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October 23, 2010 in Events, FEATURED, Fictional LA, Halloween, History, Holidays, LA

Halloween is serious business in this town. It seems to be a sort of sub-industry: when I first moved to LA, I was completely taken aback by the sheer number of one stop Halloween shops that seem pop up around the city at this time of year. Who knew that there was such a huge market for plastic pumpkins, animatronic talking skeletons, and Sexy Donut costumes? Who knew indeed. And LA has its fair share of scary stories – from the Black Dahlia to Lizard People and everything in between – making it a particularly evocative place to be for the spookiest holiday of the year.

As the end of October approaches, we’re hotly anticipating that time when the heady aroma of smashed jackolanterns will once more waft through the air. So check in with us over the next week and a half as we bring you a variety of perspectives on navigating Halloween in Los Angeles – from LA’s spookiest places, to ghostly events, to more Lizard People coverage than you ever thought you’d need (and believe me, you do actually need it). Bookmark this post, because I’ll be keeping an archive of all our Halloween posts. And please comment below and let us know about your favorite scary sights, haunted houses and local Halloween festivities!

The Creepy Beneath Our Feet:  Kevin’s ongoing expose on the Secret Lives of Lizard People (and possibly the greatest run of posts this site has ever known)

LA’s Lizard People

The Patron Saint of the Lizard People

The City with Scaly Shoulders

Lizard People and the Bigger Picture

Passages to the Underworld

Lizards in Disguise

The Real (and Not Actually Creepy Thing

And because all good things must, sadly, end, the Wrap-Up.

Other, less lizard-oriented Halloween posts:

Navigating street closures at the West Hollywood Costume Carnival

Seriously Corny

Hide Your Silly String Tonight

Halloween Wardrobe Mal-Function

Sunshine Gothic

Archiving Angeles (AA): The Town Square

October 22, 2010 in FEATURED, History

Crowds of patriotic Angelenos gather to buy war bonds, watch the beauty pageant, and see a B-25 bomber up close.

It was Pershing Square in Los Angeles. The year was 1942.

Photo from the Los Angeles Public Library

The Creepy Beneath Your Feet: The Patron Saint of the Lizard People

October 21, 2010 in FEATURED, LA

I could write for days about G. Warren Shufelt.

Imagine if you crossed Doc Brown from Back to the Future with the gadget guy from Wild Wild West and threw in a little Joseph Smith and Edgar Cayce for good measure. You’d get G. Warren Shufelt.

Shufelt was the guy who, along with his colleages Rex McCreery and Ray Martin, first brought America’s attention to the Lizard People in the 1930s. A mining engineer from Arizona, Shufelt was approached by McCreery and Martin to excavate a portion of Fort Moore Hill (just to the north of the Chinatown dragons on Broadway). City Hall allowed them to do this, because — and this is where you might want to warn your desk that it’s about to get smacked by your forehead — the three men claimed that the Lizard People had a huge stash of gold, and they would split whatever they found with the city.

Here’s how they did it: McCreery and Martin had an ancient and yellowed map of the Great Lizard City that lies beneath Los Angeles. They didn’t say where they got it. The ancient underground city of the Lizard People, they claimed, was shaped like a lizard, much like Seattle is shaped like a pretentious hipster. (But wait: This is only one version of the story. In another version, Shufelt got the map from a guy named “Little Chief Greenleaf,” whose authority no doubt derived from his cool rhyming name. But we’ll talk about him in another post.) For his part, Shufelt had invented a device that, when exposed to a given material, like gold, could detect deposits of that material underground. Armed with these flawless and well-calibrated scientific tools, the trio approached City Hall in March of 1933 with an ironclad argument for digging up a substantial portion of the landscape.

“We have a specialized device that can find caves full of Lizard treasure,” Shufelt told City Hall. “And a map. It’s all very scientific. You just have to attune the apparatus to the specific vibrational frequency of the Lizard gold. We’ll give the city half of everything we find!”

“Sure, whatever,” said City Hall. “Just clean up after.”

For days, Shufelt dug into the side of Fort Moore hill in search of delicious reptilian gold. Of course, they found nothing; somehow, the Lizard People were too crafty to be found by a trio of crackpots and their pseudoscientific machine. By September, the crew had given up hope of ever finding anything.

More tomorrow on the Lizard City itself.

London Calling

October 20, 2010 in Books, FEATURED

Rodger Jacobs is a friend of mine. Up until several years ago he lived in Los Angeles blogging at 8763 Wonderland and commenting pretty regularly here at Then he moved up to San Francisco. After that, Vegas baby where his bloggings can now be found at Bat Country.

It’s been a trip — and mostly not a pleasant one to understate things. A couple months ago he climbed into the Las Vegas Sun and showed everyone how bad things had gotten, and in having that remarkable courage to do so inadvertently proved beyond a troll-stuffed shadow of a doubt that Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Dubois was full of shit. Kindness of strangers, my ass. Fuck ‘em — especially those who commented so vindictively and judgmentally. Line every single self-important hating motherfucking one of ‘em up with me wearing the latest in the Gorton’s Fisherman Fall Line of slickers and a baseball bat. Sa-wing batta!

But I both digress and now can never run for public office without that psycho quote coming back to haunt me. Ohgeedarn.

Behaving far more proactively and nonfeloniously, I did what I could to help keep him in cigarettes for a few days. Beyond that I’ve been sending a shitload of positive-affirming vibes in the direction of Sin City.

So what? Well, bear with me. I prefaced this post with all that because in the midst of all the crap he’s endured and enduring, there’s an incredible new book out that Rodger wrote the preface to called Jack London — San Francisco Stories, edited by Matthew Asprey from Sydney Samizdat Press. Since Rodger gets a little sumpin’ sumpin’ with every copy sold, I bought two. And since I don’t read in stereo I’m giving my spare copy away. I thought about auctioning it off on eBay with the proceeds going to Rodger, or just donating it to my local library branch and encouraging you good people to buy a copy, but in the end I went in between those two options and added it to my Neighborgoods inventory. So if one of you good people want it, be the first to request it. We can either arrange a hand-off or I’ll put it in the mail to you. Simple dimple.

The Creepy Beneath Your Feet: LA’s Lizard People

October 20, 2010 in FEATURED, LA

The first thing you need to know about the Lizard People is that they live under Los Angeles. Or, they did, at one time. Or maybe they live in space. I don’t really know. Actually, the second thing you need to know about the Lizard People is that, like most other paranormal New Age ephemera, every single scrap of information about them seems to contradict every other scrap of information about them. And whenever you try to read about them, your head starts to swim, like when you’re listening to the crazy guy on the bus, or the IT guy in your office who still wears his GOOGLE RON PAUL shirt.

Let’s back up a bit.

You may have heard about it, you may not have: There’s an old urban legend about humanoid reptiles living in caverns beneath Los Angeles. They do all the things that humans do — walk upright, use written language, change the station during NPR fund drives — but they’re lizards. Depending on which version you’re hearing, they either lived here long ago or they still live here now.

But the difference between this urban legend and most other urban legend is that there are still a whole bunch of people who think the Lizard People are real. Seriously; the web is lousy with them. While there’s nobody who fervently believes there’s a prison escapee out there whose prosthetic hook still dangles sadly from the car door handle belonging to some hapless, cockblocked varsity cornerback, the Lizard People have legions of devotees. Seriously. The internet is lousy with them. Look it up.

Of course, very little of the information on the Lizard People makes any sense. Some people believe they lived on Earth long before humans, in a lizard-shaped city in a cave under Los Angeles. Others believe they live in space and are waiting for the right moment to take over our planet and turn us all into livestock. Some believe they’re basically good guys; others believe they’re evil. Many people believe all of these things, simultaneously.

So I’m going to try to clear it up for everyone. In celebration of Halloween, I’ll be posting a little bit of Lizard Lore every day from now until the end of the month. There’s no shortage of information out there; the hardest part will be for me to choose what to write about. But by the end of October, I promise you, we’ll all be a little wiser.

Or, more likely, a little stupider.

Cartographical Fantastication

October 20, 2010 in Books, Entertainment, FEATURED, History

In any of my many urban explorations and travels over my native city I’m that guy: the one who always stops and marvels upon discovery of a broken patch of asphalt that reveals a strata of brick roadway beneath it. The one who sees a bit of exposed trolley car track and sighs. I ride Angel’s Flight with my eyes closed. I stand at Los Angeles Plaza looking across the street and back through time when instead of a parking lot and freeway onramp stood a literal den of inequity and ill repute in the form of an alleyway called Calle de los Negros.

As a reveler in what lies beneath and a craver of historical context, all I had to do was see the cover and read the title of the new book by Glen Creason — the map librarian for the LA Public Library — and my response was Pavlovian. Seriously: one moment last month I was flipping through the current issue of Los Angeles magazine and there it was. Next thing I knew I was on Amazon pre-ordering it. I may or may not have been drooling.

Los Angeles in Maps, published by Rizzoli, arrived yesterday — all glorious 192 maptastic pages of it beginning with what’s believed to be the first published rendering of the area (1853) all the way up to a 2010 LA Times neighborhoods map.

I’ll spare you the OMG as you’ve either already clicked off to go get your own, or such awesomeness is just not as awesome to you as, say, free tix to Mudjunkeez at Spaceland or That Is Not Them That Is Us at Echoplex. But if you’re still here and need more input, allow me to direct you to LA Creek Freak, CicLAvia co-organizer and all-around incredible dude Joe Linton (a contributor to the book), who wrote about it here.

As an aside, the Library Foundation is hosting “Los Angeles in Maps: A Multimedia Journey” at the Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium October 28, featuring Creason and author D.J. Waldie. It’s probably standing room only and they’re not accepting any additional reservations online, but I’ll be damned if that’s going to stop me from trying to get in.

The greatest hamburger in LA (maybe)

October 19, 2010 in FEATURED, Food & Drink

It is possible (I say this with much trepidation as I am sure this pronouncement will be met with much naysaying) that I have finally found LA’s greatest hamburger. It is possible that the greatest hamburger in Los Angeles can be found at Howard’s Famous Bacon and Avocado Burgers, at Venice and Sepulveda.

This is not a fancy burger. Apart from the eponymous bacon and avocado, this is a burger with absolutely no frills. But do you know what? Some days all I want is some ridiculous burger topped with three different varieties of artisinal smoked provolone, a balsamic reduction, pineapple-mango salsa, micro-greens and unicorn saliva. And some days I only have five dollars and I just want a burger, dammit.

And those are the days when Howard’s is it. The blinding, blinking sign is like a beacon in the smog; the orange and turquoise interior is decorated with faded, curling movie posters from the 1940s; and the burger is probably perfect. The bun is toasty and lovely, the patty is juicy and delicious, the bacon is crispy, the avocado is perfectly ripe, and the cheese, well, the cheese is orange.  And all is right with the world.  This is possibly the closest I’ve come to my ideal, platonic cheeseburger.

Ok, now tell me:  where’s your favorite burger in LA?

Howard’s Famous Bacon and Avocado Burgers
11127 Venice Blvd Ste 7
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 838-9111

Profile photo of Burns!

by Burns!

Plane Spotting: October Edition

October 19, 2010 in FEATURED, Transportation, West Side

For those that are interested in such things, you’ll have another opportunity to catch a glimpse of Air Force One later this week. The President will be paying a visit to the City Of Angels on Friday.

As I’ve written here before, most people have seen a 747. Hell, you almost can’t miss them if you’re anywhere near Sepulveda and the 105. This is probably the most famous 747, though, and it is truly an impressive sight. Especially impressive when you consider all of the other aircraft, staff, and logistics that have to be coordinated every time it takes flight.

Air Force One is scheduled to land at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning at 11:20am. A good spot to watch it descend toward the runway is the lawn at In-N-Out on Sepulveda. That’s just a fly-over spot, though, so if you want to get a longer look, I’d recommend somewhere down near the other end of the runway. The last time I was there for an AFO arrival, I noticed quite a few people getting a bird’s eye view from West Imperial Avenue (above Imperial Highway; map here.) If you hit this spot, take binoculars. You’ll be at the closest viewing area to AFO’s parking space, but it’s still a fair distance away (see map.)

Something to keep in mind: Air Force One is scheduled to arrive at 11:20am. The last time this plane came to town, it actually landed 40 minutes ahead of schedule. If you’re going to watch it land, plan ahead and get there a little early.

Also, anyone remember the traffic nightmare caused by the President moving about the city in August? Ugh! Keep an eye/ear out for street closures on Friday afternoon and evening.

Rescue Train’s Race For The Rescues Event Sunday Oct. 24

October 18, 2010 in FEATURED, Pets

Are you a Gleek and a pet lover? Then this event is for you!*

The Rescue Train is holding its 5th annual Race for the Rescues event this Sunday, October 24 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The day will include a 5k, 10k and kids fun run along with lots of entertainment along the way. The proceeds benefit 10 non-profit pet rescue organizations in LA. There will be a huge silent auction, face painting for the kids and lots of pet shopping to dress up your four legged friend in time for Halloween. And if you were looking to adopt a new four legged friend, there will be dog and cat adoptions all day through the LA Animal Services and Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA.

And  your celebrity hosts for the event? Jane Lynch from Glee along with Carrie Ann Inaba from “Dancing With The Stars” and Danielle Fishel from the Style Network’s “The Dish.” Get your Gleek on!

Registration starts at 7am with races starting at 8:30. All events will wind down around 1pm. For a full schedule of events and to sponsor racers or make general donations to The Rescue Train, click here.  For more general info on The Rescue Train, please click here.

*I’m looking at you, author Queequeg!

Art Supplied at Santa Monica Airport

October 18, 2010 in Art, Crafts, Events, FEATURED, West Side

Santa Monica Art Studios, housed in a former airplane hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, opened its doors this past weekend for the 6th Annual Open Studios event.  I have been to several of the six yearly events, ostensibly to support one of the artists in residence, my old friend Rachel Grynberg.  But each year I really enjoy the variety of works on display, and the ability to meet the artists and their representatives.  This year’s event did not disappoint.

The hangar, including a front space (the “Arena 1 Gallery“), a couple of hallways, and over 30 studios, was lined with artwork that ranged from a giant Clint Eastwood-clad Barilla spaghetti box to paintings, prints, photos, and much more.  The Arena 1 space was occupied with a show entitled F-Utility (with a dot, not a dash), curated by artist Oona Gardner and displaying a number of pieces and images from a variety of artists, including Julie Schustack, Mark Moskovitz, and Matt Monroe.  Moskovitz’ You Are Here series of digital prints was a result of something that would be right at home on the Cleveland-area artist took an east-west run from the Highland Park area to the Santa Monica Pier and back — over 30 miles — and took snapshots of what he saw along the way.

Monroe’s Frontier also picked up the travel theme, but in a different way.  His piece — the most noticeable of the entire event — was a full-size covered wagon made from plastic IKEA items, including shower curtains, baseball bats, ice trays, and toy guns.  Imagine how America would have been different if the pioneers had been able to stock up at IKEA before their trek westward, and neatly store their items in large plastic tubs.

I also had an interesting conversation with Andrea Lithgow, artist and proprietor of the Dandy Jewelry mini-shop arranged on a couple of tables at the back of the hangar.  Andrea makes and sells beautiful glazed ceramic jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, and more. Her pieces are hand-made yet “mass produced”: even though many pieces were similar looking, no two were identical.

Whether you want to contemplate art vs. commerce, are in the mood to buy some fascinating pieces (reasonably priced, compared to what I have seen at other art events), or just gaze at the glaze, Santa Monica Art Studios should be on your list.  The Arena 1 F-Utility show in particular will continue at the Studios through November 20.

Ferrying One’s Way to Artisanal LA This Weekend

October 18, 2010 in FEATURED, Food & Drink, LA

Most of the things I miss about the Bay Area has a decent, if not better, substitute here.  For example, when my body addict-aches from lack of Cheeseboard Pizza, I head over to Pizzeria Mozza for something comparable (before the food bloggerati riots, my emphasis is on comparable).  There is, however, a void: snobbery aside, I miss the Ferry Building, or, at least, the idea of the Ferry Building.  You could go there on any given day and pick up jams, fresh bread, and chocolate for your mom, all in one place.  You also could attend the occassional class on sausage or pasta making.  LA does not have anything quite similar; Santa Monica Place promises The Market, a spot where local vendors can show off their fancy gourmet wares … starting in early 2011 (at best).  Artisanal LA, set for October 23rd and 24th at the Cooper Building downtown, will fill the gap nicely.

Organized by Shawna Dawson, one-half of the team that organized Unique LA and the LA Street Food Fest, Artisanal LA promises a food truckload of events: demos (new butchers Lindy & Grundy will show off their knife skills during a “heritage meats and home butchering” demo); workshops (i.e., urban farming); and copious sampling (food and beer and vodka and did I mention beer and vodka?).  In addition, there will be 75 (and counting) local tastemakers offering their locally made food (among others, Homegirl Cafe, Backwards Bee Keepers, and the awesomely named That’s a Nice! Italian foods).

Advance tickets to Artisanal LA are $10 (partial proceeds will benefit the LAUSC Edible School Gardens which, to give credit where it’s due, has Alice Waters to thank).  On the day-of, tickets will be $15 at the door (assuming there is room capacity).  One ticket gets you in the whole weekend, so in case you are so busy eating/shopping/both on Saturday, you’ll have a second chance to have another go at it on Sunday.  I know, whew.

Life Before License

October 12, 2010 in Biking in LA, FEATURED, Law

32% of all collisions in Los Angeles are hit and run, and the penalties for getting caught really don’t discourage this. Recently Celine Mahdavi, the women who clobbered Louis Deliz into 49 days of hospitalization and likely a lifetime a pain and suffering, then fled the scene, was given no jail time, no suspension of license, only 90 days of community service. This is insane. If you you someone with your car and then drive away leaving them for dead, at the very least your license should be pulled. The folks over at Bikeside are initiating the “Life Before License” campaign to fix the law and put some value back on human life. They are proposing the following:

-A hit and run which results in fatality will result in the loss of driving privileges for 10 years.
-A hit and run which results in permanent disability, or causes a life threatening injury will result in the loss of driving privileges for 5 years.
-A hit and run which results in injury, but which does not lead to permanent disability or a life threatening injury, will result in the loss of driving privileges for 2 years.
-A hit and run which results in the damage of property only will result in the loss of driving privileges for 1 year.

But more than just proposing, they are actually trying to make this happen. On Sunday, 10/17, at the Hollywood Adventist Church at 1711 N. Van Ness Ave from 1pm to 3pm there will be an organizational meeting to plan and assign next steps. This is important and it’s worth your attention.

Pocket Parks: Schader Park

October 12, 2010 in environment, FEATURED, LA, Maps

You know those tiny pockets inside your regular front jeans pocket? The one that is supposed to be for a pocket watch or something? Schader Park is like that pocket – TINY!

This lovely little slip of a park is along Cloverfield Blvd, just south of Santa Monica (Click on the map image to go to the map.)

And it’s not large. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm, shady benches and lovely trees.

And that is all there is to say about this wee green space!

Classic Eats #13: Save The Date!

October 11, 2010 in Events, FEATURED, Food & Drink

After our last great evening out at The Smokehouse, I can’t wait to see where we go next for Classic Eats. I’ll post the voting info in a couple of weeks but for now, save the date!

Saturday November 6!

Coming Out is Hard. You Can Do It.

October 11, 2010 in FEATURED, LA, Social issues

My friend and I walked by a Bridal Expo in Pasadena yesterday.  A man was outside, handing out flyers for wedding photography.  He started to give me one, and I started to take it – really, I was trying to do him a favor (flyering in 85 degree weather sucks) – then he started to pull it back.  “Wait,” he said, and then waited.  “You two can’t get married.”  My friend demanded to know why not, and he said, slowly, “…You’re too young.”  Oh, is that what we’re calling gays now?  If by “too young,” he meant, “too gay,” he was right.  I’m too gay to get married.

Today is October 11th, which is significant not only because it’s the day after the very celebrated 10/10/10, but also because it’s National Coming Out Day.  Even though this day means more to some than to others in the same way that Chinese New Year is more festive for some than to others, it’s still important for everyone.  You don’t have to be Chinese to enjoy a bit of that whole roasted pig; you don’t have to be gay to appreciate the underlying value of today.

You have to have a lot of balls, and be in the right part of the country, to come out now.  I came out before the discombobulated express train that is the Tea Party, so while there was your run-of-the-mill homophobia, it was no where near the level of fear that has been normalized by the Mad Hatters.  I also came out when I was a student in Berkeley, where everyone spends at least one semester gay, thinking they’re gay, or sorely disappointed that they are not gay.  In contrast, we now don’t even have the privilege of claiming marriage rights as priority on the gay agenda; Prop. 8’s implicit battle against homophobia has been supplanted by an explicit battle for the right to live, period.  It’s worth noting that on October 5, 2009, The New York Times had a piece called “Bullied for Being Gay”; exactly one year later, on October 5, 2010, the paper published a lesson plan for teachers on how to deal with the exact same issue, calling it a “troubling trend.”  Troubling, yes; trend, not really; way of life, more likely.  If we’re not still contending with physical bullying, then we’re trying to deal with asshat verbal bullies.  New York Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino, for the record, is not homophobic.  He just hates gay people.

A friend of mine in the closet still (who this post really is meant for, bud) is very angry at straight people, and wonders what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot.  Wouldn’t that be something?  If, for one day, we were allowed to be heterophobic, complete with the ugly manifestation of that fear balled up with the insecurity, anxiety, and paranoia that accompanies any phobia?  Can you imagine: a gang of gay kids harassing the straight kid in their math class because he was caught kissing little Peggy Sue behind the tetherball courts?  Or if a prominent gay politician posited, during a speech to like-minded folks, that heterosexuals are the reason for the disintegration of the family unit (the systematic exclusion of gay couples from legal marriage means there really is only one group to blame for the 50% divorce rate), and that they are threatening “our” livelihood and very essence of being?

You cannot, of course, really fight hate with more hate and not end up with an unending, and unwinnable, war of attrition.  But it is fun to imagine that for a bit, if only to relieve some anger at the people intent on killing you.  That mental exercise aside, coming out right now is not easy.  But it’s not impossible.   You’ve locked yourself in the closet and can’t seem to find the key, but, hey, it’s been in your pocket all this time.  You just need to help yourself to it.  Once you unlock that door, you’ll find some people on the other side waiting with open arms, others with their arms folded.  Ignore the folds.  Aim for the hugs.

Once you tell one person (even if that one person is yourself), it’s a lot easier to tell the next person.  Then the next, and the next.   There are places you can go if you can’t talk to me.  It took him a while, but even Clark Kent had to tell Lois Lane that he was Superman.

Featured image of the rainbow flag courtesy Ludovic Bertron and used under a Creative Commons license.