

Oh well, the fact that they don't read This Here Blog means the Militant can talk as much smack about the Ride-Arc folks as much as he wants...but he guesses it won't stop him from that fact that he may or may not look forward to next month' s ride.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Crash Scabs: Who Cleans It Up?

You've seen it before. Car moves, car moves a little too fast, car brakes, yet not quite in time - car hits another car. Skid, crash, bang.

It might have even happened to you.

The two parties emerge from their vehicles (hopefully), words (often obscenities) and license/insurance (hopefully) info is exchanged, law enforcement arrives, a report is made.

Thus is the routine when there is a car accident.

Under more serious circumstances, the paramedics and a fire truck arrive. But let's just assume that the only physical damage was some rattled nerves in this case.

But the car? Eh, not so much. A fender, a bumper, a headlight, maybe even a license plate and fragments of all of the above litter the street. Chunks of plastic, metal and glass litter the street.


Yes, the Militant is ranting now, which is a good sign that he's gonna be more consistent in making his blog posts from here on. But aside from that, who's responsible for cleaning it up?
The accident parties certainly don't care, or might have more serious concerns. The fire/paramedics don't unless there's some sort of conflagration. Law enforcement? Maybe they'll take an entire bumper off from the road, but the little bits and pieces...that's probably up for the wind and rain to take care of.

No, the Militant isn't just bitching because he rides a bike a lot and runs over these things frequently, hoping to avoid a flat, but the Militant, also a motorist as well, doesn't like to see little bits and pieces of metal sticking out of the tires of his car, which just means another trip to the local neighborhood tire repair shop.

So folks, we gotta work out some sort of method or system for cleaning up auto crash scabs from our roads. They're unsightly and represent blight. They're bad for cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians alike, representing a public safety hazard. The Militant recommends either the police or city vehicles track each accident upon their reports and have a cleanup crew sweep up , pick up or even vacuum the debris up with some powerful machine that sucks tremendously ( er, why does that not sound right?) . This crap is everywhere.

Cruising Down The 'Shaw...Er, On A Bike

When the Militant was ready to attend an unspecified consultation meeting with an unspecified non-profit agency based in Leimert Park on Monday, even though the location was over the Militant's 5-mile bike trip radius, he decided to two-wheel it for the eight-mile trip anyway since it was such a beautiful day. The sun was shining, and it was perfect bicycling weather: Warm enough to enjoy the sun, cool enough not to sweat profusely under the sun. Besides, having sequestered himself indoors for most of the past two months, it was time to get some sunshine, as his unspecified shade of brown skin was starting to lose some of its melanin content.

Having biked to the general area before late last year, he knew the general way there. So it was all a matter of cruising down the 'Shaw - Militant style.

While riding down, he passed a minivan blasting Ice Cube's "Today Was A Good Day" on its stereo. A good omen, perhaps.

The 'Shaw, or "The Strip," as some locals call it, has always been a dynamic neighborhood. Originally a multicultural community where former mayor James K. Hahn and former city councilman Mike Woo grew up, it has also seen a massive change from the early '90s, then a victim of the '92 Riots. Today, there are not only many shops on The Strip, but important institutions like supermarkets and banks, which were noticeably absent in the community before 4-29-92. Now there are banks in every other block, and the requisite Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and, yes, a Wal-Mart, which in itself was a work of Magic.

The Strip is adorned with streetlight medallions bearing the design of a letter "C" with the lower section curving into an upwards-pointing arrow, indicating a community on the rise.

But aside the the commercialism, which in this part of town was a welcome sight, it still maintains its true flavor, especially south of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and east of Crenshaw, where Leimert Park lies, the hub, heart and soul of modern African American Los Angeles.

The Militant's meeting was over lunch, which took place at Ackee Bamboo, where he had a tasty and affordable dish of Jerk Chicken. It was a nice day, so the meeting party met outdoors in the courtyard, just across from the relatively new location of 5th St. Dick's Coffeehouse, one of the staple venues of today's jazz scene.

It was there where the Militant saw what appeared to be a bamboo bicycle (pictured left). The owner told the Militant that it was actually a conventional metal-frame bike, but was covered with bamboo. She also explained that she bought it like that. The Militant told her to "Stay Militant!" as she grinned and rode off.

After the Militant's meeting, he had time to observe the rest of the community as it plays out its everyday life, from two elementary-school aged children taking violin lessons from a musician in Project Blowed's hip-hop performance space to locals just hanging out in the park, enjoying the day. This is a community with its own distinct flavor from its afrocentric novelty shops to its solid musical institutions, including the World Stage and the legendary Babe's and Ricky's Inn, where your $8 cover on a Monday night gets you not only the best blues in town, but a soul food buffet as well (Militant deal!).

On the way back, the Militant also snapped a few pics of The 'Shaw. Checkit:

Leimert: The Park.

It's a Store: The upturn in this community had been the emergence of banks and other financial institutions. But lest anyone thinks they can get a loan at this business, the sign specifies itself as "THE LIQUOR BANK Store."

Sign of the Times: This shopping center on Crenshaw and Coliseum was once home to a legendary bowling alley and the Majestic Pontiac dealership. The lanes and autos have long gone, but the sign has been preserved.

Not Mainstream: Urban Underground Outfit makes it clear the other "urban outfit" type store is too mainstream for this community.

Light Rail Cross-ing: The West Angeles Church of God in Christ stands just across Exposition from the future site of a Metro Exposition Line station.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Here's To You, Mr./Ms. Everyday Person Marathon Runner

At the Los Angeles Marathon XXIII on Sunday, the media passed around names like Tatiana Aryasova, Laban Moiben, Christopher Kiprotich, Yuliya Gromova or Khalid Kamal Yaseen - the l33t runners who started at the head of the pack, got followed by camera crews, clocked in between two and a quarter and two and a half hours and won some cash and a new car. They came from the heights of Kenya or Mexico or the colder climes of Russia.

Not to downplay the l33t runners' achievements, but for the Militant, the real heroes of the Marathon were people who were named Peter Fledman, Yun Kim, Jose Ortega, Melanie Garza or Varouj Abkian. The only cameras that followed them were digital cameras, cellphones and camcorders from their loved ones, they clocked at around seven or so hours and came from such exotic locales as Sherman Oaks, South Gate, Garden Grove, Cerritos or Boyle Heights. They were handed a medal just like the other 17,046 people who finished. For the last .2 mile, they walked, hobbled, jogged and even made a mad final dash. There were students in teal t-shirts, a senior citizen in a shirt that read, "Life's Reward Is A Marathon," first-timers and even people who would probably never do it again.

When they arrived Downtown towards the finish line, the large crowds and hubbub of earlier in the day had long dissipated, the cameras have gone back to the stations, the bands had long packed up their gear. But the cheers of their loved ones that reverberated though the concrete, steel and glass canyon of Flower Street charged the runners to see them through the last stretch. There was no stopping now. The clock read six, seven, even eight hours since they left Universal City, but it didn't matter one bit.

They did it for the experience.

The Militant salutes them.

Gettin' Vloggy With It: The Militant Rides The Red Cars (And Yes, He Vlogs Now...)

The Militant prides himself on being a fairly literate person, but there comes a time in a Militant's life when sight, sound and possibly other senses becomes too overwhelming for mere words and a couple obligatory digital still photos to convey. And sometimes the Militant can get lazy. Like in the month of February. All five paltry entries worth. But hey, it's March now, so we won't talk about that anymore. Okay.

So the Militant is proud to unleash to you, the Militant blog-reading public, his first-ever vlog. He went out to Perris (no, not Paris) in The Far East (a.k.a. The Inland Empire) on Saturday to visit the Orange Empire Railway Museum and, like going through some kind of time warp, rode in a restored Pacific Electric Red Car and saw a bunch of restored vintage Los Angeles streetcars on display. He thought it might be a cool idea to videotape the experience and go vlogstyle.

Plus, you'll get to hear what may or may not be something special within the first few seconds.

Look forward to some more of these vlogs in the near future, produced along with some of his trusted operatives.

Just don't expect one every day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Runnin' For Your 'Life'

The Militant, after a long hiatus, found himself at the Los Angeles Convention Center's West Hall on Friday evening where the McDonald's Quality of Life Expo (a sponsorship name which is either really ironic or really refreshing, depending on your view), the annual pre-Marathon show where participants either pick up their race essentials, do last-minute registration, purchase athletic gear, grab tons of freebie samples or get info or resources on health-related companies or organizations.

The Militant, having done the Acura Bike Tour in 2007 but skipped this year due to a lack of Militant funds, was only there for the freebies.

There were electrolytic drinks, flavored nutritious gel, energy bars, nuts, flavored pretzels, fruit and fruit juice samples galore. Of course, the event was free and open to the public and not just open to Marathon participants (unless you wanna drive to the Convention Center and pay the $12 parking fee, which the Militant obviously didn't have to do).

But for those running the big race, running the small race or entering the bike tour, it was either a routine task, or for those doing it the first time, a validation of their dedication to the event. Some posed for pictures outside the hall proudly holding up their race bib, knowing they will partake in a communal Los Angeles tradition along with thousands of others, simply for the thrill of participating.

The Militant also picked up a poster-sized sign (yes, also free) for spectators and supporters to egg on their favorite runners. One of the Militant's operatives will be running in the Marathon - for the very first time - and he wishes her the best of luck.

And to that, for all you runners, walkers, wheelchair racers and cyclists out there:

The McDonalds Quality of Life Expo continues Saturday, March 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.