Walking In L.A.

What with the dog walk and walking from and to the auto mechanic I caught a lot of things on foot today and blogged about ’em all on Blogging.la: the student protests while Shadow and I strolled along Sunset, a typo worth a chuckle on the way home from the mechanic’s, and a new work of art on the way back to pick up the pick-up with its new set of shocks to compliment its new set of Michelin tires (so that perhaps I can avoid this from ever happening again). Instead of crossposting them here or coming up with something else worth writing about, I’ll just tell you to follow the links above back to the B.la posts and send you off with a shot I got while having lunch at the Coffee Table on Rowena. I call it Street Scene With Mustard And Dog:

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Under The Surface

I don’t even come close to suggesting I know my neighborhood or that I’m somehow deeply connected to it. I love where I live, but I’m too new here to catch some of the more sinister subtleties. Right now there’s what I see and am shown when I walk around my streets, and there’s a whole helluva lot that doesn’t fall onto my rader. But occasionally there are the little glimpses of some of the mysteries that go on beneath the scruffed up surface.

There is a missing man being sought via a flyer found on Bellevue garage door:

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And from a power pole on Sunset someone seeks justice for an  unsolved murder.

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And between those two calls for help, in the dark graying of the morning, I watch a young boy in full exuberant run scamper up Lucile only to stop suddenly and consider a yellow gang tag on a gate that had been more recently crossed out and retagged with something unreadable in green. The boy then laughs in a loud and decidedly knowing and perhaps even a sinister way before running onward up the street.

To me it’s just ugly grafitti, to him it’s the news of the day published in a language I don’t understand.

Forget It Jake, It’s Chinatown

Lantern Festival PerformerSusan and I headed down to Olvera Street this afternoon for lunch at El Paseo Inn and for the annual Lantern Festival taking place in the nearby El Pueblo de Los Angeles historical monument. We got there too early to enjoy the good stuff (the lion dance and the silver dragon parade) and split before the presentation of the lanterns at 4:30 p.m., but it was otherwise very colorful and well-attended and coolest of all we got a unique chance to extensively explore the historic Pico House. Finished in 1870, Pico House was the city’s first three-story building and was considered the finest hotel in the southwest in its day.

And it just so happened that for whatever reason it was wide open from top to bottom, which meant Susan and I couldn’t help but wander through it entirely unsupervised — and of course that meant shimmying up an access ladder onto the roof!

I’ll shut up and let the pix do the talking:

Pico House interior courtyard
Pico House interior courtyard.

Pico House Third Floor Wall Detail
Wall detail on the second floor.

Pico House Third Floor Bannister
Looking down through the bannister from the third floor landing

Pico House North Wall
Susan with the thrid floor north wall windows in the background.

Union Station From the roof of Pico House
The view of Union Station from the Pico House roof.

I’ve cross-posted this to Blogging.la with a link to more photos from inside and atop Pico House via this photoset on Flickr.com — and belated thanks to Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed for the link love!

You’re Excused

Well at least I got a weekly bus pass out of it. But certainly no trial, which is what I wanted.

I boarded the No. 201 bus, which dropped me three blocks away from my destination at the Civil Central West Courthouse at Sixth and Commonwealth where I arrived 30 minutes ahead of my appointed time, made my way past the baggage exam table and up to Dept. 309 on the 14th Floor… where we were told to wait outside. Apparently court was in session for the case we’d be deciding so I had to loiter in the hall with the handful of jurors who’d shown up ahead of me.

Others showed up and I recognized some from the assembly room yesterday. Not a one was pleased to be there and several vocalized hope they’d be dismissed — including one shabby looking fellow who I’m pretty sure had already consulted with Jack Daniels prior to his arrival.

Eventually a court attendant gathered us together and said that the opposing counsels were in there trying to persuade the judge to accept their mutual decision to waive a jury trial. So “unofficially” we might be going home, but we were asked to wait a few minutes for the judge’s final word.

Couple minutes go by and the courtroom doors open and all the jurors (I’d guess more than 30) are asked inside. We parade in and the four lawyers look us each over and I can almost see them making quick judgments about our viability as jurors. Had there been a change of minds? Did the judge shoot down the request to waive us off?

No. He just wanted to thank us personally for our service. When told we were free to go the drinking dude actually cheered and couldn’t exit quick enough.

Bullocks Wilshire Building

Me? I looked around the tiny little courtroom and the comfy looking chairs in the jury box, wondered what might have been, and left to go walk down Wilshire Boulevard past the Bullocks Wilshire Building brilliant in the morning sun then back up Vermont to catch the No. 201 bus back home.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

I feel like the nerd wanting desperately to be picked for a dodgeball team… except in this case it’s jury duty. Today should have been my first day to report to the Stanley Mosk courthouse on Hill Street downtown. I got my notification around Christmas and went through the motions to register.

Given my present unemployment sitch, for once I was actually looking forward to the process and was even hoping to get on a jury. But when I dutifully — some might say eagerly — called this weekend and plugged in my ID number and PIN I was told my services weren’t needed.

“But you don’t understand, I want to be a juror!” I yelled at the recorded voice, but all it could give me in consolation was that tomorrow was another day and I should call back after 5 p.m. today to see if I could come play then.

Sigh.

There’s the school of thought that cautions us to be careful for what we wish, and I may very well be called on to be a part of tomorrow’s pool or Wednesday’s or Thursday’s or Friday’s. But I’m cool with that. I want this new discovery. There was just something about getting it started today — Monday — that seemed so appealing. Kind of like a work week, maybe. I vaguely remember what those were like.

Anyway, I think part of the juror registration process should include a 0-to-9 scale in which prospective panelists are asked to guage how interested they are in being jurors (0 being none and 9 being gung-ho). Certainly the vast majority of citizens would punch in a zero, but I’d bet there are people like me — however few — who would actually punch the niner and welcome the opportunity. At least then those people could be given priority and that could help depopulate the pool of some people who object to the service or truly have better things to do with their time.

Doesn’t it seem that a jury made up of more peers wanting to be empaneled would be a good thing?

UPDATE (6:08 p.m.): I’m in! Checking just now I found I have to report bright and early Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. Cool!

A Choice To Make

At last year’s L.A. Marathon in March I completed the 22.7-mile bike tour event then walked the 26.2-mile marathon itself — with absolutely no training, but a heck of a bunch of resolve.

A phonecam photo set of marathon pix can be found here.

The bike tour is a piece of cake by itself. I’ve been doing it since its inception in 1995 and regularly cruise through it in no more than 75 minutes. The marathon last year was another matter. In perhaps worse shape than I’m in now I set out down Figueroa with the bazillion other participants and actually jogged the first mile. Felt pretty good actually, kind of like getting swept up in the current of a river. Somewhere near Staples Center I put the Whoa! to the Now! and walked the rest of the way. By Mile No. 10 in the Crenshaw District I was in agony. Muscle fatigue and cramps, blisters and chafing (I’ll say no more) just kept on getting worse, but I kept on going. The worst parts were near the end when the city’d begun opening up streets and allowing traffic to cross the route. There were several times where I had to come to a complete stop and wait, and it was the starting back up from a dead stop that was absolute agony.

As long as I could keep moving one foot in front of the other, I was fine. Even if it was at a “speed” of 1 mph. I just kept repeating “every step taken is one step closer to the finish” or something like that.

Eventually I crossed the finish line in 7:43 and change. And for as bad as I felt I was surprised that I’d finished it four minutes faster than the last time I’d done both the bike tour and marathon together (the latter with my friend Cybele) in 2003. It was jogging that first mile that had given me the edge, but man did I feel a whole lot worse the second time (the difference was in large part because Cybele and I actually devoted some time to training in 2003).

Cybele had been planning to do the marathon last year with me just as we’d done in ’03 (our goal was a 6:15 finish), but she had to bow out when she couldn’t devote the proper amount of time to getting conditioned for it (smart girl). I guess I stayed in it in part because I’m a cheap bastard and I’d already paid the outlandish entry fee (like $75!) and dammit I was going to get my money’s worth… even if it landed me in the hospital. But the larger motivation was to just do it as the ad slogan goes. Even with no training. None. And I did it. I moved my largess on a bike 23 miles and then walked it another 26. Crazy.

But now it’s decision time regarding this year’s editions of the L.A. Marathon and Acura Bike tour. Given last year’s results I know I can do it if I wanted to, but I’m no masochist. So brutalizing myself just for the sake of brutalizing myself doesn’t make much sense.

My ultimate goals are to first walk the course in six hours and then come back the next year and run it in four hours. Even if I cracked the whip and started a whole bunch of paced-walking to get me into better condition, I doubt if two months is enough time to get me set to cross that finish line as the race clock ticks 06:00:00. Soooooo, I’m gonna forego the marathon this time around, aim for 2007 and just do the bike tour — on The Phoenix, of course.

It’s just the right thing to do. I’m going to miss doing the marathon this year. It’s a great event and I love being involved, but the wiser thing to do is get involved only when I’m in the position and condition to enjoy it all the way through. So that means hello to my 12th-consecutive bike tour and seeyanextyear to what will be my fourth time as a marathon finisher.

Scenes of the Crimes

What a gorgeous day today. Blustery and not very warm, but with the rains of yesterday having blown through, L.A. was left with one of the most crystal clear days I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Susan and I spent this wonderful day chasing ghosts. Let me rephrase that: Susan indulged my fascination with the dark side of the city and came along as we rode the 1947 Project’s Crime Bus for a five-hour tour that began in Hollywood at the IHOP on Sunset Boulevard where Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) member Sara Jane Olson attempted to bomb two LAPD cars in 1975 and ended in the Crenshaw District on Norton Avenue north of 39th street where the severed corpse of Elizabeth Short — aka the Black Dahlia — was found on this exact day 59 years ago today.

In between we were shown various crime scenes of varying notoriety, including one literally a block over from our house. We also visited the site of the infamous televised 1974 shoot-out between SLA members and the LAPD, as well as several others.

One thing I learned along the way: the Hillside Strangler serial killers Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono resided on Tamarind Drive north of Franklin Avenue in 1977 during the commission of several of the murders — less than a mile from where I was living at the time. Isn’t it sad when your youth is populated with boogeymen? Prior to them I was often left looking over my shoulder and avoiding any shadows where the infamous “Skid Row Slasher” might have been hiding. Whoever that murderer was was responsible for the gruesome deaths of several homeless people in 1975.

The tour itself was informative, but it was not without its rough edges. There was much disparity between the deliver styles of the three guides, and they could have improved in their pinpointing of points of interest (a lot of times they just said someplace was “over there.” Not much help for those of us in the back wondering if it was on the left side of the packed bus or the right. Some sort of printed program would have been nice as well.

All in all though, it was a very unique way to see parts of the city (flashpoints to the riots of 1965 and 1992, anyone?) we otherwise wouldn’t visit and it was kind of fun in some of the various heighborhoods to see the curious expressions on the faces of the residents wondering why the hell a loaded tour bus was cruising through their neck of the woods.