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A Bone Of Contention With Regards To The Long Dead L.A. Marathon Bike Tour

March 14, 2015 in Biking in LA, Events, News, Sports

laweaklyOne of the first places I turn to of late if I’m looking for anti-cycling news and views is the L.A. Weakly. More often than not, it seems they’ve adopted the less-enlightened view of the urban activity shed by the Los Angeles Times a few years ago. Which is why I was so surprised to see this positive article in this week’s issue on tomorrow morning’s Marathon bike ride, as it moves from guerrilla event toward a potential for full legitimacy.

Of course, that didn’t mean the feature wasn’t wrong on an historic point:

Article quote: “For years, the L.A. Marathon’s route was a loop. Before the footrace began, an official bike ride was held with corporate sponsorship and everything. But in 2009, the marathon route was changed to a straight shot from Dodger Stadium to the sea, and the bike ride was dropped for fear that thousands of cyclists wouldn’t be able to get their bikes home.”

If you want to drink that Koolaid as to the demise of the Bike Tour being on a loop route that couldn’t coexist with an A-B marathon route, go ahead. But in 2007 when the marathon introduced a point-to-point route that began in Universal City and ended downtown (and continued again in 2008) the Bike Tour’s approximately 10,000 bicyclists pedaled on a SEPARATE loop route that began and ended in the vicinity of Exposition Park. Imagine that. PS. I know this personally because in 2007 I actually did both events that fateful day.

So my advice is to put down that Dixie cup and understand that the marathon’s leadershit (NOT a typo) under owner Frank McCourt, didn’t kill the 15-year tradition of the Bike Tour because it was concerned the poor wittle cycwists wouldn’t be able to find their way home after cwossing the finish wine. Nah, they simply and unceremoniously dumped the popular Bike Tour component after 2009 — and did so under the blazingly false pretense of developing a corresponding “world class” cycling event to replace it. When they didn’t spend a fraction of a second creating that, Don “Roadblock” Ward, gawd bless him, stepped in all guerrilla-style and the Marathon Crash Race was born, now perhaps ironically to evolve into what may very well one day become a legitimate “world class” bicycling component on Marathon Day.

Bonus clip: My timelapse from 2009 and what would be mine and the last bike tour (I had pedaled in every previous one back to the event’s inception in 1995).

Dogs Are A Crime On The Lake Hollywood Loop

February 15, 2015 in Crime, environment, Hollywood, LA, Pets, Rants

It was with not a little fanfare less than two years ago that the road around the reservoir known as Lake Hollywood was reopened to walkers, runners and cyclists, a scenic route that had been closed since landslides during those crazy rains of 2005.

10978666_10152558232845044_2128577528160986362_nLittle did I know that when my wife Susan and I drove over there this morning and set out with our faithful — and needless to say well-behaved and leashed-up — border collie mix Ranger to explore that roughly 3.3-mile loop for the first time, we would be greeted by this sign at the north gate and again at the east gate:

Being that I’m law-abiding to a fault I dutifully turned us around and we made our way to the far more enlightened Parc du Griffith where dogs are not a crime. Soon we found our way along a loop that included a rigorously vertical set of dirt steps carved into the hillside and leading to the oasis that is Amir’s Garden.

While one part of me is all “Thank you!” to the dog-banning powers that be at Lake Hollywood for allowing us to discover a previously unknown aspect of Griffith Park, the other part is all “You dog-banning powers that be at Lake Hollywood totally suck!” And it was that latter half that got all googly once I got home in searching out the specific statute — LAMC 64.06 — authorizing the prohibition. Turns out it’s an ordinance designed to prevent water contamination that reads a little somethin’ like this (on the other side of the jump):

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The Wright Stuff: Hollyhock House Is Back

February 14, 2015 in Art, Events, History, Hollywood, LA, Vintage

I’m an unapologetic fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. So even though I’ve toured his Mayan-revival masterpiece several times over my life, when I heard the city was going to celebrate the re-opening of his Hollyhock House following a two-year, $4-million dollar restoration, by throwing open wide the 94-year-old landmark’s concrete doors for a 24-hour reacquainting period — at no charge and shut up: pictures allowed inside! — I told my wife Susan that we were going to celebrate Valentine’s Day morning by getting up early and getting ourselves over to Barnsdall Park to get all up in some of L.A.’s mostly freshly polished historic starchitecture.

And like thousands of other SoCalians, we did. And it was glorious. Sure we had to park down on the street and then wait in line beginning at 7:30 a.m. for about 90 minutes, and yeah, there were those foodies behind us in said line who just seriously could not shut up about how transcendental the foie-gras was at Union in Pasadena, but once inside…? Ah yes. Now that was transcendental, and Wrightly so.

My Flickr photoset of the thumbnails below is here. Going forward, Hollyhock House will be open for self-guided tours ($7 per person; no cameras allowed inside) Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

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Look What I Found: P. E. Railway Map From The Way Back

February 7, 2015 in History, LA, Mass Transit

When I read current stories with headlines along the lines of “Subway To The Sea Could Reach Century City By 2026,” it makes maps like the one below of Los Angeles’ mass transit system from 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, ONE HUNDRED and 1, 2, and THREE years ago seem all the more simultaneously sigh-inducing glorious and heartbreaking.

Feast yer eyes upon the elaborate system we had way back in the year Nineteen Hundred and Twelve (cleek to enlargify) and as you do consider not only:

  • the comparative low amount it would have cost to keep and upgrade through the years versus what it cost to dismantle entirely in favor of the huge sums required to build our long over-burdened freeway system;
  • and the massive amounts it will be costing us to be able to get to Century City in 15 years (probably more like 18).

Lines_of_the_Pacific_Electric_Railway_in_Southern_California_1912_(uclamss_294_b120_1)

How Are You Gonna Rock When We Roll?

January 18, 2015 in Earthquakes, Events, News, Science

Last night on the anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake, I watched CalTech Seismologist Lucy Jones tell reporters assembled at a press conference that for most angelenos it was a small one. Ha! How I wish I had been one of most angelenos. But I wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

The fires down below

The fires down below: This is a crappy snap I made the morning of January 17, 1994, from a pull out on Mulholland looking down into a San Fernando Valley that was almost entirely filled with smoke and dust.

There were two times in my life when I thought my ticket had been punched: that morning 21 years ago holding onto a door jam for dear life while it seemed the world was shaking apart, and a traffic collision I had six months later — which ironically wouldn’t have occurred if it weren’t for quake-related repairs forcing me to relocate temporarily to Van Nuys where I was on my motorcycle when that collision happened… but that’s another story.

In fairness, Jones wasn’t belittling or minimalizing what took place. She was basing that statement on the length of the fault that generated that temblor — 10 miles — in comparison to the San Andreas fault, 200 miles or more of which could rupture — correction WILL rupture. When that event happens it won’t be discussed 21 years later from a perspective of relative percentages impacted. Those of us that survive that eventual catastrophe will ALL be thrust into an exquisite chaos.

The plain truth is that with this certainty, most of us are still woefully unprepared. Maybe we’re gambling that we’ll dodge such a cataclysm in our lifetime, or maybe were deluded into thinking there’s really nothing that can be done and to just roll with what comes when the land rocks. It’s probably a lame metaphor, but that’s a bit like not being able to stop from hopping into a taxi that we know is going to crash, yet refusing to fasten our seatbelt on our way to that potential doom.

Instead put the “do” in doom. Google “earthquake preparedness.” Here, I’ll do it for you: earthquake preparedness. You don’t have to go full doomsday survivalist, but you need to do something/anything. Stockpile supplies and develop a plan that will make the ensuing nightmare a little less nightmarish. Having something as trivial as a few gallons of water, some nutrition bars, spare batteries, flashlights, a transistor radio and first aid supplies will seem like gold when the time comes to need them.

Lost Angeles: Tara Spotting

January 4, 2015 in culver city, Entertainment, Filmmaking/Filmmakers, History, LA, Movies

Oh no: not that Tara. I’m talking about the famed fictional plantation manse from a little film back in the day whose name coincidentally rhymes with the last name of the film’s central character — O’Hara, as in Scarlett. As in “Gone With The Wind,” or GWTW, if you will.

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Yeah, that Tara.

Let me back up. I ravenously follow the Photos of Los Angeles group on Facebook, gobbling up its never-ending parade of pictures of L.A.’s distant and not-so-distant past. A few days ago this photo (at right, click 10881489_814964795228276_3288342673478902642_nto enlargify), was posted of a still from an episode of the 1950s TV series “Superman,” showing its star, George Reeves (who coincidentally had a part in GWTW) in full Clark Kent mode, on a hill back-dropped by a broad swath of our smog-inundated city. The poster, Sally Deupree, asked, “Culver City. Recognize the building in the lower left with four columns?”

I immediately recognized it as Tara — more specifically the exterior facade built for the movie, which meant Reeves was standing hat in hand on what is now a section of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park — which meant beyond him was Jefferson Boulevard, then the Ballona Creek channel and then the old Pathe Studio backlot, where so many of the exterior scenes of GWTW were realized.

In an attempt to get a past/present frame of reference (I last did that with the location of Wrigley Field’s homeplate in South Los Angeles), I went on a googlehunt for a layout of the old studio, and hit gold at the 40 Acres website with this 1940 map (click to enlargify) pinpointing the various GWTW sets on the Pathe Studio backlot, with Tara’s position indicated there on the left.

40acres_plot_plan_1940

Then, of course, for a present-day juxtaposition I google-mapped the location (click to enlargify):

current

Which means basically that at the deadend of Hayden Place south of Higuera Street, somewhere around the current location of Woo Agency and Omelet you can stand on the paved-over land upon which Tara once stood, not to forget Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and, yes, George Reeves. Cue the sweeping overture that is “Tara’s Theme”:

12 Days Of Giving: spcaLA — The Results Show

December 28, 2014 in Holidays, LA, Seasonal

indexDuring the “12 Days of Giving” series here highlighting various awesome and local organizations that deserve your considerations and donations, I wrote about a 137-year-old institution near and dear to my heart (and my bank balance seeing as I work there): the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).

FullSizeRenderIn that post, I talked about the ginormous difference between spcaLA and the ASPCA (whose heart-wrenching ads are all over the end-of-year airwaves), and at the end I threw in a twist by promising to donate to spcaLA the spare change my wife and I have collected in that half-gallon jug pictured at left (click to biggify) over the last five or so years, and also to donate it in honor of whoever came closest to the amount all that coinage added up to.

I was actually surprised I didn’t get a few more stabs at the amount, but I’m nevertheless thankful to have received the following guesses in the comments to that post:

  • Frazgo: $72.96
  • JozJozJoz: $89.27
  • LucindaMichele: $82.50
  • Jodi Kurland: $65.37
  • Alexandra Apollini: $89.23
  • BikingInLA: $97.13
  • DavidDavidDavidDavidDavid: $87.84

After the jump, find out what it took to get the coins counted, who the honoree is and how totally far off from the actual amount they all were…

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St. Nick’s Sleigh? No Santa Ana’s Winds… Merry Insomnimas.

December 25, 2014 in Holidays, Seasonal

Silver Lake (3AM): Then up on the roof there arose such a clatter, that I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. But instead of the sleigh of Santa Claus alighting, ’twas instead the wind of Santa Ana beating a palm frond it had been fighting.

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12 Days Of Giving: spcaLA

December 17, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, Holidays, LA, Pets, Seasonal

spcaLA logoPreamble/Disclosure: There’s a subset of the fine folks who know I’ve been a scrivener for Blogging.la going way back to March 2004, who also know that back in 2011, despite all appearances of sanity, sensibility and advanced middle age, I committed to making a rather drastic career change in leaving behind a 20-odd year (emphasis on the word “odd’) career in journalism to become a humane law enforcement officer, more commonly known as an “animal cop.” Soon after that decision, I undertook what would become a lengthy, arduous and challenging process of training and preparation and hiring — I call it a “journey of a thousand hurdles” — that culminated this past summer when I was sworn in as a Level 1 Humane Officer working for, you guessed it: the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).

But enough about me. More importantly, I need to clear up an important misconception. You know those heart-wrenching ads that inundate your TV screens around this time of year, soundtracked by Sarah McG’s “Angel” and featuring some celeb (last year it was the guy from “Will & Grace”) guilting the hell out of you to donate NOWRIGHTNOW while a slideshow of horribly mistreated animals scrolls by? Yeah: that’s soooooo not spcaLA. That’s a whole different animal: That’s ASPCA, or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But Will, you ask, isn’t ASPCA the “parent” of spcaLA? Great question! Answer: Not in any way, shape or form. They are entirely individual and separate entities. It’s a common mistake people make believing that ASPCA is some sort of national umbrella under which all SPCAs in the country operate. But they don’t. Each and every SPCA is its own independent organization. The same goes with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They have absolutely nothing to do with, say, the Pasadena Humane Society.

But Will, you ask, why should that matter to me? Another valid query! As an Angeleno it should matter to you because at the end of one of those above-mentioned ASPCA ads that will be dominating the local year-end airwaves, when you rush to your computer or telephone, whip out your credit card and ship some money to their headquarters across the country in New York City, not a penny of it will benefit any of the animals in your own neighborhoods. Think of it like donating blood to your local hospital versus the American Red Cross. In both worthy cases, the precious resource will almost certainly go to someone who needs it, but the chances are exponentially greater that the blood you gave at, say, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will go to a child at that hospital. Donate locally, I say… which rhymes with spcaLA!

After the jump, a bit of history before we get to the fun part.

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Holiday Vomit Lights, An Appreciation

December 6, 2014 in Seasonal

xlights

Pictured above (appropriately snapped without care for composition or focus), is without question in my mind: The Worst Christmas Decoration In The City — and The Best. Sure, they’re everywhere, but this particular installation in the Pico-Union district of town is a shining and glorious example of what I affectionately call “vomit lights” because, well, look upon them. It’s as if someone straight-on upchucked ‘em (that or maybe this is how taggers do it during the Christmas season, with a spray of lights instead of paint).

Not only is this anarchic sub-style of seasonal illumination an affront to holiday decorating perfectionists everywhere, but I’m sure this silly string of twinklies goes against some sectional statute buried deep in the freakin’ Code Of Nature, itself — which are two reasons this display that I abhor also happens to be my favorite holiday lighting in the city. I hold them in the highest disregard. I love them unconditionally.

Full disclosure: Those perfection-minded decorators I mentioned above? Oh yeah, I’m soooo one of that legion. Every year when I climb up on the roof to risk serious bodily injury hanging up the lights at my house (always during the weekend after Thanksgiving  — always!), I’m faced with a design dilemma. See, the three strands of icicle lights that go along my 30-foot rain gutter measure 27 feet. Inevitably during my initial placement they end up off-center and I kid you not, I will literally take the ridiculous amount of time and further risk of falling off the roof required to physically move the lights one way and the other until there’s an almost equal 1.5 feet of unlighted rain gutter at either end. It’s called idiocy, I know. It’s also called symmetry, people. And I’m a slave to it.

After the jump you can see what I mean. Seriously, even the reindeer are mirroring each other. To some that’s a cry for help. To me, a call of duty. But I digress…

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Knock Three Times On The Ceiling If You Want Me

November 29, 2014 in Entertainment, Movies

Never mind that the manner in which the evil creature introduces itself brought to my mind a deliciously daaaaaaaaark reboot of Tony Orlando and Dawn’s 1970 hit, if your first reaction to hearing about the “The Babadook” is to dismiss it, I’d wholeheartedly recommend you reconsider this incredible indie flick, which proves filmmakers need not throw huge sums of money at the screen to generate genuine hair-raises.

It was a delightful horror treat; a perfect tension of psychological deterioration paired with an awesomely hell-raising and sinister spook who feeds off of the complex and increasingly strained relationship between mother Amelia (an incredible Essie Davis) and six-year-old son Samuel (a jaw-droppingly fantastic Noah Wiseman in his film debut). The twisted journey into madness is made all the more wonderful by the awesome talent of Jennifer Kent in her directorial debut.

Street Seen: L.A. Bus Stops Can Be The Loneliest Places

November 8, 2014 in Art, environment, LA, Mass Transit, Photography, Transportation

busstop

If Hal & Kermit Voted Back In 1968, So Can You This Tuesday!

November 2, 2014 in Events, News, Politics, Seasonal, Social issues

Hall & Kermit Go VoteHal Wescomb and Kermit Higgins lived at the Belmont, and had two other things in common. Both were divorced and both had taken bullets during the war — Hal to his right leg and Kerm to his left hip– necessitating the occasional use of canes, particularly on frosty mornings such as this one in early November of 1968 when they headed together out of the hotel south on Hill to catch the Angel’s Flight up to their polling place on what little now remained of Bunker Hill.

The two were great friends, but stood staunchly on opposite sides of Proposition 9, which sought to limit the property tax rate. In fact, if it wasn’t for their desire to cancel out the other’s vote, they might not have bothered to cast ballots that day.

Proposition 9 was defeated.

TRUTH IS: While the downtown location in the accompanying photo is real, I have no idea who those two fellows are and totally made up what they were doing after finding this photo (from the William Reagh Collection, California History Section, California State Library) in a wonderfully detailed post about the Hotel Belmont here at the On Bunker Hill blog. The year, 1968, is also legit, because I researched when Proposition 9 (shown second from the bottom of the campaign posters stacked on the left side of the image) was on the ballot. And yes it was voted down. The poster above Prop 9’s for Alex P. Garcia, who ran successfully for the 40th District seat in the State Assembly, is also worth mentioning. According to a feature on Latino political representation in state legislatures at the Latino LA Website:

In the 1966 elections, fifteen Chicanos ran for positions on the Assembly and all of them lost. Even, the one Latino incumbent Philip Soto lost his bid for re-election. Another nine Latinos ran for State Senate seats, and all of them lost as well. The result was that the California Legislature – once again – did not have a single Mexican-American in the Assembly or the Senate. Only the election of Alex Garcia to the 40th Assembly District in 1968 brought Latinos back to the California Legislature.

‪#‎TuesdayIsElectionDay‬ ‪#‎GoCancelOutAVote‬

Why Crashing Tomorrow’s Marathon On Your Bike Could Be The Least Awesome Thing You’ve Ever Done

March 8, 2014 in Biking in LA, Events, Law, Law Enforcement, News, Rants, Social issues, Sports

UPDATED (3/8 @ 12:16PM): Well would ya lookee here, this latest statement from Don Ward on the Wolfpack Hustle Facebook page indicates that while the race is off it looks like a scrambled-together permitted fun ride with the assistance of LAPD and the mayor’s office may be a go. I’m going to refrain from offering a wholesale “nevermind!” to my post below  and instead suggest “approach with caution” as the situation may still be in flux.

There is much anger over the cancellation by civic officials of tomorrow’s Marathon Crash Race bike ride. The event, which was hatched by my friend and tireless bike advocate Don “Roadblock” Ward the year after freshly minted L.A. Marathon owner Frank McCourt (‘memba him?) decided in his infinite dimwittedness in 2009 to kill the companion landmark bike event to the annual footrace held every year since 1995 apparently because he didn’t need the cash-cow like money generated by the entry fees paid by some 10,000 cyclists to freewheel at their leisure and pleasure along the race course at dawn each year.

I did it every year from its inception to its end. Here’s my timelapse of the final LA Bike Tour:

In its first couple/three years the Marathon Crash Race was a guerilla-style ride, steadily building its participation through word of mouth in the greater Southern California bike community and beyond. But its popularity fully kablammo’d! last year. Depending upon which story you read about it there was anywhere between 2,000 to 4,000 participants. Kray. Zay.

So for this year with the race threatening to be even bigger Don went to some pretty great pains to take the informal cooperation provided previously by LAPD, city and marathon officials, and make it formal. This past week, those officials collectively said “Oh HAIL nah!” leaving Ward dejected and many of those who planned to ride threatening to crash the the marathon and ride the route regardless.

If you’re one of those protesting threateners, here’s the thing to consider: The very public slaying of the Marathon Crash Race by the bureaucrats has been coupled to subsequent very real threats of prosecutorial action to be taken against any and all riders who take to the course in the aftermath of the cancellation. In addition those two elements are linked inseparably to the heightened security concerns brought to the fore by the Boston Marathon bombing last year.

Bottom line to any one in the wake of those facts who is still deciding so unwisely to ride the closed course, you should damn well budget and prepare for and accept the VERY REAL possibility of being stopped most impolitely WELL short of the finish line potentially to stand facing officers barking orders from behind guns/batons/tasers/pepper spray canisters prior to being separated roughly from your bikes and subsequently handcuffed and arrested, with pronation and dogpiling being part of the process. And quadruple the woe and injury that could befall those who ride wearing a damn backpack of any size. For that level of dumbo idiocy I am NOT even in the slightest kidding: it could be your funeral.

I am sad to have to posit such horrible possibilities and scenarios. In a way it means the terrorists have won. But heartbreak aside, from where I’ll be safely sitting, the time and energies that would be expended getting processed into jail, bailing oneself out, dealing with any injuries incurred and a lawyer and eventually facing a court proceeding and penalty would be better spent tapping those cancel-happy bureaucrats — and extraspecially Frank McCourt — on their collective noggins repeatedly until they either bruise or finally come up with the idea that resurrecting the LA Bike Tour might be a pretty decent compromise.

But maybe that’s just me.

As Easy As 2, 1, 3…

February 8, 2014 in East Side, History, LA, Maps, News, Rants, West Side

I’ve mulled over the news from earlier this week of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council declaring the community it serves as NOT a part of The Eastside.

I’d’ve thought I’d be all HELLYEAH! right outta the gate, given my past protestations (that’ve mellowed somewhat in my old age) against those over-insulated 135,938 natives and the 1.6-million transplants who live in the Westside and drink deeply of the koolaid that leaves them to believe with varying degrees of commitment that their vastly superior end of the city begins and ends on the ocean-side of…uh, you name it: Speedway Alley, Lincoln, Bundy, the 405, La Cienega, or La Brea, making the other end THEIR eastside for the simple reason that all that riff raff resides east of them. How proprietary.

But instead I surprised myself at being sort of meh at the strictly symbolic and mostly meaningless action. There certainly was a part of me that was satisfied and tried to rah rah at the decision — especially when I read subsequent news stories that took the idiotic angle that Silver Lake had voted to “secede.” As if it had gone all South Carolina on some sort of Greater Eastside union. How con-veeeeeen-ient!

But ultimately it was just a big shoulder shrug. Because I’ve figured out that it’s a waste of time. We live in a city that has built itself by marginalizing its past, so how can I expect so many of its citizens not do the same? In a city that itself has a history of discarding its history as it sprawled so ever nebulously outward from its core, convincing those residents adamantly ignorant of our city’s socio-geographic foundations to look at a different perspective is about as easy as convincing those entitled aggressive motorists they don’t have a right to run me and my bike off the road.

Ultimately what’s important to me now is not changing anyone’s mind but knowing what I know and respecting what so many others couldn’t care less about: that I reside (somewhere in that orange dot I added to that pictured map fragment above) on the land that ultimately became known as Silver Lake which stands in the northWEST corner of the boundaries of the original 16 Spanish Leagues centered upon the plaza where in 1781 — when the main thing going on in the Westside was waves crashing — was established El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula and incorporated as the City of Los Angeles in 1850.

To me, that’s as easy as 2, 1, 3.