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

11:49 am in Biking in LA, Events, Law, Law Enforcement, News, Rants, Social issues, Sports by Will Campbell

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.

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As Easy As 2, 1, 3…

10:32 am in East Side, History, LA, Maps, News, Rants, West Side by Will Campbell

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.

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A Far-From-Trivial Tale Of Two Bike Commute Fragments

2:02 pm in Biking in LA by Will Campbell

This may seem meaningless to most of you who travel in fossil-fueled and four-wheeled conveyances, but for those of you who bike this city with any kind of regularity, I trust you can recognize how awesome it is when you discover a better route of travel no matter how long or how short it is — especially if it’s been there practically under your tires all along. The only thing better than discovering such trajectories is sharing them with the one or two cyclists out there, who, like me, didn’t already know the new route already. So here it is:

For years and years and years, to pedal the relative shorthop from Beverly Boulevard to Hoover Street I’ve traversed the route shown on the right (click it for the bigger picture) that mainly utilizes Commonwealth Avenue. It is problematic for four reasons:

1) The ridiculously deteriorated asphalt on the Bureau of Street Services-forsaken stretch of 2nd Street between Hoover and Commonwealth, which probably rivals the infamous rugged terrain that can be found on the famed Paris-Roubaix race.
2) That’s then matched by the crappy roadway extending from 6th Street to Wilshire.
3) Between 6th and Wilshire in the morning you also have to deal with an epidemic of craptastic double parking as people load and unload passengers, most of whom are bound for the nearby court building.
4) The reeeeeeaaaally long wait on Commonwealth at Wilshire for a green light.

So yesterday, now that I’m back in the fully employed saddle again, and getting off the a good start towards keeping my New Year’s resolution to bike more miles than I drive, I was riding south on Vendome approaching Beverly, but instead of going straight across as I’ve done for so long, I decided to go left and see what it would be like getting to Hoover from there via an alternate route.

As shown in the second image at left, I turned right from Beverly onto LaFayette Park Place and not only does it get me to where I want to be with less turns and twists, but it’s also less congested, wider, and the pavement is billiard-slate smooth. And while the green light to cross Wilshire is probably as long as the one mentioned in No. 4 above at Commonwealth, I can at least turn my less-stressed head to my right and say good morning to the statue of the Marquis de LaFayette standing in the corner of the park that’s named after the hero of the American Revolution.

Once across Wilshire, it’s a left turn onto Hoover and I’m on my way, left only to wonder how and why it took me so long to figure out this better way to go.

 

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Daytripping: Southwest Museum & Debs Park

10:36 am in Art, Entertainment, Events, LA by Will Campbell

With the relatively unheralded news last month that the Autry National Center of the American West was opening up the Southwest Museum to the public for the first time in years to showcase an exhibition of Native American pottery, it was only a matter of time before my wife Susan and I paid a long-overdue inaugural visit to the treasure that is the oldest established museum in all of Los Angeles.

Inside the museum’s Sprague Auditorium was an incredible collection of clay vessels, some dating back more than 400 years — trouble was that was pretty much it. Beyond access to the down-on-its-roots garden, and a small display situated basically beneath the main staircase, our visit to the landmark establishment was way too brief because there was nothing else to see. Still, I’m glad we made the trip for the same reason you should: to show the folks at the Autry that the Southwest Museum and its unparalleled collection of Native American artifacts should be made more accessible, not less.

With time on our hands and some calories to burn in preparation for a visit to Oinkster in Eagle Rock, Susan and I ventured across the Arroyo Seco to the nearby Audubon Center in Ernest Debs Park — another first time visit. From there we ventured up trails to the serene and scenic pond atop the park, where even with Saturday’s unsettled weather conditions limiting the clarity we marveled at the extraordinary views afforded us of downtown and beyond.

If you’re like me and have never been to either place, both make for a great Saturday daytrip (Oinkster optional though also highly recommended). Pics from ours are viewable here on Flickr, and information about the exhibit is below:

Exhibit: Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery
Where: Southwest Museum of the American Indian, 234 Museum Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90065
When: Saturdays only, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Admission: Free

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Sixty-Five More Los Angeles Placenames In Search Of Their Origins

2:31 pm in East Side, History, Hollywood, LA, Long Beach, San Gabriel Valley, SoCal, South Bay, The Valley, West Side by Will Campbell

Inspired by Militant Angeleno’s awesome “88 Suburbs In Search Of Their Names” post from last week and equipped with the indispensable “1500 California Place Names” by William Bright, I decided to crack the latter open and see if I couldn’t add to the former’s impressive list of suburbs ‘n stuff. Turns out I could. Some are almost too obvious or well known to mention (Century City? Duh) and some are about as obscure as it gets (Lamanda Park?), but I mention them anyway — and there are a few that are pretty cool (check out the the 220-year-old typo that is Point Dume and the darkness that lurks behind the meaning of “Verdugo”).

So without further to-do, here’s my 65 supplemental places (64 in Los Angeles County and a 471-year-old one just up PCH in Ventura County). Enjoy!

Angeles National Forest: So named in 1908 because the larger part of the forest is within Los Angeles County.

Antelope Valley: Named not for a true antelope, but for the pronghorn (pictured) — the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere — which was once abundant in the state.

Ballona Creek: From the Ballona land grant of 1839; probably a misspelling of Bayona, the name of a town in Spain.

Bel-Air: Named for its developer, Alphonso Bell, in 1923, on the model of French bel air, meaning “fresh air.”

Bouquet Canyon: A misinterpretation of Spanish El Buque, “the ship,” the nickname of a French sailor who settled there.

Brentwood: Named after Brentwood in Essex, England, the ancestral home landowner John Marsh.

Cahuenga Pass: From the Gabrielino village name kawé’nga, probably meaning “at the mountain.”

Canoga Park: Named in the 1890s after Canoga, New York, which was originally a Cayuga (Iroquoian) village.

Castaic: From Ventureño Chumas kashtiq, “the eye, the face”.

Centinela Creek: From the Spanish word for “sentry, sentinel.”

Century City: Named for 20th Century Fox film studios, on the site of which it was built, starting in 1961.

Chatsworth: Named in 1887 after the estate of the Duke of Devonshire in England.

Chilao: Formerly Chileo or Chilleo, a nickname of the herder Jose Gonzales, famous for killing a grizzly bear near here with only a hunting knife. Chil- what? Yeah, me too. It’s primarily a campground area waaay up in the Angeles National Forest.
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Awesome Automobilia: The Nethercutt Collection & Museum

5:20 pm in Art, Entertainment, History, The Valley by Will Campbell

I’ve still not been to the reported Miracle Mile motor mecca that is the Petersen Museum — but at least I’ve known about it!

The same cannot be said for the vehicular valhalla otherwise known as The Nethercutt out in Sylmar. Up until a couple weeks ago that institution had somehow avoided me knowing about it my entire life — and it still would be unknown to me had Huell Howser himself not reached out from beyond the grave and told me about it (in the form of an old “Visiting” episode on KCET, but still). Bless you and thank you, Huell!

Wasting no time at all while marveling at all the shiny automobilia Huell was amongst, I wasted no time in googling up the Nethercutt’s website and making a reservation for a guided tour — and get this: it’s free.

Now I know… I know. You’re wondering what kind of catalytic converter have I been living under all my life!? You’ve been there six times, and are going back next week to check out the recently added 1956 Porsche! Well I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to to that apparently small minority of angelenos  who, like me, have absolutely  no clue. And to them I’m saying that for the love of all engines internally combusted, if you have even get the slightest wide-eyed when any kind of  classic car rolls past you on the street, then you’ve got to get yourself out to Sylmar and prepare for your jaw to drop at all the mechanized majesty. Many, many times.

Seriously, if you have any type of appreciation for the history and design and evolution of Ye Olde Horseless Carriage, you’ve got to go and check out this unparalleled and extensive array of meticulously restored vehicles. As I said, the collection is free, but tour reservations are required). So click here to check out my Flickr set of images (thumbnailed above) from my visit last Saturday, and then make plans to go get yer car on and get upclose and personal with these magnificent mobile works of fine art.

WHAT: The Nethercutt Collection
WHERE: 15200 Bledsoe Street, Sylmar, CA 91342
WHEN: Guided tours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10a.m. or 1:30p.m. (Reservations are required)
WEB: www.nethercuttcollection.org
NOTE: Directly across the street from the Nethercutt Collection is the Nethercutt Museum, housing a separate and more extensive group of vehicles. That’s open Tuesday – Saturday, 9a.m. – 4:30 p.m. It’s also free, but no reservation is required.

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Moving Waters

9:41 am in Entertainment, environment, Events, News, Seasonal, Sports by Will Campbell

As part of a pilot program this summer, a section of the long-lost Los Angeles River coursing through Elysian Valley was reopened to the public for use as a recreational resource, an opportunity angelenos have not had since the 1930s when the river’s channelization was begun to prevent flooding.

As a boy I accidentally discovered the river, and from that single experience I have never stopped being enamored with and zealously protective of what so many others have dismissed as our city’s woeful waterway — little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though I’ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day I’d see such a sea change in perception so that  the river would made accessible and embraced not as a prohibited place but as public parkland to be explored and experienced and as something to connect with after so long a disconnect.

River route as seen via Google Earth. Click the image for the bigger picture.

River route as seen via Google Earth. Click the image for the bigger picture.

So for me, thanks to L.A. River Expeditions (Facebook), to be among the first wave during this historic first season and doing what you see in these clips at the top and after the jump: putting a kayak into its waters and putting my butt into that kayak and paddling — however awkwardly — downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, it’s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.

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Putting The Anger In “Ranger”

12:37 pm in Entertainment, Filmmaking/Filmmakers, Movies, Rants by Will Campbell

Being an adorer of the western film genre as a whole, I was all set to put aside my misgivings about the Disneyfied Pirates-of-the-Caribbeanification of “The Lone Ranger” and go see it.

But now I won’t, thanks to a TV spot for the movie that made me yell “Whoaaaaa!” Specifically, it was the split second within the commercial that changed my mind so drastic and definitively when Johnny Depp’s Tonto — basically a more stone-faced Native American version of Cap’n Jack Sparrow — turns to the camera just as he’s about to be yanked hard off the top of a speeding train.

As his overly maked-up and crow-covered head swing around toward the lens, I see what’s coming next and futilely yell “Don’t do it!” out loud not at the TV so much as at the director, at the screenwriters, at the producers, at the marketers, at the studio, and of course at Depp… But to no avail he does it anyway. Does what? He cheap-ass smirks at the audience, like so (click to biggify):

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Rest In Peace, Mr. Cataldis

7:02 am in Obituaries, People by Will Campbell

You don’t know him, but please indulge me in a few moments of reflection here for my neighbor, Mr. Cataldis, and allow me a circle of love drawn for and around his wife, children, family, and friends.

Home is so often little more than temporary here in transient Los Angeles, where the earth and its people move with such ceaseless regularity. In such a region of motion and shallow roots, home is more conceptual than concrete. And that’s what makes his story so unique in this city.

Mr. Cataldis was raised in a lovely 104-year-old craftsman bungalow down the block from me (pictured), then owned by his father — perhaps he was even born there. Drawn back to his childhood home as an adult, he purchased it, raised his children in it, and lived in it his entire life, which came to an end yesterday.

For the fixture he was, it’ll be sad when I pass by now and don’t see him sitting comfortable and proud out there on the porch with his wife. But as a native angeleno who’s had no less than 16 addresses in my far shorter existence, I’ll remember him as someone who proved that one can plant deep roots in these shifting soils and have them hold strong.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cataldis.

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For The Sake Of The Lake

11:35 am in Events, LA, News by Will Campbell

The return of Echo Park Lake to the people this past weekend after an almost two-year closure for renovation, was both a highly anticipated event for those in the surrounding communities, and big enough to warrant coverage by a lot of the local media outlets.

Me? I stayed the heck away on Saturday, opting instead to visit on the far less-hectic day after, with the crowds far less madding and the number of pontificating politicians reduced to zero.

What a beautiful old new place it is. An absolute jewel. My favorite sight? This specimen (click it for the bigger picture):

It did my heart good to see the lotuses once again thriving in the north lagoon.

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LA Taco Blog Puts The “Urge” In Burger

12:00 pm in Food & Drink, South Bay by Will Campbell

LA Taco Blog is one of my must-reads. I’m WAY out of its demographic, practically none of its topics are written with anyone of my middle-class unhip ilk in mind, and it covers people, events, things in areas of the greater LA/SoCal region I rarely if ever visit, but I enjoy the hell out of it anyway. It’s like sitting in the back of a clubhouse fulla koolkidz who don’t care you’re there while they talk shop and share shit.

So it was that on a recent click over to their site last month, I found a post extolling the virtues of an eatery called Corner Burger, which is so named because it sits on a street corner on 147th Street a block west of a street called Hawthorne Boulevard. In a city called Lawndale. Which is all a big “Huh?” to me.  You have to understand: up until I googled the place’s address, I had no idea where Lawndale was. A native angeleno and I had not a clue. That’s the way it was and is for me and much that region. I just don’t get out there (unless crawling along the 405 around the South Bay Curve counts — and it doesn’t).

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Gimme A Sign: “Every Lane Is A Bike Lane”

1:34 pm in Biking in LA, News, Transportation by Will Campbell

Every time I see the lovely new “Every Lane Is A Bike Lane” signage from Metro, be it up on a billboard (such as the one atop Silver Lake Lounge seen between my handlebars across the street during a bike ride yesterday) or on the back of a bus, I appreciate it as a DIRECT SLAP IN THE FACE of every single sorry-ass entitled excuse for a motorist over the years who dared think they could bully me off the road with either:

A) Feckless words or reckless deeds

or

B) The lack of an IQ enough to know I have every right to be there.

Touché douchés.

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This Is The Hollenbeck Burrito

9:11 am in East Side, Food & Drink, LA, News, People by Will Campbell

The quarter seen next to the plate is for scale. The Hollenbeck Burrito is the creation of a singular master by the name of Manuel Rojas who owned the famed Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Cafe in Boyle Heights. But the Hollenbeck is hardly the largest burrito he makes — or I should say made, since sad news came yesterday that Señor Rojas has died at the age of 79 after a half-century of  serving them up.

That distinction belongs to any variety of Manuel’s Special burritos, each of which roughly calculates out to being about 250 cubic inches of gut-busting deliciousness (here’s an example with the unknown patron exhibiting the appropriate level of shock and awe). Simply laying my eyes on such massiveness the one and only time I ordered a Manuel’s Special was almost enough to stave off my worst hunger pangs. Since then, it’s been Hollenbecks for me and they’re pleeeeeenty! But if the previously mentioned dimensional quantification is hard to wrap your head around, try this alternative: it weighs in at five pounds.

I’m having trouble wrapping my head around Rojas no longer overseeing the construction of his classics, but I take solace that they live on, and I will most certainly be paying a visit in the near future to honor him by digging into one — and taking the inevitable leftovers home.

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Take A Hike To An Unsung POV

9:05 am in Biking in LA, Sports, The Valley by Will Campbell

I’m one of 17 hiking and mountainbiking members of the newly formed Trail Safety Patrol volunteer program implemented by Glendale whose mission beginning early next year is to serve as ambassadors for the city’s Community Services & Parks Department and work in conjunction with Glendale police and fire in providing for and promoting an enjoyable experience for all visitors to its open spaces.

Though I’ve been riding in the Verdugos for all 22-years of the mountaingbiking portion of my life, there are trails in the adjacent San Rafael Hills we’ve been tasked to patrol I’ve never put tire tread to and I’m familiarizing myself with them in advance of our start date. Two weekends ago I rolled the Ridge Motorway, and last Sunday found me on the Valle Vista Motorway located on the ridge between the 134 Freeway an Glenoaks Canyon. I want to highly recommend both if they were as previously unknown to you as they were to me. But of the two, the latter offers the most awesome visual award.

Here’s the flat version of a 360-degree panorama I took of the scenery and of my fellow mountainbiking patrolers from the trail’s western overlook above the 2/134 interchange (biggification enabled when clicked).

A rotating, interactive version of the pano image is viewable here.

The trail (route mapped here) is accessible from the upper end of Sleepy Hollow Drive off of Glenoaks Boulevard. At less than one-mile in length, the payoff found at the end far exceeds the output required to get to it, although there are some steeply graded sections of the fire road to scale as it rolls along.

 

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Pondering The Transponder: Sell Your Soul, Pay The Toll

8:40 am in Driving, LA, News, Politics, Rants, Technology, Transportation by Will Campbell

Following Frazgo’s November 9 post announcing the somewhat chagrin-filled arrival of toll lanes that have now turned a stretch of the 110 Freeway (and soon part of the 10 Freeway) into a Costway, I whatthehell’d it and decided to drink the koolaid and go get myself outfitted with one of the required tracking devices so my vehicular movements and non-movements could be monitored by 24/7 by the MTA and Caltrans, AAA via a combination of roadway implant receivers and suborbital satellites. Oops! Sorry!! My inherent schizoid-based distrust of any transmitters forced upon us by the government is showing. Let me zip that up. What I really meant to call the technology was “The completely harmless and entirely loveable Metro Expresslane FasTrak Transponder.”

Anyway, it’s not like I really need one. I’m rarely on the 110 and even rarer in its HOV lanes so my initial reaction was basically “fuck that bullshit” followed by about eight exclamation points.

Then my resolve weakened when the doomsday scenario occurred to me that there might come that anxiety-ridden day when I’m stuck southbound on the gridlocked Harbor coming through Exposition Park, 149 hopeless minutes away from a flight at LAX that’s leaving in 91 minutes. At that moment somewhere in a bunker deeeeeeeep under the city an MTA operative monitoring my biometric activity being sent via the chip embedded in the TAP card in my wallet smiled and told a failsafe colleague “We’ve almost got another one!”

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