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March 29, 2011

Celebrity goose has celebrity fan*

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Maria is behind curtains at the zoo, but not forgotten. CBS updated Monday. Meanwhile, Monday, the streets around Echo Park Lake were jammed and sometimes blocked as NCIS: Los Angeles shot violent action scenes. (Lots of grousing about this around the neighborhood -- but little goosing!)

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After visiting the lake and, incidentally, the NCIS shoot Monday, Chicken Corner's friend Dominic Ehrler posted a Maria tidbit on Facebook:

I was waved down by one of the security people from the NCIS: Los Angeles film crew that was filming a segment at EP Lake. He said that someone wanted to talk to me. It turns out that Chris O'Donnell, the star of the show, wanted to meet Maria and me. Unfortunately Maria was at the Zoo and I had a load of frozen foods from Trader Joe's. I waited and finally decided to leave after 3 people were "killed" [quotation marks are Chicken Corner's] and someone pulled out a bazooka. Three people asked me to have my pic taken with them, but I was unable to connect with Chris.

Sorry, Chris, you'll have to visit the zoo, like the rest of Maria's and Dominic's admirers.

This reminded me of a Details profile of Chris O'Donnell written over a decade ago by my friend and Echo Park neighbor David Keeps, in which David reported that O'Donnell was quite difficult to engage in conversation. Perhaps if the writer had known to bring a goose. Ah, the benefit of 15 years' hindsight.

And, as long as we're drifting through the memories here, I recall last summer I was hiking the Billy Goat trail near the Potomac River in Maryland with my cousin Josh Rozen. The trail is aptly named, and at one point we reached the top of a cliff and stopped for yours truly to catch her breath. There at the top was a man in an NCIS cap. If we'd been in Los Angeles I wouldn't have taken particular notice of the cap. But since it was D.C. I said, "The TV show?" He smiled and said, "Oh, no, the real thing." He pointed out that the typeface was different.

Gotta learn to keep those fonts straight!

*Fonts nerd/forensicist that I am this morning, I went online to compare NCIS's TV logo and the agency logo. Except for some shading and variation in elongation, they looked awfully close. Perhaps if I were wearing special font-selecting goggles the difference would pop out at me.

Maria photo: Chicken Corner.
Chris O'Donnell photo: via Zimbio.com.

March 28, 2011

Cloudy with a chance of black pinecones

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A century plant.

A bit eerie Sunday, driving through the clouds in the Angeles National Forest, through some of the burn areas of 2009. The hills were fresh with new green growth -- gloriously so -- but amid the ground-level new life there still were blackened evergreen trees and other scorched trees and shrubs for many miles, including formerly stately looking fir with giant burned-black pinecones still attached to the upper branches. Waiting to fall and germinate, probably. At a certain higher elevation, somewhere above 5000, the evergreens became green again. And then, a short while later, we were above the cloudline, in bright sunshine and snow, with clear blue skies. A few hours later it was time to come back down again, back to the other side. The clouds were still there, as if they'd been held in place by the canyons. The light seemed the same, too.

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March 25, 2011

Punchinello Plumbean

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I have, in fact, walked past this crazy succulent/miscreant garden in Elysian Heights many times without noticing the sculptures that hang from the branches of an evergreen, the Punchinello on a metal pole near the driveway. Walked blithely right past them while they were making fun of me and my big, clumsy, orange dog. You could hear whispery traces of the snickering a week later! But then one day, I turned my head. In a neighborhood whose gardens are getting national attention (i.e., recently in a beautiful hardcover book by Stephen Orr, titled Tomorrow's Garden), this one has become one of my absolute favorites, for all of the playful surprises it shares with a passerby who's willing to look over her shoulder. My iPhone camera cannot do it justice. But the brilliant Plumbean can.

Don't even try to change the subject.

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March 21, 2011

Tea party*

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Last Friday I thought I was on the west side. I was at the sunny house of my friends Angie Lee and David Weiner. I had driven west from my house in Echo Park, it took about half an hour, and I had just had an exceptional, worldly experience. Surely I had driven as far as the west side? No, it was central city or somesuch. Living in the northeast part of Los Angeles all of these years seems to have made Chicken Corner a bit provincial.

Provincial being a key word here. Angie and David have a company called 1001 Plateaus, and they offer Chinese tea "events" (to use Angie's word), pouring tea they have procured from growers whom they know in sometimes remote provinces in China. (They are also artists/web designers, and Angie is a writer as well.)

On Friday they shared some of their exceptional tea with me. It was a social occasion, but I decided to write about it because it was not only interesting -- as I knew it would be -- but because the informal ceremony opened a window onto a form of socializing that I hadn't experienced. It was easy and fun, and the tea, which was served in tiny cups that must have held an ounce of liquid, changed with each cup. The structure of having a new pour every few minutes, seemed to make conversation relaxed. Angie says the tea brings out the best in people.

In any case, we had lunch first. No food with the tea. Each pot took about an hour for the three of us to drink. We drank two teas. There was a third planned, but I hadn't realized how long it all took (Angie said these things can go on for ten hours, and I laughed at the time, but now I believe her). The first tea we drank was called Big Red Robe, from Wuyi Shan in Fujian Province.* It had a slightly bark-y flavor (no reference being made here to Angie and David's barky dog Emo) and left a sweet after-taste. The second tea was called Dan Cong, and it comes from Guangzhou. It was lighter and more floral, though from the same plant. They are both oolong teas. (I had never realized that all "real" tea comes from tea trees.) Part of the pouring involved a beautiful little Yixing pot made of clay from Jiangsu province. Every few minutes Angie would pour tea on top of the pot to warm and to season it. But, as Angie says, "pots are a whole other story."

Speaking of The Tea Party, Angie thinks the tea that was dumped in Boston was probably lapsang souchong.

I hated to leave, but I needed to get back to my daughter, and I had the aforementioned return drive to the northeast provinces of Los Angeles. Of course there are billions of people on this planet who drink tea the way we did on Friday without a thought, but to Chicken Corner it was out of this world.

*Correction: "Fujian," not "Fuzhou" Province.

March 17, 2011

Mysterious Secret Stairs meeting

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The Echo Park Historical Society held its quarterly meeting Wednesday evening. The speaker was Charles Fleming, a friend and author of Secret Stairs, among other titles. I thought I knew where to find the gathering, so I didn't read the invite closely. Long story short, I found myself wandering in the parking lot/alley behind the old Jensens Recreation Building that fronts Sunset. I had been to one event in the building, and we'd gone in through the back, but this time that door was locked tight. A few minutes earlier, I had passed a brightly lighted hallway on Logan Street, but there was no sign that read "EPHS meeting will be held inside here, JB," so I thought that couldn't be it. Besides, despite the bright light, it looked eerie. So I'd gone back to the alley. After repairing to the safety of Stories bookshop, and scrolling through days of emails, I found that the bright darkness-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel place was, in fact, the entrance. So I went back, went inside, and there in the huge studio space that used to be a bowling alley during Prohibition, was a large group assembled in dim light. Charles Fleming stood in front of them, a fire pit behind him. It looked like the darkest of conspiracies. If I hadn't found what I was looking for, I'd have thought I was in the wrong place.

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Photo: Charles Fleming reveals the secrets of the secret stairs.

In fact, the topic at hand is one of openness and light -- exercise and public recreational enjoyment of the natural/cultural features of Los Angeles.

If you're not familiar with Fleming's book, Secret Stairs offers a tour, and something of a history, of the public staircase streets that are all over Los Angeles. They were created for a trolley system of public transit, and of course in response to the challenge of building a major city in the steep hills of Los Angeles. There are probably 50 in Echo Park alone. Fleming has mapped over 275 of them from the Palisades to Pasadena. He also leads tours of the stairs -- a labor of love. An interesting dilemma arose in Fleming's talk -- that of the locked stairways, places where residents have erected gates and locked their steps from the public. In some cases they may have received a street vacation from the city (where the city turns over management of a street or alley, etc. to residents); this requires an approval by the city council. In many others, residents have simply squatted public property, closing off access without permission. Fleming says he and others have contacted Garcetti's office about specific stairways that are illegally closed but so far no action has been taken.

Meanwhile, the meeting was in for a second excellent treat. The studio where the meeting was held also contains a mural original to the 1920s building, a mural the tenant is in the process of uncovering and restoring. It was elaborate, exotic, beautiful, and mysterious. It had been hidden beneath layers of paint and time. The three photos of the mural here were taken last night by Holly Hampton, a designer and board member of the Echo Park Historical Society.

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March 16, 2011

Chix pix

It's 2s-day on Wednesday. From the archives:

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This yellow bird comes from the files of L.A. author Anna Sklar, who spotted the refurbished style-ride recently in Santa Monica. It's looking newer and younger than ever. The rooster is part of the moveable landscape of L.A., a familiar sight to many, though in different geographical contexts.


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This little style queen is Cutie Patootie as a gawky tween, about three months ago. She's bigger now, and she started laying last week -- pointy blue-green eggs. She wants to lay them in a nest she made underneath the pachysandra (outside the coop), but unfortunately yours-truly does not have time to stand bodyguard (hawks! coyotes!) over that kind of project. So Cutie's parked in the hen house.

March 14, 2011

Subversia and Roxy

On Saturday evening I went to Stories bookshop in Echo Park to hear Duke Haney read from his recently published collection of blog-essays, Subversia, from The Nervous Breakdown. The gathering was high energy for a literary event and included readings by Lenore Zion and Veronica Gonzales. The independent bookstore has become a landmark in hip, small-press, literary L.A.

Book purchased, I got home to discover that Subversia is an excellent collection of autobiographical short pieces, original and often raw. I have read about half of them, which is enough to know that Haney is what you could call an authentically authentic voice -- he comes out of the mold of beat-punk Kerouac worship, which has inspired enough writing and music making that it should be considered genre, and judged by its own standards -- as opposed to whether you, personally, enjoyed On the Road (which I did not). But, if such a genre exists, then Haney rises above it easily. He is a near-master of the final sentence, the one that pulls it all together and adds a dimension to the whole piece (making me think of a comment Barry Hannah once made in a workshop I was in, something to the effect of, You read these stories, and they're going on and on, and then in the last sentence the writer pulls it all together and turns it into a story). He has been an actor, a screenwriter, novelist, resident of NYC in the bad old '80s (when yours truly lived there, but never knew him) and of Los Angeles since the '90s. He has many stories to tell, beginning with "I Was a Child Porn Model." What's more he used a blog format effectively to write literature.

Subversia includes photographs, and toward the middle of the book -- sitting right in the middle of the road as it were -- I was surprised to find a picture of Roxy the dog. Roxy! Roxy has been a subject in Chicken Corner, though she died before the blog started. She was the dog I was afraid of running over because she always sat on Avon Street. She would make you drive around her smallish body and big personality. At the time I was trying not to kill her, Roxy nominally belonged to a woman named Carmela, though Mark Boone Junior sometimes had custody. There are many Roxy stories, and I am sure she'd have many to tell herself extraverbally, if she hadn't been run over by someone on a July 4 weekend a few years ago. This is how Haney describes her: "Roxy, the mutt whose very presence could eliminate a rat where human effort failed."

What an epitaph.

March 10, 2011

R.I.P. Arthur

Arthur magazine, which has long been one of my favorite publications, in print and online, is coming to an end. Publisher/editor Jay Babcock announced today that March 15 will be Arthur's last day. He says the archives will be available "as long as makes sense." Money is the issue, of course. (Though readers may cling to the memory that the magazine has wiggled out of tight corners before, including surviving a move to the East Coast (and back) and in going online.)

Babcock wrote the following in the comments beneath "Wait, you thought something like this would last forever?":

There will be no more Arthur Radio, no more Arthur blog, no more Arthur anything. I know you mean well, but please. Arthur people deserve to be paid for their work, and there is no way for that to happen. In fact, it's never been that way, and that needs to end. This has gone on long enough.


Although it was a labor of love, Arthur was never meant to be a permanent, unfunded charity. Again, I'm sure you'll agree, that Arthur's many, many contributors and staff-folk deserve(d) to be paid for their work.

Further, please keep in mind: The printer is paid in dollars. The UPS and USPS and FedExGround bills are paid in dollars. The distributors are paid in dollars. The bank fees are paid in dollars. ConstantContact and PayPal and Pulley and BigCartel are paid in dollars. People who loaned me money to buy out Laris Kreslins in order to be able to continue to publish Arthur after issue 25 loaned me *dollars. The IRS is paid in dollars. Those bills--those debts--had to be paid by somebody. The day-to-day business has to be operated by somebody, as their sole occupation. They can't do it for free.
Arthur has been unsustainable since March, 2007. I carried it on as long as I could, with the help of many, many, MANY folks, but enough is enough.
I appreciate your goodwill, your love. But, something other than ONLY that is necessary for Arthur to ever regain its footing. As I've said repeatedly, in private and in public, Arthur needs someone who can take over its business affairs and push the thing forward. That person has not appeared in the last four years. I think it's safe to say that I've exhausted all options here. Time to move on.

It was a beautiful portal into all kinds of mysterious, sometimes off-the-wall, sometimes visionary stuff. And known for its comics and MP3s. It began in 2002.

March 9, 2011

Clucking for Gawker

There are days when I feel guilty about the amount of time I spend consuming the gossipy fare on Gawker. But then, just when I am about to turn to web content more wholesome, I come across "You Can No Longer Rationalize Eating Chicken," a defense of chickens as creatures who perhaps should not be eaten so blithely, so profligately, so amorally as we do -- as Gawker reports the results of a study that shows chickens feel empathy. Go Gawker, with your bleeding vegan heart!

Meanwhile, Chicken Corner has observed in her own flock of three that the hens are exquisitely attuned to one another's feelings. Which is not to say they are not above grabbing a tasty worm straight out of the mouth of another if they can manage it -- but they are in constant conversation, most of it very quiet, well below the level of "Cluck!" They coo among themselves like quiet pigeons, and they watch one another closely. With plenty of room, there is no discernible pecking order.

(PS: Just for the record: Chicken Corner is not vegan. I am not even vegetarian, strictly speaking. Which is to say I eat meats only occasionally, fish a bit more often, vegetables and grains most of the time.)

March 8, 2011

Sparkle delivers

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One of my chickens began laying eggs about 18 days ago. Sparkle is an Easter Egger bantam, and each of her eggs is about half the size of a regular store bought, or market-bought, jumbo egg. She lays one a day, and they are the most lovely shade of blue-green. A perfect color, even as each one is a tiny bit different than the one before. It pains me to throw away the shells. There are noticeable differences in texture, too. The shells are thicker than our market eggs, and there are striations of calcium. Or specks. One day I fed the hens extra grit, which includes oyster shells (also present in their "lay mash" feed); the next day the egg was embossed with specks of gray. On a day after they have received less attention the shell is smooth. The day after they've had cauliflower, strawberries, clover, and lettuce, the shell has little lines, like latitude markers on a globe.

Meanwhile, the little hen who is laying has changed her behavior. If you approach, she has a new stance: she hits the deck, with her wings half spread, ready to fly. She does not want to be picked up anymore. She is the girl who got her period before the others. While Rainbow and Cutie Patootie are dancing around the outer coop, still prepubescent, Sparkle excuses herself for a time and goes to sit quietly by herself. Usually it's late morning. Then, when she's done with her job, she leaves her egg and runs out to play with her buddies. She's not, as they say in chicken parlance, broody. She has no interest in sitting around waiting for that egg to hatch.

And, yes, to answer the question, we have been eating the eggs. They are good. Though in truth it's hard to know if they are "better" as so many chicken keepers attest. They have dark-bright-orange yolks. The aforementioned hard shells. We pretty much know what the birds have been eating: bugs and clover, green scraps from our kitchen, the occasional banana or plain yogurt. Cabbage is a big favorite. They love a tasty treat.

March 6, 2011

Plumbean Palace: The Shark House

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This house in Echo Park used to look quite average. It belonged to friends of mine, who moved in 1996 or '97. It was (and is) situated nicely on a tiny hillside street, the house abutting Elysian Park, but otherwise, you wouldn't notice the then-boxy white stucco home. It never occurred to me to take a picture of it.

As you can see, it has changed. It is now a castle, though probably no larger than it used to be. It has become mysterious, weird, and lovely. Horror and whimsy are roommates in this place. The transformation no longer new, it has progressed beyond the stage of stage-set and is now unironically, aggressively The Shark House.

(If you're wondering about "Plumbean," he's the main character in a book called The Big Orange Splot. In the story, Plumbean decides he wants to turn his ordinary house into a tropical fantasia. To the consternation of neighbors who want to live on "a neat street," he convinces other residents to enact their dreams upon their houses. He says, "My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.")

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March 4, 2011

He'll always be Maria to me*

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Maria and Dominic discuss modernist poetry, with Louise Steinman in background.

Yes, Maria has turned out to be a boy, and now people want to call him Mario. A few days ago, when the zoo option was floated for Maria, Dominic Ehrler, Maria's best friend and guardian (and the person who should have final say on a name), joked that now we'd find out whether Maria was Mario. At the time I laughed.

But now, Chicken Corner says cluck, cluck. So Maria's a boy, so what? Maria's Maria as far as Chicken Corner is concerned. Meanwhile, people are saying that the mayor suggested renaming him Angel. Dominic likes that idea, too. He says the new name could be "Angel Maria Goose." Sort of like Rainer Maria Rilke? (This goose writes poetry with a waddle and a coo.) And does Hollywood have any advice for the photogenic gander? Yes, it does: Don't ever change, Maria!

*Update: Susie Coston of Farm Sanctuary writes that, "What we do here [at Farm Sanctuary], when that mistake is made -- is put Mr. at the front of the name- so maybe Mr. Maria the goose."

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