Speaking of waterfowl, some of the geese, ducks and coots of Echo Park Lake had quite a feast today. First there was a picnic of families (my daughter and myself included) celebrating Rosh Hashanah at the lake. One Rosh Hashanah tradition, Tashlikh, is to throw pebbles or bread crumbs into a body of water, a symbolic tossing away of worries and woes. Today we tossed quite a bit of bread into the lake -- fortunately, it's not ducklings season as the feeding frenzy that accompanies treat tossings into the lake often leads to duckling fatalities. As one parent pointed out, the geese were gobbling up a lot of woe. But they looked happy, worried only that they might not get enough of the bread. One of today's geese, I'm happy to report, was our Ross's Goose, one-of-a-kind (at EP Lake), who makes Echo Park his permanent home.
A child in our group accidently tossed herself into the lake. She got out as quickly as anyone knew she'd gone in, and I'll be crossing my fingers that the filthy lake water does not make her sick. (Tossing away one's woes does not protect against the acquisition of new ones.) One of the features I'm hoping for with the pending lake draining and renovation is a natural lake bank, a soft edge with no drop, planted with reeds and other plants.
So, except for the accidental baptism, we had a beautiful picnic in the shade of some of the lovely old trees near the boathouse. Shortly after the church across the street rang the bells for 2 o'clock, a group of about 40 congregants from Temple Knesset arrived at the lake for Tashlikh at the boathouse. Our own party was leaving. The geese moved down-lake to enjoy a second Happy New Year 5769 observation.
A pair of communications from Chicken Corner's waterfowl correspondent, Martin Cox, report a rooster on the big island of Echo Park Lake. It was a busy paddle boat weekend this past -- I drove by a few times and saw the lake crowded with the small pleasure craft. One of the boaters was Martin, who wrote:
I was boating Sat and there on the island was a chicken, well a rooster really, I don't ever remember seeing one there and he was still there Sunday. He refused all photo ops.
[Then] while taking tea on our EP Ave balcony on Sunday I spotted what I think was an immature Western Grebe, could there be a floating family I wonder?
There's more. This morning Martin checked in with news that the chicken wire from the failed lotus experiment appears to be gone. Sunk perhaps, or fished out. As for the rooster: "Rooster seen strutting on island at sunset last night (Monday)."
Rooster and a Western Grebe -- new oddballs for the neighborhood.
Photo by Martin Cox (c), 2008
Chicken Corner's inestimable waterfowl and lotus correspondent, Martin Cox -- just married and back from his honeymoon in New York (congratulations, Martin!) -- had the bittersweet experience last week of visiting a lotus blossom at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The Brooklyn lotus he saw was the last remaining flower of the season. Which is a lot nicer than what we all saw last year in Echo Park -- the last remaining flowers period. Even the four that were planted in the midst of the die-off, which took two years, didn't take. Seems the only thing that grows these days in EP Lake waters is chicken wire. And some of the ducks are sick. A very rapid decline.
Photo: Echo Park Lake, 2008
Late blooming lotus
At home in Brooklyn garden
Ponders the sublime
Photo by Martin Cox (c), 2008
The excellent new Eastsider blog (disclaimer: it links to the very words you're reading) cares about Chicken Corner history. Most recent entry offers a window/link into Chicken Corner past: It's 1935, and the Three Stooges are playing the Three Little Beers with a crazy scene at...Chicken Corner. Back, back back, when none a those groovy beards you see lounging beneath the canopies -- sorry, pigeons! -- were even a twinkle in the gleam of a razor blade...or something. Before insouciance, there was Stooges! Thanks for the reminder, Eastsider! These days it's hard to imagine history, for all the dust and upset at the construction site at Echo Park Ave. and Delta.
Meantime 3 Stooges fans, my husband, RJ Smith, guest wrote a post about Three Little Beers for Chicken Corner in March 2007. Complete with interior dialogue....
It was a dusky thrill last year, strolling along the L.A. River at night, led flashlight points shining on the ground at intervals, groups of people strolling in the dark, traveling on foot from studio to studio during the 2nd annual Frogtown Artwalk. Down by the river, it was quiet but festive in an eery way. Usually the river at night -- I can only guess -- is barely humanly attended. Up on the street, it was chatty and festive.
This year the river-channel walls are muted (if not silent) -- the murals having been painted over on orders from Gloria Molina -- but the art studios are operating at a high buzz. Many of the artists who work down by the river will have their doors open tomorrow evening for the third annual Frogtown Art Walk, which also will feature a free river tour beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Founded and organized by my friend Tracy Stone, who lives in Frogtown, also known as Elysian Valley, the free Art Walk is from 5 to 10 p.m., tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 20. It includes open studios, installations, river tour and, in one case, hulahoops, DJ and food. Click here for more event info.
About this year's Walk, Tracy writes:
We have expanded to include many new artists and architects (a total of 26 participating), Greenmeme is conducting a workshop at the river where participants will help to build and launch a "River Liver" (an environmental installation that will help to clean the river water), and we have a hula hoop promenade from Newell, up the river to Knox, and ending with a competition in our courtyard at 2041 Blake Ave. In addition, there are a number of local bands playing at several of the venues.
Chicken Corner hopes the fire-spitting organ from one of the studios will be in a mood to rage. Crazy dreams!
Photo by Mary-Austin Klein, 2008
About a week ago, Echo Park painter Mary-Austin Klein (a friend of mine) took this picture of a lone paint mustang -- probably a young male -- in Monitor Valley, north of Belmont, Nevada. This pretty horse is part of a herd that Scott Fajack, Mary's husband, estimates at about 30.
Scott wrote: "Surprisingly, even though we were in Nevada for over two weeks and in more remote places, we saw less wild horses then in 2005. This was the beauty of the herd, off grazing by itself just uphill from the rest."
Here's to the hope that the "others" (the herds Scott and Mary didn't see) haven't been rounded up. As you may know, Bush's Bureau of Land Management proposes to kill many of the mustangs it has penned because it says food for the horses is too expensive. As if guns for Iraq wasn't.
About 15 years ago, I had the good luck to see some herds of mustangs outside of Elko, Nevada. I'll never forget the beauty of a young stallion -- a flamboyant black-and-white paint -- who was following the greater herd. Every now and then he would try to approach the group and the big boss stallion would chase him off. The young paint galloped behind the group, but sometimes he would run off to the side, his neck arched, trotting with his knees high. He stopped to graze at a tolerable distance when the others stopped. Two companions of mine and I watched with binoculars. It was winter, and there was snow on the ground.
In any case, many people in Echo Park know Mary-Austin's work. Her paintings of western mountain ranges and Elysian Park landscapes have sold out at every show I've known her to have. One thing I like about her work is that she reclaims the genre of western ladscape painting as a subject for serious consideration -- after that subject nearly was ruined by all of the corny and sentimental paintings of cowboys and mountain peaks at golden hour.
Disclaimer: My family owns a small M-A Klein painting.
The Little Joy bar and lounge down on Sunset may have bummed out one hipster recently (the author of "There is no joy ..."). But the one-time down-low gay latino bar, hetero-hipster joint for years now, seems to have served inspiration to Fabrizio Moretti, of the major-label Strokes. Moretti and two friends recently formed a band called...Little Joy, in hommage to that little boite across the street from Meghna gas station. Little Joy's others are Binki Shapiro and Rodrigo Amarante, and their debut album was recorded in Echo Park.
There is a Devendra Banhart connection -- he lives in Echo Park, too. Press materials mention him, but don't say he participated in making Little Joy. Maybe he had a role in bringing the others to Echo Park (just as he is rumored to bring Natalie Portman visiting in her Prius).
Press package says:
Through a chance encounter at a Portuguese festival in Lisbon, where both Amarante
(Singer/Guitarist of Los Hermanos) and Moretti (drummer of The Strokes) had performed,
the two chatted well through the night and into the morning by the side of the river,
humoring the idea of working together on music that had no affiliation to their
Binki Shapiro, musician and native of Los Angeles, was introduced to the pair through mutual acquaintances and became a fast friend. ... Through the process of late night "show-and-tell" the three developed and arranged songs Moretti had begun and soon after started writing original music for the group as a band.
A couple of months later they all moved into a house in Echo Park to demo songs and soon after, with the help of producer Noah Georgeson, who had recorded Banhart's album, they finished their self-titled debut, Little Joy, named after the cocktail lounge just down the street from their home.
And the rest is...the future. The album (Rough Trade) will be released in November.
NYC's 125th Street REALLY is Chicken Corner. Or maybe that should be Chicken Boulevard. In a bit of nonfinancial news, The New York Times reports it today. New York City,
skyscrapers chickens and everything. So they have the birds ... now they need a mural.
Photo by Corey Kilgannon/The New York Times
Pretty soon our pretty Echo Park Lake will be drained -- ruination before revamp, not for the first time. It'll be re-lined, and the grounds redesigned, the fauna reconsidered. Black & Veatch won the fat contract to see the work done. Till now the most recent cleanup took place in 1984, well before I had ever heard of Echo Park Lake. Darrell Kunitomi, a friend and neighbor whom I met in 1995 when I first moved to Echo Park is well-familiar with the lake and its phases and stages. A serious trout fisher (troutist?), Darrell grew up fishing Echo Park Lake, and as an adult he has taught neighborhood children the sport. Darrell emailed me some of the things he remembered as a kid in the '60s: trying to lure bass out of EP Lake's submerged shopping carts and garbage cans. As an adult, he makes his own flies -- which are tiny works of art -- and keeps binders with photos of each catch, before its release.
Darrell, an actor who also has worked for the public affairs dept. of the L.A. Times as long as I have known him, wrote:
The lake seems generally cleaner [than it was in the past] because of the muck-out of 1984, and the installation of the fountains. I don't know if the bubbler lines still work, but they aerated and turned over the lake when they did. The loss of the classic urban lake fish, though, troubles me. The ravenous bluegill and sun fish seem almost extinct, (probably) due to the introduction of Florida-strain black bass. These brutes are famed (on) the bass tourney circuit, growing larger than (their)>normal cousins. They also eat lots. There were once schools of crappie to be caught [in Echo Park Lake], smaller bass I've never identified with electric blue lines on their gill plates who hugged structure on the bottom. We'd coax them from submerged palm fronds, shopping carts and from the dark recesses of sunken trash cans. Like pros we fished the structure. Sure, the lake is clean enough for the DF&G to stock trout in the cooler months, but every kid should have the opportunity to catch a mess of bluegills. They're really the classic kid's fish of them all.
I'm amazed at the present turtle population. In my day, early to mid Sixties, there was a famous one amongst we Echo Park angling regulars -- it was a huge soft-shelled turtle, a greenish guy with a long, pointy nose. We'd spot him sunning on a duck platform, drying out in the sun. We'd surprise him around the lake at the edges, and he'd dive away into the darkness. I would estimate his shell from head to tail to be over 20".
Years later, after a large meal in Chinatown and on a very wild whim, my girlfriend and I looked into a live poultry place on North Spring. There was a dirty container (filled with) this sort of turtle, live and >active ones. I bought two. We drove up Sunset with the plastic bag. We arrived at the lake after dark. And I sent the two turtles on their merry way, into the lake of my boyhood, my piece of urban angling nostalgia.
I know one really isn't supposed to introduce weird things into other environments, but my rationalization is that Echo Park lake is far from a natural body of water. And the turtles did a whole lot better than a sauce of garlic and black beans in a wok. If you someday see unusual turtles with pointy noses, say hi for me.
[As an adult] I've had the wonderful chance to fish Pennsylvania and Maryland, Utah and Montana.
If you're interested in the the way the lake draining will be handled, the Echo Park Lake Park Advisory Board will meet tonight, Sept. 15, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Echo Park Rec Center.
Photo: Mustang Family, by Cindy Bennett
...are in danger. I've signed petitions recently, sent letters to Cali U.S. senators protesting Bureau of Land Management plans to kill wild mustangs that have been penned (around 30,000) because the U.S. doesn't want to pay for their feed. I have received form-emails assuring me that Boxer and Feinstein do not want the horses killed either. Meanwhile, the penned population is in flux, and herds of mustangs who run free are in danger of being rounded up.
The author Deanne Stillman, who writes for LAObserved, recently published Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West.
And my friend Cindy Bennett, a Wyoming native, is doing her part. She has been photographing wild mustangs for years. Cindy will show some of her mustang series images at North Hill Exhibitions, opening reception Saturday in Chinatown. Ten percent of the proceeds will benefit a mustangs-welfare organization.
From Cindy's exhibition statement:
The Shoshone, the Crow, the Sioux, and early pioneers all rode them. Now periodic round-ups collect and sell the mustangs to individuals, rodeos, prisons and even foreign food markets.
Ten percent of the artistís proceeds from the sale of this series will be donated to Friends of a Legacy, www.friendsofalegacy.org to help preserve the McCullough Peaks Mustangs. FOAL specifically works to preserve healthy mustangs and a healthy McCullough Peaks habitat. For additional information about the McCullough Peaks Wildlife Area and other endangered wildlife and habitats in Wyoming visit www.voiceforthewild.org and www.wildwyo.org.
More pretty horses, and event info, after the jump.
Photo: Mustangs and Foal, by Cindy Bennett
Photo: Mustangs Before the Storm, by Cindy Bennett
Sept. 6, 6 to 9 p.m. and Sept. 13, 6-9 p.m.
North Hill Exhibitions
945 North Hill St.
L.A. CA 90012
I have just received word from Jose Sigala that the Greater Echo Park Elysian website has been restored.
Hello Jenny, I wanted to inform you and your readers that the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council website is up and running. Since learning about the problem yesterday on your blog, we have worked quickly to resolve the problem. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Sincerely, JOSE SIGALA President Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council
Chicken Corner is glad to learn that this portion of communications has been repaired. Mending -- or widening? -- the other breaks in communication with the neighborhood...next on the to-do list?
My friend Matthew DuBois emails the following report of chickens loose in the park.
This morning I was walking my dog in Elysian Park on the closed Elysian Park Rd between Academy and Scott Ave, when I noticed two chickens sitting in a bush by the side of the road, they looked alive and well. Odd as either someone just dumped them or the coyotes are losing their sense of sight and smell.
Well, I do hope those birds -- hens? -- get to a coop quick, if they're not just out for a stroll, tourists for the day on the access road. There's certainly no shortage of coyotes round this way.
A press release sent two days ago by GEPENC (Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council) announced that the council ended review of bids to repair the Lady of the Lake statue. The Lady is getting her hand back! Happy clucks all around!
But the announcement did not mention two longtime community activists -- Suzanne Kimbrough and Isa Kae Meksin -- who have worked hard at the Lady's return to the community and her preservation, and the ommission set off a new shitstorm of vitriol (mixed metaphor approved by the Chicken Corner editorial board) -- frothing, screaming over-the-top, going back and forth on a neighborhood list serv. (Neither Isa nor Kimbrough were party to this particular discussion.) One "open letter" to GEPENC's president looked, to me, like a hoax. Since the communications were not cc'd to Chicken Corner they won't be quoted -- just noted.
Meanwhile, GEPENC's website has been unavailable. And there is confusion over when and where meetings are planned.
Full text of GEPENC's Lady of the Lake press release:
Echo Park, CA - September 3, 2008 - Yesterday the Parks & Public Works Committee of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council (GEPENC) announced their recommendation of a conservator to restore the missing hand of the "Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles" (Our Queen of Angeles), commonly known as the Lady of the Lake, statue located at Echo Park Lake.
With the guidance of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the committee took public comment, discussed and made a decision on the best course of action to restore the statue to its greatness.
The committee also unanimoulsy recommended that the Governing Board allocate the necessary funds from the $ 7,000 dollar line item in the board adopted budget to pay for the cost associated with the restoration project.
Although the Governing Board approved the budget item in its June 2008 meeting, two of the three bids under consideration did not come to the board until July and August of 2008. The other bid was received in December of 2007.
The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment requires bids from a minimum of three vendors when allocating neighborhood council funds over $ 5,000 dollars.
"Given the fact that the Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for the restoration of the statue it only makes sense to seek their input and advice as to the best conservator for the job", stated Ida Talalla committee Chair.
During the committee meeting, the Chair shared her discussion with the department staff and expressed her understanding that all three bids met the necessary requirements by the department and that they had no preference of who was selected and would be pleased to work with any of the conservators recommended by the committee.
At its August meeting, the Executive committee referred the item to the Parks & Public Works committee to allow for a proper vetting of the three bids and for consulation with the department.
The Executive committee also requested that the Parks & Public Works committee analyze what impact if any would the $ 86 million dollar restoration of Echo Park Lake have on the Lady of the Lake restoration project and what effrots are being made to protect both the Lady of the Lake and the Jose Marti statues located at the lake.
After initial inquiry by the committee chair, Alfred Mata from the Bureau of Engineering stated that both statues as well as the Echo Park Boathouse will be safeguarded during the course of construction for the rehabilitation of Echo Park Lake.
"I want to thank the Department of Cultural Affairs and Tim McGowan as well Alfred Mata and the Bureau of Engineering for participating and assisting us in understanding the impacts the broader Echo Park Lake rehabilitation project may have on the restoration of the Lady of the Lake. I am glad to hear that every effort will be made to protect these two very important statues", added Ms. Talalla.
Brief History of the Work: The Lady of the Lake statue was commissioned by the Public Works of Art Project initiated by President Roosevlet in reaction to the depression of 1929... The statue was created by Ada May Sharpless in 1934 and accepted by the City of Los Angeles Park Commission in 1936.
The statue was housed at the lake until 1986 when it was removed and placed in storage. Through the efforts of current neighborhood council member Suzanne Kimbrough, various community members, the local historical society and the Office of former Council Member Jackie Goldberg, the statue was reinstalled and rededicated at the lake in 1999.
"I am very pleased with the swift work and priority Ms. Talalla and her committee gave this important item. Her leadership, careful research, due diligence and attention to detail has assured that the best conservator has been chosen to restore this important community and cultural landmark", stated Jose Sigala, Board President.
The next step in the process is to agendize the committee's recommendation at the next general board meeting at the end of September to approve the recommended conservator and funding allocation.
"The neighborhood council is proud to play an important and pivotal role in the next phase of the history of the Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles "Lady of the Lake" statue. Many people before us worked diligently to assure her survival over the decades and now we have an opportunity to continue that effort and safeguard the statue so that all the people in the City of Los Angeles can enjoy this magnificent work of art", concluded Sigala.
# # #
About the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council: The Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council (GEPENC) is one of 88 certified neighborhood councils throughout the City of Los Angeles. GEPENC was certified by the City of Los Angeles in April of 2002. It is comprised of a 21 member Board of Governors.
The neighborhood council covers the areas of Echo Park, Elysian Heights, Edendale, Angelino Heights, Temple Beaudry and Filipinotown and represents approximately 55,000 residents.
For more information about the neighborhood council, please visit our website at www.gepenc.org or contact Lisa Baca, the Chief Information Officer, at email@example.com to be added to our email list.
Sunday, and F-Yeah fest is taking place in different places around L.A. -- lots of events in Echo Park. Shows by many bands, such as No Age and Crystal Antlers. The most intriguing of the festival events was a scavenger hunt -- like the one they held last year. This year, the hunt started at the northeast corner of Echo Park Lake. Participants were instructed in advance to form teams of 2 to 5 members, and the teams had to wear outfits. So, my daughter, my dog and I arrive to watch the call to hounds, and we find a big crowd. Lots of groups of twenty- and even thirty-somethings, mostly dressed in costume. There was a group of five guys dressed in blue capes. There was a group of three wearing lilac T-shirts; the women's shirts said "Tits" and the man's shirt read "Dick" (Chicken Corner thinks he got the short end of that particular stick). There were cowboys and cowgirls, guys dressed up in suits. Everyone milling around. Old ladies hunt around looking for cast-away bottles and cans. An ice cream vendor rings a small bell, but no one's buying. When the festival organizers call out for one member of each team to line up, there is a sudden frenzied rush. Hunt details are handed out, one by one.
The list (of things that must be procured) includes:
"Menu from Ukrainian restaurant. 3 points"
"Shave off eyebrow: 25 points. Two eyebrows per whole team limit."
"In the drive thru of a fast food restaurant kiss the person at the window on the lips -- needs photographic evidence. 25 points."
Donation items listed for Union Rescue Mission -- 3 points per donation. No limit.
"Report card with F. Ask your parents. Does not need to be yours."
"Ticket stub pre 2003 -- 6 points." (Pre-when?!)
Forty-five scavenger options total. The starting signal is given, and most of the teams tear off running. The ice cream vendor runs away, too. I was about to buy an ice cream bar for my daughter when he ran. A few of the teams are more prudent and take the time to study the list and strategize. They all have until 7 p.m. (though winners won't be announced for about two weeks).
Left behind, with my daughter, my dog and I are the elderly women who are scavenger-hunting for cans (on the ground and in garbage bins), the curbside vendors (whose goods are displayed on blankets on the ground), a cop, a guy walking a chihuahua. A couple of elderly vaquero-looking guys, probably Mexican. Now I can hear a voice over a loudspeaker in Spanish. It's a preacher over in the north-center part of the park, near the playground. My daughter wants to visit the playground, so we go there, and I see a small crowd of picnickers with their backs to the preacher. Lots of kids on the swings and play structures. The preacher has a large American flag, and he is accompanied by a man playing organ occasionally. With crisp pronunciation he blathers, whining, pleading, lamenting about Jesus Christ and the last generation. After about half an hour, he stops. No one seems to notice. My daughter, my dog and I leave, and we go toward the area where the F-Yeah scavengers had been an hour earlier. Now there's a small group of worshippers, twelve total, who are praying in Spanish front of a Virgin shrine set up on a folding table. They speak in unison, without amplification. A more-or-less private service.
At the northeast corner, where the scavenger hunt originated, there's no sign of the crowd in costume. At least none that I can detect. Twenty-five points to anyone who finds an artifact of the event at that location. (Chicken Corner points, that is. No connection to F-Yeah.)
The weekend -- or something -- took a heavy toll on the ducks and water at Echo Park Lake. On Sunday afternoon, I noticed that the water looked particularly filthy with garbage on the north end of the lake (I didn't go down to the south end). I also noticed that the ducks and geese weren't swimming close to the walkway banks, as they do on normal days when people are around. This morning I received a sad report from a reader named Nick, who sent me five photos: garbage in the lake, two dead ducks and one dying. The white and tan duck, pictured below, is one I recognize. I think he was fairly young, but I will have to check with Dave Foster, who works at the park and knows all of the birds who stay for any length of time.
I was doing a lap around the lake today when I saw this sickly duck gasping for air in the polluted shallows where the lotus plants used to be. It was just sitting there isolated from the other ducks, showing no signs of movement except constantly opening its mouth as if to quack, but no noise ever came out. The duck was clearly having trouble breathing and I'm sure he/she will be dead soon.
Walking around the lake, I noticed another dead duck buried in sewage and another dead one floating against the walls. I couldn't help but wonder if the high number of deaths was related to the pollution in the water. ... Parts of the lake are a complete cesspool. Maybe it's time for the city to clean the water and/or impose steeper fines for littering.
It's strange that the lake should fare better during the battlefield onslaught of July 4 and days surrounding than it did on Labor Day Weekend.
Sunday evening just as lovely as can be. Small kids from six neighbor house families hanging out in the front yard of my friends/neighbors across the street. Most of the parents are there, too. It's golden hour, six-thirty-ish when I hear gun shots. I go outside. My husband is talking to some neighors, my daughter is wrapped in an orange towel, wet from playing in the slip-'n-slide. No one looks worried. No one appears even to have heard the shots. By the time I get across the street, I have forgotten about them. The adults are talking about a possible sink hole that is reported to be developing under the driveway of a nearby house.
Then this morning, I receive two emails asking about/telling about a shooting in the 1900 block of Echo Park Avenue, not too far from where I live (sound carries oddly in the hills here). A 34-year-old man shot in the back of the head while sitting in his car. The L.A. Times has a brief report.