Thursday, July 28, 2011

Conan's (Street) Sign Of The Times

The Mayor's office has responded to talk show host Conan O'Brien's request to have his own eponymous Los Angeles City Street. And lookie lookie, it also features one o' dem new-fangled Chevy logo/UFO street signs that The Militant talked about in great detail a few months ago.

The gist of the video response is that Coco needs to prove his worth to the City by giving back in some form or another. Though The Miltant has had his criticisms of Villaraigosa through the years (most of them non-transportation-related though), The Militant is 100% in agreement that the Boston-area native-via-NYC transplant has to sow, and not just reap, in this urban farmland of Los Angeles.

The Militant may or may not be a Conan fan of course, but the "giving back" mandate should apply to  everyone in the entertainment industry. Do we not have a huge divide between the money-grubbing entertainment industry and the countless urban needs in this City? Imagine if all the entertainment companies would "prove their worth" in this City (other than sponsoring the annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles, which seems to be the sole token example of community support the entertainment industry really does).

Furthermore, when the Angelenos listed their litany of community give-backs in the Mayor's video, The Militant couldn't help but realize that he's already done most of these things already.

The Militant has been living in Los Angeles longer than Conan O'Brien obviously, but his blog (4 years) has long outlasted the talk show host's 15-month stint here (7 months at NBC, 8 months at TBS).

So where's Militant Angeleno Street? RECOGNIZE!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vermont Square: A Literal Oasis In South Los Angeles

On Monday, July 18, the very day the Los Angeles Public Library restored Monday hours (thanks to Measure L) after a budget crisis-related 11-month service cut, The Militant decided to pay a visit to a branch.

He could have gone to his local branch(es), but then that would have given away too much. So he went to a significant branch library, located in South Los Angeles. He chose the Vermont Square Branch.

The first thing about this library is its location: Nestled three blocks west of its eponymous avenue and just south of Vernon Ave, this quaint green space surrounded by Budlong Avenue and 47th and 48th streets is not what many expect to see in South Los Angeles (Of course, as you may or may not know, The Militant is all into that). One of the last vestiges of a formerly ritzy neighborhood (now where has The Militant heard that before?), aside from the old early 20th-century craftsman homes in this neighborhood is this pristine green space, Vermont Square Park, populated with tall, mature trees.

Aside from the occasional blare of car stereo hip-hop music and one person riding around the neighborhood in an overly noisy motocross bike, it was a peaceful, quiet scene, with neighborhood folks sitting on camping chairs in the grass, socializing, and teenagers walking up to the library's front entrance.

The other remarkable fact about this library is its history: Vermont Square is the oldest continuously-operating branch in the LAPL system, and the first branch library on City-owned property. Back in the day, most of the City's libraries operated out of leased facilities, including the LAPL's first outpost, the Benjamin Franklin Branch in Boyle Heights. Even the Central Library operated for 54 years before finding a permanent home on 5th and Flower.

But Vermont Square's history is even more fascinating than that. It was the first of six LAPL branches funded by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, who financed the construction of numerious libraries in not just the US, but around the world. Only two other Carnegie-built branches remain in operation today - the Cahuenga Branch in East Hollywood and the Lincoln Heights branch.

On this first Monday of service in 11 months, there were easily over 30 library patrons reading, studying or using the facility's computers. Apparently word of the long-awaited Monday reopenings traveled fast.

So here's to 6.4 million books, 1.3 million cardholders and 72 branches of the Los Angeles Public Library system on this day! Don't forget to visit your local, or any other historically significant branch, especially on a Monday!

"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the free public library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office nor wealth receives the slightest consideration."  -- Andrew Carnegie

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In Woodland Hills, The *Real* Grove Grows

The Militant took advantage of the free
(M) Red and Orange line rides on CarmaChameleon Saturday to do some Militant exploration in the San Fernando Valley.

It wasn't a very long bike ride from the Orange Line Pierce College station, through the bike path, down Corbin Avenue and down a few blocks south of Ventura Boulevard to see it.

The Militant took a virtual trip back into time to pay a visit to Bothwell Ranch, the last commercial orange grove in The Valley.
As you may or may not know, around the same time Los Angeles hosted its first Olympic games, the San Fernando Valley was a huge agricultural area, boasting over 15,000 acres of commercially-farmed citrus groves. Now, almost 80 years later, all but 14 acres remain in a quiet, affluent part of Woodland Hills, just a few blocks east of Taft High School.

Located along Oakdale Avenue, Bothwell Ranch is home to some 2,000 Valencia orange trees, which are mostly cordoned off, although  premature green oranges can be found hanging outside the rusty wire fence. Most of the grove is visible along Collier Street, which runs along the southern end of the property (You'll also find this school across Collier from the grove, which will give you your LOL for the day).

As CalTrans workers hammered away at half of a concrete bridge less than six miles to the southeast, only the sound of birds, the breeze and occasional dogs can be heard here. Listen close, and the whoosh of light traffic along the nearby 101 can be heard, albeit faintly.

It's almost as if The Militant really did go back in time. Come to think of it, this sign on a telephone pole in front of the property (pictured left) not only contains a "Bell System" logo, but a local 213 number for The Valley.

Most of the orange trees have recently been harvested, as July is their harvest month, though a number of them towards the eastern end still bear fruit that will probably be picked soon. Valencia oranges are usually farmed for orange juice.

The agricultural era in the SFV ended mainly due to rising water costs (Oranges need lots of H2O) and poswar suburban development.

Although this is the last commercially-farmed orange grove in the SFV, there are other smaller groves in the area, mainly for educational and non-profit use: The city-owned Orcutt Ranch (12 acres), Cal State Northridge (8 acres) and Bishop Alemany High School (1.5 acres). The map below shows you where to find all of them:

View Remaining Orange Groves in the San Fernando Valley in a larger map

Bothwell Ranch is still family-run, headed by Ann Bothwell, the 93-year old family matriarch. Her late husband, Lindley, once owned a company that owned orange groves across Southern California. The grove is also home to Lindley's rare classic car collection, 75 in all, which includes a 1913 Peugeot race car. Her grandchildren maintain the trees and cars today.

When an operative who works in the area tipped off the location to The Militant a few months ago, he was overcome with delight. We are well familiar with vestiges of our local history being eaten away, but orange you glad that there are still some folks who preserve some of it for us today?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Carmageddon It On This Weekend

Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. Carmageddon. CarmagAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGHHH ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!


Look, [catches breath] this weekend's closure of part of the 405 Freeway is all everyone has been talking about this month, and the Militant is honestly kinda sick of it. Sick of the blowing out of proportion, sick of the Westside/Valley-centricness of it all, sick of the autocentricness of it all, sick of everything.

The Militant takes pride in covering things you won't hear about in the mainstream media or in other blogs, so a part of The Militant thinks it's not even worth talking about this. After all, many have already said what The Militant wants to say about this issue.

But here it is anyway, mainly because every issue that "Carmageddon" addresses is something The Militant has long addressed with his own militant lifestyle, and because of that, he is pretty much 100% immune to any of the feared snafus that the prognosticators are forecasting. Haven't you learned already?

First off, The Militant strongly believes that this "Carmageddon" thing, like Los Angeles itself, cannot be defined by one particular incident or phenomena. It will be greatly changing. There will be some clogged traffic here, and free-flowing traffic there ( but, because of that constant change, The Militant, long in favor ot replacing popular buzzwords with his own, will from here on call "Carmageddon," CarmaChameleon.

You transplants and youngins obviously don't know your history, but in 1984, when we hosted our second Olympics here in Los Angeles (how many of you from other states come from a place that hosted the Summer Games more than once? The Militant thought so), the games, which lasted not just two days, but two weeks, and not just one location, but 28, was originally thought to be an '80s CarmaChameleon of its own (Just substitute all those Honda CR-Vs and Toyota Priuses with VW Vanagons and Datsuns). Of course, back in the '80s, "CarmaChameleon" was real popular, so people probably wouldn't have thought of it as a bad thing.

And it wasn't.

Thanks to staggered work schedules, people taking vacations, alternate surface street routes, additional RTD bus service and state-of-the-art (at the time) traffic management, we actually had pretty free-flowing traffic, as well as the most finacially-successful Olympic games evar. A younger teenage Militant still has very fond memories of that time in this City...

Do you really need to drive on the 405 along the Sepulveda Pass? The Militant drives on that thing like 2-3, maybe four times a year tops. The last time he was on it was like August of 2010...11 months ago. Get over yourselves.

• You May or May Not Know that Metro has FREE service on the Red and Purple subway lines, the Orange busway line and a number of Local and Rapid bus lines this weekend. And Metrolink and Amtrak have additional trains (Though not free though, booo...) where they usually don't have any during the weekend. Even if you don't live in the Valley or the Westside, this is a perfect opportunity to take the train or ride a bus somewhere. To shop, to eat, to drink, to party, to socialize, to worship, to hang, or to discover more of your city. You read this blog, right? Ever wanted to visit some of the places The Militant has been to? Well, get to it!

• Speaking of discovery, why not walk or bike around your own neighborhood? The Militant offers you a challenge: Discover FIVE things about your neighborhood that you never knew existed before. List them in the Comments of this post when you're done. And if you give the Militant some lame-ass answer like, "I can't walk around my neighborhood cuz there's nothing here" then The Militant will smack you upside the head, because you're too lazy-ass to try. GET TO IT!

• It's truly a shame that over 10 miles of the 11-mile closure route will go to waste. No SuperCicLAvia? No freeway parties on the 405? Unfortunately Adam-12 will frown on that, citing "safety" concerns (sooo, it's much more dangerous without cars than it is with?). Imagine if the State of California charged everyone $20 and got them to sign a liability waiver instead. Our state budget deficit would be wiped out by lunchtime Monday. Tellin ya...

• If you do stay home, do spend your weekend reading The Militant Angeleno's blog post archive! There's quite a bit he's written in the past four years that's still relevant today. There is even a secret code embedded in the posts that will reveal his real name. Crack the code and you may or may not find out who he is!

• Really, this weekend ain't gonna be all that bad. The worse jam that will happen will be no worse than what happens any other day. It's like the freeway version of Y2K, and you know how all that turned out. And even though there will be another 405 closure next year, The Militant can't wait until Tuesday when no one will ever speak of CarmaChameleon again.

Oh why not...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Stadium Issue That's Impossible To Dodge

The biggest Dodger story of the week aside from Kemp, Kershaw and Ethier's All-Star appearance in the 5-1 NL win was news (or speculation) that the Dodgers may or may not move to a new stadium in Downtown Los Angeles. After Tweeting about the 30-year injustice of the Dodgers not hosting an All-Star game, The Militant joked that we'll have one -- at the proposed Farmer's Field. But in reality, that might not be that far off after all.

Whether the proposed NFL stadium will yield a fruitful Autumn harvest of a football franchise in Los Angeles remains to be seen. But the proposed site or adjacent land may very well be the Dodgers' third Los Angeles home.

Naturally and understandably, True Blue fans will balk at the idea, citing nostalgia, sentimentality and that killer view of the San Gabriels. But this warants serious discussion. We may or may not like this idea, but it may very well be an inevitability.

Dodger fans have long complained about the lack of dedicated mass transit options to The Stadium, the lack of nearby pre- and post- game hangouts, fans not showing up until the 4th inning, exponentially increasing costs of stadium parking, fans leaving after the 7th inning to beat traffic and the infamous hour-long queue out of the parking lot after the end of the game for those of us who do stay until the end of the game (i.e. The REAL Dodger fans).

And add to that Dodger Despot Frank McCourt's proposed scheme to retain ownership of The Stadium and parking lot in the event he does sell the actual franchise.

A new Downtown stadium may very well get rid of those problems forever.

There are other benefits as well: A mega-sports corridor along Figueroa from MLK to Olympic may very well be the kicker in Los Angeles being awarded a third Summer Games. The classic "L.A. is too spread out" whine of the transplant may very well lose more of its meaning. It would also strengthen the desire for non-Metro Rail served communities and areas to get linked up to the system.

The Militant will be the first to tell you that it's hard to picture The Dodgers play any place else. The same mound where Koufax fastballed was the same one Valenzuela K'ed from and is the same one that Kershaw throws today. Four of the Dodgers' five titles in Los Angeles (which, the Militant should point out, is still fivefold more than the one title the hated Frisco Giants loooove to boast about) were fought and won on Chavez Ravine's turf. The Militant can go on, and so could you.

But Los Angeles sports fans have done it before. Laker fans once thought a move from their longtime home court at The (Fabulous Great Western) Forum was inconcievable, but the past 12 seasons have shown us that Figueroa Street is just as FTW as Prairie Avenue, and aside from a couple exhibition games For Old Time's Sake, the Purple & Gold faithful have never looked back.

The Dodgers, who only have two years' seniority over the Lakers in this City, can do the same. The game, the team spirit, the history and tradition of any sports franchise is larger than any building it happens to play in.

The Brooklyn Dodgers moved five times during their first life out east. That never stopped the fans there from suporting their team, did it?  And speaking of which, the team got its name from its fans dodging trolleys near its then-home venue of Eastern Park, which was located in between two streetcar lines.

With the (M) Blue (how appropo) and Expo Lines all running along nearby Flower Street, not to mention an additional streetcar system proposed for DTLA, our Los Angeles Trolley Dodgers can finally live up to their name again (which is more than the Lakers can do, unless it's flash flood season).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Love It And Levitt

Like many Angelenos, The Militant likes to go out and enjoy a good concert once in a while. On Sunday he had a chance to do just that by hopping on the (M) Gold Line, getting off at the Memorial Park station and walking all but a few yards to the Levitt Pavilion Pasadena. What may or may not look like an ordinary bandshell in a park is actually one of our best local treasures - its annual Summer concert series.

Did The Militant mention that the concert was FREE?!
The Levitt Pavilion has been rockin' since 2002 as one of a network of Levitt Pavilions across the country, in Connecticut, Texas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, all dedicated to bringing free quality music events to the masses.

But us Angelenos are downright spoiled, since we have not just one, but two Levitt Pavilions in the area. As The Militant reported back in 2007, the bandshell at MacArthur Park joined the Levitt family and has been rockin' since then as our area's second Levitt Pavilion. Seriously, we're the only metropolitan area in the country to have two of them. And, like its older sister in Pasadena, it's also Metro Rail-accessible.

Though The Militant had been to The Levitt Pasadena before, covering that town's Make Music Pasadena event, this past Sunday evening was the first time The Militant caught one of their Summer concert shows. He saw a performance by a 7-member band called Freshlyground from Cape Town, South Africa. They got international attention last year by collaborating with pop singer Shakira on this song for the 2010 World Cup (no, there's no vuvuzela player in the band). The singer was a woman that probably stood about 4' 10" but she had a voice bigger than the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. The band played a mix of world music, pop and soul, that got everyone dancing.

South Africa, a place that has a similar Mediterranean climate as Los Angeles, as you may or may not know, is a country that existed for years under the government-enforced racial segregation system of apartheid, which ended in the 1990s and soon elected former political prisoner (some would call him a militant in his own right) Nelson Mandela as president. So how awesome was it to see this integrated, post-apartheid band from South Africa play in front of a few thousand Southern Californians that look like the total opposite of what apartheid stood for? And for those of you who continually say Los Angeles is a "segregated" city (And you only say that because everyone in your Podunk hometown looks alike), y'all don't know shit, seriously.

Speaking of bucking stereotypes, The Militant has always heard the transplanted ignoranti whine that "L.A. crowds are dead/jaded/etc at concerts." O RLY? The whole park was dancing around by the end of the show (pictured right). Explain that, fool! No, don't explain. Just get out of The Militant's face before he smacks you upside the head!

If you're looking for something to do during this weekend's CarmageddonChameleon, then go pack a picnic basket, leave the car at home and check out a free concert at either one of our Levitt Pavilions. Or, you can go Downtown and watch one at Grand Performances. See? Awesome free concerts...this town is full of 'em.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The 2011 Low-Dose Festival In Echo Park


Pysch. :(
Los Angeles has many cultural festivals, but The Militant is particularly fond of The Lotus Festival, for several reasons. First of all, he's been going to it ever since he was a Lil' Mil, it symbolically marks the middle of the year and most of all, its attendees reflect the total diversity of all that is Los Angeles.
Recently, the ups-and-downs of the Festival almost seem to be a direct reflection of the City government's financial health.

And of course, The Militant Angeleno has been covering The Lotus Festival every single year.

So here we go with the 2011 edition...

Right after The Militant arrived in Echo Park on Saturday, the whole thing was summed up in two words: SCALED DOWN.

Hey, the bird vendor exhibit was really popular though.
Though no one's boycotting The Lotus Festival, like nearby Dodger Stadium, crowds were visibly smaller. Not as packed, and the Festival grounds were a lot more compact. Even the entertainment wasn't as loud as it usually is.

The food court was sorely lacking in variety. You had like eight Thai food stands, four Mexican food stands and one Korean BBQ stand (Guess where The Militant ate at...nothing against Thai or Mexican food, he loves them too, but give us some more choices, sheesh!), and that was it. Gone were those crazy USC students selling Okinawan dangos. The Vietnames banh mi was more like banh M.I.A. And likewise for anyone looking for Indian, Hawaiian, Filipino or Chinese were out of luck this year.

The two most fun events of the Festival - The Saturday night fireworks display and the traditional Dragon Boat Race - were absent from the Festival for the second year in a row, for obvious budget reasons.

Even though the Festival is no longer exclusively run by the City's Department of Recreation and Parks, the Lotus Festival Inc. nonprofit that operates it now isn't exactly oozing with money either. The fireworks display, normally performed by a Rialto-based pyrotechnics company, costs over ten thousand dollars to produce.

The Dragon Boat Race, a benefit event raising scholarship money, run by participating local businesses, nonprofits and offices of elected officials, using privately-owned boats, is also a victim of the budget crisis. According to one operative, the City's Rec and Parks Department charges the boat race organizers $4,000 just to use the Echo Park lake's jetty, and an additional $2,000 to tranport the boats out of storage.

Sure the City needs some extra cash, but will $6,000 in revenue really make a difference in the $336 million budget deficit? And why all that money just to use the dang jetty, when the lake will be shut down on Tuesday for a 21-month rehab project anyway (more on this next week)?

Speaking of which, this will be the last Lotus Festival until at 2013 or 2014. The organizers have previously toyed with the idea of moving the Festival to either Lincoln Park or nearby MacArthur Park, but have decided it's best to just go into hiatus again and stay put.

Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. is your last chance to enjoy the Lotus Fest (and Echo Park Lake itself) for quite a while. This year, the featured culture is Thailand, and on Sunday only they will have a muay thai kickboxing ring set up in the park (According to another operative, it's not the same ring as the one at the Songkran Thai New Year festival). So get your kicks while they last.

Lotus Fest, The Militant will miss ya, but do come back strong.

Friday, July 8, 2011

For The Win(ners)

Look, even though the Dodgers are in last place, and even though there's a planned protest on Saturday to voice fan displeasure with the McCourt regime (The Militant is 100% for the Deportation of Frank McCourt, but he's also 100% against that rich Dallas dude owning our beloved Boys in Blue, so The Militant's support for the protest is mixed), there's nothing like taking in a Dodger game in the Summertime.

Yes, The Militant is actively boycotting The Dodgers, but he will still attend a game if he can get away with free tickets, using the Dodger Stadium Express bus and eating off-site, resulting in a net of $0.00 for The McCourt regime.

A few months ago, The Militant attended an unspecified organization's fundraiser event, and successfully bid on four Dodgers Loge level tickets in its silent auction. Since the Dodgers donated the tickets to this organization, and the Militant's money went to the organization instead of the McCourt regime, these were, in effect, "free tickets."

The Militant was wondering which of his operatives to take to the game, but had another idea.

After four years of Militancy, he's often wondered what kind of people read his blog and follow his tweets. A number of people are pretty dedicated and hard core MA blog readers, so he wanted to find a way to reward them somehow.

So, he e-mailed a random sampling of MA readers (if you didn't get an e-mail from The Militant, worry not, you may or may not get a chance later on) and randomly selected three qualifying respondents to win a prize: A chance to attend Friday's Dodgers vs. Padres game with The Militant Angeleno.

Wait, what?!?!

The Militant's identity was revealed at last?

Well, it may or may not have. Seriously. His true identity was never revealed to the three unspecified winners, but he did appear unmasked, sort of.

After meeting at an unspecified Downtown landmark eatery, we took the bus to The Stadium, and like clockwork, arrived right at The Militant's proper game deadline: The singing of The National Anthem.

The Militant won't reveal much details but he will say that he and the three winners, each of whom hail from different backgrounds and live in different parts of town, all had an awesome time, each partaking in  some awesome conversation. The Militant got to know more about these folks, whom he never had the chance to meet in his other life, and they got to know more about The Militant (well, all he is allowed to reveal...). A bunch of cool, down-to-Earth, real people.

So all y'all who say Angelenos are superficial, self-centered, rude, stupid and any other pejorative pinned on the people from this great city, you need to sit down with a knife and fork and dine on a piping-hot, fresh-from-the-oven shit pie. You need to go on Twitter, follow @TheShitTruck and eat today's special. you need to search on Yelp for the word "shit" and...okay, you get the picture.

As for the game, it was almost secondary, but the 8th and 9th innings were all that mattered: Furcal's RBI single, Javy Guerra's cliffhanger save and the Dodgers' second shutout win in a row, beating the San Diego team 1-0. The evening couldn't have been better.

But it was: After Randy Newman's victory song, the four of us went down to the outfield, and situated ourselves right smack dab in the middle of Andre Ethier's workplace, on the very same sacred grass field where so many Dodger memories were made, where we saw a 15-minute low-altitude (as to not disturb the neighbors as much) fireworks display (as if we all didn't get our fill on Monday).

The awesome conversations continued on the bus back to Union Station, where, upon arrival, The Militant led them to a spot on Vignes Street and pointed to a location not far from there, where he gave them an exclusive Militant tour of a significant historical location (He'll tell the rest of you readers all about it later on). After that, they all went their separate ways, and The Militant went back underground, both literally and figuratively.

The Militant has long lurked in the shadows, but it was very exciting to step out, albeit for just a little bit. This was an experiment in expanding Angeleno militancy on a more social level. After all, other sites shouldn't have a monopoly on social events, and The Militant has been doing his thing longer than they have.
Of course, such gatherings would have to be controlled. No doubt his enemies will inevitably try to infiltrate such events for the sole sake of exposing his identity. So The Militant will remain ever-cautious about these things.

But ultimately, his little experiment validated what's really the best thing about Los Angeles: Its people. And The Militant will continue to explore more of that asset...masked or unmasked.

So keep reading, replying, Tweeting, Facebook commenting and e-mailing...You may or may not have a chance to meet The Militant someday!
Stepping down into the sacred Dodger Stadium outfield!
The lights go out...
 Make 'em go Ah! Ah! Ah!

Okay kids, enough of this planking business.

A Century Of Burbank

One hundred years ago today, the City of Burbank was incorporated. So in honor of this momentous occasion, The Militant would like to dedicate today's post to Los Angeles County's 15th largest pueblo and "A City Built By People, Pride and Progress."

Contrary to popular belief, Burbank wasn't named after famed California botanist Luther Burbank, nor did its moniker come from -- according to one of its longtime stakeholders, KNBC's Fritz Coleman -- "A Burger King and a bank."

Like other Los Angeles county cities like Long Beach, its origins come from land ownership from former ranchos. Dr. David Burbank was a dentist and sheepherder who bought nearly 10,000 acres of land from Rancho San Rafael (now Downtown Burbank) and Rancho Providencia (now the Media District). Since then, the little town grew up, thanks in large part to the entertainment industry (The studios of Warner Brothers and NBC moved there from Hollywood; Walt Disney and now recently KCET from Los Feliz) and the aerospace industry (Lockheed and Northrop were founded here and many of their legendary aircraft were made in Burbank).

Although you may or may not live in Burbank, it's been a part of your life. Surely, you've had a burger or a chili size at Bob's Big Boy, caught a flight at Burbank/Bob Hope Airport (instead of LAX), had your first taste of self-assembled particle board Swedish furniture (not to mention Swedish meatballs and lingonberry juice) at IKEA or had your wedding reception (or at least got punch monkey drunk at someone else's) up in the hills at The Castaway.

Yes, that's Tim Burton (second right, holding the paper).
But did you know that Burbank was home to the first monorail in the United States? It also gave the world the genius of film director and native son Tim Burton (Um, the Militant would like to list some other notable Burbank firsts and achievements, but he can't think of any more...). But check out some awesome historic Burbank photos on this site.

In 1911, Burbank boasted a population of 500, now it's over 103,000. To celebrate the big centennial, tonight from 5 to 10 p.m., there will be a Big-Ass Party Of The Century in Downtown Burbank around the City Hall area (on Olive and 3rd) featuring fireworks, an airplane parade, and more, so check it out!

Are you from Burbank? Grew up there? Do you or did you live there? Have any Burbank memories you'd like to share? Post in the comments!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wheel Be Right Back

When The Militant found out nearly a month ago that Downtown's legendary Angels Flight Railway was suddenly shut down due to deteriorating wheel flanges (they're the part of the wheels that run inside the rails, not on top of them), he took a deep sigh and thought, "Here we go again."

Though Angels Flight 1.0 was dismantled an unspecified number of years before The Militant was born, he was definitely in da house for the opening of Angels Flight 2.0 on February 24, 1996. After the tragic accident of 2001, he was one of the first people back on the funicular in March of last year when Angels Flight 3.0 (okay, really, more like a v 2.5 upgrade) finally ran again. The Militant even made (trivial) history as the very last Angels Flight rider of 2010!

The Militant was ready for a long-ass downtime filled with lots of red tape. He's heard it all before. After all, when Angels Flight 1.0 was dismantled in 1969, the City originally promised to bring it back "In about two years."  Shhyeah, right. He was all ready to draft a post meant for oh...sometime in September beyotching when Angels Flight will finally be ready.

But lo and behold, version 2.51 of the firmware update was announced on Tuesday. The new wheels, costing $40,000 (likely installed by funicular ninjas in the dead of night), were now in place and The Militant felt obliged to visit his old friends yet again.
The old wheels (June 2011)

The new wheels. installed by ninjas (July 2011)
Wait, did they forget to put on the brake? O_o
From the moment he got out of the (M) Red Line Pershing Square station on Hill Street and saw the little orange cars go up and down the incline, a The Militant wore a smile bigger than Los Angeles County. It's back.

And of course he had to take a ride.

Still wearing that big smile, he stepped into Olivet (Remember folks, Sinai is the car towards the north, Olivet towards the south), and after the buzzing sound heralding the 109-year old funicular's ascent, the ringing shriek of the brand-spankin' new wheels, the classic creaking of wood and, of course, the characteristic rumble. Ah, it's so nice to hear those sounds again.

The Militant lingered for a bit on the California Plaza end, listening to background music play as the Grand Performances crew set up for their next show. But he was there to watch his old funicular friends do their job - one that's inevitably filled with ups and downs - and this time not take it for granted.

Welcome back, old friends.