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the skunks of los feliz
If we're going to squeeze 6 million more people into Southern California over the next twenty years some changes are definitely going to have to be made in land use policy. It's gonna get pretty ugly otherwise. Three or four hour commutes (one way), day long traffic jams, increased pollution, and a general decline in the quality of life that would accompany inaction would probably be just about enough to kill the California dream once and for all.
Not to get all Mike Davis on ya, but this fractured metropolis has got to pull itself together and start making some hard, potentially unpopular choices regarding population density, or disaster surely lurks right around the corner. Twenty five years is not a long time in the life of a city, and there's just not enough room for twenty million people to all have a 3 bedroom suburban home with a swimming pool and a 4 car garage.
This should get interesting.
I'd like to say I'm above this kind of cheap shot humor, but I'm not.
Even the most dedicated defender of Bill Clinton has to admit that the man is sometimes exasperating. God love him, but the man has some issues. Of course, I'd take his issues (a tendency to lie about blow jobs received from someone not his wife) over the issues harbored by the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (a tendency to be a f**king moron). And I'll take the Dot Com bubble over the Patriot Act any day.
Anyway, as you are no doubt aware, Ol' Bill is out hawking his autobiography, a tome that weighs in at 900+ pages. If you don't feel like slogging through that many pages (hell, it's longer than the last Harry Potter book), click here for Slate's Power Point version.
Attention gearheads: want to check out chicks who look like Bettie Page while simultaneously satisfying the tattooed classic car lover that dwells deep inside? Yeah, yeah, you could go to Bob's Big Boy in Burbank on a Friday night, or you can head to Hansen Dam for the annual Blessing of the Cars. Sounds cool, but I think my Toyota would probably be laughed outta the parking lot.
Look, if you're gonna beat a suspect, do it off camera. Jeez, what a bunch of rookies.
Thanks to the good people at IFP, I scored some comps to the Los Angeles Film Festival screening of "Hero" at the Ford Amphitheater last friday night. Now, most film geeks know the convoluted tale of "Hero"'s journey through the Miramax labyrinth, so I won't bore you with that story. I will say that the movie was well worth the effort I expended to actually see it. It rocks.
So, on to the effort I expended. The whole thing started innocently enough. Cami came down with West Nile-like symptoms and had to stay home. Well, I had to see this movie. Had to. I decided to fly solo, and take the train to avoid traffic. I'd get out at the Highland station, walk to Cherokee where I could catch a shuttle to the Ford, and quicker than you can say "wu xia" I'd be watching Jet Li deflect thousands of CGI arrows with a flick of the wrist. All for the price of a $3 MTA day pass.
I walked down to Sunset/Vermont to catch the train. As I was fumbling with the crappy MTA vending machines, the Valley bound train came and went. Do those things ever take any bill on the first try?? wtf??? (For a inside look at the way the MTA views customer problems with their machines, click here) Forty minutes later (including a twenty five minute wait for a train that is supposed to run every 15 minutes), I finally arrived at the Highland station. Too late to mess around with walking to Cherokee, I walked over to that hotel on Highland and caught a cab(!) to the Ford, which, because the cabbie took me to the Valley before doubling back to the Ford, cost me $15. He dropped me in the median of Cahuenga West (not recommended) to hoof it the rest of the way.
I made it to the Ford (a really cool venue) on time, gave my extra ticket to a sweaty faced bald guy with a Zhang Ziyi obsession, and thoroughly enjoyed the movie (special thanks to co-worker Darrien and her husband Robert for letting me sit with them. I should have taken them up on their offer of a ride home....).
Afterwards, I decided to walk back to the Highland station. It wasn't that far, and I wasn't in a real rush to get home. I arrived at the corner of Hollywood and Highland just as the Bomb Squad came squealing in. Some yokel had left his backpack in the station. Hollywood Blvd. was closed. The station was closed. The f-ing Red Line was closed.
There was nothing else for it. I had to walk down Hollywood to the Vine station, and hope that I could at least sit there and wait until the line reopened.
Hollywood Boulevard at night is a weird mix of clubs, tattoo parlors, cross-toting Christians who tell you, one after another, that Jesus loves you, and Scientologists, who kind of look like airline employees in their little polyester get-ups. So you kind of have all of your bases covered there. Did I mention hookers?
Anyway, I made it to Vine, the station was open, and I did get to sit. And sit. And then, twenty minutes later, after the bomb squad sounded the all clear, I stepped onto the Union Station train. Such are the vicissitudes of life in L.A. when you try, for one freaking night, to leave your car at home and rely on the MTA.
I jumped off at Sunset with a homeless couple who were returning to their sleep spots after a long day on the streets of Hollywood. I trudged up the hill and through the village, past the beautiful people at Vermont and Figaro and the freaks at Psychobabble, up my stairs, and into my apartment. I collapsed on the bed and dreamed of wu xia women and a swordfight ballet over a mountain lake.
I did not, thank god, dream of the MTA.
With clockwork regularity, Los Angeles produces bizarre, gruesome murders like this double homicide. A blacklisted screenwriter in his 90's, a retired doctor, and a psychopath from Orange County. What a strange confluence of people and events this city is.

Okay. If you really must buy a historic house in an established neighborhood, tear it down, and build a McMansion out to the very edges of your property line, shouldn't you at least hire a decent architect? This thing has all the charm and timeless beauty of a Valencia tract home. Plenty of parking, though. Posted by Hello
As a side note to the last post, check out Miracle Mile, a movie starring Anthony Edwards with hair (and skinny ties), in which nuclear holocaust comes to L.A. Bad 80's clothes, bad 80's stereotypes, and some wooden dialogue, but as the inevitable end turns out the lights on civilization, everything comes together in a convincing portrait of people trapped in a horrifying, incomprehensible nightmare. It's been making the cable rounds lately, and it's worth a look.
My new day job has taken me back to where it all started for me in L.A.: the Miracle Mile. My first apartment here was behind the Petersen Automotive Museum (site of Biggie Smalls' assassination, possibly by an off-duty LAPD officer). I used to rub elbows with the tourists at the tar pits, pay late fees to the Blockbuster at Wilshire and Detroit (now torn down for new apartments), and wish that there was a coffee shop in the neighborhood that stayed open past 5 p.m.
The Mile has changed a little since then (a Baja Fresh and an IHOP), but it's still a 9 to 5 neighborhood. That's good in a sense, because development pressures that affect other parts of the city skip over the great Art Deco and Moderne buildings that line Wilshire between La Brea and Fairfax.
Sure, there are ugly boxes sprinkled in amongst the shells of old department stores, and that huge fenced-in hole still takes up a whole city block across the street from Ralph's, but if look down Wilshire at just the right angle (and maybe squint your eyes), you can get a feel for how the street looked when it was the premiere retail center in L.A.
All in all, it's good to be back here. The sidewalks are wide, the tar pits swarm with school children, LACMA is free after 5 p.m., and there's a Coffee Bean right up Fairfax at the Farmer's Market. Now if they would just extend the Red Line down to Fairfax...

This kid knew the first few bars of Iron Man and Smoke on the Water. Who said rock is dead? (More pics from the Street Festival at right) Posted by Hello
President Reagan has mercifully gone to his greater reward, whatever that is for him. No matter what I thought of him as a politician, Alzheimer's is a terrible way to go. To lose your mind and drift on in a twilight world, detached from everyone and everything you loved, robbed even of your personality, is a dreadful fate.
Reagan was President in my formative years, an era when nuclear war, not terrorist attacks, was our chief threat. I remember John Hinckley, Iran-Contra, trickle-down economics, yuppies, and Iran-Contra. I was in opposition to most of his policies, an opposition that time has not softened.
Today, though, I will remember him for a speech he gave in January 1986.
I was in high school in Florida at the time, skipping school, drinking Busch beer and listening to the Ramones with my friends. We stumbled out onto the lawn to watch the space shuttle takeoff, something that had become almost routine to us. What we got was a moment of history.
I missed the actual moment of the explosion. The first inkling we had that something had gone wrong came when the solid rocket boosters flung themselves away from the body of the spacecraft, trailing curls of smoke as they spun wildly out of control. I remember thinking that I'd never seen that, it had definitely never done that.
A news break informed us that the Challenger had exploded on takeoff. It was shocking to all Americans, but especially, I think, to Floridians. The space shuttle was so central to how we viewed ourself. The space program was integral to our indentity. We were the Space Coast. Hell, my grandfather worked at the cape as a firmean for a time. The astronauts were part of our family, so familiar to us we had begun to take them granted.
We were devastated.
And Reagan, the hardened cold-warrior, gave a beautiful speech, a speech that even now, almost twenty years later, touches me. It perfectly encapsulates the feelings of a people after a shocking, demoralizing tragedy, encapsulates and transforms, channeling grief into resolve and pride.
On that day, Reagan was our voice, and I thank him for it. I hope he has found some measure of peace in death. As the people back home say, "he has laid down his Earthly burdens, and crossed the River Jordan". Whether there is something on the other side or not, his suffering is ended at last.
For those of you in the area, leave your car parked this weekend and walk on down to the Los Feliz Village Street Fair. It's actually an okay little event. Good food, and it looks like this year there's music over on Hillhurst. Last year Video Hut had a kick ass street sale on Vermont and I scored Army of Darkness, Suspiria, and A Better Tomorrow on DVD for like $10. Nice.
I always wondered where the term SigAlert came from...
Tired of traffic? Graffiti? Crime? That weird smell emanating from your neighbor's apartment? Then get the hell out of L.A., and go back to Iowa, you weak-willed loser!
Just kidding. You can take your gripes to the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council. These councils, set up by City Hall to forestall the gathering storm of Valley secession, purportedly offer residents easy access to city government. I recently (more or less) took them up on the offer, and brother, it ain't pretty.
Never get tired of hearing people expound endlessly on zoning variances and setbacks? Can't get enough of bickering neighbors with decades old axes to grind? Love hearing hours upon hours of bland, spectacularly unclear bureaucratese? Then what are you waiting for? Get down to the Citibank branch on Hillhurst, and make your voice heard!
Where else can you actually see the Machiavellian hand of city government at work on your life? Sure, the most visible city service is the helpful fleet of parking enforcement officers scurrying around the city making up budget shortfalls on the backs of residents who have the temerity to drive in Los Angeles, but trust me, there are other, hidden programs working for you, Joe Angeleno. Like the city's deal to allow an billboard firm to erect signage (in the guise of bus shelters with huge illuminated ads, and other "street furniture") on public sidewalks. Like the streetlights program, wherein the DWP charges neighborhoods to erect streetlights on their darkened thoroughfares, or the plan to allow developers to build a restaurant next to the Griffith Observatory.
The neighborhood councils are supposed to supply a check to practices and proposals that, like those I've mentioned, are derogatory to the quality of life. And I know from my experience that most of the members of the GGPNC are committed to fulfilling that mission. Whether or not it will work remains to be seen. But for sheer, stomach curdling, pull-up-the-rock-and-peek-under-it voyeurism, not to mention genuine civic edification, check it out. Just don't drink the coffee.


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