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November 30, 2008

Right coast/left coast

It's raining here on the East Coast, middle Atlantic. Cold rain. After Thanksgiving, some of my relatives and I stopped by Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's weird, lovely estate near Charlottesville, Virginia. The place looks fabulous. It's being well looked after by the Jefferson Foundation, which still won't fully accept the DNA news that Sally Hemings' children were Thomas Jefferson's children. The Jefferson descendants on the Hemings side of the family do surely disapprove. The tour guide said with an ambiguous smile that it was most likely that Heming's children were Jefferson's, but that results were not conclusive, we will never know for sure. Honestly, I couldn't tell whether her skilled smile was apologetic or defensive. But it's always great to see TJ's special inventions like the dumbwaiter and the days-of-the-week clock (which was mismeasured) and the polygraph machine that made copies of his writings, and the double doors that close in unison. I liked seeing his books and dishes and the super narrow teeny tiny staircase in the 21-room house. I'm still confused about why he only freed two slaves out of hundreds, but his better achievements, well...yeah, we're reaping the fruits in more ways than we can count.

I may be no Jefferson, but when we got back to the house, I sat down to think Chicken Corner. What kind of news. I checked into my email, which had not been read for days. And I found mixed good and bad news of our neighborhood on the West Coast.

I learned that downtown's Fred jordan Mission ran out of food on Thanksgiving Day. I didn't learn the details; they're certain to be awful.

I learned that on Nov. 22 there was a stabbing at the taco truck on Logan Street near Sunset. The victim was a patron who did not know his attackers.

There was a lot of concern expressed for Larry, the homeless guy who spends time on Glendale Boulevard. His dog, Bailey, a shepherd mix, turned up at the animal shelter the day before Thanksgiving. Larry and Bailey have been together for many years, never separated. Larry hasn't been seen since then.

The good-news side of the news: Ramon Maestas, a former EXP gang member who was well-known as Little Ray, is earning respect, and keeping us safe, as a firefighter. Maybe you saw it, LA Times has the story.

Chicken Corner is thanking her lucky feathers for the rain (over Los Angeles).

November 26, 2008

Views from afar

Out of town for Thanksgiving, but part of Chicken Corner couldn't stay away from Chicken Corner. I decided to check in on a pair of local blogs, The Jimson Weed Gazette and The Eastsider. Jimson Weed has some gorgeous nighttime images, a bus stop on Pico, Olvera Street, a cherub. And The Eastsider, which is more about words and facts (and is the creation of a friend of mine), has recent posts on billboard blight and sleeping zones, both subjects of lively discussion in the area.

From the huh, really? oh, good! dept., the blog Echo Park, California has come back to life (this one also the creation of a friend). For a long time there were no new posts on the site, such a long time that I got out of the habit of checking. Then they came back, simple as that. Recent posts have discussed the name Echo Park and the showing of eco design.

Of course, were I to go stark clucking batty, I could always shut myself away from friends and family and tune in to the new WB webisode series The Hills, which is said to be about Echo Park. One never knows, do one?

November 21, 2008

Aural history

9:04 p.m. Echo Park. A dog barking in the canyon, no make that three, no make that five. One is barking rapidly, staccato, another, who is closer, just a languid two or three eruptions per ten seconds. My daughter, in bed, is whistling through her nose as she sleeps (the song of one of the 4000+ strains of rhinovirus probably). In her fist is the ribbon to a Trader Joe's balloon; the balloon makes no discernible noise as it drops closer and closer to the bed. Meanwhile, over us all like a sound umbrella is the muted boom, boom, boom of the fireworks at Dodger stadium. They started at 9:03, and now that it's 9:08, they're done. The Dodgers said four minutes, and that's what it was. Now I hear the neighbors calling to their dogs to quiet. The air is no longer splitting apart. The neighbors are talking to one another. "They're done," Tina (I think) says. A motor is revving on the street. Now I hear the downhill sound of wheels. Now I hear my own breath as things have gotten quiet. Seven or fifteen minutes from now I can definitively say I didn't hear the sound of sirens. Another car, uphill this time. Funny, how cars sound so different, depending on which way they're going.

Lost amphitheater returned to cultural landscape

Meanwhile, speaking of Elysian Park, an amphitheater that has been closed for decades -- closed so long I didn't know it existed; it was more than forgotten -- is not only reopening but there is a Thanksgiving performance planned.

According to a Los Angeles Theatre Academy press release dated Nov. 6:

After decades of being closed, the amphitheatre at the Elysian Therapeutic Recreation Center (ETRC) re-opens. Michael Kendall, the new Director for the ETRC and Alejandra Flores, Founder of the Los Angeles Theatre Academy (LATA) are working together to make this dream come true by presenting the first short play "A Thanksgiving Story" with over 40 kids on stage.
The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks' Therapeutic Recreation Section provides quality programs for persons with disabilities. The Los Angeles Theatre Academy is a non profit organization offering multilingual educational services such as acting, music, choreography, directing, design, production, writing and more to kids and adults of all economic and ethnic backgrounds.
"The children are finally going to have a professional stage where they can create their own plays and perform for audiences all year long. The stage not only gives them the opportunity to act, but expands their creative outlet through all the disciplines that the professional teachers at Los Angeles Theatre Academy offer", says founder Alejandra Flores. Elysian Therapeutic Recreation Center is offering the perfect space for Los Angeles Theatre Academy to accomplish this mission. With this partnership, children of all ages will have the unique opportunity to achieve a greater self-esteem and create fun and intelligent stage plays.

The Greater Elysian Echo Park neighborhood council worked with Alejandra Flores of LATA to revive the venue.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 25 at
10:00 AM
WHERE: Elysian Therapeutic Recreation Center's
WHO: The Los Angeles Theatre Academy's First Class
ADDRESS: 929 Academy Rd. Los Angeles, Ca 90012
Thanksgiving Story" (a 10 min stage play)

Big four minutes, if you want to know

The Dodgers have informed the community of a four-minute fireworks show in the stadium parking lot tonight.

Dear Neighbor, As part of our commitment to inform the community of events taking place at Dodger Stadium, please be aware that a brief four minute firework show will take place in the outfield parking lot tomorrow, Friday, November 21, at approximately 9:00 p.m. As always, the safety of those attending the event, our neighbors, the surrounding community and the firefighters themselves is of paramount concern to us. Should the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) request that we cancel the fireworks on Friday due to weather concerns, or any other concern for that matter, we will happily comply. Decisions on this will be made right up until the time of the show. Finally, LAFD personnel (including a water truck) and Stadium management will be on site to manage the event.
Should you have any concerns relative to these events, please call our Neighborhood Focus Line at (323) 224-2636.

Chicken Corner appreciates the heads up but wonders what's the celebration, and are we invited? And what happened to a good old brass band parade?

Just for the record, a few clucks about how dry it is out there and we just had big fires last week -- there's still ash all over the leaves of my avocado tree. In fact, everything looks a tiny bit dull outdoors around here because of the thin layer of ash dust. Cluck cluck cluck. And a moment to wonder if the Dodgers have participated recently in any kind of underbrush clearing in Elysian Park beyond the confines of its own stadium property.

November 19, 2008

Train, train

train When it gets quiet at night, if you're below the ridgelines in EP, you hear the trains blowing their horns down by the L.A. River. It sounds like a call from some other time. Though not everyone loves it. I know some people who sold their house at the north end of Elysian Heights in part because the hooting of the trains drove them around the bend. (They moved to a more sonically sheltered part of the neighborhood.) But for others the deep horn resonates.

The Los Angeles Railroad History Foundation will screen a film honoring that resonance at the Echo Park Film Center this evening (Thursday) at 8 p.m.

EPFC describes This Was Pacific Electric:

In 1902 Southern California was a collection of small farm towns. It was waiting for something to pull it together. That something was The Pacific Electric. This Was Pacific Electric is the story of the rise and fall of the “The World’s Greatest Electric Railway.” It is a complete history starting in 1872 with L.A.’s first horse car line and continuing through the last Red Car in 1961. The story is told using rare film footage, hundred of photographs, animated maps and extensive interviews. In fact, the PE Red Cars operated along Glendale Boulevard nearby the Echo Park Film Center and today, LARHF has installed a mini-museum open to the public in the Belmont Station Apartments located at the south end of Glendale Blvd. where the PE tracks used to disappear into a subway tunnel leading to the Subway Terminal Building on Hill and 4th Streets.

Featuring a Q&A with Josef Lesser, President of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation. EPFC: 1200 N. Alvarado Street; 213-484-8846.

November 15, 2008

Puppets face real-life crisis

Onion puppet

Photo: Onion puppets, by Chris Barrus.

We had good news regarding cell towers and tenants. But things are looking deadly for the famous Bob Baker marionettes theater on Glendale Ave., as you may have heard. Basically, Baker is facing foreclosure on both the theater and his home. It used to be that the term "a bad loan" referred to the borrower; recently, "a bad loan" has turned around to point to the lender. In Baker's case, it seems he may have signed for a bad one with complex terms that were overly difficult to understand and payments that simply shot skyward.

A couple of months ago, my friend Tembi and I took our daughters to a show at Baker's theater. It was wonderful, a full-length review, a complete alternate reality with disco puppets, dancing dachsunds, princesses, ghosts. It was by far the longest show my daughter (who is four) has watched all the way through. The marionettes were made in a workshop on the premises. I am sure that some of them also perform in the evening shows. The theater was founded in 1963.

I think it's stating the obvious to say it would be a significant loss for Los Angeles if this venue were to go down. But it needs to be said.

T-Mobile moving on; Countrywide tenants staying

A pair of communications from CD-13 delivered good news. T-Mobile is giving up its evil plan to put cell towers on the top of the Del Mor Apartments on Echo Park Ave. And Countrywide is abandoning its evil plan to toss out tenants of a foreclosed three-plex on Scott Ave.

Julie Wong, Eric Garcetti's press person, emailed:

Just thought you might want to know that all of the tenants in the triplex on Scott Ave. (where the building was foreclosed and the renters were pressured to leave) have been contacted by the agent working on behalf of Countrywide. In all cases, the evictions have been canceled and the cash for keys offers were rescinded.

As for the towers, CD-13 posted on a neighborhood list:

A T-Mobile representative just contacted our office to inform us that they have submitted a letter to the Planning Department to pull the proposed project scheduled for 1551 Echo Park Avenue. The T-Mobile representative did not provide specific reasons as to why the project was pulled, but they wanted to inform the Council Office of their decision. If you have any questions, please contact Albina Ferreyra at (323) 957-4500.

Got any evil plans you were hoping to dispose of? A drop box will be set up at the Magic Gas intersection, 24-hour access, no questions asked.

November 12, 2008

What you don't see*

At about 11 a.m. this morning, I rolled past the northwest corner of Echo Park Ave. and Sunset. There was no fruit cart. Instead, there was an empty shopping cart, casting a shadow onto the 4-foot-ish cinderblock wall that encloses the parking lot. There was silver-painted graffiti -- crazys, the name of an Echo Park gang. Otherwise everything looked as usual as could be. No outward sign -- like a split pineapple rotting on the ground -- of last week's rousting of fruit vendors by police and what seemed to be city subcontractors, who behaved like thugs, according to an account emailed to me by a friend. In response to my post about the scene in which the vendors' goods were confiscated, a couple of readers who asked not to be named told me that local organized criminals tax the fruit sellers in this area. One reader guessed this might be why the nopalito vendor was crying and shaking -- because, with her product hauled away, she wouldn't be able to earn the money to pay the other authorities.

(Yesterday, at 2:30 p.m., there also was no fruit cart at the corner. But there was a guy with boxed fruit across the street, and there was a fruit cart in its usual spot near the public parking lot behind the south-side Sunset Blvd. shops. This morning, that fruit cart was there was well.)

Here's a snapshot of last Thursday's police action as it wrapped up at Echo Park Ave. and Sunset.

Fruit cart

Bye, fruit cart. Thursday, November 6, 2008.

*Today, 3 p.m. The fruit cart is back at the corner of EP Ave and Sunset.

November 10, 2008

Baffled by a Bufflehead?


Photo: Small duck at Echo Park Lake, November 9, 2008; by Martin Cox (c)

A new odd duck water-landed at Echo Park Lake last week, and it could be a Bufflehead.

According to Martin Cox, Chicken Corner's famous waterfowl correspondent, our new oddball has been at the lake since Monday, November 3. (He heard this from Judy Raskin, who saw the bird first.)

Jenny - you know what a bird man I am and I never even HEARD of a Bufflehead so yes it's news!
He's definitely a male and on his own. He seems chummy with the Ruddy Ducks
It was my husband, Thomas, who first saw him, he knew this was something we had not seen before and phoned me. I abandoned lunch to zip down to the lake with camera to get a photo of this interesting visitor. I don't think it's a rare bird, but I have never seen it at the Echo Park lake in all my years of observing. He would spend only about 10 seconds on the surface, then dive for 30 seconds, popping up somewhere new.

According to Cornell U's bird site, the Bufflehead is the smallest duck in North America. But he's a big deal around here.

November 9, 2008

Madonna out-louds AC/DC


Photo by Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times

Madonna was in Elysian Park a few days ago, and ripples of complaint are still sounding out across the neighborhood, not so much against Madonna herself but the levels of volume required for the singer-dancer to get her message across...the canyon.

The concert was reviewed by Mikael Wood, who said in his (her?) November 8 LA Times review:

Forty-eight hours after America elected its first black president and California voted to ban gay marriage, Madonna brought her Sticky & Sweet Tour to Dodger Stadium on Thursday for a night of triumph and defiance. One of pop's longest-lived provocateurs, Madonna always has had something to say -- even when she hasn't. (Remember her utterly useless version of "American Pie"?) Yet like a firefighter or the cast of "Saturday Night Live," the singer is at her best at moments of consequence; she needs life to supply her with a canvas as big as her music wants to be.

As well as a big sound, it seems. Even bigger than the three tenors. I did not hear the concert Thursday. But Rochelle, who lives on Park Drive, wrote:

Hi Jenny: Did anyone write to you about the sleepless night and the chaos Madonna brought to EP Thursday night? I could hear every word, every drum roll, every guitar chord from my home on Park Drive and the music grew louder and louder as the night progressed. It reached peak volume at 11:30 PM, yes 11:30, when my home literally shook from the musical storm. I have not experienced anything like it in my nearly a decade living here, not the Stones, not from AC/DC, nothing remotely close.
When I called the police they said that the City issued the permit and so there was nothing they could do. The Dodger¹s lovely new landlord is trying to get away cheap on our backs, and greedily granting unconscionable permits. Even though Garcetti is my councilman, his office said there is nothing they can do. ... It was a truly miserable night for me and my neighbors. Windows closed, earplugs, fan turning, nothing could keep the noise out.

Madonna the sonic juggernaut. With guest star Britney. Lordy, lordy. Not everyone wants a free show. But I do kind of love the idea of calling the police to report a Madonna concert.

November 7, 2008

Carne asada may not be a crime, but cantaloup is

One of my more pleasant addictions is to the fruit sold by vendors all over this side of town in quilted-aluminum push carts with umbrellas. They always seem to be manned, so to speak, by young men (what, women can't handle a machete-like fruit knife?) from Mexico. I like the cart at Echo Park Ave. and Sunset because of its location. I make a deal on which fruit and which price with whichever young man has been stationed there that day (usually, pineapple, jicama, cantaloup and cucumber) -- and he serves it in a plastic bag with lime, salt and hot pepper, Mexican style, I believe. At $3 it's relatively cheap. The dude probably works for less than he should -- just like the fruit and flower sellers all over town -- but the cart is clean, and it's a service I value. It's not as if I could walk into Vons and come out with the same product. It may not be organic, but it is the best kind of fast food.

Then, last night, I opened my email and received the following report from a friend of mine, who owns a business on Sunset Boulevard.

Hi Jenny, I thought I'd pass along this disconcerting event I witnessed today. The police and a bunch of thugs were rounding up the fruit vendors on the corner of Echo Park and Sunset. The Senora who sells the napoles was devastated. She was weeping and shaking uncontrollably while the cops and the "enforcers" surrounded her and the other vendors. I watched until a truck came and took all their wares, fruit and equipment and carted it away. They are just trying to make a living. When I asked why it was happening the cop said that it was "requested" by Eric Garcetti. I put a call into Mitch who I know in the CD 13 office and he said he knew nothing about it. It was an ugly scene. Especially the vendor task force folks who are rather "unsophisticated." I mean those vendors have been there for as long as I remember and are as much a part of the neighborhood as Pioneer Market (oh yeah that's gone). Lets hope that this little bit of character isn't wiped off our map too.
To be honest the lake has turned into a swap meet. Its relatively new but the folks on the corners are part of the landscape around here. I mean fruit, snacks, hot dogs fine. Tube socks? uh, no.
When I spoke to Eric G's office Mitch did seem somewhat sympathetic but also intimated that they do this once or twice a year. I'm willing to bet its local businesses but the cops there said it was requested by the CD13 office.

So, I guess this makes Chicken Corner a criminal accessory to fruit crime -- the crime of a nice, clean fruit cart and chopped pineapple, with lime, salt and pepper at a corner with heavy foot traffic and four bus stops.

The sound and the hurry

The ALOUD program, curated by Louise Steinman, has been particularly bold and interesting recently with a number of conceptual presentations. One that I hope to catch this weekend is titled "Ground Truth: Mapping the Invisible Landscape" -- an aural consideration of that monster Interstate, the 5. Last time I was on the 5 -- Monday afternoon -- it sure sounded good. Unfortunately, I had to keep my eyes on the road, as I was behind the wheel. And, of course, when you swing around the backside of Elysian Park, peering up at the palm-spiked ridgelines high above, the sights do tend to take over. And thoughts do, too. Thoughts of getting home, for one, unpacking the car, lifting the sleeping 4-year-old girl from her car seat, phone calls that need to be made, emails pondered, pets checked on. The 5? The sound and the sight of it is overtaken.

According to program info:

Ground Truth. Mapping the Invisible Landscape. Amy Balkin and Kim Stringfellow with Matt Coolidge, Director, Center for Land Use Interpretation:
Artists Amy Balkin and Kim Stringfellow will present "Invisible 5", an audio mapping of the natural, social, and economic histories along Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Join us for a virtual road trip through California's Central Valley. Sun, Nov 09, 2 PM

November 5, 2008

The morning after

It's still good. But it's not. Yesterday was a nearly perfect day (minus a feeding snafu with some pets). Gorgeous morning in Elysian Park, with clear skies and low clouds over the foothills. Voting went swiftly at about 10 a.m., though it was sad not to see Albert working the polls. I waited in line for the first time in California to vote, but it wasn't long. People were in high spirits. A journalism student recognized me via my dog, Rosie, whose picture you see above. Unfortunately, Rosie was not allowed onto the school campus and had to stay on the sidewalk tied to a pole. Last election she went with me to the voting booth. A poll worker asked my friend Paul to remove the Obama button from his clothing. Elections officials were anxious that everything go absolutely right. Mostly everyone on line was talking. The new cafe just around the corner, Fix, was offering free coffee to anyone who had voted, then it was said not to be doing so because, people said, it was illegal to "pay" to vote. Later in the day I heard that this was not true -- that it's okay to give a away a cup of coffee after the fact.

The day crept along till five when I started watching returns at a friend's, at which point it became a steadily mounting celebration. Coming home at 10 p.m. with a very tired daughter, we passed a small group of swells banging pots and pans in front of Prado on Sunset Boulevard.... I went to bed in a country that was better than it had been just a few hours earlier.

Then, this morning, I woke to find myself still living in a better country. But I was not living in a better state of California. Last time I checked, Prop 8 was still expected to pass. The fact that it is even close to passing is sad and enraging, and I'll (almost) leave it at that. Somehow people found it in their hearts to pass Prop 2 for the chickens (YAY!), even though it will cost the voters money. But they couldn't allow marriages between people they don't even know, even though it would cost them nothing. The only way my brain can wrap around this is to think that the people who voted for Prop 8 skipped over Prop 2, and maybe vice-versa.

So this morning, in California, chickens have expanded rights, which is great. And my friends whose anatomical parts aren't just right for the supporters of Prop Hate -- these friends have lost their rights.

Perhaps the courts can set things on a better course. Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News reported this morning that civil rights groups already have filed a petition with the State Supreme Court challenging the measure. (Remember Prop 187? Maybe the two "propositions" can share the same garbage can.)


Putting aside Prop Hate for a moment, there is true cause for celebration, and I have received invitations to a lovely sounding parade this evening.

Mary-Austin Klein and Jonathan Tobin wrote to let me know about the "Obama Ye Old Timey Patriotic Parade":

A patriotic parade down Sunset Blvd tonight, from Echo Park Lake to Silverlake. We should meet at the top of Echo Park Lake, where the lotus flowers once grew. The theme will be old-timey- feel free to go with your own interpretation. We want to play old patriotic music. I saw some people marching down Sunset with pots and pans last night, and that seemed good for making a commotion. Patriotism is fashionable again, so let's have a parade!
This event is planned to start at 7:30 pm on Nov 5, 2008 at Echo Park Lake- northwest corner.

November 4, 2008

Topical gardens

Obama flowers

Paula Maxwell planted some seeds and look what happened! An Obama garden in Highland Park. I've been driving past one like it on Cerro Gordo in Echo Park. Reap and ye shall...sow Shepard Fairey Obama flowers. Maxwell has been making the flowers as a way of raising funds for the senator's campaign.

Meanwhile, it is just past 1 a.m., and I can't believe election day is here -- already and at last.


About an hour ago, I drove past Echo Park Lake. The water was so still, street lights were reflected in detail. The Lady of the Lake looked lonely, lgithed as if she were on stage. The surviving ducks were sleeping. They must have been worn out after quacking quacking quacking, because they meant it, No! No! No! on prop 8. Even if they were quacking to the converted. If we want a constitutional amendment, let's have one against discrimination and hate.

November 2, 2008

The topic -- weekend diary

For the last few weeks there has been only one topic of discussion. ... So Chicken Corner thanked her lucky feathers for Halloween, which provided a distraction, as well as the idea of fun, not to mention fun itself. And a few memories, as well as signs.

In Echo Park, Sunday morning. A brunette wig on the ground on Sunset Boulevard, next to a silver compact car's driver's door. Candy wrappers in the street. A pumpkin cracked on the cement, innards turning black. The burnt remains of several incendiary devices, the fireworks we'd watched on Halloween night.

Saturday, walking south to Delilah. Still on display, a three-foot doll laying face up, eyes open on a postage-sized front lawn, dressed in a full-sized woman's dress that has been decorated with red stains. Among the many disturbing aspects of this murder display is the fact that a girl of about nine or ten years lives in the house. My daughter does not notice the installation, and I decide to walk on the opposite side of the street on the way back from Delilah's Bakery.

Delilah's Bakery: bluegrass players are just getting started in front of the cinder block bakery. If Ralph Stanley has written a song (or more) for Obama, they probably haven't had time to learn it. They're serious about bluegrass, though (on of the guys plays at the Audubon Center bluegrass jam once a month -- I recognize him), and the repertoire is fine.

Friday, the fright night: Halloween highlights. One of the high points of the holiday was trick or treating at our council president Eric Garcetti's house. Last year he cheerfully handed out candy at the base of his driveway. This year he was answering the door, in glasses, contacts removed. When we arrived in a group of about eight or nine children and their parents, Eric was running out of candy, so he gave away gum, presumably his own. Lotte, one of my daughter's friends, informed him that she did not like peppermint, to which Eric replied earnestly that he appreciated the honesty. A couple of doors down from the council president's house some neighbors got into the spirit of halloween by lighting their Christmas lights to signal they were home and loaded with candy. Then, as it got later, other neighbors celebrated with high flying fireworks. We'd had too much fun to get crabby and witchy about the fireworks -- it was lower fire conditions, after all, and they were pretty. Everyone had something to give.

Of course, the famous displays are over on the other side of the neighborhood in Angeleno Heights, which is a Halloween destination location because of the well-tended Victorian homes and their elaborate displays. But it was lively to the north in Elysian Heights where some of the displays have been used and refined over many years. Lower key but spooky nonetheless.

Meanwhile, we're rich with candy, enough to toss like confetti on election night, in celebration, we hope.

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