Why I Can’t Vote For Stephen Box For City Council Tomorrow

Because I don’t live in the district he’s vying to represent. But if I did, I would.  And if you do, you should. Allow me to get a bit long-winded and reminiscent but hardly political in telling you why.

I first met Stephen and his wife Enci 5 years ago, which is about 45 in bicycle years. I had read about them in an article in the Los Angeles Times during the days leading to its long-delayed reopening of Griffith Observatory that November. In the article I found them doing something I’d rarely encountered: fighting for cyclists. In this case it was to restore our access to the roads up to the Griffith Observatory, and a day or two later I joined them for a late-afternoon ride up Vermont to the treasured landmark where city and parks officials, in anticipation of maxed-out visitor demand had established a reservation system, planned on shutting the roads to motorists, and instead would force citizens to fork over a fee to take a shuttle up and down the hill from various park-and-ride points.

Given the limited parking at the top, I wasn’t against the road closure and shuttle system and Box probably didn’t mind it either (except that unless you were willing to walk in and up, the city mandated you pay for the privilege of visiting a public park). But then came the news that the ban was going to be applied to anything and everything on wheels and Box and Enci sounded the alarm and beat the drum until those who had either peddled the pedalers’ prohibition and/or supported it (one of whom was Box’s opponent, incumbent Councilman Tom LaBonge) begrudgingly reversed grears and decided it was indeed not going to create any additional Griffith Park gridlock to have the roads open to anyone one wishing to self-propel themselves up there.

Needless to say I was suitably impressed.

In the time since Box has placed himself at the forefront not just as a bicycle advocate, but as one for safer streets — for everyone. He recruited me in 2008 to join his Bicycle Writers Collective, but any hopes he might have had of me stepping up to his tireless level of activism faded relatively quickly, perhaps to his disappointment.

Fittingly, the last time I saw Box was during what has since become the Woodstock of LA cycling: last October’s glorious and game-changing CicLAvia. I found him on Spring Street taking in the spectacle, and I congratulated him on having just become a US citizen before giving him a good-natured sock in the shoulder because I had absolutely no idea he wasn’t — much less that his entirely accentless self was Australian. There he is on the left in a photo by Bikeside’s Alex Thomspon pontificating to me and Enci.

There’s a lot of things I don’t know about Stephen Box, which perhaps uniquely disqualifies me from suggesting you vote for him tomorrow. But I do know it takes guts to throw your hat into the political ring, and he’s not thrown it lightly. Box has intricate knowledge of how City Hall works, he’s energized and trumpets access and transparency as the foundation of his leadership. My man!

The main thing I know about the other challenger Tomas O’Grady is that he’ll cut his salary as councilman and that of his staff in half. But I know even less about LaBonge, other than he is great if you’re a constituent in need of a pothole filled. I also know he’s been a great part of the local leadership that’s collectively dug the city into an ever-deepening hole, and thus it’s time for a change.

Or at least a runoff election! I don’t harbor delusions that Box is going to pull off some sort of a miracle victory tomorrow, but I do hope enough people going to the polls in that district tomorrow see the chance to let in some fresh air and keep LaBonge from waltzing into another stale term — at least not without having to fight a little harder for it.

Vote for Stephen Box.



Classic Eats #14 Recap and a Farewell

It was a dark and stormy night, but that didn’t stop Classic Eats #14 from being a fun gathering of classic eaters!

The evening started with cocktails at Traxx at Union Station and while the bachelor party that was also there was a bit, uh, loud, their theme shirts were sort of amusing. Luckily their train was called and we had some quieter time to chat about cigars, whiskey and guns.

Soon it was time to eat and we slogged through the pouring rain to Phillipes to partake of the yummy dipped sandwiches. Comfort food on a rainy night — who could ask for more?

I had to try the pickled eggs. They are delicious!

The gang enjoying their feast.



Thanks to all who joined in the Classic Eats fun.

As to the farewell part of this blog post — This will be my last Classic Eats as I am stepping down from Blogging.LA and moving on to other things. I have loved my three and a half years of blogging here, the highlight being Hot Dot Death March. I have gotten to know my beloved LA even better than expected and have also gained wonderful friends here at BLA. Thank you for all the fun!

GTD This Weekend: More Than Enough to Get You Out of the House

Interacting with the "Dreams Deferred" exhibit at the Chinese American Museum.

If your plans this weekend were to stay in and clean your apartment and tend to the garden and teach the dog to sit for more than 10 seconds and all that homebody stuff – do all that next weekend.  This weekend, there’s an absurd amount of things to do, from walking Whittier Blvd. with our own Will Campbell to a Victorian ball to Jonathan Gold’s annual food fest.  You can be anti-social later.  Trust me.


  • Last year, a bunch of brave folks walked all 15.8 miles of Wilshire Boulevard, in the rain, from Downtown to the sea.  Saturday’s weather is supposed to be sunny and clear, perfect for Will Campbell’s second annual March March.  This year, he’s taking a 12ish mile urban hike across East LA.   Starting from Union Station, Will and company will take the Gold Line eastward ho, make their way to Whittier Boulevard, and go back to their starting point via the Arts District.  “A guided tour this ain’t,” Will says, which is his nice way of saying to you A-type folks: relax for once and let yourself figure it out once you get there.  $Enough to cover costs of transportation + snacks.  Meet at Union Station at 10am.
  • Angel City Brewery, the oldest brewery in Southern California, will open its new downtown digs on or around March 17th.  To pre-celebrate, the brewery opens its beer garden and invites you to its weekend-long party.  Bottled beers will be for sale (nothing on tap just yet); food trucks will be there to wash it all down.  For all of you participating in the March March, this probably wouldn’t be a bad pit stop.
    Saturday and Sunday from noon to 1am (yeup, you read that right) at 216 S. Alameda in the downtown Arts District.
  • Officially, my favorite cheese is Abbaye de Belloc, but, really, get me a brick of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese, and I’m a very happy camper.  The Oregon cheese company has a cute little “Loafster” car that will tour the Southern California area in March as part of its Love Loaf Tour.  Where the Loafster goes, happiness follows: take, for example, Saturday’s free admission to Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific.  The first 100 people wearing orange will receive free entry; everyone gets coupons, recipes, samples, and, dear Lords of Kobol, please, please convince them to hand out tubs of their divine ice-cream.  Free entry for the first 100 orange-d fans starting at 9am at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
  • We all love CicLAvia.  There are three events this year, but why stop at three?  GOOD Magazine is throwing a fundraiser for CicLAvia to support the organization.  For the price of the ticket, you’ll support a great community cause, have open access to Fat Tire beer, the chance to sample a variety of food trucks, and a possible back left position in a dodgeball game. This is how the adults play.  $20+.  Fun goes from 2pm to 7pm at Atwater Crossing, 3229 Casitas Ave. in Atwater Village.
  • That you can find Edward Gorey’s macabre illustrations plastered on wall calendars, greeting cards, and books available at your local Wal-Mart is a little funny and a lot reassuring.  Celebrate the glory that is Gorey at the Edwardian Ball; it is Victorian-themed, so depending on what side of the gender spectrum you decide to fall on that night, take out that lacy, overflowing dress and/or that skinny tie, silver vest with monocle pocket, and top hat.   Jane Austen-types best look away.  $28+.  The party starts at 8pm at the Music Box at the Fonda in Hollywood.
  • The Chinese American Museum celebrates its 10th anniversary with its Annual Lantern Festival.  You and the kids can take this opportunity to really learn how to make a proper kite, lantern, and/or paper crane.  Other festivities include “abacus-making”, martial art performances, and shadow puppetry.  Don’t forget to wander inside the museum as well – “Dreams Deferred” is a timely, thought-provoking exhibit on immigration reform.  Free.  From noon to 7pm at the Chinese American Museum, 425 N. Los Angeles Street downtown.


  • So excited for this: Jonathan Gold brings together 40 of his favorite restaurants and eateries that define LA in food and culture – AOC, A-Frame, Chichen Itza, Jitlada, among others – for his third annual Gold Standard event at the Petersen Automotive Museum.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit Heal the Bay.  $60.  From 1pm to 5pm at the Petersen Auto Museum, 6060 Wilshire Blvd.
  • Could it really be that LA finally – finally! – is starting to appreciate coffee?  Hopefully, the turnout at the Southwest Barista Regional Competition will indicate yes.  The event runs all weekend, but Sunday is the final round of competition: the best of the best from the southwestern US will be evaluated on the fine points of coffee making, including whether the crema on the espresso is the right color and whether the art on the cappuccino is sufficiently visually appealing.  I don’t think the best in show will parade their drink around the ring in front of an adoring judge and audience, but who knows – after all that caffeine, anything can happen.  Free.  The competition is on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 6pm at Siren Studios in Hollywood.
  • Jane Espenson, who wrote and produced several stellar episodes of Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Torchwood, is the type of person you wish you could talk to and/or be when you grow up.  I can’t help you with the latter, but the former may be arranged: in every part of the four-part TV Writing series, a handful of television writers, including Espenson, Rob Roy Thomas, and Jeff Greenstein, will discuss the Business, offer sage advice, and generally encourage you to pursue your small screen dreams.  If you attend these seminars and end up writing Charlie Sheen’s inevitable reality show, though, I will never forgive myself for pointing you here.  Neither will you.  $12 for each discussion; if you know you’ll attend all four discussions (held every Sunday in March), get the full series ticket at $36.  The discussion starts at 7pm at Meltdown Comics in Silver Lake.
  • I don’t know which one of who is to blame for spreading nasty propaganda about how it is an American right to be dumb, and that defending that right should go so far as attacking teachers and shutting down libraries, so I will just blame both Bush and Obama and everyone in between.  Measure L, which would give city libraries some much-needed funding after it was stripped of much of it a few years ago, is up for vote on Tuesday.  A “Keep the Magic of Libraries Alive” rally will be held to support the measure.  In keeping with the theme, there will be a magic show as well.  Of course.  The rally is from 10am to 11:30am in front of the Memorial Branch Library, 4625 W. Olympic Blvd.

3 Hours in Downtown Los Angeles

As a beach dweller, when out-of-town friends ask “how’s L.A.?” I often have to answer “I have no idea.” So I was really happy to turn my coverage of last Saturday’s pro-labor union rally into a mini-tour of Downtown Los Angeles, where I was able to check off several places on my “to do” list.

Continue reading 3 Hours in Downtown Los Angeles

An Economist In Iceland & Jesse James (Yeah, That One) Showed Me What Bird This Was

(click it for the bigger picture)

File this under Trivial, but it can be downright amazing how the internet allows you to discover things — sometimes without even trying. I hadn’t a clue what this species was — a lively flock of which showed up out of nowhere last week and took a serious liking to the berries in our frontyard camphor laurel tree — and I didn’t really care. The first day I saw the masked marauders feasting I didn’t drop everything and go googling after them.

But by total chance later that same day while scrolling through my Flickr contacts I came upon this photo taken by a gentleman named Gunnlaugur Juliusson who’s an economist in Iceland. It was titled “Silkitoppa” and was almost identical to the ones I’d seen. Googling the title I was shown it to be a Bohemian waxwing, and I was suitably impressed by this whole serendipitous worldwidewebthing.

Well wouldn’t you know the web wasn’t quite finished with the lesson. I hadn’t scrolled  past another page of contacts on Flickr when coincidentally I find a thumbnail of a video by another contact named Mary Cummins of a hand holding what looks to be a Bohemian waxwing, and it’s titled “Jesse James Lets The Bird Go Free,” and yeah it’s that Jesse James of “Monster Garage” fame and Sandra Bullock infamy. But the waxwing he held was a bit different in color than the one from Iceland and thus it was that I came to learn of the Cedar waxwing, North American counterpart to the Bohemian. Gawd bless the internest.

And today the waxwings made a ruckus in the laurel tree and I managed to get that photo of one.


The El Toro Y and Other Things The Simpsons Taught Me

If you were to visit a city, who would you trust to be your tour guide: Lonely Planet or The Simpsons?  Based on the screencap below, my tip money would go to The Simpsons.

This was from last week’s episode: Bart is nominated for an Oscar (Best Animated Short, natch) and the Simpsons go to Hollywood.  Wary of Homer hogging all the credit for the movie on his big night, Bart sends him on a, er, special tour of LA-area landmarks.  The Watts Towers is one of our greatest landmarks that no one visits, and naming the Cerritos Auto Square as a “must-see attraction” is very funny, very cruel joke to would-be tourists — but what struck me the most was that certain locations actually are named!  Take, for example, the El Toro Y: this would be the official name of the freeway clusterfuck where the 5 and 405 merge.  The California Incline is what I always, always miss when I’m trying to get off PCH and back into Santa Monica.  And Chatsworth is, as the local residents helpfully explain to Homer, where “the 118 meets Topanga Canyon, fool.”

Me, I would have added Worthington Ford, Tito’s Tacos, and the WTF that is where Virgil turns into Hillhurst as it meets Hollywood Blvd., Sunset Blvd., and Sunset Dr. Oh, and donuts: despite Homer’s penchant for donuts, none of LA’s donut icons made it onto the list.  Too bad, as a donut crawl definitely would have kept everyone infinitely more entertained than the “Dead. In. The. Water.” ceremony that was Sunday. Actually, doing anything on that list, including the sad atrocity that is The Beverly Connection, would have been far, far more satisfying than watching that ceremony.  Next year around this time, you’ll know where to find me.

Reminder: We’re Walking Whittier Boulevard This Saturday

With a forecast of 70 degrees and sunny, we couldn’t ask for better weather for my 2nd-Annual March March this Saturday, which will gather at the main entrance of Union Station and set out at 10 a.m. to board the Gold Line across the Eastside (making stops at stations along the way to explore) and returning (see map above) to Union Station on foot primarily along Whittier Boulevard.

Since posting it up here on Blogging.la and Facebook (click either/both for more details) I’ve done some looking around and  have come up with a list of landmarks and establishments that I’ll  be trying my best to work in to the routes both out and back, including (in no particular order):

What I long ago decided I won’t be trying my best to do is pretend I’m some sort of expert on the area, filling your ears with too much internet-cribbed info. I do that on some of my annual group bike rides, but in this first-time case, the last thing I want to be and you need is some guy reading stuff he didn’t know about the day before. So a guided tour this ain’t. A ground-level opportunity to discover and enjoy and share and connect with, such a vibrant, diverse, historic, integral and often-overlooked area of our greater Los Angeles, this is.

I’m estimating we’ll probably be walking in the range of 10-12 miles total over anywhere up to six hours. If you’re driving in, there’s pay parking at/around Union Station and Olvera Street and Chinatown, but you might also consider parking anywhere near a Red Line station downtown and subway’ing it the rest of the way. You don’t need me to tell you what stuff you should bring, but what the hell: $6 for a Metro day pass, sunscreen, hat, shades, camera, cash, snacks, water, a willingness to be a tourist in your own town. Hope you can join me.