Chicken Corner
Archive by Month

« January 2011 | Home | March 2011 »

February 28, 2011

To the tigers at the zoo, Maria the goose just said...honk!*

Maria and Dominic Ehrler take a daily stroll around Echo Park Lake. Photo via

Echo Park's most famous goose is at the Los Angeles Zoo. She's not visiting the new elephant enclosures. She's in protective custody, for the time being at least. Not only was there concern among Maria's human supporters that the big bird was increasingly vulnerable to prankster humans as her fame grew, but last week, for the first time, Maria flew out of the fenced yard where Parks and Rec workers routinely detained her when Dominic, Maria's best buddy, left the park on his motor scooter. While Dominic often encouraged the goose to fly alongside his scooter for two blocks from Lemoyne to Echo Park Ave. -- and then back -- were she to follow him farther she'd be in considerable danger from cars and buses.

Beginning last week, after Katie Couric sent Steve Hartman to Echo Park to do a Maria segment, efforts to move Maria before the lake was drained began in ernest. Eric Garcetti's office facilitated talks with the zoo, and on Friday Maria was moved.

Dominic Ehrler wrote to me in an email:

Maria went to the Zoo last Friday and was chauffeured by the Zoo Director John Lewis. I accompanied them.

Dominic has visiting rights, and, after a visit this morning, he told me that he is pleased to announce she is doing very well.

Maria has a two-room suite in the quarantine section of the zoo hospital. She will be monitored for things like worms and any other potential problems. ... A minor foot problem will be taken care of. After the quarantine period is complete in about 30 days Maria will be moved to the exhibit area where she can be seen by all. The zoo will hold/display her until her ultimate destination is determined. The zoo personnel are all in love with Maria. She is safe and secure.

It's a relief to know Maria is in a safe place, but bittersweet. It'll be a little lonely at EP Lake without Maria -- or Maria and Dominic.

Meanwhile, Steve Hartman's report on Maria was broadcast this evening on CBS.

The rest of the 30 or so domestic geese who live year-round at Echo Park Lake, may be relocated when the lake is drained later this year. The Echo Park Animal Alliance is acting as their sponsor, collecting money that will be used in efforts to move Echo Park Lake's domestic geese, turtles, and other nonmigratory animals to sanctuaries.

*Update: Following is the press release issued Tuesday by Eric Garcetti's office:

L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti joined with Echo Park community members in announcing today that the Maria -- the goose who makes her home at Echo Park Lake - will live at the Los Angeles Zoo while the lake is drained and repaired as part of a restoration project expected to take two years. Following completion of the project, Maria would be returned to her home.
"Maria is a special part of the Echo Park community and we want tomake sure she is in a safe place during the restoration project," said Council President Garcetti, who helped facilitate the move. "The L.A.Zoo will take good care of her while her home gets remodeled, and her human friends will still be able to visit her."
"I'm relieved that Maria will be safe and comfortable and not too far from her friends," said Dominic Ehrler, who regularly around walkedthe lake with Maria. He accompanied her to her new temporary home and will be monitoring her stay there.
"We've been really concerned about what would happen to Maria when thelake is drained. I'm glad we've found her a temporary home whereshe'll get good care," said Echo Park resident and neighborhood activist Christine Peters.
"The Los Angeles Zoo is happy to assist the Echo Park community byproviding Maria with a safe, friendly environment at the Zoo while her home is under renovation," said John Lewis, Director of the LosAngeles Zoo.

February 25, 2011

Our dance cards are full*

So very much to do in Los Angeles this weekend, starting this evening -- all across town. Downtown, there's the Move On-affiliated rally in support of Wisconsin protesters, tomorrow at noon at City Hall. At UCLA there's the Experience Music Project's Pop Conference all weekend (Chicken Corner's husband, RJ Smith, is a participant). And in EP we have two big events: Ethnographies at the Film Center this evening, Friday, and a fundraising game of Balderdash at Costa Alegre on Saturday. Oh, and there's the Oscars, too. This year Chicken Corner has been nominated for a little-know Oscar category: best chicken and goose blogging. Her gown is made of faux feathers.

Here's the info on "Personal Ethnographies, an evening of short video portraits, live music, and libations":

with special guests LAURA STEENBERGE, THE HERE AND NOW, JAMES FLETCHER, and JOHN SHAW; Friday, Feb. 25, 8:00 p.m. at ECHO PARK FILM CENTER 1200 N. Alvarado, Los Angeles 90026

Personal Ethnographies is an assembly of up-close depictions of friends and colleagues, both homemade and collected. Many of the subjects happen to be figures from the world of independent cinema, including portraits of or by Wendy and Shirley Clarke, Andy Lampert, Jonas Mekas, Sid Laverents, and the cast of Killer of Sheep. Also peppered in are informal glimpses and rare documents of LA's cultural landscape, including the subCacophony Society, Nora Keyes, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Listing Ship, and Monotrona. The evening will then morph into a music party with live performances by the illustrious Laura Steenberge, the Here and Now (aka Echo Park Film Center's own Lisa Marr and Paolo Davanzo), and John Shaw!

Balderdash is one of Chicken Corner's favorite games, hands down. On Saturday, a competitive bout of Balderdash will be held in the neighborhood to benefit a brand new theater company called Uranium Madhouse. Here's info:

The patio at Costa Alegre will be the site for a competitive game of "Balderdash." Balderdash is a classic game of bluffing and trivia. Players are encouraged to bring their skills, wit and imagination. The night's winner will take home a quarter of the night's proceeds, the remainder to benefit Uranium Madhouse.
Saturday, February 26 at 7 pm on the patio bar of Costa Alegre at 1901 W Sunset Blvd. Valet parking will be available next door at Taix. Admission to participate in the game will be $20 per person, cash only, please.

Any more and our feet will fall off!

*Edited post.

February 24, 2011

Window shopping on Sunset


Blood is the new Black: Chicken Corner ran across this signage on Sunset Boulevard near Lemoyne St. in Echo Park -- an empty storefront that used to house a tortilleria.

Here is the company's current FB page.

February 22, 2011

Trout on tour/Maria and 29 others


Q: And what do we have here? A: Just about 11 or 13 of the 800-some trout that were introduced into Echo Park Lake this morning by a worker for the wildlife government agency that handles the biweekly stockings of the lake. In they go!


I was at the lake with Christine Peters and B.J. Hollifield (and also Dominic Ehrler and Maria and CBS's Steve Hartman and Les Rose -- more on this after the jump). We watched as net-full after net-full of fairly big trout splashed into the filthy water. The rule at the lake is catch-and-release. But it's an open secret that many people keep the trout they pull out. Birds, like the great herons and cormorants, eat many of the others.

"We come again in two weeks. By then almost all of these will be gone," the net guy explained. He said that when the lake is drained the remaining fish will be fished out and relocated, possibly to MacArthur Park or some other public lake. Trout on tour.

I had come to the lake to assist in counting domestic geese for possible relocation to a sanctuary, potentially a future home for the superstar goose Maria as well. At the same time, Steve Hartman of Katie Couric's CBS Evening News (not KTLA's Steve of the same last name) was interviewing Dominic Ehrler and Maria the goose with cameraman Les Rose. They filmed her flying. Chicken Corner was interviewed briefly. (We'll see if she makes the cut. It's not every day you can bask in the media glow of Maria.) The segment may run next week.

Today's rough count of domestic geese at EP Lake was 30. The Echo Park Animal Alliance is the fiscal sponsor for donations benefitting animals who will need new homes when the lake is drained for renovation later this year.

In an off-moment, I captured this image of Hartman, left, and Rose enjoying a conversation with Maria.


February 18, 2011

Intersections in Los Angeles

down.jpgThursday night in Echo Park there were choices: two prominent "L.A." writers (I put L.A. in quotes because one of the writers lives in Mexico City, when he doesn't live here) reading at two different venues, four blocks apart -- Rachel Resnick and Daniel Hernandez. Talk about a cross-section.

Resnick was at Tavin, the chic, tiny boutique on EP Avenue -- it reminds me of a hummingbird -- which has a surprising and delightful reading series the shop's owner named "Little Birds." The clothing in Tavin often are tagged with literary musings written by Erin Tavin -- bits and pieces you can wear inside your head, whether you buy the garment or not. The audiences at Little Birds tend to be groovy and very well-dressed (one not guaranteeing the other), imported from fancier districts. If Anthony Trollope were alive, he'd write about it.

Meanwhile, at the same time as Resnick's reading, the bass was thumping over at the Echo, where the journal Slake threw a party for Daniel Hernandez, journalist, blogger, and now author of Down & Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century. Hernandez's exceptional blog is called Intersections, and I have written about it before. In Intersections he writes about himself as a "native foreigner" in Mexico and as a foreign native in California.

I chose to attend Hernandez's party -- as a D.F. resident he was the more rare bird -- and stayed long enough to hear him read a few short passages from Down & Delirious, a book of "reported essays" that belong on a shelf with Joan Didion's White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. With a daughter in elementary school, I don't relish staying out much later than 9, even when the club is filling with cool-looking people and bands are getting ready to play. I bought the book and went home, planning to call it a night. But I made the mistake -- or I had the good fortune -- to open Down & Delirious first. Into the night, and then again today, I could not put it down. I felt like I had gone to a place I had heard of in a dream. I also felt like a window had opened into the dilemma of so many of the Mexican-Americans with whom I share Los Angeles. It's also compelling reading, simply for some of its subject matter -- the fashion scenes in the Distrito Federal, the lawlessness, the fusion of Colonial and Indigenous cultures.

Today, when I checked in on the blog Intersections, I saw that one of the characters in the book, Cesar Arellano, was killed this week. He was a fashion blogger, and a preliminary news report said he may have been a victim of La Inseguridad, The Insecurity, which Hernandez writes about in a chapter that seemed to have little to do with Arellano. Intersections are not always a good thing.

February 13, 2011

Room for Maria and Room 8 in EP pantheon

IMG_3083.jpgEcho Park's famous cat, Room 8, has company in the celebrity-animal annals of the neighborhood. Like Room 8, who was featured in Time magazine in the late 1960s, Maria the Goose has done gone nationwide. First, there was the OK Go video -- and the attendant Facebook Page dedicated to Maria, AKA Orange Bill. Then, on February 12, the Wall Street Journal published a story about Maria.


The WSJ's reporter, Alexandra Berzon, an Echo Park resident, won a Pulitzer in 2009 for her investigation into the deaths of 9 construction workers in Las Vegas. Berzon is not the only Pulitzer winner to chronicle Maria. According to Dominic Ehrler, whose relationship with Maria is the source of her fame (much as Room 8's relationship to the students of Elysian Heights Elementary School was), Nick Ut was seen photographing Maria on the same day Berzon took a stroll with Dominic and Maria. Ut won the prize for the 1972 image you most likely have seen of several children, among them a naked nine-year-old girl, fleeing in Vietnam after a napalm bomb was dropped on their village. The AP photographer's presence on the Maria scene the day Berzon interviewed her was coincidental. Ut may have been captivated by the sight of the big goose in flight next to Ehrler as he rides his motor scooter. Sometimes they fly along Park Ave. from Lemoyne Street to the stop sign at Echo Park Avenue. Then Ehrler gives his pal a chance to rest and the fly back. (Click here to see an L.A. Times image of the flight.)

In any case, this past Saturday, the day the WSJ Maria story appeared online, Chicken Corner flew down to Echo Park Lake to join a group of Maria enthusiasts walk around the park with the bird and Ehrler.

It was a hikers Meetup group for the most part, perhaps 30 people, co-organized by Lee Zebold, but Maria led the way, never camera shy -- though she didn't seem to be interested in getting into the middle when group photos were staged. It's clear she loves people, preferring their company to that of other geese. And people love her. As the Meetups passed one small group of people walking for exercise, the passers-by declared, "Oh! It's Maria!"


Maria leads the way, above.



On Saturday Meetup hikers paused twice for group pix with Maria -- call it the Class of Maria, 2011.

February 11, 2011

Whispering Plumbean

shire4.jpg I often walk past this house in Echo Park, and I am so accustomed to its unusual -- and somewhat time-weathered -- decor that I barely hear its hushed whispers of "Plumbean! Plumbean" as I walk past with my dog on our way to or from Elysian Park. But one quiet day I heard it calling, and out came the camera phone. Here is sub-type #317. Filed under time-tested/classic/Memphis.





February 9, 2011

More on 'moving mountain'

Shifting perspectives on the Elysian Park landslide of 1937: Chicken Corner has heard from her friend Scott Fajack, an architect for LA DWP and Echo Park community activist who is knowledgeable about Elysian Park. Scott writes first to clarify the location of the scenes depicted in photos (re-posted here after the jump) I posted Monday. He also says that the 1937 landslide most likely was caused by natural causes, possibly the "overcut of the slope due to the proximity to the river, prior to development, and the nature of the marine-type sandstone decomposing over time."

Regarding location, Scott writes:

The images are of Riverside Drive, which has been rerouted and reconfigured for the 5 Freeway (if you drive south on the 5 below Elysian you can see the old walls of Riverside Drive and bench seats for the bus stops--still there on the south side of the freeway at the northern slopes of the park).
The second photo shows the transition ramp from Riverside to Figueroa Street Tunnels (now the southbound connector to the Arroyo Seco south). After the slide, which took weeks to finally fail, traffic was diverted into the river and around the collapsed viaduct while it was being rebuilt. ... You can see the edge of the Dayton Street Bridge in the second image, top left. That was the southern limit of the slide.

In 1937, it was a national story; The New York Times called it the "moving mountain." Now it's purely local history -- unless you're a geologist or engineer ...



According to, "the WPA funded a metal truss support replacement in 1939."

February 7, 2011

Elysian landslide

Anna Sklar is an underground historian of the most unique variety -- the author of a history of the Los Angeles sewer system, the first book to approach a city's history in this manner. Sklar is also interested in aboveground matters of earth, as she demonstrates in these two photographs, below, sent to Chicken Corner.

According to the author:

In November 1937, a passenger train apparently caused a massive landslide in Elysian Park above Riverside Drive. Thought you'd like to see two photos; one more amusing than the other which seems to have been taken as the earth was moving.

I don't recognize the street here in the photograph immediately below, but I assume it is Riverside. The building on the left has a small sign that reads "Hotel." It looks like a new building at the time of the photo, but I am not sure if it hasn't been razed by now.


This one could be Riverside near Figueroa, if it isn't the narrows where the 110 dissects Elysian Park.


February 2, 2011

R.I.P. Herve Chapman

Chicken Corner has learned that the owner of Verdugo Pets, Herve Chapman, died on January 27 at the age of 73. Because he looked well on Christmas Eve, the last time I bought specially mixed chicken feed at his shop, I had hoped he'd return to run the shop again, despite the seriousness of his illness. It was not to be.

On Monday of this week, I drove to the shop. There was a single bouquet of flowers. Inside was a friend of Chapman's, who said that he fed the animals inside when Chapman was ill. (The animals were all sold in early January when it was clear that Chapman would be away from the shop for some time.) The man said he had just spoken with the bank, and that bank officials had told him to leave the Highland Park shop immediately and stop coming inside to feed the feral cat who lives there.

Mt. Washington-Highland Park Patch ran an obituary:

An avid runner, dancer, hiker and animal lover, Chapman was best known as the shy, friendly man behind the counter of the Vergudo Pet Shop on 5022 York Blvd. Chapman was also a devoted clogger, who had even installed a clogging floor in his home where he would practice his dancing.
Hervey had run in 20 marathons and 143 half-marathons and had already registered for this year's Los Angeles marathon. His brother, Wayne Chapman, said Hervey's primary training technique included lifting 50 pound bags of feed at the pet shop.
Born on New Year's Day in 1938 in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, Chapman had a natural kinship with animals since he was a young man, family members said.
He briefly served in the United States Armed Forces as a youth, before returning to Los Angeles to open the Verdugo Pet Shop.

In addition, Chapman was known to rescue roosters, which he refused to sell to people whom he feared would either eat them or put them up to fight.


Class picture

IMG_2288.JPG! Happy after the rain, pansies pose for pics.

© 2003-2015   •  About LA Observed  •  Email the editor
Follow LAO
Kevin Roderick blog
11:49 AM Mon | The Twitter feed is curated and updated most days. Posting to the blogs is more sporadic.
12:59 AM Mon | 'In on merit' at USC
Mark Lacter, LA Biz Observed
2:07 PM Sat | The funeral for Mark Lacter will be held Sunday, Nov. 24 at 12 noon at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles 90045. Reception to follow.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Get RSS Feeds
of LA Observed
LA Observed publishes several Real Simple Syndication feeds for easy scanning of headlines. If you wish to subscribe to a feed, most popular RSS readers will do it for you. You can also enter the web address from the XML button below or click on a specific feed. For more help with RSS, try here or here.

Add to Google