make believe



click it for the bigger picture

Over the last three days on lunch breaks and several times when my computer’s crashed and it was either A) Beat my head against the desk, or B) Walk away, I’ve performed that rite of fall and commenced spookitating the frontyard like the whacked-out Halloween-loving manboy I am. There are still some ghosts to hang and fog machines to place and test and lighting to arrange… plus if the winds kick up between now and Sunday I’ll have to pick up most everything seen above and reinstall it, but most of the big ticket ghoulification is complete!

During one of the many football games I watched this weekend, a Chik Fil-A commercial came on and I immediately recognized several downtown locations where it was filmed — including this process-shot two-fer at the end that I paused and snapped (click to enlarge):

See, this scene doesn’t actually exist in nature. The fire station central in the foreground (long defunct and privately owned, the last time I biked by it was empty and for sale) is west-facing and located on Santa Fe just south of 7th Street, which means that the sky behind it is entirely empty, not filled with civic center high rises from which rogue cows can drape illegal supergraphics… in large part because low buildings and the Los Angeles River pretty much occupy the space where those buildings have been placed (though the inclusion of the US Bank Tower’s reflection is a nice touch).

Don’t believe me? Google Maps Streetview doesn’t lie:

In response to my post about helping my daughter learn how to drive at the Hollywood Bowl (where I also had my first driving experience at 10 years of age), reader Gary commented that he, too, experienced his first motor vehicle operation at the fresh age of 7 running over empty beer cans with his dad at the Hollywood Bowl parking lot, and surmised that there are probably a buncha angelenos who had impromptu lessons on that landmark’s blacktop.

Gary had the excellent idea of forming a club and throwing an annual picnic, and I responded to that telling him the least I could do was create a t-shirt.

And so on my lunch break, I did (click it for the bigger picture):

If you absolutely love it and gotta have one, it’s available here at Zazzle.

I may sigh in general fatigue knowing there’s no winning this war on ignorance, but that doesn’t mean I drop my armor and surrender from defending the true Eastside as well as my part of town against those blythe hoards ever-intent on conveniently jumping on the bandwagon with those who’ve come before them to dismissively mislabel its civic geography.

The far more forgiving Franklin Avenue Blog introduced me to my latest foe: the no-doubt fine folks at the Your Daily Thread website, who’ve recently released “The Official Eastside Green Guide.” But instead of being about Boyle Heights and surroundings where it should be, of course it’s that never-gets-tired westside-stoked POV of what’s eastside: namely Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Atwater Village, with perhaps a little Virgil Village and East Hollywood along with a sprinkling of Historic Filipinotown and Angeleno Heights.

Basically as they see it pretty much anything east of Western Avenue qualifies because after all, it’s east of Western Avenue, duh! Nevermind that Western Avenue was so named because it represented the westernmost boundary of an expanding late-19th century Los Angeles (Westlake, anyone?), making everything between it and downtown the ORIGINAL WESTSIDE way back when today’s westside wasn’t much more than swamps and ranchos and oil fields.

But good westies don’t let facts like that get in the way of co-opting this part of town as their “eastside.” Because it’s east of them, get it? Because they’re the city’s true center.

I really should forgive such endless elitist entitlement for they simply know not what they do — and I probably might have until I got to the comments to the post on YTD.com announcing the guide and found a response to someone who dared ask, “…why are you calling it the eastside? It isn’t.”

Tracy Hepler wrote back: “Thanks for the comment. The communities we mentioned are considered part of the east side of Los Angeles. There are many communities even more East but as L.A. that does not mean that the communities mentioned aren’t a part of the Eastside.”

I became particularly fixated with that first broad stroke she presented as some sort of acknowledged fact. “Considered part of the east side of Los Angeles,” by whom I wondered. Maybe the three people in the office that day when it was time to title the guide? Sure, there are those who consider L.A.to be a desert or dinosaurs to have existed 4,000 years ago or the world to be flat or the Holocaust to be fiction, or President Obama not to be a U.S. citizen, but just because an ignorant or biased segment of the population agrees with what you believe doesn’t make it true.

It’s nice that Tracy saw fit to give an unnamed shout-out to the “many communities even more East” (like Pasadena and Las Vegas and New York and London perhaps?), but then she slams the door with her final rebuttal” “that does not mean that the communities mentioned aren’t a part of the Eastside.”

Of course I au contraire’d mademoiselle Hepler with the following comment:

You lead with: “In L.A. it often feels as if the Westside is leading the charge when it comes to being consciously green.”

To which I respond: “In L.A. it often feels as if the Westside is leading the charge when it comes to being consciously obstinate in perpetuating the misnomer of Silver Lake/Echo Park/Los Feliz as “Eastside.”

Tracy Hepler’s rationalization that it’s east of the westside and therefore is the east side of L.A. is typically dismissive and woefully narrow. Google maps may provide little in the way of clues, but history does. Western Avenue wasn’t named because of what’s east of it. It was named because it represented an approximation of the original western boundary as the city expanded beyond downtown. From that perspective anything between it and downtown is the original westside.

Sad thing is I know that doesn’t mean diddly to Tracy or anyone else who decided to misname the guide. I’m sure it’s great and full of excellent info, but just know that there are those of us who live in those communities and frequent the establishments there that take umbrage with your title and know and respect where the true Eastside is, geographically, culturally, politically and socially.

Do I know what this diverse section should properly be labeled? Well, I’m still sticking by my favorite informal name of choice: the Upside.

On my bike commute home last night, with everything feeling good, I was jolted back to reality in the form of a writing instrument. Just as the light turned green and I began to proceed across the intersection of Florence and La Cienega I felt the tap of something hit my back pack and when I looked over my right shoulder I saw a ballpoint pen land on the asphalt and skitter away. Realizing that it had been intentionally thrown at me I looked back over at my left but the vehicle behind me was a gardener’s truck and I made eye contact with the driver but could tell he wasn’t the culprit. At that same moment a red mustang shot forward to the left of the gardener and the passenger side window was down.

Maybe derogatories were spat out at me but I didn’t hear those, only a sharp idiotic laughter that burst out at me loud enough to be heard over  Jimmy Smits’ “Some Of My Best Friends Are The Blues” pumping into my ears through my iPod headphones.

Though the Mustang sped forward unimpeded and away from me down the open two-lane, I picked up my pace to 20-plus mph knowing that there were red lights up around the bend. Sure enough in the backed-up traffic before La Brea there it was hung up and helplessly trapped in the gridlock and so I threaded through the lines of cars splitting the lanes so as to pull up alongside.

Ditching off the bike which fell with a clatter behind me I first tried to yank open the passenger door, but it was locked. So Instead I leaned in with a fistful of hair and a fistful of neck framing the punk’s terrified face I hauled him out the window where he fell  to the pavement with a clatter not unlike my bike where all he could whine was something like “No! Wait!” before I set to stomping and kicking him until the driver was forced to get out somewhat reluctantly and come after me with a steering wheel lock that I took away from him after he landed a rather tentative blow across my helmet. But before I could pay back the favor with interest he ran off to the relative safety of the sidewalk across the street shouting for someone to call 911 and while someone did I turned my attention back to the pronated punk who was groaning curled up in a fetal position saying something about how sorry he was.

“Yes, you are.” I told him. 

Not really in the mood to kill anybody I decided to destroy the Mustang and set upon it with the steering lock, working around it in a counterclockwise movement, that left no surface undented, unscratched, or unshattered until I’d come around it full circle and gave  one last kick to the punk’s head — cursing myself for not taking the time to pick up the pen he’d thrown  because I would’ve love love loved to have given it back to him, if you know what I mean. Maybe bury it in an ass cheek or through his hand or something. Or scrawl “punk” with it really hard across his pimply forehead.

Scary what I’m capable of, isn’t it? Even if everything past the second paragraph was only imagined.

So a couple days ago I decided to have some e-fun for Halloween. Specifically, I built a mock L.A. Times web page with a news feature headlined “Legend of the haunted Griffith Park picnic table” that I posted and linked to from Blogging.la:

latboo.jpg

[click here to go to the complete story]

It’s not my first time with this type of gag. Back for April Fool’s Day last year I did a less-sophisticated rendering which told the strange and disgusting tale of a living and carnivorous 200-pound tumor that had escaped in the valley.

By “less sophisticated” I mean that this time I went a bit more intricate. Waaaaay more intricate. With the tumor piece I’d crafted a decent mimic page that looked real enough, but none of the links worked as I didn’t trouble with taking it to the next level and making all that crap active and so forth.

This time I went the extra pixels and did all that tedious stuff, which actually took more time to do than the writing of the tall tale that I pounded out over the course of a couple hours’ work last week and yesterday.

Brief backstory: I got the idea for this ghost story back when I first biked past the table’s location back in 2001. But when I found the scene still exactly the same earlier this year the gears started turning.

But the true catalyst that got it all going last week was the availability of the otherwise nonsensical domain: latirnes.com. Sure, it spells out l-a-t-i-r-n-e-s, but at a casual glance at a browser window’s address bar the “r” and the “n” look like an “m” and that can be perceived as latimes.com. Why is that a big deal? Well, when I did the tumor piece I basically had to load it up on my domain so that when the link on Blogging.la was clicked the page that opened up in a browser had an address that was http://www.wildbell.com/blahblahblah and that was a total gag killer right at the top.

This time I wanted the added authenticity. Not only would I do my best to follow the Times’ online style and format, but I’d make all the links live — and the icing way up top on the spoofcake would be the latirnesdotcom page address.

Of course all that realism didn’t stop me from sprinkling the piece with all sorts of hinty details as to its fake nature… from the “Norm Bates” byline to the post time of 10:31 p.m. (as in October 31) — even the map illustrator is none other than Michael Myers, the indestructible evildoer from all the Halloween films.

And I didn’t suffer with factual accuracy. As the civic-services-savvy L.A. City Nerd jovially pointed out in the comments on Blogging.la, I blew the story’s cover by referencing the city’s tree division when Griffith Park has its own forestry outfit.

Hell I barely spellchecked the thing.

I also didn’t bother expounding my original storyline, wherein investigation via mediums and seances uncovers that it isn’t Nancy and Rand who are haunting the place but rather the ghost of an Asian man who had been lynched up on that tree during the horrible Los Angeles Chinese Massacre of 1871 — and that it was his ghost who murdered Rand and Nancy.

Had I been even more obsessed I would’ve biked up there after dark and gotten creepy shakycam video of the crushed table a la Blair Witch.

Insetead, what you see is what you get. And I’m pleased with the result.

Now the more pertinent question might be why’d I do it? And the plain and simple reason is that I had fun. This last few weeks of job hunting and dwindling account balances have left me plenty of opportunity to doubt and dwell and doubt some more. However brief this frivolous endeavor’s respite, it did me good every time I giggled like a giddy school kid at everything from figuring out how to implant the LAT favicon in the address bar to making the photo windows pop-up.

The devil’s in the details, so they say. And I certainly enjoyed the dance. I hope you enjoy the finished product. Happy Halloween.

The following conversation took place between 1631 and 1633 hours in my imagination:

car2.jpgDispatcher: Parking Enforcement Dispatch, Officer No. 463, How may I help you?
Me: Yes, there’s a vehicle partially blocking my driveway.
Dispatcher: And what is your address?
Me: 840 North—.
Dispatcher: Is this Will?
Me: Uh, yes… how did you know?
Dispatcher: I thought I recognized your voice!
Me: You did?
Dispatcher: Sure! You’re practically legendary around here.
Me: I am?
Dispatcher: Oh, absolutely, buddy! Your call recordings get replayed here over and over. You know how many tickets you’ve generated?
Me: Well… not really, but I pre—.
Dispatcher: Hang on, lemme check.
Me: I prefer to look at it not as my fault but the fault of those who park like idiots in front of my garage.

car1.jpg [Silence]

Me: Hello?
Dispatcher: Yeah, I’m here. Sorry ’bout that. Had to access another terminal. We’re talking 15 citations — not counting today’s.
Me: Wow! That many?
Dispatcher: Yeah, and that’s not including the four that got away. We love you here man. You’re our hero.
Me: OK, that’s weird.
Dispatcher: You don’t mess around, man. Someone’s blocking your driveway you nail ‘em. No mercy!
Me: That’s true. I have a low-threshold for inconsideration.
Dispatcher: Other people are much more easy-going or get wishy washy or worried about payback or just being seen as a jackass, but not you man. So after the tenth cite we cross-checked your address in our database to find out who you were.
Me: Now you’re scaring me.
Dispatcher: Not snooping, nah. Just curious.
Me: Fine… anyway about this car block—.
Dispatcher: So some of us are wondering here…
Me: Yeah?
Dispatcher: You know… why it might be that you don’t go in for the kill.
Me: The kill?
Dispatcher: Yeah, the hook-up.
Me: The what?
Dispatcher: Come on, maaaan: the tow!
Me: Oooooh!
Dispatcher: Yeah! What gives man? Why always go for the ticket instead of dropping the truck on these jerks?
Me: Well, I did request a tow that one time.
Dispatcher: Yeah, after the guy in that Volvo wagon blocked your driveway for three freakin’ days in a row! What took ya so long?
Me: Guess I don’t have what it takes.
car3.jpgDispatcher: Pussy!
Me: Excuse me?
Dispatcher: Just playin’ with ya, man. No offense meant. It’s just that a lot of us over here consider you one of us. Kind of an honorary PEO.
Me: Parking Enforcement Officer?
Dispatcher: You pick up quick! We even have a nickname for you: The Enforcer.
Me: Nice. Now do you think you can enforce yourself to send an officer out here to commemorate and capitalize on the the craptastical parking job of this silver Honda sedan?
Dispatcher: Ha! Good one. Should I send a truck maybe?
Me: Maybe if it’s still there tomorrow.
Dispatcher: Pus—.
Me: Watch it!

Epilogue: This Honda ended up receiving two citations. The first was Thursday evening. When I discovered it blocking the driveway I was on my way to a bike ride and didn’t phone in the initial citation request until I returned more than two hours later and found the car still there. Then almost a full day later on Friday afternoon when I saw that the first ticket had been removed from the vehicle’s windshield but the vehicle was still in the exact same position (despite there being room to move forward several feet) I snapped these phonecam pix and called in another request. An officer was sent and a second ticket was issued. The obstructive vehicle was moved shortly thereafter.