Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SGV Week: The San Gabriel Valley, Defined

Ever since The Militant first announced San Gabriel Valley Week, more than a few of you asked him to define the San Gabriel Valley's boundaries. Defining regional boundaries is not new for The Militant, as he successfully settled the Eastside/Westside geographical dichotomy by defining Los Angeles' center back in 2008, so he figured he'd take on the SGV.

Now, although The Militant doesn't reveal much about himself, here's what he can reveal from his SGV cred: The Militant has unspecified relatives and family friends from the SGV, and has been visiting those unspecified areas of the valley since the mid-1970s. Some of his best operatives have lived and grew up there. All of the cars the Militant has owned have been purchased from unspecified dealerships in the SGV, and his current automobile was bought at an unspecified dealership in Monrovia (he was smart enough to take the Gold Line and the Metro Local bus there, of course). He also may or may not have maintained employment in the 626 at some point in the past or present. So although he's neither born nor bred there, he feels he has earned considerable Essgeevee cred...(Did he reveal too much there?)

So here 'tis:
[Click on map to enlarge!]
Now, Webster's Dictionary defines a "Valley" as "An elongated depression between uplands, hills, or mountains, especially one following the course of a stream."

So lessee...The San Gabriel Valley is an area surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, the San Rafael Hills to the west, the Puente and Brea hills to the south and the 57 Freeway to the east. Interesting how the San Gabriel River/605 Freeway nicely slice the valley in half. The 10 Freeway is the valley's equator. Therefore, the geographic center of the SGV is the 10/605 interchange. come the little details: The San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo form an opening known as the Whittier Narrows between the Monterey Hills to the west and the Puente Hills to the east, and encompass other cities that don't perfectly fit the valley bowl (and the 626 area code) such as Montebello and Whittier. But they are undoubtedly linked to the rest of the SGV through the Narrows, so they are part of the SGV. South of Whittier are the Gateway Cities or Mid-Cities which buffer Los Angeles and Orange counties. The Militant considers the southern limit of that part of the SGV as more or less Whittier Boulevard.

The other area of question is towards the northeast of the SGV: Cities such as San Dimas, LaVerne, Pomona and Claremont. Are they SGV or Inland Empire?

The Militant considers them...neither. They are not in the SGV since they are in the 909 area code and not the 626. But they aren't really IE, since they are still Los Angeles County. They are in their own region: The Pomona Valley.

So The Militant's short definition of the SGV goes as such: The entire 626 area code region, plus the geographically-connected cities of Montebello and Whittier. Howzat?!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SGV Week: Made In The San Gabriel Valley

Hot and sprawling, you wouldn't think anything of any value could come from a place like the San Gabriel Valley, but think again, it's actually given birth to many people and things, some of which you'd never guess originated here.

For instance, the whole concept of college football "bowl" games started on New Year's Day 1902 in Pasadena with the inaugural "Tournament East-West Football Game" -- eventually renamed "The Rose Bowl" 21 years later. And erryone else be bitin' afta dat.

Speaking of bites, being heavily influenced by Route 66, the postwar car culture and associated suburbanism, a number of well-known food chains were born here in the SGV. By far the most famous is Baldwin Park's In-N-Out Burger, established in 1948. Also started that year was a Temple City donut shop owned by Verne Winchell -- Winchell's Donut House. Supermarket entrepreneur Joe Coulombe started the first Trader Joe's market on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena in 1967, and on the other side of town six years later, Chinese immigrants Andrew Cheng, his wife Peggy and his father Ming Tsai opened Panda Inn on Foothill Blvd, spawning the Panda Express chain.

But perhaps the biggest contribution the SGV gave to the food world was the cheeseburger. Yes, the food that LOLcats everywhere crave was invented in Pasadena by 16-year old cook Lionel Sternberger who worked at his father's now-defunct restaurant The Rite Spot on 1500 W. Colorado in the mid 1920s and "experimentally dropped a slab of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger."

A couple legendary toys were introduced to the world in the SGV -- in the 1950s, the then-San Gabriel-based Wham-O Manufacturing Company gave us the frisbee and the hula hoop (Though both had origins from other times and places, the plastic toy versions we know and love were 100% SGV product).

Even everyone's most beloved little green slab of clay, Gumby, is an SGV native. He was created in the early 1950s by recent USC film school grad Art Clokey and his wife Ruth in their Covina home. GUMBY!!! GUMBY, DAMNIT!!!

Other famous San Gabriel Valley natives inclue World War II General George S. Patton (San Gabriel), former New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson (Pasadena) and cooking legend Julia Child (Pasadena).

The SGV's biggest contribution to music is Pasadena's own Van Halen (none of its members were SGV natives, but the band itself originated here), formed in 1972 as "Mammoth" and renamed to VH two years later. The Black Eyed Peas' singer Fergie (Hacienda Heights), the late scatting '90s Euro-house singer Scatman John (El Monte) and "Toy Soldiers" singer Martika (Whittier) also all hail from the SGV.

Remember this guy? Straight Outta Whittier.
Two major Oscar-winning actors were also born in the San Gabriel Valley: Sally Field (Pasadena) and Tim Robbins (West Covina).

A number of TV child stars also came from the SGV: Punky Brewster's Soleil Moon Frye (Glendora), Family Ties' Tina Yothers (Whittier) and even Steve Urkel himself, Jaleel White (Pasadena).

Being full of recreation areas, the SGV also spawned a number of professional athletes -- most notably former UCLA Bruins and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman (West Covina), former Yankees and A's (and current Rockies) slugger Jason Giambi (West Covina) and Phillies second baseman Chase Utley (Pasadena). but the SGV-born athlete The Militant is most partial to is none other than former Dodger Nomar Garciaparra (Whittier). Oh yeah, he played on some Boston team too.

Yes, great things can and do emerge from that vast flatland surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains, and the San Rafael, Monterey, Puente, Brea and Pomona hills. SGV, you definitely can has cheezburger.

Monday, November 14, 2011

SGV Week: The Militant Is On A Mission

The Militant wanted to start off San Gabriel Valley Week with a post on the eastern glen's namesake and cradle of civilization - Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, located in its eponymous city.

It was founded on September 8, 1771 - a full decade before the City of Los Angeles was founded.

But what most people aren't aware of, is that the stately mission, which has withstood centuries of earthquakes, and has flown under the flags of four nations, isn't even the original San Gabriel Mission.

The mission is actually the San Gabriel Mission 2.0.

History is a sticky thing. Though the founding of the 21 missions of  Alta California were credited to one Fr. Junipero Serra, the actual on-site founders of the San Gabriel Mission were padres Padro Cambon and Angel Somera. And it wasn't even planned to be in the San Gabriel Valley -- the original location was along the Rio de los Temblores, now known as the Santa Ana River. Yes folks, the SGV could have been located in the OC...

But they founded the O.G. San Gabriel Mission some 20 miles northwest along another river - the Rio Hondo, which, at least in that location, still flows  in its natural state.

The new transplants moved into the neighborhood next to the native Tongva villages of Shevaangna and Isanthcogna (you do know your Na's by now, right?), where they reaped the benefits of the riparian environment and grew crops. Newly-founded missions didn't yet comprise of a large stone church and neighboring adobe buildings -- they resembled forts with temporary wooden structures.

In 1776, a large flash flood oveflowed the banks of the Rio Hondo and flooded their compound. So the padres packed up and moved five miles to the northwest, a good distance from another river - the San Gabriel River - yet close enough to access it. The mission building that we see today wasn't built until the early 1790s.

The O.G. mission site, known as "Mission Vieja" (no, not Mission Viejo) is long gone, but a little-known monument stands on its site -- on a mini-park on the corner of San Gabriel Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue, right at the edge of Montebello. It's a simple landscaped corner with a familiar El Camino Real bell and a stone marker which reads:
Take note of some of the names, especially "Walter P. Temple." We'll get to that name later in San Gabriel Valley Week!

 The marker was dedicated in 1921 to mark the sesquicentennial of the founding of the mission. Pictured right is a photo of the dedication ceremony. The site is also a California Historical Landmark (#158). It's easy to miss, and it's nearly impossible to park there, though there's a dirt clearing  just past the Montebello City Limit sign on Lincoln Avenue that could fit a car. Of course, the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is full of awesome bike trails, and you can ride all over the place, and visit the nearby Bosque del Rio Hondo park just across San Gabriel Blvd, or ride on the Whittier Narrows Dam about a mile to the south along the Class 1 bike path. Score one for bikes in the SGV!

The San Gabriel Valley, built on history, seems to celebrate it, as well as the vast natural expanse of the Whittier Narrows area. There may or may not be more of this...stay tuned!

Friday, November 11, 2011

On 11/11/11, This Militant Goes To 11

Gotta love being on the front end of the millennium. Some people say we're living in End Times, but in terms of dates, we're living in fun times. Two years, two months and two days ago, The Militant gave a big-up to the 99 Cents Only Stores on 9/9/09. On 10/10/10, The Militant joined tens of thousands at the inaugural CicLAvia.

So today, on 11/11/11, out of the four million people in Los Angeles, The Militant Angeleno was the only one who thought of no more appropriate place to be on that magic second than...1111 11th Street.

Of course, there's a West 11th Street and an East 11th Street, as well as an 11th Street down in San Pedro. Well 'Pedro is a long-ass bike ride, and West 11th Street? Though a major sports venue and entertainment center are located there, the 1100th block actually doesn't exist anymore, thanks to a legendary sports announcer.

So it left one solitary choice - 1111 East 11th Street, just off of Central Avenue. The Militant was in this area not too long ago, for last month's CicLAvia, but this place looked much different on a weekday.

The entire block is occupied by car stereo shops, as well as DJ/lighting stores. The area sounds like a mashup cacophony of rap and reggaeton music pumping out of demo speakers and fresh installs while, cars and trucks back in and out of shop driveways and day laborers hail every car that passes by in hopes of scoring a car stereo installation gig.

The Militant has come across unexpected retail areas of Los Angeles before, such as The Hair District on Wilshire Boulevard, but this is a new it the Car Stereo District, Bass City or BOOMtown.

But on 11:11:11 a.m., on Friday, 11/11/11, The Militant spent the once-in-a-millennium moment here, on front of Sam's Music, on 1111 E. 11th Street:
And one of the store's employees had the most "WTF are you doing?!" look on his face.

So, Angelenos,  now you know where to get your boomin' system...on the 1100th block of East 11th Street. Where every day during business hours, the retailers on that block turn it 11.

Happy 11/11/11, Everyone!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A.M. Los Angeles

The Militant is, most of the time, a night owl. With 4:00 a.m. posts and tweets a fairly common occurrence, it leaves one to wonder whether The Militant gets any shut-eye at all, or just does it later than everyone else.

Though The Militant had a recent experience with The Exotic World Of The Morning, he decided to kick it up a notch. On Saturday morning, The Militant, having slept unnaturally early on Friday night and waking up at 5:00 a.m., decided to take advantage of a clear-sky morning following the possibility of San Gabriel Mountain snowfall overnight. He's seen the breathtaking glow of dawn's early light on the mountains before, and did not want to miss this show. And besides, with Pacific Standard Time (no, not that one) coming up on Sunday, Saturday's 7:17 a.m. sunrise would be the latest-hour and final PDT solar curtain call of 2011.

Other Angelenos staked out their own sunrise promontories around town, such as the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, but The Militant wanted more of an elevation advantage. So with the faint yellow glow already taking over the eastern sky, he drove up Vermont Avenue to the Griffith Park Observatory, which has had a free, unobstructed view of Los Angeles sunrises for the past 76 years.

The view was already breathtaking. The familiar blue-purple-orange-yellow gradient of our sunsets was present, only in the opposite side of the sky. The Downtown skyline and the lights of the city, flickering like still-lit candles, looked just as sultry:
Bundled in his winter wear, The Militant wasn't alone. A cadre of joggers, many of whom spoke in Korean, along with a handful of tripod-armed photographers, were already there.

A few brave spandex-clad cyclists arrive, having just conquered the 1,134-foot high climb up the south slope of Mt. Hollywood.

"The thing with cycling, is that you're either overdressed or underdressed [for the weather]" said one of the cyclists, as he hobbled off his bike in his clip shoes.

The eastern sky looked too obscured by the tail end of the storm clouds that have just vacated Los Angeles, but just then a tiny sliver of bright orange peeped from the Chino Hills horizon:
And then it appeared...
The Militant gazed in wonder at his city below him. It's a vantage point he's seen hundreds of times, yet only rarely under these conditions. He used a pair of binoculars to pick out spots in the distance: Barnsdall Park, Catalina Island, airplanes taking off from LAX, the sight of a tanker ship moored off of Manhattan Beach, a Japan Airlines 747 on its landing approach. The city looked as fierce and majestic as a lion, yet at this hour, it hasn't even begun to roar.

In no time, The Sun turned from an orange disk teetering on the horizon into the blinding sphere we're more accustomed to experiencing. But Los Angeles still looked amazingly lovely at this hour, such as this view of Hollywood and The Westside:
Oh the simple pleasures that we are afforded here. If you're a nighttime person, The Militant strongly recommends you shift your sleep schedule at least a couple times a year to enjoy the dawn. In a City popular for rising stars, it's well worth watching the one that's 93 million miles away.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dia de los Muertos 2011: The Militant Visits The Dead at Inglewood Park Cemetery

Today is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of The Dead. No, not the Grateful Dead, but it is a day where people show their gratefulness for their deceased loved ones. And though it's a holiday practiced by the Mexican community, here in multicultural Los Angeles, it's starting to grow into more than just a Mexican thang.

Last year, The Militant paid homage to some great Angelenos by visiting their gravesites at Culver city's Holy Cross Cemetery. Earlier this week, The Militant paid a visit to Inglewood Park Cemetery, just a few miles south.

At a sprawling 340 acres nestled between Centinela Park in the north and The (formerly Fabulous) Forum to the south, Inglewood Park Cemetery was founded back in 1905 by a group of businessmen who saw the need for memorial park space in the the Centinela Valley area (The City of Inglewood wasn't incorporated until three years later). The first people laid to rest there were the original settlers of that area and other places in the South Bay. There was once a Los Angeles Railway Yellow Car line along Florence Avenue (now part of the proposed Metro Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line) which ran special funeral cars to the cemetery.

Inglewood Park also boasts having the most interments of any cemetery in Southern California, so it's quite a significant and historic resting place for many in the Southland.

A number of Los Angeles mayors have their final resting place here, beginning with John Bryson, who held a short mayoral term in 1888-1889. The controversial Frank L. Shaw, who was elected in 1933 and was the first American city mayor ever recalled from office five years later (due to police misconduct and corrupt mishandling of city funds), is buried here, as is his popular reformist successor, Fletcher Bowron, mayor from 1938 to 1953.

But the most recent, and most famous Los Angeles mayor, interred here is Tom Bradley, mayor from 1973 to 1993, the City's first African American mayor and the civic leader who gave us a skyline, a subway, an Olympics and the internationally diverse metropolis we know today.
Other elected officials resting here are U.S. Congressman Julian Dixon, whose efforts to federally-fund our Metro Rail system got his name immortalized at the 7th Street/Metro Center station. Also, County Supervisor and local political patriarch Kenneth Hahn (whose name is also immortalized in a Metro Station, for creating the Blue Line) is buried here.

Another famous African American who shaped Los Angeles and is buried at Inglewood Park is architect Paul Revere Williams, who designed The LAX Theme Building, The MLK General Hospital in Willowbrook, Hollywood's Hotel Knickerbocker and several stars' homes during his noteworthy career.
Several figures in the music world are buried here at Inglewood Park, most notably Ray Charles, who is buried in the large Mausoleum of the Golden West (under his full name, Ray Charles Robinson). Unlike Mayor Bradley, who rests just a few feet from the entrance of his mausoleum, the legendary blues and soul singer (and former Baldwin Hills resident) is interred deep within several halls from the entrance. Yes, the Militant walked through dimly-lit mausoleum corridors -- alone -- just to bring you a picture of his resting place (note the music treble clef in his name plate and the coins resting at the base).

Songstress Ella Fitzgerald is another music legend laid to rest here, but The Militant was unable to locate her tomb. 

There's another person from the entertainment world buried here, but you'd never know by looking at his name.

The name "William B. Thomas" may or may not be familiar to you, but his most famous character would make it all clear. For he was "Buckwheat," the character that Thomas, a native Angeleno, played for several years as a child actor in Hal Roach's Our Gang (a.k.a. The Little Rascals) film shorts from the 1930s-1940s. The most well-known of the black characters on that show, the racial integration - and equal treatment - of the cast back then was groundbreaking. Roach was inspired to create Our Gang after seeing an integrated group of kids play together in the Echo Park area. Only in Los Angeles! Although, Thomas' WWII credentials on his epitaph are inaccurate: Though he did serve in the U.S. Army, he was only 14 when World War II ended. He did serve during the Korean War era though.

Lastly, The Militant brings you two famous Angeleno attorneys who are eternally tied together in many ways at Inglewood Park:
Lawyer Johnnie Cochran, most famous for being the lead attorney in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and has represented everyone from former Black Panther Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt to 1992 Riots beating victim Reginald Denny, rests in the Manchester Garden Mausoleum in the southern side of the cemetery. And on the eastern side of the park forever rests his "Dream Team" defense partner...

Robert Kardashian, a native Angeleno attorney, businessman and patriarch know.

Speaking of which, unlike the tombs of the former mayor, the famous architect, the legendary musician and his Simpson trial partner...there are no flowers on his grave. Gee, with all those rich and famous kids of his, you'd think they'd even bother to remember their dad? You know, the guy who provided them with  their wealthy lifestyle and the family name they wear like a brand? America tries to keep up with The Kardashians, but The Kardashians apparently don't bother to keep up with remembering their own father.

But this mysterious, anonymous Angeleno blogger did, as with the other legendary Angelenos who are laid to rest here at Inglewood Park Cemetery. So take a moment today to honor, in whatever way you wish, the Angelenos, whether rich or poor, famous or personally known, who have contributed in any way to your life in this city and love for this city and are no longer with us. Have a great Dia de los Muertos, y'allz.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vlogstyle Episode 10: Happy Hollyween!

The Militant doesn't show himself in public very much, but he did take the (M) Red Line to Hollywood on Halloween Night to join the thousands who walk the boulevard annually (sans silly-string). Although the LAPD's foot traffic management is kinda wonky, it's a place for costume-wearing pedestrians to see and be seen. Enjoy another Militant Angeleno Vlogstyle video!