The 2010 Nice List: Midnight Ridazz All-City Toy Ride

Deviating from looking back at someone or something done good, I invite you to look forward to the awesome goodness to come from next Friday’s 5th-Annual Midnight Ridazz All-City Toy Ride.

This yearly convergence of several rides starting at various points around the city will bring hundreds and hundreds of toy-bearing cyclists together December 10 at 10 p.m. at the historic Plaza de Los Angeles gazebo to donate their gifts to a worthy organization serving children in need.

This year that organization is The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and all participants are asked to bring an unwrapped toy valued at $5-$25. The celebration will then continue after the toy collection at the shhhhhhecret after-party with delicious food, seasonal brew, and music.

The 10 (and counting!) rides presently organized are as follows, so find the one nearest you and get yourself some of the most unique holiday spirit to be found in town:

And for more information visit the event’s Facebook Page or check out Midnight Ridazz.

* I’ll be joining this ride in full Electric Santa regalia. If anyone from the Silver Lake/Echo Park area wants to come with me in getting there (and isn’t embarrassed to ride with a middle-aged dude outfitted in a light-studded santa suit), meet me at Brite Spot in Echo Park at 7:45 p.m.

GTD This Weekend: Shop and Eat

It’s the first weekend of December, which means you’re already one weekend behind in your holiday shopping.  Lucky for you, there’s shopping and pre- and post-shopping treats scheduled for this weekend.

SATURDAY

  • Mash food bloggers and a bake sale and what do you get?  Some pretty delectable baked goods, if only because those of us who write about food damn well better know how to cook it.  Eat My Blog will offer delicious baked treats from bloggers, restaurants, and chefs; proceeds from the sale will benefit the LA Regional Food Bank.  Yours truly is baking up Idgie’s Dog Biscuits for the plethora of dogs living in the WeHo ‘hood.  Full details here and the menu is here.  Everything will be priced between $1 and $4.  From 10am to 4pm in front of Tender Greens, 8759 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood.
  • Antsy for Unique LA next weekend?  Check out the Echo Park Craft Fair to tide you over until then.  Organized by Beatrice Valenzuela, the crafty fair will feature almost two dozen local artists.  Free.  From 1 to 5pm at 1719 Sargent Pl. in Echo Park.
  • The Los Angeles State Historic Park is quickly becoming the go-to spot for everything from MOCA shows to this weekend’s Love, Music & Art Festival.  The Festival is basically a giant holiday party, with some 25 bands, food trucks (of course), a beer garden, and, count ’em, 200 vendors.  There also will be “real snow shipped in.”  It’s like that Lotto commercial, but not.  It’s just LA.  $20, which supports Homeboy Industries and the Chinatown Youth Service Center.  Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm at the LA Historic State Park, 1245 N. Spring Street off of Chinatown.  Bring a toy to donate to their toy drive.

SUNDAY

  • If you’re looking for gifts that are more artsy than crafty, try Create:Fixate’s Locals Only Holiday Gift Bazaar.  Featuring art and fashion by over 30 local artists, most items are under $100, so you don’t have to break the bank in pursuit of that perfect gift.  Free, but you must RSVP by emailing localsonly [at] createfixate [dot] com .  From 2 to 5pm at High Profile Productions, 5896 Smiley Dr. in Culver City.
  • One of the highlights of my trip to Salzburg was the Sound of Music tour.  We drove around in a small bus, and as we climbed a small hill, the tour guide pointed far over to the other side of the country (it seemed), and said, “See those hills?  That’s where Julie Andrews sang, ‘The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music’!”  And then they dropped us off at Mozart’s mother’s village, where there were convenient tourist shops full of, I dunno, Mozart mother memorabilia.  This year is the 45th anniversary of the classic, and The Aero is showing off a new print so you can relive the experience maybe a little more personally than I did.  $7-$11 depending on who you are and what cards you carry.  Showtime is at 4pm at The Aero in Santa Monica.

Shall We Gather At The River?

More than three years ago the Los Angeles Times gave me the opportunity to opine about the sorry state of cycling in the city. I opened with a look at what I called the Fletcher Divide:

To experience the full dysfunction of Los Angeles cycling, there’s no better place than the Los Angeles River Bikeway.

Its northernmost four miles, from Griffith Park to Atwater Village, are a pedaling paradise: smooth pavement, lighting, a dedicated bridge over Los Feliz Boulevard. But cross Fletcher Avenue and the riding gets rough. The aged asphalt is in various stages of disrepair, and cyclists are forced to negotiate a number of rough drainage ditches.

As Yoda might say, “A long way come we have baby.” Sure, looking at the greater LA bike infrastructure picture there’s an even loooonger way still to go, but as of this Saturday that divide is done as the long-unofficially opened LA River Path Extension through Elysian Valley is officially opened at 10 a.m. with a scheduled dedication ceremony taking place at noon.

At 9:30 a.m. the LA County Bike Coalition plans to lead a ride from the Autry Museum for the ride south to the festivities at Crystal Park, just north of Fletcher.

Silver Lake Holiday Nights Out

Starting TONIGHT, you can hang out on the streets of Silver Lake and listen to live musical performers including carolers, nom on some tasty treats, bid on live auctions, vote for your favorite window display, patronize the shops, and get to know your neighbors.

This first annual holiday block party runs for the next three Fridays – Dec. 3rd, 10th, and 17th from 6-9pm on Sunset, Hyperion, Rowena, Glendale and Silver Lake.

Hop over to the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce website for all the deets.

Silver Lake Holiday Nights Out

2010 Naughty List: LA Board of Supervisors and LA City Council

Our City Council and Board of Supervisors have definitely been naughty.

It seems to me that when the majority of people in a city and a state vote to support something, even create a new law to facilitate it, that should be reflected in the way politicians vote. The majority of voters should be respected. Even when a politician doesn’t personally agree… if the majority of their constituents vote for something, they should support that.

But that apparently isn’t the way our City Council or Board of Supervisors feel when it comes to lots of issues, most specifically lately, making easy to use guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Los Angeles.
Their point of view seems to be “*#*#!! the people! (Even the voters who chose them to run the city) We know what’s best for our city, we don’t have listen to our constituents!”
Two weeks ago, the LA Board of Supervisors voted to make ALL Medical Marijuana Dispensaries illegal in the unincorporated areas of LA (out of the city, but in the county). And earlier this year, the LA City Council created laws for dispensaries to operate that are so onerous and so difficult to abide by, that virtually all dispensaries would have to close.

Now I’m sure that was their intention, but really…. Why fight progress? Why not make easy to understand, supportive laws that create a great tax base for this city, create jobs and follow the lead of the people?

The people of this city clearly want safe, easy to use facilities that give them access to their medicinal marijuana. They don’t want to have to go out to the street to buy their medicine. They don’t want to engage in black market dealing.

But these laws are designed to make it hard for ANYONE, even the most scrupulous, by-the-books non-profit, to keep their doors open. I like to think of Los Angeles as a progressive city… but it seems we are going backwards.

So even though in 1996, 56% of the people of this state voted to make medical marijuana legal, our City Council and Board of Supervisors are making it virtually impossible for people to have safe access. Shame on all of you!

It’s A Sign

I love Donny’s home-made sign, not just because it’s so ingenuous, but because it’s so darn refreshing to see signage around me that’s not polished, glossy, and premeditated by a dozen branding consultants in a boardroom in New York.

There’s something about it that makes me wish we all would make more personal, handmade marks upon the spaces we occupy. I’m not talking pissing-contest-spraycan-tagging, which is only to mark territory. I’m talking about us communicating with the people around us. Hey you, out there:  I’m talking to you. I’m reaching out to you. And if you want, I will fix your plumbing, 24 hours a day.

Spotted in Burbank.

The 2010 Nice List: CicLAvia

Once you figure out how to pronounce it, CicLAvia not only sounds pretty rad, it is pretty rad.  A little background: ciclovías originated in Bogota, Colombia as a very civilized protest against the congestion and resulting pollution.  It gave residents a little room to breathe, and a little room to roam.  A continent away, Stephen Villavaso, Jenn Su, Max Podemski, Jonathan Parfrey, Aaron Paley, Adonia Lugo, Joe Linton, Daisy Lin, Sandra Hamlat, Bobby Gadda, Richard France, Colleen Corcoran, and Amanda Bromberg got together to mash ciclovías with LA.  Mayor Tony was all over it.  Hence, CicLAvia.  In their own words:

CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun.

The city’s first CicLAvia event was on 10/10/10.  It stretched 7.5 miles, from Koreatown, through Downtown, Little Tokyo, MacArthur Park, and to the southern cusp of Los Feliz.  There were no cars, only bikes and pedestrians.  There was a dodgeball game near 7th and Union.  A (straight) couple married.  There was yoga in the now open road.  Businesses along the route were packed to the gills, proving that foot traffic is better for business than can’t-find-a-place-to-park traffic.  It was like Park Day times one million.  It was wonderful.  Will Campbell showed you exactly how wonderful it was:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5-lYpcAaD8[/youtube]

Before this event, you only saw the streets of LA this empty if you were in the middle of a well-organized protest march, with proper peaceful assembly permits and what not.  Happily, ten-ten-ten won’t be the last time you’ll see this emptiness: with the organizers’ lead, and a broad base of support, the next CicLAvia will be Sunday, April 10, 2011. Wait, there’s more awesome news: the organizers hope, and are planning, for at least two more events: one in July or August, and another in September or October.  As if this weren’t enough, they want to expand CicLAvia beyond the original 7.5 mile route: maybe into South LA.  Maybe into Chinatown.  Maybe a version of CicLAvia in the Westside.  The latter goal fulfilled would be a real coup: not only is it one of the most frustratingly congested parts of LA, it also can be the one of most committed to its four wheel drives.

I love my car.  But really, I would like to use my car sometimes as opposed to most of the time.  I don’t think we, as a city, would like to depend on our cars as much as other cities would like to think we want to depend on our cars in order to justify their stereotypes about LA.  CicLAvia reminds us that our vehicles do not have to be a way of life – it just has to be a means to one.  Between breaking the political willpower against an expanded subway system (seriously, what is that?) and cultivating a real biker culture, LA finally is starting to move the parts slowly towards building a viable public transit system.  For taking back the streets and sharing it all with us, and for setting the stage for even more amazing car-free events to come, CicLAvia’s organizers are on our 2010 Nice List.  If we could give you a nice roadster with a bow around it, we would.

Toluca Lake Christmas Open House

That’s right kiddies.  It’s that time of year again.  Time for the annual Toluca Lake Open House.

Oh.  You don’t know what that is?  Allow me to explain.  Every year, for as long as I can remember (actual dates/amount of times are surprisingly hard to find) Toluca Lake has held an annual Open House the first Friday in December.  The open house features the businesses along Riverside Drive between Sancola and Pass Ave.  Most of these businesses are independently owned businesses.  They open their doors for the evening allowing residents and non-residents alike to walk around and explore what the community has to offer.  Many businesses even offer hot chocolate, coffee, treats, etc. for the passing guests.  And yes, it gets busy.  I always loved seeing the community come alive when I was younger.  The busiest spot every year is where the pictures with Santa take place.  Kids (and adults too) line up to get their pictures taken with the jolly fellow.

Do you have friends and/or family in town dying to see a “celebrity?”  Bring ’em.  There are always many well-known faces in the crowd as Toluca Lake is home to more of them than they’d like you to know.  But I will cover that in a later post about Toluca Lake.

I hope you all can make it out.  It’s a great time.  And be sure to keep your eye out for me.  I’m the albino looking dude who will be freezing my buns off.

The 2010 Naughty List: Meg Whitman

My best friend lives in Vancouver BC, but he grew up in San Pedro. Expatriate though he may be, he’s still lived the bulk of his life in California, thus far. And while he’s now, as a Canadian Citizen, largely removed from the noise of California politics, it can still pique his interest when he comes to visit.

Back in July, he was here for Comic Con (something rarely missed) and, of course, Meg Whitman’s ads were running constantly on every available media outlet, short of Big Gulp cups and Happy Meals.

“Who’s this ‘Meg Whitman?'” he asks me.

“Used to run eBay. Dumping a crap ton of her own money into the race. Record amount, in fact.”

“Who’s running against her?”

“Jerry Brown.”

The look of disbelief that crossed his face will haunt my soul.

“Does anyone really need anymore proof that the Democrats are in collusion with the Republicans?”

Mike’s a cynical bastard.

Look, you can take any politician, ANY, and create a laundry list of their lies and deceit; they’re politicians. They are liars. All of them. Your favorite candidate, in whatever race that was? Yep, them. Big, fat liars. Pants ablaze. The Great Statesmen and Orators of History? Fibbers, every last one. So, I will not even to attempt to recount a play by play of campaign inaccuracies and skullduggery here. Putting a politician on the “Naughty” list for lying or running a rough campaign is like blaming a spider for having too many legs. It may creep you out, but that’s just the way the damn thing is built.

So, why bother? Well, I’ll tell yeh, and frankly, I kinda find it funny:

Bitch tried to buy us off.

Seriously. Slice it up any way you wish, it was a blatant attempt to run an unstoppable money-fueled juggernaut of a campaign, which collapsed under its own hubris.

I’m not even going to take up the tract of, “She should have just poured all that money into our failing education system,” or whatever. Would that have been great? Oh, hell yeah! I would love to see a politician actually do that, or similar, on that scale. I ain’t gonna ride her for not deciding to do something so grand.

No, what gets you the coal in your stocking this year, Meg, as far as I’m concerned, is the hubris. The unmitigated gall. You thought you had us, that you could just buy us. That that’s all it would take. We heard it in your voice. Well, take your lump and heat your stove, let that keep you warm, we’re gonna let Jerry do his thing. At least he didn’t try to buy us out.

The part that tickles me, really, is that it did happen here. Like it or not, the stereotype of a typical “Californian” tends to be either the dimwitted surfer or the shallow “Movie Star.” This tends to piss me off, but that’s really how much of the country sees us. And yet, the State known to be all flash and no substance passed on Meg’s Millions. Whatever else Jerry Brown may or may not be, “Flashy” he’s not.

I suppose those who insist upon State drawn stereotypes will shrug us off as “Hippies” now. Funny how such a bunch of Hippies have elected so many Republicans in the past. Whatever, I’ll take Granola over Vapid any day.

I can’t wait to find out what my friend in The Great White North thinks about all of this when I go to visit him over Christmas. Should be interesting.

The 2010 Nice List: Help A Mother Out

Help A Mother Out is a non-profit organization started in Northern California by two moms, Lisa Truong and Rachel Fudge, in March of 2009. They had a desire to help after learning how the economic crisis was hurting families and how babies were going without clean diapers. With $100 and the power of social media, they did an initial diaper drive and raised over 15,000 diapers! Almost two years later, there are HAMO chapters in Arizona, Washington and an LA chapter to help create awareness of the problem and to raise money and diapers for those most in need. The LA chapter is run by Kim Tracy Prince who volunteers her time and energy to get the word out and to get diapers in the hands of families who desperately need them.

What puts HAMO on the Nice List for me is the grassroots nature of women helping women. Two moms saw a problem and took it upon themselves to try and do something about it. They then inspired other moms to volunteer and open chapters in other places. Even while worrying they are not doing enough, what they have achieved in such a short time is amazing! Since May 2009, HAMO has donated over 431,000 diapers. Huggies became a sponsor in 2010 and created the Every Little Bottom program. Huggies has now donated 11 million diapers and are halfway to their goal of 22 million. That is NICE!

If you ever feel the desire to help someone, to solve a problem, to DO something, HAMO is the perfect inspiration to show you that you CAN make a difference in people’s lives. If you can, spread some of that nice-ness and donate some diapers to babies who need them!

Check out the website at Help A Mother Out.

Today kicks off a two week diaper drive in Glendale. As I wrote last week, and you can make a difference to those in need, especially during the holidays, by donating diapers or money to the Glendale specific agencies that are sponsoring this drive. Click here to donate diapers online (via PATH Achieve Glendale). Click here to find a diaper drop off location in LA.