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the skunks of los feliz
The Republicans take Manhattan.
Dispatch from NYC, via email from Lisa Stock:

You may have seen the protests on the news (United for Peace and Justice this afternoon had 400,000 people!) - here a few things that may not have made it.

It all really began on Friday. Union Square (the Manhattan political hotbed) was pretty much a madhouse - and that's where I work. The protestors really didn't need to convince me of their message so I didn't appreciate being yelled at and followed, and am not sure this tactic would change anyone's mind anyway. Not only is the choir being preached to - it's being shouted at.

A big Bush Pinoccio balloon was erected in Washington Square Park. (enter your own joke here)

Friday night 6,000 cyclists with Critical Mass took to the streets, and 264 promptly got arrested. Not sure why - I guess they were blocking the streets... Oh hey, isn't the Convention doing that too?

972 pairs of combat boots were laid out by the Cherry Hill Fountain in Central Park - one pair for each soldier killed in Iraq. Many family members of the soldiers participated in this silent but powerful protest.

Another powerful moment came with hundreds of people standing in a circle around Ground Zero and ringing bells - to ring out the politics from the site. This goes for Republicans or Democrats - we don't want to see either candidate down there this election season.

Firefighters from all over the country are here to protest as well - haven't seen them yet. But I say we give them whatever they want. Can you think of anyone who deserves it more? As the third anniversary of 9/11 approaches our hearts and minds are not very far from them.

Kudos to my friend at the FBI. Woke up yesterday and found out that two terrorists had been arrested Friday in Brooklyn who were planning to blow up the subways. The specific trains and station mentioned in the plot...both mine. Later that day I saw a delegate being interviewed from Oklahoma and when asked how she felt about all the security - she replied "Well, I'll probably die, but at least I got here" and then started laughing. Glad she thinks it's funny. Also glad I wasn't the reporter - I would have slapped her. She's going to be sheltered - in fact all of the homeless were removed from the Madison Square Garden area for the RNC. Yes, for security purposes - but hey, can't we find a safe place for them too instead of just moving their benches or arresting them?

Thousands of Pro-choice advocates marched across the Brooklyn Bridge this morning. And were promptly met by a handful of Pro-life advocates on the other side. You've all seen that fight before - so I'll move on...

Want to protest and don't know where to go? Look up! At any given moment several helicopters are hovering in the sky over the largest gathering. So many have flown over today it's like being at the 4077th. As I write this I figure the largest protest has just moved into Central Park (near my house) and the news just confirmed that.

In the park this morning I saw two protests - 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows had a black draped carriage and were beating drums. On a lighter note, there were all kinds of people dressed in evening gowns, opera gloves, tuxes, and top-hats for the tongue in cheek "Billionaires for Bush" protest.

It seems there are protests of every kind going on - even if they have nothing to do with the election. Saw one in front of the AMNH to stop the persecution of the Falun Gong. Things could be a lot worse in this country - let's count our blessings...

Democrats outnumber Republicans 5:1 in this city. So, the question may be why have the RNC here? I thought today, and maybe I'm wrong, but if it had been held elsewhere, the opposition would not have been as great. The numbers wouldn't have been as large.

I support peaceful protests - showing up in large numbers and having your voice heard. No matter your politics - it's one of our greatest rights (and so far it's been fun to witness). But I grow wary and weary of politics now. I didn't march today. I'm doing other things - nonpolitical - to try and make this a better world (a clue rests in the last page of my book - wink). It's one thing to protest and it's another to produce. I'd like to see action follow a lot of words. There are too many of us watching the news and not walking around our cities. I don't mean to make assumptions - I'd just like to hear about good in the world instead of anger and complaining and fighting and naysaying. Someone said New Yorkers were just in a bad mood this week - it's not that we don't welcome visitors to this amazing city (please come!), it's just that when your life is disrupted for thousands of delegates, thousands of protesters, and thousands of sports fans heading to the US Open (all in the same week), you have to wonder if the city couldn't have planned better. Needless to say not many NYer's are thrilled with the prospect of hosting the 2012 Olympics. But memory is short and in another 8 years they'll be up for it again...

It's going to rain the next three days, so not sure there will be much more to report. But if aliens should come down from the sky to line up at the big red megaphone and tell us all the meaning of life, I'll let you know!

Love, Lisa

Man, could somebody in the MTA get their head screwed on straight?
Last night I was awakened by an ambulance's wail, followed by an unearthly series of howls rising from the street and into my open window. I jumped up and looked out in time to see two coyotes loping down Finley, taking their time, on their pre-dawn patrol for pets, garbage, and maybe a rat or two. There must have been more out of sight, because the howls and barks that greeted the siren were definitely the work of more than two coyotes.

This was very cool. I've seen (and heard) coyotes in Griffith Park on plenty of occasions, and I know that the city supports a population of thousands of the wily varmints. But this was the first time I'd actually seen them down in the flatlands. They must have crossed Los Feliz Boulevard, not easy even for the most adept human jaywalker.

I watched as one sniffed the grass, and the other stopped in the middle of the street, his head slightly raised, ears erect, before they both moved on. They were in view for just a few moments, and then were gone into the darkness under the trees of New Hampshire Ave., with only the shivery memory of their howls trailing behind them.
Trouble brewing.

If you loved the 2000 election, you're gonna love all the litigation sure to arise from the ill-advised, rushed roll-out of electronic voting machines. These things (which are not even proven to work) leave no paper trail, making recounts an impossibility.

This is not how a modern democracy should hold elections. Unless someone's trying to steal the election.
Driving south on Cahuenga today, making my way to ye old day job, it suddenly dawned on me that the area bounded by Hollywood, Cahuenga, Sunset and Vine has emerged from it's awkward phase and become a pretty vibrant neighborhood. I remember when Vinyl Fetish bolted Los Feliz for the Cahuenga corridor, and I thought, well, that's it for them. I mean, that stretch of Cahuenga was probably best known for a storied gay bar and a 24 hour newstand (one of the very few anywhere in town). And parking? Forget about it.

Now, there are cafes (directly across the street from one another, and engaged in a street fight that Karma Coffee seems to be winning, judging from an ass-in-seat count), Amoeba, the Arclight (great theaters, not so successful retail space), the renovated Cinerama Dome, with it's congress of pigeons scratching out a living high atop the famous geodesic dome, the Sunset+Vine development (with a reincarnation of Schwab's Soda Counter and the freakiest Borders ever), the newly refurbished Ricardo Montalban Theater, Klasky-Csupo, the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Ivar, that building in Earthquake (abandoned now) - in short, this neighborhood has almost everything, and Vinyl Fetish is still going strong (leaving Los Feliz served only by Eastside Records).

Hopefully, the city can continue to build on the momentum generated by these projects. It's easy to get behind redevelopment programs that actually contribute to livable, vibrant neighborhoods rather than lining the pockets of developers. And I have to say that the city's Hollywood plan is well conceived: focus on building two strong tent-poles at Hollywood/Highland and Vine between Sunset and Hollywood, and then turn to Hollywood Boulevard itself, a stretch of road famously resistant to revitalization efforts. It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next five years or so.

When Southern Californians discover that I hail from the Land of the Hanging Chad, one of their first questions is usually whether I prefer earthquakes to hurricanes, or vice versa. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that I would prefer neither.

Hurricanes, it's true, can be forecasted and tracked, allowing the populace to flee before them like Tokyo residents charging through the streets with Godzilla in hot, fire-breathing pursuit (though many Floridians refuse, as a matter of course, to heed evacuation warnings). However, as any viewer of the 11 o'clock news can tell you, however, weather forecasts can be wrong. Wildly wrong. That was the case with Charley, which swerved inland far south of it's projected past, sparing the evacuated cities of the Tampa Bay area and devasting the trailer parks of Charlotte County.

A hurricane will spawn tornadoes, cause flooding, send patio furniture hurtling through cinder block walls, and crush mobile homes against it's forehead like so many beer cans, howling all the while.

Earthquakes, unlike Hurricanes, don't have a season. They can strike at any time. They do not show up on Doppler 7000 Plus. There is a great uncertainty associated with them. Each small shaker could be a foreshock of the Big One. Your house may fall in on you, leaving you trapped in a small air pocket, drinking your urine while the rats nibble on your toes in the dark.

Not that I have any great fear of that.

Either way, when Mother Nature gets pissed, our soft little bodies often pay a terrible price.
Just another reason I don't miss the land of my birth.
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has a great new website that pulls together information about parks across Los Angeles and the nearby valleys. I was especially excited when I found a link to a Griffith Park trail map. Unfortunately, it looks to be the same incomplete offering the city peddles on it's Griffith Park site. The 5, 134, and 101 are well marked. The trail from Fern Dell to Dante's View is not. Some amateur cartographers have attempted to create a comprehensive trail map, but Col. Griffith's gift to the city has managed to elude capture by professional map-makers.

Which is just as well, I guess. The rectilinear expanse of the city that surrounds the park is order enough. Maybe the interior should remain uncharted, a blank space with a legend that reads "Here there be coyotes".
The Toluca Yard, a fantastic trove of graffiti art (as opposed to the graffiti scrawl associated with gang activity) that also serves as a de facto neighborhood park, is coming under pressure from proposed housing developements on the hill above. Let's hope the city can find a way to preserve this precious bit of open space that just happens to provide a tangible link to the past.
The furor over the Orange Line has once again revealed a major contributor to the Los Angeles region's poor air quality. Am I talking about diesel trucks? Power plants? Leaf blower emissions? Not in this post. Today, I'm talking about Southern Californians, about the absolute refusal of many Angelenos to draw a connection between their behavior and our congestion and pollution problem. People here bitch (deservedly so) about our horrible traffic. They sit in that traffic because there is really no alternative for most of them. There is no alternative because every MTA project faces an uphill battle from every conceivable segment of society: homeowner's groups, business groups, civil rights groups, the Bus Rider's Union, the Federal government, even, illogically, environmental groups. Don't get me wrong, sometimes NIMBYism is the correct course of action, as seen in the defeat (for now) of CalTran's disastrous 101 widening scheme. And, I'll be the first to say that the MTA is an imperfect agency, at best. But at some point we've got to pull this thing together and realize that traffic will only get worse as the region's population continues to swell. Increased traffic means increased pollution. Both mean lower quality of life. Surely, no one wants that.

Either we put a moratorium on development, or we get serious about accommodating all those extra people, including giving the region alternatives to solo driving. To paraphrase Pogo: "We have seen that asshole who cut me off on the 405, and he is us."
A meeting of the minds.
Hey, keep your Ford Extinction off my street! Sez who? Sez the Los Angeles Municipal Code, that's who!
San Fernando Valley Orange Line Woes, Part II: NIMBYism Strikes Back.
Efforts to bring additional mass transit options to the Valley have hit a snag, as COST (Citizens Organized for Smart Transit), one of the myriad of alphabet-soup, anti-everything, extremely litigious groups that flourish on that side of the hill, has brought construction of the Orange Line busway to a halt with the help of the California Court of Appeals. As seen here, a light rail line may well have been preferable to a dedicated busway. However, with the project 40% complete, it seems like the folks at Citizens Organized for Smart Transit are trying to close the barn door after the cows have vacated the premises. Price tag for their obstructionism? Just a few hundred million dollars of scarce taxpayer money.


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