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January 31, 2008

No more Echo Park National Park

Unless I'm going to the Edendale post office, I tend to avoid Glendale Boulevard because of the traffic. But this morning I happened to be driving it, and the road was free and easy zip zip, the sky bright blue, the air cool. But the lovely moring darkened when I got to the Berkeley intersection and saw that the brown sign declaring the traffic island parkway a national park was gone. For how long, I couldn't say. About six weeks ago, a group called Islands in L.A. posted the sign in an effort to plant a good idea. Whether it was jacked by a moron acting on his/her private initiative or removed by the city for officious reasons I can't say. Or maybe Islands wanted their sign back. I want it back, too.

Meanwhile, on the traffic island "parks," California poppies already are blooming, so is thyme -- they look green, drought tolerant, and spiffy, and it crossed my mind to do some guerrilla planting of some of the cuttings from my yard, as numerous neighbors do in Elysian.

I've heard of a small terrific Jamaican restaurant somewhere in the vicinity, but driving and looking today I wasn't able to spot it.

January 30, 2008

Prop O project decided

Confirmed: "That's right. It's Black and Veatch," wrote Kabira Stokes Hochberg in an email this afternoon. They have the contract to implement improvements upon Echo Park Lake. Let's hope they start out by letting the community know promptly all the ways we can participate in decision-making in regard to what they're planning and how they propose to do it.

January 29, 2008

Hot spot

There are no fewer than five production companies who have sent out e-notifications of their intention to film in Echo Park between today and Feb. 1. The companies are 44 Blue Productions; 3 Ball Productions; American Film Institute; Authentic Entertainment; and MTV Networks. Details after the jump.

THE PRODUCTION COMPANY: 44 Blue Productions, Inc
WILL BE FILMING: The Peter Project (Revised)
LOCATION: #1: 1515 W. Sunset Blvd.; #2: 1538 W. Sunset Blvd.
DATES: #1: 1/30/08 - 2/02/08; #2: 1/30/08
HOURS: 8:00 A.M. - 10:00 P.M.
DESCRIPTION OF SCENE: Interior and exterior dialogue. B-roll shots.

THE PRODUCTION COMPANY: 3 Ball Productions, Inc
LOCATION: 2170 W. Sunset Blvd.
DATES: 1/31/08
HOURS: 9:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M.
DESCRIPTION OF SCENE: Interior dialogue. 12 dogs. All on private property.

THE PRODUCTION COMPANY: American Film Institute, The
WILL BE FILMING: Southern Downtown
LOCATION: Morton Ave @ Echo Park Bl
DATES: 2/01/08
HOURS: 7:00 A.M. - 10:00 P.M.
DESCRIPTION OF SCENE: Exterior dialogue. Camera and equipment on sidewalk.
PARKING: All vehicles must be parked legally.

THE PRODUCTION COMPANY: Authentic Entertainment
WILL BE FILMING: Daily Green (Revised)
LOCATION: Scott Ave, Stadium Wy, Riverside Dr. & Glendale Bl, Inclusive
DATES: (Revised Dates) FILM DATES & HOURS: 1/30/08, 8:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M. 2/01/08, 9:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M.
DESCRIPTION OF SCENE: Exterior dialogue. Interviews. Camera & equipment handheld. 5 cast/crew max.
PARKING: All vehicles must be parked legally.

LOCATION: 1822 W. Sunset Blvd.
DATES: 1/29/08 - 1/30/08
HOURS: 7:00 A.M. - 10:00 P.M.
DESCRIPTION OF SCENE: Film band rehearsal 1/29, Interior dialogue, music performance. Atmospheric smoke. 20 or less. 1/30, band playing, Interior dialogue, music performance/ playback, smoke effects. Exterior shots.

Decision on lake-drain project?

Several months ago, it seemed that everyone who had ever heard of water was applying for the contract to clean up Echo Park Lake -- and spend the $90+ million available for the project through Prop O. In the last couple of weeks I've heard from a variety of people that the firm Black & Veatch has been seen digging in the dirt around the lake. When we say digging, we mean with a drilling rig (which I myself did not see), not spoons. Some sort of pre-design study? I don't know. Maybe they were just looking for China.

I have heard there's a City Hall meeting today, Jan 30, to discuss the project. It's a public meeting, though there was no public notice I know of.

January 28, 2008

Poster boys

L.A. River

Poster: Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey has long used political imagery in his poster-style art. And now, two days ahead of this week's Obama o-rama, a west side pr firm -- Yosi Sergant at Evolutionary Media Group -- sent an email around announcing that Fairey was endorsing Barack Obama. The sheet also included info on how to buy Fairey's poster prints of the candidate. If the artist's name doesn't ring a bell, his Obey image (Andre the Giant) will -- glued onto automobile back windows by the many thousands, on utility boxes and light poles. Why, I'm not sure, though it's a strong, memorable black-and-white picture of a face, signature Fairey. The artist also has some political-style murals in Echo Park, on Sunset near the turn for Dodger Stadium, and more more on Sunset near Mohawk. Fairey is already president of his own small corner of the art world, but you could say it looked like it was Obama who was endorsing Fairey, by the mere fact of Obama's being depicted on the poster. Yes, you could say that. (To wit, will Obama's face become signature Fairey like Andre the Giant? Look closely, and you'll see that Obama is wearing Andre the Giant on his person.)

The PR firm offered this "clip" from Fairey's web site:

”I believe with great conviction that Barack Obama should be the next President. I have been paying close attention to him since the Democratic convention in 2004. I feel that he is more a statesman than a politician. He was against the war when it was an unpopular position (and Hillary was for the war at that time), Obama is for energy and environmental conservation. He is for healthcare reform. Check him out for yourself Proceeds from this print go to produce prints for a large statewide poster campaign.”

And what's wrong with that? Well...nothing.

Elysian Elementary

It looks timeless, but it isn't the original. According to Roger Vargo, who once was a pupil at Elysian Heights Elementary school (at Echo Park Ave. and Baxter), the pretty schoolhouse we see today was built after the old one burned down.

Roger emailed me:

On the subject of Elysian Heights School, the building that is there today is NOT the original building. ... As a kid I remember being told that the old building burned down and that's why we didn't have a cafeteria--'cause it burned, too. ... We had to bring our lunches, except for one day a week (Wednesdays, I think), which was hot dog day courtesy of the PTA. The milk truck did bring milk every day, though. Anyway, I was told the "old" EHS once was a two story building with a cafeteria. ... While the school was rebuilt, the cafeteria was not (possibly to be added at a later date).

And before the dairy farm, I've heard occupied that area? Fields? Oil? Tent parties? Chapparral? Unimaginable.

January 27, 2008

Take me to the ocean

When I listen to 103.1 fm it's in the car -- leaving the neighborhood, tired of NPR, KPFK. Almost never in a house, for personal reasons. But I got an email that river man and Arthur editor Jay Babcock would be plugging a new music series at McCabes (Santa Monica, a beachside city). And so then, Sunday night, I'm traveling, in my house, to the 103.1 radio show Dead Air (awful name, but it's a good show) -- and a great band was playing, the Entrance Band, with a song I think they said was called "MLK." A new favorite. I hadn't heard of Entrance before.

An odd thing: I don't think I've heard a radio interview in which the interviewer and interviewee sounded so much alike -- as Babcock and his host -- in tone, range, accent (I'll call it that -- a cultural thing more than geographic). I had to think about who it was saying the bands that would play at Arthur nights McCabes were something of a Western States sampler.

In any case, Arthur nights are an Echo Park regular event at the Little Joy bar. Now they're an export: road trip, radio.

January 26, 2008

From grassland to playground

I have always loved the look of Elysian Heights Elementary: the classic old, original school house, a one storey, narrow building with high ceilings -- it sits like it's been there forever. The main hallway is lit by schoolhouse lights like the ones people bought ten years ago for their homes from salvage (including me). And, of course, the walls and sidewalks are adorned with Room 8 (the cat) tributes, including a large, fading wall painting of the tabby. The trees around the playground are huge and leafy in warm months. It all looks sleepy and somewhat timeless. It's tempting to wonder if it's karma: the fact that within twenty-four hours two people, unprompted, told me about days gone by at Baxter and Echo Park Ave., the site of Elysian Heights Elementary. What kind of karma, I wouldn't be sure. My friend Steve Anker mentioned that there once was a dairy at Baxter and EP Ave. Cows. And, he said, the food market at Duane was a local-produce market--back in the 1920s and earlier. Then, yesterday, by chance I was talking to Sal Castro on the phone. Sal was a high school teacher for about three decades -- he's famous for having helped the kids organize the 1968 Los Angeles school blowouts, in which Latino students demanded better public education. They were reenacted recently in the 2006 HBO film Walkout. Sal lives near Dodger Stadium, and he told me that in the '50s he used to run Friday night dance parties at Elysian Heights Elementary.

Sal said:

It was mostly teen dances…well attended. It was cute. We never had any problems, never had any gang problems – in those days they had a code of ethics…. It was sponsored by the L.A. youth services… I remember there was a cat…[the famous Room 8] Elysian was so little that the principal ran two schools. They had a little statue of the cat… Every Friday, the kids decided what songs I was going to play the following week. In those days the records looked like donuts....

There are no more Friday-night dance parties at Elysian, and it's been a long time since I have played a 45. The grocery at Duane sells milk from cows in Idaho. I'd say something like plus ca change... but it isn't so.

January 24, 2008

Vote for grass

Deep in the heart of the badlands there's a body of water that soon will disappear. According to the DWP, "Recent drinking water rules and regulations require covering Elysian Reservoir" on the east side of Elysian Park. Yeah. Bromate. But there still remain choices in regard to use of this public parkland. We can either watch the DWP put some kind of metal lid over the reservoir and raise a fence around it (the less expensive choice), or we can vote to have them put grass over the 14 acres in question and leave the green space open to the people. (Personal sentiment disclaimer: I want the grass.) This is the "buried tanks" option that will be one of three boxes to check in the vote the DWP is putting to the people this Saturday in Echo Park.

They don't call it a vote. DWP language: "Options for the 14-acre property...will be presented to solicit your opinions. Please attend."

Yes. Please do.

Saturday, January 26, 2008
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (formal presentation at 11 a.m.)
Logan Street Elementary cafeteria
1711 Montana St. (Entrance on Montana St.)
For more information: 213-367-4466

The Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park is strong in its sentiments:

ELYSIAN PARK needs your help! This is the 11th hour in the fight to save a 40-acre canyon in Elysian Park from being turned into an industrial wasteland! By law, all open drinking-water reservoirs must be covered. This is your opportunity to influence how Elysian Reservoir in Elysian Park will be covered. The Citizens Committee To Save Elysian Park believes the only viable option is to bury the water tanks underground creating an additional 14 acres of usable park space in place of the existing reservoir. Come to the January 26 Workshop (between 10am - 1pm) and VOTE! Every vote counts! DWP will base its decision, in part, on community response.
BACKGROUND: For over 10 years LADWP and the Coalition To Preserve Open Reservoirs (CPOR) which consists of representatives of 10 open reservoir communities throughout Los Angeles have been in mediation to decide the fate of ALL the open drinking-water reservoirs. To date, 8 of the reservoirs have been resolved in a way that satisfies their communities. For the last 2 years, LADWP and the CPOR Elysian Subcommittee (composed of volunteers from the Citizens Committee To Save Elysian Park) have been exploring design solutions for Elysian Reservoir. After analyzing 18 different proposals, 4 remain on the table. Again, CCSEP believes the only viable option is to bury the water tanks underground creating an additional 14 acres of usable park space in place of the existing reservoir. Although other alternatives pledge additional funds for enhancements / improvements to Elysian Park, there are NO GUARANTEES for these funds.
For more info, call Sallie at 323.666.9651.

January 23, 2008

Market forces

Nice column by Steve Lopez in the Times today about El Batey Market at the heart of Chicken Corner. (Hall of mirrors: He mentions Echo Park blogger Jenny Burman, with whom he spoke by phone yesterday.) Lopez hits a bunch of nails on the head, and still the issues are elusive. Is it silly to want a market to stay in place just because it's been there for 41 years and the proprietress is well-liked? In the "People's Republic of Echo Park," as Lopez calls it, is natural market initiative welcome? Soy milk or chilis? Should the shop be updated, re-imagined?

Then again, consider this: tiny boutiques and shops such as El Batey pushed out for higher rents; then empty storefronts. Call it science fiction. Certainly other scenarios are possible. But do we have to be fatalistic about it? And, that said, who are "we"?

January 22, 2008

What's that?

Listen Again. Pop critics showdown, throwdown, hoedown downtown. A different kind of theater. This evening at the Red Cat at Disney Hall.

This is what they have to say for themselves:

Ready, set, reinterpret! All pop music, past and present, is fair game on this night of live, rapid-fire music criticism as the members of a distinguished panel of writers, musicians and scholars have five minutes each to persuade the audience to reconsider a series of pop tracks -- and find in them hitherto undiscovered pleasures. This high-spirited confab celebrates the publication of Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music, a collection of writings drawn from the Experience Music Project Pop Conference.

Personal disclaimer: One of the participants, RJ Smith, is married to me.

More birthday...

Delilah's is not the only one in Echo Park to close out Capricorn with birthdays. Echo Curio gallery is claiming one, too.

Here's the announcement:

Wow, one year has passed since the Echo Curio officially unfolded its wings and came screaming into this world. A definite labor of love. ... And now in the dawn of the New Year, things get even more streamlined as the Curio says goodbye to two of its original partners (we wish them well in their home improvement and eventual exodus to KC).

[That] leaves us with an even busier schedule, with [a] themed art show every month, and on top of that, a good three to four musical performances a week.

Not to be outdone, Chicken Corner is having a one-year anniversary today, too -- celebrating, uh, whatever was happening exactly one year ago today. (Well, one thing that was happening was my stepmother's birthday. Happy Birthday, Sally!) And Chicken Corner? Um, one year ago...Chicken Corner pondered the meaning of the accelerated gentrification of the neighborhood and got a headache. Jan. 22, 2007, I was listening to Bird and Bee, an Echo Park band. One year ago, certain memories were twelve months fresher. I was one year younger and looking forward. Maybe you were, too.

And, in all serious, congratulations, Echo Curio!

January 21, 2008


It's an indoor holiday today, with the rain (Happy Birthday, MLK). Yesterday was clear and bright, and the celebration for Delilah Bakery's first birthday was outdoors. The building, now painted creamy mustardy yellow with brown and blue trim, used to be a small evangelical church. The door was often open, and I remember seeng the congregants in folding chairs in the small cinderblock structure. For a short while, after the church moved, it was an art gallery. Now the place sells sin in the form of southern whiskey bread pudding. Walking down Echo Park Avenue toward the party, we saw the balloons, and the first thing I heard was the 4-guitar band singing "It's all over but the crying." Well, not for this sweet place (their motto: Come in bitter...leave sweet). They went on to cover the Byrds, Bob Dylan, the Eagles, Merle Haggard. One of the band members told the crowd that he lived behind Peter Shire's studio farther up on EP Ave. He said he had written a song for Echo Park, called "Feels Like Home." It was a good song. The mini-cupcakes Genevieve gave away were good, too. Too good.

January 17, 2008

Rewriting history

Angeleno Heights
Photo: Echo Park Historical Society

The copyeditor inside me never truly sleeps. And so it has been with Angelino/Angeleno Heights. In this case, it's not just words that matter, but letters -- specifically the change from e to i in the third syllable, which has political as well as sociological underpinnings. It's been an issue for years around Echo Park -- whether it's better with an e or i, and most people I've asked have a ready opinion. My own preference is for an e because that's how it was spelled originally and because it's consistent with the real Spanish history of the area -- as opposed to the real fantasy-production history of the area (at which point we're back to matters of personal taste). In any case, Angeleno Heights, known for the preservation of its Victorian architecture, has the distinction of being the very first Los Angeles neighborhood to achieve historic district status (read HPOZ). And it seems to me that an e plays the bigger role in that achievement.

The city sign on Sunset, however, chooses the Italianate spelling. Whereas Cecilia Rasmussen's Times article last Sunday on Leo Politi (which got me thinking about the choice, once again) goes Spanish -- though that could be a copy error as other L.A. Times stories lean Italian.

I asked Kevin Kuzma, president of the Echo Park Historical Society (which recognizes the Italian style) about his personal preference, and he offered some insight:

All parcels within the original Angeleno Heights tract still have this spelling in their legal description, as they have since 1886.
While I don't know definitively why this change happened, I sure hope there's more to it than a bias against a Spanish spelling.
There's a chapter in Los Angeles, End of the Rainbow (at least I think that's the title) called "Our Italy" about the branding of Southern California in the first part of the 20th century as a domestic resort destination for...Americans. After all, as seen in novels like Room With A View, Italy was becoming very popular with English tourists of means.
Maybe that's overplaying a spelling change, but I think that sort of thing is at least partly responsible for the change.

Meanwhile, in September 2007 LAist looked into the matter with an informative post:


It seems by all accounts that the area was first subdivided and named as Angeleno Heights in 1886. The Editor of the Los Angeles Garment & Citizen said in response to a January 2007 letter from a reader on this very topic that oftentimes names were Anglicized, and that people such as himself preferred to use the traditional "e" spelling as reference to the name Los Angeles and as a stylistic choice. The conflation is understandable; frequently in print many people today remain divided over the proper use of the term Angeleno or Angelino to denote a residential affiliation with the City of Los Angeles, so the confusion here seems par for the course. There is of course, the matter of the actual Neighborhood sign (pictured above). Would it have killed the City to have included the "ei" and "h" to fully spell out Heights? I mean, they managed to get all the letters on the more burdensome Brentwood Village signs. I'm just sayin'.

One neighborhood activist wrote on an Angeleno Heights neighborhood list that he:

...recently contacted Councilman Reyes' office about correcting our neighborhood's name. The historically correct name is spelled, "Angeleno" Heights. The city will be changing the signs around our neighborhood to reflect the correct name.

Not sure if anything has come of that, since the sign has not been changed. So, for now, it will be spelled this way here, that way there, meaningful in its inconsistency.

January 14, 2008

Politi Square

It's the centennial for Leo Politi, the artist who lived in Angelino Heights, known in part for remarkable children's books and for his love of Bunker Hill. Politi already has a strange, lovely, underused section of Elysian Park named after him, but he's getting more name-space in Echo Park this year -- the corner of Sunset and Echo Park Ave., which will be called Leo Politi Square. Cecilia Rasmussen wrote about it in a Sunday Times story. One hundred is an important number, and there are also events celebrating the man, the art and the number 100, including a presentation by the artist's son at the Echo Park Historical Society quarterly meeting on February 13 (7 p.m. Williams Hall at Barlow Hospital, 2000 Stadium Way).


January 12, 2008

Puppy mills of Beverly Hills

Eas-sidahs -- and othahs -- are planning a puppy-mill protest field trip today to Beverly Hills. Seeking support and human companionship on the picketline, of course. The demonstration against one posh establishment that groups such as the Echo Park Animal Alliance believe patronizes and enables puppy mills, will last for two hours. From 12 to 2 p.m. Every hour counts.

According to

On Saturday, December 22nd, the busiest puppy buying day of the year, we held a very successful, PEACEFUL & PROFESSIONAL PROTEST to speak out against puppy mills and to promote adoption in front of the Posh Puppy store in Beverly Hills.

It was good the first time, and they want to do it again. Same place, a little less time on the line.

[The group wants] to educate the public that the majority of pet shops are supplied by puppy mills.
Where: Posh Puppy Store, 9699 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, 90212 (cross street Roxbury, across from Neiman Marcus) When: 12pm-2pm, Saturday, January 12th Contact: Meghan McGill, LCA Volunteer Coordinator, 805-368-9280

Adoption promotion...cruelty demotion! Seriously. Take a look at the wet puppies at North Central animal "shelter." There's no shortage of puppies going around.

January 11, 2008

Busy Intersections

Enjoying a break from his "regularly scheduled art-culture-politics blogging," Intersections blogger Daniel Hernandez posts Jan. 10 about his "second visit to El Chopo, the punk goth hippie rasta emo ska hip-hop street market in Mexico City, near Buenavista station," where his friend Nina bought a handbag made out of an armadillo shell. Then they wandered out of bounds in a supposedly closed archeo-dig site in Teotihuacan, just outside Mexico City. "We climbed the Pyramid of the Sun," Hernandez writes, "and felt la energia." Previous post is about Hillary. Now, there's a busy intersection. Truly cross-border, not to mention cross-dimensional.

Hernandez moved to Mexico City from Echo Park last year, taking Intersections with him.

January 10, 2008

Gummy bears

Gummy bear
Photo by Gloomy Little Cloud+

Starting this post with a personal-connection disclaimer (in regard to the words, not the gummy bear): this is a shameless gush over my lovely 13-year-old cousin Abigail, who has started a new blog, called i'm a wild child -- and it's true, there is a feral streak in my family. (I think I only wore shoes maybe, like, twice before I was 13 years old, at least in the summers.) Though to look at her you'd think Abigail was raised in a house and taught manners and diction. Abigail has three posts on wild child, and the gummy bear above is linked on the first.

Abigail in her "obligatory get to know you" debut post:

i was searching desperately for a header photo and when i was searching gummy bears i came across this little gem. It was love at first sight. So then i dug a little deeper and found out that the photographer is doing a year of gummy bears. every day for a year he is going to photograph gummy worms in various poses and places. there is nurse gummy bear, and crossing guard gummy bear, and gummy bears kidnapping a wii-mote. I am really feeling the urge to ressurect my a Halloween candy and take a few glamour shots of the kit-kat.

I really love that green bear. He looks so civilized, despite the frown, in his chair with a cocktail. Other subjects so far: Facebook, sewing and the ideal presidential candidate. Ultimately, she opted for plants, instead of candy, for her header.

January 9, 2008

Hazmat suit or tux

Machine project is up and running once again after the holidays. Tomorrow's messy affair will celebrate the "Aesthetics of Bacteria."

Excerpts from Machine's gracious email invite:

Please join us on Thursday night [Jan. 10, 8 p.m. Free] for a lecture and workshop with Denise King and her collection of decorative bacteria.
Denise King visits us from San Francisco’s Exploratorium to discuss the aesthetic cultivation of bacteria. She will be presenting an introduction to identifying bacteria in the field, focusing on environments that are accessible from the Los Angeles area. ...
Sample columns filled with lovely multihued stuff with be available for show and tell purposes, and willing participants will be able to make their own bacterial terrarium on site (supplies limited). We suggest wearing casual clothes or a disposable hazmat suit if you plan on participating, as it may get slightly messy. For those who plan on just observing, standard formal wear should be fine.

They were too polite to say "no BYOS" [Bring Your Own Spores]. It's not that kind of party. But, seriously, it sounds like fun.

For more information on Denise King and "some nice pictures of bacteria" Click here.

January 8, 2008

Traffic offender Reeves out of prison

Dave Reeves, writer and traffic "offender," is on the outside now. Jay Babcock of Arthur Magazine, which is home to Reeves' Do the Math column, emailed to say that Reeves walked out last night.

Babcock wrote:

[Reeves] was released last night. He is free on "work release" and has to check in at the jail tomorrow. He said it's race war in there. They make people line up by race: black, Latino and "peckerwood" (white). He witnessed four people beat up in three days, to the point where they couldn't walk. He said there are whole rooms in County that are packed full of traffic offenders.

Reeves was sentenced to prison for 23 days for failing to report an accident in which a man in an SUV hit Reeves on his motorcycle. Yes, that's the story. And the long version doesn't make any more sense than the short version. The writer's other address is in Echo Park.

January 4, 2008

E.P. loans a hand for Obama

Barack Obama took the first victory, and Echo Park's rep. on the city council, Eric Garcetti, was in Iowa campaigning for him. Garcetti has not updated his CD-13 blog since post-xmas December, but he did write in from icy Iowa, on Jan. 2, to Andrew Malcolm's L.A. Times blog with comments about Obama, the boathouse and other Echo Park matters. He took vacation time for the Iowa trip.

Updates -- demo, cats, laptops

Here today, gone faster: Mitch O'Farrell from Eric Garcetti's office said the Angelus Temple acted within the law in erasing the bungalow it owned on Lemoyne:

Angelus Temple obtained the demolition permit for that location before the ICO [interim control ordinance] was adopted. The ICO is still in place and would prohibit demolition of remaining protected structures within the ICO radius without a hardship exemption.

Deputy Cats: One list server from the Echo Park Animal Alliance posted this morning that:

The L.A. County jails have been using cats for years. It's amazing to me that every time I go down there, there's a whole group of them just strolling along...however...then you see a giant rat.

Brite Spot clears away the holidays and pronto. Jan. 2, I drove past a team of Brite Spotters scrubbing holiday greetings off the Sunset Boulevard diner's windows. In with the new.

Magic Gas has gas again. (Really, no pun intended.) The handwritten signs that seemed to be up for weeks on each pump, declaring, "Sorry, no gas," have been removed. Now I wish someone would remove the icky Big Boy billboard ("Big Boy has gas" -- emphasis is mine) from Alvarado/Sunset.

I've been looking for the churros truck that usually sits on Echo Park Avenue just south of Sunset but haven't seen it. Hoping it's just on vacation.

Everytime I've been to the Downbeat Cafe recently the place has been wall-to-wall laptops. Writers' strike. So I guess they're working their novels. (Novelists, after all, are not joining the strike in solidarity.) Dakota, who runs the kitchen, said that he's had to work late because the usual prep-work that get done during normal working hours has been impossible to achieve because of the crush.

Nacimiento de Los Angeles

Cool bike Nativity tour -- listed on Tu Ciudad magazine's* website -- for this Sunday, Jan. 6, through Highland Park, Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights. (All of which are the new Echo Park, according to some. Well, close enough.) The folk-art crawl features Nativity scenes in houses and yards, on roofs, in a living room. This is the 8th annual tour.

According to the Latino Urban Forum:

Nacimientos, or nativity scenes, is a tradition that many Latino throughout Latin America follow during the Christmas season. This tradition takes place in the streets of LA where many immigrants and multi-generational families spend countless hours creating Nacimientos in their front yards, porches, on roofs, as well as in the home. Nacimientos range in size, complexity, and creativity. Some can be a simple scene of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to elaborate landscapes with tinsel waterfalls, sparkling lights, and hundreds of pieces. Each Nacimiento reflects the creator’s devotion to Christmas and can be very personal in nature. For many Latinos, the building of the sets begins the day after December 12th, which is the feast day of Our lady of Guadalupe and they stay up until January 6th, when the three kings arrive with gifts for the new born king.

Click here for a score of images from the 2006 tour. I am not a Nativity nut by any stretch, but some of these images are truly poetic. I recommend starting at the first address.

*Full disclosure: I copyedit for Ciudad.

Here today gone even faster*

A new gone: the empty lot next to El Centro del Pueblo playground on Lemoyne Street just popped up.

According to architect Scott Fajack, who is a board member of the Echo Park Historical Society, the bungalow "was there on the first and gone yesterday [Wednesday]."

This is also next to the Foursquare Church's complex, and I believe it is owned by the temple, which evicted tenants in its project of building a giant parking structure to replace the housing units -- to accommodate out-of-area congregants who drive to services. I thought there was still in effect an interim control ordinance prohibiting new contruction/destruction in the area. Though I've also heard reports of the ordinance being flauted not just by property owners but by city clerks, who have granted permits that were supposed to be on hold.

I drove to the lot yesterday, and there it was: no trace of the craftsman-style units -- if memory serves. Just dirt. And a bulldozer. And a view straight through from Lemoyne to Glendale Blvd.

January 3, 2008

Deputy cats...

Well, Chicken Corner missed the Dec. 29 Times story the first time around, but thanks to the Echo Park Animal Alliance list serve news service, the story doubled back to me: LAPD to deputize cats in rats war. [My headline.] They're putting the critters to work, no questions asked. Years ago, my husband was a witness/non-witness in a crime, and a detective used to pop up at odd hours (they don't call ahead) to talk about what RJ hadn't seen. One time, standing at the door, the detective saw my cat Flipper (who at just this moment 2008 is doing some pre-rain-storm prowling around the house). "Does he catch many birds?" flew right out of the detective's mouth. (And rats, by extension.) I immediately said, "Oh, no, no, never!" Which wasn't true. Stupid! Stupid! I didn't realize it was a job interview.

According to the Times:

One animal welfare group has figured out a way to save their lives and put them to work in Los Angeles. The Working Cats program of Voice for the Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal advocacy and rescue group, has placed feral cats in a handful of police stations with rodent problems, just as the group placed cats in the rat-plagued downtown flower district several years ago -- to great effect.

One thing Carla Hall's story gets egregiously wrong is the notion that feral cats cannot be turned into pets. I have my own stories on that account, i.e.: Completely feral cat who showed up at my house and hung around, so frightened and wild I didn't really know what he looked like for the longest time. Cut to: two years later. The black-and-white cat, who now has a name, Blackie, outside my window howling not to be fed but to be patted. I used to avoid him when I was wearing nice clothes because his kneading was so intense he pulled threads. He could spring six feet straight up out of my arms when he was startled. He learned to love love.

January 2, 2008

Whose river is this?

I heard today from my friend Lewis MacAdams of Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR) about the murals mess down in the river channel near Elysian Valley. In regard to Chicken Corner's recent mention of County Supervisor Gloria Molina's effort to erase the murals, Lewis said:

I think it's important...not to see this as some kind of battle between Molina and FoLAR, because it's not. It's part of a larger struggle to use the river channel. In the last few weeks, fly fisherman have begun to use the river for carp catch and release, a band called No Age did a concert (or part of one) by the Sunnynook footbridge. People are out ahead of the bureaucrats, and it's making the bureaucrats very nervous.

As long as the expression of nervous doen't mean perpetual gray channels spotted with whitewash and music that gets shut down by park rangers....

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