Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lotus Festival To Return In July

After a depressing one-year hiatus, the City of Los Angeles' Lotus Festival will be back again this year, returning to Echo Park Lake on the weekend of July 10-11.

The Militant learned of the festival's return thanks to an operative's tip after the said operative received paperwork from the festival organizers for entertainers to perform at the fest.

As it turns out, the paperwork comes not from the City's Recreation and Parks department, but from "L.A. Lotus Festival, Inc," an assumed non-profit entity with an address of 2001 W. Beverly Blvd in the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood. Apparently the organization of the festival is now off the hands of the City (which has more pressing matters these days), although the City does appear to remain involved in the Festival to a certain extent.

The website to the festival points to a dead link on the City's website, which may or may not change into a dedicated domain name in the near future.

As to the fate of the now-absent lotus flower bed -- once the largest lotus bed outside Asia -- it is still in question. Analysis of the lake pointed to a combination of contaminants and the end of the natural cycle of the lotus bed as the reason for its demise. A total renovation of Echo Park lake is proposed, which will involve draining the lake's water, and must be done before any lotus restoration takes place, but with the current state of the City's you-know-what, the timeline for the project remains in question.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Five Fascinating Facts About The Baldwin Hills

Earthquakes on the Newport-Inglewood Fault can give us pretty tragic events, but they can also give us beautiful things, like mountains and hills -- such as the ones towards the western end of the Los Angeles basin named after Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin, the businessman and landowner who gave us Santa Anita Racetrack and owned the land where Arcadia and Monrovia now sits.

After doing some Militant research, the Militant Angeleno paid a visit to them hills on Tuesday and found a five fascinating facts:

1. Enjoy the view. The Baldwin Hills is the home of Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area which gives a place for Westsiders and Southsiders alike a place to picnic, BBQ, hike, fish, mountain bike or most of all - enjoy the view. The hills, which rise to heights between 300 and 500 feet in elevation, afford a beautiful view of Los Angeles, and from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, you can see views of the Pacific Ocean, Miracle Mile, Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles.
Admission to the park is free on weekdays but be prepared to pay a $6 entrance fee on weekends and holidays (but you're free to bike there (even better next year when the Metro Exposition Line opens nearby) or take Metro Local 439 on non-weekdays). The park entrance is accessible from La Cienega Blvd.

2. Enjoy The View, Too! There's not just one but two places to get a wonderful view. On the Culver City side, there's the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, also a state-owned parkland, which grants you a vista of LAX, an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean, Century City, the Miracle Mile and parts of Hollywood.

The Militant drove up here on Tuesday after a tip from an operative some months ago. The park's entrance is on Jefferson Blvd and Hetzler Rd, which leads you up the hill. All was cool until he saw a sign reading, "PARKING $6.00." WTF?!?

There was no parking attendant, but rather a gravel lot (you pay $6 for parking and not on a paved lot?!?) with a box where you drop your money in. In other words, the honor system. Periodically, a Mighty Morphin Park Ranger would check to see if cars have paid or not (you leave a receipt stub on your windshield).

Of course, the gravel $6 parking lot was totally empty, and the Militant only stayed around long enough to enjoy the view for a couple minutes and take some pics. Of course, you can park for free at the bottom of the hill on Jefferson and walk up the hiking trail for free, which is what most park visitors do.

Though the Militant couldn't help but wonder whether the $6 thing is a deterrent to make this park, made for Westsiders (you know what the Militant's talkin' about), not so accessible to Southsiders (you know what the Militant's talkin' about).

3. A Dam Shame. Back at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area lies a bowl-like area with grass and trees called "Janice's Green Valley." And yes, it was named after the daughter of the park's namesake, who is now Los Angeles' 15th District Councilwoman (and currently candidate for California Lieutenant Governor). But there's more to that patch of land than the name. On that site once stood the Baldwin Hills Reservoir, which, on the morning of December 14, 1963, developed a crack in its dam, and hours later caused devastating flooding to the area below. 250 million gallons wiped away 277 homes and claimed five lives. The dam rupture was caused by land subsiding due to the nearby Inglewood Oil Fields.

Here's a KTLA clip of the disaster:

4. Drill, Baby, Drill? You've no doubt seen it while driving through La Brea, Stocker or La Cienega en route to LAX, or in movies like L.A. Confidential. It's big, it's bad, it's ugly, and even other-worldly. It's the Inglewood Oil Fields, which has been producing black gold since 1924 and is by far the largest remaining vestige of Southern California's once-immense oil production industry. Formerly operated by Stocker Resources, Inc (hence the street's name) and now merged into Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP), the field has produced some 350 million barrels of oil. These days, most of what is pumped is groundwater, and the majority of the pumps are inactive, albeit connected to sensors that will activate them once oil has reached pumpable levels. For the most part, production has gradually declined for parts of the oil field, and the nearby Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area has expanded out into no-longer pumpable areas. The oil fields are also linked to pumps adjacent to Beverly Hills High School and The Beverly Center, which PXP also operates.

In the future, when the oil fields eventually dry up, look for an expansion of Kenneth Hahn park and perhaps the most-sought-after undeveloped parcel of land in all of Los Angeles.

5. It Takes An Olympic Village. The Baldwin Hills were not only the site of the 1932 Olympics athletes' village, but the first formal Olympic Village ever. Some 1200 male athletes lived here for the duration of the Games of the Xth Olympiad. The 126 female athletes roomed in the Chapman Park Hotel (now demolished; the 34-story Equitable/Center Bank building stands in its place) in Mid-Wilshire).

Thing is, although it's been well-documented the 1932 Olympic Village was in the Baldwin Hills, just like the Lost City of Atlantis, no one can agree on its exact location. This web page devoted to the '32 village mentions two locations: Blair Hills in Culver City (nestled in between the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and Kenneth Hahn Park) or an area west of Vernon and Crenshaw. The page seems to settle on the latter, which bears streets named "Olympiad Drive" and "Athenian Way."

The Militant went to Olympiad Drive but found the area to be rather hilly. The painting of the village above, however, shows obvious flat terrain. And another web site seems to point to the village's location as Leimert Park, which is flat, but is still a noticeable distance from the actual Baldwin Hills.

Does anyone know where the 1932 Olympic Village was located? Surely this sounds like another Militant reconnaissance mission in the works!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Feel That?

In case you were fast asleep on 4:04 on Tuesday morning, we just had a 4.4 earthquake centered in Pico Rivera.

The Militant was walking in the hallway of his compound when he heard a rattling sound for like...three seconds, as if The Incredible Hulk punched the foundations...and not even that hard.

Then there was...nothing more.

So he headed straight to his computer, logged on to Twitter and Tweeted away!

Apparently, so did a bunch of you. It didn't take much more than 20 minutes to have the magnitude and epicenter surface on both teh Interwebz and broadcast media.

The quake was reportedly felt as far as Palmdale, but one of the Militant's operatives who lives in San Diego that it was even felt down there.

The Militant did watch KCBS 2 and was pleased to see Kent "After" Shocknek, of all people, inform us of the seismic goings-on. Later, he interviewed Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who gave all of Southern California not just a play-by-play of the jolt from his Silver Lake abode, but the names of his dogs -- Oliver and Dexter -- during his telephone interview (remember that for your vital Los Angeles trivia!).

Soon afterward, the quake-related Tweets subsided, and the town went back to sleep. Yes, there's the required "One in 20 chance of this being a foreshock to something larger (which diminishes each hour)" , but if you're a SoCal native like the Militant, you'll know right away that they say that for every quake.

Nothing to see here, move along!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vlogstyle Episode 06: The Militant Rides Angels Flight 3.0!

The Militant couldn't quite recall when was the last time he rode Angels Flight before the tragic February 1, 2001 accident, but he seems to think it may or may not have been towards the end of 2000 - nearly 10 years ago. And why would he remember? It was one of those things he took for granted.

After much anticipation, the Militant overheard via the Twittersphere that the Flight was open for riders today (the soft opening apparently began 10 a.m. on Saturday), so the Militant headed straight for Downtown for a ride. Sure enough, the twin orange-and-black cars, named Sinai (the one on the north-side track) and Olivet (the one on the south-side track), were moving. It was almost like it never left - the familiar rumble of the minute-long journey was there, and the dancing waters of California Plaza greeted him at the top.

The Militant does vividly remember being there on February 24, 1996 (Huell Howser and his trusted cameraman Luis Fuerte were there), patiently waiting in line. After the ceremonial ribbon-cutting heralding the release of Angels Flight 2.0, (re-)opened to the public after a 27-year absence from Angeleno reality, a nearly 3-decade limbo of historical lore, Leo Politi paintings and cynical uncertainty. But that limbo turned to heaven as Sinai and Olivet ascended and descended, as everyone assumed - for good.

The world has changed since 2/1/01. Most obvious was what happened seven months and ten days later some 3,000 miles away. But other things have changed. On Sunday afternoon, the Militant tweeted, "And YES, The Militant just rode on @AngelsFlight again!!!!!!!!!!!!" and suddenly realized that there was no Twitter back in 2001, much less 1996, even much less 1969 when Angels Flight 1.0 last ran (Speaking of which, there is an official Angels Flight Twitter account). In 2001, not as many people lived in Downtown Los Angeles. No Gold Line, No L.A. Live (but then again, virtually no hipsters...). And there was no Militant Angeleno blog. So here he is.

As he hung out near the top of the funicular, people-watching, he saw a couple teenagers watch the cars go up and down attentively -- they were too young to remember when they ran last. And he saw younger children ride on the 'Flight for the very first time -- they weren't even born the last time people were able to ride it (He also spotted Ed Fuentes, a.k.a. Mr. View From A Loft take a quick ride up and down, heheheh).

Angels Flight 3.0, which officially opens to the public on Monday (which will likely have long lines of residents, office workers and tourists clamoring to get their first ride in), is designed with several 'fail-safe' features that will hopefully keep the tragic death of 83-year old tourist (and Holocaust survivor) Leon Praport an anomaly. Features like a second cable (which Angels Flight 2.0 lacked, but Angels Flight 1.0 had) and track brakes designed to stop the vehicle in case of drive system failure are now implemented, so hopefully the third time's the charm, and no Angeleno from here on out will be deprived of an opportunity to ride it.

The Militant welcomes Sinai and Olivet back to Bunker Hill!

Angels Flight 3.0 operates from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Fare is 25 cents each way; payment is made at the top station.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Militant's Mess Hall: Born On A Bayou (Grille)

The Militant discovered he hadn't blogged all March so he figured he'd give you a two-fer today.

As you may or may not know, the Militant spent his Wednesday in Inglewood, trying to find meaning in some street named Arbor Vitae, because the Militant is such a street geek like that. Of course, he got a little hungry and making his way back to the Central area of Los Angeles where his compound lies, he decided to forgo the freeway and take the surface streets (as usual).

As he drove north on La Brea, he noticed something, the abundance of unique, non-chain restaurants along the corridor. There's the expected soul food joints (and certainly some of those might be definitely all that) but there were a few Caribbean eateries, and an esoteric joint called The Crab Pit, which hawks not the expected seafood, but its Killer Turkey Taco.

So here we go, all you foodies [Turns on megaphone] [Feedback squeals] Oh sorry about that.


The Militant decided to descend on one such place on La Brea to feast on. It's one of those places he's heard of before that he's never had the opportunity to check out.

The place is called Bayou Grille, on the corner of La Brea and 64th Place, boasting, "Authentic New Orleans Taste."

If you've been reading the Militant Angeleno recently, last month, in covering New Orleans locales in Los Angeles (Putting the 'MA' in Mardi Gras, Feb. 26), the Militant mentioned a couple places where some good New Orleans-style food can be found. But at the time he hadn't been here, so he left Bayou Grille out of his post. According to the woman at the counter, the place has been around for 11 years.

One of the Militant's fondest (sober) memories during his visit to New Orleans during an unspecified year in the last decade was having an oyster po-boy sandwich in a restaurant called Mother's in the downtown area. The bread was on point - slightly crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, the fried oysters were perfectly breaded and likewise internally soft. It was

The Militant searched high and low for something equivalent here in his hometown, but couldn't find it. The oysters were good but the bread wasn't right. Or vice-versa. Or he had the po-boy at the Gumbo Pot in Farmer's Market. The Militant was afraid that he would have to echo the classic utterance of transplants: "You just can't find decent _____ food out here."

Thankfully, he tried the Louisiana Oyster Po'Boy at the Bayou Grille ($7.29, 6").

Like, whoa. WHOA!

They got it. It was like the Militant was on Poydras St. again.

He washed it down with some Southern-style sweet tea (pre-sweetened iced tea, that is), which was only $1.50 (and free refills...lagniappe indeed!)

That was awesome. But what's even more awesome is their rather complete Louisiana creole menu: jambalaya, etoufee, file gumbo and boiled crawfish (Saturday and Sunday only). The prices are fairly reasonable compared to other New Orleans-style eateries in town. The Militant is definitely returning here!

The Militant was only one of seven customers inside, but this was a weekday afternoon. Apparently it gets rather crowded here during the weekends (must be that crawfish...). It's order-at-the-counter and sit-down style. It didn't take the Militant long to get his food and the lady behind the counter was cool and graciously thanked the Militant for the props he gave the place as he asked for a "Thank You" frequent customer card (your meal on your 10th visit is free!).

Okay, the Militant can spot a few of you out there (yes, you...and, not're cool...and you) with serious xenophobic reservations about Inglewood, with preconceived images of ghettoes and gangstas and stuff like this. The Militant's basic urban philosophy of people's perception being greater than reality hindering their knowledge of their City notwithstanding, the Militant has snapped this photo of the neighborhood just around the corner from Bayou Grille:
[sarcasm]As you can see it's a hideously ugly, blight-filled ghetto with run-down housing project buildings, crack-addicted homeless dudes sleeping in the streets, prostitutes hanging out in the corner, zero green space and several gangbangers pointing their AK-47s directly at the Militant [/sarcasm]. Puh-lease.

So yes, to say it again, the La Brea Ave. corridor in Inglewood (from Slauson in the north to Century in the south) is the undiscovered foodie frontier (are you listening, blog?). And if they won't tackle it, the Militant will!

Bayou Grille
1400 N. La Brea (at 64th Pl.)
310. 673.0824

Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 12 noon to 6 p.m.

Free street parking or take (M) local bus 212 (Sorry, the nearby Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line is gonna take a while...).

Item: Louisiana oyster po-boy ($7.29); Sweet tea ($1.50)

Chasing Arbor Vitae

The Militant had to drop off one of his unspecified siblings at LAX on Wednesday afternoon, and although the Militant was bike-less, he nevertheless couldn't pass up an opportunity to go on a Militant adventure.

The Militant firmly believes that the streets of Los Angeles and its environs tell stories, whether you read up on the history or not. All you got to do is pay attention.

So on Wednesday, he decided to follow a particular street that's stuck in his mind for years: Arbor Vitae St., which runs 2.4 miles from Airport Blvd in Los Angeles to Prairie Ave. in Inglewood, where the Hollywood Park racetrack property separates the street from a non-contiguous half-mile stretch to the east of it, where it turns into 92nd St. east of Van Ness Ave.

When the Militant was a kid, watching TV during the middle of the day, with a certain trade technical school advertising its services, and listing one of its locations at some "Arbor Vitae" place. Even as a kid, Lil'Mil was curious about an mysteriously-named street in Los Angeles that wasn't named after a local historical figure, a saint, a part of town or a number. Much less one named in Latin.

But you don't have to be the Pope to know that "Arbor Vitae" means "Tree of Life" (which sounds like something those Na'vi Avatar people would wanna hang out in).

The street runs in a straight line and cuts through industrial, commercial and residential areas, (in that order) from west to east. Unfortunately not much historical background onj the street could be found via online Militant research. There is such a species of tree as an "Arborvitae" which is a member of the cypress family. The Militant thought he had one of these trees on the grounds of his compound, but it was only an Italian cypress, which are pretty ubiquitous here in So Cal. On the other hand, most arborvitaes are found in colder climates such as Canada.

But alas, pay attention to the surroundings. Eventually the Militant stumbled on various Inglewood cross-streets with arbolesque nomenclature: Ash, Oak Cedar, Eucalyptus, Fir (and they weren't even in alphabetical order, like most cities are apt to do). And looking at a map, he also found other streets parallel to Arbor Vitae with such names: Magnolia, Elm, Lime, Olive.

So there you go, mystery solved. Arbor Vitae fits in with the theme. Inglewood isn't just the (once-upon-a-time) City of Champions, or The City Without A Mayor, but a City Of Streets Named After Trees.