Record Rainfall

January 10, 2023

No need to oversell this other than to say this jaw-dropping level of rainfall in a 24-hour period — 4.83″ — is without precedent.

Amount dutifully reported to Community Collaborative Rain Hail & Snow Network.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generator

January 4, 2023

Backstory: When our 116-year-old house’s brick foundation was rebuilt back near the dawn of the 21st century, it involved a plan to direct any excess and accumulated water away from the new concrete via drainage pipes leading to a small cistern inside the basement and when the level within it hit a certain depth, an electronic pump would engage that pulled the water up and out and away down the south side of the house.

Whoever those so called professinal folks were in making that ass-backwardian choice I still marvel that there wasn’t anyone among them who might have asked some variation of “Doesn’t anyone see the problem of bringing water INSIDE the basement?”

Because early on, I sure did. For one, pumps are mechanical devices prone to eventual failure — and typically at the most inconvenient times. For another, rain storms serious enough to saturate the ground and thus fill that cistern carry with them the risk of power outages. And seeing as that electric pump ceases to function in the absence of electricity, it wouldn’t take much before our cistern overfloweth and create an indoor underground wading pool.

So several years ago I invested not only in a portable generator, but also a just-in-case replacement pump kept on standby. Additionally, to protect against a full doomsday scenario involving a broken pump and a power outage, I bought a second small pump you can screw onto a hose that can be run outside, all of which can be seen below.

Cistern! Cistern!

I was never a boy scout, but damn do I embrace their motto: “Always Be Prepared.”

Now, in the history of me being so ready and set, there’s been only a couple times where I’ve had to use the generator either with the existing pump or with the smaller one. But the point isn’t how often. The point is that it’s worked.

I’m hoping, if needed, it’ll work again, perhaps as soon as tonight or tomorrow. We’ve had more than two inches of rain fall in the past week which means the ground is already pretty saturated in advance of what all the prognosticators are saying is going to be a doozy of an “atmospheric river” arriving later tonight. The Los Angeles basin is estimated to get hit with between two and four inches of hydro-meteoric activity — and in a period of roughly 24 hours. Basically it won’t take much to get that cistern filling up.

As such, I hauled out the generator early this morning and test started it since it has been sitting unused for well over a year (it fired up on the second pull –yay!)

Angels Flight’s 121st Birthday

Since last summer I’ve had a side-gig as a Saturday operator of the #AngelsFlight Railway downtown. It’s truly a privilege to be directly associated and involved with this Los Angeles landmark. New Year’s Eve was the historic funicular’s 121st birthday (first day of operation was December 31, 1901) and to celebrate it during my shift Saturday I donned a turn-of-the-century straw boater hat (that I’ve probably had for a quarter century and literally NEVER worn in public (beyond baseball caps I’m not really a hat guy). To memorialize things, I also set up my GoPro cam inside the station house and the result is this old-timey timelapse of a couple hours of me and my hat taking care of business. I hope you enjoy it, and Happy New Year.

What’s not shown in the above video is the crazy amount of time I spent the night before frustratingly failing to relearn that oh so perishable skill of tying a bow tie, so that I could pair that neckwear with the hat for a little more bygone-era fashion authenticity.

Well if at first you don’t succeed, try again. And on New Year’s Day I made it my resolution to sooner or later successfully configure a bow tie, dammit. Thankfully it came sooner than later for after a few tries I succeeded, as shown in what may be my regular shift uniform instead of one I only wear on special occasions. Happy New Year!

Happy Foot / Sad Foot

I’m nothing if not a creature of habit. For years on our morning dog walks we would trace the same route, one point of which overlooked a Silver Lake landmark — the famed rotating sign on the corner of Benton Way and Sunset Boulevard for a foot clinic that was dubbed “Happy Foot / Sad Foot” because on one side of the sign there was picture of a (see below) — you guessed it: happy foot and on the flip side was one of a sad foot. The legend that built up around the sign is that you will have either good luck or bad luck depending on which foot you see when you look up.

The sign had been there for as long as I can remember (going back to the early 1980s) and I couldn’t imagine it ever going away. But this is Los Angeles and of course it did, about five years ago when the clinic moved to Virgil Village, one neighborhood over to the west.

I’ve witnessed the disappearance of a lot of my Silver Lake treasures in the 20 years I’ve lived here, but it was the loss of the sign that signaled something of a deathknell for the community as I knew and loved it, and potentially one for what had become a morning ritual of getting to that point on a bend in the road where the sign would come into view and my wife and I would call out whether I saw the happy foot or the sad foot, something of a mini predictor as to whether our days would unfold happily or sadly — not that I believe in that sort of thing.

In the sign’s mourned absence, I thankfully found a company called World Famous Original that sold sets of enameled Happy Foot Sad Foot pins, so I didn’t hesitate to purchase one after which I’d keep them in my pocket on our walks and whenever we’d hit that spot I’d dig in and come out with whatever pin I touched first. The tradition continued.

But it was an imperfect system in that I would find myself sometimes slow to extract a pin from my pocket, feeling for a familiar indicator of the happy foot over the sad foot, which defeats the spontaneity. Some might even call it [que the dramatic music] cheating.

I know, I know… I take this shit WAY too seriously. Case in point: A year ago I actually looked into making a custom coin to flip with the images on either side. Heads, happy. Tails, sad. Entirely too pricey.

So I finally did the next best thing yesterday, I DIY’d my own coin by cutting off the pin bits from the backs of each and then filing them down flat, after which I glued them to an old self-serve carwash token, like so:

I put it to use during this morning’s dog walk and its inaugural random flip came up Happy Foot. As it should!

It’s Alive! Bigfoot Reanimated!

Back at the end of August, a fatal crack appeared along the weld at the top of the seat tube of my beloved Rad Power Bikes RadRover ebike, and to keep a long story shortened pleas to get Rad Power Bikes to help by offering me a discount on either a new bike or perhaps even a replacement frame were met with decalarations that my three-year-old bike was loooooong past Rad’s stinky one-year warranty and a consolation offer of a $50 gift card (to which I told them where they could put that token bullshit).

I was fortunate in that I had my wife’s ebike to ride while I mourned the apparent demise of Bigfoot. But instead of just breaking her down for parts and relegating the leftovers to the broken bike heap, I got proactive and hopeful that I could find a welder who could make repairs.

The first place I found was out in Fontana, which is about 50 miles away, and I kept it in reserve while I tried to find something that wouldn’t involve roundtrips totaling 200-plus miles. The second place I found was north of Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, and when I finally got out there toward the end of September the guy took a look at the job and said he was lacking a special tool needed, a cylinder that would sit snug inside the tubing and block the new weld from encroaching in that space, which would be bad. He subsequently recommended a third welder — Jaytech Fabrication & Welding further north in Chatsworth who he was pretty sure had said tool so I drove out to his place. He inspected Bigfoot’s injury, determined he had the right sized tool and could fix it, but was so overbooked with jobs at the moment and so limited on space he wouldn’t even allow me to leave the bike and instead directed me to call the following week and book an appointment. I did and secured an October 3 return date, after which for $120 he fixed it in a couple days. But when he called me to let me know he was done he said there was a problem.

In a nutshell, he said that after doing the work he determined an issue that more than likely caused the first crack and would guarantee his weld would be doomed to cracking again. He said for reasons unknown to him, a few inches down from the top of the seat tube the interior was wider than at the top — juuuuust enough that the actual seat tube that sits in there will flex and move in the course of every day riding exerting stress on the top where the weld is and ultimately causing it to fail.

“So I just threw away $120?” I asked, and he said something close to “Well here’s what I would do if it were my bike. I would drill three holes in the area where the interior of the tube widens, then I would weld three threaded supports aligned over those holes after which I would run set screws into those mounts and holes that when tightened against the seat tube inside would stabilize it in place inside the frame, prevent any such internal movement and add years to the life of the bike.”

When I asked what the additional charge would be he said $200. “Sold,” I said.

He had gotten busy again and was even shorter on space than before and at first wanted me to come get the bike out of there and bring it back at a later date when things had calmed down. I had to practically beg him to let me drop off the actual seat tube the next day and leave the bike with him until he could get to it, and he finally said OK.

The next morning, I showed up bright and early with my seat tube, got it situated on the bike and told him I would look forward to hearing from him when it was done. Three weeks later, it was, and I picked it up this morning.

The work done brings to mind the term “Frankenbike,” but I love the unpainted welds and bolts, and the newly exposed aluminum framing. They’re like a survivor’s badges of honor.

It goes without saying how completely thrilled that Bigfoot will ride again.

Angels Flights: Ups & Downs

I’d imagine there have been hundreds to thousands of operators over the history of Angels Flight funicular at its original location at Third Street for its first 68 years (1901-1969), and then for these last 26 (1996-2022) at its present location a half-block south.

However many operators there have been, these last several months I have been proud to be counted among that legion doing what may very well be one of the most quintessentially LA jobs — one that I expressed interest in on total impulse when I saw a social media posting last summe that the railway was hiring.

I was not yet five years old when the final nail in Bunker Hill’s coffin was hammered and Angels Flight was closed down and dismantled in May 18, 1969. Frankly I can’t recall even being aware of its existence until it was announced in the mid-1990s that after sitting in storage Angels Flight was being restored and returned to service.

As a Los Angeles native who had lost so many personal touchstones and civic landmarks to a city that has no rearview mirror, the idea that one that had been destroyed was being reborn really struck me as nothing short of a miracle.

And that miracle happened when Angels Flight reopened on February 26, 1996. My first ride was about a month later on the afternoon of March 25, 1996. I know the exact date, because as coincidence would have it, a fellow passenger on the ride down from the Station House to the Hill Street Archway was actor Nicolas Cage, who the following evening would be awarded the Best Actor Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas” at the 68th Academy Awards taking place then at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I surmised that Cage, resplendent in a bright white leather sportcoat, had been at the nearby Pavilion for rehearsals and was on a break heading to Grand Central Market for something to eat.

Admiring his attire while sitting across from him on the rickety ride down, I said “That is one nice jacket, Mr. Cage,” to which he tossed me back a thank you. Once out of the car and through the turnstiles, I wished him luck tomorrow night, to which he turned back and said with a smile, “It’s in the bag!”

Back in the present day as a current operator, I find myself taking opportunities to document the railway with photos and videos. In the past I’ve mounted a cam to the cars and just gotten clips of them moving up and down the tracks. Most recently this past Saturday, I memorialized via timelapse, a bit of the mundane in my pre-opening duty of sweeping the decks and cleaning the windows and seats. After that I moved the camera inside the station house, and timelapsed a couple hours of the literal ups and downs of doing the job I am honored to perform.

Timelapse: Pre-opening Cleaning
Timelapse: The Ups & Downs

Showdown At The Cahuenga Onramp

In the summer of 1976 I was 12 years old and lived with my mother and a cat named Puddy in Hollywood. Our apartment was on Holly Drive, a residential street north of Franklin Avenue and east of Cahuenga Boulevard. Built in the late 1930s, our building, consisting of four staggered connected two-story units, — each one stepped out from behind the other– had moderne architectural details such as round windows and curved railings and balconies that made it resemble a ship. My mom has long told me the builder was named Sam Harwick whose similar apartment buildings could be found all over Los Angeles, but I’ve never found any information about him. Coincidentally, my mother lived there as an aspiring actress in the 1950s, long before I came along. A friend of hers from back then, an elderly man named Jack Demers, still lived in the house nextdoor to the north.

1931-1937 Holly Drive

It was a great place to live. There was a vacant lot on the corner across the street which was great for ball games, and an established neighborhood grocery store called Triangle Market stood down at the corner of Franklin and Cahuenga — with a brand new 7-11 a half block further south. The Hollywood Reservoir, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Boulevard and Hollywood Sign were all but a few minutes away by bike or hike, and the neighborhood had a great collection of kids around my age from all walks of life. Two who lived across the street from me were brothers, Casey and Brady. Casey was a couple years older.

At that same time, the 101 Freeway, which passed over Holly Drive a few doors north from us, was being widened in a project that seemed like it would never end — part of which was the addition of a southbound onramp to it from Cahuenga. It was on that unfinished onramp where I recovered Casey’s stolen bicycle from its thief.

As Casey told it, he’d dropped his bike, a red Schwinn, outside of Triangle Market and went in to get a soda — more than likely a lemony Pepsi Light in the new small six-ounce cans that were all the rage. When he came out the bike was gone. He was really upset, as would anybody be.

A few days later, I had ridden to Triangle Market where I saw Casey’s bike parked outside the front door. I waited to see who would claim it, and the kid who came out a few moments later was about my age, but not a member of our group. Dark-skinned with a head of thick messy black hair, I’d seen him around before, most notably because he had a disfiguring split in his upper lip and jaw that always left him looking like he was smiling. He lived further up on Cahuenga with a large family. My mom called them gypsies, whatever that meant. The only gypsies I’d known of were in “Dracula,” by Bram Stoker, a comic book version of which I’d recently read.

The kid got on the bike and rode north from the store on Cahuenga. I followed him. When he realized that he tried to get away, but I was on a 10-speed and gained on him as he got past the Chevron gas station up the street. When he got to the freeway onramp he made the mistake of trying to get away up it, but the roadway at that point was all loose gravel and he didn’t get far before the tires got stuck. He made an attempt to pick up the bike and run with it, but he rightly gave up on that idea . He had nowhere to go, the onramp was all blocked off further up the rise.

“That’s my friend’s bike,” I told him.

As his eyes darted from me to possible escapes and back, he didn’t say anything so I cut to the chase, my heart pounding in my chest.

“I’m not leaving without it.”

Truth is, if the kid had pulled a knife or had made even a half-convincing bluff to fight me for it, I would have left without it. But he didn’t. We just stood there facing each other until he finally shrugged, let go of the bike’s handlebars and let it drop, after which he crunched through the gravel wide around me back down the onramp and up Cahuenga. Once he was out of view, I wasted no time getting me and both bikes back to Holly Drive and a very grateful Casey.