Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Militant Eats Up An East Coast Transplant Alive

If you've been a longtime reader of The Militant Angeleno, you already know how The Militant feels about transplants. Especially the ones from the East Coast. Especially the ones from NYC.

Lately, Hollywood has been abuzz lately with the arrival of one of its newest NY transplants, a hot dog stand called Papa Yaking. Very interesting. He's heard of Papa Cristo's, and even Beard Papa's, but a Papa Yaking is not something that sounds very pleasant, especially to eat.
Oh wait...The Militant has just been informed that the place isn't called Papa Yaking, but PAPAYA KING. The Militant's bad.

Apparently the story here was that was originally a tropical drink stand started in Manhattan in 1932 that eventually sold hot dogs. Hot dogs and papaya drinks, eh? Of course, this town is famous for a local restaurant chain that makes chicken and waffles, so who are we to laugh? Anyway, Papaya King prides itself on being "The Best Hot Dog in NYC", or on a national level, perhaps the second most famous weiner from The Empire State (BADA-BING!). Papaya King is such a revered local institution in NY, very much akin to how The Original Tommy's or In-N-Out is celebrated here.

Of course, now we have a Papaya King on Wilcox and Hollywood, and the nearest In-N-Out to NYC is still a couple thousand miles away. Nyah.

The Militant skipped the long lines during its opening week last month and decided to see what all the hype was all about.

First off, the Militant rode his bike there and there was no place nearby to conveniently lock it, so he brought it inside the already-cramped store. But they were totally cool with The Militant bringing in his bike into the place so he had to give his props for that.

After browsing the menu wall for several minutes, he decided on "The 1932" (#5) combo - a hotdog with sauerkraut, NY onions or relish (he had the first two and paid a quarter extra), a medium drink (he chose the papaya drink of course) and a cup of seasoned curly fries.

The hot dog was good. It wasn't horrible. In fact he did enjoy it. But it wasn't anything special or unique, just a well-made basic hot dog. But he did enjoy the most unique aspect of Papaya King: the tropical drinks. The papaya drink was good. In fact, he ordered another - just the drink, this time a large mango drink.

On one of the walls, written in big-ass lettering is, "WE'RE 100% NATURAL BUT WE THINK WE'LL FIT IN L.A. JUST FINE." Oh was that supposed to be funny? The Militant forgot to laugh. Hah hah hah.

Um, yeah. Very offensive. But funny they mention "natural," since as good as those tropical drinks are, they come from not a blender, but from one of those constantly-churning daquiri-type machines. How natural are those tropical drinks? The Militant shrugs. Maybe they come in pre-mixed canisters shipped over from NYC. Or maybe they're partly in powdered form from a box. Who knows. He will tell you that if you want a real natural tropical fruit drink, just walk a couple blocks east on Hollywood Boulevard and hop on into The Juices Fountain - a real Hollywood institution - and they'll actually put real fruit in the blenders right before your very eyes. Absolutely no frontin'.Yeah, go ahead and make jokes how Hollywood is "fake" and "artificial," but when we do natural, like a hike in Griffith Park, we don't f around.

The Militant will be fair here, Papaya King is a pretty good meal for a pretty good deal. The #5 combo only cost The Militant $6 and some change. Not bad at all. If you're in the area, it's worth going to, especially after a concert or a night in the clubs. This place is open until 3 a.m. (the original NYC location closes at 2 a.m. in comparison), which is really awesome for a Hollywood eatery that's not a Thai restaurant.

But is it worth going out of your way for? No. Was it worth waiting in the long lines during opening week? Haha, nope. The Militant was glad to be only the third person in line when he arrived. Of course, for all you NY transplants, Papaya King probably functions as some sort of homesick therapy clinic of sorts, unless you're willing to bitch and moan that "It's not the same as back home" once you took your first bite. The Militant can't help you there.

But now that Papaya King has arrived, it might as well be a good neighbor to all the other hot dogs in town. So how does it size up? Is it better than a Pink's? Naaah. Going to the little stand on La Brea is a local ritual, and usually you'll get something considerably-sized after waiting in line for so long. Better than Carney's? Yeah, right. Better than an Oki Dog? Don't make The Militant laugh. Better than a Dodger Dog? If it's a grilled one at the Stadium, then no. Better than a sidewalk cart bacon-wrapped dog? Are you kidding? (Papaya King is is healthier by far though). Better than Der Weinerschnitzel or a month-old 7-Eleven cooking-for-a-month dog? Aw hell yes.

Honestly, if you're craving for a hot dog and a tropical drink in Hollywood, The Militant will recommend a dog from Pink's and a smoothie from The Juices Fountain. Of course, the problem is that those two venerable Hollywood food stands are a little over two miles apart, the former has a long line and the latter closes at 5 p.m. Papaya King does offer the convenience of both in one place though. So there you go.

So, welcome to Los Angeles, Papaya King. Just be polite, don't be afraid to be a part of the community, respect the locals, don't whine and no one gets hurt.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Long Beach Week: King Of The (Signal) Hill

Well friends, Long Beach Week! has now come to an end. The Militant thought he'd close off this series by choosing a Long Beach location that's not even in The LBC proper (Gasp! But it's still in the 562 though...) That place is the 365-foot-high promontory overlooking the area called Signal Hill. Many of you may or may not know the place as its own city, but it's an actual hill.

Like Long Beach itself, it's got an interesting history and is very easy to get to. The name derives not from the communications towers situated at its peak, but from the Tongva -- the indigenous people of the Los Angeles area -- who used this sentinel to deliver smoke signals to their friends across the water in Pimug-na (a.k.a. Catalina Island).

More recently, in the 1920s, oil was discovered on Signal Hill, as it was part of the Long Beach Oil Field which produced 20 percent of the entire US oil supply that decade. Oil derricks once covered the hill so much, it was nicknamed, "Porcupine Hill."

After oil production slowed down (oil pumps still operate on the hill), it became the bougie district for the LBC, with a bunch of rich folks homes being built there.

But despite the upper income element, the place is very much publicly accessible.

After The Militant's Cambodia Town adventure, it was a simple matter of riding the Long Beach Transit Line 21 bus up Cherry Avenue, where he got off at Skyline Drive and took a not-that-strenuous uphill hike (Though the hill is 365 feet high, the bus will already take you halfway there) up the street to Hilltop Park, a wonderful public space dedicated not just to a killer view, but to the historic legacy of the hill.

In the middle of the part is an art installation that looks like an artificial blue palm tree, but actually symbolizes both the rising column of smoke from the Tongva and the rising gushes of oil from the black gold era. Other elements of the art installation tell the history of Signal Hill.

Although the view was apparently killed by the overcast clouds on this particular day, one can still get a killer view. Couples hung out to watch the sunset together. A photographer was taking snapshots of his modeling client. A Cambodian American couple were taking wedding engagement photos, dressed in traditional Khmer attire.A Latino family was sharing a meal on a picnic table. Others walked dogs or jogged on the Panorama Promenade paved path that runs along the northern edge of the hill, right under some rich people's houses.

From there, one can get a clear view of airplanes taking off and landing below at Long Beach Airport (pictured right). Cal State Long Beach was easily visible below. A little farther, and one can see buildings in Orange County.

Returning back to Hilltop Park, both Downtown Long Beach and the Long Beach Harbor are in full view. Heck, you can even see Los Angeles Harbor and the Vincent Thomas Bridge. As well as Carson and Wilmington towards the west, where the fierce power of the Southland's oil refineries rage on with wafting veils of stem, smoke and plumes of fire. Look north, just beyond the Compton courthouse building, right through the low clouds and you can see the faint outline of Downtown Los Angeles.

But perhaps the best part of Signal Hill? You can see each and every location The Militant covered in the Long Beach Week! series. Check it:
How many of the Seven Long Beach Buildings You Should Know About can you spot here?

Here's the Pacific Electric bridge on Orange and Hill!

Signal Hill is no longer Porcupine Hill, but you can definitely still see oil pumps still at work (And isn't that the Walter Pyramid there down below?)
As the sun set, The Militant marched back down the hill and took a short walk to Willow Street, where he boarded the Long Beach Transit Line 102 bus back to Long Beach Boulevard where he got on the (M) Blue Line train back to Los Angeles. It was a nice couple of days spent in Long Beach doing militant research for this blog series. He truly felt like a tourist in his own home land. Surely there were more adventures he could have written about and places to go...maybe he'll do Long Beach Week, Part Deux! But maybe The Militant hopes you make your own trip down the Blue Line, retrace some of his steps and go on your own Militant adventures in The LBC.

The Militant will leave you with an interactive Google Map on all the locations featured in The Militant Angeleno's Long Beach Week!

View Militant Angeleno's Long Beach Week! in a larger map

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Long Beach Week: A Truck Stop Cafe, 24 Hours A Day

A few months ago, an out-of-town friend of The Militant came for a visit (Yes, the Militant can have friends from other cities, just as long as they don't diss this one!). She had a list of places to visit while here, so we wasted no time. After picking her up from the airport and dropping her luggage off at her hotel, which was somewhere around Torrance (somehow the online reservation made her believe Torrance was a lot closer to Los Angeles than it really is...), we parked at the (M) Blue Line Wardlow station to head up to Downtown Los Angeles to catch a Lakers game.

Part of this was to not deal with the driving up and down the 110, and Lakers game parking. The other part was to show her we really do have a rail transit system in Los Angeles.

After the game (which the Lakers won, woo-hoo), we rode the train back to Long Beach and, back in The Militant's car, searched for a place to eat. It was already past 11 p.m., and late night eats in the LBC, unlike Hollywood or Koreatown, were slim pickins.
After circling up and down Long Beach Boulevard, there were few choices available. As this was a visitor from out of town, national chain restaurants were a no-no. And even the venerable Long Beach Roscoe's was nearing closing time.

What, to do, what to do?

The Militant pulled out his unspecified smartphone and entered, "24 HOUR RESTAURANT LONG BEACH"

And one of the first results to appear was...The 24-Hour Cafe.

Sometimes the best answer is the most obvious one.

This cafe wasn't in Downtown nor the Belmont Shore area but in a relatively desolate area of West Long Beach - an industrial area just north of the Long Beach Harbor, on the northwest corner of Anaheim Street and Santa Fe Avenue.

In a part of Long Beach more populated by cargo containers, oil refinery tanks and industrial buildings than people, drive by and you'll probably miss it. But the cafe's proximity to the 100-year old harbor is actually its greatest unique asset. After all, the port is a round-the-clock operation and the cafe serves it appropriately. A port-area family-owned institution since 1954, 24-Hour Cafe has served port-bound truckers not just food but amenities such as a lounge, a game room, a pool table and hot shower facilities.

The Militant and his out-of-town friend had a nice meal (for the price), at really affordable prices (pictured left). The cuisine is largely American diner food, with some Mexican dishes. The staff was cool and the waitress was even able to tell The Militant how long the establishment has been running (she herself having been working at the cafe since the late 1960s). Ask any Denny's staff how long their company has been running and you're guaranteed to get a blank stare.

There was only one or two other customers besides The Militant and his visiting friend. Chats of gossip while a TV screen airing CNN were the only sounds in the place at this hour, save for the occasional passing truck along Anaheim Street.  Even The Militant's visiting friend got the whole port culture. Usually places like this would be located farther inland, such as along The I-5 past The Grapevine. But this is located towards the destination (or the origin) of a trucker's route. They are likely less tired, less weary. It's certainly an aspect of Long Beach life that doesn't get highlighted very much.

One their way out, The Militant rummaged towards the back of the restaurant, his eyes heading towards every sign of truck driver culture. One such thing was a bulletin board near the bathrooms. One flier reminded drivers that idling for more than five minutes was against state law (pictured right).

It was true Militant serendipity that he found this place. Now, the question of where to eat late at night the next time he's in the Long Beach/Wilmington area has already been answered. This place is definitely Militant-Approved. Good, affordable food, no 'tude and the place just oozes being local. And did The Militant mention they also have Wi-Fi? Definitely worth a return trip!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Long Beach Week: Exclusively LB - DTLB's New Exclusive Bike Lanes

After The Militant rode his bike from the old Pacific Electric bridge, biked a short-but-sweet path in northern Long Beach and discovered a bit of LB history in Willmore City, he continued a bit south to Downtown Long Beach to check out this city's brand new exclusive bicycle lanes, which opened in April.

Not far from Willmore City, he joined the lanes at 3rd and Pacific to see what they were all about.

For those of you unfamiliar with LB's new bikegasmic thoroughfare, it's a bike lane, but not just any ordinary bike lane! Picture a bike lane where you are physically protected by moving vehicles. Picture a bike lane where you don't have to worry about motorists opening their doors in your way (The Militant almost had a couple of those encounters). Picture a bike lane where you have your own traffic signals. No need to picture it, you can actually bike it!

Here's a map:

View Long Beach Exclusive Bike Lanes! in a larger map

There is no formal start or end, just jump in! It's basically a circular two-mile route on two one-way streets - 3rd (westbound) and Broadway (eastbound), between Magnolia on the west and Alamitos on the east. The lane is at the leftmost side of the street, protected by a short curb or raised barrier on the street. Cars can par on the street, but they are well to the right of the bicycle lane, with ample room between cyclists and the length of an open car door, eliminating that dreaded "door zone." As the street is one way, so is the bike lane, no need to watch out for cyclists going in the other direction!

The first thing he noticed besides the seemingly Montana-wide space for cyclists, were the green areas. In areas where the bile lane crosses vehicle traffic in any way, the bike lane is painted green, to aid in visibility. This is most pronounced on all driveways (pictured right). The Militant only encountered about a couple of cars in the green zone, and we all had no problem recognizing each other.

The westbound lane came to an end around here, so The Militant navigated around some road construction one block to the south, to Broadway, where he was about to head eastbound this time.

The next thing The Militant noticed were the concrete planters placed in the area between the car lanes and the bike lane. Not just for aesthetics, but also to give a protective buffer to protect cyclists and parked automobiles alike.

Then came the badass traffic signals. For bikes only (pictured left). At one intersection, The Militant had stopped his bike at a red light. But after the cross traffic cleared, the Bike Signal went green even before the standard signals for cars, to give cyclists a few seconds to either re-mount or begin pedaling. OMG this is so freaking badass!

The Militant will admit there were moments where he nearly missed the signal. It is relatively small and easy to miss if you're not accustomed to them. But not every crossing has these. In intersections with large thoroughfares, such as Pacific Avenue and Long Beach Bolevard - both wide streets with light rail track in the middle - there is no exclusive Bike Signal. Cyclists must use the standard traffic lights.

Likewise, in those instances, there is a left turn lane for autos. The bike lane sort of zig-zags with this left turn lane (pictured right), and another green zone comes up, letting cars about to turn left know they're crossing the bike lane. Again, The Militant had no problems with cars here (though most people have already gotten off of work, so traffic was already tapering down).

He continued east until just across from LB's Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, the exclusive bike lane was no more. No sign that it was ending...just the harsh reality that after the next intersection your utopian cycling wet dream was all of a sudden over. So The Militant hung a brief north on Olive Avenue to head west again.

As he noticed the parked cars to the right of him, he also noticed that the parking meters were still in their usual places (pictured left). But this time, they were numbered. The corresponding parking pace number is painted on the street, so motorists who park there would have to walk across the bike path to reach the appropriate meter. Very practical, since parking meters do not have to be moved. Also, when in the vicinity of the Long Beach US Post Office, there were mailboxes conveniently placed in between the bike lane and the car lanes. Extra convenient (though they should have had at least one mailbox face the bike lane...).

Just as soon as The Militant was about to break a sweat, the bike lane ended (pictured right). (Awwww...) But no fear, there's more to come! It looks like this is just the first phase of a larger exclusive bike lane system (Yaaaaayyy!)

So is this the future? Will we see this in Los Angeles too (Shhheeah, maybe in The Year 3000...)? As cool as this is, you really need a wide one-way thoroughfare to make this happen, and not every place has the luxury of this kind of space. And even for cyclists, it's a weird new paradigm: As The Militant left, he caught a young family on bikes (one of them with a small child in a bikeseat) riding west along 3rd St...on the sidewalk! So even for the LB locals, this thing needs not only some getting used to but a public outreach awareness program - for motorists and cyclists alike.

Long Beach has been a very bike-friendly city for decades now. From the Bikestation built in the 1990s to today's exclusive lanes, who knows what the future will bring? Well, as long as it's not those silly bike licenses they had...
Ride Militant, Long Beach!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Long Beach Week: Khmer Down To Cambodia Town

The Militant Angeleno has long been a supporter and admirer of Los Angeles' designated ethnic neighborhoods - from Chinatown to Little Tokyo to Little Ethiopia to Little Armenia to Historic Filipinotown to Little Bangladesh to Koreatown (Little Ethiopia, don't worry, The Militant will show some love for ya soon!). As it turns out, Long Beach has one of its own -- Cambodia Town, and one of the reasons for The Militant to put on his Long Beach Week! was to go check it out.

Like Los Angeles, Long Beach is a pretty diverse community itself. After all, its motto is "The International City."

Long Beach is home of the largest Cambodian population in the United States, many of whom came here in the late 1970s as refugees escaping the genocide brought on by the tyrannical rule of the Khmer Rouge party. Nearly four years ago, on July 3, 2007, the Long Beach City Council officially designated a one-mile stretch of Anaheim Street between Atlantic and Junipero avenues as "Cambodia Town."

Unlike the designated ethnic communities in Los Angeles, there is no sign welcoming one to "Cambodia Town," but the sight of Khmer script (pictured right), murals (pictured above) and the presence of markets, restaurants, mechanic shops, jewelry stores, money remittance offices and video stores (many of them referencing places in Cambodia) were abundant.

After The Militant got off his Blue Line train at Anaheim Station, it was a simple matter of walking eastward on that street to explore.

His first stop was Kim Long Market (pictured left), just a couple blocks east of Long Beach Boulevard. It was a colorful, bustling supermarket which had the requisite produce, meat, fish, snakes, canned goods and small to-go food section typical of many ethnic markets.

Though it was a Cambodian market and most of the clientele were Khmer-speaking, the products were pan-Asian in nature: Items were imported from Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Japan and other countries, though hardly any from Cambodia.

But the Cambodian community doesn't exist in a vacuum. Long Beach is home to people from those above ethnicities after all, and likewise the country of Cambodia itself is influenced by its Asian neighbors.

In many ways, Cambodia Town is similar to its cousin 25 miles to the north, Los Angeles' Thai Town: Both encompass a single commercial street, both feature large, successful New Year festivals in April. Of course, Thais and Cambodians share many similarities -- similar basic customs, a related language/alphabet and Theravada Buddhism.

The food is similar. In fact, most Cambodia Town restaurants advertise themselves as "Thai-Cambodian Cuisine." Generally speaking, Cambodian food is the slightly-less spicy relative of Thai cuisine.

Speaking of which, all this walking has gotten The Militant kinda hungry...

The Militant found his food stop after a mile of walking: Siem Reap Restaurant, on Anaheim at Rose Ave. It had gotten a great reputation on Yelp, so The Militant figures it wouldn't be a bad choice at all.

The restaurant (named after the Cambodian city and province where the famous Angkor Wat ruins are located) was spacious and not very busy on this Thursday afternoon. A video screen playing a DVD of live Cambodian music and comedy performances was playing in the background. The Militant went on to order the amok trey, a seasoned fish and vegetable stew cooked inside a coconut, and a jackfruit shake. After telling the waitress it was his first time sampling Cambodian cuisine, he was also hooked up with a free pork and chicken soup and a small sample of sach ko angh - a beef skewer with papaya salad. It was all real good, and The Militant hopes to come back here again with some of his operatives!

Determined to walk the entire span of Cambodia Town (not to mention to walk off his lunch), he continued farther down Anaheim until Junipero Avenue, the easternmost end of the community. There stood the United Cambodian Community center (pictured left), a large building designed after traditional Khmer architecture.

On the windows of many of the businesses were many of the same posters promoting community events, like concerts, dance parties, fundraisers and even movie premieres, such as one that happened this week for the film, Rice Field Of Dreams, a documentary on the first Cambodian national baseball team (hey, they seem to bleed blue too).

The Militant had a great time exploring Cambodia Town, he hopes to return here again. You, too should Khmer and visit this place. Just take the (M) Blue Line down to Anaheim Station, and walk or bike east until Junipero Avenue (just a few blocks past Cherry Avenue). Or, you can take the Long Beach Transit lines 45 or 46 bus (Fare is $1.25).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Long Beach Week: Take Me Down To Willmore City... (The Obligatory LB History Lesson Post)

When we last left The Militant Angeleno, after appreciating Long Beach's most notable structures, he journeyed to The International City via Blue Line and bicycle to survey a unique concrete bridge, under which Pacific Electric Red Cars ran up until over 60 years ago. As he left, he had a brief encounter with that city's bike infrastructure, and found himself deciding whether to head back to Los Angeles, or continue his Militant mission in The LBC...

Dude, it's freaking Long Beach Week! Of course he kept riding!

He could have taken the Blue Line going south, but he decided to keep riding along Long Beach Blvd, just to experience what it was like to ride in this town. He experienced creatively-designed bicycle racks on the sidewalks, some shaped like pizzas, ice cream cones or cupcakes, some designed like stick figures on a bike. He headed west on Anaheim Street and turned due south just before reaching the Los Angeles River.

Without knowing anything about it, he noticed that the street signs looked different here -- this time, blue on white, with "Willmore City Historic District" emblazoned on the post-side end of the signs.

Willmore City?!? (Get the rope...)

Now, for those of you coming to read The Militant's blog for Long Beach Week! (Yes, the exclamation is part of the title) expecting to get some sort of history lesson on the place, today is your lucky day.

Aite, so here's LB history in a nutshell: Like most of So Cal, Long Beach's history traces back to the old Spanish rancho land grant system. Two ranchos - Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos, encompass today's Long Beach. Both were owned by soldier Manuel Nieto in 1784. In 1843, the former was sold after the death of Nieto's daughter to Massachusetts cattleman Jonathan Temple (who later served on the first American-era Los Angeles City Council and was the namesake of Temple Street). In 1866, Temple sold the the land to rancher Llewellyn Bixby, whose family (the Bixby Knolls neighborhood in northern Long Beach was named after them) developed the general area.

Oh yeah, in case anyone is wondering whether RLC is related to today's Cerritos, it definitely is. The northeastern corner of RLC eventually became the city of Dairy Valley, which re-named itself "Cerritos" ("little hills" in Español) in 1967.

In 1882, some 4,000 acres of the RLC was sold to developer William Willmore, who established a town called "Willmore City' (egotistical, much?) in an area towards the coast.

That year, Willmore City boasted the first-ever rail transit system in Los Angeles county, known as the American Colony Railway (pictured left), which ran three miles from Willmore City to the town of Wilmington to the west. The train, originally powered by an actual horse pulling cars on a wooden track (talk about old school!) was colloquially called "The GOP Railroad." No, not a railway for Republicans, but rather, because the train was prone to breaking the wooden track so often, passengers would have to Get Out and Push(!)

In 1888, Willmore City residents renamed the city "Long Beach." Was it named after New York state's Long Beach (BTW, the Militant visited there once, and it's rather pathetic)? Some dude named "Long?" Nope. The place literally had a long, wide beach. End of story.

In 1902, the Pacific Electric Railway arrived, and things boomed from there. For the next eight years, Long Beach was like the fastest growing city in the entire nation.

Today the LBC's birth name lives on as a historic preservation residential district just northwest of the downtown area. It sports quaint, wide, tree-lined streets, late 19th-early 20th century architecture and a seven-acre green space called Drake Park. The Militant found a Mayberryesque small town ambiance there (though the demographics are much more diverse), and even biked in the middle of the street for a considerable distance before encountering another car on the road. It's a pretty chill place.

So there you go. Long Beach's history is relatively new; by the time "Long Beach" existed, there was already an El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula in existence for some 107 years. In some respect, Willmore City is Long Beach's equivalent to Los Angeles' El Pueblo (though LB's version of the Avila Adobe would have to be the Rancho Los Cerritos adobe (where Jonathan Temple and later, Llewellyn Bixby's brother Jotham lived) some four miles to the north.
If you want to visit Willmore City for yourself and get a feel for Old School Strong Beach, it's rather easy. Just ride the (M) Blue Line to Long Beach, get off at the Pacific station, and walk or bike anywhere to the north and west. If you reach Anaheim Street or the Los Angeles River, you've gone too far.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Long Beach Week: Under Tha Bridg-izzle

The wonder of Los Angeles - and Southern California as a whole -- is that even an experienced militant like The Militant Angeleno himself, who has studied and researched more Los Angeles area history than anyone cares to know, will still get stumped and learn something new.

Take for instance his penchant obsession for researching Pacific Electric Railway relics. He thought he' seen it all, until he perused this video on teh YouTubez which identified one of the main locations for this classic Snoop Dogg vide-izzle:

(Feel free to play and listen to while reading...dude, it's MF'ing Snoop after all...)

What appears to be a sunken trench and an underpass is a curious-looking concrete bridge supporting Orange Ave. and East Hill Street in Long Beach, just near the Signal Hill border. That sunken trench was once the Pacific Electric Railway's Newport-Balboa Line, which branched some 22 miles from the Long Beach trunk line from where today's Willow (M) Blue Line station currently stands all the way down the coast to Balboa Island in Orange County. The 40-mile trip from Downtown Los Angeles to Newport Beach was traversed in 70 minutes. The line ran from 1904 to 1950. Unlike other bridges that cross over former PE right-of-ways (like this one in Mid-City Los Angeles on Venice Blvd), this bridge carried an entire intersection, a virtual anomaly when it comes to bridges, especially old ones.

So naturally, The Militant had to go check it out for himself.

On Thursday of last week, The Militant took his trusty bike on the (M) Blue Line and rode down to Willow, and rode due east on that street for a couple miles, turning south on Orange. Lo and behold, there it was:
It's a strange kind of bridge, meant not just to cross the tracks but to allow cars to negotiate the topography from the flatlands of the south to the more elevated region to the north.

The heavily-weathered and tagged builder's plate, located at the start of the E. Hill St. approach, reads:


The Militant headed down towards the bottom of the nearly 80-year-old structure, in an alleyway of sorts to peer into what used to be. Protected by a chain link fence, it looked like what an abandoned rail right of way looked like -- the usual juxtaposition of modern urban graffiti and architecture from decades long gone:
The tracks ran lengthwise, and the concrete-block wall in the left half of the photo was a more recent addition. Beyond the wall, the tracks went northwest towards the Willow junction. Towards the right, the tracks continued on to Newport Beach. Unfortunately the bridge structure is devoid of any remnants from the Pacific Electric era, such as trolley wire infrastructure, track, rail spikes or signals (it's been some 60 years since the last train ran through here, after all...).

The right-of-way trench would often resemble a makeshift creek during rainy seasons and would be overgrown with not just weeds but riparian plantlife. Locals used to call it "the swamp" and even recall catching frogs there (or would those be called "Froggs?").

Nowadays, part of the right-of-way has been paved over, and relegated to quasi-industrial uses like junkyards or public storage facilities. However, a great deal of the former trackage towards Newport Beach from this end still looks barren.

Seventy minutes from Downtown Los Angeles to Newport Beach...with stops? Granted, there was hardly anything in between the stops back then, mainly oil fields, farms and wetlands. But it's a wonder why this precious right-of-way was never considered to be used for future transit proposals (The reason why is because it was not owned by the PE's property successor, the Southern Pacific Railroad, as properties like the Exposition right-of-way were).

The future of the old Newport right-of-way was discovered during The Militant's visit. Heading back towards the Blue Line after his Militant mission, he happened upon a short (50-foot) bike path, which led him across Hill to a sharrowed Lemon Avenue, which led to a newly-built park containing an exclusive Class I bike path (pictured left). WOW! Long Beach is AWESOME! The Militant can just ride this back to the Blue Line! So he rode and ro...oh.
Long Beyotch, you f'ing cocktease.

All was not lost though. The craftsman-like pedestals on the bike path end structure are exactly the same as the pedestal in the above picture of the under-the-bridge shot. So apparently what The Militant rode on is just the start of what would be a longer bike path, which may or may not take over the entire right-of-way. If the Militant can't ride a train to Newport Beach, then riding his bike from Long Beach is the next best thing.

Forced to ride in the street, he headed due west on 23rd Street and soon found some of these on the way...bike route signage (pictured right). Hmm. So he followed them and soon found himself back on Long Beach Blvd, just south of the Willow Station. Hmmm. Should The Militant hop on the train back to Los Angeles, or continue biking?

To Be Continued... :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Long Beach Week: Seven LB Buildings You Should Know About

This week, the Militant Angeleno will be featuring the town 20 miles to the south, for no other reason than because he feels like it. Known for a big boat, an aquarium, Snoop Dogg and the harbor, it also has many other unique qualities to it and its own history. The Militant's Long Beach Week will by no means be comprehensive, and you probably won't be some Longbeachologist by next week, but living basically in the shadow of Los Angeles for its entire history, its time to at least give Long Beach some props. So to The 562, this one's for you.

The Militant has spent an unspecified number of days conducting Militant research in The LBC, and will also pay some additional visits this week, all for you, the reader, for the sole purpose of militant knowledge. So let's start with some landmark structures. Here's seven buildings you should be familiar with in Strong Beach:

1. World Trade Center (1989)
Long Beach's tallest building, located at the far west end of the city's financial district may not have the legendary status of its deceased New Yorker cousins, but it is part of the same family. Speaking of its famous relative, the 30-story building was designed to visually resemble twin towers when viewed from an angle, with the reflective vertical glass column acting as the space between.

True to its era, it more closely resembles its taller local relatives in Downtown Los Angeles and in Century City, with its glass skin elements and its 45-degree axis off the street grid.

2. International Tower (1967)
Downtown condos might be a relatively new phenomenon in Los Angeles, but Long Beach, perhaps the sole So Cal city to boast an oceanfront skyline, has been rocking condos for decades. Prior to the LBC WTC, this was the tallest building in town.

The tower's name, whether intentionally or coincidentally, coincides with Long Beach's official motto: "The International City."

The cylindrical structure, a familiar sight during the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, was designed by the late prestressed concrete pioneer T.Y. Lin, who also designed SF's Moscone Convention Center.

3. Villa Riviera (1929)
LB's most visual historic structure has quite a history of its own. When built, the 17-story French/Tudor Gothic building was the second-tallest building in Southern California, after Los Angeles City Hall. It was the most well-known survivor of the 6.4-magnitude 1933 Long Beach Earthquake, the aftermath of which which created earthquake codes in Southern California.

Movie star Norma Talmadge once owned the building in the 1930s, and lived in its penthouse.

The apartment building also served as living quarters for visiting U.S. Navy officers during World War II, which used the tower at the top of the building as a lookout for enemy ships.

In 1952, Villa Riviera was the venue for the first-ever Miss Universe pageant.

In 1991 it joined its neighbors and went condo. At over 80 years old, it still holds residences today.

4. Farmers & Merchants Bank Building (1923)
This 10-story building is historically significant in Long Beach as the first skyscraper in the city. Built in an Italian Renaissance style with Greek and Roman elements, it represented its tenant institution well as a major catalyst in the economic growth of the city of Long Beach.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, famed "Pure Rock" station KNAC 105.5 broadcast from the top floor of the Farmers & Merchants building.

The 104-year old bank, not affiliated with the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, still operates today, with branches around Long Beach, South Bay and Orange County.

5. Walter Pyramid (1994)
On the more modern side, this 5,000-seat indoor sports venue, on the campus of California State University, Long Beach, is the home to the school's 49ers basketball and volleyball programs.

The Walter Pyramid, one of only three "mathematically true" pyramid buildings in the United States (The Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas and Memphis' Pyramid Arena being the other two).

Originally known as the Long Beach Pyramid, the building changed its name thanks to Dr. Mike and Arline Walter, who donated $2.1 million to the school.

6. Long Beach Cruise Terminal (a.k.a. The Dome Formerly Known To Have Housed The Spruce Goose) (1983)
Believe it or not, Long Beach is home of the world's largest existing geodesic dome. This structure, located next door to some famous boat in Long Beach Harbor, was built in 1983 to house Howard Hughes' ginormous Spruce Goose airplane, which was built here in Los Angeles and flew in LB harbor, albeit briefly, on November 2, 1947. The dome's designer, Don Richter, was an associate of R. Buckminster Fuller, the main jefe when it came to geodesic domes.

After a proposal to build a maritime-based Disney theme park on the site fell through, LB let loose the Spruce Goose in 1992, and it now resides in the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. The dome is currently used as an oversized Carnival cruise ship terminal.

7. Occidental Oil Islands (1964)
Aside from the harbor, oil was the primary economic generator in the Long Beach area in the 20th century, with many places in the LBC and neighboring Signal Hill still sporting oil pumps. Underneath the Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors lie the Wilmington Oil Field, and in the eastern portion of it, four man-made islands, decorated with palm trees and towers make it appear from a distance as some sort of resort (they were designed by the same Walt Disney Imagineers who designed Tomorrowland), but all of them actually house some pretty nasty-looking oil drilling infrastructure.

Built in 1964, the islands were named after late NASA astronauts: Grissom, White, Chafee and Freeman -- the first three dedicated to those who perished during the ill-fated Apollo 1 mission, the latter who died in a training flight.

The oil islands, originally established by Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil and Shell oil companies are currently operated by Occidental Petroleum.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

(Who's Afraid Of) The Art Of Transportation

The Militant celebrated four years of blogging with a nice bike ride on Thursday around Downtown Los Angeles. He felt inspired.

Transportation -- of any and every kind -- is perhaps the most consistent visual motif in Los Angeles. From bikes on the streets to bus lines on the boulevards to cars on the freeway to trains underground to airplanes overhead, we're all about coming from somewhere and going somewhere, with several million reasons, feelings and stories interspersed with every block, exit, stop or station we encounter. Transportation inspires us to react -- whether we cuss, relax, pedal harder, Tweet, blog or even create art.

Donwtown Los Angeles art gallery Crewest, which specializes in modern urban art, is currently exhibiting "The Art Of Transportation," featuring the works of over 30 artists, all depicting visual art on or inspired by various transportation vehicles: from trains to planes to automobiles (buses, bikes, trucks and freeway infrastructure are well-represented too).

Many of the pieces are works of graffiti artists who do pieces on railroad freight cars, some of which are photographs of their pieces. But a few of them have put their pieces on model railroad cars, which are part of the exhibit as well.

One of the artists, Benny Boggs, who goes by the graffiti name "Diar," has a few pieces displayed on G- and HO-scale boxcars (pictured left). What makes his story remarkable was that he was paralyzed from the neck-down in a car accident in 2008, but that didn't let him stop his desire to create. Since then, he's done paintings and model train graffiti pieces -- painted with a brush guided by his mouth.

Aside from a couple paintings and models of graff'd-out NYC subway cars, this exhibit is undeniably Los Angeles, with the familiar local images of miniature freeway signs as a canvas, photos of Metro Rail trains, local freight railroads, even a painting of an old-school RTD bus (That's Metro's predecessor agency for all you newly transplanteds). Best of all, most of the artists are native Angelenos/Southern Californians, so they ain't frontin'!

In case you don't know, this exhibit is MILITANT-APPROVED and y'all should check this out before it closes down on June 26. Crewest is a little east of Gallery Row, around the corner from Blossom Vietnamese restaurant on Main. It's a 4 1/2 block walk from the (M) Pershing Square station. Or you can just bike in -- they were even cool with The Militant bringing his bike inside!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Militant "4" Life: The First Four Years of Militancy!

The Militant hasn't been that active on teh blogz lately, but he just wanted to take a little time out of his day to say that four years ago today, The Militant Angeleno blog began.

Normally every year on this date, the Militant does something interesting, or at least reflects on the past few years of Militancy in the City of Angels.

Four years is not exactly an eternity, but it is a considerable amount of time. If the Militant were an elected official, he would have served one full term. Are you more militant than you were four years ago?

Part of his inactivity is attributed to the fact that part of his job has already been done. The number of blogs and website out there in the local scene are much more in touch, more aware and more proud of the city they represent, and the number of bloggers and blog posts that represent the Uninformed-Los Angeles-hating-yet-you-still-live-here-WTF perspective are kind of rare these days.

And that's not just tooting his own horn. The site blogging.la has of late been doing a series highlighting its contemporaries in the local blog scene, entitled, Blogging (in) LA. About a month ago, writer Sean Bonner (Whom the Militant doesn't know personally, but has definitely been on quite a few group bike rides in the past...shhhh :)), wrote a touching paean to the Militant Angeleno's blog. Bonner went on to share his experience as a decade-long transplant to Los Angeles, but one that has learned to love, appreciate and defend his city (unlike most other transplants...). That meant a lot for The Militant to hear!

The quote of quotes read, "There is no question countless people in LA know more about their own city because of [his] efforts." The Militant won't put up a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner up on some ship in San Pedro harbor, but it definitely validates the reason why The Militant exists.

The Militant has definitely been a presence on Twitter (follow him if you haven't already!) and it's much easier to do, so in this day an age, he's more than just a mere blogger but a FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH! He's even contemplating getting into Tumblr or something -- not to supplant the MA blog -- but to supplement it. He's even thought of doing his own podcast (locally-born/bred bands/artists, take heed!)

As The Militant alluded to at the beginning of the post, life has gotten in the way of blogging (but his real-life persona is no less militant, he will assure you). Sometimes life is too important to live than to write about.

But The Militant is by no means done, there are more journeys and issues to discuss. He has a list of them ready to go. Some of them take lots of time to research (much like his popular Sacatela Creek and Los Angeles Street Signs posts). Also, the next CicLAvia on October 9 will present an expanded route, which means an updated Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour!

If the Militant is starting out his "second term," then he wants to hear from his "constituents." No, not just "Nice post," but what you think The Militant has been doing right, has been doing wrong, places and issues you would like to see. Of course, The Militant doesn't answer to anyone and does whatever he feels like, but he does want to hear about something that will make him think, or at least inspire him. So, don't be afraid to comment on this post, email him or shoot him a Twitter message.

So here's to another FOUR MORE (unspecified number of) YEARS! STAY MILITANT!