One Large Step For A Child

A recent description of outgoing disgraced President Donald Trump as a “sore loser” reminded me of when I myself was last a sore loser. Thankfully I was 11, not 74. And it wasn’t a presidential election I lost and a Republic I then tried to overthrow, it was just a Big Brothers/Big Sisters fun softball game at a park in Hollywood.

The team that I and my volunteer Big Brother Lloyd Miller were on had run up a huge lead — something seemingly insurmountable like double digits — that we then somehow managed to blow in the last inning and lose. When their winning run crossed the plate and the game was over I was furious. I mean like ugly-crying furious. I didn’t congratulate any of my opponents, I didn’t shake any of their hands. I ran from my position at first base into the outfield almost out-of-control bawling and screaming to the point where when Lloyd caught up with me he didn’t yell and he didn’t scream. He just tersely told me to go finish my tantrum over by his truck in the parking lot, which I was more than happy to do because I couldn’t stand that everyone else was laughing and enjoying themselves and couldn’t have cared less about the outcome of the game.

When he finally came over we got inside and he drove me home. He was quiet for the first mile or so. Then he told me he apologized to everyone on my behalf. Then he told me he absolutely hated having to do that. Then he asked me why I’d gotten so upset. I told him because we lost. He asked if that was the first time I’d ever lost at something, and of course it wasn’t. Then he matter of fact told me that he hated losing too, and asked me if I’d ever seen Steve Garvey or Jack Youngblood or any of my sports heroes behave similarly when they lose, which of course I hadn’t. He said they probably hated losing more than me because it was their job to win, but that they behaved the way they did because they were Men, which if I was going be one I’d better learn and quick how to be mature and not only handle my emotions and reject such bad behavior but also be polite in treating my opponents and the sport I play with respect and decency whether I win or lose.

He finished by saying how ashamed and embarrassed he was by my disgraceful behavior and that because of it we were going to take a couple weeks break from getting together, during which time he wanted me to think long about if I wanted to be a good sport and a better person or continue to be a bad sport and a lesser person, and to give him a call ONLY if or when I made the RIGHT decision.

I called him a few days later. We remained Big and Little Brother for another six years.

Little has changed from how the field looked in the mid-1970s. Thankfully I changed plenty.

PS. I have never gone past that field still there at Cahuenga and Santa Monica Boulevard without feeling both shame and pride, the latter because of my Big Brother Lloyd, thanks to whom I left a petulant child behind in the outfield that night and took my first steps towards being a man.

Throwback Thurzdae

I don’t do much in the #ThrowbackThursday Department either here or certainly not on social media (which I find myself increasingly divorcing from) because most of the time when I remember I want to it’s #ForgotFriday.

However, with my deep archive dive earlier this week finding an old personal stationery logo (circa 1988) and a walk of my dog Shadow (circa 1997), I also came across another couple things that had long been gone.

The first is my favorite childhood picture of me on the third anniversary of the forced eviction from my mother’s womb in May of 1967. I’m in the courtyard of the Hancock Park-adjacent apartment building my mom and I lived in on the corner of Westminster and 4th Street (torn down for condos in the early 1970s). I’m sitting in my brand nü boss-bitchin’ pedal car getting my finger stuck in the business end of the brand nü boss-bitchin’ doublebarreled popgun I’m brandishing, ‘Twas one of the boss-bitchin’est childhood burfdaes I can recall.

Second up seen below are the sequence of images found in a folder titled “Library Trip” that was made in May 1997 by me, my daughter Kate and a young man named Joseph for whom I was a volunteer big brother (myself having been a little brother up into my mid-teens).

I’ve long expressed my jealousy of these recent generations being able to so readily and thoroughly able to document even the most mundane parts of their lives, and here with these image filed created by my first digital camera, I’m reminded I was doing just that.

The Hi-Fi

In the months of 1989 leading up to the birth of my daughter things were not at all great financially or emotionally, but at the time we had a relatively sweet deal managing the 20-unit Van Nuys apartment building in which we were living in exchange for free rent on the two-bedroom we occupied.

Not long after she was born in September of that year it was decided that we would relocate to manage a building in Burbank, almost triple the number of units at only about half-off the rent, in part because a friend of my then-wife’s lived in the building and encouraged her to take the opportunity. There were pluses: it was in a better neighborhood; a newer building with nicer amenities. But in the end it increased the stretch on our finances and our already rocky relationship to the breaking point and I ended up moving out in January of 1990.

After all this time, my biggest regret of that whole inevitable failure as a man and a husband and a father? Leaving behind the stereo I’d inherited from my mother when I moved out on my own in 1985. Mind you, it was nothing fancy. Made by Admiral, it was called the Solid State Sterophonic High-Fidelty system, and without getting too overly sentimental, it played aaaaaall the music across the first 21 years of my life. Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Nat King Cole, Henry Mancini, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mendelsohn, Dvorak, Fleetwood Mac, Vicki Sue Robinson, The Beatles, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, countless Broadway soundtracks, Louis Prima, Kansas, Journey, Queen, and on and on and on.

What happened was I had at some point in my early independence I upgraded to a Marantz system and thus unceremoniously relegated my mom’s to the garage storage compartment where it sat throughout the duration of meeting my future ex-wife, moving in with her, getting married, getting pregnant, et cetera. Then when it came time for that move to Burbank, I couldn’t find the key to the storage compartment’s lock and just said to hell with it and left it behind.

Compounded by my mom’s disappointment that I didn’t bring it back to her when I quit using it, my abandonment of it has bothered me ever since, up to and including this past weekend, when it disturbed me that we didn’t have a functioning phonograph with which to play my Nat King Cole Christmas album this season. That in turn triggered the thought of the number of Christmases it spun on the able Admiral and so of course in this day and age I googled “Admiral High-Fidelty Stereo System,” and wouldn’t you know? BOOM. In full jaw-drop, I found one available on eBay, looking pretty much in a similar well-worn condition that my mom’s was when I banished it to the garage:

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It should be no surprise seeing that picture auto-triggered some verklemptification.

According to the Indiana seller’s description everything works but the record player, which is in need of a needle. The asking price is a prohibitive $329.99, especially considering I ordered a suitcase style self-contained stereo phonograph from Wayfair for $70 that should arrive by Friday.

But I’d be a liar if I denied putting this old lady on my Watchlist. And you really shouldn’t be too surprised if I end up putting in a low ball offer as we get near the end of the 27 days left at auction.

Lost Angeles: Tara Spotting

Oh no: not that Tara. I’m talking about the famed fictional plantation manse from a little film back in the day whose name coincidentally rhymes with the last name of the film’s central character — O’Hara, as in Scarlett. As in “Gone With The Wind,” or GWTW, if you will.
 Yeah, that Tara.

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Let me back up. I ravenously follow the Photos of Los Angeles group on Facebook, gobbling up its never-ending parade of pictures of L.A.’s distant and not-so-distant past. A few days ago this photo (at right, click to enlargify), was posted of a still from an episode of the 1950s TV series “SupermClark! Behind You!an,” showing its star, George Reeves (who coincidentally had a part in GWTW) in full Clark Kent mode, on a hill back-dropped by a broad swath of our smog-inundated city. The poster, Sally Deupree, asked, “Culver City. Recognize the building in the lower left with four columns?”

I immediately recognized it as Tara, which meant Reeves was standing hat in hand on what is now a section of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park — which meant beyond him was Jefferson Boulevard, then the Ballona Creek channel and then the old Pathe Studio backlot, where so many of the exterior scenes of GWTW were realized.

In an attempt to get a past/present frame of reference (I last did that with the location of Wrigley Field’s homeplate in South Los Angeles), I went on a googlehunt for a layout of the old studio, and hit gold at the 40 Acres website with this 1940 map (click to enlargify) pinpointing the various GWTW sets on the Pathe Studio backlot, with Tara’s position indicated there on the left.

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Then, of course, for a present-day juxtaposition I google-mapped the location (click to enlargify):
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Which means basically that at the deadend of Hayden Place south of Higuera Street, somewhere around the current location of Woo Agency and Omelet you can stand on the paved-over land upon which Tara once stood, not to forget Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and, yes, George Reeves. Cue the sweeping overture that is “Tara’s Theme”:

http://youtu.be/F86gx2sww88

A Creek Runs Through It

Well, it is official. I’m a landowner. Last January when my Uncle Doug died I was informed that in his will he bequeathed to me property he owned in Walker County, Alabama. Nine months later, the legal process is complete and I am now sole titleholder to 15 reportedly well-timbered and entirely undeveloped acres, replete with a creek known as Sims Branch (named after my grandmother’s parents) running through it, pictured approximately as shown below via Google Maps.

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What makes the gift even more special than being deemed worthy of it by my uncle — who was pretty much one of a very few adult males who demonstrated any kind of regard or concern for me during my childhood — is the fact that this particular plot of land is where my grandmother lived and where I stayed with her when I’d visit as a child.

Her house is long gone now. It was sold years back and its buyers jacked it up off its foundation and moved it to an unknown location. Though I last was inside when I was 7 years old, I can easily recall its layout… and lots of memories.

It’s an interesting sensation to own land that’s been in my family for quite some time, even if its far away and smack dab in the middle of nowhere. I certainly hope to stand upon it sooner rather than later, but who knows. If this life-long experiment as a Los Angeles native ever craps out, odds are this is where you might be able to find me. Either in a log cabin, a double-wide, or a recreation of my grandma’s home constructed from memory.

 

Adam-12 In Echo Park

Not sure why, but back when I was growing up I was always so much more an “Emergency!” kid, only occasionally watching the landmark “Adam-12” series (1968-1975). Thanks to Netflix over these last six month or so, I’ve methodically marched my way across every episode of the first five years, and am about three or four into the show’s sixth (and second to last) season on the air.

Why? I attribute a fair share of my interest to nostalgia, but also to the fact that it holds up all these years later as a pretty damn good show. Of course, my main enthusiasm for it might have something to do with my present status as a trainee in a public safety program, and for sure whenever partners Pete Malloy and Jim Reed (Martin Milner and Kent McCord) inevitably do wrong by today’s law enforcement training standards, it reinforces how I should do things right. Whether they’re doing person searches before handcuffing, using the old “feet back and spread ’em!” technique, calling for back-up and then not waiting for it to arrive before charging headlong after armed criminals into buildings, or turning their backs on suspects, the dynamic duo never fails to teach me what not to do almost each and every 24-minute episode.

Another reason is that it was filmed all around Los Angeles. Although the team was based out of the old Rampart Station on Temple Street and Benton Way, sadly most of the filming locations were in the San Fernando Valley. But Malloy and Reed certainly got all around town over the years and it’s an added bonus when I discover scenes filmed in my neck of the hoods. Take the following screengrab still from a scene showing Malloy with Sergeant “Mac” MacDonald (William Boyett) taking cover behind their patrol car from a shotgun-carrying robbery suspect pinned down in the then-open ped tunnel in Echo Park a block north of Sunset Boulevard on Montana Street between Logan and LeMoyne (click it for the bigger picture):

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Then there’s this one from way back in the first season when the partners pull over a young socialite for speeding around the west side of Silver Lake Reservoir (click it for the bigger picture):

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There have been plenty of others I’ve recognized (for example, the opening credits of the first couple/three seasons involved the vehicle speeding north on Hoover from 6th Street with historic First Congregational Church in the background and the countless stock shots of the station house), but I’ve been too lazy to screengrab them. If any more show up during the remaining episodes I’ll get into the habit of capturing and posting.

UPDATE (03.15): I remembered in an episode from Season Five (1972) during a protest scene staged in front of Rampart Station, the angle of the shot showing McCord and Boyett talking outside the entrance revealed the LAPD had a notable neighbor across Temple Street back then… the Church of Scientology. Interesting that they were as modest about their signage as they are now.

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Let There Be Lights

While wandering through my entirely unorganized image archives for no particular reason beyond nostalgia’s sake, I came across these snaps made during an Echo park stroll with Susan in June 2004 of the landmark Jensen’s Recreation Center sign illuminated, an occurrence that’s pretty rare these days.

The pix themselves are nothing I’d brag about other than they capture a beloved link to the area’s past in its glory (click the thumbnails for the bigger picture):

From a 2005 post on the Historic Echo Park blog:

For more that 50 years, the 17′ x 28′ incandescent sign (illuminated with 1,300 red, green and white light bulbs) atop the building that depicts a bowler throwing a strike was dark. A testament to the neglect and disrepair the building and the neighborhood sometimes suffered over the years. In 1997, the sign was restored to its original appearance through a cultural affairs grant. For many residents, the relighting of the sign was a momentous event that signaled the revitalization of the community and gave the neighborhood an identity.

The sign’s most impressive aspect not found in these images is the animation depicting a bowler rolling a strike along the top of the sign.