Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Militant's Little Car Accident

Saturday night turned out to be an unusual night for the Militant. After receiving a call from an operative who wanted to go hang out and check out a DJ at a venue in a nearby suburban city, the Militant offered to drive over to the operative's Hollywood pad, pick him up and carpool over.

As most Hollywood residents know, street parking is tight and the Militant had no choice but to sit on a curb, phoning the operative to alert him he was waiting outside.

Just then, a cargo van in front of him (most likely used to transport equipment for his indie band) started to back up and before the Militant can engage in reverse...


The Militant instantly got out right away to find a tennis ball-sized gash in the front end of his car (pictured above, show in black and white in order to conceal the actual color of the Militant's auto). Turns out the van's rear trailer hitch punctured through the front of the Militant's car.

A young man soon came out of the van, equally alarmed.

Call it karma, call it irony, call it an irresistible reason to blog, but...the driver of the other car was...

...a hipster.

"Sorry, man, I didn't see you," he said, as he flicked back his shaggy, dyed black hair.

The hipster dude was actually rather considerate and instantly volunteered to give the Militant his insurance and contact information, sans any sort of 'tude. The Militant was too busy laughing inside about the situation to actually get pissed at him.

A pair of women who rode in the van with him also came out and commenced snapping the picture of the damage with their digital cameras. One of them said, "You know, this happens a lot out here."

"Yes," the Militant thought. "Out here. This only happens out here. Because where you're from, you're more liable to get hit by a cow."

But hey, it could have been worse, no one got hurt, no one sped off or denied responsibility, and the damage is easily repairable. It's all up to the insurance companies to deal with.

What did suck was, the operative never called back. After seeing several cars zip by and wanting to avoid another mishap, the Militant left a final message to the operative telling him that he was headed back to the compound, and to call him back. Halfway back to the compound, the Militant got a text message from the flaky operative, saying that it was getting late (it was only 11:30...) and that he opted to stay home.

Some people. All that trouble for nothing. You can safely assume that the hipster driver guy was not the main object of the Militant's disdain that night.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When Los Angeles Comes To Hollywood

For the rest of the world (or, more accurately, those who live outside of the state of California), somehow believe Hollywood is larger than Los Angeles, or worse, don't know where Los Angeles is, but they can point to where Hollywood is on a globe. It has, after all, a 200-foot long sign plopped on a hillside. So naturally, for them, it's inconceivable to think that Hollywood is merely a community that's a subset of Los Angeles (Of course, there are two "Hollywoods," but that's a topic for another (rather lengthy and didactic) post...).

As the Militant biked through Hollywood on Friday night after having dinner with a group of operatives, he suddenly found this (pictured above) perched atop a building on Vine Street - an advertisement for an upcoming Sony Pictures flick starring Samuel L. Jackson, called Lakeview Terrace (the tag line: "What could be safer than living next to a cop?" Oooh, let the Militant guess...a 'bad cop' movie? How original...).

Certainly bad cops aren't strangers to the LVT, as this guy can surely attest. But rest-assured, northeastern SFV residents, the movie is just fiction, since everybody knows LAPD officers don't even live within Los Angeles City limits (OH SNAP!).

But lest you think the Militant has a huge amount of disdain for the LAPD, he actually respects them very much, knows a few officers by name (in a good way, that is), and never had a bad experience with any member of this City's police force (in contrast, those suburban cops, they can be real a-holes, though...).

But this post wasn't meant to be about the police (no, not that one), so end this tangent we will. What do the people in the actual Lakeview Terrace think of the film? Will they want to see it? Will they want to avoid seeing it? Or will they just order it off of Netflix? The Militant thinks it's rather peculiar to have movies named after actual communities in Los Angeles. Besides Lakeview Terrace, there's South Central, Echo Park, Encino Man (a stretch, but it counts...), and the most famous film named after a Los Angeles community - Chinatown. Did the Militant miss any?


Friday, August 29, 2008

People Get Ready, There's A Train A-Comin'...

The latest episode of the TransitVue Metro subway info screens, which popped upon June 20, subsequently vanished and came back with a civilian vengeance, though the whole thing is still involved in its active beta-testing phase.

This past week, Metro added a new feature: An approaching train and destination info screen (pictured right; train schedule times have been pixelated in order to obscure details on the Militant's whereabouts) that appears about 30 seconds before a train's arrival and indicates where the train is headed - more practical in the Segment 1 stations under DTLA, of course. The screen image is not exactly new, as it has been appearing at Union Station since early June to inform passengers which side of the platform to board the next departing train. This time, they appear at all subway stations.

The Militant will say that they're a nice addition to the TransitVue screen features, though, of course, the Militant would like to add his pair of pennies just in case some of you may or may not be reading from up there at One Gateway Plaza:
  • The screens disappear way too soon, usually right before the doors have opened. It would still be helpful to riders who have just descended upon the platform to know where the stopped train is going.
  • The cute little cartoony train against the bright UCLA-themed background might be designed to get people's attention (especially riders of the Bruin persuasion, ironic since we're still years from the subway reaching Westwood), but it still fails to inform people which line the arriving train is representin'. So hows about this: Use a red background for Red Line trains and a purple background for...well, the Militant is sure you can put two and two together.
  • If the solid background thing is too much, then at least have a red/purple circle and the name of the line above the main text. Anything would be helpful!
Additionally, the Militant might be imagining things, but he swears he's seen the screen briefly change into a CGI-animated (more Dire Straits video than Pixar though) sequence followed by a message about rail safety or riding procedure. But every time the Militant's mentioned it, people seem to have given him the same "yeah, right" treatment that the denizens of Sesame Street gave Big Bird during Mr. Snuffleupagus' "imaginary friend" phase, and efforts to capture the animated sequence with the MilitantCam have turned up fruitless...So can anyone confirm?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From The Wrecking Crew To The Wrecking Ball: Hollywood's Gold Star Recording Studios

This week, as mentioned by Metblogs Los Angeles' Julia Frey (The Militant briefly opens up his raised, clenched fist to wave "hi"), the Docuweek film festival currently at The Arclight is showing screenings of The Wrecking Crew, a truly awesome documentary about an informal collective of unsung Los Angeles studio musicians who performed the music to some of the most legendary rock tunes ever recorded in the 1960s.

The Militant was fortunate enough to see a free screening this past June as part of California Plaza's Grand Performances in Downtown (as usual, he will only tell you about his whereabouts after the fact). Without going into too much detail, the film was the Los Angeles version of Standing in the Shadows of Motown, albeit with a more personal (the film was directed by the son of one of the musicians) and historical angle to it (Go see it, folks, it's Militant Approved!).

Literally just a few blocks down Vine Street from the Arclight was Gold Star Recording Studios, a facility that once stood on 6252 Santa Monica Blvd. Built in 1950, it was the place on this entire planet Earth from which songs such as (Pacoima local!) Richie Valens' "La Bamba," Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe," The Champs' (Los Angeles locals) "Tequila" and a great deal of the equally legendary Pet Sounds album from The Beach Boys (Torrance Hawthorne represent!). Members of The Wrecking Crew played for those recordings, and much much more.

Now, forgive the Militant as he rambles about Pet Sounds for the duration of this paragraph. Though it's not of his generation, the Militant got into it during his college years and instantly felt "in tune" with the whole vibe of the recording. To the Militant, its wistful moodiness and echoey orchestral timbres created a virtual aural window into the Southern California of the mid-late 1960s, conjuring up images of large automobiles driving in the then-uncongested streets under sunny, yet slightly hazy kodachrome skies. Not that the Militant longs for those days, but that the music and voices from Brian Wilson and the rest of those Torrance Hawthorne boys evoke such images.

The same album that Sir Paul McCartney said was the inspiration for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heats Club Band, which he felt was still inferior to the Beach Boys' product. Made in Los Angeles, folks. End of ramble.

The studio lasted until 1983 and the building was destroyed in a fire in '84. Predictably, yes, a mini-mall stands there today (pictured left). The same location where some of the greatest tunes in rock history were created is now a place where Philly chessesteaks are made (Okay quit the chuckling, all you transplanted Philadelphians). The Militant recently paid homage to the site, trying to picture a hazy kodachrome day where Brian Wilson or Herb Alpert or Sonny Bono or even this guy would step out of some large, bulky automobile and walk through the studio's front door. But wouldn't it be nice?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Militant's Non-Coverage of Sunset Junction

You may or may not know by now that the Militant Angeleno loves to cover his local events.

And there was one major local event this weekend that more than a few of you went to.

But the Militant wasn't there.

Actually he was there, kinda. But just on the outside looking in, to snap an intentionally symbolic photo (pictured right) of the chain-link fence that cordoned off the festival grounds.

Now, the Militant knows what you're thinking: "The Sunset Junction Festival was just crawling with hipsters, so the Militant decided to avoid it at all costs."

But that's actually not an accurate statement.

The Militant isn't afraid of hipsters, just intensely annoyed by them. But they do no harm to the Militant. If anything, the Militant doesn't even exist to them, as when he tries to engage in conversation with them, they produce no replies. So that must mean that in their eyes, the Militant is pretty much invisible. just fine with the Militant.

So no, the "H" factor has nothing to do with it, at all.

It's just that (sit tight folks, especially you SoCal n00bs, historical perspective coming up) when it began in the 1980s, Sunset Junction was - a community festival (pictured left). It celebrated the community, in involved the community, it featured the community. Back then, there was a Silver Lake, but not really a "Silverlake." Actually, Silver Lake was really that hilly area around the reservoir, and maybe the parts north and south of it adjacent to the eponymous boulevard. Sunset Junction wasn't really Silver Lake, nor was it Hollywood (despite the fact a "Hollywood" community sign stands there (and until a couple years ago the sign had been there so long, it was colored black and not blue) on Sunset between Sanborn and Hyperion) - it was pretty much its own community.

But nearly 30 years later Sunset Junction is all of a sudden the "Downtown of Silverlake [sic]" or at least its proper central business district.

Okay, get to the point Militant. It used to be a free festival. It used to actually be a boost to all the local businesses, institutions and residents. Used to. This is not the Sunset Junction the Militant knew from his youth. No, the Militant isn't being a change-resistant reactionary here, it's just that the festival totally abandoned its roots.

Now it's (trying really hard to be) a freaking Coachella on asphalt (once upon a time, the music acts were all local bands who rehearsed at the now-defunct Hully Gully rehearsal studio on Fletcher in the AWV). It costs $20 (?!?) to get in now, which is more than the real people of the community can afford, it only benefits a certain number of businesses that are on the organizers' good side, it actually blocks off many businesses, keeping them from benefiting from the festival, has become a logistical headache (though okay, the recent arrangement allows people to come in from the Red Line, the Militant gives credit where it's due) and the music stages are racially segregated.

The last time the Militant was at Sunset Junction, he happened to go late enough that he got in at a discount. There was still some music going on, though he discovered all the white indie rock acts played at the Bates Stage and all the "colored people" acts played on the extreme opposite end of the festival grounds. The festival has been somewhat reconfigured, but the musical and racial segregation still continues. Why not stages that bring people together? Most of the other festivals in town seem to be able to work it. And oh yeah, they seemed to capitalize on the recent death of a certain soul music legend (originally booked to perform there) rather well (Shut your mouth!) But the Militant's talking about Sunset Junction!

But whatever. If you went to SJ, the Militant won't give you crap for it (besides, you already got crap to begin with, so the Militant won't add anymore). And when a recently-transplanted near-operative (you gotta earn these things...) brought up going to SJ in a conversation before the weekend, after the Militant dissed it, he still encouraged him to go "just for the experience." If you wanna go back next year, fine.

But it's just that Sunset Junction ain't the Militant's cup of tea.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Next Stop: Belmont Station

After Curbed LA recently mentioned the new Red Car mural in the old Pacific Electric tunnel behind the recently-opened Belmont Station apartments (house music on the website?!?! wtf?!? what do they think it is, a Pinkberry?) on 2nd and Beverly, the Militant instantly informed one of his operatives about it. As you may or may not recall, the Militant and the operative, who currently lives in an unspecified state that neighbors California, surveyed the site nearly a year ago. This weekend, the operative returned to town and made arrangements to meet the Militant at the site.

So at approximately 19:30 hours on Saturday evening, the Militant caught up with the visiting operative and guided him to the site. So there it was, sitting behind the metal fence.

"Can we get inside?" asked the curious out-of-state operative.

"Not likely, this is private property now."

A blue-shirted security guard paced back and forth along Toluca Street, and the Militant, already expecting a bucketful of 'tude, was ready to give up and leave. But the operative was persistent.

"Can we get inside?" he asked.

"Other side," said the security guard.

Hmm. Maybe the Militant gives up too easily. A tenant entered the Toluca Street gate with his car, but seemed to wait an abnormally long time for the gate to swing open. When it finally did, it swung in a way that almost damaged his car had he not reversed quickly.

"You live here?" the Militant asked.

"Yeah, just moved in," said the tenant.

"Guess they're still working out the bugs here," the Militant explained.

The Militant, pushing his bike, and the operative followed the car into the parking garage on foot. The operative approached the nearest door facing the tunnel which revealed a stairwell. One flight down led to access to a walkway in the back, yet not full access to the tunnel.

We snapped pictures of the "backyard," and reminisced the time when we, along with a group of other militant history buffs, may or may not have gone on a trek into the Pacific Electric tunnel. It was at that point a dude in a suit popped out and asked what we were doing here. The Militant expected the bucketful of 'tude again, and was already making plans for his departure of the facility. But the operative got in an honest conversation with him, and the Militant mentioned that we weren't trying to tag the property, and the Belmont Station staffer was actually real cool to us. Though the operative kept asking if we could go down straight to the tunnel entrance, the staffer said it wasn't possible "at this moment" since the dog park area is still a construction site and alluded to the inevitable liability issues. No prob.

We enlightened him more on the history, of whih he was somewhat knowledgeable of, and he did ask the Militant about the other end of the tunnel, by which the Militant informed him that, coincidentally, the other side also became adaptively reused as housing. The apartment staffer also said that the (slightly larger than) life-sized mural of the Pacific Electric trolley on the tunnel face is still being worked on by the artist. Incidentally the number of the trolley car reads "51." The PE never numbered their cars in double-digits, but the "51" was a reference to the nearby Toluca traction power substation (pictured right), which had the #51 designation.
The substation, as the Militant pointed out on Curbed's comment wall, had nothing to do with passengers but everything to do with converting electric power to the streetcars' overhead electrical system.

The staffer led the Militant and the operative to the lobby (pictured left), where a neato display of PE historical photo goodness, organized by a local railroad historical society, was on the first and second floor walls. They're open to the public, so anyone visiting the Belmont Station lobby is free to peruse them. The photos show both sides of the tunnel during their construction in the early-mid 1920s, as well as other historical glimpses of the trolley cars.

The Militant showed the visiting operative the still brand-new Vista Hermosa Park across the street, where he was totally enamored with the killer Downtown skyline view and the little cascading stream. Afterward, he loaded his bike onto the operative's truck and the Militant proceeded to show him some of the developments in Downtown, before they grabbed a bite to eat at Downtown's Wood Spoon Brazilian restaurant on 9th and Main (review coming up in the Militant's Mess Hall soon...whoa, the Militant hasn't touched that thing in months!).

Of Pigeons and Pedestrians

The Militant was riding his bike along The Boulevard on Saturday afternoon when he turned around, looked and exclaimed:


Of course, if this were an average city blog entry, it would just be left at that, a mere curiosity meant to entertain, and perhaps to implicitly get people to comment, with the response by Anonymous #4 revealing what the real deal is.

But naw, the Militant likes to get to the bottom of the story, so here it is.

The "pigeon island" on the triangle-like median bordered by Hollywood Blvd and Vermont and Prospect avenues (surprise, surprise, it was a well-patronized Red Car stop back in the day) located on the mutual cusps of Los Feliz and East Hollywood is a long-neglected public space currently being renovated as part of a streetscape project of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, dubbed the Barnsdall Park Transit Oriented District.

After breaking ground this past Spring, the project (finished rendering pictured left) is designed to not only offer an enhanced public space for pedestrians in the area, but to improve existing bus and taxi amenities there, establish a local information center for nearby sights and attractions and visually tie the space to nearby Barnsdall Art Park, which, for those of you who don't know, lurks up on the hill...behind the Rite Aid.

The $800,000 project is expected to be complete by early 2009. Until then, those pigeons seem to be having a dandy of a time hanging out there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame

While the rest of Los Angeles was at work (or just out of town on vacation), the Militant got an opportunity to experience a weekday Dodger day game at the Stadium on Thursday by joining an unspecified group of people who had tickets to the game. Hey, being a Militant on a Militant's schedule does have its perks...

Unlike Wednesday night's loss, the Dodgers handily beat the Colorado Rockies 3-1 (The Militant's record at the Stadium is now 4 wins, 1 loss - still not bad). And although MANNY didn't knock one into the stands, he did manage to steal second in the fourth inning - his first of the year. There was a home run, though, courtesy of James Loney, who shot one into the All-You-Can-Eat pavilion.

The large crowd of kids in bright blue and green t-shirts from South Los Angeles' Camp Expo in the aisle adjacent to the Militant seemed to have a lot of fun as well, cheering for Manny, but cheering even louder for Snoop Dogg and teen heartthrob Zac Efron (yes, the Militant is so old, he had to Wiki the guy...but not so old as to not know who Snoop is!), who were also watching the game and featured on the Diamondvision screen.

Though he carpooled to the game, the Militant took the Dodgers Trolley shuttle bus after the game. The fare is free, and the social impact of the shuttle is priceless. After seeing a pair of baseball fans dressed in Minnesota Twins gear roaming around the parking lot, and who rode on the same shuttle as the Militant, the answer was revealed by a Dodger fan towards the front of the bus who explained that he and a friend rode the Amtrak train up from San Diego where they ran into the Minnesota ball fans on the same train. Turns out, they went to Los Angeles to just to watch the 12:10 p.m. Dodger game and visit the Stadium, then take the train to Anaheim to watch their boys play the Angels at the Big A. If you're gonna make a day out of nonstop baseball, might as well!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From Germany to Manny: The Militant's Wednesday Dodger Experience

The Militant loooooves talking to tourists (no sacrasm there -- he is actually being sincere). Especially tourists in their first visit to Los Angeles, as he wants to make sure they have a positive experience here, and that their interaction with the Militant would similarly give them a positive impression of the people here.

On his way to Wednesday's Dodger game via the Dodgers Trolley shuttle bus, the Militant saw a trio of European-looking tourists speaking a language that's usually not heard round these here parts. But being a Militant traveler himself, he was able to discern that the language was Germanic in origin. An older woman snapped a photo of a younger couple sitting down on their car-end seat on the Red Line, and as the Militant politely moved out of the way of the camera's view, the female half of the young couple thanked the Militant in English.

So the Militant asked her if they were visiting from Germany. The young woman confirmed, and that it was their first visit, having already been here for two weeks, with a half week left in their visit. The Militant asked her what part and she replied, "Near Stuttgart." The Militant mentioned to her that he may or may not have visited Germany, and listed the handful of unspecified cities in Deutschland that he may or may not have visited (if indeed he has been to Germany). She told him they (herself, her boyfriend and her mother) were bound to Olvera Street, pronouncing it as if she was unsure of how to pronounce it, even though she pronounced it correctly anyway. The Militant mentioned that it was right across the street from Union Station, and also recommended they can also visit Chinatown, just a few blocks away. The young woman reiterated in Deutsch what the Militant told her.

As Los Angeles' own U-Bahn continued to zoom eastbound beneath the Westlake area, the young woman pointed to her Go Metro Summer Map and told her mutter in her native language, in a somewhat excited fashion, that Farmer's Market was right next to The Grove, suggesting another possible destination for them.

After they arrived at Union Station, the Militant told her to follow him to get to Olvera Street. But as they got into the main passenger station building, she asked him where to find the FlyAway bus. He pointed out the long Union Station passenger corridor, told her to reach the opposite end, and go upstairs to the bus plaza. Perhaps for the purposes of familiarity, they headed to where the Militant pointed that the Flyaway stop was. He wished them a nice visit and bid them, "tschüss." She smiled and said "tschüss!" in return as the group walked away (interesting to see that at least these tourists from overseas are able to get around town on transit, and are familiar with the transit system and related services).

A Militant Angeleno almost always has to be a tour guide, and an ambassador as well.

Runs? Not Very Manny.

The Militant has to apologize for being such a late bloomer to Mannymania. Wednesday night was his first foray into all that is #99, aside from seeing him hit some moonshots during batting practice during the great Coliseum game back in March. After Meeting up with Militant Operative Valleypinoy and two additional operatives, they boarded the Dodgers Trolley shuttle bus and landed in the Stadium grounds some ten minutes later.

In a game that had catcher Russell Martin on 3rd base and 3rd baseman Casey Blake on 1st, the game was pretty good until the 7th, when starter Chad Billingsley lost a decision when the Rockies tied it up, only to lose 4-3 in the 9th, committing four errors and knocking them further down the NL West ladder, two games in back of the Snakes. And for all the Mannymania, he only his 1 for 4 with a single. Great, just great (okay, now the Militant's being sarcastic). At least he was able to get a relatively close view of the Dreadlocked One from his left field Loge seat (pictured right).

Oh well, another game, another day. The Militant may or may not have an opportunity to see the Boys in Blue redeem themselves at today's day game...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Live From Little Tokyo, It's Tuesday Night...

Though still towards the start of the week, Tuesdays seem to be ripe for variety and artistic expression. The day isn't normally tied with any regular athletic, commercial or religious ritual, so anything goes on Tuesdays really. You can go to a Highland Park farmer's market on that day, and Sheryl Crow and friends found Tuesday nights lucrative enough to jam together at a Los Angeles recording studio in the early '90s and make a Grammy-winning album as a result of it.

Last night, the Militant recently stumbled on a Tuesday night activity in Little Tokyo - A bi-monthly event called Tuesday Nights at the Cafe, which takes place at the Aratani Courtyard in front of the Union Center of the Arts on Judge John Aiso Street (the northern reincarnation of San Pedro St on the other side of of 1st). This event, which attracts a predominantly twenty/thirtysomething-aged Asian American crowd, is a showcase that offers a mix of artistic expression, entertainment, multimedia and community activism, so naturally the Militant just had to check it out.

The locale is interesting in its own right; the Union Center is on the site of the former Japanese Union Church of Los Angeles, built in 1923 for its Japanese American Christian congregation. After World War II broke out, You-Know-What happened and the congregation vanished. Slated for demolition in the decades following the war, the community rallied to save the Classical Revival-style brick building, though the 1994 Northridge Earthquake did some foundation-shaking of its own. Renovated in 1998, it immediately got an adaptive reuse as a theater and home base to three arts-related non-profit agencies. The steps of the center form the stage, and the entire area sits in the shadows of LAPD's Parker Center and City Hall, no less (symbolically, of course, as there aren't really any shadows at night...).

The "Cafe" the event's name refers to is the Tokyo Cafe (though the organizers of the event
mentioned that it's changed hands and names over time since the event started 10 years ago), which lets out into the courtyard. Most of the customers, though, don't come for the coffee, but its offering of Japanese food and inexpensive beer ($5 for a large bottle of Sapporo? HAI!)

This past Tuesday night's event featured a singer-songwriter, a taiko drum ensemble (pictured left), spoken-word poetry, a classical guitarist and an avant-garde electronic duo on guitar, shakuhachi flute and laptop. Numerous references to Japanese American, Filipino American and Vietnamese American culture were represented in the performances.

The event was also tied into a community awareness angle, spotlighting the efforts of a group called J-Town Voice, which seeks to preserve Little Tokyo's Japanese American traditions in the face of current commercial and residential gentrification. The event's host even exclaimed at one point, "Let's stop these hipsters from taking over the world!" You know that brought a smile to the Militant's face (On the other hand, the Militant did take issue with their group's action of "Resistance," which emphasizes eternal victimization. Though the Militant agrees with their goals and vision, the Militant eschews tired, old, activist model of victimization in favor of all-out empowerment, which means asserting ownership of the community, and making, even forcing, others work with you on your terms, rather than the sociopolitical equivalent of crying "mommy." Insistence works better than resistance. Try it sometime. But the Militant digresses. Anyone can be radical, but few can truly be militant...).

Nevertheless, the event is a great way to spend a warm Summer Tuesday evening, and seeing true local artists perform and express themselves, from a cultural perspective almost never seen in the mainstream (or even the mainstream underground), in a public space Downtown. Tuesday Nights at the Cafe occurs on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month from March to October. The next installment of Tuesday Nights At The Cafe is on September 2nd.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Militant Poetry: Every Arrival Is A Departure

Every arrival is a departure.
Every departure is an arrival.

Life goes by in a blink, a flash.
A hundred thousand destinations being processed.
One man, one woman, one passenger
Peering out of the window into the subterranean world
of dimly-lighted concrete channels
Biding their time with books and newspapers and digital music earbuds -
People watching, or just sleeping.
Eyes shut in temporary drowsiness.
The whoosh of the wind and the clatter of tracks
and the whine of electric propulsion motors and the
piercing, unintelligible mumble of the motorman:

"Stand clear, the doors are closing."

Or was that:

"Tan Cleo, the dorsal clothing?"

Followed by dual monotone beeps.

None can ever tell. But alas, the station calls,
the boxy steel train decelerates.

You have arrived.

And you are headed for the opening doors -

Just as someone else takes your seat
and the process starts all over again.

Every arrival is a departure.
Every departure is an arrival.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Overlooked Los Angeles: The Franklin Hills Public Stairways

While doing hours upon hours of intense Militant research, the Militant stumbled on a page (well, a .pdf, really) about something called the Franklin Hills Public Stairways.

According to the page, the 14 publicly-accessible concrete stairways, nestled among the winding roads in the hills between Los Feliz and Silver Lake, were built in the mid-1920s "as a shortcut to get to the trolley lines."

You know the Militant loves Los Angeles history, especially transportation history, but as far as his extensive Militant knowledge of the trolleys of old...there were no such lines running through or even adjacent to the Franklin Hills! None of the Red Car lines did, and neither did any of the Yellow Car routes, as those maps indicate. Just goes to show that Angelenos hold a special place in their hearts for the old trolleys, even if their minds don't really recall them all that well.

Regardless of mistaken, though well-intended, historical recollection, the Militant wanted to check them out for himself, so he rode his trusty two-wheeled chariot down Hyperion Avenue and up (okay, he walked, it was rather steep) a little backstreet called Udell Court. There, amidst quaint early 20th-century era two-story houses, he found one of the steps, in its longest continuous stretch (pictured above).

The rest of it was not so much a bike ride, but rather a bike haul, as the Militant had to carry the damn thing up the steps. But hey, the Militant will do anything for a Militant adventure!

As he ascended, he discovered that some of these 1920s-era steps get very little use in the early 21st century, as some of them were covered in fallen leaves and cast-off tree bark. And those that do use them probably only use them to walk their dogs, as random dog droppings can be found on the steps. But looking back, the Militant treated himself to an awe-inspiring view of the hils of western Silver Lake, accented by the sight of the moon and the swirling reddish-colored stratus clouds of the dusk hour.

Forging ahead, the Militant found that the stairway gave way to a flat paved path (pictured left), albeit covered by leaves, weeds and other overgrown flora. Welcome to the jungle. Aside from cautiously avoiding physical contact with some of the plants (ya never know if it's posionous or not...), the Militant was intensely fascinated with the fact that he's walking through a part of town that he'd passed by so many times, yet never actually set foot upon.

Up another incline, carrying the bike and getting a workout in itself, the Militant finally approached the top, at Mayview Drive, crossing paths with local joggers/walkers who preferred to stick to the streets and sidewalks. But hey, navigating the road less traveled is what the Militant is all about, right?

With the roads still steep, the Militant walked his bike up the winding, inclined street. But looking back, he discovered himself surrounded by red-roofed Mediterranean-style homes and killer views of Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire and Downtown Los Angeles! (pictured right) The only thing towering above was the sky, the moon, or the occasional palm tree.

The Militant, consulting his .pdf printout, was looking for the set of steps called "Prospect Walk," which leads one to the eponymous street. But as always, the journey's much more interesting than the destination: The roads started to level off, and even descend, and the Militant found himself a fun coast downhill which made schlepping the damn bike up all those steps totally worth it.

Looking at the nearest street sign, he found it to read, "Franklin Avenue" (no, not that one) , followed it and soon saw the familiar sight of the Shakespeare Bridge -- which, as you all know by now, was built to cross the old Sacatela Creek. After that, he rode off into the sunset, returning to his compound...

The Militant did learn a few things during his urban adventure...
  • Franklin Hills - another hidden gem of Los Angeles.
  • The Militant wouldn't mind relocating his compound there...if it weren't so damn transit unfriendly.
  • Dusk is when lots of cute ladies (who may not necessarily be MILFs) walk their dogs round here.
  • Next time he visits the area with his bike, being male, young(ish) and of a darker complexion than most of the locals in the neighborhood, he's gonna instantly feel like "the car break-in burglary suspect" (see below).

The Militant gives a massive shout-out to Mike, Maria and TKFKABT.

The "Radio Walk" section of the Franklin Hills Public Stairways. So spooky-looking after dark, you'd need to bring a radio with you to keep you company. Preferably a large boombox.

A notice taped to the mailbox at the top of Radio Walk warning residents about recent car break-ins...the cuprits? Young males on bikes. Though the only thing the Militant took up there was photos, he instantly felt like public enemy #1 up there after reading this (even if that "young" description is debatable). More proof that people in upscale, hilly areas simply do not like people on bicycles.

Militant Update: Wesson Will We-pave Western!

The Militant, back from his hiatus of an unspecified nature, has some awesome news to report to you Angelenos!

As you may or may not have read, back in late July, the Militant griped about riding his bike over the dangerously deformed pavement along Western Avenue near Venice Boulevard, just north of the West Adams area (you know, where this picture was taken...).

The next day, the Militant visited 10th District Councilman Herb Wesson's website, called his office and ASKED FOR HIS HEAD!

Just kidding. No, the Militant politely talked to the front desk staffer and asked him who was the CD10 field deputy in charge of that area. He was given Wendy Fraticelli's name, who is the field deputy of the northeast part of the 10th district, and so the Militant sent her an email detailing his concern, and also showed the link to his post (shameless self promotion, yo...).

Well, days went by - 18 of them in fact - and the Militant had long ago wondered if Ms. Fraticelli looked at her inbox and said, "Militant Angeleno?! What the f...[hits the DEL key]" But he was proven wrong today, for the CD10 staffer finally pulled through! She wrote:

Good afternoon,
Thank you for contacting the office of Councilmember Wesson and for following up with an email to inform me of your concerns regarding Western Ave. The safety of both pedestrians and drivers is a priority for Councilmember Wesson therefore, Western Ave. is going to be resurfaced soon! At this point, I don't have a specific date but you have my word that as soon as I know exactly when this will be taking place, I will contact you immediately.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance with any City related services or if you have any questions on this or any other matter.
Thank you!!

Wendy Fraticelli
Deputy, District Office
Councilmember Herb J. Wesson, Jr.
Council District 10
1819 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90006

Well howzaaat?!?! Of course the Militant's cynical side might just write that off as being humored by the city staffer, but as someone who personally knows council staff members (some of them may or may not be actual top-level Militant Operatives...), they work long hours and earn less than they're worth (Of course, being City workers, they get killer benefits, but that's another topic...). The Militant's optimistic side probably attributed the 18-day delay in response to her researching the issue, and in turn waiting to get a response herself, in addition to all the meetings she has to run off to all day.

The whole intent of this was to show you how to find the right people to talk to, and get answers. Many people call up their councilmember's office, and unload their gripes to the poor junior-level staffer/intern answering the phone, who's probably hating their job at the moment, having heard hundreds of similar gripes throughout the course of the day. Most of the work of the council office is done by the deputies. The councilmembers are there to attend City Council meetings, committee meetings, give soundbites to the press and cut ribbons with really large-sized scissors.

The Militant will follow up when he gets word of the street re-paving (and hopefully it gets done right; he's seen some weak-ass paving jobs out there...). In the meantime, Thanks, Wendy for your reply and all the work that you do for the City and CD10!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Militant's Random Hollywood

The Militant spent a good chunk of Sunday in Hollywood, and took a few pictures of some stuff that only a Militant Angeleno can find here goes:

A Star Is Born?: Tourists love to take pictures of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with names of famous people on them. Here on the Boulevard by Sycamore Ave., en route to his latest guilty pleasure, the Militant loves to take pictures of stars with no names on them. Go figure.

Graffruity: Either someone with a sense of humor tagged a Robek's Juice on Sunset and Mansfield, or taggers have become more health-conscious. NOTE: The dude in black on the right side of the picture was not the tagger, just someone on his cellphone walking by.

Make That Change: The Gardner Street Elementary School auditorium used to be named after alumnus Michael Jackson, but because of you-know-what, a number of local parents complained and got his name removed. See what happens when you only have an elementary school education?

These Are Not The Droids You're Looking For...No Really: You've no doubt seen the cast of characters on the Boulevard, but this one stood out from the rest. Either because it's so sadly pathetic, or the fact that he's really trying.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Historic Filipinotown

The community of Historic Filipinotown celebrated the sixth anniversary of its designation on Saturday with a street fair on Temple Street, between Union and Alvarado. The Militant, with only a small window of time to check out the festivities, was able to see most of what he could see; the festival site was only two blocks long -- one with booths/entertainment and another, a Kids' Zone, which apparently hardly had any kids in it (they were apparently freaked out by all the freaky-looking carnies working the rides...). He did run into some operatives there, and wanted to check out the food booths, but instead decided to spend most of the time in the confines of a nearby restaurant...a nearby air-conditioned restaurant, that is.

There was an entertainment stage that featured not only Filipino American and overseas Filipino acts, but Latino acts as well, as though Hi-Fi is dotted with several Filipino institutions (a free bus tour took visitors to those locations during the festival) the majority of its reisdents are Latino. Though, judging from the crowd, there weren't many non-Filipinos in attendance.

The community celebrates the anniversary of its designation by the City of Los Angeles on the first weekend of August each year, and in past years they took place in the more residential streets. But this was apparently the first time Temple Street was closed in part for this festival, which didn't make too many motorists by Temple and Alvarado happy; as there was construction going on along Alvarado in addition. Of course, the Militant, as you know, didn't have to deal with the traffic or parking limitations...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Doin The 'Dena, Ride-Arc Style

On Friday night, the Militant took to the two wheels again, and, after a quick pit stop to hang out with some operatives in Silver Lake, the Militant dashed on over through Riverside Drive in Frogtown and onto Cypress Park, where he hopped on the (M) Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena.

For when he disembarked, he already caught sight of the 200 or so cyclists, including a few of the Militant's own operatives, participating in this month's Ride-Arc nocturnal, edjumakational bicycle ride, this time through our classy little satellite of Pasadena. The pack assembled in that city's Central Park and rode down Green Street, which sort-of set the tone for the night. As this ride was organized by Sci-Arc alums, architecture is the main focus of these rides, and the work of brothers Charles and Henry Greene, who were influential in designing many Pasadena architectural icons.

The ride passed by the Pasadena Playhouse/Paseo Colorado, the Pasadena City Hall, through Old Town Pasadena, the Norton Simon Museum, the Colorado Street Bridge, the Gamble House, the Rose Bowl, the bridge-like structure of the Art Center College of Design, the former Bullocks (now The Shops at South Lake), Cal Tech and finally Art Center's South Campus, with its rooftop garden. One of the Militant's operatives works in Pasadena, so he came along to learn more about his day job's town, though the ride didn't go anywhere close to his workplace.

Most impressive were the hidden gems that Pasadena had to offer: The dominating influence of craftsman-style architecture, biking through the Colorado Street (Street? Isn't it Blvd? Oh, it used to be street...) Bridge, riding around the Rose Bowl after dark, climbing the hill (and being serenaded by crickets and smelling the aroma of flora) up Lida St. towards Art Center, filing through the Cal Tech campus and passing through the interestingly traffic-calmed El Molino.

At one point on the route, while riding through Woodbury Rd. in Altadena, some of the cyclists spotted a man's body lying down on the road. Fearing the worst, the pack headed over. Apparently it wasn't a hit cyclist but a man who fell out of a window of a moving car, attempting to egg someone, or some cyclists. Whatever the case may be, 9-1-1 was contacted and as the group sped away, the wail of an ambulance could be heard. It was certainly a strange part of an otherwise fun night.

The ride ended far past the normal operating hours of the Gold Line (and it would have been a looong ride back to the compound), so the Militant ended up riding his bike to an unspecified part of NELA, where he sought refuge at his siblings' pad for the night.

Just when the Militant though he knew the entire area...along comes some new places to discover. It's never-ending, folks, and that's part of why the Militant will never move from his hometown.