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February 27, 2009

Dog and panda

And now your moment of zen.

Dog and panda

Photo: Darrell Kunitomi, Feb. 27, 2009

My friend Darrell says "We see abandoned animals in our fair city.
Certainly we see a lot around our hills and valleys of Echo Park. These
two I snapped at the lavanderia next to the [gas] station on Glendale
and Scott. Mr. Panda seems sad."

Darrell explained that he took the photo while "walking from Chung's Auto to Sunset bus stop."

Chicken Corner wonders if they're waiting for a phone call -- from the child who left them behind at the laundromat. Or maybe one of them is waiting for a call, and the other isn't. ...

February 26, 2009

Loose lips

Eastsider spotted it and Chicken Corner repeats it: A writer for posted a cheery item celebrating the open secret that dog walkers in Elysian Park let their dogs run leashless. Now a neighborhood list serv informs the community that the city has been paying attention and may be cracking down on all the happy dogs and people ambling through Elysian Park.

Why crack down? To make up for lost revenue from the vandalized parking meter in front of the Downbeat Cafe? To be mean to dogs and their owners? Or to send a message to bloggers who encourage their readers to scoff at leash laws?

Which reminds me of a small item the Daily News ran in its features section about fifteen years ago -- telling readers they could save money on Christmas trees if they chopped down their own in the Angeles Forest. A retraction was printed.

Do NOT leave your leash in the car.

Mas at Masa

Echo Park's Masa restaurant is tops (or very close) today. The pizza-bistro restaurant on Sunset Blvd is not just participating in the county-wide GoEAT LA AIDS fundraiser today. It has pledged 50 percent of its proceeds. A quick scroll through restaurants in this area all the way to West Hollywood and beyond showed that only Astro Burger -- which also has a branch diner close by, in Silver Lake -- has promised more (60 percent).

That's definitely what we, at Chicken Corner, call extra value.

According to Masa, which did not advertise its percentage, in a mailing to a neighborhood list serv:

Restaurants across Los Angeles will be participating in Aid for AIDS' fundraising event "Go Eat Los Angeles" on Thursday, February 26. More than 65 restaurants are scheduled to participate in the event, and each has pledged anywhere from 15-60% of their day's proceeds to help in the effort to provide relief to families who have been affected by AIDS.
Founded in 1983, Aid for AIDS is one of California's oldest and longest-running non- profits. Their mission is "to prevent homelessness and hunger and to encourage independent living for impoverished women, men and children with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County," according to a press release by the organization.

For reading material, while you wait for your pannino or meatloaf, you can browse Masa's neighborhood newsletter (usually placed on tables), which provides information on animal rescue and human social services and community groups.

February 25, 2009

Where it did go

Watching a hole where the mail went in. ... I've been getting emails today, both on the list serv and several addressed to Chicken Corner, with reports of more U.S. mailboxes gone missing in Echo Park. (Not to mention everywhere else in the U.S.)

A reader named Allison and two others pointed out the site of the former mail drop at Armitage, which was my own box of choice when I didn't go directly to the post office. Allison said:

Just wanted to let you know that I was annoyed to see they removed the mailbox at Echo Park and Armitage...several weeks ago. I thought it was done to get out of the way of the recent sidewalk construction around there but when it didn't return after construction completed, I called the post office. They were very nice about helping me locate the next closest mailbox to my house, but they've removed all the boxes along Echo Park that are north of EP and Morton. I was told that you can call and complain to "Cindy" no last name the manager of the Edendale Post Office at 213) 413-3839 though I doubt this will make any difference.

My friend Richard Cromelin wrote:

also one i used often on cerro gordo near lake shore--drove by the other day to mail something and it was gone...i hate exiting the parking lot at that post office....

It's true. Who doesn't see their life flash before their eyes as they turn right (no other choice) onto Alvarado? Where there is a curve in the road just before the turn lane, and fast-moving, desperate traffic. There are days when I am not in the mood to face mortality, but there I am, with a string of motorist-mail-senders waiting behind me as I try to make that awful turn. All for the sake of beating the posted pickup time.

On the Echo-Elysian list serv a well-known community activist and personality wrote:

I tried to raise this issue some years ago at one of the Town Hall meetings sponsored by Xavier Becerra, since this is a federal issue. Mail boxes are an endangered species - over 50 have been removed from Echo Park (this fact from a postal employee). There used to be one at Echo Park Ave./Laguna Ave., near the Episcopalian Cathedral - and when I phoned to complain about its sudden disappearance, was told it didn't generate 50 pieces of mail a week! With the church so close, I don't believe that was true. Perhaps we need a campaign to start getting boxes back. i have to use the ones on Sunset Blvd./Echo Park Ave., or Sunset Blvd./Lemoyne.

Again on the neighborhood list serv, my friend Scott posted the pictorial answer to some of our questions:


Photo by Matt Cohen

Lost your mailbox? Soon you'll find it on eBay.

Not to make a federal case of it, but so much for walking to the mailbox. When you can drive.

February 24, 2009

Mailbox reduction

There have been three of them reported in recent months. U.S. Mail classic blue boxes disappearing into thin air. Or would that be cyberspace?

A box near Gateways Hospital, a box on Baxter and Echo Park Avenue, another at Lemoyne and Park. One person on an Echo Park list serv posted that she was told each box must receive at least 25 pieces of stamped mail each day to justify itself. One single missive of heartbreak and woe -- or even ten -- are not worth the time it takes to stop and load them. I suppose I haven't been helping the cause of the blue drop box. I used to leave my mail on my own mail slot for pickup. After I had mail stolen (incoming delivery) from my box, I altered my habit. Now I usually drop it at the perilously positioned post office driveby box on Alvarado. Looks like it'll be getting busier over there.

February 20, 2009

The good news...

...(at a late hour) is twofold. First, Ed Reyes' CD1 Community Pride Day involves a cleanup at the river. About 150 early cleanup birds are expected down by the banks tomorrow morning. The event begins at the awfully specific moment of 8:05 a.m. Till 11 a.m. Chicken Corner happens to be a CD13 gal, but perhaps I'll stop in. It's the best time of year to be down by the river, and one of the most important times, too, with the increased water -- and detritus -- flows.

I assume parking will be catch as catch can, which isn't too horrible down there. For more information, click here.

The other good news is a different kind of cleanup. Again from Reyes' office. Again Saturday.

At 10:40a, more than 200 volunteers are projected to converge at MacArthur Park throughout the day for mural painting, an art gallery and clean-up. Mural artist John Zender will donate his services to restore his mural on the west tunnel at MacArthur Park. Also, Carecen will have an art gallery at the recreation center. Note, these mural cleanups are especially important with the severely limited City funds allocated for mural clean-up. [Possibly the] last time we had one was $50,000 for Chicano Time Trip mural in Lincoln Heights.

If you didn't "click here" before, click here now.

Chicken Corner is genuinely heartened by the mural event. The public outdoor murals are one of the most important distinctions of Los Angeles and one of the best ways culturally/artistically/democratically that we take advantage of our hot dry weather. I love greenscape -- even more than murals sometimes -- but I am so glad to see a mural being restored rather than first painted over and then set upon with a planting of creeping ficus, which "resists" tagging. Exhibit A in security landscaping.

Recently, I received a notice about a workshop the city was holding for landlords. One of the items it advertised was landscaping for security. Read: creeping ficus, which is 2009's version of the high-narrow windows in split-level houses of the 1970s. At least it's green. But I was curious. I considered attending the event to find out more about the subject. What, I wondered, were the best security plants? Beyond creeping ficus, that is. Do daffodils make miscreants feel good about themselves, so that they lose interest in vandalizing your property? Will cactus protect you? Will you be safer without a yardfull of poisonous plants? If you plant a rose is that a call to arms?Pink roses Will the CRP get you for planting nevins (a wildflower of Bulgaria)?

Seems Chicken Corner has wandered away from the good news, just as parts of Echo Park have wandered over to Silver Lake, or so thinks the L.A. Times, which even in better days had trouble grasping the idea of two mini-city neighborhoods -- both with strong cultural identities -- right next to each other. Overlapping even!

Long live the good news.

February 18, 2009

You may take the 2 or 4 bus

Parking redux: Chicken Corner has received in her inbox the following reiteration, update, and chastening bus talk.

First. Councilperson Ed Reyes' press deputy, Monica Valencia, emailed me, reiterating that "The Councilman has neither submitted Council action, nor has he been aggressively pushing to take away the parking subsidy at Central library."

I'm glad to hear that the man representing such a large portion of Echo Park -- and our fair city -- apparently is not eyeing those parking spaces as a source of spare change.

Meanwhile, Jose Sigala, president of the Greater Echo-Elysian Neighborhood Council has done some digging:

I found some information on the parking issue that may be of help. The City is looking everywhere for savings.
It seems from reading the minutes of the library commission that the request came from a Budget & Finance Committee hearing and the CAO/CLA's office as part of their recommendations. They are supposed to report back in 30 days on the answers to the questions you outlined.

And that's good to know. Thirty days...till a recommendation?

I also heard from a notable library user, Anna Sklar, the author of Brown Acres. The book is about L.A.'s sewer system, and it qualifies Anna as our truest underground intellectual. She wrote:

Hi Jenny, Many, many months ago, I changed my downtown library use. Now, only drive (from the westside) on Saturday or Sunday. Sunday is best for parking rate, but hours are somewhat limited. If I must use Central more often, I just bus it. Takes longer (about 45 min. each way) but it beats those hefty parking fees.

As for taking the bus, a reader named Ben put it elegantly:

The 2 and the 4 [buses] go only two blocks from the Central Library. Parking problem solved!

Yes, this is true. And Chicken Corner does feel a bit guilty (and defensive?) about the way I drive my car all around Los Angeles, when I could be taking the bus. But this is the way I live -- in my car, which I have been driving less and often with a nagging sense of profligacy. Still, the extra time for the bus, and the perceived loss of autonomy, the fear of the vastness of Los Angeles, means that no parking means no go. I use the library as a community member, not as a professional. I assume that's typical of a significant portion of Central's patrons. I hope it is, anyway.

What I'm worried about is the resource as a whole for Los Angeles. I worry about the Central Library slowly turning into a ghost ship, the way Union Station in Washington DC turned into an empty hulk -- literally two blocks from the U.S. Capitol; for the '70s and much of the '80s, you had to walk around the beautiful, empty Beaux Arts building to the temporary structures that were the rail station in back. I remember being a kid, waiting for the public bus that took me to school every day, peeking through the station's dusty windows into a more than cavernous, huge empty room that got that way bit by bit. Back then, I didn't question its being that way. The building is restored now, and it's one of the most lively and lovely places in the city. And yes, the restoration happened in plump times.

And, of course, the Los Angeles Central Library has its own history of calamity and neglect.

That said, the big, big "on the other hand" goes as follows: Perhaps through this poll they (who, who?) will find that a majority of patrons will take the bus? Time to leave the drivers sitting out in the cold for a change! If that's the way it really is, then happy clucks, for the most part.

February 17, 2009

Library parking

Well, at least one librarian at Central believes Councilmember Ed Reyes is pushing to eliminate the city's parking subsidy for the commercial lot under the property. But Monica Valencia, press secretary for Reyes, got back to me with the following, which does not confirm the librarian's statement:

I checked on this for you and wasn't able to confirm it. Councilmember Reyes hasn't submitted any proposal to reduce or take away subsidies for parking for patrons at Central Library.

No more, no less. A large gap between my question of whether the councilman supported removing the subsidy and the reply that he hasn't taken official action. Maybe meaningful, maybe not.

What we do know: Someone, for some reason, has instructed the library staff to ask patrons how hard they'd cry if the city stopped subsidizing their parking fees.

If you look at the library's website, you'll see it's already fairly expensive to park there: $1 for the first hour and $4 for the next and $4 for the hour after that and then a steep rise. So don't plan on spending more than an hour. ... But then, again, try $3 for the first 20 minutes, at which point you may as well shop Amazon.

Meanwhile, Chicken Corner heard from a reader named Nancy who wrote in reference to my previous post on this issue:

"And parking is free" [at the Edendale Library lot in Echo Park]. Yes, but there isn't much of it, and now I believe the metered street parking has gotten way more expensive.

All the more reason to ensure the continuation of "affordable" library parking Downtown, as the Edendale Branch is packed to the rafters with patrons every time I visit, which is at least three to four times a month.

February 16, 2009

The Central Library -- out of bounds?

Chicken Corner has heard a report that the city may want to gobble up the funds it pays to subsidize parking at the Central Library. According to our source, who is a regular library user, the librarians-cum-questionnaire-professionals have been assigned to ask patrons specific questions. Two weeks ago they were, roughly:

1 -- What is your zip code?
2 -- How often do you use the library?
3 -- Which parts of the library do you use?
4 -- If parking lot RATES ARE INCREASED would it affect how often you used the library?

Then last week the 4th question changes. They become:

1 -- What is your zip code?
2 -- How often do you use the library?
3 -- Which parts of the library do you use?
4 -- If they DID AWAY WITH THE SUBSIDY for parking in the library lot, would you use public transportation?

Our source asked the librarians about the verbal poll, and he was told the councilman (that would be Reyes) has been pushing to take away the parking subsidy. (Chicken Corner is waiting for confirmation that Reyes feels this way.) These are hard times, and, without a doubt, the councilman could find extremely worthy uses for the money if he can reassign it. But, library-wise, Chicken Corner doesn't see much of a positive if the city were to disengage itself from the obligation to provide parking at fair cost. A) If it's only a minority of library users who benefit from the city's help in parking downtown, then rescinding the funds won't be much of a boon for the city. But, if a lot of patrons use the parking lot, and they stop coming to the library... I suppose that's the point of the questionnaire: Let's see if people get upset.

So, next time Chicken Corner is at the glorious Central Library, I will be glad to tell the librarians that if lower-cost parking turns into commercial-rate parking it would make the difference: I won't go. I should ride the bus, but I drive. Plan B: order materials at my local branch and then let the city pay the costs of finding and transporting the books. Plan C: rely on crackpot information on the internet.

Speaking of the glorious Central Library: I've been hearing about broken water fountains that don't get fixed and librarians who vanish and never reappear -- i.e., there's fewer of them than there used to be. But if fewer people to drive to the facility, then perhaps it won't matter.

On a related note, the Edendale Library in Echo Park is always packed with people -- lots of kids. There's generally a line to check out books. In my observation, the librarians seem always to be on their feet. And parking is free.

Lush life

Lush rush. Bloomin' lupins. Tobacco road... Several headlines come to mind because walking through Kite Hill and Elysian Park was such a rich experience this afternoon, with a break in the rain, a cool wind blowing hard and virtually everything in bud or busy moving on to the next phase. On Kite Hill I saw my first lupine blossoms of the year as I panted my way to the top of the Baxter Stairs. The Kite Hill variety has petals that are almost white -- with lavender-pinkish highlights. It's one of my favorite plants, and I have tried to grow them in my own fairly wild yard nearby -- I've even purloined a few seeds from these very same plants. But my success -- or would that be their success? -- has been extremely limited. A couple of plants came up, but they didn't get bigger than my smallest expectations -- they produced just a few blossoms and then no return the following year. Perhaps the soil mix of broken glass and iron nails, sandstone and eucalyptus muck in my yard doesn't work for these native plants.

So many other plants are bursting through their winter waiting, too. In Elysian Park I first saw mustard plant blooms a few days ago. And many more today. Soon enough there will be great swaths of yellow coloring the hillsides and towering over people along the trails. ... Speaking of yellow flowers, the tobacco-tree plants are getting ready to toot their yellow horns.Tobacco tree I saw more than a few furled yellow flowers on the eight foot plants, bent over in the rain -- the plant itself is not so lovely. In fact it's not allowed to grow in my own yard. Though we still have one to look at -- it grows in my neighbor's yard and droops over the fence. But the offense (pun intended) is so minor. It's only a tobacco-tree plant (Nicotiana glauca), of course. Not to be confused with actual tobacco plant whose leaves can be harvested and turned into sickness and early death. No, this one (see photo) is harmless in every way except for, perhaps, as a pest.

Meanwhile, the plants aren't the only ones with something to say about spring. I asked Allen Anderson, who lives in Frogtown/Elysian Valley, how the river was doing -- and he reports that the river is noisy, having picked up volume and speed in the rains. It can be pretty dramatic at this time of year. It wants to move, and you don't want to get in the way.

February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day

Hearts coming Saturday, and Machine Project has a solution. The gallery/nerve center plans to split the holiday. Lucky-in-loves have their event on Saturday and those who are sad and blue can suffer through Saturday and then lick their wounds openly at Machine on Sunday.

Machine emailed:

Dear Friends, Lucky in love? We have a romantic (and free) Valentine’s Day concert for you! Please join us at 8pm on Saturday Feb 14th for a concert by PremaSoul, the ongoing collaboration between classically trained Indian musician Sheela Bringi and jazz musician Clinton Patterson.


HeartsLess lucky in love? We have a music show full of sad breakup songs for you to attend with other people who like sad breakup songs. Please join us Sunday Feb 15th at 8pm for a tragic post valentine's day evening of songs on the topics of breakups, heartbreak, affliction and regret. Crying encouraged, BYO Hanky, Free. Featuring Christian Cummings, Corey Fogel, John Hogan, and Emily Lacy.

Which sounds sad but fulfilling. I've always preferred a tragic tale to songs in the key of G. Who doesn't? (Please do not respond!)

But that's not all:

Also, on Sunday night one lucky Machine Project member will be declared the winner of our Musical Trip to the Dentist contest with the lovely Emily Lacy. It's not too late to enter. Details here.

In any case, it's suitably brilliant that Machine not only dares to face the dark side of Valentine's Day but plans to do something about it, program-wise. Without disavowing the candy hearts that we all love to see and not eat. You're brave, Machine!

February 10, 2009

Farming films

AsparagusWho knew the time bank could be so much fun? And filmy and foody? Last night, Chicken Corner had the pleasure to attend one of the Echo Park Time Bank's many delightful occasions. The subject: food. The venue: The Echo Park Film Center. The discussion/presentation involved establishing a food-buying program and the possibility of establishing a food-growing-or-producing plan. I think urban and suburban organic gardening is brilliant -- good for a community, and good for everything else as well -- so I was eager to be there. I loved the food entertainment, too -- food films like a "stalk-umentary" about asparagus growers in Michigan, and a funny-but-serious film about Senegalese groundnuts and the World Bank. From the stalk-umentary I learned that asparagus loves sandy, neglected soil, so maybe that crop would be happy putting down some roots here, in Echo Park. That is if it doesn't need much water. Meanwhile, Machine Project, whose headquarters are directly next door to the film center, could assemble some kind of magnificent asparagus-delivery robot made of old analog televisions.

Here's a loosely related link for thought.

February 8, 2009

Black white trash

In Loftland, also known as Skid Row-adjacent by some agents:

Chicken Corner went downtown today, to visit Main Street's Nickel Diner for a 2.5 hours lunch, one full hour of which was spent waiting on the sidewalk for our six-top (we all ended up at a table for four, with six chairs). On the way to the Nickel, I passed a building that was advertising a loft-auction today -- there were lots of black balloons and white balloons, lots of guys who looked like the were working. I didn't see Browne Molyneaux, who later emailed that she'd been there, begging for spare lofts. "Will work for loft" is the sign she carries in a snapshot on her blog The Bus Bench. Indoors at the Diner was lively, with the staff appearing to be nearly overwhelmed by the rush. At one point we were served complimentary donut holes, including the tasty pre-negative space of two bacon donuts -- they were so good, they really should auction them, donut and hole alike. The high energy and good racial/economic/stylistic mix of people allowed the retro room to lift its nose above kitsch.

When we'd finally gone, we passed a white man in a wheelchair talking to two black men at the corner of 6th and Main. Said the white man to the black men: "It doesn't matter what color you are." I thought he was going to follow that with something treacly, but instead he looked hard back at the black men. "It doesn't matter what color you are, you're still white-trash rednecks!"

I turned to look at the black white-trash rednecks, thinking to myself, these are new times, and this is a paradoxical form of progress. One of the black men looked at me and offered a gentlemanly smile -- maybe he wasn't white trash, or at least not at that moment.

Other local color: passing a homeless person's service-center. One man stood at the curb, smoking a cigarette. Pigeons pigeon-stepped in front of him in the street. "Don't you be standing out here bothering those pigeons," came the booming voice of authority from the center's doorway. "Don't you bother those pigeons, now."

Response: "These are my pigeons" and something to the effect that he wasn't bothering them.

"Well, you still don't bother them."

February 4, 2009

EP Diary

Certain things I check in passing: Art Goldberg and associates protesting the war every Friday afternoon (for years now) at the corner of Sunset and Echo Park Ave. Last Friday it was just Art and another familiar-looking community activist at two corners, with extra peace signs leaning against a low cinderblock wall. Half square. … Then there's the slow, inexorable slow construction of the condo project that people are calling Durbin – the blight at the corner of Delta and Echo Park Ave. …

Season-wise, wild cousins of the geranium are about two inches in Elysian Park; they’ll be four feet by summer. No sign yet of the mustard weed. My friend Steve thinks we may have had our last rain. I hope he’s wrong. … Meanwhile, Magic Gas has neither shut down nor is it offering gasoline for sale. It’s just there, selling coffee, Chevron 10-30, and mints. …

Delilah continues to have a positive message chalked up every morning (yesterday it was "Welcome Mr. President"), though the bakery is said to be hurting. As are the patrons, of course. I have heard second-hand that several Delilah customers have inquired about working at the bakery.

My next-door neighbors, an elderly mother and her elderly daughter, recently moved back to El Salvador with the money they were given as a relocation fee when their home was sold to a young couple who are fixing up the place themselves. They left two younger generations of their family in Echo Park, around the corner from where I live. …

On Thursday I dreamed of a broken child’s easel put out on the street. Then, walking my dog Friday morning, I came across a real broken child’s easel, set out with the trash, just like the one in my dream. I stared at it, then left it, and it’s gone now. … Farther down the street, the trees Albert kept so mercilessly cropped before he died have been allowed by his heirs to grow. … A few streets away, we have a lovely new neighbor who moved to Echo Park from Laurel Canyon, where he had lived for decades. He says Echo Park reminds him of Laurel Canyon twenty years ago. I had only the vaguest myth-driven idea of what that meant. I asked how so, and he said the people in Echo Park are friendly, like the people in Laurel Canyon used to be. I’m not friendly, I was tempted to say. Except that I am. Or I was, last time I checked.

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