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The begging gets better…enough to entice me at a fast food joint

January 25, 2015 in Food & Drink, ICME, San Gabriel Valley, Shopping, Social issues

Click to embiggen and get the full picture

Click to embiggen and get the full picture

Yes, the ubiquitous tipping jar got bumped a bit with some humor injected by some bored soul at the Philly’s Best in Monrovia.

 

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A Walk in the Woods Premieres at Sierra Madre Playhouse

January 24, 2015 in Entertainment, People, San Gabriel Valley, Theatre/Stage

No spoilers. But its a grand performance by all concerned

Mamcy Youngblut and John Prosky star in Sierra Madre Playhouse's production of "A Walk in the Woods"

Nancy Youngblut and John Prosky star in Sierra Madre Playhouse’s production of “A Walk in the Woods”

Last night was the opening of Sierra Madre Playhouse’s performance of “A Walk in the Woods”.  It opened to a sold out house.  Its an entertaining, often poignant look at the world of diplomatic negotiators during the Reagan Era arms talks and their interchange on what makes us the same and different at the same time.  This play by Lee Blessing is directed by Geoffry Wade.

The four scenes take place during the four seasons in an American election year in a secluded forest in Switzerland.  The jaded and cynical Soviet negotiator  Andrey Botvinnik is portrayed by John Prosky.  Andrey has survived several U.S. Negotiators and capably guides his newst adversary through the mine field of arms negotiation.  He does this through humor and utter avoidance of the task at hand.  The new American negotiator that he must work with is Joan Honeyman played by Nancy Youngblut.  Joan is the spunky, starry eyed new kid on the block with ideals she can work out a deal to end the arms race that both sides can live with.  Andrey foils her at every step often leaving Joan aggravated and flabberghasted.  And the audience roaring with laughter.

Interlaced in this is the big politics of each nations history as a world power and fear of a past repeated.  All good stuff, hard to believe one can laugh condsidering the  task at hand and the issues they face.  Its also a very enlightening look at the process. You walked away wondering how it all went down and how anything was ever accomplished.  Or was it?  I highly recommend “A Walk in the Woods” if you are looking for a fun and enlightening theater experience.  These two actors carried you through the process of negotiations and becoming friends that respect each other very well.

This play is the 4th in the 2014-2015 Season that explores the American experience as told by American playrights.  This play and those to come are what will continue Sierra Madre Playhouse’s transformation into a Regional Destination Theatre.

You can order your tickets HERE.

Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre CA 91024  Phone: 626-355-4318

Photo by Gina Long, courtesy Sierra Madre Playhouse and used with Permission.

 

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Preserving Los Angeles history one building at a time

January 9, 2015 in environment, History, LA, Law, News, People, San Gabriel Valley, Social issues, Vintage

Broadway Arcade in DTLA, click to embiggen

Broadway Arcade in DTLA, click to embiggen

The good folks at Esotouric Bus Tour Adventures, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave do a lot more than give really nifty tours of the city.  They are historians with a major heart on for the city.  In the best way of course.

This weeks newsletter outlined the winners and losers in their efforts to help preserve the cities architectural history.  It outlines 25 things this year, good bad and ugly, that happened in terms of historic preservation.

The most exciting bit was the passing of city ordinance 13-1104 requiring public notification when any building more than 45 years is to be demolished.   Why does this matter?  It will give preservation groups around the city the chance to speak up and stop the destruction of those building with a history or architectural significane from being trashed in the name of progress and a new high density mixed use project.  Not all buildings need to be preserved that are that old, but many should as it is part of the texture and character of the city that shouldn’t be trashed for a new parking lot or apartment jungle.

Pic by me of the Broadway Arcade while on an iphone safari.  Click to embiggen

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.

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

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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”:

Hiking Fish Canyon

January 1, 2015 in environment, LA, San Gabriel Valley

2014dec05-9524The water flowing after the first rains of the season in Fish Canyon.Fish Canyon is open, and the waterfalls are flowing.
I want to write that first line in all BOLD CAPS.
Because that hasn’t been said in 30 years.

Fish Canyon, in the San Gabriel Mountains above Azusa and Duarte, used to be humming with people. Cabins were scattered along the trail and hikers posed next to the stunning triple waterfalls.

But the cabins were destroyed in one of the many fires that flash along the mountains, and then the mining company who owns the canyon, closed the entrance to the public.

But in a deal with the city of Duarte, in June of 2014 the Vulcan Materials Company opened access to the valley for the first time since it was closed in the mid-1980’s. I went on this hike in June when it first opened, and it was hot and dry, the only water standing lonely in sad dirty little pools. At the peak of the hike, where the waterfall should be, was just a towering cliff face standing bleak and empty of water in the summer sun.
But now the rains have come and the valley has come alive with the sounds and sights of tumbling, churning, splashing and falling water.

The trail up on the hillside of Fish Canyon in June of 2014.Remnants of the first rains of the season in Fish Canyon.In the summer, when everything was hot and dry, this canyon did not feel so special, but now with the falling water, it’s easy to see why it was once a haven.

It is a wonderful little river valley, with standing oaks, sticky cactus, a gurgling stream and the occasional birdcall.

But the real treat is the waterfall. It falls in three sections…. Read the rest of this entry →

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You know…its just not New Years Day until the B2 bomber flies over

January 1, 2015 in Entertainment, Events, News, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

B2 Bomber banking over my house.  Click to embiggen

B2 Bomber banking over my house. Click to embiggen

I know, its silly.  Ring in the New Year at midnight, but in my little corner of L.A it isn’t New Years Day until 8:02AM when the B2 bomber banks over my house for its second swipe at the Rose Parade.  Pretty nifty stuff.

More pics by me in my flickr set just in case our trusty old server doesn’t want to take my upload.

Happy New Year L.A.

See The Rose Parade Floats Up Close And Personal

December 31, 2014 in Entertainment, Holidays, LA, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

Orange_Grove_before_Rose_Parade_2009_(3161432082)Do you watch the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day? (That’s tomorrow, FYI.) Have you wondered what those floats look like up close but have no desire to spend the night in freezing temperatures? (It’s going to get into the mid-30s tonight, that is close enough to freezing for me.) You can! It’s become a custom to view the parked floats for a few days after the parade. This year you can view them tomorrow (Jan. 1), Friday and Saturday (Jan. 2-3). It will cost you $10 per person and the money goes to the Tournament of Roses Foundation. For that entry fee, you can walk all along the floats (but no touching, please) and even talk with white jacketed volunteers who will tell you more about them.

The floats are viewable:
January 1: 1:00 – 5:00PM
January 2: 9:00 – 5:00PM
January 3: 9:00 – 5:00PM

Senior citizens and disabled persons are welcome from 7:00 – 9:00am both days for less crowded viewing.

You can buy tickets online here or you can buy tickets on-site until 3pm each day.
UPDATE: You can only buy tickets online if you plan to pick them up by 5pm TODAY at the ticketing office (See link). Otherwise, you must buy them on site.

Also, there is a Park and Ride Shuttle ($3 for those 6 years old and above) to ease in the parking situation as street parking nearby is limited.

I plan on getting there early on Saturday in warm cozy clothes.

Happy New Year!

Overexposed In Chinatown

December 24, 2014 in Downtown, Immigration, LA, Photography, Shopping

ctown5 ctown20It’s not what it sounds like, although what it sounds like sounds fun…

Nope, I was downtown the other day with a camera set to too high an exposure, on a mission to acquire a parasol.

Almost every store in Chinatown around the rectangle created by Broadway and Hill / Cottage Home and Cesar Chavez sells parasols. But there’s only one I’ve ever encountered with a wide selection of diverse and lovely paper–not polyester, same-painting-on-every-pink-and-blue-version, parasols. After three years away, I wasn’t sure the parasol store would still be in the square at the intersection on Gin Ling and Mei Lin Way (yep, all those little pedestrian streets have names…check out the map here…helps when you’re looking for a specific gallery).

ctown08To my relief, Andy’s Gift Shop was still there, across from the lucky coin-toss fountain (a miniature landscape with different mountain-hermit homes sculpted into the waterfall rock, a different pagoda or edifice you can toss a coin into for prosperity and good luck in any area of life). After meandering past the weirdly cordoned-off statue of Bruce Lee and the skatepunk dudes trying to nail the (presently turned-off) waterfall’s house of Good Luck in Love with pennies, I made it into the gift shop and accessioned what was needed. Thanks Chinatown! It’s nice to know a few things haven’t changed.

I have a really crappy phone with an even crappier camera in it. The settings on the phone randomly re-set them depending on the phone’s own perverse mood swings. That day, it had set the exposure to what us photography-illiterate folks call “way too damn bright.” Oddly, the photos came out pretty, with a washed-out sort of lighting that perfectly showcased the lurid colors of the neighborhood.

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Its a Wrap on 12 Days of Giving

December 24, 2014 in FEATURED, News, People, Seasonal, Social issues, Which Side?

wrapped GiftThis is one of my most favorite series that we do.  It outlines our diversity as a group and underscores our love of Los Angeles and the millions of souls that call it home.  During the course of the last several days you’ve read about the following non-profits and charities that we devote our time and energy too.  In the order they appeared:

Thanks for indulging us and stopping in to visit us and our favorite non-profits.  We’ll resume our regular programming again.  Soon.

 

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Must see exhibits at CA Science Center…and lunch

December 23, 2014 in Art, Classic Eats, Downtown, Entertainment, Events, History, LA, Shopping, Vintage

Pompeii corpse cast - click to embiggen

Pompeii corpse cast – click to embiggen

I have to tell you, the Pompeii exhibit at the CA Science Center through January 11 is quite the show to take in. Amazing artifacts, jewelry and such. But what really got me was the casts of the bodies found in the city as they excavated it.

In short August 24, 79 The city of Pompeii was struck by an eruption of Mt Vesuvius.  The folks ran and hid, then were buried with ash.  Flash forward some 1600 years and archeologist figured out the ash covered corpses were hollow and proceeded to fill them with plasters capturing this folks in the final moments of their life.  Moving.  Morbid.  Incredible.  Much more telling than all the artifcats and murals.

An added bonus, and I don’t know how we got it, but since we bought our tickets for Pompeii online a nice California Science Center employee gave the lovely Mrs and I passes to see the space shuttle Endeavour.  Read the rest of this entry →

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12 Days of Giving : Sierra Madre Playhouse

December 23, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, Entertainment, Holidays, News, People, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Shopping, Social issues, Theatre/Stage

The playhouse at night, click to embiggen

The playhouse at night, click to embiggen

By now those who know me know I don’t just jump in half assed when I decide to support a non-profit.  They have to have a hook that gets my attention.  Sierra Madre Playhouse is just that and they need help…volunteers and donations if they are to grow to the next level.

In the last few years with the arrival of Managing Director and Estelle Campbell and Artistic Director Christian Lebano, they have brought a vision to change this once sleepy community theater into something else.  Its a very special place well on its way to being the regional destination theater they have envisioned.

There has been a lot of dialogue lately about the state of theater in Los Angeles. It is so often overlooked and under-appreciated, and there are constant wails over how theater is dying. But the magic of that combustion, the ephemeral now, is what I think will keep theater alive. If you haven’t experienced that, I invite you to see a show at the Playhouse. Once you feel that magic you will be seduced.” – Christian Lebano, Artistic Director

Like so many non-profits they are starved of man hours and money to carry out their mission to bring quality plays written by Americans about Americans.  This last year has seen them shake the joint up and brought in uniquely American plays like 6RMS RIV VU, 4,000 Miles and A Little House Christmas.  On tap next is “A Walk in the Woods” which continues the trend of stellar productions.  But they need helpif they are to carry out their plans.  If you got a few hours to donate, they’ll take it.  If you have some spare change to donate to the cause (Its tax deductible as they are a 503.c non-profit organization) they gladly accept that too.

You can easily pay via credit card through PayPal.  An even more painless way is bring the attached PDF Coupon to Ralphs when you go grocery shopping and they donate a percentage of your sale to Sierra Madre Playhouse.

Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre CA 91024

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12 Days of Giving : Monrovia Association of Fine Arts

December 19, 2014 in Art, Education, Events, Holidays, People, Photography, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Social issues

LogoThis is a group that I have devoted tons of energy and time to over the last 10 years.  Their mission statement sums it all up:
“Enhance the lives of those within our community through interaction with the arts. Increase the opportunities of our children through art education.”

Its something I completely believe in, live and breath it.  I got involved 10 years ago as a way to help promote my art, but after a few meetings I found its something that benefits the entire community in ways I never knew.

My kids were in the MUSD system and I was disappointed to learn that Art Education wasn’t part of the curriculum as a separate class at the elementary level.  Monrovia Association of Fine Arts, MAFA for short, was just getting ready to make its first donation to the schools the year I joined to help fund art educatoin at the elementary level.  Over the course of the next few years our cash donations totalled over $75.000.  But it didn’t stop there. Read the rest of this entry →

12 Days of Giving: The Peace Project

December 17, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, culver city, Holidays, LA, Seasonal, Shopping

2014 has been a great year for my family.  It wasn’t always like this.  We’ve had some pretty lean years in the past but hard work, faith, and determination put us on a blessed path.  There are plenty of places in the world where, no matter how hard citizens try, those qualities still don’t offer up a dream life.  This year, I felt it was important to give back to the universe that has created joy and plenty in my life but still finds so many people suffering around the world.  My husband and I both come from from traditions of charitable giving and volunteership.  No matter how impoverished we’ve been, we could always put food on the table and our parents taught us that meant we were still fortunate and it was our duty to offer assistance to those without.

So our regular checks to charitable organizations weren’t good enough this year.  A stellar year means we’d have to reach a little deeper.  But I’m lazy and volunteering with an infant while my husband is working overseas is more difficult than I can manage.  Instead, I found a great way to give while doing my regular weekly shopping at the Culver City Farmers Market.  The Whole 9 Gallery had a booth I could not avoid.  So many cute and cool things to buy!  And what’s this??  The money spent helps to support their charity The Peace Project??  Perfect!  Holiday shopping AND charitable giving, combined!  I bought more gifts than I had people to give to just so I could throw more money at a worthy cause.  And all of it was reasonably priced and very well made and unique.

The Peace Project is an effort by The Whole 9 online creative community to transform lives globally.  Started in 2010 by the community’s founder, the project has distributed crutches to amputees and victims of civil war in Sierra Leone, sponsored educational grants for African school-age children, built houses for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines, and been the benefactor for several artists on six continents.  Through their works, they’ve used art to bridge the gap between necessary resources and the community members who desperately require them.  The Whole 9 Gallery in Culver City sells the wares for several artists whose proceeds fund these works abroad.

To learn more about The Peace Project or to donate directly, visit http://thepeaceproject.com/donate.php.  Just want some last minute gifts that will fund the future happiness of others in our world?  Check out The Whole 9 Gallery at 3830 Main Street, Culver City, CA 90232.

The Kids Are Alright…But Life Is Hard. Cobalt Cafe to Close After 23 Years

December 16, 2014 in Books, coffee, Entertainment, Events, History, LA, Music, The Valley

The beloved all-ages venue in the far west Valley that has given thousands of local kids their start in music, tens of thousands of poets a chance to read their work, and probably millions of young people to tag/sticker bathrooms (and hallways…and sidewalks…and rear exterior walls…and everything else), and just generally get the F outta the house without having to go to the mall–will be closing at the end of the month. I regret to pass this news on so late but I only just found out myself.

Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.

Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.

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Extremely patient and awesome owner Dave Politi founded the Cobalt Cafe coffeehouse in 1991. Grunge was a rising tide, emo was in its early stages, weird ska/funk/pop-punk hybrids particular to the Valley and south LA in general were bubbling up from high schoolers’ garages, and Starbucks wasn’t here.
I was a high school goth chick, shy as hell and loathe to speak to anyone. My friends’ bands played the shows. Seeing them, their openers, and those for whom they opened, up close and personal on a stage about a foot off the ground and approximately three feet from my face so their sweat flew in my eyes, lit off a fuse within myself that altered my DNA, transformed my passions and creative dreams forever. I got up the guts to read my mediocre emo high-school-girl poetry at the weekly poetry readings.

Credit Cobalt Cafe. Artist & photo unknown, obtained from Wikimedia Commons via Creative CommonsI got to know people. I became a regular. I met my first long-term boyfriend there, played chess there, bought punk records from unknown bands there from small private presses before records were collectors’ items, met some of the folks I’d run into long, long down the line ten years later in Silver Lake at Spaceland (and in other rooms), watched the comfy overstuffed furniture go the way of the dodo (too many episodes of puking, sweating and cigarettes leads them to an early grave), giving way to a more Spartan interior.  People liked my poetry enough that I got a featured reading at a coffeehouse on Sunset Blvd, and I kept writing long into my late 20s. I sometimes wonder if all that writing didn’t lay the groundwork for my public blogging and journalism career, which itself has led to experiences and interactions that could never have been imagined by the mind of a repressed, shy 17-year-old black-lipstick-wearing girl in 1996.

Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons

Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons

Photo credit Cobalt Cafe.

R.I.P. overstuffed chars and couches.

Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.

Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.

Every time I have returned to the Valley to see a line of self-conscious green-and-black-haired high schoolers goofing off with each other in front of the venue, or bros in short pants and Deftones t-shirts unloading a 350 Ford, I have smiled to myself, grateful that sometimes, good things don’t change, and that there’s a place for us weirdos to go–still. Yeah, sometimes the music sucked. Well, usually it does when people are that green. But it was music, and we–now, they–were and are making it. Some of them got really, really good. Some of the poets went on to long careers as luminaries in the poetry arts scene throughout the US. Records were make, books published. Creative dreams came true.

The cool blue light and scrawled-upon bouncer's desk in front of the venue.

The place reeked of sweat, coffee and cigarettes; the bathrooms are an archaeological dig though layers of paint, Sharpie, and stickers; sometimes the baristas were overwhelmed or had a ‘tude (as is proper, whiners!), but that all just made it better. I have been everywhere, man, and seen a lotta shows, but the Cobalt was the most genuine, unprepossessing, free-spirited creative fermentation machine I had ever seen. You did not have to be hip to walk in. You did not have to wear the right clothes. In fact, it’s still pretty hipster-repellent.

Sadly, Dave’s got his own Life S**t going on these days, and there’s less and less money coming in the doors with promoters and bookers being less supportive than they used to be; and let’s face it, non-Starbucks-priced coffee will never keep an indie business afloat, especially when your clientele is allowed to just hang out and buy nothing the entire time they’re there.

Dave Politi should be lauded for giving so much of his life and energy to a cause–“the kids” and “the music” and “the words”. The longtime host of Tuesday Night Poetry–he’s been doing it almost as long as the Cobalt was open–Rick Lupert–should be thanked, and I encourage you to see him read his funny and thoughtful work at other venues around town. All the hosts of Monday night open mics, all the baristas who endured patiently for many years, every doorman who had to bust kids doing the things that kids do–thank you, one and all. Here’s to the Cobalt Cafe. From such a humble little corner of the West San Fernando Valley, her influence has already spread around the world. Dave and the Cobalt are studies in how simply making space for others to be themselves, can ripple outwards in a quietly irresistible wave of transformation.

Hover over photos for Creative Commons/other photo credits.

 

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Nixle alerts coming DUI Enforcement Road Blocks

December 15, 2014 in Driving, News, Social issues, Which Side?

DUI Enforcements 2014Its that time of year again.  A few of us will get tanked and get behind the wheel, a few will get caught, a few will pile up their car and maim themselves or others.  LAPD, L.A Sheriff, CHP and local police agencies get huge grants to fight DUI and hopefully stave off the worst of the consequences of drunk drivers.

Here are two alerts by LA Sheriff on the for this coming weekend addressing the DUI/CDL Checkpoints for this weekend in Norwalk and Paramount.

I suppose we can thank the ACLU, but in CA when the DUI Enforcement zones are announced and road blocks are going to be included in the program they have to announce date and time.  Nixle is a great way to make sure you get alerts of when these DUI check points are going to in place and what times.  Make sure your designated driver has been a tea totaller and you’ll be fine.