Here’s a 5-minute hyperlapsed version of the roughly 18-mile, 105-minute casual bike ride I did Labor Day morning that went from Silver Lake and back via Atwater Village, the Los Angeles River Bikeway, Boyle Heights, the Sixth Street Bridge, the Scrap Metal District and back up Central Avenue across downtown and through Echo Park:
Sun 13 Sep 2015
Tue 8 Sep 2015
With so many of my Los Angeles touchstones lost to progress and reinvention, in this city a landmark means almost always having to say goodbye — and that’s proven to be the case for the cherished Sixth Street Viaduct.
Only it’s not being demolished for some over-development. Instead it’s shortly scheduled to be brought down and be replaced by a modernized version because the bridge has long been ravaged internally by a concrete “cancer” that has slowly eaten away at it and compromised its structural integrity beyond saving. There’s something like a 70% chance it will fall in the event of a major seismic event.
It’s rather ironic that in a city that so often destroys itself, the bridge was a bit of a victim of its location. The on-site plant supplying the concrete during the bridge’s construction in 1932 produced a product with a high alkali content that reacted adversely with the area aggregate introduced to it. In a way it was doomed from the start.
And now the end is nigh. Work has already begun at various locations at and around ground level, but it’s been a bit of an unknown when the bridge itself is to be closed and dismantled. As such, on yesterday morning’s bike ride I specifically paid the beloved bridge a visit — perhaps for the last time — and paid my respects.
Wed 2 Sep 2015
It’s easy to take one’s tools for granted. Day in and day out, year after year, familiarity is said to breed contempt, but it also breeds indifference. Such is the case of my 18-year-old Nissan truck, which throughout our life together, beginning when I drove her brand new off the Glendale Nissan lot in July of 1997 with 18 miles on her odometer (she’s got about 127,000 and change presently), has dependably and dutifully gotten me from my points of origin to destination with no muss and no fuss (a couple of dead batteries along the way notwithstanding).
I’m not much for the pretense prevalent in you-are-what-you-drive Los Angeles, but at the same time this truck most definitively makes a true statement as to who I am. Certainly heads don’t turn when she passes, except maybe in cases of those few angelenos who might appreciate old pick-ups relatively well-maintained — and I definitely don’t make it easy for them to admire seeing how as I’ve only washed her roughly four times in the last six years.
The most recent of those washes came last weekend, spurred on in part by a rather thorough cleaning/organizing/purging of the garage. The truck’s thick blanket of dust and grime just didn’t look right in its corner of the freshly spiffed-up carport. So this past Saturday I rolled her over to a local self-wash, soaped her up, scrubbed her, rinsed her, toweled her dry, and dang if she hasn’t been catching my eye these last couple days — so much so that coming back from lunch yesterday afternoon I stopped and snapped the above photo.
Look too close and you’ll see the ravages of time; myriad pings, dings, scratches, pocks and the like. But from where I’m standing she’s a thing of beauty deserving my appreciation.
Sun 30 Aug 2015
This Saturday marked the second time in two weeks my newspaper’s been stolen from the front steps of our house. Trivial? Sure. Infuriating? Sure.
Both times, the crimes have been caught on our surveillance camera, and from the fuzzy images it appears as if the same perpetrator has been involved.
So my next step? Oh I could lay in wait. Or I could tie fishing line between a bait paper and something that would make a great amount of noise falling over when the scumbag strikes. Instead I’m opting for some mind games. I’ll be leaving a decoy paper out inserted within it the following notice (click for a slightly larger version) and hopefully scare the punk straight:
Sat 29 Aug 2015
It began a couple months ago when I bought a pair of Danner boots for work, pretty much one of the most popular brands of footwear for those in my profession.
When they arrived I plotted a course to take them to a place south of Downtown called Code 7, my go-to place to get ’em shined up right, since I’m the posterboy for How To Suck At Shining Boots.
Trouble was, I found out that at some point between my academy adventures and the present, that particular branch of Code 7 had closed down (in fact their website still lists the LA location), leaving their only one other store waaaay down in Long Beach.
So I employed the inturnet to find me a suitable local replacement, which lead me to Willie’s on La Brea south of Olympic. The place looks amazing; spacious and chock full of old-school equipment to make or repair any manner of footwear, I dropped off my boots for their standard $12 shine but was intrigued by the proprietor’s pitch for his Cadillac service. Costing $42 it amounted to the boots being left for a week wherein they receive six coats and polishes resulting in basically a pair of leather mirrors on your feet.
I picked up the $12-shined shoes a couple days later and was satisfied with how they looked. Not Code-7 dazzled, but they’d do. The proprietor even blamed it on the boots, noting that the Danners I’d bought were made in Taiwan (what’s up with that Danner?) with a leather not of the same quality as those made in the USA. That fact of course gave him the opportunity to re-pitch me to fork over the green for the Cadillac treatment. He said it would take that type of work to really make them truly glow. So the seed that had been planted got fertilized. I was simultaneously intrigued by the concept of spending almost half of a hundred dollars on a shine as I was repulsed by it.
But the intrigued side of me won out and a few weeks ago when the $12 shine had looong worn away, I dropped the boots off with the promise that a week later I’d be in total freaking awe.
A week later, I wasn’t in total freaking awe. Certainly they looked all right, but really not much better than the $12 shine. Coincidentally (or conveniently) the proprietor was not on-hand, so it was a surprised shop employee who had to endure my brief line of rhetorical questioning, which consisted of “I paid $42 for this?” as I stormed out.
Let it be known that the irony is not lost on me that for the $42 I threw away, I could’ve driven them down to Code 7 in Long Beach with that amount of money in my pocket, waited for them, bought lunch, tipped the server, paid for the shine, tipped the shiner, driven them home and still had about $10 left.
To make matters worse whoever did the quarter-assed job at Willie’s applied polish to e-v-e-r-y leather aspect of the eight-inch uppers of the boot — a complete waste of time, material and effort since those parts of the boots reside unseen under the pant legs. The only thing that work accomplished was to piss me off further because it meant that pulling the boots on or taking them off left black waxy residue on my fingers. The only thing I hate more than a crappy ridiculously expensive shine is to have to scrub off proof of its complete over-priced failure from my digits twice a day.
Now you’d think I’d’ve been steamed enough to march them back to Willie’s, fling them in the proximity of the proprietor’s head and either demanded a refund or at least a make-good, but instead after wearing them on-duty just one day I was so ashamed at being such a total sucker that I chocked it up to being an expensive lesson learned and instead dumped them into the bottom of my locker and went back to wearing my old trusty boots. Once out of sight and mind the Danners sat until yesterday at end of shift when I hauled ’em home and this morning deployed my meager skillset in stripping them and starting from scratch.
Suffice it to say that at the end of that ordeal, they still need a boatload more of elbow grease, but at least my Chrysler-level work (seen at the top of this post) looks far better than Willie’s so-called Cadillac.
Tue 25 Aug 2015
So. I had my doubts about it, but most were allayed and I certainly enjoyed the heck outta the premiere episode of “Fear The Walking Dead” Sunday, for a couple reasons. One, It did as I’d hoped and showcased the unfamiliar REAL Los Angeles as it exists in everyday life instead of in the make-believe city only known for its affluence and high-profile landmarks.
Case in point, as far as the series is concerned ground zero takes place not in Malibu or Beverly Hills or on the steps of City Hall, but as it so happens: in Silver Lake. That establishing shot at the end of the opening sequence after the kid gets hit by the vehicle and the camera gets craned up into the sky? What you’re shown is what’s commonly referred to as Polkadot Plaza off of Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake and bonus: the abandoned church the kid escapes from wasn’t a soundstage on some lot somewhere but rather is an actual abandoned church — one that’s right next to that plaza. PS. You’ve gotta appreciate the subtext of that scene from an L.A. streets perspective. The strung-out punk saves himself from a flesh-eater only to get creamed by the real monster: a car.
Basically for authenticity I give the show high marks. Ditto for the cast, characters and dialogue — although does practically every teen with the exception of the one plowed by the automobeast at the start of the show have to be such a complete and total tool?
The only aspect I wish had been negated (but I knew wouldn’t be) is the perpetuated pretense with both this new series and the original that I intrinsically despise: that in this universe in which these characters exist there has never been a zombie movie — or worse: no one has ever seen a zombie movie. Gasp: The horror!
Just once I wish a character would recognize what the hell is going on. Is it seriously too much to ask (yes… it is) to have some drunk at a bar watching live breaking news footage of some paramedic getting chomped on by a freshly minted member of the undead who then takes 20 rounds to the center mass and still remains standing and have the besotted sod slur out “Haven’t any of you sunzabeeches seen ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (or “Shaun of the Dead” for that matter)? That’s a freakin’ zombie!”
Having someone/anyone in the crowd make a pop-culture reference and thus winkingly acknowledge an awareness of what’s going on — even if the truth he speaks gets dissed and dismissed immediately by those around him — would make my night. Of the living dead.
Sat 15 Aug 2015
This morning we made it two successful skunk meetups in a row. Emerging from yesterday’s way-too-close encounter while walking Ranger was a miracle. This morning’s jaw-dropper of a stand off was something even more glorious: proof that Ranger has perhaps finally learned after at least three previous backyard skunkings that those “funny looking cats” (and the subsequent unceremonious deskunking baths involving hydrogen peroxide, baking powder and dish soap that follow) are to be avoided at all costs.
Awake early but way too lazy to go for a walk, I instead let Ranger out in the backyard to do her thang — but not before first conducting the obligatory flashlight enhanced patrol of the area to make sure there were no critters out and about.
Once I’d cleared it, out went Ranger who promptly found a patch of dirt and laid down upon it, looking at me with a forlorn expression. This is not her normal behavior, which is to do her own urgent patrol, and then after much back-and-forthing in the way-back part of the yard find a spot to pee and then another to poop. This self-imposed “I’m just gonna lay down here until I die or Momma comes home” exile is how she acts in protest to Susan (who’s on a weekender to visit old friends and her mom) not being here.
I tried to encourage Ranger to “go peepee!” but she was having none of it so I adjourned inside to make coffee, freshen the water and kibble bowls and advise the imploring cats gathered in the kitchen that breakfast wouldn’t be for awhile yet.
Roughly five minutes later (and in hindsight pleeeeenty of time for any number of creature — rat, squirrel, opossum, raccoon or coyote — to breach the backyard while seated with my cuppa joe in the kitchen, I saw Ranger was no longer prone outside, but was instead upright and facing north with interest. Simultaneously, a couple cats hopped up into the backyard facing windows I’d opened and were staring intently in the direction of the tortoise hutch. So I went outside to see whatever the object of their collective attention was.
My eyes went wide. It was a skunk. About the same size as the one yesterday. Standing atop the short retaining wall beside the hutch, stock still, facing in Ranger’s direction about 20 feet away with tail straight up.
This would typically be when I would yell out a blood-curdling “Noooooo!” and Ranger would ignore that go all territorial and charge, forcing the skunk to execute a 180-degree turn of doom and release its appropriate and terribly effective counter measures. Past episodes Ranger’s been blasted in the chest and the side of the head. She even took a direct hit in the mouth and eyes on one occasion. That one was particularly horrible with her spastically rolling around on the ground, foaming at the mouth and eating dirt like she’d gone instantly Cujo-level rabid. Poor girl.
And after each of those times while scrubbing her down Susan and I would question when or if she’d ever learn.
That question was answered this morning. Not only did she just stand there showing completely no sign of charging, but when I called her, she headed to me immediately and followed along while I hustled us to the back door and back inside the safety of kitchen. Even when the skunk went frantically mobile and started to probe the north fence for an exit, Ranger didn’t waiver.
Inside I hugged her and praised her for five full minutes, before going back outside to ensure the skunk had gone. Then I came back and hugged her some more.