An old pipe broke in Bethesda, Maryland, as you may have seen, in the neighborhood where my father and stepmother live, and about fourteen "motorists" (Chicken Corner just loves that word, that's why it's in quotes) had to be rescued by boat and helicopter. It's a small irony that the flooded road is named "River Road" -- the universe likes a joke now and then. But who knew a broken water main could create such a torrent? Sometimes these man-made catastrophes look like acts of God.
Then we're expected to have heavy rain in Cali today and tomorrow, and some people may have to give up plans to drive their cars from one town to the next. Especially if the Grapevine is part of the route. Cars, cars, we're so sadly dependent! Cluck.
Then -- loosely related -- Browne Molyneaux, the poet and transportation political activist, among other things, checked in with Chicken Corner yesterday, with an offer to free any volunteers of the tyranny of their own vehicle, which she would destroy on stage.
As you know my side hobby is being the voice of women and unpronounceable names of the alt transit movement. Being one of the few gurls in alt transit that's focus is public transit is hardwork.
In a Streetsblog interview, she writes:
The Project hopefully will be me destroying someone's car on stage, but to me the project is bigger than just that. To me my anti-car stance and I say anti and not pro alternative transportation, because I want it to be known that I'm firmly anti-consumer driven lifestyle. I know in some parts of the city a car is truly a necessity, but in Hollywood, Santa Monica and downtown if you are child free you don't need one. I want to challenge that person to get rid of the biggest chain of consumerism in LA: The car. There is no way that public transit is going to get better until that person decides they don't need to spend their disposable income on a car. I would also be willing to destroy people's brand name clothing, shoes and credit cards if that's something people would be up for. Bring the literal item of anything that is making you a consumer junkie and I will happily destroy it for you and send you a wave file or mov. file of you freeing yourself from whatever your consumer addiction is.
File this under process-driven political art: where getting there is the message. When getting there isn't the point.
A few things I have seen in Echo Park in the last two days: my breath thick in the air. Twenty soggy padded bras, of the same size and tan color (it appeared), laying in a heap and then scattered on the asphalt. One safe, its door removed, laying box-open, on the street. The face of an old television, affixed to the angled stump of a tree. Green shoots of grass everywhere, growing as fast as they could. Hawks with wet wings circling for exercise over Elysian Park. A wet, abandoned couch, with cat claw marks, on Ewing St. Blue skies and gray skies. Dropping interest rates.
A notice in my inbox warned The Fast & Furious would be fast and furious tonight on Montana, 1700 block. They're to be working a quite civilized 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at breakneck speed. Chop chop. Expect squealing tires.
Curbed L.A.'s Dakota posted yesterday the news of once-nice old wood frame houses being demolished at the 9A site in Echo Park. 9A is what the LAUSD has called the blocks at Santa Ynez and Mohawk, where residents were pushed out of the houses in question. Make that former houses. They have been empty and rotting for over two years. A coalition of neighborhood groups and individuals -- who wanted the LAUSD to behave responsibly and legally in the way it chose the site and in the way it dealt with residents -- won challenges to the LAUSD's practices repeatedly in court. But, ultimately, the LAUSD could keep spending and spending on legal fees, and the neighborhood coalition could not. So the case settled.
According to Curbed, which linked to Chicken Corner (don't get dizzy):
Last week, the Chicken Corner blog reported there had been a legal settlement between the LAUSD and the Right Site Coalition, paving the way for the homes to be razed. If the blog had indicated that there was some question whether the school could be built, the LAUSD's Vickie Ramos tells us: "Yes, the school is going to be built."
Last I heard the city was still opposed to putting a campus in that spot. Council president Eric Garcetti has opposed giving up the street that runs through it. The Department of Transportation has said the location is unsafe for small children, given the fast/heavy traffic on Alvarado, on one side of it. Again, last I heard, the DOT hadn't changed its position. Then there is the question of whether the fire department, which uses Mohawk, would be adversely affected in losing the street.
From the beginning, the LAUSD's main argument FOR the site seemed to be not that it's a good site, but that they could get it, or they thought it would be easy at the time. And, once the wheels started turning, the argument evolved. It was a good site because the district already had spent so much time and money on it. So they devoted ten times more time and money. Just to get the houses torn down.
One thing we know: LAUSD got to tear down those houses in the end.
That's the question. The answer: a) I don't know, b) everything? It's all upside down.
For example: The LA Weekly had a mock news story online a few days ago in which Machine Project was tapped to take over MOCA (with the founder declaring WTF when told MOCA was going to be Machine's responsibility). The piece was supposed to be funny, and it was, but the thing is: What's so funny? I think it's a great idea. Of course, Machine's Echo Park storefront gallery is a bit small for MOCA-style exhibitions, but maybe the Downbeat Cafe and Echo Park Film Center would share space. Ha ha. But, really.... So that was "news" offered by the newly cored (read gored) Weekly.
Then there was "real" news about traffic and a guy who was shot several times (just south-east of Echo Park) on the 101 in a Bentley. NOT funny. He died. But shoot me if I didn't think I was reading The Onion when I checked in on the L.A. Times. Seriously.
The headline and a significant portion of the story/post is given to the traffic jam caused by the bullet-ridden Bentley. But more than half is about the initial "incident," which a cop tells a reporter "is a real whodunnit." The following is from the same story that describes the driver slumped over the wheel of the car, which has crashed into the median:
Trina Unzicker was driving her two girls to school when she hit the traffic.
"As soon as I hit the I-5 off of Burbank Boulevard, it was pretty obvious there were problems," Unzicker said. "Traffic was barely moving. And I figured I'd beat the bad freeway traffic, get off on the 2 and then into Echo Park, but no -- it was all a mess."
Unzicker, 40, was making the trip downtown to drop her 2-year-old twins at preschool.
"They kept saying 'school, school' and we were so late we missed their morning snack so we had to dig into their lunches," she said. "I had to listen to this Elmo CD 2 1/2 times in a row and by the time I dropped my girls off I was ready to break that disc."
Normally, the drive from her Burbank home takes about 20 minutes, but "today it took an hour and 20 minutes," Unzicker said. "And I missed a doctor's appointment I had scheduled for two months."
I do happen to know that getting stuck in traffic with a toddler in the backseat is not funny. "Just hang on, sweetie pie," you tell your crying, kicking child. "Just another forty-five minutes and then we'll be home. I promise." I also know about Elmo rage. I remember the Elmo phone we had. For example: Late one night my dog, who can't hear, snuck up on the couch and sat on the Elmo phone, which kept beeping and beeping and saying "Elmo here!" until I came out, woke up my dog, who jumped down from the couch, and I grabbed the damn Elmo phone. And then there was the guy who was shot ten times at 3:15 a.m. and died. ...
The point: One of the (hopefully not completely lost) arts of journalism is in finding the tone of a story. Choosing which details can be left out as well as which ones are most important to a story. Or when one story should be split into two. Call me romantic, but as a reader I am quite attached to reading my news after it has been sorted and edited. Or call me lazy.
In any case, upside down. Machine Project sent out a serious email to supporters the other day. The organization is quite sincere about its mission, but its communications -- and many of its exhibitions and projects -- are blessedly hilarious. Not so this time. The organization is hurting badly along with so many arts organizations (and everything else) in this economy.
Dear Friends, Machine is confronted with a serious challenge and we need your help.
I started Machine five years ago because I wanted a place that was comfortable, friendly, and interested in everything in the universe. Every month, our operations manager Michele and I have to raise almost $9,000 just to keep the doors open. Money above that amount we use to create the free events at Machine (almost 100 in 2008!) and put on shows like our one day takeover of LACMA. To survive we raise money from four sources - grants, workshops, the sale of books, and members Ė or future members Ė like yourself.
As the economy goes tragically haywire, everyone faces challenges including the foundations who grant us money. As a result, funding we were counting on to pay Michele's salary and the rent on our space will be significantly less, as in OH SHIT, HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY THE RENT less.
It doesn't sound like a joke, and it isn't one.
I'm glad I'm not in the middle of a Glendale Blvd. commute right now, 1:11 a.m. Monday night. Or trying to sleep in a home close by. They're said to be pulling an all-nighter down on Glendale below Sunset for an installment of the incredibly silly Fast & Furious franchise.* In one of the problem spots of the neighborhood, where the problem is that traffic gets plugged up so badly by commuters who just want to cross through the area as quickly as possible -- trying to get from Downtown to the start of the 2 Freeway at the far northern end of Echo Park -- Hollywood is assembling a tale of cars that drive too fast. Que viva la fiction.
There's been a lively discussion recently of how to manage/enhance the landscaping on the parkways down there. As it stands, it's been volunteer (read Michael O'Brien) directed. I like it the way it is -- but the xeriscape is a bit too desert for some of my neighbors. And that's a question of taste if not water.
In any case, the first of the Furious series was set in Echo Park. It opened with Paul Walker, as an undercover cop, zooming around a parking lot at Dodger Stadium in an enhanced Honda (I think it was a Honda), some kind of compact. Later, he hung around (or should that be "hanged around"?) with thugs from an "Italian" gang, who hung around "Joe's" grocery store on Marion, a nice, quiet little coming together of streets in Angeleno Heights. They were drag racers. Despite the authentic Echo Park locations, it looked fake, but the story caught on. There's no accounting for taste.
*Based on the 1st installment.
A big bright moon took to shining over Echo Park this weekend. Some say it's the biggest moon in 15 years. Some say it's just big. Either way, there it was, hanging over the lake, mooning over Elysian Park to the east and, earlier, the Golden State Freeway and the foothills north.
Can it be a coincidence that this is poetry home-delivery month at Machine Project, with the big moon and all?*
*If you haven't received the flyer, Machine Project is offering the service during the month of December.
As they said:
Friends, We love pizza, don't get us wrong, but sometimes we wish we could get other favorite things to show up at our doors on demand, too. Like our friend Joshua Beckman. Reading us a poem. Luckily Joshua is our December Artist in Residence, and in the spirit of giving this holiday season he and Machine Poet Laureate Anthony McCann are offering free door-to-door poetry deliveries at certain times throughout the month. The first installment of the Poetry Delivery Service will be this Sunday, December 7th between the hours of 1-5pm. Deliveries will be made exclusively on foot to homes or other locations within a 1 mile radius of Machine Project. If you want to order a pizza first and time it so that they arrive at the same time, then have a pizza / poetry party, even better!
Joshua will be in residence at Machine for all of December, presenting events like a lecture on pie theory, working with us on a soldering workshop, and more. More info and the number of the Poetry Phone request line.
Photo: Big Moon of Echo Park, Keep on Shining**
By Martin Cox (c), 2008
**Chicken Corner title.
It's raining now -- thank you universe. But the skies were even friendlier for not raining on Saturday, which was the day of the Echo Park Christmas Parade. The Echo Park Historical Society had a trunkful of raincoats in a silver rented convertible, but we didn't have to wear them. Instead we got to reveal, and revel in, a miscellany of costumes meant to convey the idea of silent film stars and directors on the 100th (or something) anniversary of Mack Sennett's studio on Glendale Boulevard. Yours truly was Mabel Normand-ish (she hopes). One of our members, dressed as a "producer" in pinstripes and small round sunglasses, held a paper horn, which he used to shout at the "actors": "Get to work, you union scum!" I'm not sure it was heard beyond the car. After a while, our "producer" found a Spanish-language radio station that played ballads, and we turned up the volume.
Over 40 groups joined the parade, which started at Sunset/Elysian Ave. They included a vintage car club -- with about 20 gleaming vehicles, all pre-1950, I think (the MC reminded the crowd that car clubs are a historic Echo Park tradition); and several school-girl dance groups (one of which twirled to a raunchy Lil Wayne song); there was a Shakespeare convertible; and a genuine float, with lotus flowers and men and women in lotus position as meditative music played.
Even though it didn't rain, it was cold and blustery, and I was surprised by how many people lined Sunset Boulevard. I was also surprised that the crowd was almost entirely Latino. Doesn't everyone love a parade? Lots of kids, on both sides of the curtain.
Later that night I talked to a man who was raised in Echo Park. He said he used to go to the Echo Park Christmas Parade in the late '60s and in the '70s. He said in those days it was a big deal. Marching bands from all over the area would march. But instead of stopping at the Brite Spot -- as we all did on Saturday -- the bands would continue to USC.
The parade itself fell by the wayside for many years. (Maybe it went to lunch at the Brite Spot and forgot to come out.) It was revived four years ago. But it was better than revived on Saturday.
If you want to look over your shoulder, the Echo Park Film Center will be showing Super 8 footage of the 1967 Christmas Parade:
Saturday, December 20 ĖECHO PARK CHRISTMAS PARADE 1967 and ITíS A WONDERFUL LIFE plus DOUG HARVEY'S MOLDY SLIDE SHOW - 5 PM. What a wacky and wonderful year itís been! Join us for EPFCís last event of 2009Ö our annual screening of that olí holiday classic, Itís A Wonderful Life. Sentimental sobbing encouraged. Also on the bill, a very rare and special treat: incredible Super 8 footage of the 1967 Echo Park Christmas Parade shot by the one and only Mr. Al Kasselman! Neighborhood history at its finest! And for those who have been both naughty and nice, a very special presentation of Doug Harveyís Moldy Slide Show. FREE EVENT! EGGNOG, COOKIES AND REINDEER TREATS IN ATTENDANCE!
I'm sure the reindeer treats alone are worth the price of admission, as if a "Moldy Slide Show" couldn't be.
...which is not a musical revue performed by polar bears.
The play is set partly in Cambodia, and partly in the mind of a boy named Max and in the pain of his father. One of the leads, Darrell Kunitomi (a friend of mine), who was raised in Echo Park and lives here still, describes the father's role as "one of the best parts for an Asian actor ever."
According to pre-premiere material:
Song of Extinction is the story of Max Forrestal, a musically gifted high school student who is going to fail biology if he doesn't complete a 20-page paper on extinction by Tuesday. But Max's mother is dying of cancer, and school is the last thing on his mind. His biologist father (Kunitomi), obsessed with saving a rare, threatened Bolivian insect, is incapable of dealing with his wife's impending death, or his son's distress. Max's teacher wants to offer him guidance; but helping his student pushes Khim Phan into a magical journey of his own - from the Cambodian fields of his youth into the undiscovered country beyond.
Cynthia Citron of CurtainUp described the after-curtain reaction to Song of Extinction:
After the actors had taken their bows and left the stage, the audience continued to sit in stunned silence. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. It takes a pretty powerful play to generate that kind of response. A silence so profound as to be understood as an overwhelming tribute to an extraordinary production.
After Sunday, it's over, but far from extinct, I am sure.
It's at the Ford Theatre on Cahuenga. For ticket info, click.
Meanwhile, Darrell also is a flyfisherman of some accomplishment, and he writes beautifully about the no-kill sport for the L.A. Times.
Because I IMAGINE that my friend the stand-up comic has an evolved sense of humor, I take Chris Kuhn into fire-devastated Azusa Canyon.
Despite the sobering presence of burned-out cabins, itís easy to forget that two seasons ago the flow among some pools of the West Fork of the San Gabriel River completely ceased, that the Curve Fire raced the length of the North Fork to Crystal Lake and beyond. But it turns out that the North Fork is not a joke: On a 75-degree day around Christmas, knee-deep in water rushing past scorched granite, we pull out small rainbow trout.
Photo: Darrell Kunitomi and Lori Yeghiayan
By Jay Lawton/L.A. Times
Super furry celebrity animals: Do you ever feel like (you are) a hamster on a piano eating popcorn? If you do, you're lucky. If you don't, you're probably human.
Chicken Corner received from a friend who asked not to be named:
There is a hamster at Chango, eating popcorn.
Did he lose his job?
But my friend must have turned his/her Blackberry off, because they didn't get back to me. Maybe he/she was being ticketed for texting in traffic. I didn't have time to drive down to the coffeehouse, so I called, and the guy who answered was so friendly. He said the hamster had been at the table closest to the milk thermoses etc. for about 3.5 hours but that he had just been carried into a 2005ish Jaguar that looked like a Taurus that pulled up in front. He added that the little white hamster peed on a copy of the LA Weekly's greatest hits but that the damage was so slight the issue could be saved.
"Call me if he comes back, will ya?"
"Sure thing," he said, "I'll do that. I'll do that."
Huffington Post helped make the critter the hipster celebrity hamster he is today.
The little guys won in court (again and again), but the bad boys took it on the street. 9A is now over. There will be a settlement in the case in which the teeny tiny Right Site Coalition fought LAUSD for four years over the School District's sloppy effort to cram a school into a poorly chosen site in Echo Park. The site wasn't a fallow lot or a part of the neighborhood in disuse but fifty homes, which have been empty for years now. Mismanaged from the start, they have become blight.
As the Echo Park Historical Society explains in its most recent e-newsletter:
A judge has approved a settlement over the school district's plans to demolish more than two blocks of homes and commercial buildings near Alvarado Street and Sunset Boulevard. Despite a string of victories by the Right Site Coalition, which included the EPHS [Echo Park Historical Society], against the Site 9A proposal, the opponents could not raise enough money to continue the legal challenge. As a result, the school district will be allowed to go ahead with the demolition. It's not clear when the demolition will begin. The EPHS would like to thank board member Christine Peters for leading this years-long fight to try and preserver Echo Park's past for the future.
Yes, some of the district's actions were illegal, but outspending the opposition was not.
Note that the District now will be allowed to raze the houses it seized. But it's uncertain whether it can build a school in the same location.
Precisely. Echo Park resident Martin Cox, who is a fine-arts and commercial photographer, will put his beautiful English accent to work in a discussion of his art and his craft at a lunchtime talk:
Photo Friends of the Los Angeles Public Library to: THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S EYE: Program VI: Martin Cox. A series of discussions with contemporary Los Angeles photographers.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008; 12:15pm - 1:15pm; Central Library; 630 West Fifth Street; Downtown Los Angeles; Meeting Room A (adjacent to the 5th Street Entrance)
It's a brown bag affair, as in bring your own lunch. You may be familiar with some of Martin's journalistic work as well -- he is mad for birds and for Echo Park Lake, mad enough to contribute images of avian life and the water to Chicken Corner on occasion.
Photo by Martin Cox, 2008 (c)
Speaking of pictures, Highland Park's Avenue 50 Studio will be showing some, in "Silent Testimonies," a group exhibition of contemporary ex votos. There will be some Echo Park artists in the mix, Katrina Alexy, for one. Reception is from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13. 131 N. Avenue 50, Highland Park, 323-258-1435.
Sergio Vasquez (c)
Sunday was Half-Marathon Day. Sort of like Half-Christmas Day. (This year xmas will start at noon.) But there it was: Sunset Boulevard blocked, crossing guards, runners and half-runners (walkers) trotting along the west side of the lake. They used to run south on Echo Park Ave., but a friend of ours had his car towed, got upset, asked they city why the runners didn't go through the park instead of along the street next to it, and voila! here they are running on the joggers path. We chose the other side of the park for a stroll, myself, my husband, RJ, Madeleine, our friend Martin Cox, and Rosie the dog. We said hello to the coots, the mallards, the wigeons and some geese. The famous Bufflehead is gone; he stayed in EP about three days. Next to the bank there was a dead mallard. Martin, who loves the lake, pointed out that "nothing holds up to close inspection" at EP lake. A small outboard boat that said "Lifeguard" on the side motored around. Martin said they patrol the lake twice a day, in the morning and evening. Looking for submarines? Just protocol. And, joking aside, I'm glad they do it. Motorcycle cops were also on patrol, circling the lake, it seemed. A pair came our way. We heard them chuckling and hooting like yahoos as they glided side-by-side. "They don't know their speakers are on," Martin observed. Not by half, it seemed.
Later, on the other side of the neighborhood, we went to the reception/sale at Peter Shire's studios. With the Echo Park Animal Alliance's Santa event in full swing, it was very doggy. Dogs all dressed for their Santa portraits, with red velevet collars and bells. There were excellent snacks for humans, and there were pots and pictures, perfumes, and so many neighbors. It's one of the nicest events of the year, times two!
Speaking of the Echo Park Animal Alliance, it's a big week in the United States with Black Friday done and Christmas/Hannukah before us. A lot of great events in Echo Park this weekend, too many good ones, in fact.
One happening that Chicken Corner never misses is the EPAA's fundraiser dog-portrait-with-Santa event at Peter Shire's studio. You can have your photo taken Saturday or Sunday during the day. It's part of Peter Shire's studios annual sale/reception, which includes about five vendors. Last year, I washed my dog, Rosie, on the morning of her portrait. I thought she would sun-dry, but by the time we had run errands and got to the studio her fur was still wet. So we have a 2007 picture of a smiling Santa and a smiling Rosie with wet fur. Fortunately, it wasn't cold out. This year, I plan to bathe her a day in advance.
If you haven't received info on Echo Park Pottery's three-day open house sale holiday party, it goes something like this: Friday evening (that's tonight), cocktails and unusual ceramics for sale, Gary Leonard photographs, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Saturday: Main day of the sale/party, daytime hours, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.. Sunday, "surprise" merchandize, dazetime hours, 1-5. 1850 Echo Park Ave.
More events (despite the economy):
*Tonight: Free and open to everyone -- 6 p.m. Children and adults caroling and a holiday walk/march toward Walgreens on Sunset. Meets at the Echo Park Lake boat house on Echo Park Ave, acros from the great purple tower of the Episcopal Church. Ending with 1st Annual Christmas Tree lighting.
*At the Echo Park Film Center, Saturday (12/6) the premiere of the new film made by EPFC kids in collaboration with 826 LA. It's a potluck affair, so you might want to bring a lucky pot of stew or cookies.
What they wrote:
Working with young writers at 826LA, EPFC students between the ages of 13 and 18 brought four short screenplays from stage to screen in eleven short weeks. Come celebrate the results at this community potluck and free screening at 826LA: 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., LA 90026. POTLUCK AT 6 PM; SCREENING AT 7 PM. Q & A TO FOLLOW. FREE! EVERYONE WELCOME! FILMMAKERS IN ATTENDANCE!
*My friend Cindy Bennett, who took the above photo of Rosie the dog, is having her first of several Holiday Lounges this Saturday at her gallery, North Hill Exhibitions, in Chinatown. From 12 to 6 p.m. For sale will be limited edition archival prints, organic cotton T-s specially designed, lampshades. There will be hot apple cider. 945 North Hill St., Chinatown.
And now Chicken Corner is too stuffed with this weekend's holiday information to cluck about any more!
While I was away visiting my family, I read accounts of how Bailey the dog and his guardian, Larry, became separated, with Bailey showing up at the northeast shelter, which is watched fairly closely by members of the Echo Park Animal Alliance. Larry is homeless, and no one had seen him. It was an awful story. Bailey's future was uncertain, and for some time no one knew what had happened to Larry, who is often seen on Glendale Avenue near Berkeley. But yesterday the two were reunited when Christine Peters retrieved Bailey from the shelter and brought him home to Larry.
In response to my questions about the reunion, Christine wrote:
Bailey and Larry are longtime Echo Park fixtures. Prior to being homeless they lived a comfortable life on McCollum Street [in Echo Park. They've been] together 13 years. Bailey has senior issues, like arthritis, ocular issues, tear ducts etc. [but] as we drove along Riverside Drive and got closer to Glendale Blvd. he started yapping. And when we got to the corner of Berkeley he lept into the arms of his crying owner. These guys are inseparable, and to imagine them both in their separate cold cells, wondering where the other might be, it really brings life's little bumps into perspective.
It was a pretty teary moment. I know some people don't believe homeless should have pets, but in these trying times, people may soon finally realize "you aren't born homeless". It happens, and kudos to the people who don't dump their pets at the shelter and keep them through thick and thin. If you go to the shelter today, it's horrifying the number of owner surrenders. People can't be bothered to deal with their pets, just dispose.
The situation began when Larry was jailed on an outstanding warrant. I've had a couple of those myself (including one for walking my dog off leash), but I also had the money to get it straightened out without arrest. Larry did not have money for bail. I don't know Larry and Bailey, at least not yet, but it was good to come home to a neighborhood that brought the two of them back together.