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April 30, 2008

Rally for books

SaveLAPL has put out a call to all the Borrowers afield. It's time to come out with your library books in your hands! Held high overhead, so the mayor can see them! Save LAPL has organized a rally in an effort to influence the Budget and Finance Committee of Los Angeles, which is meeting tomorrow to discuss cuts to library funding.

The organization asks that "library loving citizens carry a library book to City Hall tomorrow afternoon, Thursday May 1, to show support during budget hearings when the Library faces devastating cuts to the book fund, staff layoffs and Sunday branch closures."

A love-in for books.

Please carry a library book to City Hall tomorrow afternoon, Thursday May 1, to show support for the Los Angeles Public Library.
WHY: The Budget & Finance Committee is hearing the proposed Library budget, with its many deep cuts to staff, library hours and book buyingâ€"here is your chance to speak up in support of LAPL keeping all its city funding!
WHERE: Ferraro City Council Chambers, 3rd floor, City Hall (First and Spring Streets, enter on Main Street)
WHEN: The afternoon session begins at 1pm on Thursday May 1, with the Library the second-to-last agenda item. We do not know when the Library issue will be discussed, but if many members of the public attend, it may be moved to earlier in the afternoon.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Fill out a speaker's card when you arrive and wait to see if you are called to speak in support of the Library. Or, just be in the room to show support.
WHO: Join City Librarian Fontayne Holmes, the Librarian's Guild, citywide Friends of the Library groups and Save LAPL in showing your support of the Los Angeles Public Library.
IF YOU CAN'T ATTEND: Your emails sent through are being read by the Mayor, Budget & Finance Committee members and the City Librarian. Speak up online and create an account if you want to be kept informed about this issue.
GETTING THERE: Due to May Day protests, please use the subway to get downtown. Exit at Civic Center on the Red Line. Wikipedia page for connection information to Civic Center Station: Map of Civic Center Station with directions to City Hall:
Elysian Twilight


Photo by Aleida Rodriguez, 2008

Two night ago, I turned my car east onto Baxter Street from Echo Park Avenue. Straight in front of me was the famous Baxter Stairs -- the highest of Echo Park's many public stair-streets. The street lights that line the steps looked as though they had been hung on a vertical cliff. I slowed almost to a stop to look. It's not surprising that the hill -- also known as Kite Hill -- has inspired so many people in the neighborhood, though the usual awe comes from people stopping at the top of the stairs and looking across the canyon to the mountains.

Recently, I had the good luck to receive an Aleida Rodriguez poem, which was inspired by the view looking toward, not away, from the Baxter steps.

Elysian Twilight

Thirty seconds later, head bowed to sudsy water,
and I would’ve missed it.
The pale mauve stain that seeps up from the hem of the hill
like spilled rosé would have evaporated
and I would’ve seen only evening’s indigo dress rent with stars.
But something makes me look up from twenty-three years
at the same sink and catch daytime’s ordinary pine
shedding its quotidian pretense,
entering left with a dark cloak and serrated eyebrows.
At right, the ineptly pruned cottonwood’s few emergent leaves
fill into a gown in the fading light
and it glides in, holding up a gloved hand.
Twilight, the dance these trees have begun between them,
hovers at the edge of taking form—or losing form?—
becoming the evanescent portrait between the vases.
The serpentine jewels of the Baxter Stairs
dangle from its darkening throat.
A shadow mockingbird streaks to the highest spot to release its song.

Aleida Rodriguez/3.31.08

April 29, 2008

Keeping it closed: Dodgers respond

Dodger rep Noel Pallais responded on a neighborhood list to complaints that no officers were assigned to "man" barricades. He says traffic personnel weren't there because they weren't supposed to be.


Dear Neighbors: Relative to your concerns about the barricades being placed without City personnel staffing them, please note that as per our agreement with the community all elements of the neighborhood protection plan are activated when the Scott Avenue Gate is utilized for outgoing traffic. As such, since that gate was not utilized this past Saturday or Sunday, neither DOT officers nor LAPD personnel were assigned. Thank you, Noel E. Pallais/ Community Affairs Manager/ Los Angeles Dodgers

Well, Chicken Corner is glad to hear the gate wasn't open for those games. Keep it closed!

Dodger flood gates

They're striking out when it comes to promises to manage traffic in the neighborhood. A reliable member of an Echo Park list serve reports that not so much as one spiffy guard "manned" traffic barricades in the neighborhood at all this weekend. Dodgers reps have boasted they had the clout to provide traffic cops.

According to the resident:

This weekend...there were Dodger games Saturday and Sunday, they traffic signs were put up at all the intersections but no one manned them. So people just drove down side streets as they felt like it ignoring the signs. Is this a new cost cutting measure of the Dodgers since they need to save some money to fund the HUGE expansion up in Dodgertown?
I thought the agreement was that Scott Avenue gate would be reopened and the Dodgers would maintain all efforts to manage traffic, didn't seem so this weekend.

I was present at meetings last season when Dodger rep Howard Sunkin swore up and down that the Dodgers had the power to ensure traffic officers would be assigned to residential streets in Echo Park affected by the re-opening of the Scott Avenue gate. So, the question: does this lack of follow-through come from a lack of will or ability?

April 28, 2008

Graffiti watch pt. X

In a seemingly un-ironic display of sentiment -- this time political, as well as personal -- a graffitist tagged the side of the Food Market at Duane and Echo Park Avenue this weekend, in response to Friday's news of the acquittal of the New York cops who shot a young man named Sean Bell.

Graffiti read:

R.I.P. Sean Bell Fuck police

When the Food Market moved into its cinderblock building about five years ago, it painted over a large mural on Duane Street. I am not sure why they painted the mural over if it wasn't the standard belief that murals attract taggers. The owners chose a nice, bright ochre color, which they have had to refresh dozens and dozens of times after being hit by taggers attracted by the tabula-ochre the wall provided. I'm curious to find out if the Sean Bell message has been painted out.

Meanwhile, about thirty yards away, a different kind of paint-vandal struck in a very un-lovely way. Someone hurled about a gallon of fakey-looking green paint over the image of the pink dinosaur that had been painted on the side of the artist's studio facing Echo Park Ave.

Ships at sea*

Lovely L.A. Times Book Review cover photo for Chicken Corner's water fowl correspondent, Martin Cox, this Sunday. And on Festival of Books weekend, no less! Martin has a reputation as a photographer of sea vessels (among other subjects): derelect ships as well as sea-going ones. This half-submerged trailer -- illustrating a review of Marisa Silver's new novel -- is an elegant variation on the theme of lost ships. Here's to hoping they don't call back from the deep a vessel like this when they drain Echo Park Lake next year (or the year after).

Peek behind the scenes: Note the dummy type/TKs* on the version below. And headline has been improved.


Click here to see more photos by Martin Cox.

*TK: Info to come.

Missing the point

There have been a small spate of missing flyers stapled to phone poles in Echo Park. The first one I saw was high on the hill on Cerro Gordo near Alvarado. It caught my eye instantly: a white girl, on colored paper. I wondered why there weren't more posted, but I felt the usual unease when I see one of those. Chances are the person in the photo is dead -- the hope the flyer represents unintentionally embodying the classic first stage of grief. Then I saw more of the flyers. Here and there. Different photos of the girl. Artfully done. Then I happened to wander past one stapled to a pole on Echo Park Avenue. D-oh. There's a paragraph of text about wanting to be on the same train with a loved one. So it is an embodiment of grief. The subject -- the girl on the photo -- has a broken heart. Or it's an art prank. Not as clever as writing on the sidewalk, but similar in its use of public space to "share" private feelings with passersby.

April 26, 2008

Crazy like a fox... Silver Lake? Make that a gray fox, perhaps a Griffith Park Fire survivor. Caught on film by Gary Vlahakis. Diane Edwardson sent me the link to the Corralitas Red Car Property blog, posted by Community Residents’ Association for Parks, a nonprofit dedicated to acquiring the Corralitas Red Car Property and preserving it as a park. The group was founded in 1997. The blog also has a nice mini-trove of photos and info-nuggets on the Semi-Tropics Spiritualists Tract in Echo Park.


Photo by Gary Vlahakis, April 25, 2008

Public service announcement or mood swing?

Someone(s) is having their moods. Dakota at Curbed L.A. broke the image on Friday. All is full of love -- sprayed in cursive on a sidewalk in Echo Park, this one at Effie. A green-spray counterpart to the Little Joy bar graffiti There is no joy in this hipster hell. Chicken Corner wonders is this the work of the same graffiti bandit, or do we have a good witch and a bad witch loose in EP? (Handwriting analysis not being our strong suit.) Which begs the question: which act of writing-on-the-sidewalk came first? The "no joy" or the "love"?


No joy

Photos by Dakota/Curbed LA

April 24, 2008

The Borrowers rejoice

Well, Chicken Corner sure was happy today to be flying back to a city that had a public library with books you could borrow for free. The news, of course came a couple of days ago: the effort to install a $1 borrow fee for books you really wanted (i.e., the ones you asked for, or "put on hold") was put on hold indefinitely.

A new group/website called Save LAPL made it happen right quick. Put together by Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, uses open source software donated to the world by Howard Dean's former campaign. Information does, indeed, want to be free.

From their press release:

In the week leading up to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's 2008-09 budget announcement, a grassroots group of book lovers, L.A. historians, librarians and free-software activists came quickly together as in a last minute push to stop a misguided plan to implement a $1-per-book loan fee for all inter-branch library requests. Not quite one week and 875 impassioned emails to the Mayor later, the proposal was taken off the table in a stunning victory for those who believe, as Benjamin Franklin did, that the Public Library must remain FREE for all citizens.

My hope is that, like the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, which was founded in the 1960s, Save LAPL will stay active beyond the current crises.

As for "crises" plural, in a week that has become unpleasant, city-wise, with the release of the mayor's budget ideas, Save LAPL addressed other library troubles as well. Again from the press release:

Another important result of the SaveLAPL campaign was the Library Foundation's creation of a special account where concerned citizens can donate directly into the Library's book buying budget, which has been so deeply slashed by budget cuts that no new books have been purchased since February.
But the Los Angeles Public Library still faces a crisis, and in the days leading up to the May 1-2 city budget hearings, citizens can still visit the website for updates on proposals to close branch libraries, on Sundays lay off workers and reduce the book buying budget by $2 million (a 22% cut from last year and 33% from two years ago).
The website was launched by Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, the newlywed L.A. writers and social historians behind Esotouric bus adventures and the 1947project time travel blog.

Last year, they also pushed for a fire fighting goats initiative (i.e., we use goats to clear brush) that Chicken Corner strongly favored.

April 22, 2008

Working lunch


Photo by Jonathan Williams, April 21, 2008

Artist Jonathan Williams sent me this photo of a great blue heron with its catch, flying away to enjoy. (Will you be having the lizard today or mouse?) The picture was taken in Elysian Park, near Scott Avenue -- a couple of hundred yards away from the site of a film-set commotion last week, which included BB lights (read, big, bright and bright), nighttime shoots, with working animals like raccoons and dogs.

Well, this bird appears to be self-employed. And free, within the limits of urban confines.

April 18, 2008

In other bird news

KittyA pair of fowl -- but fair -- reports made their way to Chicken Corner this week. The first is a tale of two cockatiels. The second, our most recent correspondence from Chicken Corner's water fowl correspondent.

Suzi Rogers, who lives in Echo Park and is known to many as the Edendale Library Friends Society's book sale manager, sent me this Echo Park bird story:

Last week a friend who lives in the Pico/Union area mentioned that she had found a gray cockatiel walking around her yard. Since many cats, including hers, hang out in said yard, she gathered it up in a box. Being a computer geek she immediately went on-line to see if anyone was looking for their pet cockatiel and low and behold a guy in Silverlake had just lost his beloved cockatiel "Cleo". He came right over to pick up the bird but alas, it was not his Cleo. He felt terribly let down and my friend was embarrassed and upset.
[Then, Wednesday] after a long afternoon of selling used books at the Edendale Library, I decided to just stop off at our local Vons (Alvarado and Montana) and get something for dinner. Coming out of the store, in the parking lot, walking towards my car, was a yellow cockatiel! I picked it up and it pecked me a few times but stayed very still on the floor of my car on the ride home. I put it in a box and called my friend. She still had the guy 's phone # so I called him. He was just going to work (he's a nurse at Children's Hospital on Sunset) so he asked if we could bring the bird to the hospital.
My husband took the box, with bird, to the hospital after dinner and to our great delight it was indeed his beloved Cleo. So my bird karma is at an all time high!

Meanwhile, the gray cockatiel was taken first to the Pasadena Animal Shelter, which refused the bird because it was not found in Pasadena. Then it went to Lacy Street, which promised that they do not kill birds. They said the cockatiel will go to a relief aviary if its guardian does not turn up.

On the wild side, Martin Cox sent the following (which I received here in Washington, D.C., where I am visiting family for passover).


Well, some good news: four Mallard duck families have managed to retain some chicks, and once they reach a larger size their chances of survival increase.
Several Great Blue Herons have reproduced, and I think a Night Crowned Heron was successful also.

You may recall that Chicken Corner recently reported that duckling numbers were at a scary zero at the start of the season. So, here's to keeping the present numbers afloat, if not higher.

Back east we're watching cardinals, gold finches, pileated wood peckers and other types of wood peckers, and flies as big as chihuahuas.

April 17, 2008

Vandals at the river

Photo by Jay Babcock

Jay Babcock reports in Nature Trumps that the other shoe has dropped for the murals that graced the Los Angeles River banks near Elysian Park. They appear to have been vandalized by County workers, who brushed white paint all over the images a group of name artists donated. The artists had permits to paint on the river banks; County crews apparently had work orders. As for the murals, not everyone loved every image -- that's the way with art. But now the debate moves from the subject of imagery to the concept of ugliness and nothing -- except for the possible misuse of public funds.

In an email Jay writes:

I gotta say it is very sad to see this naked, pointless, destructive abuse of power. I much the County is going to end up paying the affected artists, as I am being told that there is clear case law precedent in situations like this.

Nature Trumps recently posted an April 1 AP story that provides a good overview of the issue.

One thing I liked about the murals: they gave a sense of positive human presence down by the river. Along with the trees and other wild flora, they helped erase the sense of desolation of the concrete river banks.

April 16, 2008

Save the Borrowers

Kim Cooper of the estimable 1947Project has started an organization, with her peers, to speak up for the borrowers among us, people for whom the public library is a necessary institution. And just in time for National Library week, which started on Sunday.

Yesterday Cooper announced the launch of a new website devoted to challenging the new $1 borrow fee planned for July and other measures:

I am part of a grassroots collective of passionate library users who are deeply disturbed by the proposed $1-per-book inter-branch loan fee that will be charged beginning July 1st.
We have launched a website to raise awareness of this issue and the fact that there is a virtual moratorium on the Library buying new books and periodicals.
We believe that if the people who use the Library make their feelings known to the Mayor, Library Commissioners and City Librarian that an alternate solution will be found, one which will generate more money for the Library without putting the burden for fundraising on the people who can least afford it.

Anna Sklar, who wrote to Chicken Corner that she once led a Librarians' Guild fight against book-budget cuts, had some insight:

[The] decision to charge for holds and stop buying books is appalling. Many years ago I led a Librarians Guild successful effort to halt Library Commission plan to cut book budget. The current draconian decision must have come from council and mayor who control the budget.
Surely we should immediately start a campaign to petition mayor and council to halt library decision. If the environmentalists can halt sewage pollution, readers can [save the libraries].
Many big money organizations found the funds to build the new library as well as many of the branches. Buildings without books are bodies without souls. With all the branch Friends of the Library (with at least 69 branches) and Friends of the Central Library, I say it's time to get organized.

Unless, that is, we want our librarians to end up dumpster-diving for books at the branches with lower-income users, the library computers used as patrons' ordering stations for Amazon.

It's not just books the library can't buy but educational tools of all sorts. The following was posted by Rosie Betanzos on a neighborhood list yesterday:

Edendale Library’s Young Adult librarian requests donations of board games, card games or any other similar items. She is building a collection for the Summer Teen program. When you do your spring cleaning this year, please check your closests and gather the unused games for the library. Drop them off to the reference desk and say they are for Shellie’s teen program.

Recently, Rosie pointed out that library allocations are tied to the numbers of books checked out (though late fees go to the city general fund, not the library), much the way public schools get money based on kids' attendance. I never knew that. I always felt a little guilty when I took out more books than I would have time to read. No more.

April 15, 2008

R & P to Board: Not tonight, dears?

Recently, Chicken Corner has been hearing talk about friction between Rec & Parks officials and a citizen's advisory board involved in the $90+ million cleaning of Echo Park Lake that soon will start. The project will involve draining the lake, re-lining the bottom, as well as a redesign of the green spaces surrounding the water. Big project, big impact. A lot at stake if you care about the park and the plants and creatures who live there or visit. To make it all good, meetings must be planned and carried out, information shared, opinions respected.

So, if Chicken Corner correctly interprets all the clucking, it seems Rec & Parks folks want to shoo the Park Advisory Board (comprised of volunteers) back into their coop by rescheduling the group's regular Tuesday meetings. According to a person I will call X:

[The Park Advisory Board is] being told to change tonight's meeting, today!
No way is this possible, the Park Advisory Board have already invited Bureau of Engineers to address the lake drainging and a School teacher who is studying the lotus.
It's as though Wreck and Parks assumes the Advisory Board is doing nothing...but actually this is a vital and intensive group looking to make positive change in the community.

X says this fits a pattern of disrespect to the board by Rec & Parks:

So the Rec and Parks keep appointing these "Directors in Charge" to show up at he PAB meetings. They are mostly hostile, high handed and treat the volunteer board as lowly employees. took a huge amount of work to get consensus to have a regular meeting Tuesdays. Well the Chair was TOLD to change it, the chair ignored this demand and had the previous meeting as scheduled. ... The issue here is that if they change the night this will likely being only the beginning of a pattern of destructive alterations, perhaps designed to weaken or end the Board's involvement.

One thing we know is true: It's crucial that the community/public be allowed to participate in the planning of this the very least in an advisory way.

It's also important that the meetings be attended. The public is urged to show up for the meeting planned for this evening at 6:30. At the Echo Park Library at 1410 W. Temple St.

For a detailed overview of the project, click here.

April 14, 2008

"No Joy" hipster was Maisie


Photo by Veronique de Turenne

Chicken Corner is sad to announce that the identity of the "No Joy" hipster has been revealed. The life force behind those now infamous words "There is no joy in this hipster hell" -- sprayed onto the sidewalk near the Little Joy bar -- was bound to have a human, or dog, face, and this one turns out to be black and furry.

Maisie says she is sorry for what she did, but it is too late to take the words back because she lacks the requisite acids that would scour the paint off the sidewalk.

And what, I asked, happened that night, about a month ago, to make her write such a thing in white spray paint, on public property? Well...Maisie took a deep sigh, and told me what she said was the short version:

It started that morning. Everything was liver snacks until her cherished yellow ball went over a cliff in her native Malibu. That ball... [She couldn't go on with this part of the story and excused herself for a moment. I thought I heard a yelp over the phone line. Then she returned.] Her ball was gone. She needed a change of scene. The exquisite sight of the sun-sparkled water and beach and the bluffs that had taken her ball were too awful to bear. She decided to go to Echo Park, because she had heard that it was dirty and that it was a place with artists, inspired people. Losses such as hers require inspiration. [Deep sigh] Later that night, she finds herself at the Little Joy, and it first it was just what the veterinarian ordered: Lots of energy and appetite. Good music, cheap dog biscuits and beer. She is laughing and telling the story of the little yellow ball, the way it rolled so fast, receding. The hipsters in the bar were all attention. But then she made the mistake. She mentioned that she had lost the ball in Malibu. Where she lived. She saw eyes start to glaze over. She thought she heard somone snicker something about a Scottish cashmere dog bed, gold dog bowls and Dog-People Magazine. Then it comes out that she is unaffiliated with any gallery. Then she has never heard of the Entrance band. You'd think she was covered in fleas the way they started to inch away, the way the space around her suddenly turned into the no-go zone in the center of the bar. The pool balls were making an awful racket; they sounded hard, like they would break your teeth if you let them. And the hipster who just a few minutes earlier had been howling along with her to "I Go Out Walking After Midnight," his beard was full of biscuit crumbs -- she remembered how he had snapped away one of her biscuits earlier -- and now there was a mad dog gleam in his eye that made her glad she had lost her beautiful little yellow ball on the cliff, surrounded by lupines and sea grasses, glad she had not brought it here to be spit on my the likes of... She was glad she had not lost her ball in hell.

"And the rest of the story," she said, "is written on the sidewalk. And I'm sorry. I was so deep in my own grief I never thought I might make some poor little mutt sad with my words. If I bummed anyone out, or made them feel I resented the pleasure they found, in the place where I found no friends, made to feel my fleas were fatter than anyone else's..." She seemed to forget the rest of the thought. "You know?" she said brightly. "They say I am a good dog. And today, I am going on a walk. And I have a new ball. A green one."

I was about to tell Maisie how I admired her courage in coming forward with her story, but all I heard at the other end of the line was a screen door slapping shut, the sound of big paws trotting away. A brand new start for a brand new day. Peace out, Maisie!

April 12, 2008

Hall of mirrors for Hipster Hell

Eek! There's no way out!
Say what?
There's no way ou-ou-t!
Say again--

The photo below was posted yesterday by Dakota on Curbed L.A. ( I like this photo. It gets right to the point.) It had been weeks since I'd checked to see if the neatly written lament (below) had been written out -- i.e., erased. According to Dakota, it hasn't. Which is poignant in a way I can't quite put my finger on.


If you're having trouble craning your neck, it reads: "There is no joy in this hipster hell." It was written at least a month ago near the Little Joy bar in Echo Park.

Here's a sample of the 13 funny/less funny comments Curbed's post elicited:

The grocery store in the same building (sort of) as Little Joy sometimes has durian, the Thai fruit that smells like doo-doo. Maybe the hipster smelled the durian, and could not enjoy himself in the bar.


Sorry, guys, I was in a hurry when I spraypainted that and forgot a W and some punctuation. I intended it to read: "There is now joy in this hipster. Hello!"

Ha! And:

Hipsters are nothing but dogs. ...

Sometimes I like cybergraffiti. It can be full of joy, laughter and, yes, sometimes bitterness....

April 11, 2008

The borrowers adrift?

Subject line: Re: Is LA Library going to charge for holds? A solid wall of it in my in box, off a neighborhood list serve. Message after message in agreement and in distress over a new library commission effort to cut its budget/raise revenue. Thus, I learned that the "Los Angeles Public Library is going to charge $1 for all books that are put on hold and transported from another library, and that they're shortening the period you can have a book from 3 weeks to 2 weeks" -- if this information is correct. One thing I know is true: the mention of the fee raised hackles immediately. I could practically hear groans and screaming before I even clicked on the first message, and with good reason: the Edendale Library of Echo Park, which most of the message writers use, is a new library, and a fairly small one, with limited shelf space and a spotty permanent collection. Which is not to say the place isn't buzzing with use. I go there frequently, and it's always busy. A dollar might not seem like a lot, but as one list-server pointed out, it can be prohibitive for a family with several children or even just one child with a research paper that requires several books. And it violates the principle of public library books being loaned free of charge.

There also was news of a freeze on book purchases.

One person wrote:

In a meeting last night of the Edendale Library Friends (ELFS) the head librarian said there is a freeze on book purchases, paper, mylar book covers, and much more. Even money the Friends gave the Edendale library last year to buy books was appropiated by the city.
Edendale is now relying on generous donations of books from outside the system, then recycling old book covers for them, and hoping the Friends can come up with paper and other critical supplies. The friends wised up and will purchase critically needed books directly this year, but we can't come close to matching what book funds the library has lost in the last round of budget cuts. We're very concerned they will lose staff and library hours as well. Yes, the proposed charges will likely materialize unless we fight and beat City Hall. Our little Wednesday booksale is the bookstore of choice for our little neighborhood, so more than ever, we need you to come in and support our library. If you can't come in Wednesdays but are available during library hours they can use help removing old book covers, and stocking the donation cart.

Following, more comments, from different people:

The city was so proud of building all the new libraries, and justly so. Yet, now that they're built, and the kids in the neighborhoods are using them, this fee will close them out of being able to get books. I think it's terrible. I get books from the library all the time, and most of them are brought in from other branches because Edendale doesn't have them. Which makes sense since it's so new, and especially if they can't buy new books. ... The kids in this city have enough to worry about without losing a major educational tool.

Another person wrote:

I was at E.P. library today and the librarian told me that there is NO MONEY to buy new books. They are on a freeze. Don't jump on me, because I don't think charging for a hold will solve this problem. I'm just passing this on. What I really want to know is how can a city like L.A. not have money for library books? I don't believe it. I don't want to hear there is no money unless I see some sort of breakdown of where money comes from and where it goes to. Having libraries charge for holds is ridiculous - is this like a netflix approach or something?

A response:

I was told that library fines go into the General Fund. This will, too. It won't really even help the library if this is true.

From a different source:

It seems unfair to those who live in communities with smaller libraries and to people with disabilities who may have difficulty getting to different locations within the city, as well as to those families for whom $1 a book is a very steep price, especially since a family might want several books for several children, and for the completion of research projects, etc. the library system was intended to be a free system that would benefit everyone, not least of all, those who could not afford books. the hold program allows everyone local access to the entire system.

And the rally cry:

Echo Park has always had fighters. I hope we are all one voice now.

April 9, 2008

Different kind of Park

Everybody's talking. In the place where El Authentico tried to make it work, there's a new establishment, The Park. (At Sunset and Douglas.)

So, after fluttering over there twice in one week, Chicken Corner's take on The Park has been positive -- despite the fact that I nearly lit my menu on fire immediately upon sitting down the first time, due to some ill-advised flat-ish candles with flames higher than the lip of the candle holder. While the food is good but not great, I really like this place. It's bare bones, but it has an easy, energetic vibe. It filled up quickly on Saturday night, and service was quick, too -- friendly and very good at putting out fires. When the table next to ours set their menu on fire -- big burst of flame -- The Park personnel were right on it. And they forgot to forget to play Neil Young and Carol King for patrons, which made me happy. Maybe some Harry Nilsson next time. The artist Shepard Fairey was present with his wife. He said he liked the polenta.

Here's what Eater Los Angeles has to say about it.

ECHO PARK: A reader tipped us off about The Park's recent debut, an everyday neighborhood bistro that's casual, eclectic, run by three friends who did all the renovations by themselves (with the help of more friends). Classic Echo Park. The room has salvaged light fixtures, natural woods, "gentle colors." Chef and co-owner Joshua Siegel, who put in some time at Square One and SF's Firefly, came up with an understated and inexpensive the menu: spaghetti and meatballs, roast chicken, hangar steak. Hey, they know their 'hood. (1400 Sunset Blvd, 213.482.9209).

April 7, 2008

Ducks diary: Echo Park Lake


Saturday, Martin Cox emailed me this cell phone pic of a Mallard mom paddling after her brood. I was expecially glad to get this news because of the scant number of goose and duck chicks at the lake this year.

Martin wrote:

A Mallard has managed to produce 10 chicks! And now some more have followed. The first family of this size this year[!]

On Sunday, Judy Raskin posted on a neighborhood list:

As of today (Sunday, 4/6) there are at least three new broods of Mallard ducks. One mama has 11 ducklings, another 6 and a third has one. There is also one pair of Canada geese with a single gosling. These numbers will change over the next few days, so you should go take a look as soon as you can. And we wait anxiously for the arrival of great blue heron chicks!

Sadly, today I heard that the gosling has disappeared. In the meantime, my calls to the Department of Rec and Parks have not been returned (and, yes, I have left my number). I called to see if the Bird Island gates could be closed, as it was for years, until 2008. The reduced number of ducklings and goslings very likely could be a result of nest raiding by humans on the island.

April 6, 2008

The things they buried: Chicken Corner?

For the last couple of years, we've all known it would happen. The big machinery, the displacement of dirt -- and history -- at Chicken Corner, whose most physical address is Delta and Echo Park Ave, 90026, across from Magic Gas. In November "they" came barreling down in a big-ass hurry to tear down the bungalow at the edge of the property, which the Echo Park Historical Society and others had been trying to get moved. Then came the new chain-link fence and then, nothing. Silence. The rains came and plants grew. For a while it looked like an urban soy plantation. In mid-March slumber and unstable peace ended, and cranes showed up and earth movers, pretty artists' murals were painted down, the little hillside grade was taken away. That's where we are now. The condos are coming. You can watch it from the picture window at Chango, the view-spot that required the destruction of Aaron Donovan's chickens mural -- which gave Chicken Corner its name, in the days before Chango existed. My daughter likes to get up close near the fence, to see the massive machinery at work. Some day she may remember the sight. The condos she'll take for granted. Some day she may have friends who live there.

If you're just tuning in: the lots in question used to be an urban ranch and a nursing-care facility -- the two properties side-by-side. For decades there were livestock at the ranch. Then, for a few years, it was empty -- urban space waiting for the next thing, which should have been a park.

(A park: I don't know of any efforts by residents to have the property turned into a park. That particular wagon train left the station quietly. Local groups did work with successive developers, as the properties changed hands at least twice, to influence design decisions. To wit, condo residents will park in back and no faux Italian/Victorian nonsense.)

April 2, 2008

More in praise of famous pets

KittyThe Daily News runs a terrific story today about the world-famous Room 8 the Cat, written by Roger Vargo, who knew the gray tabby when both were students at Elysian Heights Elementary school in the 1950s. Roger graduated from the school and went on to higher education. But Room 8 stayed put at Elysian Heights, until 1968, when he died at the age of 22. To this day the school is imbued with the cat, as you can see in the pictures, sculptures, testimonials written in cement. Not to mention the book about Room 8 and all of the news clips, which have not ended.

As he was researching, Roger came across this rare photo, below, of Elysian Height Elementary School at its present site, before the building burned, to be rebuilt as a single-story structure sans cafeteria. It looks to me as though we are facing north-ish east, across Echo Park Avenue, possibly from Ewing Street, toward Kite Hill. This was decades before Room 8 would saunter onto the scene.


Photo courtesy of the Virginia Finley and Beverly Mason collection

Bingo -- the king of Sunset Junction


He may look like a regular guy on a leash, but the wiener dog in the picture above was a champion citizen of Silver Lake, known to some as the king of Sunset Junction, a t-shirt inspiring mascot for the boutique Pull My Daisy. He had many fans, famous and commoner alike. I didn't know Bingo personally, but what I read this morning in the photo and the note below, and in an LA Weekly profile from 2004, made me feel the loss to the community when Bingo was killed last Sunday.

In an email forwarded to me, Tamala Poljak wrote:

Hello friends, many of you have probably heard this sad, sad news already but our sweet BINGO, (Sarah Dale's dog, the king of Silverlake/Sunset Junction, Pull My Daisy's mascot, bacon eater, champion of wiener races and a lover to many) was hit by a car last Sunday and passed away. ... He was an unbelievable little man who made everyone smile. I knew him since he was a little puppy. He had the best social skills of any being I know and taught me a lot about love and affection.
There will be a memorial in his honor on Sunday, April 6, at noon near the mural at the surplus store on Hyperion and Sunset, near the Casbah [cafe]. Please join us to celebrate his life, bring some flowers or some pictures or bacon....

In the LA Weekly, Seven McDonald wrote of Bingo:

"Dachshunds were bred for badger hunting [said Sarah Dale]. They’re perimeter dogs, they burrow and patrol, and he definitely likes to patrol. He guards his turf. Every morning the first thing he does is walk up and down the block and check in at all the stores. He doesn’t like skateboarders or anyone running."
Bingo’s beat is Sunset Boulevard between Sanborn and Lucille avenues, i.e. the heart of Silver Lake. His block, which includes Casbah café, Eat Well, Flea’s Silverlake Conservatory of Music, the Cheese Store of Silver Lake and Gilly flowers, has such a small-town feel that the shop owners refer to it as "Mayberry L.A."

Some people, you don't know you'll miss them until they're gone.

April 1, 2008

Birding at the end of nature...

...will be the subject of a staged conversation tonight -- ALOUD curator Louise Steinman will ask the questions (I presume) and Jonathan Rosen will talk about his book and birds. The book title (The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature) sounds a bit End of History. But if Rosen means to talk about present-day urban birding, I am with him. Especially since Echo Park provides such an incredibly rich birding platform.
(Click here for info.)

Loosely related, but speaking of urban birds, a friend of mine recently posted on the Echo Park Animal Alliance's list serve her concerns for the welfare of wild birds in Vons:

I was shopping in the Vons on Montana in Echo Park and there was a bird flying around inside the store...I mentioned it to the checker and she said she had repeatedly tried to coax it outside with a trail of breadcrumbs. She then went on to tell me that the store brings someone in with a BB gun to kill it and that they have done it before.

These were the replies: One prominent bird person wrote:

I have also seen a bird flying around. It tries to leave but crashes into the windows. Store staff have tried to use bread to lure it towards the door, but are not always successful. As for shooting at the bird, are you sure she wasn't just pulling your leg? I can't see anyone taking shots in a crowded market, no matter the size of the pellet.

And a second responded:

I know how you must feel, but you would understand the reaction if you knew what a store could be liable for if you were to come down with a case of coccidiosis or something because of bird poo you didn't quite clean out of your lettuce. If you've ever tried to catch a bird in a high building in a short amount of time, a pellet gun is the best answer. They don't do the shooting while the store is crowded.

A bird stumbles into Vons and finds itself in hell, with no way out. ... Clearly, we are talking about a flaw in the design of this supermarket. There should be escape hatches near the ceiling, maybe a few transoms. A bit less primitive than a BB gun shootout. And it could improve air flow in a natural, non-electric way. Am I joking? I don't think so.

Dodger traffic

Monday: One p.m. almost on the dot, and here comes thunder! Military display for the start of baseball season, as some kind of jet roars over Echo Park.

Down on the ground: Residents of streets most affected by the opening of the Billy Preston Gate -- Sargent Place, Portia, Bruce Court, etc. -- were saying that none of their neighbors have received promised resident passes or game schedules, and that efforts to contact community liaison staff were being met with boilerplate -- "Welcome back" to the Dodgers season mass emails.*

There are signs leaning on light poles around the neighborhood: "Local Traffic Only." But there have been reports (posted on a neighorhood list serve) that traffic cops just let anyone drive through, because, cops say, they don't know who lives where. Absurdist theater, then. Or standing practice.

Annalisa Magnusson was less than impressed with the guard assigned to Fairbanks Place:

This afternoon, after dozens of cars careened around our corner and sped down our narrow street at 35 miles an hour, a guard finally showed up, an hour late! While he poked around in his trunk for his cute little green vest, another nine cars came whistling around the corner. He was asked why he allowed it, and he said he couldn't do a thing without his vest. Another fashionista. While I certainly appreciate a properly dressed parking guard, I really would like one [who arrived on time]. He had no barrier up, either. I don't know how we can cooperate with our neighbor [the Dodgers] without them doing their part, as well. ... But the guard looks good!

At neighborhood meetings last year Dodgers VP Howard Sunkin stressed the enormity of the organization's project: getting 50,000 cars in and out of the stadium lots. Yes, awesome. But it's a shit storm for Echo Park.

If you're just tuning in, these kinds of problems were mitigated for the neighborhood by the previous owners of the Dodgers, who closed the Scott Avenue gate to Stadium traffic. It was as simple as that. The gates stayed closed for over ten years. Then a Boston parking lot man bought the Dodgers, messed up an already difficult parking situation AND opened the Scott Avenue gate, letting traffic back into the residential streets of Echo Park.

Dodgers rep Noel Pallais is scheduled to speak to neighborhood concerns at the Echo Park Improvement Association (open to the public) this Thursday evening, 7 p.m. at Williams Hall/Barlow Hospital, 2000 Stadium Way.

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