Archive for May, 2013

In my 49-year history (as of yesterday) of birthdays, yesterday’s ranked up there with the most memorable. Not because of any type of celebration or gift (I’m not really into either of those, anyway) — or disaster for that matter, such as my 34th when I went out for lunch from where I was working at the time to go to the nearest ATM and while in route got into a traffic collision that totaled my Honda Civic in front of the mayor’s mansion in Hancock Park, no less. Yes, that’s a birthday to remember, for sure.

No. Yesterday’s birthday was just another day in the almost year-long string of days involving my ongoing public safety training, but this one, coincidentally, involved the entire class singing “Happy Birthday” to me not once, but twice — a feat never before have I experienced.

But first and more importantly and stressfully, the evening also featured another unique aspect: our final written exam, called the “End of Module Proficiency” test, or EOMP. Incorporating some 23 learning domains studied, and tested throughout the past year, there’s a level of anxiety the 90-question, two-hour exam induces — especially for someone of my advanced age whose memory banks can find occasion to be decidedly less sticky than in my younger days.

Thankfully, I managed to recall enough right answers and did not end up having my first exam fail happen on such a personal milestone. Afterwards in the testing room and in an uncharacteristic display of congratulations, our tactical officer and exam proctor announced before the class that it was my birthday and ordered them to sing “Happy Birthday” to me.

The second round came a short while later back in our classroom adjacent the testing room for another session of radar certification class, and  involved a batch of chocolate cookies for the occassion, baked by our instructor.

Backstory: the only reason my birthday was known to her, is that when we began radar instruction a couple weeks ago, she invited us all to stand up and introduce ourselves and include our age. When it came my turn, I said that I would be turning 49 at the end of this month. “What day?” she asked and I told her, wherein she mentioned that she loves to bake and asked if I’d like cookies or cake. Somewhat surprised and embarrassed I asked for the latter.

So there we are at the beginning of class last night and she’s standing there with a plate of chocolate chip cookie goodness ready to distribute.

“I heard you guys sing Happy Birthday next door,” she said, “don’t think you’re not singing it again,” to which some of my classmates rolled their eyes and sighed, giving me just enough time to reach into my bag, turn my camera on and hit record before they obliged (click the link below to hear):

My Classmates Sing Me “Happy Birthday” A Second Time

The cookies were delicious.

While getting some video of Buster our Russian Tortoise enjoying today’s breakfast featuring her first nomtastic hibiscus bloom of the spring, into the frame fluttered by a local butterfly to say hi (click it for the bigger picture):


Or here’s a slo-mo looping file I created of the entire moment:


At 6AM during our dog walk, while proceeding northbound on Parkman toward Marathon, from the east side of the street we observed the first of two coyotes heading southbound across the street coming up behind an unaware woman walking her small pug on-leash.

I intercepted the coyote before any contact occurred and ran after it to Marathon where it stopped in the middle of the street midway up the hill to the east between Parkman and Occidental:


The second animal, identified as the previously seen “special needs” coyote by its noticeable head tilt and awkward gait, was then found by Susan and Ranger in the yard of a residence on the east side of Parkman between where the first coyote was encountered and Marathon. After flushing it from the foliage it observed us momentarily before proceeding southbound on Parkman toward Bellevue:


Concurrently, the first coyote came westbound on Marathon, crossed Parkman and then Silver Lake Boulevard and was last seen on Marathon heading up the hill west of Vendome.

Forty-six seconds of Pumpkin enjoying breakfast specifically and life in general, this clip documents what has to be a serious contender for the title of Happiest Most Satisfied Sound Ever, and I’m lucky in that I get to hear it every morning.

There’s velo drama in Northeast Los Anglees, and you know it has to do with bike lanes because that’s the SINGLE MOST GALVANIZING ISSUE to communities across the city nowadays. In this case, it’s the proposed, supported, vetted, approved, and funded plan to add Class II bike lanes on North Figueroa across Northeast Los Angeles.

All was going accordingly until a righteously indignant area mouthpiece orchestrated and staged an anti-lanes campaign citing the complete and total devastation that would be wreaked upon area businesses and stakeholders if any vehicular traffic lanes were sacrificed for dastardly cyclists.  The bike community reacted initially with something of a collective “Pfffft!” a bit like the way Gov. Gray Davis dismissed the recall campaign that ended up successfully putting a “Former” before his title and a Schwarzenegger in his chair. And sure enough the rhetoric proved loud enough to gain the traction needed to get the noodle-spined Highland Park Neighborhood Council to reject the proposed, supported, vetted, approved, and funded lanes in favor of an alternative route that, of course, stays off Figueroa, and is ironically as weak as those naysaying councilmembers’ aforementioned backbones.

That in turn has gotten Los Angeles City Councilmen Jose Huizar and Ed Reyes — both of whom who have been very pro-bike in the past — to suddenly backpedal their support and slam on the brakes pending additional input regarding the alternative route.

In short the lanes are in serious danger of being disappeared.

It is entirely similar to the actions taken by the Burbank City Council in the mid-2000s, when they ignominiously caved to resident pressure and outcry (with claims that more bikes would bring greater gridlock — and crime!) and slaughtered a proposed, supported, vetted, approved, and funded route connecting the LA River Bikeway with the Chandler Bikeway.

So you know I sat myself down and tapped those councilmen out a letter, the gist of which is if you guys wanna deny the entire city those bike lanes I’ll still ride there, but when I do I’ll deny the business in your districts my entire wallet. And the point being that the decisions they make not only effect their constituents but those beyond their jurisdictions:

Councilmen Huizar and Reyes,

I am an avid urban cyclist who has ventured all over this city on two wheels. I am disheartened by the tactics used by some in the community against the proposed bike lanes on North Figueroa, and I am dismayed that it is having the desired effect in getting both of you to step back and suddenly qualify your previous support.

Personally, I ride all over the greater Los Angeles and Southern California areas with or without bike lanes beneath me. And if, like the Highland Park Neighborhood Council, you bend to the pressure being exerted to kill these lanes in your districts — lanes previously approved and funded — you can bet for sure I’ll continue to utilize Figueroa through the Northeast area.

But here’s the problem. Axe those lanes and I also guarantee that whenever I’m on those rides, I will make it my own personal mission to purposely avoid doing any business at ANY establishments on those routes throughout your districts.

If I’m dying of thirst coming back from a ride around the Rose Bowl I’ll either quench it somewhere in South Pasadena or wait until I’m west of downtown. If I’m on a ride that’ll leave me hungrier than a bear I’ll either pack a lunch with me or just suck it up through Eagle Rock and eat in Glendale.

It’s not much money for sure, but it’s mine. And I for sure won’t spend it in districts led by purported bike-friendly councilmembers who can so readily backpedal on what is clearly an IMPROVEMENT to the communities they serve.

Do the right thing, gentlemen. Support and build the North Figueroa bike lanes.

Will Campbell
Silver Lake


My iPhone’s weather app is still trumpeting the possibility of a scattered shower or two throughout the day and even into the night, but it seems a remote possibility, any amount of which might be added to our backyard precipitometer would at best be negligible.

So as things stand this morning, the total from what’s been dubbed the “Miracle May” storm (and the first measurable rainfall around these here parts since March 8) that helped firefighters contain the regional conflagrations that were in various stages of control, stands at 1.625 inches. That surprising amount pushed that which hath fully fallen on our Silver Lake backyard this entire rainy season well up past the 20-inch mark — a far cry more than what’s fallen on the city’s official rain catchers.

And not a moment to soon, since that season ends at the end of June, and until yesterday Los Angeles was officially on track to record its fourth driest season since records started being kept back in 1877. Now it’s the sixth most-parched with an official total of 5.84.”

May 5-6: 1.625″
Season Total: 20.695″

I was crestfallen Wednesday to find the backyard bushtit nest, so patiently and painstakingly constructed by the adorable little birds, destroyed by scrub jays. That makes two years in a row the jays have swooped in and wreaked their special brand of havoc on my beloved bushies.

And thus I wrote about it on Facebook:

Cursed are the damnable — I say double-dawg DAMNABLE! — scrub jays who for the second consecutive spring have destroyed the nest crafted so diligently by the wee bushtit clan that had spent months making their home in the backyard victorian box tree. Leaving nothing but shreds of nesting material with nary a fragment of eggshell or chick in a wake punctuated by their shrill calls, the jays have retreated to the safe distance of a tree a couple doors down, shrieking in victory.

I inflexibly believe in the intrinsic worth of ALL creatures in the order of things, but nevertheless I have to fight hard the urge to load up my pellet gun, take a position on the roof and rid my neighborhood of a few representatives of these invading raiders who dare trespass agin me and my helpless hardworking bushies.

This morning, I followed up on Facebook, with this:

Yesterday, heartbroken and infuriated, I cursed at the scrub jays who decimated the nest the bushtits had spent months building in the backyard Victorian box tree.

I successfully curbed my righteous impulse to load up the pellet gun and use them for target practice, but that internal battle continues fresh this morning because who did I happen to spy building their own nest in that same tree? The jays!

They should not mistake my mercy for a welcome. With apologies to TLC, of them I sing:

I don’t want no scrub,
A scrub is a bird that can’t get no love from me.

Scrub jays are considered highly intelligent creatures on the whole, but this particular pair isn’t proving that belief. Despite my efforts to flail and hiss and shake the tree and act myself a fool in extending the unwelcome mat, they’ve continued to build the nest taking shape as shown in the following snap (note through the branches and leaves of the tree in the center of the frame the darkened patchwork of twigs about 18 feet up; click it for the bigger picture):


I recognize that one bird’s loss and another’s gain is the way things are and I strongly believe in the natural order and all creatures’ place in it, but by essentially putting so easy a target over my head — both too soon and so close to the scene of yesterday’s carnage — this pair of jays is making it all too easy to for me to question the respect I have to their right to live and instead entertain the notion of sweet nest-destroying revenge in the name of the bushies.