Archive for May, 2009

Los Angeles Is Like A Big Dumpster Of Fortune Cookies: Ya Never Know Whatcha Gonna Get

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

I can’t lay claim to discovering the Dumpster of Fortunes, found where Commercial Street deadends into the Los Angeles River and photo’d and Flickr’d by some intrepid urban explorers a couple/three years ago, but I have paid it several visits since I learned about it — the latest being yesterday’s “Ten Bridges” ride, which thanks to the magique of the inturnipst wasn’t a solo endeavor as I’d figured it would’ve been.

Instead I was very pleasantly surprised to find four morning-minded fellow cyclists — Hap, Alex, Helen and Jared — awaiting my arrival at the start point, and away we went on the viaduct-crossing excursion, the last two bridges of which were not captured on my increasingly glitchy handlebarcam:

When early on Hap dropped the knowledge on me that fortune cookies were invented in Los Angeles (there’s a history of the treats here that also lists San Franciso as the snack’s origin), I knew I had to show him the Dumpster of Fortunes — and hope it hadn’t been emptied yesterday. Thankfully it hadn’t.

While at first it seems entirely incongruous why a large trash receptable pretty much in the middle of nowhere would be almost entirely filled with fortune cookies, the reality is Amay’s Bakery & Noodle Company is located right there and these are their discards.

Next week’s rides will most like be a combo Black Dahlia/Historic West Adams mosey on Saturday, followed by a Los Angeles National Cemetery/Getty Museum cruise on Sunday. More details to come on those.

Hap’s excellent photo album of the ride is viewable here.

Just A Coupla Snaps For A Friday Afternoon

Friday, May 15th, 2009

This may seem weird but one of the things I envy the most about the younger generations is their ability to instantaneously and thoroughly document their lives.

I got my first Kodak Instamatic when I was 7 or so, but cameras back then took these weird cassettes of film that cost money to buy and then time and money to develop. You had to be choosy with what you photographed because you only had 12 or 24 shots. Worse still, you didn’t know what you had until you got the prints back from Fotomat or Thrifty’s.

I bought my first digi 12 years ago, a 320 x 240 Casio that set me back almost $300, but nowadays with camera-equipped phones and point-n-shooters at really low prices there’s nothing that can’t be catalogued and no reason not to. Me? I only have vague memories. Kids these days? Everything’s pixelized, and yesh: I am so jealous.

Thus that’s a key reason why I carry a camera wherever I go. First, because you never know what might happen around you or what you might find, and second because it might not be there the next day or even a couple hours later.

This is even more true on a bike — stuff that you’d otherwise miss or rationalize against stopping to snap, becomes that more accessible from the saddle, and having a camera in my possession gives me the opportunity to capture things that might only be fleeting, like these two images below.

The first I found riding home yesterday evening. Across Ballona Creek from me was this diminutive woman standing before a small gathering of birds that she was feeding on the south bank. The second is one that epitomizes spring time in Los Angeles. As beautiful as jacaranda trees are in bloom, I find the carpet of the blossoms they soon shed equally eye-catching, and in that just-right light, I wasn’t about to lose this scene to any leafblower that might be on its way to tidy up.

Both are clickably biggifiable.

bccreek jax1


Bike Every Day In May: Ten Bridges Re-Ride

Friday, May 15th, 2009

tb

Back in September 2007 the now-shadow-of-its-former-self IAAL•MAF staged a ride that’s still talked about for being full of awesome: The Ten Bridges Ride.

And it was just that, a bike ride over ten of the L.A. River’s bridges: Washington Boulevard, Olympic Boulevard, 7th Street, 6th Street, 4th Street, 1st street, Cesar Chavez, Main Street, Spring Street and Broadway.

As part of my ongoing Bike Every Day In May endeavor I’ll be re-tracing that route tomorrow morning departing from Silversun Plaza (Sunset Boulevard and Parkman) at 7:30 a.m. Company welcome.

Bike To Work Day Recap

Friday, May 15th, 2009

If there’s one thing I hate when biking, it’s having to do it rushed. Such was the case yesterday when I got up at the crack o’ dawn with earnest plans to roll out at 6:30 a.m. and take my sweet old time cruising Bike To Work Day pitstops around downtown and in Culver City.

Well I didn’t end up hitting the streets until 7:45 a.m. and I groused pretty much the whole way over that extra hour-plus lost, especially since on any normal workday I leave for Westchester around 8:15 – 8:30 a.m., which meant I had basically 45 minutes to roll the additional 11 miles and make seven stops — Plus try to get to Western and Jefferson by 9 a.m. for a late-breaking meet up with a group of friends and riders coming from Hollywood.

In short, it didn’t all happen. Sure, I went the distance and landed at all the downtown stops, but it was all furtive and clock-watchy — and the last one at L.A. Trade Tech was already shuttered by the time I arrived around 9:15 a.m. At Western and Jefferson 15 minutes later I figured they’d come and gon on without me, and getting to Culver City 15 minutes after that I didn’t even bother with the stop on Washington Boulevard.

On the bike ride home, there weren’t any pitstops or group gatherings or timeframes to worry about, so instead I concentrated on a bike count. All in, I tabulated 68 cyclists (not counting the three toddlers on trikes I passed in a Mar Vista park). With every rider noted, I was thrilled at the obvious boost above the every-day, but as the number grew I realized what a paltry amount it is, and how amazingly mindblowing it would have been to have counted 200, or 340 or 680 –three, five or ten times higher. Such fictional numbers would still be monstrously insignificant in the scope of overall street usage, but just imagine how cool that would have been to see. Unfortunately that’s all I can do is imagine.

Beaming Me Up!

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Susan might dispute this, but I stand firm in my potential delusion that during the early stages of the demo when the bedroom ceiling came down it was my suggestion rather than rehang the 8-foot-plus ceiling we go vaulted, augmented with a couple decorative, non-structural beams going across.

I qualify myself as being possibly incorrect in laying claim to that awesome stroke of design genius, because when I have in the past Susan’s given me looks that can be interpreted as:

  • No, you didn’t
  • Fine, OK it was your idea (even though it wasn’t)
  • You’re getting annoying
  • Aren’t you going to be late for work?

Or all of the above.

The ceiling came together quite nicely but our contractor seemed to have forgotten about the beams because they insulated, drywalled and painted and left me in a huff at the oversight.

Thankfully Susan came to the rescue in researching options and it all came together with a company from Orange County she found that delivered an easy-to-install solution.

But it wasn’t over yet. The beams went in a few days ago and after my initial joy, my critical eye was pretty certain they weren’t straight. Sure enough, Wednesday morning I climbed up a ladder with a level and they were both almost identically waaaaay off — more than an inch lower on one side.. So I left the tool up there, propped up to illustrate the “level” of their crookedness with a note saying, in essence: FAIL.

That evening I came home and because the beams were almost as easy to remove as they were to install, I found them both fixed. Now all that’s missing is the ceiling fan in the middle.

More Mileage! More Fun!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

With the exception of last year’s Bike To Work Day where there was a sponsored pit stop basically around the corner from my house, my various routes to my various work places over the various Bike To Work days over the various years have left me a geogrpahical outcast in terms of partaking of the scheduled shwag ‘n snack spots set up to serve any passing bike commuters.

So this year I’m making up for all the lost pit stops past by leaving eeeearly tomorrow morning to give me plenty o’ time to hit all six stations downtown and one in Culver City:

Downtown

  • Jennie Cooks Catering Company, 3048 Fletcher Drive
  • Union Station, East Portal
  • Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Main Street
  • Ronald Reagan Building, 300 S. Spring Street
  • LA County Bike Coalition Headquarters, 634 S. Springs Street
  • LA Trade Tech College, 400 Washington Blvd

Westside

  • Starbucks, 9718 Washington Blvd, Culver City

Knowing me as well as you do, of course I’ve already plotted the journey, which as you can see below will add more than 10 miles to my normally 15-mile a.m. commute.

btwd

Bike To Work Week From A Bike To Work Geek

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

I suppose I should just zip it and rah rah about another Bike To Work Week, but I have my issues with the annual five-day faux fest kicked off yesterday. Sure it increases awareness and all that jazz, and without a doubt it is commendable as a catalyst that gets however many people out of their cars and onto their bikes.

But as someone who biked to work last week and will be biking to work next week, to me it’s weaksauce. Good intentions aside it’s primarily a masquerade covering an uneasy peace between various governmental agencies and advocacy organizations that come together with forced smiles in something of a pretend partnership promoting pedal power. The other 51 weeks of the year pretty much they’re back at odds with each other — with the city and politicians and the MTA largely ignoring the alternate commute option and ways to integrate it into the transit grid, and groups like the LA County Bike Coalition pounding their heads against the bureaucratic walls in epic futility trying to grow it.

See to me, biking to work has become first nature. Of the 257 work days last year, I biked 197. Of the 97 this year so far, I’ve biked 80 of them. Silver Lake to Westchester in the morning. Westchester to Silver Lake in the evening.  Thirty miles a day.

It’s what I do.

But what the civic/county/state/feds and their various transit agencies do is fly a Bike To Work flag for a week, then fold it up and put it back in storage because there’s more important stuff to do like the multi-year gazillion dollar expansion of the 405 Freeway that isn’t going to do jack shit beyond make a little more room for a lot more gridlock down the road.

Instead — and you’ll call me flippin’ nutso — what we could be doing is what’s been done in the German community of Vauban that I read about here in today’s New York Times:

Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here. “When I had a car I was always tense. I’m much happier this way,” said Heidrun Walter, a media trainer and mother of two, as she walked verdant streets where the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor.

Vauban, completed in 2006, is an example of a growing trend in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to separate suburban life from auto use, as a component of a movement called “smart planning.”

Wow.

But instead in Los Angeles we can’t even get the city and the department of transportation to coordinate in delivering on a promise of sharrows — shared-use arrows, an economic and far more efficient alternative to Class II bike lanes. And speaking of bike lanes? Getting more of those painted either requires a 12-year feasibility study or an act of god. Or both. And don’t get me started on the still as-yet uncompleted L.A. River Bikeway between Fletcher and the south end of Elysian Valley.

The MTA, one of the biggest sponsors of Bike To Work Week continues to be one of the most hypocritical, still prohibiting bikes from its railways during peak traffic hours, when what they should be doing is accelerating a viable solution to include more bikes on the trains.

How awesome would it be if instead of parading a stoopid Bart Simpson caricature out for a photo op with some politicians on bikes yesterday at Olvera Street, the MTA had instead announced the elimination of the ban of bikes during rush hours along with the simultaneous unveiling of finalized plans for modifications to the cars to allow safe storage of a minimum of four bikes per car — to be implemented immediately.

Say it loud: I’m flippin’ nutso. But then we already know that because I ride a bike in LA. Practically every freakin’ day.