Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Those Feel-Good Memories

Every once in a while, the Militant will flip radio stations, and a song from The Militant's youth will invariably cause him to stop what he's doing and evoke a memory from the past.

Perhaps the best example of such a song is Chuck Mangione's 1978 archetypal Smooth Jazz anthem, "Feels So Good." It's a familiar flugelhorn-laden melody (Fact: 94.7 The Wave is legally required to play it at least four times each day), which was recently re-introduced into pop culture as a running gag on the FOX animated TV series, King Of The Hill, but for The Militant, it has an even deeper meaning.

Every time The Militant hears this tune, he feels like a kid, riding in a car with his family, and discovering exotic new places like Downtown Los Angeles, on a warm summer Sunday evening. See, when you're a kid, your universe consists of more or less two places: home and school. Concepts like "community" or even "city" don't even register yet. So this song was basically one of the soundtracks to The Militant's proto-militant urban discoveries.

And it's no accident that this song was recorded right here in the City of Angels, at the A&M recording studios (Now the Jim Henson Studios, and formerly Charlie Chaplin's studio) on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood (most famously known for the recording of 1985's "We Are The World").

Speaking of A&M, the "A" in the name, Herb Alpert, another brass instrumentalist, also recorded a huge instrumental hit in the late '70s, called "Rise" (1979).

Like the Mangione song, it reminds The Militant of his early Angeleno discoveries, most notably going down Wilshire Blvd on a warm Summer evening (what is is about those warm Summer evenings?) with the shops and streetlights providing a visual show the young Lil'Mil had never seen before.

Dad, can we stop by Zody's and buy me a TIE Fighter? Huh? Please Dad?

Oh...sorry, The Militant got a little carried away there, heh.

There was also something about those two songs being instrumental that added to their magic. There were no lyrics or vocal tone to dictate the meaning or feeling of the songs. Just the vibe, ya dig? Perfect selections in the soundtrack to The Militant's life, and probably some of yours as well.

[begin old fogey mode]
They certainly don't make songs like those anymore...
[end old fogey mode]

Anyways, for those of you who grew up here in Los Angeles, what are the songs that instantly remind you of your youth, and associated memories of life here? Please post and share in the comments!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


After every Winter rainstorm, and at the first sight of blue sky, it happens.

Yes, It's the sight of snow on the San Gabriel Mountains.

The past few years have seen a light to moderate dusting on the extreme tops of the local peaks, but this morning was different.

The Militant was on the 101 Freeway South headed to an unspecified location, when he saw it.

Here is a transcript:


Or something to that extent. If only he wasn't driving he would have made an exclamatory viral video that would no doubt get him an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live or something. But then again that would just blow his anonymous cover.

Later on, the Militant headed to Elysian Park's Point Grandview (no, not this one, or even this one), which he discovered last Thanksgiving but for some reason neglected to blog about it (this happens quite often these days...). Oh well, here it is:

One of the highest points in Elysian Park affords you a kick-ass view of Downtown, and even far south as Catalina Island (ya rly), and to the north you get an awesome view of the San Gabriels, with NELA and the Los Angeles River right below you. It's called Point Grandview, and it's a nearly 2 1/2 mile trek from the Solano Avenue exit off the Northbound 110 Freeway. Here's a map. It's one of Los Angeles' best-kept secrets (besides the Militant's identity), although a few couples, families and individuals were found here to enjoy the view as well.

Anyways, the Militant took a few pictures of the mountains, which admittedly weren't as strikingly awesome as they looked earlier in the morning, with the sun coming from the East and the increased snowcover (it was starting to get warm and no doubt some of the white stuff had melted already).

Good news though, there's another rainstorm scheduled for next weekend. The Militant may or may not return to Point Grandview. Or he might be taking pictures at this place instead...If you see him, raise ya fist!

Some more pics of course:
Snow-capped peaks overlooking Glassell Park and Cypress Park, with the Los Angeles River on the lower-left and the leaves of a Hollywood tree in the foreground.

Snow covers Mt. Lukens, the tallest peak in the City of Los Angeles.

Snow-covered Hoyt Mountain (Yes, you will be quizzed on your local mountain peaks, so pay attention...), with the Angeles Crest Highway running diagonally across the middle.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!?!? (No, really, are you ready?)

The Militant is about to head off to a big Super Bowl™ party at an unspecified location! But not far from that location is what may or may not be the site of a future Super Bowl™, or even more, the home of what may or may not be Los Angeles' next NFL team.

Farmers Field was the other big football story this week, but its strategically-timed announcement no doubt got Angelenos talking. Certainly it's stolen the proverbial thunder from Ed Roski's so-called "Los Angeles" Football Stadium project, slated to add to freeway traffic and suburban sprawl in that great town of much culture and excitement, the City of Industry (Are you ready to root for "The Los Angeles _______ Of The City Of Industry?" The Militant didn't think so).

On Friday, the Militant jumped into his time-travel machine and stood on the turf of Farmers Field!

Okay, he didn't, but he did stand on a replica field set up at LA Live to promote the proposal, complete with large renderings and a Farmers Insurance bus and a live Hot 92.3 FM broadcasting van. The display will be up until Sunday, so check it out if you're in Downtown.

Now truth be told, the Militant isn't much of a football fan, with the exception of cheering on his unspecified local Pac-10 Pac-12 team (GO [withheld]NS!), but part of that is the Militant's bitterness towards the NFL for snubbing The City of Angels for over a decade and a half, especially their ghettophobic insistence of not wanting to consider any proposal for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

But Farmers Field has a lot of people talking, especially how it will be for our re-emerging Downtown. Sure there are concerns about parking and whatnot, but the stadium will be directly served by two (M) light rail lines and perhaps something more. Even with that, people will still bitch, whine and yap about parking and traffic, but you know what, what's what you expect from a vibrant Downtown.

The Militant doesn't really care for naming rights either, but hey, do you really think of office products when you hear the name "Staples Center?" Does it want to make you go out and buy printer ink cartridges, Post-It notes or that little foam "Easy" stress button? Actually, unlike the office products store or that big-box home improvement retailler, Farmers Insurance is a native Los Angeles company, established here in 1928 to insure the vehicles of those in the then-booming agricultural industry of Southern California. Maybe we can take this further - maybe they can re-locate the South Central Farm nearby? Maybe on non-game days they can host a big-ass FARMERS market at the stadium. The Militant isn't even the only one who's thought of that.

Of course, the big stick in the mud is the $350 million AEG's Tim Leiwicke is asking the cash-strapped City of Los Angeles to fork over in bond money to construct the stadium. We've been down that road before. But if people are truly serious, in this City of famous-ass people and the second largest sports and media market in the USA, private investors will come out of the woodwork (Quick, call Hugh Hefner!) Surely that bond figure could stand to drop like Brett Favre's future NFL career plans. But regardless if Farmers Field will happen, or another plan later will work, NFL deserves to be played in Downtown Los Angeles. The Dodgers, Lakers, Kings, Clippers and USC Trojans all play within a 5-mile long corridor (and with a possible soccer stadium replacing the Sports Arena to add to the mix, maybe the Los Angeles Galaxy can get their kicks Downtown (The Not-Los Angeles Chivas USA can stay down in Carson for all the Militant cares). In this City, long accused of being "Sooooooo Spread Out," a concentrated sports and entertainment corridor is something that will finally pwn those who utter that cliched statement.

As for the Super Bowl™, the Militant is cheering for the team whose name ends with "ERS!" GO ERS!

Actually he doesn't really care about who wins. He just wants to eat!

Super Bowl™ is a registered trademark and only the NFL and approved sponsors of the Super Bowl™ are able to use it. The Militant isn't one but he still thinks the name Super Bowl™ should be fair use because it's freaking stupid how other commercials and other media outlets have to substitute Super Bowl™ with "The Big Game" or the like. Come on now. But this disclaimer is in place as a way for the Militant to declare, "Please don't sure the Militant!" He doesn't have that much money anyway. And if he did, he'd invest in Farmers Field or buy the Dodgers or something. Peace out.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A 'Grand' Ol' View

A few weeks ago, the Militant bitched about a street in the Westlake district called "Grand View Avenue" and how it didn't really have much of a grand view, especially backinthaday.

Well, after exploring Downtown Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, he came upon one such view. Now, normally the Militant isn't fond of much things car culture-related, but after ascending the elevator to the roof of the 14-story Grand Avenue Garage on Venice and Grand, he found it (pictured above).

Now take a look at that - the Downtown Los Angeles skyline, flanked by its newest skyscraper on the left, the 54-story Ritz-Carlton Tower (completed last year), and one of its oldest skyscrapers on the right - the 32-story AT&T Center, built 1965. And in the background? The glorious San Gabriel Mountains, with Mt. Wilson's promontory looming above. And to the right (out of the view of the picture), the snowcapped Mt. Baldy.

The parking garage is easily accessible; there's an entrance off of Venice Blvd, and the escalator bank is right there towards the north end of the building. Just punch "RF" and you're there in a few seconds!

You also get a grand view of the Westside, the Eastside (the real one) and the South Bay. The Santa Monica Freeway runs right below you on the south side, and a couple blocks past it, the Metro Blue Line looks like a model train on Washington Blvd.

On this day there was nary a car parked on the rooftop. But right at the middle of the rooftop, there is a helicopter pad, built just two years ago, serving both bougie corporate execs (thought gotta love 'em for avoiding traffic, lol) and emergencies at the nearby California Hospital.

When The Militant was snapping pics of the skyline, another Angeleno - perhaps almost as militant - came up on the stairwell for the same purpose - to take photos of the skyline. He pointed his iPhone northward and also showed The Militant some of his other Los Angeles skyline photos - one taken from Boyle Heights, another from above the Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee. The Militant pointed out to the other militantly-inclined Angeleno that a lot can be seen from up here, including the LAX control tower, just over the Baldwin Hills due south. The two Angelenos happily shot photos of the view from up there, at least until the parking structure's security guard politely told them to leave (No doubt set up by some of the Militant's enemies). There was no arrest, no inspection, no questions, no confiscation - the guard just escorted The Militant and the other skyline photo enthusiast to the ground floor. The other picture taker just set off back to his workplace at the California Hospital and the Militant returned to his Compound. Yes, being a Militant means living on the edge, but hey.

You can visit the Grand Avenue Garage yourself; maybe they won't hassle you if you actually parked there. But even if you just walked in, just be discreet! Will The Militant return? Of course he will! He's waiting for the next Clear-Day-After-A-Big-Winter-Rainstorm for summa dat snowcapped mountain background action!

Until then, Happy Militant Skyline Picturetaking!
A look towards Hollywood.

P,M. rush hour traffic and The Westside (synonymous?).

Towards The Eastside.

What a Metro Rapid Bus looks like from above.

The other militant Angeleno takes a pic on his iPhone while The Militant gets a view towards the southeast.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Urban Serenity: The Los Angeles River Bike Path

The Militant finally had an opportunity to ride the new section of the Los Angeles River Bike Path through Elysian Valley this week, which opened to huge fanfare two months ago. The Militant really wanted to check out the opening festivities, but he was tied up with some Militant community activities that day, not to mention that he may or may not have been easily spotted there.

But although the opening was blogged about many times, The Militant has always been about showing you a different angle. So during his recent ride, he was able to enjoy the bike path, not with politicians and crowds, but the way it was meant to be experienced.

After riding south through Atwater Village, he finally broke on through to the new section past Fletcher Avenue, marked by asphalt paving so smooth and dark, it almost looks like it was still wet from this past weekend's rains.

After passing the 2 Freeway overpass, the harsh white-noise roar of cars rushing above soon transitioned into the soothing rush of water and the intermittent quacking of ducks. Ducks? Yes, ducks! Lest you forget, the entire section of Los Angeles River, from Griffith Park to Elysian Valley, lies close to the underground water table, and was therefore never fully paved. The result is a glimpse of the what the River used to be -- and what many hope it will once again become -- replete with islands boasting California Bay Laurel trees protruding from the riverbed, and both native and migratory fauna walking, swimming or flying throughout. There are even mini-rapids where water rushes through rocks in the riverbed, forming calming sounds which soothe the senses. Aromatherapy, anyone?

It is in this section you can witness the Los Angeles River in pure serenity, with only the occasional whoosh and horn blare of a passing Metrolink train across the river interrupting the unexpectedly pastoral setting in the middle of this bustling metropolis.

Once in a while, you'll get a view like this, which just blows away most people's (predictably negative) perceptions of The River:
It was also a unique glimpse into the Elysian Valley (a.k.a. Frogtown) neighborhood - a tiny nook of 8,000 working-class residents living in the shadow of Chavez Ravine. A handful of pocket parks line the route, and the backyards of several houses face the river, some of which have roosters, dogs and California native plant gardens. Interesting to note, that the opposite side of Elysian Valley -- Riverside Drive -- is also a popular bicycling corridor, which The Militant has rolled through many times.

There was a time when the Los Angeles River Bike Path was just a boring, tiny little strip that ran 3.2 miles along the east end of Griffith Park. Whoopty-doo. But now it's grown to a decent 7.2-mile ride (that's 14.4 miles round trip - without worrying about cars); and even a one-way ride through its entire length will take you a while. Now all we need is a link south past Downtown to link to the rest of the River Path and north to the Valley! Let's do this!

More picturetude!

Cleaning crews were here today to maintain the Path.


Frogtown? A couple of locals beg to differ.

The Militant wasn't the only one taking pictures of The River today.