Lot in My Backyard

What’s being called one of the largest apartment building construction projects in the U.S. since 2008 is underway in our backyard, Marina del Rey. The former Del Rey Shores apartment complex on Via Marina has been demolished to make way for The Shores.  The drab beige and brown 2-story buildings are gone, and in their place will be a dozen modern 4 and 5 story buildings, totaling some 554 units. As the accompanying pictures hopefully demonstrate, it’s quite striking to see such a large plot of temporarily open land in the congested Marina, just a few blocks from the beach.

Continue reading Lot in My Backyard

Cinco De Mayo comes early this year in the SGV

Sunday May 1st will be the first official Cinco de Mayo celebration in the SGV.  Rutillio “Rudy” Castrellon who owns Monrovia’s Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant (which I’ve blogged about in the past here) is the one spearheading this event. He is bringing it to us to help celebrate the day as they did in Mexico where he grew up as a kid. It will be a block party with the street blocked off to celebrate the day and the contribution of Latinos to the community and region.  Informational web site HERE.

There will be dancing in the street with music provided by Mariachi Divas, Delgado Brothers, Los Fabulocos and Banda Brothers.  There will also be artists and dancers in the event as well sharing their art.

Deets: Sunday May 1, 2011 2-8PM, Colorado and Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia CA MAP HERE

Dog Owners Beware: Foxtail Season is Here

If you live in Southern California and have dogs, you are probably aware of foxtails. But, in case you are new to the area, have a new pet or are walking or hiking in a different area, I’d like to share a little information. This occurred to me over the past week when I noticed the nasty weeds popping up in my own back yard. Spring has sprung, indeed.

Foxtails are a feature of many grasses that grow locally. The distribution in my yard is fairly sporadic, but it’s common to see areas along sidewalks that get overrun. I snapped the above photo on Alvarado near Sunset in Echo Park earlier this evening.

The plant becomes problematic when it dries out (see photo below) and the seeds break off.

The danger of foxtail seeds is that they are barbed, so when they get stuck in a dog’s coat, they work their way in and get stuck. Paws, ears and nostrils are particularly vulnerable. They can embed under the skin and have been known to get under eyelids, in throats, etc. The bottom line is these nasty things can cause pain, bleeding, infection and rather substantial vet bills. If you have foxtails on your property or walk your dog(s) in area where they grow, inspect the paws, ears and fur daily. They are difficult to eradicate, especially if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals. During the spring, summer and fall, I pull the plants out of the ground by hand on a daily basis. Even with my vigilance, my dogs have had a couple of instances of needing some minor vet attention due to a foxtail lodged in a paw or an ear.

P.S. I read that outdoor cats are also at risk, it is much lower due to their grooming habits.

Going Whole Hog at Cochon 555

Cochon” is either a pig, a piglet, or a dirty pig (this last definition is the only non-literal one of the three).  Cochon 555 is all about the first meaning: it’s Pork Fest 2011.  Five chefs in select cities across the country choose five heritage breed pigs of about 175 pounds each (i.e., the ever popular Berkshire farm pig) and pair them with five wines.  The chefs break down the whole pig, from nose to curly tail, ham it up and create pork-tastic plates, and are evaluated by attendees and judges.

The nationwide event aims to raise awareness for these special breeds and encourage sustainable butchering.  New York, Seattle, and Denver all have had their go at the swine; this Sunday, May 1, LA gets its turn.  Octavio Becerra (Palate Food & Wine), Chad Colby (Mozza), Suzanne Tracht (Jar), Ben Ford (Ford’s Filling Station), and Joshua Whigham (The Bazaar) each will compete for best in show.  In the process of the butchering, watching, and pigging out, you’ll meet the farmers, learn about sustainable practices, why you should, if you can, bypass the huge processor as you travel from farm to table, and possibly have flashbacks of Laura Ingalls Wilder using a pig’s bladder as a little soccer ball.  That, people, is an excellent example of using all parts of the pig.

Eating meat from farms following sustainable practices isn’t cheap (unfortunately), and this event isn’t either.  But, if you can afford the entrance fee, this seems well worth it: general admission tickets are $125 and sold out a few weeks ago.  For the extra $50 for the still-remaining VIP tickets, you get early admittance, private tastings of Sonoma-area vitners, “access to a sustainable oyster station”, and a butchering demo by sustainable butchers Lindy & Grundy (whose shop on Fairfax just opened, and you should go and have a look-see at what they’ve got, because they got a lot, and it’s all pretty great).  Hopefully, events like Cochon 555 this will encourage trickle down eat-onomics.

Cochon 555
Sunday, May 1 starting at 3:30 (for VIPs) and 5 (for the generals)
$125 general (sold out)/$175 VIP
At the Vibiana in the Historic Core, 214 S. Main St. Downtown

Bears Love Chicken, Because Chicken Is Delicious

Unlikely to be a problem

First the lizards invaded Los Angeles. Now it’s the bears. No, not that kind. Stop it, you.

I live in Los Feliz and see plenty of coyotes (no, not that kind; stop it, you) and even the occasional hawk. But I’ve never seen a bear. For that, I’d need to move to Altadena, apparently; recently, bears have been showing up there at an unprecedented rate, devouring domestic chickens and getting shot by possibly unscrupulous residents (Warning: Somewhat unsettling photo of an adorable bear cub lying dead).

Apparently, though, bears are not a huge deal in the northern environs; residents report sightings all the time, last week’s ursine poultrophile notwithstanding. But it’s unlikely anyone will get hurt. In the past three decades, only about a dozen bears have attacked humans, and that’s throughout the state of California. If you’re a human, and you live in the LA environs, bear attacks probably aren’t something you need to worry about.

But whether two sudden reported bear incidents is a symptom of human encroachment or  journalistic follow-the-leader is beyond my ken. Any Altadenans or wildlife biologists out there care to comment?

It Caught My Eye: Humma Time

In my unofficial and unavoidable capacity as Lead Surrogate Uncle and Security Chief to the hummingbirds who nest in our front and back yards each year, I endured tragedy and enjoyed triumph with last year’s batches of chicks. Only one of the four survived to fly its frontyard nest, and getting that one to that stage proved quite the dramatic and ultimately fulfilling experience.

Well the next chapter in the saga has commenced, begun this morning when I got buzzed closely by a gonna-be-a-momma humma (I believe a rufous hummingbird) who lighted on the location it had chosen for its partially constructed nest (as seen above) and busied herself in the branches a few feet above where I happened to be standing in the backyard.

Church of Scientology Buys KCET’s Building on Sunset

KCET just confirmed that they are selling their production facility on Sunset between Los Feliz and Silver Lake to the Church of Scientology for “an undisclosed amount” that undoubtedly has many, many 0’s.  According to the LA Times’ article about potential deal, the Church now gets to add around 4.5 acres of property to its march towards taking over the world, one stress test at a time.

According to KCET’s official statement, the now-independently owned public television station plans to expand their programmingblahblah and currently are looking to relocate to other facilities.  After KCET officially vacates the premises, up to a year from now, will the Church repaint the buildings to movie set blue, like the giant building on Hollywood (above)?  Will you be asked if you would like to be outfitted with contraptions that look like they were pulled out of the The Twilight Zone‘s circa-1960s prop department in a box labelled “Space-y Looking Things” every time you try to go to Rudy’s for a haircut or to Tiki Bar for a tiki drink?  My answers: hopefully yes, and hopefully no.  In that order.

Update:  Thanks to the comments below for pointing me to the Church of Scientology’s news release on this.  They say the KCET facility ” is a perfect fit, in both size and location, for the expansion of the Church of Scientology’s production of religious and social betterment audiovisual properties, and we welcomed the unexpected opportunity to acquire it.”

Photo courtesy jasmined and used under a Creative Commons license.

First Look: La Plaza De Cultura Y Artes

First getting shpritzed with some holy water during Saturday’s Blessing of the Animals and next dutifully adjourning to a patio table at Olvera Street’s La Golondrina where we watched the parade of animals and peoples pass while partaking religiously of our own personal Blessing of the Margaritas, Susan and I decided afterward to wobble along the cobbles and across Main Street to check out the freshly opened La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in the awesomely restored Brunswig and Garnier Block historic buildings just south of La Placita Church.

On a side note, seeing how it’s not a whole lot of people who arrive bearing reptiles, I’m pretty sure we made museum history as being the first (and perhaps only) people to visit the place with a tortoise in tow, and Buster was warmly welcomed (and admitted free of charge).

What an amazingly interactive and fantastic place — long overdue — and I greatly enjoyed the inaugural exhibition of “LA Starts Here,” an exploration of Mexican and Mexican-American history and culture spread throughout the expansive first floor, while wonderfully occupying the second floor was “Calle Prinicipal,” a hands-on re-creation of 1920s-era Main Street, at that time the heart of Los Angeles’s growing immigrant community.

Flickr photoset of the above thumbnails are viewable here.

What surprised me the most was how moved I was by a simple exhibition showcasing what I feel was one of the greatest injustices perpetrated by this city upon its citizens: the eviction and destruction of Chavez Ravine. The installation, consisting of a high chain link fence, through which pictures and quotes are visible under the heading of “Urban Renewal: Division of the Barrios,” left me deeply touched, especially by the following two statements:

“I don’t want to be responsible for taking another man’s private property through the use of eminent domain and giving it over to another private individual for his private gain.”

— De Witt McCann, aide to the mayor, resigning his job

“You may call this blight, but we call it our neighborhood.  Sure, we say get out if you can. But why not pave our streets? Give us decent streetlights like they have in Westwood or Pasadena. What gives you the right to take our land away from us? We didn’t sign on to ’eminent domain.’ It’s unspeakable the way your dragged Mrs. Aurora Archega out of her very own house in Chavez Ravine — and put her in jail! You call it progress. We call it injustice.”

— Camos Vecinos

There’s much to see and experience and enrich yourself with at La Plaza. I highly recommend a visit. It’s open noon to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Monday. Closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, college students and military, $5 for children 5 and up, and free for children under 5.

Which is worse? Graffiti or child molestation?

You might think that’s an easy question, but you’d be surprised. Yesterday I mentioned that local wel known graffiti artist REVOK was arrested and his bail has been set at $320,000 which to the untrained eye seems a tad on the high side. Well, turns out it’s a tad high to the trained eye as well. Artist Logan Hicks did some research and found out the bail that was set for arrests for some other crimes in Los Angeles over the last 2 months. Short version? They are all much lower than $320,000. For example…

Repeated molestation of a minor by husband/wife – Bail set at $150,000
Baby left in 115-degree car returned to mother – $100,000
Men accused of raping female student – $50,000
Machete-wielding man, 19, arrested near South Coast Plaza – $25,000

But somehow failing to repay damages for spray painting on a wall justifies $320K. Yeah. Nice even hand there.

Summer’s coming, and you know what that means…

Wizard of Oz photo from the Cinespia website

That’s right–it’s almost time to drink wine and watch movies in the graveyard.

Cinespia’s tenth season at Hollywood Forever Cemetery starts May 14th. Yes, that’s several weeks from now, but they want to know right away what you’d like to see. So now’s your chance to put in a request. Head on over to their Facebook page and chime in or fill in the webform on their site. Right now, Goonies and Heathers seem to front runners just based on my quick scan of their page. My personal dream season includes Rebel Without A Cause, Repo Man, and Double Indemnity to name a few. (I would have said Night of the Living Dead, but that screened last year.)

If you want to keep posted on what’s coming up, join their mailing list. If you’ve somehow never been to a screening, it’s pretty fun, though Cinespia is one of many LA treats that’s become a victim of its own success. It’s really crowded and parking is a hellish ordeal. Do like I do and cultivate your relationship with friends in the area so you can park in their driveway–or bike.

And what about you guys? What would you like to see at Hollywood Forever this summer?

REVOK arrested, $320,000 bail set

This is a developing story, however it appears that one of the most well known Los Angeles artists, REVOK was arrested at LAX while he attempting to fly to Ireland. The artist, whose real name is Jason Williams was nabbed on an outstanding warrant for failure to pay damages in a previous case. REVOK’s usually very active twitter stream has been silent for days. Street Art News has the LASD press release which doesn’t sound good and hints at further charges, and confirms a $320,000 bail which seems excessive though I suspect the Sheriffs argued ‘flight risk’ since he was actually on the way out of the country when he was aprehended. I’m a huge fan of REVOK and love seeing his work around the city, but this sounds pretty bad for him.

This of course is on the heels of the MoCA Art In The Streets exhibition which has drawn serious battle lines between those who feel this is a collection of noteworthy and talented artists finally getting the attention they deserve and those who think it’s merely encouraging vandalism in the city. Some are even speculating that the LASD and LAPD have stepped up enforcement of graffiti related offenses in rection to the exhibition.

LA Community College District Runoff

Mail-in Ballot
Not pictured here: a tree.

I usually try to maintain a fair level of awareness about what’s going on politically, but sometimes I miss a beat (or a slew of election mailers) and get caught unawares when my permanent vote-by-mail ballot shows up in the mailbox. I can be pretty handy with google when I need to be, though, so I don’t usually have a problem researching the issues, performing my civic duty, and getting my ballot out in the mail on time.

That happened to me again this week, as I received my ballot and had to scratch my head for a second, trying to figure out what needed voting on. I flipped through all of the paper (see pic by me), nearly messing the few lines that actually indicated what I should be voting on. As it turns out, there’s a runoff election for the community college district, as none of the candidates received a majority in the first go-round.

What initially struck me about this was simply the amount of wasted paper that went into the mailer ballot, and I started to feel a little guilty for opting for the permanent vote-by-mail status. But the more I thought about it, I began to think about the fact that there would be a lot of expense and wastefulness going into this runoff election regardless. So I went to The Google and started poking around, and came across this set of minutes from a 2009 special meeting of the CCD Board of Trustees, which basically says that they don’t want to waste money that can be spent on helping students holding unnecessary runoff elections in 2011. There was unanimity regarding seeking legislation to avoid the costly runoff for 2011, but apparently that legislation never came about. One of the expressed concerns about runoff elections, however, is that of low voter turnout, and so now I don’t feel as guilty about the vote-by-mail thing, as I’m probably more likely to vote than the average bear.

The one bit of good news I turned up in this brief exploration into the finer aspects of LACCD runoff elections is that those Angelenos living in the 36th Congressional District get to hold a single election to vote in the LACCD runoff and in the Congressional District special vacancy election. Lucky you!

Such A Ham!

Yesterday’s Blessing of the Animals at Olvera Street once again lived up to its wonderful and well-deserved reputation as a magnet to all manner of fauna. And as has been our habit over the years, my wife Susan and I basketed up and brought with us Buster our Russian tortoise who once again ably executed her duties as Official Ambassador for the rest of our extended household menagerie, taking a dose of archibishop-flung holy water for the team (thumbnailed at right).

If I had to pick a favorite critter that I got to confront it would have to be the very personable “Piglet,” below, who was so ready for her close-up:




A Ghost Bike For Manuel Santizo

Manuel Santizo, 28 years old, was murdered on Del Mar Avenue at Hoover Street last Sunday by unknown assailants as he pedaled home from a trip to the store. First they reportedly struck him with the vehicle they occupied and then shot him where he’d fallen.

Last night a contingent of Midnight Ridazz gathered at the location of the crime to install a ghost bike in his honor.

Until 6 p.m. today family members and friends are holding a carwash to raise funds to help his wife and infant son who are absolutely devastated.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood of Myra and Effie (pinpoint map) in Silver Lake, find it in your heart to make a contribution.

Mining The Gold Line

That a hearty band of like-minded pedventurers followed me through the Eastside at the beginning of last month for my 2nd Annual March March is old news, but what’s just come up is an awesome slow-mo video my friend Steven made of various aspects of the trek and I am helpless not to share it here:


If the embed above doesn’t work, the video can be found here: http://vimeo.com/22766801