Archive for October, 2007

DWP & LaBonge To Festival of Lights Cyclists: LOSERS!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

I’ve been stewing over this since reading it in yesterday’s L.A. Times. Between the latter part of November and the end of December every year the DWP’s Festival of Lights shines in Griffith Park in all its kitschy kooky glory. And every year the traffic congestion and emissions spew resulting from people clogging neighboring streets and freeways waiting for upwards of an hour or more in their idling vehicles to crawl along the mile-long exhibit of illumination drives everyone in the area crazy.

Flash backward with me a bit. Were bikes welcome for the first eight or so years? Oh hell nah: those blasted contraptions and the freaks that ride them had been categorically banned for the cyclists own safety. Never mind that Crystal Springs Drive where the fest happens is a public street with a striped bike lane that cyclists have every right to traverse, and never mind that the flow of traffic past the lights moves at a glacial pace than that of, say, Sepulveda Boulevard up through West LA where bikes and cars must also co-exist; the bastard authorities were clear in their unlawful enforcement: No Bikes Allowed!

It was finally in 2004 when some pesky cycling advocates wrote WTF letters to the DWP and the Parks & Recreation Dept. pointing out that — DUH! — prohibiting cyclists from accessing a public street is unlawful and/or fucking fascist. And then a funny thing happened: the DWP and the Park & Recs said ya know, you’re right!

But instead of opening things up to us two-wheelers there was still the smooth-brained belief that bikes and cars can’t coexist — even when the cars are relegated to traveling at sub 5 mph speeds — and so some dimrod came up with an alternative: For one night and one night only instead of bikes being banned and cars allowed, they’d reverse that order. And since that was better than nothing the first bike night was born and was at best a modest success, drawing perhaps 50 cyclists, including me.

Even if it failed to draw big numbers, it proved to be an awesome and unique way to experience the sights and sounds of the fest’s scenery. Then in 2005 and again last year bike-loving Councilman Tom LaBonge grabbed the reigns and promoted it a bit and its popularity grew. And each year at some sort of makeshift podium LaBonge and some DWP suit step up to the mic and say something blowy and showy about working hard to bring more bike nights to the festival next year! This is inevitably and enthusiastically greeted with whoops and hollers and hearty rounds of applause.

And inevitably nothing changes the next year.

Well for 2007, in response to increasing calls of bullshit in regards to the decidedly anti-green gridlock created each night by the season-long event, the DWP and LaBonge have gotten together and come up with an additional five non-car nights. Yay? Nay. See the trouble is they’re pedestrian-only nights. So while cars aren’t allowed — which is good — neither are bikes, which is crap.

Cyclists still have their single, solitary token two hours to roll through the light show — November 19, from 6-8 p.m. (and if I may add: that early date is about as holiday festive as a kick in the ass). Then it’s walkers who’ll rule from November 21-25. From then to the end of 2007 it’s carscarscarscarscarscars.

But here’s the rub see: pedestrians are allowed during bike night and every car night. Anyone wishing to do so can park in the L.A. Zoo lot to the north or down near the carousel and playground at the south end, and walk the length and back along the dirt path between the street and the golf course.

So my point is why in aaaaaaaall of LaBonge’s pro-bike positioning and alleged awareness of increasing the access bikes have to the event didn’t he think to make those five pedestrian-only nights available to cyclists, too? Because he’s first and foremost a short-attention-span pa-lee-tee-shun who’s seemingly sincere appreciation of bicycling as an alternate transit method gets buried below the shuck and jive on the surface.

Of course I sent his office an email basically taking him to task for such an oversight, but if it’s like any of the past emails I’ve sent him it’ll get routed to some sub-basement droneflack — if not his spam folder.

UPDATED (8:00 a.m.): There’s a fair number of folks who chose to boycott riding in the fest’s bike night because of the baseless discrimination the event’s administrators and our politicians continue to show cyclists. I can understand those who don’t, but I think it’s counter-productive — which is why, even though it’s an annual source of frustration for me, I make it a point to be a part of the increasing numbers of cyclists who participate each year (plus, like I said before: it’s a fun thing to do). The more the merrier and eventually the more nights will become available to us.

A Lotta Hot Air

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

In my history as a native, I can’t recall a Santa Ana winds event in the fire season where it so decidedly blew like crazy everywhere except where I am. And the results are devestating: 15,000 acres burned in the Agua Dulce fire; 12,000 in Castaic 4,00o in East Orange County, 1,200 in Malibu.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles basin — or at least the part of it where we are — was freakishly calm. Susan and I kept waiting for the gusts to get here, but they never did.

Instead it was a quiet beautiful day with the exception of all the smoke out there on the horizons.

Weird.

Gettin’ Our Halloween On

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

After stopping at a decidedly unfulfilling Halloween store on San Fernando Boulevard, Susan and I beat a path to Stats in Pasadena where we proceeded to spend waaaaaaay too much money on ghouls and goblins and tombstones and strobe lights and stuff to decorate the front yard with this October 31st.

This fiendish fellow’s my favorite:

 ghoul.jpg

After that we journeyed down to Olvera Street for Susan to find a specific type of top and skirt for her Day of the Dead costume this year, then we had dinner at La Golondrina before heading home.

Birthday Ride

Friday, October 19th, 2007

It’s coming up on two years since our passion for bicycling brought us to meet at the Echo Park Christmas Parade where a contingent of Bike Kitchen devotees were invited to lead the event. Since then Stephen Roullier and I have logged a lot of miles together, but few more awesome than last night when to celebrate his birthday we gathered at Scoops for ice cream before a baker’s dozen or so bikers set out on a 15-mile cruise from East Hollywood into downtown and then up to the top of Elysian Park where the night was a beautiful and the views spectacular, like this one (click to quadruplicate):

downtownskyline.jpg

We had to deal with some failing innertubes along the way, but all worked out and after making our way through the dark park (and across a location shoot for the series “Bones”) we ended up at the Gold Room on Sunset where the good folks there were giving away carne asada tacos and the occasional tequila shot. One of those, three Pabst’s and a chorus of “Happy Birthday To You” later the party broke and I was rolling home at 1 a.m. from the most perfect birthday celebration ever.

Flickr photoset here.

Are We Too Neener Focused Nowadays?

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

A few weeks ago, in response to my posting on YouTube a somewhat painstakingly and successfully achieved timelapse of a nocturnal cactus flower blooming, I got the following comment from a viewer whose username is 74mr in response to what he deemed my mistake in identifying the plant as a San Pedro cactus:

That cactus is not an Echinopsis or Trichocereus species, it is a Cereus specie. Tricho means hairy and cereus means candle, all Trichocereus flowers have hairy flower stalks, that is a way to ID them. That plant cannot be San Pedro.

Today, as part of Blogging.la’s collective effort in presenting the “Top 25 Greatest Dead Angelenos” an extensive post on one of my favorite of all-time film stars, Buster Keaton, went live after some pretty extensive effort on my part. Not long after I got the following comment from a fine fellow named Don (who came with me for the first 17 miles of my walk across Sunset Boulevard last February) who correctly noted I had incorrectly listed Keaton’s age as 69 when he died:

Umm, if Buster Keaton was born in 1895 and died in 1966, that makes him 70 when he died (well, 70 and a half if you want to get picky), not 69. Unless he did some relativistic travel sometime in the 1940s courtesy of Navy experiments with electromagnetism.

While I disputed 74mr’s robotic assertion of a mistake on my part, I had no such qualms about the factual gaff Don cheekily pointed out and repaired it immediately, explaining its source (“PBS: American Master,” no less) and thanking him for letting me know.

But how I interacted with the critics is not the point. The point is the reaction I’m having to both of them ignoring the overall result of my work and going straight to rather petty points of order. With my timelapse I captured a remarkable sight and did so somewhat by the seat of my proverbial pants not having done much previously in the way of extended timelapse capture. With the Keaton post I provided what I think is a pretty decent overview of his life and career, replete with rare photos, a video montage and a personal angle. Hell, I even snooped around and found an event tie-in at a local theater next month that will feature Buster Keaton’s first film appearance! But none of that mattered to these two. In both cases neither of these commenters could even be bothered to give me even the briefest benefit of an attaboy before zooming in for the neener.

Please don’t mistake this as whimpering that I’m not getting the credit I think I deserve. Pffft. I’m not hungering for validation. But what I am hungering for is insight into what is it that’s allowing this type of nerdish tactlessness toseemingly be more acceptable? What’s happened where it’s more and more OK to be so narrow and unaware? Is it the internut? Absentee fathers? Nutrasweet? Duh-bya?

These two examples certainly do not a trend make, but if by chance the days of “Good job, but…” are going going gone I’ll try to get over it, but it’s gonna take awhile and in the meantime I’ll still be an active proprietor of politeness and encouragement. But I can’t guarantee I won’t be triply tactless in response to any future incidents of inconsideration.

Of Innertubes & Angels

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

At 8 a.m. this morning I climbed aboard The Phoenix and commenced riding in to work the long way in from Silver Lake to Lafayette Park down Hoover to USC and from there across Jefferson. At Hoover across Washington something’s not right: is my rear tire low? Kinda, but it seems to be holding and so I keep going under the 10 Freeway and past 24th Street, where I finally and frustratingly come to a stop because indeed my rear tire is flat.

I have conflicted feelings about flats. On one hand fixing them and getting back on the road is cool in a self-sufficient way, but on the other hand they can’t help but be pains in the ass.

Certainly they’re a simple fact of bicycling life and decidedly surmountable if properly prepared for them — which I am, what with my yeeeeeeears of experience changing them along with the two spare tubes, patch kit, and pump that I’m never without when I ride (or so I thought). And a moment later I had the bike belly up on the sidewalk and was pulling off the rear wheel. The leaking tube was out a minute later and examination of the tire revealed the tiniest sliver of metal that had shivved itself between the treads just enough at some point to put the tiniest puncture into the tube and commence a slow leak. After extracting the foreign matter and making sure nothing damaging remained inside the tire I pulled out a fresh spare and installed it.

But in pumping it up, it wouldn’t hold the air. I tried again and again with no success. Dammit! So off it came and apparently in my haste I’d pinched it while fitting the tire back onto the rim so out comes the second spare and onto the tire it goes and wouldn’t you know when I pump it up all I get is ssssssssssssssssss. I yank it off; I’ve pinched a hole into this one, too.

I’m incredulous. Apopleptic. I’m storming up and down the sidewalk making big hand gestures. Then to make matters worse, there’s no patch kit in my seatpack, because I asshattedly took it out and put it in my road bike for the RIDE-Arc ride a couple weeks ago, but never transferred it back. So now I’m screwed in that I can’t even patch any of the dead tubes and I act out my frustration by disposing of the one, two, three! breached things into a nearby trashcan the way a wide receiver might spike a football in the endzone… except entirely in anger. Then out comes the cell phone to call work because now it’s clear I’m going to reeeeeally late since I’ll need to walk over to Vermont to catch whichever northbound bus will get me up to the No. 201 line at 6th Street and back home so that I could then change clothes and drive in. I manage to do so without swearing.

And so I hang a right onto 25th and march it to Vermont, where I hang another right and head north looking for the next bus stop. A little more than half a block later between a barbershop and market I’m surprised to be passing by The Bike Shop. Yes, that’s it’s name: The. Bike. Shop. At 2417 Vermont Avenue.

Minor miracle that that is, I say to myself that there’s no way in hell the place is open at this hour and sure enough it isn’t. But as I pass and look in, the hell if there isn’t somebody inside. I debate for a split second on whether to just accept my fate and not disturb whoever’s there. But then I realize that miracles are miracles big or small and had I stopped at Washington or 24th over on Hoover I wouldn’t be walking by this place. So I drop the kickstand and I move close to the glass and when the guy doesn’t see me I give the door a tentative rap. It startles him and I have expect him to wave me off while mouthing “clooooooosed!” but dang if he doesn’t drop whatever he’s doing and come over and open the door.

Of half a mind to hit my knees and sing his praises as an angel of mercy, instead I stammer out what I’ve been through and tell him how sorry I am to bother him but thank goodness he was here and that I would gladly give him twenty bucks for his trouble and be on my way if he had a 700 x 28 tube in stock.

He smiled and told me to wait while he went into the back, soon emerging with a 700 x 32. “Last one I have, but this should work,” he said, and I almost cried. Taking the $20 from my hand I thanked him again and turned to get busy and he told me to hold on, again moving into the guts of the shop and returning with $16 change.

All I could say was “Awesome!” All he said was “Glad to help,” and he was gone, the door closing behind him.

Needless to say I installed this miracle tube very carefully and very successfully and got to work around 10 a.m. feeling both blessed and proud that I didn’t have to bus it home and drive in. Thanks to a conspiracy of miracles.

A Few CCs of Prevention

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

All my life I’ve naively figured I’d just tough it through flu season, rationalizing that if I didn’t go around picking up used tissues off the floors of public bathrooms or sharing lipstick, or licking my fingers after shaking someone’s hand or putting used cat toys in my mouth I could dodge the bug.

Despite adhering to those important precautions pretty much every year I got the flu, to varying degrees of asskickedness. But it was the wicked one that whacked me flat off my feet for a full phlegmy week in the wet winter of 2005 that was my wake-up call, and since then I’ve dutifully rolled up my sleeve and taken a needle. And with that simple precaution I haven’t had the flu since.

Well it’s flu shot season again, and in its incredible foresight the building’s management where I work is ultra conveniently delivering vaccinations to any and all with the brain power, $25 and a few minutes to spare.

Here’s hoping wherever you are a flu shot is similarly close by and if not that you won’t not go wherever one may be.