The Eastsider was present at a neighborhood council meeting last night, and they have a tale to tell:
The January meeting of the Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council came to order at about 6:30 Tuesday night. Ten minutes later, there was total disorder, with gavels and drums banging, board members trading insults and threats and others pleading for the police to be called in to calm things down.
Things went down hill fast after some council members objected to a move by president Jose Sigala (who has seen plenty of nasty public meetings as an aid to City Councilman Richard Alarcon) to seat an alternate representative to the council. Augustin Cebada called Sigala a "Mr. Fat, bald-headed, Mussolini" and banged on a hand-held drum. Sigala, pounding his gavel on the table, demanded that Cebada, a former, ally, shut up.
It took the appearance of Eric Garcetti to quiet things down.
Of course, the fact that there even was a meeting is something of an achievement as there have been disputes and accusations over scheduling of meetings, the naming of meetings -- when does Robert's rules allow a "Special Meeting," for example -- and adequate publicizing of them.
It's an awful job, and no one has to do it: The LA Times ran a weird story two days ago about a man, Jimmie Rizzo, who kills coyotes for a living (pun intended). The story has inspired more postings more quickly on the neighborhood list than any I have seen on any subject. The community is upset because in the story they read an LA Times endorsement of Rizzo's activities. And perhaps they're right -- the tone of the story is hard to pin down: the language and presentation are that of a sunny feature profile, a day in the life of a guy whose grandma taught him to kill muskrats; he graduated to a life of driving around with guns, chains and sodium pentothal -- all in protection of lapdogs (whose owners should be protecting their pets by other means). The reporter, Joe Mozingo, tags along with Rizzo -- who often acts as an agent for the county -- as he goes about his killing, and the horror and ugliness of what he reports is at odds with the featurey delivery of the story.
It's off-putting. But I'm glad the story was published because I wasn't aware -- hadn't given it any thought -- that my taxes were being used to pay for such an awful and unnecessary "service." Nor had I known that the Huntington Library and Gardens pays Rizzo to kill coyotes. Something out of balance in that detail, or is there? If I hadn't already let our family membership lapse two years ago, I'd be canceling it now. Regardless, coyote haters will enjoy the Times story. People who support a sane approach to co-existence with urban/suburban wildlife can do better. Sometimes it's good to be upset.
In any case, Freud famously wrote that the purpose of civilization is to protect humans from nature. But I don't think Freud was thinking in green terms or in terms of environmental calamity. And he certainly hadn't considered the odd urban-forested neighborhoods/cities of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Pasadena, etc. that are so close to large, wild parks and mountains.
As one contributor to the neighorhood list put it: "Don't like coyotes, move downtown."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch. We may have a zombie meth-head named Tweaker Tom on the loose. And he's likely a neighbor. The Eastsider has a report. According to EP's senior lead officer, the respected and colorful Bobby Hill, "Tweaker Tom" is behind many of the car-break-ins that have been so abundantly reported recently. Hill told the Eastsider: "They [our local meth heads] are like zombies out in the middle of the night." But Hill is no zombie. You may recall he won a $3.1 million settlement against the LAPD in September -- in which he fought back after being punished for reporting that colleagues of his were making racial epithets.
That said, I would like to extend an personal invitation to Tweaker Tom to clean out my vehicle, if he can a) refrain from breaking any windows and b) leave the car seat. Tom will find: dried sycamore leaves, about 12 wooden letters of the alphabet, including a captial D, crumpled Dixie cups, crumbled goldfish crackers, empty juice box complete with straw, pennies, dog hair, and plastic bags from the newspaper. That's the best of it. On second thought, maybe I'd rather keep my letters, leaves and dog hair. ...
It's been a rich and complicated week hereabouts, not least in photographs. Chicken Corner has received from readers and contributors photographs of shoveler ducks, a shrine for Roberto Lopez, who was killed last week, and an inauguration-subversion event (held Jan. 20) at Stories bookstore, featuring Jason Flores-Williams.
First, the ducks:
Photo: Martin Cox, January 2009 (c)
Martin Cox, Chicken Corner's spirited waterfowl correspondent, wrote:
Foreground [in the photograph] is Mrs Mallard, background, Mr. Shoveler. Note the huge shovel-like beak. At first there was just one or two, soon there were 6 pairs, then 8, then 12. Now the numbers have begun to drop again, but they have been glamorous winter visitors to Echo Park Lake, only seen once for a half day a year ago. They keep well away form people and when the lifeguards do the tour in their skiff they take flight.
Martin added that "The Bufflehead remains a frequent visitor, about once a week." Seems the Bufflehead intends to baffle as to his whereabouts the rest of the week.
Life goes on for the ducks at Echo Park Lake. But at the same time, the loss of Roberto Lopez, whom many of us never got to know, has become part of our life. A reader named Kevin emailed me a photograph of a shrine to Roberto. It's heartbreaking, but we don't want to forget.
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran a photo essay of Robert's funeral at the Cathedral downtown.
There are still Obama "Hope" stickers and small posters all over the neighborhood, of course, but there's also still room in Echo Park for opposition. On Tuesday night, while so many of us were happily smiling to ourselves -- or were dazed in the confusion of actually feeling good about a national election -- the novelist Jason Flores-Williams refused to sit back and be satisfied. Along with Gordy Grundy and Tulsa Kinney, Flores-Williams read his fiction in honor of "Inauguration Subversion" at our fabulous new bookstore, Stories.
That's the week in review. The week as we know it, except for the rain.
At Chicken Corner it seems only correct to start out this new time of hope with some news about chickens -- good chickens, bad chickens, hard-luck chickens who inspire and instruct. ... In any case, this week's chicken came to my attention on an Echo-Elysian list serv under the subject line "Big Mean Rooster Needs a Home." This being Echo Park, it was not a joke. The rooster's name is Athena. He is named, presumably, after the mythic female warrior-protector of Athens. One thing we know for sure: Athena the Greek goddess couldn't have been any prettier than our boy who lives in Glendora. (See photo, above.)
According to Scott Rubell:
I have friends with a big violent rooster. They need to find a new home for him. His name is Athena. He's big. He will attack if you turn your back, but he's very friendly with his owners, sitting on their arm and eating out of hand. I have offered to take him, but they won't give him to me. [They're afraid he will cook the poor guy.] They really want someone who will appreciate him as a live chicken. So, anyone who doesn't get many visitors, or doesn't mind the liability, contact me and I'll put you in touch.
Naturally, Chicken Corner needed to know more. So an email went out to Scott, who has lived in Montecito Heights for nine years. Scott provided more information:
The couple who owns this chicken ... moved to this place where chickens roam (the farm I grew up on) and now they take care of the chickens like they were precious children. It's kind of endearing, except their unconditional love extends to this big mean rooster. I don't blame the rooster, of course. He's just doing whatever his nature tells him to do, but on the other hand, who can own a rooster like that? He's a liability. ... I have offered to take him, but they don't trust me [not to cook him], so I'm trying to help them place him to a "good home."
I asked why the rooster couldn't just live with the people who loved him, and Scott replied:
Because they are living in a unique situation where they cannot control or predict who comes on the property. It belongs to the Glendora Historical Society and tours can arrive at any time. It's a semi-public place. It would be sort of like having an attack animal roaming El Alisal. The last person to get freaked out by Athena was a movie location guy for the show "Heroes." You can see some pictures of scenes they shot there on this page.
See the stone walls. They were using the property as a scene set in Haiti and showed the episode a month ago. If you saw the show, you could hear Athena crowing in the background.
Anyway, I am one of the agents taking care of the place and I had to tell the tenants to either transplant Athena or keep him incarcerated 24 hours a day. The coop he occupies is rather large, but they still don't like to keep him in there, so wish for a good home.
The story gets more convoluted the more you ask.
I guessed that was my cue to stop asking or to really dig in and ask more. There's no telling where a good, convoluted rooster story like Athena's could lead.
Here's another Athena photo:
...for the family of Roberto Lopez, to help pay for the four-year-old's funeral can be made in a few different ways:
The Echo Park Chamber of Commerce is taking donation for the Lopez family: You may mail a check or pay by credit card online, here.
According to Efrim Chiavetta of ACLA:
Art.Community.Land.Activism! (formerly ARTScorpsLA) is coordinating with CD1 and the mayor's office to direct victim's assistance money to the family as well as open a memorial fund in either the father's or the grandfather's name that people may then donate directly to.
There is also a fundraising car wash being hosted by Bethel Temple at 1250 Bellevue Ave. in the neighborhood on Saturday the 17 from 8 - 4. Spiraling will have some kidz there to support the effort and to represent the park.
We are also working with victims services and the department of mental health to provide counseling for youth, adults or families at Spiraling Orchard.
Even in the midst of this tragedy, the kids from Spiraling Orchard proved, once again, how totally and completely amazing they are, helping to prepare food for Robert's family ... and planning fundraising and prayer events at the park.
Best, Efrim Chiavetta, ACLA, 1246 W. Court St., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Chiavetta provided the following bank information for making donations directly to the family:
Wells Fargo Bank
Accnt. # 8046493014
The account is in the family name, and people may contribute at any Wells Fargo Branch, or if they also have an account with Wells Fargo they may transfer money directly to the memorial account.
As has been reported widely, the police have arrested a suspect. It sounds like a combination of factors led to the quick arrest: a high level of community cooperation, and the LAPD went out of its way to send Spanish-speaking cops to talk to potential witnesses. The horror of this particular killing motivated everyone. At least as far as finding the shooter goes. Now how about those gun makers? Is anyone looking for them?
LA Times story here.
Meanwhile, a neighbor of some of the gang members on Edgeware told me yesterday that the gang members were wearing black T-shirts instead of their usual white T's.
I haven't heard yet how Roberto's mother and her baby are doing.
Now we know from witnesses that it wasn't a drive-by, but its inverse -- "gunmen" on foot shooting at a moving car. And killing a four-year-old boy. There's a lot of distress in the neighborhood, including from people who didn't know Roberto Lopez or his family. Many posts on the neighborhood list serve. It will be discussed at the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce meeting tonight.
Roberto Lopez. Somehow it sounds like such a grown-up name for a little kid. He is the fourth child to be shot and killed in suspected gang shootings in the last two years in Echo Park or its close environs.
It may be related, or not, but currently there are two gangs fighting over wall space in Echo Park, as I've mentioned recently. And a shooting has been expected as the gang members have crossed into each other's "territories" crossing out tags, re-tagging. One friend of mine, Malcolm, posted an argument/theory. He says the gangs are fighting to control the street vendors, who pay "protection" money. He says it's money, not scenery they're after. For weeks, Malcolm and other neighborhood watchers have been warning that a shooting was going to occur.
Meanwhile, I have heard the Roberto's mother, pregnant (if the baby hasn't been delivered yet) and distraught, is in the hospital. She went into labor after her little boy's killing.
A candlelight vigil is planned for tonight on Court Street: 7pm, Court Street Between Boylston and Toluca. Donations for the family will hopefully be co-ordinated through ArtsCorp LA, the local non profit, at "Spiraling Orchard".
A small boy, someone's baby boy, was killed on Court Street a few hours ago. TV news reports available online are scanty, with disparate details: Some reports say Roberto Lopez was four years old, some say he was five. Some say both. At first, CBS news repeated over and again that there was no sure evidence the shooting was a drive-by. I imagine they didn't want to start rumors that could lead to more shooting. KTLA called it a drive-by. Now, most outlets are reporting that shots were fired at a red car, and one of the bullets hit the small boy, who was walking with his sister. Everyone is calling it Echo Park, and I'm sure it is. Echo Park is a big place, and the boundaries are uncertain even to me, who studies it. I don't know the intersection where the shooting took place. But I'll never forget it.
The shooting happened at about 4:25. At 5:30 I was driving along Echo Park Lake and saw two helicopters hovering over the streets south of the 101 freeway. Now I know they were taking pictures of the place where it happened, even though it was all over by then.
First the Boathouse on Lake Echo Park was restored. Then the paddle boats are saved. Then the restaurant 15 turns into the Allston Yacht Club -- never mind that it's three blocks away from the mighty Lake Echo Park. Then Martin (aka Martin Cox, Chicken Corner's waterfowl correspondent) gets a title. The Steam Ship Historical Society of America has named this EP boho/citizen Local Commodore of the year for 2009. The title is in recognition of Martin's blog-keeping: For a decade the photographer has publishedMaritimeMatters.com (Ocean liner history and global shipping news). The site has well over a million views. Congratulations, Martin!
Martin on deck in 2007.
More details, from the Socal chapter of the Steamship Historial Society:
The Southern California Chapter of the Steamship Historical Society of America, Inc. has named its award recipients for the year. Martin Cox has been awarded the Local Commodore of the Year for his ongoing dedication and service to the maritime historical community with his MaritimeMatters website. Martin has consistently demonstrated dedication to the subject matter and the quality of treatment afforded it on his pages. His inclusion of notables as Peter Knego in the task only support the insistence on quality reporting that has become the standard for MaritimeMatters.
The Local Commodore of the Year is given out annually to the person, living in the Southern California area, who has distinguished themselves through their contribution to the promotion of maritime history within the greater community. Awards are made by vote of the Chapter Board of Directors.
Bruce Vancil, Western Regional Vice President
Steamship Historical Society of America, Inc.
Steamship Historical Society of America, SoCal Chapter
On December 17 Chicken Corner wrote about a freeway shooting (fatal) and a witness to a traffic jam. Yesterday, I heard from Trina, the newspaper traffic witness who was quoted in a strange story in the L.A. Times. As suspected, the bystander thought she was being interviewed for a traffic-jam report and not a story about the death of a 25-year-old.
Hi Ms. Burman - I found your article in Chicken Corner and I just wanted to tell you how right you were about the disorienting tone of the article regarding the Bentley Shooting/101 Freeway Jam [three-some] weeks ago. I'm the person that was quoted regarding the traffic jam that morning (aka Elmo Rage Mom).
The LA Times reporter that spoke to me picked up a whine about the traffic I'd posted on Twitter the morning of the shooting and asked to talk to me about my traffic experience. I chatted with him for about 10 minutes and peppered my speech with a bunch of rants, thinking one *might* get included along with several other people's observations in a article dealing separately with the traffic fallout. At that point, I didn't know anything about the Bentley driver's situation.
So imagine my surprise when I get a phone call from a friend who read me the Elmo quote from A2 the next day. 'OK, great', I'm thinking. 'One of my ... statements made it into the paper. ... The end.' Now imagine my horror when she calls back 5 minutes later and reads me the rest of the article in the B Section. By then I'd learned the driver was not expected to survive. Hearing myself whine on and on about the traffic seemed ridiculous in comparison with a family keeping vigil in a hospital somewhere. You know that feeling of wishing the ground would open up under you so you could disappear? That was me everytime someone teased me about the article. So thanks for blaming the mixed tone of the article on its lack of focus and not the self-centeredness of the ranting mom. Your perception about the wrong tone struck me as right on. Trust me, between me and the other driver, I know I got the better end of the deal that morning.
Of course, we all take traffic personally, regardless of the cause. But most of us don't have a media behemoth calling us out by name. Or calling us on the phone with a few questions about the traffic, or the weather, or hamsters on pianos, and did we mention it's for a story about a homicide?
For several years, it has seemed Echo Park streets were getting safer -- in terms of random street crime. It's no longer worth notice when I see someone out for an evening stroll or jog. The other night at 1 a.m. I drove past Echo Park Lake and saw a lone jogger and didn't think he was courting trouble. I have attributed this largely to global forces. Call me horribly naive, but I thought mugging had gone the way of the "record album." Out of style, obsolete. "No one" has cash anymore. So muggers had to look for new ways to ply their trade, in cyber-crime syndicates and identity-theft rings. Or burglary. All for the better, I thought: It's awful to have your name stolen; it's worse to face a knife or gun. But these new economic times may have made some of us old-fashioned. There have been a rash of muggings reported recently in the neighborhood.
One incident involved a neighbor of mine, Ted Campbell, who had a knife pulled on him Thursday night. According to Ted's wife, Anne, he was out for a walk at around 8:30 p.m.
[Ted] was at Donaldson and Princeton and he was going up the hill on Donaldson when a car stopped and let two guys out...they were young...and didn't speak much English. ... [They] had knives they just wanted cash, $40 dollars, and took Ted's cellphone and wedding ring. They threatened to cut off his finger if he didn't hand the ring over. They went back down the hill where there was a car waiting...an older two-door compact, and they drove off. The police called us at 3 am...they picked up two guys and a woman matching the description, and they had Ted's cell phone.
I'm assuming these aren't the same hoods who mugged an off-duty cop on Echo Park Avenue a few years ago. Or put it this way: I'm hoping.
The inimitable Arthur as an entity on paper has just turned to dust in our memories. Jay Babcock moved the magazine to Brooklyn last year in the hopes of securing a real future -- in the publishing capital -- for the "publication" (how fast the meaning of that word is changing). But it looks like the economy got to it first. Arthur now lives online, where you can see it but not touch.
In an email to Arthur online subscribers, Babcock wrote:
Hey gang-- I am done with self-publishing Arthur, which I've been doing since July, 2007. It's too much work for one person to edit, publish and manage a national magazine, month after month, year after year.
If/when a publishing partner appears, and so on, Arthur will return to print. That could be in three days, three months or three years.
Or never, given how the internet plus leveraged capital has hollowed out almost all existing analog mass media in favor of stuff that, in almost all cases, is qualitatively worse for almost everybody.
Anyway, we're gonna hibernate the mag for the time being, and focus on the stuff that doesn't have as much financial risk or management burden. Thanks to the work of a lot of Arthur folks, the arthurmag internet presence will upgrade and expand greatly in the coming days. Also, two new cds and a dvd are being prepared, the book(s) are on the way, and so on.
We're staying busy, staying focused on what we can handle, and pushing homegrown counter-culture forward. We hope you can, too. And if you need more Arthur mags right now...well, there's 31 back issues available in the store.
All love and R.I.P. Ron Asheton,
Jay Babcock editor/publisher, Arthur Magazine
Three days, three months, three years, or three times never. How's that for a four-sided triangle? Chicken Corner plans to keep reading Arthur online.
At the top of Chicken Corner's wish list for quite some time has been a bookstore -- an independent shop that took chances and also stocked classics. For a brief while we had a lovely little boutique on gallery row (when it was gallery row, on EP Ave.). But that store was underfunded, carrying only a nicely selected, spare stock of mainly used paperbacks; it didn't make it. Then, for the last four or so years, it's been nothing except Amazon, which seems to live the air we breathe. But, strangely, enough, this fall Chicken Corner got her wish. A viable shop, Stories L.A., moved in next door to 826LA, its merchandize and sense of mission in stunning equilibrium. It has books to sell, buy or trade, new and used. And it has a cafe. It looks good. As my buddies from The Eastsider and Dwell reported, the shelves are transplants from Dutton's, which died so famously last year.
Stories also likes an author who makes some noise.
To wit: among the store's first readers will be Jason Flores-Williams, a New York writer who recently moved to Venice. He's the author of The Last Stand of Mr. America and two other novels. He has written for Hustler, The Nation and High Times, and there is such a variety of information about him online that I thought there were two writers of the same name, if not the same Mexican-Lebanese-American heritage. He's a lawyer and political activist, described in the following terms after an unauthorized performance in front of Carnegie Hall:
Jason Flores-Williams believes that creative resistance is the new relevant art. Subvert everything, nothing deserves to stand! We must produce culture that is beyond their cooption. We have to fight The Man on his own turf. JFW wrote the High Times' Call To Resistance, which was at the center of the 2004 Republican National Convention protests in New York City. His novel "The Last Stand of Mr. America," has been a controversial cult hit and got him banned from reading at Columbia University.
I haven't read Flores-Williams' fiction yet and don't know if I'll like it. Is it a bad thing to approach a work of fiction with caution? The first google offering on Flores-Williams is a ten-year-old interview that was offensive enough that I almost changed my mind about writing this post. (In a phone conversation, Flores-Williams said the interview has "haunted me from day one." He explained that he'd been trying to bait the interviewer who was "uptight," which I believed given how laughably over-the-top many of his statements were.) Other snippets I've read, some I've liked, some not. Regardless, it's a lively reading in store for Stories, and possibly a good one.
7 pm, Tuesday, January 20, 2009; 1716 Sunset Blvd. (Echo Park) Los Angeles.
The Echo Park Lake bird count was today, but there has also been a different kind of count conducted recently. Neighbors have reported an upswing in the number of rooster heads, which have been found in Silver Lake on the edge of Echo Park (boundaries are a matter of opinion). According to one woman, the heads stopped turning up for a few years, and now they're back. Meanwhile, in Elysian Heights, some friends of mine discovered two decapitated pigeons and a goat's head at one of the informal trail entrances to Elysian Park -- one of two most commonly used. That was in the first week of October 2008. The thought is that the heads may be Santeria offerings. Merrick Morton, who has lived in Echo Park for over 15 years, says he has seen a ceremony at about 6 a.m. in Elysian Park lead by a Spanish speaking man in a black hood. Candles have been found burning in the park, as well as other decapitated birds. The discoveries have happened on and off for years.
In response to my questions, a woman named Mary, who lives in Silver Lake, emailed:
The heads are found at the corner of Reservoir and Silver Lake Blvd. They are in plain sight, but at the edge of the road where the curb meets the sidewalk. We would see them while waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk. For a period of about a month last year, there was a new one about once a week. This happened previously, too, about a year earlier, also for a period of about a month.
A photo of the Elysian Park decapitated goat and pigeons after the jump.
iPhone photo by Merrick Morton, 2008
It's awful, this goat and pigeon business. And it reminds me of the superstition all around. I used to have a neighbor, who has since died of breast cancer. She evicted one of her tenants, a young artist, who abandoned a Manx cat (they have no tail). The cat later moved into my house -- and sits behind my shoulders on the back of the chair right now. My neighbor said she was glad to get rid of the tenant in part because he engaged in occult practices. I asked about what kind of practices, and she said he had chopped off my cat's tail. I said that the cat, Monkey, who was pregnant when she showed up at my house, had given birth to a tail-less kitten -- proof that the missing tail was "natural" -- but I don't know if she believed me because she shrugged. People get superstitious about each other, even when they don't dismember animals.
And so it is new year...2009. The year began for me in a suburb of Detroit, where it snowed a few inches, beautifully. I took a walk on New Year's Day, and the streets of Royal Oak were empty; there was cold wind at my back. Most of the stores, of course were closed for the day, though a few were shuttered for good. Not a bird or woman or man on the streets. A kind of loneliness that's entirely foreign to Los Angeles, which is lonely in different ways.
But in some ways, Detroit's winter desertion is our gain: I got back Friday night to find the following email in my inbox from Chicken Corner's inveterate waterfowl correspondent, Martin Cox:
The Bufflehead joined the Northern Shovelers on a new years day bird fest AND! ... a Black necked Stilt was seen at the boat house AND the first 5 mallard chicks, the earliest Ever in the year. It's bird madness here.
That's Echo Park Lake birds, some of them visiting from up north (perhaps even Detroit).
Speakingof which, tomorrow morning, Jan. 4, is the annual bird count at Echo Park Lake. Judy Raskin, birder and community activist, posted on a neighborhood list:
Echo Park Lake, meet at the Boathouse at 8:00 a.m. I did a preview walk/run through and discovered some goodies that I hope will be around on Sunday -- Vaux's swifts, ring-billed gulls and herrring gulls. Your eyes may be better than mine and we'll find some other rare-to-the-lake species.
After a week in the far north, Chicken Corner was glad to get back to Cali. I took a walk to reacquaint myself, saw that the grass on Kite Hill had grown about two inches, many of the walnut trees had lost their leaves but still dangled walnuts, which had turned black -- a counterpart to the dead Christmas Trees, with their lively, colorful ornaments. All over the neighborhood Christmas lights are still on display, some lit even in daytime. In my absence (I think) the restaurant named 15 turned into a restaurant named the Allston Yacht Club. Read it again, if you blinked -- the Allston Yacht Club in Echo Park. One thing hadn't changed: Magic Gas gas station was still out of gas, with "no gas" signs taped to the pumps. The graffiti that has been popping up on walls up and down Echo Park Avenue -- and on streets nearby -- had been painted over and not renewed. Before Christmas, people had been saying the high number of tags and tag-outs between two local gangs meant we could expect a shooting very soon. I haven't heard of that happening, so far. Other things I saw: people walked their dogs, and walked their own bodies. They walked to and from their cars. It all looked normal circa 2009.