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October 31, 2010

Halloween greetings from Echo Parque

Elaborate spooky displays this year, as usual, in the neighborhood. Chicken Corner's iPhone failed to record the "P" in "Parque" below, in part because a small hairy dog in the yard (deliberately not pictured) chased her as she tried to snap a pic of the pumpkins, jumping and barking, showing its teeth for the camera. "You want a picture?" the little dog said. "Take my picture." Ha!

These pumpkins are on Echo Park Avenue.



Meanwhile, here's an inspired display at the veterinarian's office in Glendale. Pictures taken this past Monday. Here, doggy doggy.



October 28, 2010

28 Days Later

They're a month old now, and The Fab Four have lost much of their soft, fuzzy down, with new feathers poking out of their skin like sticks. Still too small to put outside in the coop, they are busy, squawky, and not shy about their desire for more room to roam. IMG_2318.jpg
Cutie Patootie remains the smallest and boldest of the group, always the first to explore new areas when I take them outside for their once or twice daily bug and seed eating expeditions. My friend Jen Chao calls her bad ass because Cutie ate a black widow spider yesterday.IMG_2303.jpg

Goldie, at left, is shy. She holds the distinction of being the first to catch and eat an earthworm. She also has developed an elaborate technique for eating clover that the others won't even try.


Sparkle, the silver-gray bird at bottom, is bold and friendly. She is the largest and will fly onto my arm on occasion and likes to be held. The first to cluck, she may be the noisiest. One of her pranks is escaping their enclosure, which she has done in the company of Cutie Patootie.

All of the Easter Egger chicks are now accomplished at low-level flying of short duration. They have a few tricks, as well, including a straight up-and-down hop that is funny and amazing. Other surprisy behavior includes: strange, chicken-y things like frantic scratching with their feet at the ground, kicking their wood shavings-bedding in every direction. And they sleep in weird positions, though recently they have discovered the classic hen position, much to my relief as some of their sleeping poses make them look as if they're dead.


Rainbow, above, is the most fearful of humans -- or perhaps the most independent, resisting human contact, the only one to struggle once she has been picked up. But she has awesome food-finding skills and was the first to eat an ordinary spider. She gets the least attention, and that's the way she wants it.

We've had them for a month now. The next step will be moving them outdoors to their coop, trying to keep them safe not only from raccoons and coyotes but hawks and dogs, our own not counted as Chyla, our shepherd-mix, is protective of the chicks. She whines when they squawk, coming to tell me that something is up. She tries to lick them as well. Only Cutie Patootie stands her ground, refusing to run from the beast, most of the time.

In addition to spiders and pill bugs, the little ladies love to eat heirloom tomatoes, pumpkin innards, plums, pasta, oregano seeds, yogurt, and rocks.

Twenty-eight days later, we've all changed, according to the laws of nature.

October 22, 2010

Monument to Totem

totem2.jpgElysian Park is now an indoor-outdoor museum, and one of its exhibits reclaims pieces of the beloved (by some) Totem of Toys (Chicken Corner's title) that Rec and Parks tore down in May.

To explain: LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) has instituted a temporary "museum" program for the Elysian Park Museum of Art, or EPMoA. Exhibitions, installations and performances will take place en plein air in Elysian Park and inside LACE's gallery spaces.


According to LACE:

The LACE galleries have been transformed into the park visitor's center complete with artifacts, benches, and foliage. The installation documents and recreates past and current EPMoA actions inside the park. Representatives of both the curatorial workshop and the park-using community will take part in the selection and presentation of documentation (sound recordings, photography, video, illustration, re-enactment, written description, etc.)

EPMoA was founded in 2009.

As for the Totem, the work of artist Ryan Wade, it came down in May after many months of existence on the far west side of Elysian Park. The Eastsider reported that no one showed up to claim the piece, which the city held on to for something like a week. Then it trashed it. Ryan Wade emailed me yesterday that he saved as much of it as he could from a dumpster. These salvaged pieces form a new piece, on view at LACE. The new sculpture is a monument to the former totem.

Photos: Top, courtesy of Ryan Wade; bottom, is Chicken Corner's.

Wade said of the sculpture's origins and fate:

The totem was made of discarded toys from the Los Angeles area built over a period of two years adding on to it periodically.
The totem was installed with a friend very early in the morning. Placing the totem in that particular space integrated all the objects together to be viewed collectively upon entering that space. After the totem two more objects were installed one including a visitors drop box for comments similar to the ones installed in national state parks. Shortly after I received a phone call from a friend saying he had been up in the park and the objects were gone. After painstakingly playing phone tag with the park maintenance supervisor I had learned that not only had the objects been removed by the park but they were in pieces in the Elysian Park dumpster. My girlfriend and I drove there at 7 am to rescue what we could out of the dumpster. Knowing that there was going to be a show of the EPMOA at L.A.C.E. I decided to reconfigure these pieces into a memorial for the lost objects.
In addition to this piece I decided to make small scale models of the original objects to display [at LACE]. Most of my work embodies archetypical themes of technology and nature thus opening up a dialogue within the public arena.

And, in broader context:

We are trying to figure out what constitutes public art by Los Angeles city standards if it is not funded by large institutions and backed by corporate interest. As we have noticed lately most of Los Angeles precious public art and murals are neglected and have lost their funding for restoration. I know that these pieces in the park both delighted and angered visitors and now it is a shame that they have been erased.

It was a shame the totem was wrecked. But then it rose again -- as inspiration, and material, for a new work of art.

October 21, 2010

Quotable L.A.

One character in search of a paperback.

It could be the start of an L.A. mystery novel. The city we live in: here can hollow one out. It is a hungry stranger of a city that fascinates, attracts, horrifies and repels minute to minute. It allows one to live in it for years and never feel like they have lived here for any period of time.

Henry Rollins wrote this in his L.A. Weekly blog six days ago. But Chicken Corner just stumbled on it this morning. He's talking about feeling lonely in Los Angeles, because of Los Angeles somehow, and he sounds sincere.

Funny that Rollins' KCRW Saturday show is such a warm and lively feature of the city. My husband and I look forward to it every week. His Fela tribute last week was beautiful.

He hits on something Chicken Corner experiences every time she leaves Echo Park: It seems residents of Los Angeles -- particularly the ones who were not raised here -- are handed a project of self-invention that other cities I've known don't require. Hence all the weird houses, the exuberant art, the strange gardens. It's an L.A. cliche -- until you feel it yourself.

Chicken Corner's advice: Get chickens, Henry! They're so lovely-weird and squawky you'll forget all about the stucco wasteland, the traffic, the over-immensity of the city.

October 19, 2010

Making the most of Dodger Stadium

January and February: so dreary and quiet at Dodger Stadium, the seats empty, swallows flying about. Well, the Dodgers organization knows how to liven up the joint. Monster cars! Motocross! On the field! Car shows and racing, presumably on days when there is no pay-to-enter flea market in the parking lot.

The following Dodgers communication parked in my email earlier today:

We are delighted to announce that on Saturday, January 22nd and February 19, 2011, Dodger Stadium will be home to two of the most sought after Motocross and Monster Car shows in America. The racing, which will occur on the field within Dodger Stadium, will showcase the best Motocross and Monster car racers in the circuit.
The racing and exhibition will begin in the afternoon and conclude in the evening. This event will be handled like all other major games/events at Dodger Stadium, with a complete compliment of LAPD/LADOT officers in the community.

Well, Chicken Corner is gosh darned.

October 13, 2010

Got lead?

In your baubles? It's possible you do. The investigative project California Watch recently reported on the issue of significantly harmful amounts of lead in jewelry sold in the state of California. Accordingly, California Watch, which is based in the Bay Area, will be visiting Echo Park tomorrow (Thursday), where they will host an unusual event: a jewelry screening. For free. Bring your jewelry to the shop Nahui Ohlin on Sunset, and Cali Watch will tell you whether the pretty bauble you thought was a steal is quietly poisoning you. If you're going to go mad for jewels, you might as well know it.

Here's part of the notice Chicken Corner received:

On October 2, California Watch published a story revealing that state regulators have issued five violation notices in 16 months to a national retailer for repeatedly selling jewelry containing harmful levels of lead - one had more than 2,600 times above the legal threshold. During the investigation, California Watch reporters bought 30 jewelry items from the retailer, Rainbow Apparel, which has 35 stores throughout California including 14 in the Los Angeles area. Twenty percent of the items purchased contained unlawful levels of lead.
In response to concerns about the lead hazards in jewelry, California Watch will host a jewelry-screening event in Echo Park. California Watch welcomes consumers who have bought jewelry from any retailer - whether it's a big chain, a sidewalk vendor or at a flea market - to bring their jewelry to the Echo Park screenings for tests that will yield results in a matter of seconds. Jewelry will be tested with an X-ray fluorescence analyzer, the same equipment that state regulators rely upon to perform initial lead screenings.

Info: Thursday, October 14; Noon - 6 p.m.; Nahui Ohlin; 1511 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.

California Watch is part of The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Meanwhile ... what Chicken Corner can say: Jewelry -- and who gets it/got it -- has been the root of some crazy behavior in my family. Sure would be great if they could fix that over at Nahui Ohlin tomorrow. It might require a different kind of screening though.

October 12, 2010

Naming names

The foreclosure crisis has a human face, or human faces -- and it's not just those of the people who are losing their homes. The people who profit most from the mess have faces, and names, too. Jason Flores-Williams, a novelist/lawyer who splits his time between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, NM, sent me an unedited version of an op-ed piece he wrote for the Santa Fe New Mexican. In it he identifies a single law firm in Albuquerque whose name has popped up exclusively on foreclosure actions against Flores-Williams' clients. The New Mexican published its version of the piece yesterday, but it named no names, and the "one law firm" Flores-Williams wrote about in the draft he sent me is changed to "one or two." The New Mexican doesn't want to be sued. Neither does Chicken Corner.

According to Flores (in the New Mexican):

What I found time after time, foreclosure after foreclosure, was that it wasn't just some law office in Albuquerque, but one or two particular law offices that were handling Bank of America foreclosures in Northern New Mexico.

It's a great op-ed that Flores-Williams wrote, and Chicken Corner applauds that he puts his own face forward, speaking as an attorney:

Some of us don't believe that lawyers should allow themselves to be complicit in the destruction of the American dream. None of us is perfect -- far from it -- but we should stand for something more. So, for whatever it's worth: To all the families who have suffered at the hands of Bank of America and its stable of lawyers, please accept this letter as an apology on behalf of those of us who would never have done this to you.

To read the piece, click here.


October 11, 2010

LAUSD no-show

On Thursday Chicken Corner reported that the LAUSD was going to give a presentation and take questions at an Echo Park Improvement Association meeting concerning the the use of a building (infamous site 9A) the district is building in Echo Park. LAUSD didn't show up.

Shannon Corbett, director for local school district 4, had confirmed that she would be there. She is in charge of gaining community input for the project. According to community activist Darren Hubert, Corbett did not return his calls on Friday. Today neither (though Hubert pointed out it is a holiday).

"Outrageous!" said Kim Pesenti, a local parent, who emailed me to say LAUSD was a no-show.

I asked Hubert for his response. He said:

I am highly disapointed in LAUSD and their lack of follow-through and their inability to connect with the community. ... This is a big thing for the community."

Hubert said he and others are interested in setting up another meeting with the LAUSD.

The people who did attend Thursday's meeting discussed the issue of what would serve the community best when the school at site 9A is completed.

Pesenti wrote (and Hubert agrees):

There was consensus that the 9A site should be a local middle school, 7th-8th, that would serve our neighborhood. ... It would be great for the school to have a focus such as arts or language arts.

October 7, 2010

Elysian coyote

Driving home Thursday evening about 6 p.m. a coyote was in the middle of our quiet street. My daughter and I decided to follow her to see where she was going. So we rolled slowly past our house then stopped as the coyote peed in the street. Fluffy tail with a pretty white tip at the end. She went uphill a bit then turned into a neighbor's driveway, disappearing into his back yard. Bye-bye coyote.

I was glad our chicks were safely in the dining room in their cardboard box. I was also glad to see that canis latrans looked fairly healthy -- after seeing so many desperately ratty, practically fur-less, coyotes in the 3+ years since the Griffith Park Fire. My guess: lots of gophers and fruit to eat this year with the cool weather and the decent rain some months back.

Our sighting made me think of the blog Daily Coyote, which chronicles the life of a coyote raised as a pet in Wyoming. So I checked in on Daily this evening. When I first started following it, Charlie was a pup. Now Charlie is three -- and, while he is a pet, he is wiry, rangy, coyote elegant. He looks sleeker than the gal Madeleine and I saw on our street this evening. But then again, Charlie sleeps indoors in a bed and doesn't have to worry about meals.

Photo via Gawker. Coyote in a convenience store on Madison Avenue?

9A: It's alive

Once created, the Creature from the Black Lagoon may as well be put to better use than just scaring people or, more specifically, driving them from their longtime homes. Build it and maybe it could be a middle school or something.

As you may recall, the LAUSD ran about 200 people out of 50 houses to build an elementary school in Echo Park that the community emphatically argued was not needed. The community lost in the end (after winning multiple lawsuits, but still); the houses were demolished; and a building is being constructed right this moment.

Now, the question is what to do with it. After prevailing in their fight to build an elementary school, the LAUSD has realized they didn't need an elementary school -- because, even with open enrollment and a dance charter, schools are under-enrolled in Echo Park, as they were when the project was conceived. In fact, Chicken Corner heard recently that one of the kindergarten classes at Elysian Heights Elementary has just 12 pupils. So recently LAUSD started looking for alternative uses for their new building. A meeting was called in the Westlake area.

At which point, realtor and Echo Park community activist Darren Hubert contacted the district and asked, Hey, dudes, why the meeting in Westlake? (Chicken Corner's phrasing) "We want to be included in the process."

Hubert found out that the reason the meeting was in Westlake was that the possible new school, a K-8, would serve almost solely communities to the south and west of Echo Park. LAUSD board member Yolie Flores was on board with this plan. The district would serve about one block of Echo Park. (The LAUSD staffer now assigned to overseeing the project said she was unaware of the ugly history of 9A: the people whose actions led to displacement and then neighborhood blight have wiped clean their fingerprints and moved on to other deeds/misdeeds.)

Conversations with the district began, and Hubert asked that a school at 9A specifically serve a radius of the school, rather than to the east and south. Further, that it be dedicated a middle school, not K-8. Asked if there were any other requests, Hubert said a desired focus for the school would be the arts, which would be consistent with the community and with the arts high school nearby on Sunset Blvd.

The issue will be discussed this evening at the Echo Park Improvement Association's monthly meeting. The LAUSD rep responsible for the future of 9A (and not its dismal past) will give a presentation and answer (or try to answer) questions. The public is invited: 7 p.m., Williams Hall at Barlow Hospital, 2000 Stadium Way.

October 6, 2010

Barnsdall privatization 'a work in progress'

Funny thing that the broadcast of Larry Mantle's radio segment on food trucks just ended. Councilman Tom LaBonge was a guest on the show, and just last night I attended a Barnsdall Arts Center meeting where LaBonge arrived late, apologizing and explaining that he'd been taping a KPCC radio piece about food trucks. He added that he had driven the speed limit all the way from Pasadena, "and there is a drizzle."

He may have wished he could have missed the whole thing -- the meeting that is. Held in the theater of the Barnsdall complex, it was a question-and-answer session on the more than likely privatization of Barnsdall's venerable public arts education programs for children and adults. There are two issues: keeping the arts center open and how. The good message of the evening is that city reps were unanimous in stating a commitment to keep the arts programs open at Barnsdall; the bad news is that current employees, who make the place what it is, will probably lose their jobs.

In the audience were members of arts organizations, representatives of two neighborhood councils (Los Feliz, East Hollywood, and Griffith Park area -- no one from Echo Park's council), students of the center, and a couple of dozen employees. Twenty-five to thirty people in the audience wore bright orange T-shirts, which called for keeping the arts center public. Many of the people wearing the shirts were instructors or other staff who will lose their jobs if/when a private "partner" is chosen.

On the stage was Olga Garay, head of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), and her deputy Saul Romo, along with two representatives from the City Administrative Office, Marie Therese Sauer and Claudia Aguillar. Garay (or should I call her OG?), looked as though she had the flu. Her opening comments included the remark "I know some people always want things to stay the way they are," referring no doubt to the activists who are pushing to continue the programs with city funding and current staffing. She said the DCA is committed to providing arts services to the city of Los Angeles.

(As you may remember, Garay announced in March that the center was being shut down, but the city council found some money and, after closure statements were released, they were retracted, and a truncated arts classes session was offered. My daughter attended a wonderful class with longtime instructor Howard Marshall that session.)

Questions written on index cards were vetted and sorted by a panel of arts people associated with the center and delivered by the president of the Hollywood Arts Council, who monitored. The four onstage spent some time explaining the process whereby a private nonprofit arts entity will be sought to run the centers -- by March. According to Aguillar, there is money to keep classes going through December, and they think they might have located some money hidden away to continue through March. They plan to have their Request for Proposal guidelines written by November. Seems like an extremely tight timeline.

Money, of course, is the reason for the change (no pun intended) -- the city's dire financial situation, the precedence of public safety programs like fire and police, the drop in hotel/tourism tax revenues, which are a main funding source for arts in the city. The city is looking for ways to shed expenses, or, in the words of Aguillar, "looking for new models of operation." This is what the city's "3-year plan for fiscal responsibility" looks like on the ground.

Eric Garcetti stood up, assuring the audience that the city would keep Barnsdall open: "The city cannot abandon this place. We've all invested too much time, too much money to fail. ... This [Los Angeles] is the center of creativity in the world, and Barnsdall is the beating heart of that."

In response to whether handing the programs off to a private organization was inevitable, Sauer of the CAO, said "Is it a done deal? No. It's a work in progress." No one had an answer for how much money would be saved by "partnering" with an outside entity, because no proposals have been received yet.

At the end of the session, LaBonge said, "I wish I could tell you good news." Then he hesitated. "But the good news is we're all here."

A few moments later, a man in the audience stood and yelled, "You're all fired!" (It was Vladimir Blisset, from the very fine -- one of only two outbursts from the audience all evening. "This is downsizing! That's all it is."

Then everyone was invited upstairs to a wine-and-cheese reception.

Incidentally, the wine-tasting/food truck catered Friday night events held at Barnsdall during the summer raised a fair amount of money for the arts programs.

Disclaimer: I was briefly involved as a volunteer for BACSAC, one of the groups that supports Barnsdall's art centers, including the children's Junior Arts Center.

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