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November 30, 2007

Before Chicken Corner

The other day I heard from a reader and possible acquaintance who does not want to be named. He said he grew up in Echo Park, attending Elysian Heights Elementary School until 1963, which puts him among the lucky who knew the famous cat Room 8. He no longer lives in the neighborhood but visited recently. He said the name Chicken Corner is new:

"Chicken Corner" is a moniker that was bestowed after I left the area. I knew the site as the former location of Les and Golda's neighborhood cafe (it was really the neighborhood dive bar). My dad got drunk there a lot. I think it closed up in the late '50s. I well remember Jack's gas station across the street, however.
I went through the old neighborhood today (11/27). ... I wanted to have bao from the Phoenix Bakery (formerly the Pioneer Liquor Store), but it looks like they went out of business. Had pollo rosado at Pioneer Chicken instead.

Some names stick, and some don't. And some things resist being named, or re-named. I'll be curious to see if the name Chicken Corner survives the condos down at Chicken Corner. Might have to do a lot of standing around in the rain before I find out.

Lake diary: ghost poles

I thought I lost a personal item of no monetary value when I was at Echo Park Lake yesterday. So I went to the lake this morning at about 9:30. It was pouring rain, and I didn't find what I was looking for. But, despite getting wet, it was nice to be down there. The American coots, the ducks and the geese were business as usual, many of them standing on the walkway, some bobbing in the water, some setting in the grass. I miss the lake birds. Right now is a good time to see wild ducks who winter in Echo Park.

Ever since my daughter started preschool, the lake has fallen out of our regular itinerary. We used to visit the ducks -- and avoid the geese -- just for something to do. Along the way we met people we didn't usually meet elsewhere. Small children who didn't speak any English but easily found ways to play with my English-speaker daughter. Some of the park workers became friends. We kept tabs on our favorite birds and looked for odd visitors. It's always interesting. Today, surprise, the park was pretty empty of people. No news cameras, no flaneurs, no chess or toddlers. What I did see was five untended fishing poles set with hooks in the water. They looked so independent, like they didn't need anyone. And there was a small group of people waiting under the eaves of the boathouse: fishing perhaps. A couple of people walking around the lake. A 12-ish girl sitting by herself under an eave of the bathrooms. The Lady of the Lake had wet shoulders and head. I was curious to see if any of the fishing poles caught anything -- I've heard of fair-sized trout in the lotus bed, on the other side of the park, recently -- but I knew it could be a long wait and, as I said, it was pouring.

November 29, 2007

Paddle boats for the people!

Announcement
Ed Reyes, Eric Garcetti, John Mukri, November 29, 2007
By Martin Cox (c)

Official word was delivered lakeside from a portable city lectern this morning: paddle boats for the people, at Echo Park Lake and MacArthur Park. Council reps Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes and Rec and Parks General Manager John Mukri and Maryanne Hayashi took turns telling a small crowd of watchers and camera operators about the value of the historic service. Mukri said Rec and Parks never intended to NOT revive the recreation...sometime: "From a sheer historical perspective, we knew we needed them back." Then he added that his department received more paddle boat emails "than anything." More emails, he said, than the Griffith Park fire of May generated. The people speak. Or type. Mukri said funds for the boats will come from R & P's internal operating budget.

If you're just tuning in, the service had been discontinued Sept. 9.

Kids
Photo: November 29, 2007
By Martin Cox (c)

Praising Garcetti and community activists such as Martin Cox, the Echo Park photographer and ships blogger who didn't let the matter drop, Ed Reyes said: "They used their tenacity" to get the recreation restored.

Service will resume on Saturday, Dec. 1. The "carbon-neutral" boats (read, "foot-powered"), as Garcetti described them, will be available weekends and holidays through the winter. Hours expand in spring, and in summer they'll be available seven days a week.

In honor of the announcement, the boats were sent out, for free, for about an hour. I had received an email saying that only two would be in use Thursday, but then it looked like they were all launching. Out they went. A pair of huge brown geese paddled after one of the boats, hoping for treats. They hadn't forgotten.

waving
Photo: From shore, yours truly: Jenny Burman and Becky Koppenhaver, November 29, 2007
By Martin Cox (c)

Boats
Waiting for boats, November 29, 2007
By Martin Cox (c)

Garcetti: "Not everything is a money-maker, but this is a public good."

November 28, 2007

Quintero St. blues in beige

And, speaking of condos...Curbed LA offers an object lesson today in a 4-part photo drama by Dakota. Subject: the Quintero St. condos/apartments at Sunset. But skip the 29 (and counting) comments. Quite a few are nasty -- a different kind of wasted real estate.

Notable exception. I sort of liked this ugly comment expressing its writer's feelings about the Quintero complex because it's so firm and to the point, reveling in its own subjectivity:

ugly. ugly. hideous. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. offensive. ugly. ugly. ugly. never should have been built. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. gross. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. unpleasant. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. hideous. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. bad design. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. very ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. eye sore. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. gross. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. VERY UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly. trashy. ugly. ugly. ugly. UGLY. ugly. ugly. ugly. ugly.

I do agree the buildings are ugly - -a lost opportunity.

Future shock: condos at Chicken Corner

I got back to Echo Park yesterday in time to see the site of the future "townhomes" where the nursing home and Chicken Corner ranch used to be. The low-slung brick nursing home is now so gone that it seems less than a memory. Seems like it was never there at all. Certainly it won't be remembered by the people who lived there briefly and then died. A number of homeless people were said to be camping at the nursing home -- when they could. They may have moved to Elysian Park. If they left any forwarding addresses those have been bulldozed and hosed. This morning at 8 a.m. I watched workers scooping up an old pile of bricks -- what a waste -- the man with the hose rushing in front of the dozer, thick pillows of dust everywhere nonetheless. A truck waited at the sideline with a pile of chain-link rolls ready to be unfurled around the construction site.

They say in-fill is the responsible approach to urban growth, but so is preservation -- look at Portland, Oregon.

I had mixed feelings about posting the developers' info -- not wanting to assist in advertising. But it seems there's a lot of confusion about what is actually planned for Delta/Echo Park Ave. -- on my part, too, as the lots have changed hands three times in three years. So...for a sketch of what the Angeles Group have in mind, click here.

I agree with Kim Pesenti, who just emailed me her comment that "Chicken Corner could have been a great little park."

Paddle boats paddle back*

Boats

Last Day of boating Sept 9, 2007
photo Martin Cox (c)

Confirmed that the paddle boats will be back in service, and right quick! Thanks again to Martin Cox -- for keeping the pressure on. Thanks to Eric Garcetti and CD-13 people. The boats will be in service again starting Sat. Dec. 1. No official word about whether they'll return to MacArthur Park, though that outcome is not beyond the pale.

The Downbeat Cafe will extend its "Without a Paddle" show for two weeks. Now that we are with paddle. There will be an informal celebration Saturday early evening at the Downbeat, following the close of the first fall day of boating -- 6 p.m. 1202 Alvarado near Sunset.

November 26, 2007

Goodbye Santa Prichard

The Echo Park Animal Alliance is holding its annual holiday fundraiser -- part of Echo Park Pottery Studio's annual event -- as scheduled this year, despite having lost Santa. Michael Prichard, who was the EPAA's official authentic bearded Santa died on Nov. 11. Prichard captained the Santa ship, posing for photos with dogs and humans at Peter Shire's studio. Some of the best-known dogs of Echo Park have shared Christmas-card space with Prichard. My own photo from Dec. 2006 shows Santa Prichard, my dog Rosie, my daughter Madeleine and myself -- all of us smiling, except for Madeleine, who wasn't sold on Santa and who sat next to him looking as though she had been ordered into her car seat. It made people laugh. Rosie liked Prichard, though, and so did I. And I always thought "Santa" when I saw Prichard in other seasons in front of his house on Vestal: Hot, hot July days and Santa. No more.

I don't know who will replace Prichard or whether he/she will be a member of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, but the holiday photo cards sale will go on -- at Echo Park Pottery Studios' annual holiday sales, which will be on December 1 and 2, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., 1850 Echo Park Ave.

Prichard will be missed in Echo Park and by recipients of Christmas dog cards around the world.
Echo Park Pottery

Softback mountains

Mountains
Photo by Lydia Burman, age 11
Thanksgiving holiday view of the Shenandoah Valley. Near the Appalachian Trail in Nelson County, Virginia. The Blue Ridge Mountains look so smooth and rounded after my habitual view of the sharp-toothed San Gabriels. Got a full-color view of now-undeniable global warming with late-season fall color.

November 21, 2007

Paddle boats back?

Paddle boats

Photo: Paddle boat
By Martin Cox

I just received the following good-news email from Martin Cox concerning the paddle boats on Echo Park Lake:

In a rather unusually delivered message at the Echo Park Advisory board meeting, Recs & Parks announced that paddle boats will be available Dec 1st! (One day after the close of the current Save the boats exhibition at Downbeat cafe.) No further details were forthcoming.

And MacArthur Park? Chicken Corner will be in the Blue Ridge Mountains away from internet access for a few days. Hoping to provide more details when we come down the mountain.

Meanwhile, Martin has been a tireless boats activist, pushing for restoration of recreational boating services on our beautiful lake. Thank you, Martin!

November 20, 2007

No Age for a healthy river*

LA River

November 17, 2007

Saturday: didn't check my email or phone. Regretted the lapse as therein lay advance notice of a No Age performance and guerrilla beautification happening down by the river, at 3 p.m. The good news is video footage of the event, which was busted by park rangers -- so much for wholesome, supportive use of public space. Also, good blog coverage if you like words and still pictures.

Jay Babcock emailed an afterword:

Community gathering action at the los angeles river in celebration of public space and nature among the urban sprawl. Performance by No Age. Seeded by arthur magazine. Busted by Park Rangers Documented by color national.

Babcock would like to see the concrete removed from the L.A. River, as would many Friends of the L.A. River and Northeast Trees. As would I.

November 19, 2007

Souther on Witchy

I heard from J.D. Souther, who is known to some as the fifth-Beatle of the Eagles -- he's credited with co-writing "The Best of My Love," "New Kid in Town" and other pieces of the mass soundtracks of our lives. The musician had a couple of corrections for Chicken Corner, in particular that Patti Davis, daughter of the late President Ronald Reagan, didn't participate in the creation of "Witchy Woman." Well, I heard it from a reliable source, but reliable sources can trump reliable sources and Souther says:

Nice piece [on the Eagles in Echo Park], but. Patti Davis, a swell girl and friend, did not write any of,"Witchy Woman" and it was, in fact, written about someone else. Also, we were never down-and-out, just starting off and very happy to be doing so. Enjoyed the mention and still love the neighbourhood. JD

Chicken Corner is glad to hear that low-rent didn't mean unhappy. I feel the same way about some of the less-expensive homes of my youth. Strike down and out from my list of terms to throw around carelessly!

As for "Witchy" (and in the interest of transparency) on November 8, Chicken Corner received an email from Don Wanless (with a Wave publications email address). Wanless said:

Patty didn't co-write "Witchy Woman" that I know of. She did write "I Wish You Peace" on the Eagles' "One of These Nights" album, with her then-boyfriend Bernie Leadon.

To which Chicken Corner responded:

Dan -- thanks. I didn't find any credit either for patti davis online, but i did hear the rumor from a [music industry person of knowledge]. Can you tell me how you know she didn't help write witchy woman?

Don emails back:

Well, I guess she could have had a hand in it. She's never been credited with helping write it. [She did get] credit for I Wish You Peace.

Which is where the electronic Chicken Corner paper trail ended. Till now. Sorry for doubting you, Don.

November 17, 2007

Match made in hell offers comfort

The immensely available broad light of Los Angeles, even as the days have become short -- it's one of the things I like about Los Angeles. And it's something few people have in NYC as I was reminded today, reading my friend Miranda McLeod's beautiful, sometimes angry, blog, My Brother Is Dead. The most recent entry: "The little things: We stole our air conditioner." The subtitle of My Brother is "I'm grieving, you're a voyeur. We're a match made in hell," which is only half true because Miranda's writing is so smart and full of feeling. One line, from Nov. 4: "Do you ever feel .... Like your brain is a white room with nothing - not even you - in it?" (My answer: Yes, but I didn't know it.) Friday:

...one fine day, what feels like years after you've forgotten that you live above ground, you step outside to find the scaffolding [in front of your apartment building] gone, and it's like God lifted the roof off of the sky. The sun kisses your skin....

Miranda's brother, Kyle McLeod, was killed this summer in a freak train accident. He was 22, one semester away from finishing college. He was planning a motorcycle trip through South America. There's an Echo Park connection -- beyond the fact that My Brother is being read on an Echo Park laptop. Kyle and Miranda spent their earliest years here, on Morton Ave., before they moved to Eagle Rock. Not to mention that Kyle's death just after July 4 has darkened the view from my house ever since. I have known him and felt close to him since he was eight. His dad is my daughter's godfather. And I'm awed by Miranda's ability to write meanginfully about the loss of her brother -- in such a way that, for me, goes beyond voyeurism and personal connection.

November 14, 2007

826 franchise for EP

Friday 1714 Sunset looked like no more than a storefront hidden by a metal roll-down between Fiesta Discount and the Jensens building -- at the same spot or next door to Sea Level records (RIP). But the storefront soon will house a new 826 -- a multi-centered literary service project associated with Dave Eggers and other literary lights. There's an 826LA at SPARC in Venice and the original in San Francisco, others in NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Ann Arbor. One of the websites describes 826 as "A writing center for kids, dedicated to helping them improve their written communication skills through free tutoring, mentoring" as well as workshops and other resources. It's good to report what looks like good news for a change.

Bare dirt

I do have a camera. Veronique de Turenne* even offered to teach me how to use it (back in April). But who among the living needs a picture of dirt? Who needs their nose rubbed, visually-digitally, in the insult to Echo Park that is occuring at Chicken Corner? Would a word picture be kinder? Bare chocolatey dirt, the end of the Chicken Corner ranch era. The loss of open space. Trees chopped into five-foot segments. Noxious bamboo and stinkwood (ailanthus) felled, but still... they were green. Suddenly the lot that has been empty for so long and seemed so large looks small. I tell myself, well, maybe it will get city-like in here and bustling, more alive than ever. But it was the sleepy dustiness in the middle of the city that I liked, the illusion of the neighborhood being a little lost planet, separate from the megalopolis, LA County, the no-eyes fire giant. So much for being precious about it. We lost a lovely bungalow. And a piece of open, breathing space -- unoffically ours as it was. I used to look at old tin-type photos of the city I grew up in (I had an internship at the city's planning commission) and wonder at the open spaces, thrilled both by how much the same and how different they looked from that present moment. And now I can imagine someone else -- years from now -- in the middle of a project (artistic or otherwise) looking through Chicken Corner pix and marveling that it ever looked that way.

*Hall of mirrors alert! Veronique also writes for LAObserved.

November 13, 2007

Crushing news -- update

10 a.m. Totally gone gone gone. A brand new empty space to forget.

Chalk another one to memory

9:43 a.m.: According to numerous emails, a bulldozer showed up at about 7 a.m. this morning at Chicken Corner. The Delta Avenue bungalow was being demolished -- despite about three years of serious effort by Kevin Kuzma, president of the Echo Park Historical Society, and several other individuals, to re-home the home. The bungalow doesn't/didn't look like much on the outside, but indoors it was intact, a good example of its historical type. It sits/sat in a corner of the large, empty lot that once was an urban mini-ranch and gave Chicken Corner its name even before the mural by Aaron Donovan. Recently, a taker who owned an empty lot about 16th of a mile from Chicken Corner tried to move the bungalow to his property but got tangled up in city tape. They don't make it easy, and now this one is gone. Still, the condo people got their permissions for Chicken Corner, and now we have those to look forward to.

November 12, 2007

Home tour-ist

It was home tour weekend, which gave me the opportunity to be a tourist -- very briefly -- in the neighborhood. It was the fifth such event for the Echo Park Historical Society, this year's tour focusing on public stair streets -- basically houses that are hard to get to and often hidden from view of motor streets. One house, for example: I'd never seen it from the street, and you had to follow a very long curving brick driveway -- two sharp curves and a long straightaway -- to reach it. ... On Echo Park Avenue, I noticed an uptick in traffic, lots of drivers making their way uncertainly, looking for parking spaces, u-turning. On Sunset, I saw a sign for a new cafe at Laveta Terrrace, where the appliance store used to be, and then made my annual visit to the Asian grocery store. Down at Barlow, where my job was to help interpret the map of Echo Park, I met people from Syracuse, NY, and the West Side of Los Angeles as well as Echo Park neighbors I'd never seen before. All very exotic.

Of the "many staircases that run up the hills and, in a few cases, cliffs of Echo Park," EPHS says:

These stairways are a defining element of our community. ... They are also a reminder of an era when the car did not yet dominate daily life in Los Angeles.
Echo Park was originally built around an elaborate trolley system. Because its hills were so steep, Echo Park was graced with a network of public staircases that allowed commuters to hop off a streetcar and walk uphill to their homes.

November 9, 2007

Shire's home

Cluck! It slipped past Chicken Corner yesterday: three-quarters of the front page of the LA Times Home section and two full pages after the jump -- a massive outlay of newspaper space, the likes of which usually is given to major fires and other disasters. The subject? The brightly colored home of Echo Park resident Peter Shire, a sculptor and ceramicist who seems to know personally two-thirds of the neighborhood. The story was written by Echo Park-er David Keeps.

November 8, 2007

Stair streets 2007

It's another world up there -- on the public stair streets of Echo Park. Lucky for the curious: Some of the houses that line the staircase thoroughfares will be open to prying eyes on the Echo Park Historical Society's annual home tour fund-raiser, which will be Sunday, Nov. 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event begs for comfortable shoes. Click here for more info.

Down by the river

Great photos by Stacy Kranitz on Jay Babcock's L.A. River blog -- a personal favorite of mine, along with Babcock's Arthur Magazine. The latest post calls for a removal of the concrete that lines the river. A beautiful dream -- and one that could come true, with enough support.

Recently, I attended an American Institute of Architects' "Urban Open Space Summit," and heard Larry Smith, the executive director of North East Trees call for the same -- removal of hardscape around the L.A. River. I think Larry Smith also called for removing asphalt all over the city as a green solution for the future -- but that could be just my own wishful extrapolation of Smith's remarks.

This frog... *

Frog

Photo: Frog, July 2007
By Susan Borden

...formerly known as Prince was seen a lot this summer at the lotus bed (what little of it sprouted). Then he went away. Perhaps to run a rich little country like Luxembourg....if he isn't lining the stomach of one of the herons we love so much on our lovely island bird-nation in the middle of Echo Park Lake. Or maybe one of the reunified Eagles ate him.

Anyway, Susan Borden took this picture on July 30. She saw the frog regularly for three to four weeks. I wish I could tell what type of frog this is, but frog ID isn't an area of expertise.

Farewell, my frog.

*Update: Mark of Anaheim wrote me: "Your missing EP frog is a Bullfrog."

November 7, 2007

Eagles rent

As regards the Eagles in Echo Park: Dollar for dollar, a little rock-and-roll nest was cheaper in the '70s, according to Nathan, who has lived in EP for 15 months.

Says Nathan:

That $60/month rent [paid by Glenn Frey of the Eagles] killed me, and I wanted to see how that stacked up against today. So I went to the Inflation Calculator to see. That $60/month works out to $288 in 2006 dollars!
That is a far cry from the $1300/month I'm shelling out these days (larger than my actual mortgage payment in Oakland). No wonder you could be a starving artist in LA back in the day. Makes you wonder where the next Eagles are coming from.

Hmm, the next Eagles. Maybe they'll do their hatching in pricier digs (for lack of a better word). Or maybe a rocky outcrop in the Angeles Forest.

Maynard Parker

So, the Echo Park Historical Society features architectural photographer Maynard Parker in its newsletter, and then what does the Huntington do several months later? Feature Maynard Parker in their newsletter. Donít ask who slipped me a copy of Huntington Frontiers, Iíll never tell. Once upon a time, Parker lived at 1600 Lucretia at the top of the Delta steps, and later he lived on Lemoyne near the water tower. Did the longtime Echo Park denizen ever dream of the hipsters and the immigrants who would dwell and pass the time on the hill below his house? Did he have any idea that a home he built from a doubled-up Sears garage kit one day would be featured in the EPHS home tour?* Or that his Lucretia bungalow would disappear in an act of banditry? There's no way of knowing -- unless you have a phone line to the afterlife, because, lovely as they are, the photos aren't telling.

The Huntington's short (and well-written) article, written by Daniel P. Gregory, Ph.D, is concerned with Parkerís photography, not the places he called his own home.

As Gregory explains:

The American public first glimpsed the romance, practicality, innovation and easy indoor-outdoor flow of Cliff May's ranch house designs through Maynard L. Parker's glossy, evocative, and highly informative photographs of May's own house at Riviera Ranch in Brentwood, Calif. ... May's houses were novel in the way they combined history with modernity, and Parker captured that duality perfectly.

So, bringing it on. A dueling quote from the EPHS newsletter, in which Parker's daughter is quoted:

"[Parker] enjoyed making a room look better than it was," recalled his daughter, Ann Carawan. "By the time he had lighted (a room) for a photo, rearranged the photos and tweaked everything a little bit, the house looked like a million dollars."

Are there any ranch houses in Echo Park? I haven't noticed any. Different kind of vibe.

The Huntington photo archives house approximately 65,000 of Parker's images -- mostly negatives and transparencies.

The Echo Park home tour will take place this Sunday. Click here for more info.

November 6, 2007

When an Eagle was down and out in EP

An LA Times story about the Eagles mentions Glenn Frey's residence in the neighborhood at a time when the artist had to drink his beers very slowly because he could afford only one. I'd like to think Patti Davis (Ronald Reagan's daughter) helped write "Witchy Woman"* in EP, but Geoff Boucher's story doesn't go into that kind of detail. According to Boucher, Jackson Browne lived downstairs from Frey. This was the early '70s, around the time when Jerry Brown also had an Echo Park address -- the attorney general once lived at Laguna Castle, with a view of Echo Park Lake, presumably enjoying the sight of paddle boats plying the waters and guitar players picking out tunes on park grounds.

According to the Echo Park Historical Society:

Eagles Nest, 1020 Laguna Ave.: Legendary rock musicians Jackson Browne, Glenn Fry and J.D. Souther(of the Eagles) lived in this apartment building during the early 1970s when the area attracted many up and coming musicians and artists. "J.D. and I shared a $60-a-month, one-room apartment-a couch and kind of a bed-with a curtain in front of it," said Fry in an interview with rock journalist Cameron Crowe. "Right underneath us in an even smaller studio apartment was Jackson. He had his piano and guitars down there.


Meanwhile, Frank Zappa once lived nearby, at 1819 Belmont Ave., and most likely wrote a song about it called "Little House
I Used To Live In."

They all moved on to greater square-footages, no doubt.

*A quick look at song credits doesn't name Davis as co-writer, so I'll have to cite rumor (or start one, though Chicken Corner tries tries tries never to stoop swoop so low).

November 4, 2007

Weekend wonders

Western grebe

Photo: Western Grebe 2007
By Martin Cox [c]

Some days in Echo Park you can see the ocean. Saturday morning I could barely see my feet -- 6:45 a.m. thick fog filled the bowl in Elysian Park, and Echo Park Avenue was lost; 2 hours later the fog was still cottony. Generally, I make a point of seeking and preferring clarity (illusory as that might be), but it was so beautiful, and a nice change, to be enveloped in clouds for a little while.

Around the time the fog cleared on Saturday, Martin Cox spotted a western grebe (see above) on the southern end of the park. They're common enough for the region at this time of year, but Echo Park Lake watchers say this is the first one here -- at least in recent history.

Speaking of watercraft and waterfowl, Saturday evening was the reception for the photo exhibit organized by the Los Angeles League of Photographers in support of the paddle boats. I went to the Downbeat Cafe early -- along with RJ and our friends Charles and Tristan, who live in Brooklyn -- but there was already a good crowd: the aisle was filled with bodies. In front of the cafe, a man or woman (I'm not sure) played strange melodies on a breath-powered keyboard instrument; indoors, it was old-guard and newer-guard civics-activist Echo Park.

Sunday, the sky was clear at 9 a.m. (the new 9 a.m., that is, since today is time-change day) when I joined Judy Raskin's bird-watching walk around Echo Park Lake. About 16 people joined the flock, most with binoculars. The first unusual bird we saw was a black-crowned night heron, which was white: I thought the fat heron was a plastic bag in the tree at first. The herons nested this summer on the island and had at least two chicks. We also passed the remaining three of the original 8 doves that someone dumped a few months back. I saw a muscovy duck and a kingfisher, to name a few. One of the stranger birds was a man in camouflage jacket and black pants tucked into his boots who was talking loudly to himself and stabbing the air with a brown book. He wore earphones. The park was already pretty busy with human activity -- fishing lines had been set near the boathouse; a pair of women in folding chairs worked on crossword puzzles; dog walkers walked dogs.

Judy Raskin emailed a list of the birds that were spotted Sunday at Echo Park Lake:

Gadwall
American wigeon
Mallard
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed grebe
Western grebe
Double-crested cormorant
Great blue heron
Black-crowned night heron
American coot
Black-necked stilt
Ring-billed gull
Western gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
White-throated swift
Anna's hummingbird
Allen's hummingbird
Belted kingfisher
American crow
European starling
Yellow-rumped warbler
Common yellowthroat
California towhee
Brewer's blackbird
Great-tailed grackle
house finch
house sparrow
yellow-chevroned parakeets
(unidentified) goldfinch
Ruddy Shelduck

November 2, 2007

Without a Paddle

Echo Park Lake

Photo: Ghost Boat 2007
By Martin Cox [c]

Who says Echo Park art shouldn't be political? Not Chicken Corner, which celebrates the activism of a group of photographers who organized a pair of photo exhibits -- and the content therein -- to boost their efforts to save the paddle boats of Echo Park Lake. (And why is this considered political and not athletic activism? Think low-cost recreation for the people, community well-being etc.)

The first Without a Paddle exhibition was held in October at Mamas Hot Tamales near MacArthur Park. Without a Paddle 2nd Exhibition is at the Downbeat Cafe in Echo Park. It features different works by the same 11 Los Angeles League of Photographers artists -- same names, different show.

The opening reception will be tomorrow evening, Saturday, 6 to 9 p.m. Downbeat Cafe, 1202 N. Alvarado Street . Just north of Sunset Blvd. Petitions will be circling.

November 1, 2007

New Skull/Jerry Garcia at Logan

The sorrow: The bird flew away. I went to Chango this morning for coffee with Cindy Bennett and what did I see? My favorite hummingbird mural has been replaced by a skull/skeleton-themed semi-abstraction in black and white on the metal garage door across from the Del Mor apartments. The skeleton mural is not bad at all, but I loved that rich, joyous hummingbird. I can't imagine looking at it and thinking it was time for a change of scene.

Fittingly, part of my mission this morning was to see an old mural, this one at Logan Elementary, because a reader named Rene had emailed me that he helped paint the idealized landscape scene of Echo Park Lake. Rene said that another helper was Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, in person.

In response to a question I emailed, Rene wrote:

The mural I worked on is located in the playground. ... The mural's about the park and its surroundings like the Angeles Temple, but what makes it special is that Jerry Garcia himself was there. After the mural was completed, the kids who helped were given certificates and an autographed poster. What's sad is that at the time, I didn't know who he was, so the poster was just a piece of paper lying in the shack we lived in. Years later, which was last summer, I found a book about Jerry's art and then it clicked, it was him. The same year we made the mural we also had a field trip to his art gallery. That's a very special memory to me.
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2:07 PM Sat | The funeral for Mark Lacter will be held Sunday, Nov. 24 at 12 noon at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles 90045. Reception to follow.

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