How Are You Gonna Rock When We Roll?

January 18, 2015 at 10:15 am 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.

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Preserving Los Angeles history one building at a time

January 9, 2015 at 5:17 pm 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

Archival digging: Culver City houses in 1951

January 7, 2015 at 2:15 pm in History, LA

As has been reported, well, just about everywhere, housing prices in Los Angeles are at an all-time dismal high. As a chronically underemployed academic type, I’m pretty resigned to the fact that my cats and I will be renters as long as we deign to call this fair city home. I was curious, though, about what house prices would have been like in my neighborhood, when it was first established.

I live on the very western edge of Culver City, in a neighborhood practically underneath the 405, near the Ballona Creek. (The city recently put up some banners along Sepulveda proclaiming that the neighborhood’s name is “Culver Village,” but will always and forever refer to it fondly as “Tito’s Tacos-adjacent.”) Most of the homes here are bungalows, built in the 1940s and 1950s.

After a bit of digging in a historical newspaper database, I turned a little gem – a 1951 LA times article about then-new residential developments in Sunkist Park, which I just south of the Ballona Creek. Not quite my neighborhood, but pretty close by. According to the article, developers built about 315 homes in the area, about half of which were sold before construction began. You could pick a house in one of fifteen different styles (including the super cute storybook ranch-style house pictured below), and they came pre-decorated: “early buyers have a selection of tile, wallpaper, linoleum, and paint colors,” the Times reported.


Prices ranged from $10,777 to $11,100. Adjusted for inflation, and that would be $97,884 to $100,818 in today’s dollars – which makes current house prices seem all the more depressing!

Sunkist Park, it turns out, used to be the location of the Culver City airport, which, according to Julie Lugo Cerra, Culver City’s city historian, began operations in 1927. It closed in 1951, and the Sunkist Park housing development was built on part of the airport’s former site. I’m curious to know more about the provenance of the neighborhood’s name – was it once the site of a Sunkist citrus orchard? Did the developers (Richard Diller and Irving Kalsman, according to the Times) have a connection to Sunkist? I’m going to do a bit more digging to see what I can find, but in the meantime, if anyone knows anything else about the origins of the neighborhood, comment away!

Lost Angeles: Tara Spotting

January 4, 2015 at 9:54 am 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.


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.


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


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 at 9:55 pm 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 at 10:16 am 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 at 1:17 pm 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!

12 Days Of Giving: spcaLA — The Results Show

December 28, 2014 at 7:17 am 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…

Read the rest of this entry →

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Raymond Chandler did an operetta…make its production a reality

December 27, 2014 at 3:47 pm in Books, Entertainment, Events, Fictional LA, History, LA, News, People, Theatre/Stage, Vintage

ChandlerBy now most of you should know that I’m a complete and utter fool when it comes to Raymond Chandlers works. I’ve read so many of the books and loved how they incorporated Los Angeles history and places into their fictional story.

I caught wind of the operetta a few months ago at a LAVA meeting.  Its titled “The Princess and the Pedlar” and is co-authored with pianist Julian Pascal.  Sounds pretty cool and should be easy to bring to the stage, right?  Not so fast, the estate of Raymond Chandler say its insignificant and won’t grant release of the work.  It will have to wait until 2029 at the earliest when its released to the public domain.  Sad.

But all is not lost, Kim Cooper of Esotouric and author of the “The Kept Girl” isn’t taking that hard no as a final answer.  She has a petition on asking the Estate to reconsider its position.  Please sign.  I have, its an important bit of the Los Angeles story by one of our own authors that deserves to be seen.

Feed The Pets!

December 27, 2014 at 9:41 am in LA, Pets



<On the heels of Will’s spcaLA post, I wanted to give a heads-up that these locations are short on pet food this holiday season. Please consider dropping off kibble, or wet food, or dry food, to the following locations:

12910 Yukon Avenue, Hawthorne: (310) 676-1149

7700 East Spring Street, Long Beach: (562) 570-7722

5026 West Jefferson Boulevard, Los Angeles: (323) 730-5300

Because we all know that hungry pets will devour you alive in your home, if you’re elderly. That adorbs Shiba Inu you adopted for gramma? Watch. Out.

I’m just sayin’, if we feed them now, while they’re in the SPCA facilities, they’re that much less likely to eat you or someone you love.

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

December 25, 2014 at 6:36 am 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.


Overexposed In Chinatown

December 24, 2014 at 9:00 pm 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.


ctown21 ctown19 ctown18

















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Its a Wrap on 12 Days of Giving

December 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm 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 at 5:55 pm 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 at 9:00 am 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