Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting P.O.'ed With The Militant

The Militant is massively P.O.'ed today!

Thats "P.O." as in "post office," actually. Today the Militant takes you to the largest post office in Los Angeles, right at zip code 90001. It's no ordinary post office, but a Sectional Center Facility (SCF), the main mail-sorting and distribution center for Los Angeles. Located on a huge-ass size of a lot in South Los Angeles along Central between Gage and Florence avenues, at 7001 S. Central Avenue to be exact (this location was once the Goodyear Tire factory from 1920 to 1979, hence the big-ass real estate). The large location is necessary for an around-the-clock operation such as this.

If you've got mail (er, the one in your mailbox, not the electronic kind), or ever sent out mail, chances are it's gone through this facility. According to an operative who works for the US Postal Service, outgoing mail is picked up at local post offices and is sent to the SCF in the afternoon, where the mail is sorted overnight. Incoming mail at this SCF is also sorted overnight, then distributed to all post offices whose ZIP codes begin with "900xx" (The five ZIP code digits refer to a city/region (the first three numbers) and a particular corresponding post office; Los Angeles has the "900" prefix, so even when the ZIP code plan was devised in the early 1960s, Los Angeles was already an important city back then) by 9 a.m. the next day.

There are other SCFs in the region as well: Van Nuys (handlinf the SFV), Marina Del Rey/Inglewood (handling the entire South Bay down to Long Beach), Santa Ana (OC) and City of Industry (SGV).

If you've got a letter or bill that needs to be sent out pronto, the Militant recommends dropping it off here at 90001 or your local SCF; there are mailboxes along Florence and by the main post office entrance on 7001 Central Avenue (which has a mail drop open all night). It's gonna wind up here anyway and it'll get to its destination q bit more quicker.

By the way, the Militant's postal operative also informed him that because of modern technology, the volume of postal mail is declining day after day -- except for all that damn junk mail (most of which originates in Wilmington, DE), which the USPS actually encourages, mainly because the junk mail companies are a major source of revenue for the postal service.

The Militant delivers for you!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shaking Up Those Earthquake Myths!

You may or may not know that the Militant loves to dispel myths and debunk stereotypes. Well, Tuesday's little E ticket ride (Wiki it, kids...) brought out the same tired old non-truths about earthquakes from people with no prior experience in seismic activity who think they know more about seismology than Dr. Lucy Freaking Jones. It boggles the mind, folks...

So here's a bunch of myths, mis-truths and just plain bad knowledge cleared up once and for all by the Militant:

"Los Angeles is 'Earthquake Country.'" Well, you can't deny that quakes happen here. But sorry to break this to you: earthquakes happen in other cities as well. You might have heard of San Francisco? Quakes happen in the Pacific Northwest as well, and one of the largest earthquakes in U.S. history originated not in the west coast but in the Midwest: The 8.0 New Madrid quake in 1812 centered in what is now Missouri, not only changed the course of the Mississippi River, but reportedly rang church bells in Boston and was felt as far away as Maine. Nonsense? Look at this map comparing the damage range of our 1994 6.7 Northridge Earthquake with a 6.8 New Madrid quake in 1895. Where's your "Earthquake Country" now?

The East Coast is not totally immune to earthquakes, either. Though not as seismically active, they do happen, mainly due to the crust re-settling after the Ice Age. Earthquakes are also a reality in Asia, Africa, southern Europe and South America. In fact, 2/3 of the world's population lives in an earthquake-prone zone. "Earthquake Country," you say? More like Earthquake Planet.

"Ack! I don't wanna fall through a hole in the ground!" Um, no. Though surface fissures occur, not only are most of them not large enough for a human being to fall into, but most of them are in the immediate area of the epicenter, and most epicenters are located in mountainous or rural areas, you probably have a greater chance of getting in a car accident. As you're getting hit by lightning. On the day you win the Lottery. Many deaths or injuries from earthquakes come from falling objects or structures, but when was the last time you heard of someone falling into a ground fissure? NEXT!

"Must Be Earthquake Weather..." The belief that weather somehow directly influences earthquakes didn't even originate in Southern California. In 4 B.C. Greek philosopher Aristotle theorized that earthquakes (yes, they happen in Greece, too), were caused by winds trapped in underground caves. Modern scientists have since learned that quakes happen far beneath the surface. Tuesday's tremor originated some seven miles (36,960 feet) below the earth's surface. The temperature down there isn't affected by what's on the ground level. Besides, the weather in Tuesday wasn't that much different than Monday. Where was the quake on Monday? It was even hotter in previous days, where was the earthquake then? Weather has no proven direct effect on earthquakes.

"I Don't Want To Be In The Red Line When An Earthquake Hits." Actually, you should. Our subway tunnels and stations, built at least 60 feet below street level, were constructed to move with the earth (by comparison, New York's subway tunnels, most of which are immediately below street level, would actually be unsafe places during an earthquake in NYC (which is always a scientific possibility), and will cause the streets to collapse, making the entire city un-navigable). Would you rather be on a freeway overpass (or under one?) Didn't think so. Being deeper in the ground has its advantages, as all seismologists know that seismic waves are released and more amplified on the surface, whereas underground, they just pass through.

Many people complain about our Metro system being built too little, too late, but the "too late" part does have its advantages, as its design incorporates decades worth of seismic-resistant engineering learned from experience in other subway systems in seismic-prone areas. Speaking of which, after their respective large quakes in 1985 and 1989, Mexico City's and San Francisco's subway systems survived intact, and were the only reliable means of transportation following the quake.

BTW, the Red Line got through Tuesday's quake just fine, as it did in the Northridge quake back in '94.

"California Will Fall Into The Sea." Ah, the stuff of movies, and every East Coaster's wet dream. This has got to be the Militant's favorite one. The Militant will admit this is based on partial truth. Yes, California will "fall into the sea" one day, as the portion of the state that lies on the Pacific Plate will subduct into the ocean off of Alaska. But it will NOT happen as a single cataclysmic event, but rather a long-ass process that will take at least 50 million years. During that time, Los Angeles is expected to be twin cities with San Francisco, and though that would make the baseball rivalries rather interesting, that won't happen for another 26 million years. To put it into perspective, human beings have only been around for some 250,000 years.

Furthermore, parts of California are even below sea level so how can it even "fall into" the ocean? Pttth. Idiots. So, sorry envious, wishful-thinking East Coasters, ain't gonna happen!

Besides, and this is the most important part -- there has never been any historical precedent of an entire surface land mass "falling into the sea" in a single, cataclysmic incident. And if it ever did happen, if you think it's gonna suck for us, think of the folks on the other side of the ocean who would get the one big mother of a tsunami. Remember, far more people died and were impacted in the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami than the 9.0 Banda Aceh, Indonesia quake that triggered it.

So please, stop this utter ignorance. The next person that says the "Fall into the sea" thing is gonna get a sock in the face from the Militant's fist. Seriously.

Of course, the Militant's not going to complain AT ALL if there's a wave of transplants that do decide to flee after this quake, or any quake. It's just gonna make the housing market all the more affordable!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Yep. 5.8 5.4, Chino Hills/Diamond Bar (Epicenter here), 11:42 a.m. No reports of serious damage, and none of the 2,347 shopping centers in the Inland Empire anchored by a Target and a Home Depot suffered any damage. The Militant was in an unspecified location in the San Gabriel Valley at the time (it rolled for quite a bit), he instantly knew what was up. Reports say the quake was felt as far away as Las Vegas.

And to all the new transplants: WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA! (Wait...moving back already? Okay! Here's to lower housing prices/rent!)

MILITANT EMERGENCY TIP! BTW, to everyone hogging up the cellphone lines, take note: Local calls are hard to make but you CAN make out-of-state calls. The Militant recommends you designate an out-of-state friend or relative to be an emergency Single Point of Contact in the event of an earthquake, flood, wildfire, riot, alien invasion or zombie attack, and have your family members or social circle contact that person next time these things come round.

You're welcome.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Bus Driver's Serenade

While riding on the Metro Local bus today along Line 204 on Vermont Avenue, the Militant found this Metro Bus driver (badge number 29688), with a particularly entertaining method of doing his job:

Not only did he serenade his riders with standards by the likes of Dean Martin and Nat King Cole, and call out his stops with humor (as we approached Normal Avenue near Los Angeles City College, he quipped, " though any of us are!") and class, but his totally awesome disposition brightens up the bus-riding experience and sends departing passengers off on a positive note. The Militant thinks he deserves much credit, and unlike others who have been on his bus, he doesn't think he's crazy at all (you know we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy...). Sure beats those automated pre-recorded stop calls!

Even if you're not into singing bus drivers, you got to admit that there's far, far, far worse music to be heard on our transit system.

As the Militant got off on his unspecified stop, he gave the driver props on his singing, and Mr. 29688 gave the Militant the biggest smile. A simple song can work wonders, folks.

Note to any Metro personnel reading this: Please, please, pleeeeease do not reprimand this guy. He's doing an awesome job, lifting up the spirits of his riders. Some of the riders even sing along to his crooning. Would you rather have drivers like this? If anything, he deserves some sort of recognition or reward.

Happy 5th Birthday, (M) Gold Line!

Today marks the fifth birthday of the Metro Gold Line, as the 13.5-mile light rail link to from Union Station to East Pasadena opened on July 26, 2003 -- a warm Summer Saturday, not unlike today.

Though the Militant wasn't yet into this "blogging" thing, he was no less Militant in his desire to try out a new Metro Rail line. In fact, he has attended every single Metro Rail line opening since the Blue Line 18 years ago (and already has the unspecified Fall 2009 Gold Line Eastside extension opening date on his calendar). Though with only 26,338 average weekday riders in June (a couple hundred less than the Orange line busway), and less than the 44,000 on the 13-year old Green Line, which doesn't really go anywhere, the Gold Line has been the most-surging of any of the line in ridership, having only registered just under 20,000 riders in June 2007.

Originally designed to be the northern extension of the Blue Line (existing for the longest time with the working title, "Pasadena Blue Line"), the Gold Line really is the most picturesque of the lines, showcasing the natural as well as man-made, rolling over and under streets, coasting in the middle of freeways, gliding through both old-fashioned neighborhoods and 21st-century transit-oriented developments. The Militant has been riding on it more lately, and Militant Operative Stingray rides it every day to work, so perhaps we've contributed to the ridership surge (along with those who have been traumatized by high gas prices as of late). Of course, with its extension to the Eastside next year and possible extension to the eastern SGV in the foreseeable future, perhaps this Gold Line will be all that glitters.

More Gold Line Opening Day pics, courtesy of the Militant's archives:

Whose Line Is It Anyway: The opening day free ride line snaked endlessly through the MTA Gateway Plaza parking garage.

Just Say 'No': Local residents and businesses in South Pasadena held up a too-little, too-late protest against the line, citing that it should have been build underground in the first place. This sign outside an auto shop near the Mission Station called for the trains to cease their Federally-mandated horns and bells and slow down to 20 miles per hour. Eventually, sound walls were built and the horns were suspended, but the trains still run at speed through this stretch.

Sign of the Times: These three-sided aluminum station pylons (that resemble the ones in Washigton D.C. a little too much) have since been replaced systemwide with the more original-looking "colored wedge" pylons.

Chinese New Year in the Summertime: A food festival took place in Chinatown to coincide with the line's opening that weekend. Similar festivals were held in South Pasadena and Pasadena.

Take Me (Up) To The Ballgame: Trolley-Dodgin' with the Dodgers Trolley

Friday was the inaugural night of the Dodgers Trolley (which, as the Militant mentioned, is not really a trolley, but since it's a reference to Dodgers history, he'll bite his lip this time). So naturally, the Militant had to be there!

Earlier in the evening, the Militant just happened to pass by the Union Station area at 6 p.m. and caught part of the festivities there. The local media, Dodger officials, politicians named Antonio, Tom and Wendy and nearly a hundred blue-clad Dodger fans in line were waiting for this service to finally start, kicking off approximately at 6:10 -- 90 minutes before the 7:40 p.m. start of Friday night's game.

But first the Militant had to return to the compound to finish some matters and put on his Dodger gear!

Great Dodger in the Sky, forgive the Militant as he was late to this game (his first time missing the National Anthem and opening lineup call since the 2004 season). He didn't catch his subway ride until 7:30 p.m. and the bus didn't leave until 8 p.m. or so. A couple women there on the bus recognized the Militant (er, not as the Militant, only as his mild-mannered alter-ego...that had him wondering for a second, as he wore his trademark "LA" camo cap to the game). Hey, for the Militant, Los Angeles is really just a small town (with a lot of concrete).

First, here's a few things you should know about the Dodgers Trolley shuttle bus:

A Few Things You Should Know About the Dodgers Trolley Shuttle Bus:
(Oh wait, already said that...)

  • Dude, it's free (Though apparently not free for the City of Los Angeles, whose Department of Transportation contracted an operator to run the buses for $70,000). You do not need a game ticket in order to board the bus.
  • The five buses and one shuttle van are powered by biodiesel fuel.
  • At Union Station, you catch the bus on Alameda Street, not in the taxi curb in front of the building.
  • Connecting transit at Union Station: (M) Red, Purple and Gold lines, Metrolink, Amtrak, a bunch of Metro buses.
  • The bus' route heads north on Alameda, makes a left on Cesar Chavez, which turns into Sunset at Figueroa and stops there to pick up passengers. It also stops at Sunset and Marion Ave. near Angelino Heights and then makes a right on Elysian Park Avenue, into the Sunset gate, and stops at Lot G, behind the outfield Pavilions (no, not that one).
  • The entire route from end to end, traffic allowing, takes about 10 minutes.
  • The service is continuous from 90 minutes before game time, through the duration of the game, to 60 minutes after the game ends. The five buses work the route until about the third inning, and then only the shuttle van operates. Service is supposedly stepped up after the 7th inning stretch, but on this night none of the buses left until after the end of the game.
  • After the game, the bus encircles the parking lot, exits the Sunset gate and traverses the same route in reverse. It enters the Union Station parking lot at Cesar Chavez and lets out passengers in front of the station building.

Since the Militant didn't have a ticket, he had to buy one there. Top deck was sold out, mainly because of the Brad Penny Bobblehead giveaway that night (yes, the Militant got his). He settled for an upper reserve ticket in left field. After wasting two innings in line for the slow- as- molasses- in- slo- mo- I'm- gonna- take- my- own- sweet- time- oops- this- cup- of- beer- is - all- head- let- me - try- again service at the concession stand for his his hot dog and beer, he finally got to his seat, where he was able to see the buses parked on the same curb they dropped us off at (pictured left).

Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals (which included some punk named Paul LoDuca) 3-2, thanks to a couple bases-loaded RBIs in the 6th courtesy of Nomar and James Loney, and the Saito-less team relied on Jonathan Broxton, who pitched 1 2/3 innings, to get the save. Not just that, but the Militant finally got to see Nomar as a shortstop, Juan Pierre returned to the lineup and Andruw "Swings At Every Pitch" Jones actually got a hit (a double)! Cue the Randy Newman!

But even as the "We Love It!" Chants blared on the PA system, the Militant navigated his way through the crowds down to Lot G so as not to see a smaller, yet just-as-inconvenient version of the shuttle bus fiasco that the folks that used it to get to the Coliseum game back in March.

The Militant managed to hop on the second bus that left, which was full, yet not to sardine can magnitudes. He also ran into the same ladies from the bus ride over, and sat next to a Canadian tourist from Alberta who brought his two sons to see a baseball game. A flatscreen TV screen aired Dodgers trivia, shuttle bus facts, images of Dodger greats, and footage of the great Kirk Gibson you-know-what. Interestingly, about half of the riders did not take transit to Union Station, but instead parked there ($6), which still saved them $9 as opposed to doing it at the Stadium.

It took 20 minutes to get out of the Stadium parking lot, which was probably the only real flaw in the shuttle service on Friday night, and it took a traffic-less 9 minutes to return to Union Station. According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 600 riders used the rookie shuttle on its big-league debut.

The Militant joined about 80 or so Dodger fans in the subway platform on the train ride back. It was totally an awesome sight to see people dressed in Dodger blue riding the Red Line; now Dodger fans can finally join Lakers, Kings and Clippers fans (USC fans, you're next, in 2010!) in riding with their fellow fans to the game.

So far, so good. The Militant would like to see, though, a dedicated bus lane so us Trolley Dodgers don't have to sit in traffic. He's glad that this service is there for every game, as opposed to the half-assed Friday-only 2004 sorry attempt at a Stadium shuttle. $70,000 for 32 games is only about $2200 per game, so he wouldn't mind paying a buck for this service - It's still waaaaay cheaper than parking. And since it just started, he expects the service to grow,

There's other, unquantifiable effects of this service. It gives Dodger fans a chance to connect before or after the game - to gloat about a win or commiserate a loss. And though Metrolink doesn't operate after the games, perhaps it will soon. Imagine Metrolink service between Union Station and Anaheim for the Freeway Series games...Or how about a special Metrolink or Amtrak train going down to SD when we play the Padres? This could be the start of something big, folks.

Pictures Of The Dodgers Trolley Opening Festivities:

Open Open Open: About a hundred fans queued up for the inaugural bus.

Pimp My Ride: The eternally happy shuttle van. They see me rollin', they hatin'...

Councilpeopletypes! Tom LaBonge and Wendy Greuel meet with the media.

The VIP Section: Dodgers Community Affairs VP Howard Sunkin (left) and Mayor Villaraigosa (center) get ready to finally unleash some Stadium transit goodness on the Dodger fans of this City.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Humps, My Humps, My Ugly Cycling Bumps

The Militant rode on bike last night from his compound to visit an operative in West Adams (and yes, he did ride past his favorite mystery spot for the fun of it), but en route, while riding along Western Avenue, just a few feet south of Venice Blvd, on the west side (wesssoiiide!) of the street, there it is, you can't miss it (pictured right).

Now, the Militant, as well as anyone who rides a bike in this City, knows there's potholes, there's cracks, there's some fux0red-up pavement. is THIS? A mountain range? Lessee. We got the San Gabriels, The Santa Susanas, the Santa Monica mountains...and THIS! How did this happen? Plate tectonics?

Maybe they're speed bumps. If they are, they work, alright. They're great at slowing down cyclists like the Militant. Fortunately, the Militant's urban assault bicycle can take the jagged terrain. But most cyclists can't.

In all seriousness, this particular asphalt deformity is dangerous. Dangerous for cyclists, for obvious reasons. But also dangerous for motorists, who, upon driving over these, can potentially lose control and hit a cyclist, a pedestrian or another motor vehicle.

As you may or may not know, the Militant isn't into petty whining like, um, some other blogs tend to do, so, true to Militant form, he wants to get into action and find (and fight for) a solution. While riding not more than two blocks south is Councilman Herb Wesson's 10th District Field office. The Militant will contact the office and get some answers, and hopefully get that stretch of Western fixed up! Stay tuned, Angelenos!

Dodgin' The Trolleys: Dodger Stadium Shuttle Bus Begins Tonight!

The Militant can't stand the transportation transvetitism known as internal-combustion buses being passed off as "trolleys." Eugh. It's like a false advertisement. The misused term 'trolley' does not actually mean vehicle per se, but to the mechanism by which it picks up electric power from overhead wires. So yes there can be trolley buses, but they have to be powered by overhead electric wire. The term "trolley" is derived from "trolling," as in fishing.

Anyway, what a tangent to go off on. Tonight, the first-place second-place NL West Dodgers play their first home game of the second half of the season against the last-place NL East Washington Nationals at the Ravine. But tonight is especially significant since it marks the debut of the Dodgers Trolley, a free, LADOT-run shuttle bus service (Dodger Dash?) from Union Station to The Stadium, a 20-minute route that takes Dodger fans from the front of the 1939 transportation center to the back of the 1962 sports venue two miles away.

As any diehard Dodger fan knows, the team's name originated from "trolley dodgers" -- the fans back in the Brooklyn days who had to navigate the yard tracks of the old trolley system to get to Washington Park, the team's late-1800s era venue (Overlooked fact: when the Dodgers moved here 50 years ago, though Brooklyn's trolleys were already gone by then, Los Angeles still had them on its streets, at least for the next five years).

So in the interest of tradition and history, the Militant won't be offended when he sees these wireless, gas-powered things roll through Sunset Blvd. and into the park, where they will stop behind the pavilions in center field (the future "front entrance" of the park in the proposed "Next 50" renovation plan). He just hopes they don't actually look like the picture on the left. Looks like the package for some Kid's Fun Meal at the All-You-Can-Eat-Pavilion.

For the remainder of this season's home games, the Dodger Trolley will be making its rounds on every game day in 10-minute intervals, 90 minutes before the first pitch and 60 minutes after the game ends (you will stay until the end of the game, right? The Militant orders you to!). There are two stops along the route, at Cesar Chavez and Figueroa (so all those Evans students and Orsini residents can hop on board) and at Sunset and Marion, where people can connect to/from Metro Local lines 2 and 4.

Yes, We all can be trolley dodgers now...sorta. But unlike the half-assed, Friday-only service back in 2004, this runs during every home game. But most importantly, we finally have direct transit to The Stadium again. And (channeling the Sit N Sleep guy here) it's freeeeeeeeeee!

Of course, you can always bike there, as the Militant has (great way to work of them Farmer John All-Beef Super Dodger Dogs).

So thank you, City of Los Angeles for finally making this happen. You're putting the "SPORT" back in "TRANSPORTATION."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Militant Update: Oh Crap! It's Finally Ready...

Over a year since he first blogged about it, and
some eight months since he wrote about the last visible activity on it, the long-awaited JCDecaux automatic pay toilet at the (M) Vermont/Santa Monica Metro Red Line station is finally operational.

The Militant saw it while passing through the East Hollywood area en route to his compound this afternoon. In fact, he asked the maintenance dude on the right, "Is it ready?" and halfway through the Militant's question, he said, "Yeah, it's ready."

Let's face it, it's been a looong time since the Militant first leaked this out. He's sure that the more than 10,000 commuters who use that station daily will no longer have to hold in their enthusiasm and will no longer be as pissed-off. This thing is finally in the can, and you know when urine you're in for a treat when an urban transit amenity like that is finally ready for use. Especially people who just got off their bus or train after their daily toil. Let them have something to use that's a leg up over having no option at all. Finally the commuters who pass through the area will have room to rest. Perhaps there will be more of these in the City! It's like a movement, that's finally pushing through!

The Militant caught the rear end of the pay toilet (pictured left). Looks like a tardis of Dr. Who fame. Or rather, Dr. Loo?

So what's it like inside?

Stay tuned, loyal readers of militancy. The Militant's gonna TOFTT!

Monday, July 21, 2008

That New Park Smell

The Militant is a prophet.

No, really.

When he first developed his passion for the Downtown area circa early 1990s (when there was still nothing there), he read the Downtown News and its seasonal development updates. Learning about this "City West" thing and what was then planned to be a bunch of highrise buildings west of the 110 and north of 1st Street, the Militant for some reason envisioned... a park.

Even when that land-grabbin' LAUSD decided to build the beleaguered Learning Center Formerly Known As Belmont...the Militant still envisioned...a park.

On Saturday, his vision was fulfilled. Look out, folks.

But as the brand-spankin'-new Vista Hermosa Natural Park opened this past Saturday, the Militant on that day avoided the crowds (as well as being recognized in public). Besides, being the active Angeleno that hs is, he took part in the Mayor's Central Area (see, even Antonio gets it) CommUNITY Day of Service, double-volunteering at a different, unspecified event that day. But other blogs were able to cover the action, (despite them incorrectly touting that VHNP is the first new Downtown-area park since the time when Frank Rader was mayor (No, all you vestigal football fans, not the Raiders...oh never mind...).

Instead, the Militant was there Sunday right after sunset, and despite the "Sunrise to Sunset" hours, there was a healthy number of kids running around, families playing soccer and couples making out as the lights of the nearby skyline started to brighten. And yes, did the Militant mention the park has a killer Downtown skyline view?

All parks have their iconic features. Locally, Echo Park has a lake, paddleboats and a lotus bed...Okay, a lake and paddleboats. MacArthur Park has a lake and a bandshell. And Griffith Park has a whole bunch of iconic features. Vista Hermosa, while not under the guise of the City's Recreation and Parks system but rather the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, has a number of iconic features: A big-ass soccer field, a windmill, a view of a victorian house atop the hill, and of course, that killer Downtown view. There's also all sorts of eco-friendly brownie points earned here, from the parking lot with permeable paving, to the localized drip irrigation, to the "green roof" planters atop its two structures.

The Militant, always wanting to be a step ahead of the rest, brought his trusty Militant Cam and took some video for you all, including a 360 shot and a walk through parts of the park:

And lastly, lest you think that the whole "Natural Park" thing is somewhat of an arrogant label, come visit the park itself. Not only does it feature native flora, but it smells natural as well, with the aroma of sagebrush, thistle and native flowers surrounding you. And all these plants are still young - wait till they all grow up! Despite being surrounded by the Beverly Boulevard street bridge, the Belmont Station apartment complex, the new learning center and, yes, that skyline view again (can't get enough of it!), it's a true urban oasis.

Please come. It's waiting for you.

One final note - as the Militant left the park on Sunday, though the sight of neighborhood kids playing in the park was a happily welcome sight, he still caught sight of boys playing ball in an alley across the street, and little kids playing in a parking lot not more than a block away. Old habits die hard, but here's hoping they find their local treasure soon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

GLOWing or GLOWering?

Yes, the Militant was one of the 45,000 or so people who packed the Santa Monica pier area on Saturday night for GLOW. He was there between 1 to 3 a.m., and though he seriously considered riding his bike there (he's biked from his compound to the coast more than once before), he hopped in the car, which was a nice ride up until right by the Lincoln Ave exit on the 10, where he was a few feet away being rear-ended.

Yes, parking in Santa Monica was nucking futs on Saturday night, even at 12:30 a.m. He finally found the open lot at Santa Monica College's Madison Campus on Santa Monica and 11th Street which was openly accessible to the boulevard yet only had about a dozed cars parked in it. Serenipitously, the Militant saw an approaching Metro Local Line 4 bus right away, and, armed with his TAP card, hopped aboard for a quick ride to the Promenade area.

The automobile traffic was really nothing compared to the pedestrian traffic, as the intersection of 2nd and Colorado had over a hundred pedestrians at all four corners, anxiously awaiting clearance by a traffic cop. Yet, that was still nothing compared to the multitudes stuffed on the Pier itself (pictured left), which was closed off to people entering it at around 1 a.m. The sound of emergency vehicles entering the Pier wasn't encouraging at all, and the cautious Militant wondered at the potential loss of human life in the event of a sudden stampede. If you were a terrorist plotting to set damage to the Pier, you would have had a total field day on this night. So the Militant got his camo-covered ass out of there and onto the way less-congested Palisades Park.

Other blog accounts will talk about the art and the experience. The Militant conservatively estimates that perhaps 20% of the entire crowd, most of whom are between age 20 and 40, has their own blog of some form. That's about 900 blog posts on this event, and you've probably read 20% of that already by now. So the Militant will take another angle.

Standing on the cliffs of Palisades Park, looking out into the beach area, and wanting to reach the exhibits and events there, he noticed that Pacific Coast Highway formed an inaccessible moat where the only nearby entry points were the Pier and the PCH pedestrian bridge, also experiencing heavy foot traffic (ironically, it seemed the easiest way to reach the seaside activities were by swimming there). The Militant was eventually able to reach the beach, and likened the whole experience to Grad Night at Disneyland, where a familiar place normally visited during the daytime takes on a whole new context in the early morning hours.

The success of the event was also its inherent failure -- the limitations of automobile transport. The existing parking infrastructure was too burdened that it eventually became an inconvenience to go to as well. The only transit modes there -- Metro and Santa Monica Big Blue buses -- were at the mercy of their infrequent late night schedules (though the buses coincidentally came when the Militant needed them that night) as well as the fact that they, too, can also be stuck in traffic. Also, in this era of $4+ gas, looking around for parking also burns fuel you could have used for more worthwhile uses.

Case in point: The Songkran Thai New Year Festival this past April in Thai Town had even more attendees -- over 50,000 in fact, in a slightly smaller time frame, yet because of the adjacent Hollywood/Western subway station being, like right there, a large number of them took the (M) Red Line to that event. And though that created problems of its own, it still did not substantively impact street and freeway traffic in the same manner that GLOW did.

So perhaps the City of SaMo and the Santa Monica Arts Foundation should consider the following for future GLOW events:
  • A satellite parking/shuttle bus system a la Hollywood Bowl
  • Implementing a water ferry system from other beach cities to Santa Monica
  • Moving the whole damn event to the nearest Metro station (Washington/National Expo Line station in Culver City? Blue Line/Downtown Long Beach?)
  • Postponing the next one until the Exposition Line reaches Santa Monica (because you know that Subway To The Sea thing is gonna take a while...)
Despite the whining and grumbling, the Militant took interest inj this event because it sounded like a clever deviation from the norm -- the beach open all night, this amazing (over?) use of public space, the visual impact of it all -- and even for that the Militant thought it was a great event. Besides, randomly running into some of his operatives there was rather rewarding as well (those things usually happen if you grew up here, or lived here for a very long time...). But yes, crowd control and planning do make for everything.

The Militant looks forward to the next GLOW, and for that one, he's gonna remember to ride the bike there.

Monday, July 14, 2008

NEWSFLASH! They're Baaaaaack!

The train schedule info on the Metro Rail TransitVue screens hath returned. Looks like those little numbers ended their little strike and decided to go back to work this morning. An operative who works at Metro (Thanks, M.B.!) provided the Militant with this photo (pictured left). As you can see, it's in a more civilian-friendly time format, and they not only show the next train but the subsequent train as well. The Militant will hop on the (M) this afternoon to see it with his own eyes. Here's hoping the little numbers grew some more thicker skin this time around!

What a great way to celebrate the 18th birthday of the Metro Rail system! Now that it's old enough to vote, maybe it'll support the proposed sales tax increase this November to expand itself!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Great Day At The 2008 Lotus Festival

It was a nice day to chill on a relatively muggy Summer Saturday in Echo Park at the 31st Lotus Festival. The Militant rode in on his bike and cleverly circumvented the traffic hassle that usually blossoms around the lake's perimeter annually.

What didn't blossom, as we all know, is the normally-flowering Lotus bed, the largest outside of Asia. Last year the Militant lamented its truncated bloom, but this year, not a single lotus hath flotus.

The City did, however, put up a little kiosk right by the short of the lotus bed area that explained this year's loss. Apparently an engineering and environmental consulting firm called Black and Veatch (be very careful mentioning that to people) was hired to find out what was going on, and they had posterboards bearing PowerPoint slides discussing the cuprit, and a planned, winter's-long process to get the lotuses back.

According to the display:

"Sediment accumulation has over-insulated the plant roots, keeping them too cool and resulting in decreased vigor of the plants...Sediment (metals) and water conditions (nutirents, pH and depth) may be reducing vigor...clonal population may be becoming senescent and losing vigor. likely no sexual reproduction (from seed) of new individuals."

So, basically, junk in the water has made them plants lose their mojo, and they need a prescription of some lotus viagra.

Well, the treatment won't quite go that way, it would involve collecting dormant rhizomes (stems), cultivating them outside the lake with a little T.L.C., cleaning up the lake and re-planting them by March. So hopefully, you can has lotus again next year (that is, if the Lotus Festival will go on next year...operative sources report to the Militant that due to City budget cuts, the event will go on hiatus in '09 and bring it back in 2010 (don't worry, it's happened before...)).

Lotus or not, the Militant still enjoyed himself, having him some Japanese yakisoba noodles and Hawaiian shave ice, as right during sundown, throngs of people settled in around the lake for a vantage point for the 9:00 p.m. fireworks show. With the Downtown Los Angeles skyline as the backdrop, and a half-moon hanging overhead, the crowd's second dose of July pyrotechnics shot up the lake courtesy of Pyro Spectaculars of Rialto and echo'ed about the namesake lake. Kinda like this:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where In The World...We Has A Winnah!

Militant congrats to reader Joey Terrill of Downtown, who successfully identified the Militant's "location" (for play's sake, not the location of his actual compound) in Tuesday's "Where In The World Is Militant Angeleno?" contest!

The location pictured above is in the community of...(drum roll)...West Adams! The scene pictured is on a little curvy street called Gramercy Park, near the corner of Adams Blvd. and Gramercy Place, just south of the 10 and west of Western Avenue. SOUTH LOS ANGELES REPRESENT!

Other guesses included the Cameron Woods neighborhood of Van Nuys (Deke Babamoto) and Country Club Park (Bert Green). Good gueses, but you oughtta know better! The Militant like totally threw you a curve there! The whole point was to show that the Southside is much more than just "da ghetto."

Joey wins a booklet published the City of Los Angeles entitled Your Government At A Glance, a 40-page primer on City government. It'll fuel Joey's militant knowledge on things like the meaning of the Los Angeles City Seal or the names and functions of all of the city's 42 departments and bureaus!

Congrats again, Joey and thanks for playing, gumshoes!

Doo wa, de-de-doo-day-ooo-wa...

Three Recommendations For A Militant Weekend!

It's Friday. What to do? The Militant will show you! And in true Militant fashion, he'll show you how to get there without all that gas/parking hassle!

The 2008 Lotus Festival, Echo Park: So there may or may not be any flowering lotuses (loti?) on the lake this year, but don't let that stop you from enjoying one of the City's best cultural festivals, with Angelenos from all over just enjoying themselves. The real reason for the festival is to celebrate Los Angeles' Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, and Echo Park's proximity to the City's Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown and Thai Town neighborhoods made it a prime location for this festival, which has been a local institution for over 30 years. Last year, the Militant covered all three days of the festival, which includes food, entertainment and a Saturday night fireworks show that will make Echo Park live up to its name.

Where: Echo Park (as in the park), Glendale Blvd. and Park Ave., Echo Park (duh).

When: Friday, July 11, 5-9 p.m. (evening jazz concert); Saturday, July 12, 12-9 p.m.; Sunday, July 13, 12-8:30 p.m.

Get There: Ride your bike on the Sunset Blvd. bike lane to Echo Park or ride Metro Bus lines 2/302, 4 and 704 (Echo Park Ave stop); 92 (Park Ave stop). Or ride the (M) Red Line (Westlake/MacArthur Park station), transfer to Metro Local line 200 northbound (Sunset Blvd. stop) and walk three blocks to the park.

Grand Opening of the San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum, San Bernardino: You all know by now that the Militant digs history and thinks trains are cool, so he may or may not check out this event out in San Berdoo to soak in some more SoCal history. The event takes place at that city's historic, Moorish-style Santa Fe station - once the largest train station west of the Mississippi River - which also celebrates its 90th anniversary. And what better way to get there than to ditch the car (or at the very least park it at a station) and take da Link!

Where: 1170 W. Third Street, San Bernardino.

When: Saturday, July 12, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Get There: Metrolink's San Bernardino Line to the San Bernardino station takes you, like, RIGHT THERE!

BBQ Adventures In Thai Town, Thai Town: The organization LA Commons have been doing some great events called Trekking LA, teaching people how to explore the real Los Angeles through its ethnic and arts communities. This year they explore the various communities' approaches to barbecue. On Saturday, Thai-American Chef (and native Angeleno) Jet Tila (pictured right) will explore the cuisine of his northern Thai heritage, and provide some culinary demonstrations as well. It costs $20 per person, but the Militant has been on one of their food tours before and trust him, the price is more than worth it.

Where: Various restaurants in Thai Town in East Hollywood. Meet at Thailand Plaza Restaurant, 5321 Hollywood Blvd., at 4 p.m.

When: Saturday 4-8 p.m.

Get There: (M) Red Line (Hollywood/Western station).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Good Old L.A. (Farmer's Market)

Most transplants incorrectly assume (as usual) that our local farmer's markets are merely beacons of trendy upscale neighborhoods, but in reality they are part of a local tradition (yes, we actually do have traditions here, thank you) that harkens back to this City's agricultural heritage, when the only things sprawling were the orchards, the groves and the vineyards that once flourished across the Southland. After all, a famous local attraction consists of one such marketplace, in permanent form.

But the weekly farmers markets in our various communities create an energy that turns even the most mundane parking lots into valuable public spaces. The Militant recently stumbled upon one such event in Highland Park, called the Old L.A. Farmer's Market, which reference's Highland Parks as the City's first designated community (annexed in 1895) located outside of the Downtown area. Every Tuesday from 3 - 8 p.m., right in front of the (M) Gold Line Highland Park station (the mere sight of the marketplace alone made the Militant spontaneously get off the train just to check it out) , vendors sell fresh, mostly-organic produce, small antiques, used books and food, while street performers sing, play or dance.

It's even a family-friendly environment, as child-sized seats are brought out in the dining area. Locals sit at a table and engage in neighborhood gossip, as a trio of young women play Mexican folk songs (pictured right) while a Gold Line train darts in the background. Neighborhood folks push strollers, pull leashes and, especially in these warm summer evenings - just hang.

The Militant got to check out this nice little spot a few weeks ago, hanging out with one of his siblings, who may or may not live nearby, and just basked in the simple beauty of it all as the summer sun still lingered in the sky, seemingly longer than it had to. A vendor sold big-ass tamales for about $3 each and the Militant went for it. What a great spot for a farmer's market! And what a place to be.

And hey, would you look at that, it's Tuesday today...maybe you too can hop on the Gold Line and find something new in Old L.A.

The Old L.A. Certified Farmers Market is on every Tuesday from 3 - 8 p.m. along Avenue 58 and Marmion Way, next to the (M) Gold Line Highland Park Station. The Militant may or may not be there today - but you oughtta be!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Contest: Where In The World Is Militant Angeleno?

Sing along, will ya?

Doo wa, de-de-doo-day-ooo-wa
Doo wa, de-de-doo-day-ooo-wa
Well he sneaks around the town from Pico to Parthenia
He's an unspecified blogger from Brentwood to Boyle Heights
He'll take you for a ride on his bike in Pasadena
Tell me where in the world is Militant Angeleno?

Steal their Seoul in Koreatown, to an Allesandro alley
From Palms to Magnolia they'll just be all up a tree
He takes the Metro from San Pedro to the San Fernando Valley
Tell me where in the world is Militant Angeleno?

He'll go from Northridge to South Gate, from West Hills to East Los
Compton to Rancho Cucamonga -- and back!

Well he'll mow down your Lawndale and water your Gardena
Then turn on the power of Watts and set a Firestone
From down in Redondo to up in Altadena
Tell me where in the world is Militant Angeleno?
Tell me where in the world is Militant Angeleno?

Alright gumshoes, time to find the Militant! Well, he's hard to find actually, but you can at least find out where he's been. The photo above shows an unspecified location in an unspecified part of town. Your job, gumshoes, it to specify it!

The first person to correctly identify the community/neighborhood in the photo above wins a prize!* Email your answer to: militantangeleno at gmail dot com.

Here's a clue: It may not be in Central Los Angeles!

Now get to work, gumshoes!

*Only emailed entries will be considered. If you have won a contest from the Militant before, you are not eligible (Sorry, Will Campbell and Robert Joyner, gotta give other people a chance this time...). Residents of IA, MD, SD and AR are not eligible (for no reason really, the Militant just picked those states at random...but then again most readers of the Militant Angeleno most likely do not live there anyway).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ve-Nice To Yourself

The Militant, having consumed mass quantities of barbecued animal carcasses (Ooops, there goes the Militant's vegan readership...) and just plain mass quantities of food, period on July 4 during his operative's annual bash at an unspecified part of NELA, decided to spend his July 5 proactively working off his holiday NOM'ming....with a bike ride.

As mentioned last year, the Militant doesn't consider it Summer until he's visited the beach. And though he's already visited a beach within the past several weeks (Memorial Day), alas, he did not get there on his bike.

And so the weight loss-conscious Militant decided to embark on a 30 something-mile roundtrip ride from his compound to Venice Beach and back (actual start and end points omitted for security reasons, but add on another 1-3 miles...). He'd biked to the beach before, without the aid of a car or bus, back in 2002, but used primarily major streets, including a close bristle with a Metro Bus on Wilshire and Santa Monica.

This time, more route-smart, the ride utilized a combination of bike-friendly streets and established bike lanes. The Militant started on an unspecified route from his secret compound to Oxford Avenue and veered west on 4th Street, riding over burnt-out firecracker and sparkler shells littering the street (who cleans that up, anyway? Do they just expect the street sweepers tu push it into the gutter and have it wash into the Los Angeles River and on to the sea?). Then right after Wilton, Koreatown gave way to the tony neighborhoodness of Han Kook Hancock Park.

The Militant headed south on Mansfield Avenue, where he saw every lawn outfitted with an American flag (pictured left). How patriotic for an entire neighborhood to do that - until upon closer inspection, it seems the local realtor decided to place them there as a marketing move. Ah, capitalism.

Why Mansfield? Well, any excuse to stop on over by the Miracle Mile Red Mango on Wilshire...(hey, a Militant's gotta reward himself somehow).

After finishing off his medium original creamy froyo treat with strawberries, mango and granola, he continued down Mansfield onto Olympic, where he turned west for a couple blocks and then headed south onto La Brea and a quick diversion onto Redondo Ave, and then meeting the grand bike lane at Venice Blvd.

While heading due west on Venice, the street reminded him of the grand, wide, landscaped radial boulevards in many cities of the world, wondering about a possible future vision for that thoroughfare (the Militant is all about vision).

The iconic Helms Bakery sign told him he was already approaching the Culver City area and that he had nearly reached 2/3rds of his way towards his destination.

On past Palms to Mar Vista, he passed by a flood control channel (pictured right) that he had never seen (or really noticed) before. It's the Sepulveda Channel, which runs from Westwood onto Ballona Creek, and runs largely under McLaughlin Ave. south of Venice.

After passing Lincoln Blvd., the Militant was in the home stretch, with the shadows growing longer and the air getting cooler, he knew he was close to the coast.

He passed by the Venice civic center between Oakwood and Shell avenue, which boasted an active fire station (LAFD Station #63), the old Venice city hall (which was politically decomissioned since 1925 when Abbot Kinney's Venice of America resort town got annexed into Los Angeles) and the former LAPD station (pictured left), now home of the Social and Public Art Resource Center, responsible for many of the area's murals.

Though the police station has since moved to Culver and Centinela and operates as the Pacific Division, the "Division 14" still rings true today as a passing LAPD cruiser bears the number 14 on its rear trunk.

Just mere blocks from the beach, the Militant stumbled onto Venice of America Centennial Park, built in the boulevard's large median, with the Venice branch library on the west end and a pocket park with native bushes and three paved paths with steel railroad track outlines stamped onto them. Of course, the large median of Venice was once the Venice Short Line of the Pacific Electric Red Cars, and the long-gone trolley system was instrumental in bringing Southern Californians to Venice of America, which just had its 103rd birthday on July 4.

The Militant decided to pay homage to the old railway when he happened upon a trio of ducks there (Duck-to-English subtitles added):

After the quackery, the Militant drifted a few blocks west and finally reached the beach (pictured right). He locked his bike and walked knee-deep into the Pacific, as part of his annual summer ritual. Summer, definitely, at long last.

Incidentally, the Militant did a bicyclist count in a similar manner as he did when he rode to the Americana at Brand last month. Only this time, his count was for the one-way trip to Venice Beach. The count? 65. Yes, 65 bicyclists in 15 miles (and no, he did not count the bicyclists on the South Bay beach bike path). That's about 4.3 bicyclists per mile!

On his way back, the Militant spent a few minutes looking at the awesomeness that is the Venice Canals (pictured left), as it's the first time in years since he's been there.

On his way back, he heard the sound of a live band playing the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Clune Avenue was blocked off for a neighborhood block party, though the Militant kept a safe distance...he looked rather out of place (if you know what the Militant means...) furthermore, a sign on the blocked-off street barriers warned people that only people with wristbands would be allowed in. Uh-huh. You can't always get what you want, indeed.

As darkness fell, he found his way to Washington Blvd (near where another local blogger ended his long-ass bike ride on July 4), and then on to Lincoln near the Marina, then on to Maxella and Glencoe where he found Culver Blvd (the site of another former Red Car median, now turned into a bike path) and shot through to Culver City, then back to Venice and back the same way via Redondo to the compound.

Riding a bike a night offers a totally different experience, not just visually, but aurally - the sound of buzzing electric power lines along Culver, and the chirping of crickets in various pitches along tree-lined 4th street. It was almost 11 p.m. when he pulled up to the compound. What a way to work off all that food on the 4th. And what a way to spend his Independence Day weekend (come to think of it, we're in for 4th of July 3-day weekends for the next three years).

Some more pics of interest from Venice Beach:
We gonna rock on to...and then we'll take it higher!
No, not the Eddy Grant song, but a former Red Car right-of-way (hence the name).

You got surf'd.


The choice is yours.

Hmm, looks like a certain Harbor UCLA patient just couldn't wait to get to the beach...