Monday, April 30, 2007

Metro Rates Higher? Fight Back

Look, I don't take public transit nearly enough. Most of us don't, because we have an option. That the MTA is considering a fare hike makes me sick. The majority of people who take transit in L.A., do so cause they cannot afford it.

To try to balance your books on the backs of the poor is an injustice. In fact, past fare hikes have always caused ridership to go down while fare reductions did the opposite.

If the MTA goes ahead with these hikes, I suggest that as many people as possible who ride the MTA take to the streets in cars -- however they can -- and strike the MTA. The lack of riders and, more importantly, the increase in traffic will send a message that may finally get through.

I like Villaraigosa, but where does he stand on these fare hikes? Where does the City Council stand? The Board of Supervisors. It's time to hold people accountable.

Fiesta Broadway or My Birthday Project #4

Still looking to do new things each week to celebrate my upcoming milestone birthday, I was torn between going to the Oinkster in Eagle Rock and going to Fiesta Broadway downtown. So, I did both. Only one, though,was worthy of writing about.

The Oinkster, it wasn't. Though delish and having flavors that stayed with me all day, it wasn't all that. And they're not kidding when they call it "slow fast food". Will I be back? Probably.

Fiesta Broadway is the annual "cinco de mayo" festival they have on Broadway in downton L.A.,always the weekend before the 5th. This year was no different and I decided to finally see what 500,000 others annually find so irresistible. So, I hopped over to Lincoln Heights, passing the new Rio de Los Angeles Park in the former Taylor Yard, tucked in my iPod headphones and jumped aboard a gold line train. Bada boom, bada bing, I passed the new Cornfield park and Chinatown and changed trains at Union Station.

In minutes, I was walking down 1st to Broadway where there was a Si, Se Puede giant rally going on. This was different alright. Once I was on Broadway, I weaved my way through enormous crowds down the entire length of the fiesta, which must have been at least 12 city blocks long. The street was lined with every kind of commerical representation and intermingled with booths of sizzling meats and cool fruit juices.

More overwhelming than the smell of the food, though, really was the commericalization. Seemingly no product -- from toilet paper to Chrysler to Macy's -- was not represented. It was as if corporate America woke up and realized that latinos have buying power. Sort of the same way it woke up and discovered they could make more money selling to the gays than discriminating against them.

Anyway, it was interesting. When there wasn't commercialization, there was music. Loud, loud, loud music. At the corner of 7th and Broadwasy there was a giant screen and huge speakers playing the concert from 1st. Here, the volume was turned so high, I literally felt like crying.

A few of the more intriguing things -- at least to me -- about the fiesta were:

1. A few times I found tight circles of people surrounding competing dance couples. It was really cool, joyous and uplifting.

2. I have two friends that I mentioned my visit to Fiesta to -- one an L.A.native and the other works 2 blocks away from Broadway and has for years. Neither knew of the event even though a huge percentage of our population attends every year but it still remains literally steps or miles away from caucasion L.A. There were not a lot of white people there. The city, though diverse, is still so very separated.

3. Broadway is still the heart and soul of L.A. Walking down it reminded me of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. I hope some day the city makes it a walking only street -- like 3rd st. promenade in Santa Monica and people from all over revel in the madness of it. Screw the Grand Ave. project -- it should be all about Broadway.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Nana Dorothy Yahr (nee Goldberg) Rest in Peace

Nana Dorothy died today. She was 89. She was one of ten or eleven kids of the Goldberg klan of Pittsburgh, PA. She married Meyer Yahr --one of nine or ten kids-- and gave birth to my mom, my aunt and my uncle.

Nana Dorothy battled depression, on and off, I think for most of her life. She was a great grandmother to my sister and me. During difficult times, she and Poppy Meyer were always there.

Nana Dorothy was an incredible cook and a great story teller. She was extremely short and extremely big busted. When she told me I was gay -- well into her 80s -- she was really almost as accepting as I could have imagined.

She cared, she loved, and ohmygod did she cook. No one on this planet could make a better brisket, turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, cream o wheat, fudge brownies, cookies, cabbage soup, chicken name it. She made it and she made it great.

I love you Nana Dorothy. Rest in Peace. Shalom, Nana. Send my love to the too many who went before you. God speed.

A Transexual Sport

This L.A. Times reporter is a brave person. Read the story!

Is Iraq a Quagmire or a Brown Bag?

It's both. Josh Marshall has the best analysis I've seen about where we are in Iraq, why we're still there and how to get out. It's not long. Read it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Artwater Village or My Birthday Project #3

Well, I finally have some time to write about this as I sit up late waiting for a senior developer to change a website -- you know who you are!

Last Saturday, after my weekly hike through the hills of Runyon Canyon, I came back to the often-lovely Atwater Village and decided to make a day of it. No, really. Once home, I did not leave Atwater Village.

Welcome to the first annual Artwater Village. Glendale Blvd. was full of helium balloons, professional chalk artists (I'm guessing they were professional -- they were good), small stages at sidewalk "bump outs", little booths at the cute yet tiny "Red Car Pocket Park" and five or six galleries with their doors swung open wide.

The boulevard was jammed with pedestrians as it probably hasn't been since the days of the Red Car. The pocket park filled up nicely with tons of kids and families, women on stilts, grungy musicians and a great diverse patchwork of people that make up the area. It was heartening.

Later in the evening, my friend Barbara joined me from Atwater adjacent Silver Lake. We hit the Club Tee Gee for a couple drinks and then Baracoa for some sizzling cuban food. I had been there for lunch before, but never dinner. Let me tell you, it was packed and it was delicious. Great smoky black beans and rice and nicely charred garlic shrimp. The empanadas were tender and buttery while the beef ones had a nice earthiness to them. Run, don't walk, to Baracoa.

After dinner, it seemed that the planned continuation of music until 10p was winding down as were the open galleries, so we headed home. All in all, though, a successful first Artwater!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Silverlake Reservoir and Blue Herons

I've walked around the reservoir probably a few hundred times and over the past year or so, there has been a sign about Blue Herons nesting. I never really thought much about it until today.

Today, I saw a Blue Heron flying around the field. OH MY GOD. It's huge. Dinosaur like. Wingspan like a suspension bridge. Crooked beak like a pelican or something. I thought, there's no way that tree's going to be able hold up that big old bird.

But it sure did.

If you live in the neighborhood and you haven't seen them -- they're on the west silverlake side -- hope you get a chance too. They're simply amazing creatures!

Note: Info on my birthday project #3 is coming soon.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Norah Jones: "Dear Country"

This is stark and beautiful. Watch.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Glendale's Forest Lawn or My Birthday Project #2

Weird. I woke up this morning and thought about what I wanted to do for the second week of my birthday projects. I checked the Weekly and the Times and the local blogs for something interesting to do, but nothing struck me, really. I would have loved to have gone to the bbq fest at the Autry, but you don't get to eat anything. What's the point?

So, I decided after so many years of living in Atwater that I would go see Forest Lawn and take in its mighty splendor. And it is nothing if not filled to the rafters with spendor.

Before, though, I was on the way to my now almost weekly hike with Tom in Runyon Canyon when my mother called. It was an ungodly hour, so I knew something was wrong. She left a voicemail. My last remaining grandparent -- Grandmother -- had a stroke. I called my mother back and, well, it's too early really to tell what has happened and if she will recover. I love her dearly, but she is in a lot of pain, very unhappy and I hope that whatever happens can bring some peace to her. Weird, though, that on the day I decide to go to Forest Lawn, this would happen.

Nonetheless, I trudged forward. Came home, took a constitutional through Atwater, picked up Subway for Carl, Burrito for me, visited briefly with neighbors and came home. Finally, it was time to take in project #2.

I hit Fletcher, made a left on San Fernando and passed the empty shell of a KMart -- which will hopefully not become another Home Depot -- passed the police station where inexplicably cops keep coming down with cancer and yet the city does nothing, passed the office parks and small buisneses and made a right on Glendale Ave and into the cemetery.

It is huge. The first buildings -- well, all the buildings -- are made to look like medieval regal homes, halls and cathedrals. It's not done unless it's overdone. An information officer offered me a map, a guide to annual events and a business card, should I want to buy a plot of land for eternal rest. I passed on the card.

I drove up the hill and parked outside the building which hosts the "Last Supper Stained Glass Window". There is a twice an hour presentation and revelation of the window which hangs behind old and dusty curtains. It's a magically religious experience and I'm slightly embarrassed that my phone goes off in the middle of the auto presentation. The free show is worth every penny.

Next up: the "Court of Freedom". There are dead people everywhere. This Court includes various nooks that are called "Garden of Everlasting Peace" and "Benediction Slope" and such. Somebody must get paid a lot of money to come up with these names. Inside the court are jingoistic tributes to Washington and our soldiers and our freedom and so on.

The Freedom Hall smells of decomposing bodies, decaying flowers and incense. It's unsettling, sweet and smothering at the same time.

After, I drove over --this place is immense-- to the "Wee Kirk O' The Heather" Church-- which sits next to a vast parking lot. The show is hourly and the next one was in Spanish,so I passed. It is beautiful on the outside and, from what I can see on the inside, it's just as well done inside. Disappointed that I couldn't really see more, I headed over to the museum.

This "museum" is bizarre. As you first walk in, you find yourself in the middle of a Winslow Homer Wood Cut on Newspaper Ink exhibit, I shit you not. What this has to do with death, cemeteries, even taxes, I know not. Not remotely interested, I passed further into the museum/store and found chochkes for sale, replications of unfamous paintings and medieval doors and suits of armor, Korean fans, Japanese Ivory, African Ivory and, hell, a kitchen sink.

It's as if somebody emptied out their garage and said, "Hey, let's open a museum and shoppe, but the "shoppe" must be olde fashioned and have an extra 'p' and 'e'.

At this point, I have had enough of this theme park of decaying flowers, decomposing bodies, jingoism and death. Before, I totally leave, though, I pass another "exact replica" -- this time, a statue of David. If nothing else, he was hot. I do think that when I die, it would be amusing to be planted in this verdant land of folly. Of course, I don't so much as want to be buried, but rather cremated with my ashes sprinkled on hot dogs from Pinks and have my friends finally for the last time, bite me. Or not.

More pics at Flickr.

What Don Imus Means to Harvey Firestein

God, I still love Harvey.

Here's a nugget from his NY Times Column:

Our nation, historically bursting with generosity toward strangers, remains remarkably unkind toward its own. Just under our gleaming patina of inclusiveness, we harbor corroding guts. America, I tell you that it doesn’t matter how many times you brush your teeth. If your insides are rotting your breath will stink. So, how do you people choose which hate to embrace, which to forgive with a wink and a week in rehab, and which to protest? Where’s my copy of that rule book?

Dodger Stadium

Don't let this happen to you.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Something Terrible Happened Today

Well, it happens every day, many times a day, but this was a first for me. I was running late for work and my car was freakishly facing Fletcher instead of being in the driveway due to trashcans blocking my way the night before, so I decided to start my morning commute on Fletcher. As soon as I turned right on Fletcher, I was stopped at the light where the off ramp is for the Glendale Freeway.

Just as the light changed or was about to change, I heard a tremendous thud on my left. I instantly thought it was an accident and swerved my head left and gripped my steering wheel in fear. What I saw I never in my life would have thought I would see. I saw a man literally flying in the air, obviously just hit my the older gentleman's car coming off the off ramp.

It was as if time stood still. There must have been 3 or 4 other people in cars around me that heard and saw the same thing. I have no idea. It was like everyone was paralyzed by the sheer astonishment of what we just saw. I looked at my blackberry and couldn't figure out how to operate the phone. I paused. Then, I pulled out my regular cell phone and called 911.

And was put on hold. By now, I had edged my car slightly out of traffic, but still was shaking and in a state of disbelief. Finally, 911 got on the phone, and I breathlessly told them what had happened and to send help NOW. They said to please hold while they connect the fire department. The man was still not moving and in an unbelievable fetal position. I thought, "is this what people do when traumatized? their body automatically falls into the fetal position?".

The fire department got on the horn and I retold my story, trying to figure out which off ramp it is. They tell me help is on the way and I just implore them to hurry. I am still in my car. The man is not moving. The man who hit him seems to be in another world. It is surreal.

The cops arrive. I hear other sirens. The highway patrol call me on my cell and ask me to be a witness. I drive off to work.

I don't know if the man is alive or not; I hope he is, but suspect he's not.

As Vonnegut would say, "and so it goes." It was terrible.


What some people are calling the Bush administration's record gaps. Here's more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut - RIP

The NY Times does it best by ending Mr. Vonnegut's obit with these lines from his poem "Requiem":

When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Sopranos

God, I love them. Hat tip to Jennifer.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


God, I loved this show. I probably watched it 2-3 times a day growing up and when it ended,I wept. When I was in high school, I once rode my bike onto the Fox lot just to look at the set. I had no idea where it was, but somebody directed me to it and as it turned out, a friend of mine's mother worked on the show and she gave me a tour, signed photos and scripts. It was one of the coolest things ever to happen to a young me. So, thank you John Towler's mother, wherever you are. Oh, and that shows you how tight security was then. I literally just drove on the lot.

This video was also found via Ken Levine.

The Simpsons

Via Ken Levine.

Atwater to Silverlake - Birthday Project #1

Today, I came home from seeing my dying grandmother and father, stepmother and stepsister and their new puppy and decided to take a long walk. It was cool and overcast and realy the perfect time to see the neighborhoods from 4mph sidewalk vantage point.

So, I pulled on my sneaks, patted the doggies goodbye, turned on the alarm, locked the door and closed the gate. As you can see, just leaving the house can be an ordeal. I hit Fletcher and took off towards the meandering L.A. river. Fletcher is an industrial no man's land of auto shops, stripshows and graffiti. It ain't perty, but it's home...or close to home.

At Astro Family Restaurant -- beloved local diner and cop commisary -- I made a left and ankled my way down Glendale Blvd, past the wannabe writers and hipsters in Starbucks, past the giant minimall with Ralphs and now CVS (with its 666 number, my old doctor used to always call it the satanic Savon -- when it was Savon), past the line of banks and to where Silver Lake Blvd. is and where the new Silver Lake branch of the L.A.Public Library will be.

Is it really necessary to build another public library when there are perfectly good ones in Atwater, Los Feliz and, I believe Glassell Park? Are those places not good enough for the Silverlakers?

I digress.

Down Silverlake Blvd. I trudge, now on the walking path around the resevoir. Oh, how I do love walking around the resevoir. Eventually, the city might actually make it nice like they did on the W. Silverlake side. Now, you do it and wonder if you're gonna be mowed over by a car or SUV or, cause it's Silverlake, an alternative fuel vehicle.

Anyway, I passed the dogeared dogpark -- can the city please plant some grass? it's like a dust bowl, already-- and by the cute little hip shops, Spaceland, little casitas and homes in the hills until I get to Sunset.

On Sunset, I turn right and it's pretty heavily latino now. I walk by little madre & padre shops, alterations, immigration centers, tiny churches, el 7 mares and then again I find myself in hipsterville. There's Conquistador with its fabulous tiles and flaboyant waiters, good, the gelato place, the furniture spots, the comic book store, the casbah, the chicken corner (pollo loco and circus of books), the new buildings going up on Myra and Sunset and then I hit Hyperion.

I actually take Effie up to Griffith Park cause it's straighter, so to speak. I pass large apartment buildings, townhouse, again the little casitas and a throwback to an earlier, seedier gay time -- a "no cruising" sign put up by the city. Please.

When I reach Hyperion again, I check in at Da Gianino, which changed owners, to see what their new menu is like. I open the door, music is playing, but everyone must be in the kitchen. I open a menu and it's exactly the same. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess. Reassuring and then not so much.

On the Hyperion Bridge, I cross two guys making a movie -- it is L.A. after all -- and walk down the bridge, over the 5, over the L.A. River, and back now on Glendale Blvd. A very different Glendale.

I cruise -- no sign here -- by the Ferarri Gallery (a show tonight!), the seemingly never will open new Starbucks and Pizza place, past Romi's, Villa Corona, the Pampered Bird place and then down Larga back home.

Man, was that a freakin' good walk, but boy are my dogs barking. Oh, and, yeah, I figured out what I'm doing for my birthday. Stay tuned.

My Birthday Project

This year I am turning 40. In four months. 16 weeks. Until now, I haven't really thought about how I would mark those years. Sure, I thought about having a party or renting a beach house or sitting alone on top of a hill. And I may still do that.

However, today, while walking, I came up with the plan. It was a long walk. A two hour walk. And the plan: to do something that I've never done before at least once every weekend between now and my birthday and then every weekend after my birthday for a year. And write about it here.

Sometimes -- maybe often times -- the new weekend adventure will be prosaic, but sometimes -- hopefully -- it will be fun and maybe even enlightening. I may not even be able to do something new every weekend, but I'm gonna try.

Life is short and it's worth exploring. Let's see what we find.

Dear Mr. President

Hat tip to Steve.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

Los Angeles River

Despite man's best efforts, it continues to live. There is hope in the rio.