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the skunks of los feliz
Jimmy Alvarado, my co-worker and the pre-eminent authority on the East-LA 1980's punk scene, passed this link along to me. Click here if you, like many of us, are holding your nose as you vote for Kerry (hey, at least he ain't Bush).

Maybe you're a former Deaniac, angry that Kerry took so long to warm up to the anti-war message. Maybe voting for Nader doesn't have the same quixotic appeal as it did in 2000, before Bush had four years to work his "magic" on America. Maybe Kerry turned you off with his inept campaign and compulsive waffling, but you're stuck with him now (is it really too late to nominate Wes Clark??). Maybe you just hate Bush more than Kerry.

Whatever your axe to grind, check it out.
I just got back from a long weekend in NYC, which has prompted me to once again consider that supreme ontological dilemma: which city is better, LA or New York?

Obviously, there are a lot of strong feelings on this issue, but strangely, most of that comes from the pro-New York crowd. And the strongest of the pro-New York sentiment comes from New Yorkers who are now cast adrift in what they feel is a vast cultural wasteland, where you cannot even find a decent deli, fer chrissakes: Los Angeles. These people are never shy about letting you know how they feel about New York as opposed to LA. They slip it into conversations that are only tangentially relevant to the issue. For example:

You: Man, this coffee is great!

Them: Not as great as the coffee at the coffee house on 62nd between Lex and Third. Yeah, I used to stop there for a coffee and a Post on my way to the subway, and the guy behind the counter is totally New York, it's so great....

And so on.

Everything in New York is better, they say. The trash is more picturesque. The street people more clever, and oh so New York. Even crime is better in New York, where criminals vie to commit offenses so heinous that they will generate a headline in the New York Post (which reminds them to harp on the fact that LA has no tabloid papers).

And don't even get them started on traffic in LA.

Pro-LA people rarely get riled by this talk of New York. We take it in stride. Hell, everybody pounds on us: politicians, religious leaders, moralists of every stripe, Easy Coast intellectuals, West Coast intellectuals, San Franciscans, and the list goes on and on (and on). We take it on the chin daily, and that's okay. All of the therapy and Prozac is paying off: We're secure in LA's greatness.

No, it's not great like New York, but New York isn't great like us. We're two different cities. They've got cultural institutions. We create pop culture. They're 19th century urbanity. We're the city of the future. They wear sensible shoes. We wear flip-flops year round. They've got hot dog carts of varying cleanliness. We've got food trucks of varying cleanliness.

We should probably just declare a ceasefire, and both turn on San Francisco.

But that will never happen. The truth is that the whole thing is just too fun to give up.
The Screen Actors Guild election season is in full swing, and as Melissa Gilbert's Restore Respect battles the background performer's Membership First faction, both sides have mobilized their heavy artillery to bring home a victory.

I know, because I wondered onto the battlefield (Museum Square) which also happens to be my workplace. As I walked up the sidewalk to work, sniffing daisies and enjoying the weather, I was button-holed by none other than Loretta "Hot Lips Houlihan" Swit. She asked me if I was a member, and I replied "With this mug?", and she let me pass.

Okay, I didn't say "With this mug?". It was actually more along the lines of "Ungh ugh glugh glugh". But hey, this was Hot Lips man, and for a man of a certain age Loretta Swit, Morgan Fairchild, and Loni Anderson were the ne plus ultras of big bosomed TV blondes.

And Hot Lips thought I was an actor.

Maybe I should consider taking my "talents" to the big screen. Why keep it all to myself, right? Shit, I've got all the dialogue in the first Star Wars movie (original trilogy, thank you) down pat, so memorizing lines shouldn't be a problem.

And I was an elf in the 6th grade Christmas Pageant.

Um, yeah. Maybe not.

  So Long, Farewell
The Hollywood Hills Restaurant on Vermont, which never really took off after it moved form the Best Western on Franklin and the 101, has shuttered. We walked by the other night on the way to see the panhandlers at Rite-Aid, and noticed it was empty (which wasn't unusual) and dark. A forlorn paper taped to the door summed it up nicely: "Employees: your checks are across the street at Vermont".

I have to say I never really frequented the place, but I did have brunch there on a few occasions. The food was good, the portions generous, and they seemed to do a brisk business on weekend mornings. The rest of the time, the headshots on the wall had the place pretty much to themselves.

It's kind of sad when a neighborhood place goes under. The flip side is that we'll soon be getting a new bar or sushi place or diner, and we could definitely stand a little more variety on Vermont. How about a place with live music?
  Mall Wars
The Glendale Galleria, that dingy relic of an earlier, pre-Grove era, will soon have some competition for the expendable income of LA consumers. Glendale Citizens (Glendaliens?) apparently okayed a huge mixed-use project that will, in all likelihood, spell doom for the Galleria, much as the Grove has dispatched the Beverly Connection and now has the Bev Center itself in a chokehold.

But don't think the Galleria is gonna go down without a fight. The new owners of that drab brick pile have their own plan for a "town center", one that is centered around, surprise, their mall. They're also planning to contest the election results (hanging chads, perhaps?) and contest the whole thing in court, which shows how seriously they take the threat of a new Grove perched right on their doorstep.

This is gonna be one helluva fight. Hopefully whoever wins, Glendale doesn't lose.

Monday we took advantage of the Labor Day holiday, ignored the blistering heat, and made the short journey down Los Feliz Boulevard to the L.A. Zoo. Construction has closed off huge chunks of exhibits, most notably the gorilla enclosure, but there were still plenty o' captive animals to ogle. The grounds of the zoo itself (which is more properly known as the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens) are actually quite nice, with shaded walkways that wind along the hills on the east side of Griffith Park.

We checked out Destination: Dinosaur, which was a pretty decent collection of animatronic dino's clicking and whirring away in a well air-conditioned recreation of a prehistoric rain forest setting. We chuckled at the antics of a kangaroo and her rambunctious joey. We gazed at a huge alligator and discussed (briefly) how quickly he could make a meal of us. We trudged along under the unblinking eye of the sun, pouring bottled water down our throats. We were having a good time.

And then we came to the chimpanzee enclosure, where a dejected looking troop of chimps sat on a rock while another set of primates sat on benches and pointed and stared. Now, here's where a nagging sense of guilt began to creep into the proceedings.

For the record, I think the perfect habitat for most animals can be described thusly: Unlimited food and a total absence of predators. The zebra, for instance, toils not, and neither does he spin, as long as he's got plenty of hay and doesn't have to worry about a lion creeping up on him while he ruminates. And where can this trouble-free existence play out? In a zoo. This goes for many of the animals at the zoo. Let's face it, most animals (and some people) aspire to nothing more than survival and reproduction, and the zoo provides them with that opportunity, not to mention better health care than many Americans.

But looking at those chimps, with their hunched shoulders and drooping heads, gave me the familiar feeling (which keeps me away from Sea World and it's trained cetaceans) that some creatures should not be held captive. I tell myself that chimps are endangered in the wild, that this captive population may one day be key to the survival of their species. And who knows what chimps really feel? Our tendency to anthropomorphize animals can muddy our thinking on the matter, and the question of just how aware our furry friends are is hotly debated, to say the least.

And yet, watching the body language of our close cousins, I can't help but produce my own interpretation of their emotional state. The downcast eyes, the bowed heads, the demoralized demeanor, all say to me that these chimps are not happy, that they resent being stared at, that they do want out of their captivity, even if they have only the dimmest conception of "freedom". Maybe chimps can't quite put their finger on what's bothering them in the abstract way a human can, but they seem to know what they like, and captivity ain't it.



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