Wednesday, October 28, 2015


The biggest financial news headline on Tuesday was the announcement that the Chicago-based Walgreens drugstore giant will be buying its rival, Rite Aid Corporation for $17.2 billion.

Now for most people in the United States, that simply meant another corporate acquisition. But for those of us here in the West Coast, specifically Southern California, that meant the future of our beloved Thrifty Ice Cream was in question.

Now if you're too young, or too new to these here parts, here's a little 'splainin'.

Thrifty Ice Cream is the last vestige of the Los Angeles-based Thrifty Drug and Discount Stores, which was purchased by  the Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corporation back in 1996. Back then, the biggest concern was also the fate of the beloved award-winning ice cream, made locally in El Monte and sold by the cone and by the pint in Thrifty counters, as well as in prepackaged form in the stores' frozen goods section.

The ice cream was -- and still is -- a part of Southern California life (as well as West Coast life, as Thrifty stores stretched to Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and elsewhere in the Golden State), originally conceived as a way to attract more customers into its discount stores.

The Thrifty (though many a local used the possessive-but-not-correct possessive form "Thrifty's") chain was a local institution, which started in Downtown Los Angeles by the Borun Brothers in 1919, becoming Thrifty Drug and Discount Stores in 1935. The chain grew, particularly in the post-war era as suburbanization flourished throughout Southern California. The stores were initially drug stores, but they sold other types of merchandise, from clothing to toys to sporting goods. In fact, they very much resemble today's Target stores, albeit in a smaller footprint (though Target itself has recently announced some smaller-sized urban stores opening in the near future -- what comes around, goes around).  In the early '70s, Thrifty even purchased Big 5 Sporting Goods. Thrifty was the king of the world as far as drugstores were concerned. The only other drugstore playaz in town were Sav-On Drugs, Longs Drugs (both of which were assimilated into the CVS borg in 2007) and much smaller dealios like Horton & Converse (which still exist today).

The Militant grew up close to one unspecified Thrifty store. They had everything. He got Star Wars figures, board games and even his first stamp collecting kit there. They even sold bikes and baseball gloves. Before Militant Papa took the family out to fishing trips to Long Beach or the Salton Sea (before it got nasty), he not only bought his rods, line and bait there, but his fishing license as well.

Things changed in the 1990s, though, as pharmacies -- the mainstay of Thrifty stores since its inception -- were being more integrated into supermarkets and department stores. Thrifty also took a hit during the 1992 Riots as many of its stores were burned, looted or vandalized.

Ultimately, the beloved ice cream was retained by Rite Aid and turned into a subsidiary, as the new corporate ownership understood the cultural and nostalgic value of the frozen treats (though they make you pay for your double scoop of Rocky Road at the regular check-out counter).

Now, we're faced with a new corporate acquisition, and through the Rite Aid brand will remain for the foreseeable future, we still want to tell our Chicago-based drugstore corporate overlords (who might not even know of the existence of Thrifty Ice Cream) that they can do what they want with the Rite Aid brand per se, but keep our beloved Thrifty Ice Cream.

Now there is some hope: Walgreen's purchased NYC drugstore chain Duane Reade in 2010 and the Big Apple is full of Walgreens-owned, DR-branded drugstores. Maybe, just maybe, they could possibly take things to the next level even revive the Thrifty Drug brand like dinosaur DNA encapsulated in molasses, but knowing full well how other local institutions have been treated by their own Chicago-based corporate overlords, don't hold your breath.

In the not-so-distant future, there will only be two: Walgreens and CVS (of course, many intersections already sport those two chains across the street from each other). All we're saying, oh mighty Walgreens Corporation, is this: You keep our Thrifty Ice Cream and we won't shop at CVS. It's as simple as that. Deal?

In the meantime, let's use the power of social media and shame let Walgreens know what one of the largest consumer markets in the country wants: Tweet to @walgreens #SaveThriftyIceCream (or RT The Militant's tweet), or let them know on their Facebook page!

Saturday, October 24, 2015


A vision of the future on the past and present.
On Saturday, the 6th Street Viaduct got some major love with a big-ass farewell shindig on the bridge itself in the form of the 6h Street Bridge Festival. Most of you were there so The Militant will spare the big explanation. But it was hosted by Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar (who never sounded more amp'ed up, and had some cool live music performances, culminating with a free concert set by Los Angeles' very own WAR. The bridge will be closed on the first week of 2016, so make your last visits now!

The bridge was immortalized in art.
Lowrider heaven. Just to let you know you're in The Eastside.
Los Angeles' contribution to funk music, the band WAR, playing all of their hits (though they skipped "The World is a Ghetto").
LED lighting and a smartphone-bearing crowd. What could look more early 21st Century than this?
Fireworks end the night. But the bridge will remain for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour 3.5!!!!

A certain state/local agency believes that the first 5 years of a child's life is crucial for its development and eventual success and well-being later in life. Our little youngster CicLAvia is now old enough for Kindergarten and during its first 5 years of life, it's taken us all over Los Angeles from Venice Beach to East Los Angeles, from North Hollywood down to South Central (and even Pasadena as well). Our little kindergartener has been well-loved by Angelenos, and well-cared for by its parents and godparents. Since it was born, it even has younger siblings born in places like San Diego and Long Beach. So, this child is off to a very happy start in life, and like every happy youngster, never fails to make us all smile. Happy 5 years, little CicLAvia!

As you may or may not know, The Militant has been doing these local CicLAvia guides ever since the second CicLAvia in April 2011. Though this "Heart of L.A." ride -- the 15th iteration of CicLAvia since it be can in 2010 -- runs through some very familiar territory, especially for you veteran CicLAvians (all you 15-timers, let's hear ya!), this is a City that's known for change, and even in the past 5 years, certain places have changed with a look towards the future. This Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour guide also reflects that, with a few updated locations added to the route, including a couple sites that will never look the same again.

To celebrate 5 years of CicLAvia, The Militant invites you to comment or tweet (Hashtag #EpicCicLAviaTour) some of your favorite memories from the past 5 years.

Happy CicLAvia and STAY MILITANT!

1. Hollenbeck Park
4th and St. Louis streets, Boyle Heights

John Edward Hollenbeck was a rich dude in the late 19th century who founded the First National Bank of Los Angeles (more on this later) and purchased parcels of land in Downtown, the San Gabriel Valley and the Eastside, where he made his home. Hollenbeck was also credited with the creation of what is now called Exposition Park. His sister married his friend, James George Bell, who founded...Yep, you guessed it! After Hollenbeck's death in 1885, his widow, Elizabeth, donated a 21-acre parcel of land, which was essentially their front yard, to the City. One of the Los Angeles’ oldest parks, it was established in 1892 and continues to function today.

2. Hollenbeck Palms (Site of the Hollenbeck Residence)
573 S. Boyle Ave, Boyle Heights

Take a quick detour from the CicLAvia route on 4th street and head down Boyle Ave a block and a half south. On the site of this retirement facility, which directly dates back to the Hollenbecks' involvement, John and Elizabeth Hollenbeck made their home. The original Hollenbeck residence had a room built for the care of John's elderly father. After John's death, Elizabeth donated land she owned across the street (since visually separated from Boyle Ave in the 1950s due to construction of the 5 Freeway) for Hollenbeck Park and, in another act of philanthropy, created the Hollenbeck Home for The Aged on her property in 1896, offering free board and care for the residents for the rest of their lives. After Elizabeth's death in 1918, the Hollenbeck Trust operated the elderly home (modernized in 1985), and continue to run it today.

3. 6th Street Viaduct
6th Street (visible from the 4th Street Viaduct) at the Los Angeles River, Downtown

While on the 4th Street Viaduct, pause for a moment (when you're not pausing to take that group selfie with the Downtown skyline in the background), point your eyes due south and take a good look at your bridge's cousin, the 6th Street Viaduct, with its trademark double arches. This will most likely be the last time you'll see it in its present form.

In 2007, engineers discovered that the 3,500-foot concrete connection between Downtown and Boyle Heights had a condition since it was first built called Alkali-Silica Reaction, which meant that the high alkali content in the source material in the concrete causes a chemical reaction to weaken it, rendering the bridge extremely vulnerable to collapse during a stressful event such as an earthquake.  The City of Los Angeles will shut down the bridge in November and begin demolition work for its 21st century-style replacement -- but not before throwing a big-ass concert and street party (bridge party?) next Saturday.

4. Metro Division 20 subway car yard and site of old Santa Fe LaGrande Station
1992 / 1893
320 S. Santa Fe Ave (visible from the 4th Street Viaduct), Arts District

Take a break from riding/walking/skateboarding/pogo-sticking/etc. and take a glance off the north side of the bridge from the west bank of the River. This facility is where the 104 Italian-built subway cars of the Metro Red and Purple line cars are stored, repaired, serviced and cleaned. This was also the temporary storage and repair site of the Angels Flight railway cars after the fateful 2001 accident. The Militant actually visited this facility back in May 1992.

The subway cars are also serviced on the site of the old Santa Fe Railway La Grande Station (hence the name of the street) that was on Santa Fe and 2nd. Built in 1893, it was precisely where midwestern transplants arrived in Los Angeles after paying their $1 train ticket from Chicago. In 1933, the landmark dome was damaged by the Long Beach Earthquake and subsequently removed. In 1939, it was rendered obsolete by the opening of the new Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal a few blocks north.

5. Site of Southern Pacific Arcade Station
4th and Alameda streets, Downtown Los Angeles

Before there was a Union Station, there were various rail passenger terminals in Los Angeles, many of them just a short distance from the Los Angeles River. On what currently stands as a large shopping mall, this was the original site of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Arcade Station which served passengers up until 100 years ago. A popular landmark of this station was a young palm tree, which was moved a century ago to Exposition Park where it stands today, much taller, in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Unfortunately for indie rock fans, the Arcade Station was not devastated by a Fire, but was dismantled and replaced by a new station, the Central Station, located one block south.

6. Metro 1st St /Central Station Site
1st Street and Central Avenue, Little Tokyo

Up until last year, this lot was home to the popular SeƱor Fish taco joint (formerly the site of '70s-'80s punk venue Atomic Cafe) and Weiland Brewery Restaurant (which opened replacement locations in Echo Park and Uptown Long Beach, respectively). Both buildings were demolished in early 2014 to make room for this new Metro subway station for the Regional Connector Transit project, which, upon opening by 2020, will merge three light rail lines into two and allow passengers to ride from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica and from Azusa to Long Beach, without a transfer to the Red/Purple lines. This new station will replace the surface-level Little Tokyo/Arts District station across the street.

7. Site of Quaker Dairy, Original Little Tokyo Restaurant
304 E. 1st St., Little Tokyo
On the southeast corner of 1st and San Pedro streets once stood the Quaker Dairy, a restaurant started on this site in 1890 by Sanshichi Akita, an immigrant from Japan. Though preceded five years earlier by another restaurant on First St (location unknown), this is the oldest traceable location of a Little Tokyo business. By the end of the 19th century, there were over 16 Japanese-owned restaurants in this stretch of 1st Street, creating what we know as Little Tokyo.

8. Los Angeles Sister Cities Monument
1st and Main streets, Downtown

On the northeast corner of 1st and Main streets stands a pole bearing signs (in the "Blue Blade" style, no less) for every one of Los Angeles' 25 Sister Cities, each pointing towards their location. The signs range from Lusaka, Zambia (the farthest sister city, 10,017 miles) to Vancouver, Canada (the nearest, 1,081 miles) and everywhere in between. Nagoya, Japan is Los Angeles' oldest sister city (1959); Yerevan, Armenia is the newest (2007). Los Angeles, an Olympic host city (1932, 1984) also has that in common with sister cities Athens (1896, 2004), Berlin (1936), Mexico City (1968) and Vancouver (2010). Okay, the Militant is just filling up this paragraph with mindless trivia.

9. Los Angeles Police Administration Building
100 W. 1st St, Downtown

Having opened less than two years ago, there's nothing really historic about this building, but do stop and take a picture of City Hall's reflection from the facade's glass panel. It's like, the thing to do!

[NOTE: If going on the northern leg to Chinatown, skip down to 21.]

10. Site of the Wilcox Building, First National Bank
2nd and Spring streets, Downtown

Remember Mr. Hollenbeck? He be makin' serious bank! Oh wait, he literally did. As was mentioned, he founded a bank called the First National Bank of Los Angeles, which made its original home here on the southeast corner of 2nd and Spring in what once stood the Wilcox Building. Check this out: First National Bank merged with the Farmers and Merchants Bank to become the Security-First National Bank, which became Security Pacific National Bank (1967), and was eventually purchased by Bank of America in the 1990s. 

11. Site of Hollenbeck Hotel & Metro 2nd St/Broadway Station Site
2nd and Spring streets, Downtown

Man, this Hollenbeck dude got around! We're not quite through with him yet. Directly across Spring Street from the bank stood the Hollenbeck Hotel, a pretty swanky, bougie inn back in the day. He owned not just the hotel, the entire block the hotel stood on (He sooo money!). As more hotels were being built in Downtown, this one eventually lost ground to its competitors and was demolished in 1933. The site has been a parking lot for the past several decades, but is currently the construction site for the upcoming Metro Rail Regional Connector Transit Project 2nd/Broadway Station, one of three new light rail subway stations coming to Downtown in 2020.

12. Broadway-Spring Arcade Building
541 S. Spring St, Downtown

This unique building is actually three, opened in 1924 on the site of Mercantile Place, a 40-foot street cut between 5th and 6th streets connecting Broadway and Spring. Mercantile Place was a popular shopping and gathering locale in the early 1900s. Having fallen into decay by the 1970s, it was recently renovated and is now famous for, of all things, vendors selling rock band t-shirts. It also becomes an artistic venue during the DTLA ArtWalk. And The Militant probably doesn't need to mention that this building is home to the DTLA Guisado's.

13. Site of Original Ralphs Supermarket
6th and Spring streets, Downtown

Before the Hotel Hayward building was built in 1905, George A. Ralphs (see, that's why there's no apostrophe) and his brother Walter B. started the Ralphs Bros. Grocers on the southwest corner of 6th and Spring. Their company still continues to this day, and in 2007, the company that started in DTLA returned to the area after some 50 years.

14. St. Vincent Court
St. Vincent Ct and 7th Street, Downtown

You'd hardly knew it was there, but this alley nestled between Broadway and Hill (blink and you'll miss it!), with its decorative brick pavement and European decor, seemingly belongs to another world. Originally the site of a Catholic college that was the predecessor of today's Loyola Marymount University, today it's a unique food court featuring Armenian and Middle Eastern eateries. The Militant calls it, "Littler Armenia." Check out this Militant Angeleno post on St. Vincent Court from 2008 for more info!

15. The Bloc (Formerly Broadway Plaza/Macy's Plaza)
7th Street between Flower and Hope streets, Downtown

A poster child for change in Downtown, this shopping center, originally built in 1973 and designed by Charles Luckman & Associates as the first suburban-style mall in DTLA combined an indoor (though massively truncated) indoor galleria, a hotel and a 32-story office building. Initially known as Broadway Plaza, named after the old upscale Southern California department store anchor tenant, its name was changed to Macy's Plaza in 1996 after The Broadway merged with the NYC-based equivalent Macy's. Its blocky, street-unfriendly design was derided by many, especially in an era where the outdoor mall format pioneered by Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, and Rick Caruso's faux-urban monstrosities (and more recently, the newly-opened The Village at Westfield Topanga),  so in 2013 it was re-conceptualized as "The Bloc" and currently stands as a work-in-progress, (which will also feature a direct entrance to the 7th Street/Metro Center subway station). Expect its 2016 grand opening to feature a big-ass Bloc party (The Militant made a funny, hardy har har...).

16. Wilshire Grand Center Site
Wilshire and Figueroa (SW corner), Downtown

What's with all this construction going on here?

Previously the site of the Wilshire Grand Hotel, and formerly (in reverse chronological order) the Omni Hotel, Los Angeles Hilton, Statler Hilton and Statler Hotel, on this site will rise the Wilshire Grand Center, Los Angeles' (and the West's -- suck on it, Salesforce Tower SF!) tallest building at 73 stories and 1,100 feet (kinda sorta, there's a spire, you see...). It will also be Los Angeles' only modern skyscraper without a flat roof, which will house Wilshire Grand Hotel 2.0 and a bunch of shops and condos. The building will also have a "sky lobby" up at the top and will be the first skyscraper anywhere to sport a mohawk.

In February 2014, this construction site earned a Guinness World Record as the longest continuous concrete pour for its foundation structure.

17. City View Lofts/Young's Market Company Building
1610 w. 7th St., Pico-Union

Ever wondered what's the deal with this 4-story Italian Renaissance-style building? It was built in 1924 as a liquor warehouse and original headquarters for Young's Market Company, which still operates today as the largest liquor distributor in the West. This building features actual marble columns and a decorative frieze made of terra cotta. The company, in the roaring, pre-depression 1920s, just felt like it. The building was looted and burned in the 1992 Riots and was rehabbed in 1997 to become the City View lofts. The building is in the National Register of Historic Places.

18. Gen. Douglas MacArthur Monument
Southeast corner of MacArthur Park, Westlake

It's sort of strange how a monument to the park's namesake seems almost invisible (Gen John Pershing, MacArthur's WWI counterpart, could totally identify). In fact, most people don't know it's even there, but on the southeast shore of the lake is a dormant memorial fountain featuring a statue of the WWII general overlooking a model of the Pacific theatre (no, not that one) where he led allied forces to eventual victory. It was designed and built in 1955 by Roger Noble Burnham, who previously sculpted the Tommy Trojan statue on the USC campus and taught at the Otis Art School, formerly located nearby.

19. The Spheres at MacArthur Park
MacArthur Park Lake, Westlake

This public art installation by Santa Monica-based nonprofit Portraits of Hope, is one of several projects the organization has done nationwide as a form of creative therapy to benefit seriously ill and disabled children. Nearly 3,000 vinyl spheres, decorated by Portraits of Hope volunteers, were placed in the water (each anchored by a sack of rocks and rope) starting in August, and were originally intended to stay until the end of September. But fortunately, just for you CicLAvians, the installation will remain in time for Sunday, so get your floating ball selfie action on!

20. Gen. Harrison Gray Otis Statue
Northeast corner of Wilshire and Park View, Westlake

Gen. Otis is perhaps the most visible statue at the park, which predates MacArthur's WWII service. This general served in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars, and also fought as a Union soldier in the Civil War. But in Los Angeles, he is most known for being the founder, owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

So why is he here? His Wilshire Blvd mansion, called The Bivouac, was located across the street, was later donated to Los Angeles County and became the original campus of Otis Art Institute. It's thought that his statue is pointing to the site of the Elks Lodge, but he's probably just pointing to his old house.

Northern Leg (To Chinatown):

21. Federal Courthouse Site
145 S. Broadway, Downtown

That big-ass hole in the ground by 1st and Broadway has been here for, like, forever. But it was once the site of the Junipero Serra State Office Building, which was damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and abandoned and demolished in 1998. Right now,  it’s the construction site for a 10-story, 400-foot-tall U.S. Federal Courthouse building (don't we already have a few of those?), designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, which will open in 2016.

22. Grand Park
1960, 2012
Open space between Grand Avenue and Spring Street, Downtown

Grand Park isn't really a new park, but a renovation and re-branding of what used to be the Los Angeles County Mall.  Since then, it's become Los Angeles' new town square, hosting everything from concerts, to festivals, to weekend movie screenings, to holiday programs, to just a place where kids can splash around in the fountain. The Militant was there on its opening day back in July 2012!

23. Hall Of Justice
Temple Street and Broadway, Downtown

No, you won't find Superman or any of the Super Friends here.  But this building, the oldest surviving government building in the Los Angeles Civic Center, was built in the mid-1920s as the original Los Angeles County Courthouse and Central Jail (which once housed the likes of Busy Siegel, Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson), as well as the headquarters for the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney and the County Coroner. This Beaux Arts-style building was designed by Allied Architects Association, an all-star team of local architects put together to design publicly-funded buildings. At the moment, its facade is covered in scaffolding and tarp, as part of a major renovation project to modernize the facilities and repair damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. It recently re-opened as a LEED Gold Certified building (gotta be sustainable, y'all), and the Sheriff's and District Attorney's offices will return.

24. Site of Los Angeles' French Quarter
c. 1830s-1960s
Aliso Street and Arcadia Street, Downtown

Beleive it or non, Los Angeles had a French ethnic enclave, called The French Quarter. Before today's Hollywood Freeway trench and nearby parking lots was a bustling community of Franco-American businesses and institutions. When Frenchman Jean-Louis Vignes bought up land on the Yangna village site a few blocks east on Aliso Street, he essentially became the anchor of our French community. In 1912, businessman Marius Taix opened the Champ D'Or Hotel on Commercial Street and then opened his namesake restaurant in the same building in 1927. But the most famous constibution to our French Quarter was Philippe Mathieu's restaurant, which opened in various locations in the area. In 1918, his restaurant on 246 Aliso Street gave birth to The French Dip sandwich. But urban development (and cultural assimilation by the community) destroyed the French Quarter. In 1951, Philippe's moved a few blocks north to their present location on Alameda Street due to Hollywood Freeway construction, and Monsieur Taix's restaurant moved a decade later to Echo Park.

25. Chinatown Gateway Monument
Broadway and Cesar E. Chavez. Avenue, Chinatown

Designed to be the symbolic entrance to Los Angeles' Chinatown District, The Chinatown Gateway Monument, a.k.a. the Twin Dragon Towers Gateway, depicts two dragons grabbing at a central pearl, which symbolizes luck, prosperity, and longevity. The 25-foot-tall structure was put up in 2001 and occasionally emanates steam coming from the dragons' mouths. Unlike Anglo dragons, the creatures in Chinese folklore are the good guys, meant to scare away evil spirits.

26.  Buu Dien
c. 1990s
642 N. Broadway (Facing New High St, south of Ord), Chinatown

If you're ever in some TV trivia contest on your way to being a millionaire and the host asks you, "What is the Militant Angeleno's favorite Vietnamese banh mi place west of the Los Angeles River?" you won't need to call a lifeline, because the answer is Buu Dien. When the Militant has only $4 in his pocket and wants to get a meal in Downtown, this is his go-to joint. A literal hole in the wall in every regard, this place serves bomb-ass (do people still use that phrase) Viet sammiches for less than $3 a pop. And the bread is awesome. And nice and warm. Plus they also serve up spring rolls, desserts, pastries, Vietnamese coffee and pho (never had it here yet, but The Militant's favorite pho WOTLAR is Pho 79 just up the street). People complain about parking in his micro-mini mall, but this is CicLAvia!

27. Capitol Milling Co.
1231 N. Spring St, Chinatown

One of the last visible vestiges of Los Angeles' agricultural industry, this family-owned flour mill operated from 1831 to 1997, before moving its operation to a much larger facility in Colton. The facility that still stands today was built in 1883. The mill supplied flour to clients such as Ralphs, Foix French Bakery and La Brea Bakery. In 1999, the family-owned operation was purchased by industry giant Con-Agra Co.

The historic building, built even before the railroads arrived in Los Angeles, still has a horse-tethering ring, back to the days when grain was hauled by horse carriage from farms in the San Fernando Valley.

28. Old (New?) Chinatown Central Plaza
Gin Ling Way between Broadway and Hill, Chintown

The new northern terminus of CicLAvia is no stranger to public events; it was made for them. In the Summer it hosted three very popular Chinatown Summer Nights events. But don't let the "Old Chinatown" neon sign fool you -- This is actually Los Angeles' new Chinatown, which dates back to the 1930s. The real Old Chinatown was several blocks south, where a thriving community of Cantonese-speaking immigrants

lived near the river, north of Aliso Street. Of course, they were kicked out in the early '30s to make room for Union Station. So they moved a few blocks north, in the former Little Italy, and they've been there ever since. Well, not really, since some of them moved east to the San Gabriel Valley and were supplemented with Mandarin-speaking immigrants from Taiwan and Mainland China. But you get the idea.