It turns out Echo Park's Neighborhood Council president won't join the ranks of violent offenders enjoying three hots and a cot. The City Attorney's office wrote Jose Sigala on Jan. 13 that a hearing was held in the June case and no charges would be filed. If you didn't happen to be there in June: Neighborhood activist Luiza Mavropoulos accused Sigala of tackling her. The Eastsider reported.
Meanwhile, it's a time of change for the council: a deadline passed last week to file if you wanted to run for a seat on the colorful council. A background in opera singing and boxing was required. And the body now has an actual place of its own: the former LAPD stop-in shop on EP Avenue at the Bank of America. Too bad the council and the LAPD can't share the space. The council has not yet moved into the storefront.
The council will have its general meeting this evening at 6:30 p.m. at St. Paul Cathedral Center, Grand Hall, 840 N. Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90026.
A gaggle of L.A. literary lights and musicians are gathering in Echo Park this Saturday to raise money for Partners in Health, which, organizer Ben Ehrenreich says, have been providing free medical care to Haiti's poor for the last two decades.
At Tropical de Nopal:
...a night of readings, music and dancing to raise money for medical aid to Haiti. We'll have readings from Will Alexander, Gloria Alvarez, Tisa Bryant, Percival Everett, Sesshu Foster, Veronica Gonzales, Jen Hofer, Doug Kearney, Chris Kraus, Maggie Nelson, Abel Salas ... plus live music from Ceci Bastida and Domingo Siete and DJ sets from Glenn Red, Concise, and Gomez comes alive. It will all get started at 8pm this coming Saturday at Trópico de Nopal Gallery in Echo Park. All the money we raise will go to Partners in Health.
Saturday January 30, 2010 at 8 p.m./Trópico de Nopal Gallery/1665 Beverly Blvd./Los Angeles, CA 90026/$10 at the door (more if you can spare it!)
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Yesterday I wandered past this newly designated location -- that's two addresses orange-painted onto the plywood, on Park Drive across from Elysian Park. Behind the mailbox is a steep drop-off, a slope that has defied many ambitions to build. Below are many trees. It's one of those wooded areas that for some time have survived despite rising real estate prices and then bargain availability. One of the semi-accidental features that make the neighborhood special. Now it looks as though humans are claiming residence. Or at least claiming mail.
Speaking of the things that make the neighborhood special, one way to measure a community is by services provided. In Echo Park we have a free Astrology salon twice a month at Stories Books, 2nd and 4th Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m.
Tonight's topic will be phases of the moon.
Meanwhile, time travel is next door to Stories at 826 LA's Time Travel Mart. And a few doors down is the Casa de Empeno, or pawn shop as it is known in English. If it hasn't time-traveled into history to make room for a live food joint.
Our new dog, Chyla, does not want to walk in the rain. She tried to dodge raindrops in the rains previous to this week's, and I had to hold my umbrella over her before she would pee. Alas, gone were my myth-making imaginings that she was originally from Vancouver Island but got lost while on a road trip to visit Legoland. She thinks rain is weird. The good news is we've had some of the best walks ever in the last few days, even wet at the knees. Ordinarily, I heartily avoid being cold and wet, but it has been a pleasure this week to be out in the cool blustery weather -- though on Tuesday I worried about tree branches and palm fronds that might come flying at us. Between rains, the Baxter stairtop and hilltop views truly are like nothing I have ever seen in their clarity and complexity. As for the views, I hope all of Los Angeles is having this experience: During the rain breaks, you can look up from anywhere -- or broadside at the mountains or down into canyons -- and the shifting cloud formations and changes in light take your breath away.
The frustrating thing has been all the water. Why don't we have better systems for capturing and saving it? Why doesn't the city reward people who save their rainwater in catch basins for reuse (along the lines of xeriscape incentives and recycling/compost programs)? All of the saving of cupfulls of dish water, the guilt, the short showers, and then the deluge. And we nod at the joke.
Meanwhile, the river is looking like a killer. When it rains, the L.A. River is a man-made death trap. Swift muddy water, swirling debris moving as fast in the cement-lined basin a any natural river I have ever seen. It's a spectacle. One of my neighbors (with whom I am not acquainted) complained on a neighborhood list serv about being rousted this week from a river walkway by cops, who demanded his party leave the area, in violation of his right to the pursuit of liberty and happiness. I had mixed feelings about his report. Since anyone who falls in stands a very good chance of drowning and since there's no reason to assume river-watchers are aware of this, especially if they're kids, part of me is glad that there are patrols that are shooing people away. (Does anyone remember the teenage boy who fell in relatively shallow water in February 1992, with rescue efforts at numerous bridges failing? This You Tube video, which shows a successful rescue, can give you an idea of the difficulty in getting people out.) On the other hand, I plan to go down to the river this week (without my daughter) to get a good look, because it's something worth seeing. I expect to come and go as I please.
Photo: View from north Lake Avenue, Pasadena, about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Sign of the Times: Edendale - or "Echo Park/Silverlake" as it is known in Norway - has a following from the far northern reaches of Europe.
This from a press release for the Norwegian rock band Bigbang.
[Bigbang's] new CD, Edendale, has strong ties to Bigbang's adopted home in California. Front man and founder Øystein Greni explains: "The area of Los Angeles today known as Echo Park/Silverlake used to be called Edendale around the time when the silent movie industry took off. Charlie Chaplin's studio -now a storage place - is on my block, and Walt Disney's first film studio was across the street from the local Trader Joes. In Europe we tend to romanticize things and people from the past; here it's all about moving on to the next project."
Released internationally last year...the Stateside version of Edendale, due out January 19 [yesterday] ... was co-produced at Los Angeles' legendary Sound City Studios by Bigbang's founder Øystein Greni and Greg Richling (Wallflowers and Black Flag).
They are playing at the Roxy on Thursday.
At TiGeorges' Haitian restaurant in Echo Park, today is not a normal day. The country of which this lovely restaurant is a faraway representation is in turmoil. And there are three news camera trucks parked on Glendale Boulevard just out front. Earlier this morning, before I headed over to TiGeorges' Chicken to see the scene there myself, I had heard Georges talking with Larry Mantle on KPCC: He reported that he had been in touch with relatives on the island and that he was involved in aid efforts. He said medicines are badly needed in Haiti.
I got there at 11 a.m. Through the front window I could see Georges tending the logs in the open fire beneath nine or a dozen chickens. Cameras were running. It looked like three crews in the room. Other news workers intently attended their Blackberries. One patron ate a meal, her back to the newsfolks, the door and the fire.
The phone rang. Georges began in English then switched to fluent Spanish. (It was Univision.) For the next five minutes or so the phone rang continuously, all calls about Haiti, some in English, some in Spanish. When there was a break, Georges calmly went back to the fire, poking the logs, keeping it flaming. The phone rang again. "TiGeorges, TiGeorge, TiGeorge" he said repeatedly, waiting. "This sounds like an international call," he said to the newsfolks who watched him closely. "But they are not going to get through." After waiting another beat he hung up the phone. He went back to the fire.
More calls. A few minutes later, Georges, who is from Por-de-Paix, Haiti, noticed me looking at the photos and art on the wall - in a side room there is a photo of him with Bill Clinton in Haiti - and came to see what I needed. He remembered that I had written about his restaurant in Chicken Corner. If it was a strain to have his mind running on so many tracks — English, Spanish and French, no doubt; cooking; fielding the news media; trying to help friends, relatives, countrymen in the midst of a disaster — it didn't show in his manner, which was serious and worried but not panicked.
For anyone who is looking for ways to help, I overheard Georges telling someone on the phone that there will be a fundraiser/meeting at the restaurant tomorrow evening at 5 p.m. One of the reporters in the room confirmed that she had heard the same.
From Echo Park to Haiti, with love.
One sunny way of looking at the economic downturn is that it serves up all kinds of opportunities for reconsidering your choice of career, such as it may be.
Perusing Council President Garcetti's CD-13 updates a few days ago, I came across an interesting event that will take place this evening:
On Wednesday, January 13, the City of Los Angeles's Human Services Department will host a forum and resource fair for women interested in job training opportunities in non-traditional careers. The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church (3300 Wilshire Blvd.). It is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact the City of Los Angeles Human Services Department at 213/978-1840.
My, my, Chicken Corner said to herself. A new, nontraditional career sounds awfully tempting. Even just to know what it is: Goodyear Blimp pilot? Facebook consultant? Designer of jewelry for rent-a-pets? iPhone orchestra director?
Joking aside, I may be the first one in attendance.
For years, I have enjoyed the sight of the golden onion domes of St. Andrew's Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Glinting in the sun, they are a destination for the eye from all kinds of Echo Park places -- from Elysian Park, for example, where sometimes I designate my turnaround point as the first view of the domes. The funny thing about them is that they always seem far away, even from just below the church on Scott Avenue. The entrance to the church is on a short street, Sutherland, that ends in a dead end; it connects to only one other street (besides Sunset), which also dead-ends (Macbeth St.). Once you find the place, there is no encouragement to come in and look around. My assumption is that the congregation travels to attend, as I have not heard of a Ukrainian Orthodox community in Echo Park.
So, years have gone by without offering an occasion to enter the grounds of St. Andrews -- until Sunday, when the Echo Park Time Bank had the inspired notion to hold its monthly potluck/meeting in the church's meeting hall, which the Time Bank paid to rent.
The Time Bank's meeting was held in a modern addition to the chapel, but I was delighted to get a peek inside the place nonetheless as it was not just the inside of the domes I hoped to see but something of the culture of the place -- i.e., in the photographs of past Very Reverends, dating from 1951, the captions all in Cyrillic. It was very L.A., too, with expansive nighttime views of the city that the architecture embraced with numerous tall vertical windows. It felt like a secret place with a big view of the world outside.
Meanwhile, at the Time Bank's meeting Leslie VanKeuren of Sustain LA discussed the preservation of natural resources through zero waste initiatives. The event/sermon was well attended, and I left with a renewed ambition to avoid single-use paper, plastics, and glass. It helps to be reminded.
Nature seems to have a simple formula in the development of boho neighborhoods. Art galleries move into inexpensive storefronts. When the area becomes established as a gallery district, boutiques and cafes follow. Rents increase, etc, etc. It happened in SoHo, and it happened on Echo Park Avenue, except in the latter big money never moved in, and bohos haven't moved out. The shops that moved into former gallery spaces on EP Ave. include two vintage boutiques, one of which (Flounce) is the nerve center of the Echo Park Time Bank; a salon (Lucas) that exhibits art; a cafe (Chango) that exhibits art.
Where there is an open spirit, it doesn't have to be either/or. Last night, the spirit of the arts circled back to Echo Park Avenue with a literary reading in one of the boutiques. Erin Tavin, proprietor of Tavin, which sells -- or displays -- new and vintage clothing and other items of interest, began her reading series "Little Birds" with readings by herself, novelist and ghost autobiographer Sarah Tomlinson, and lifestyle writer Julia Chaplin.
The narrow space, where the shop Show Pony used to be, was packed nearly to the ceiling, with guests squeezed onto a tiny spiral staircase and every other space with a possible view to the music stand that served as a podium. Tavin began on a witty note, reading vignettes that she had written on oversized clothing tags. Tomlinson read from an enormously promising novel in progress. Chaplin read from a published lifestyle photo book, Gypset, which tied the reading to our surroundings in a nice way.
Next frontier: Poetry readings at the gas station, with bohos crowded around the pumps?
Guerrilla artfare is alive and well in Elysian Park. This morning, I stopped, as I frequently do, by the Totem -- see below -- for a moment of thought and observation. That's Santa's face at the top, and about a ton of the toys he gifted to the good girls and boys, adapted and reused to the tune of about 16 feet, maybe even 20. I do love this piece, not least for its setting. It seems to exult in the little canyons of Elysian Park and in the people who enjoy them.
We have a wonderful new dog in our family. Chyla came to us in October from a rescue agency. She is a pure-bred dog -- a little of this, a little of that, and she can prove it by just standing there. But we do have papers from the agency, Ace of Hearts, though I am sure some of the "information" in them may be fuzzy math. Chyla was advertised as shepherd-lab, but there's some pit bull too. It shows in her stance. Like so many rescued pets, she's a love hog; all she wants to do is cuddle. She is licensed, microchipped, tag-ID-ed, cross-referenced, alphabetized and named. She is in the system.
Chyla's official existence makes me think of one of my favorite children's books, Elizabeth Swados' The Animal Rescue Store.
For your pleasure, here is the chapter "Puffy Prince Poodle":
Puffy Prince Poodle is a champion./His proper name is Lord Cottonbatton Alfred Schmitz Runs Like a Reindeer Lord Prince Cottonbatton Alfred Schmitzy the 3rd.
Puffy Prince Poodle won't say a word./Comes from a famous line of hoity-toity show dogs.
Father's name was Lord King Yellow Escalator Goes Down Heartbeating Stethoscope Sam (These hoity-toity show dogs have long names: Don't know why).
Puffy Prince Poodle's mother's name was Her Lady Archduchess Ring-Around-the-Rosy Parking Meter Susan Louise Conch Shell It's a Great Day O'Hara.
And finally Puffy Proper Prince Poodle's grandma's name was Mrs. Cohen. Mrs. Cohen?
Chicken Corner hears Mrs. Cohen was not just Mrs. Cohen. She was Mrs. Cohen founder of the now-legendary Poodles for the Dignified Treatment of Poodles. Or PODTOP, as you probably know it.
Meantime, we are working on an addendum to Chyla's show name. Something Swados-like, along the lines of Chyla Princess of Tails Buries a Bone Boogie Boogie Hedgehog Eating on a Carrot Dog. It needs work, I know. And we're not going to rush it. One paw at a time.
This word, or call it graffiti, is written on Echo Park Avenue at Duane Street. Fin has been there for a while, and I assume it refers to a bike race, which must have ended at this spot in front of Echo Park Cycles, which is just out of the picture frame here. But every time I notice the French word in passing, I think it's a new ending to something: the day, the week, a movie, my daydream -- and then I think, I know, Fin 2009. Goodbye 2009! This is where it ends. Bonjour 2010!