timelapse


In the 12-plus years I’ve been a-blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week or two without posting SOMETHING. So you can imagine my shock when I saw I’d last been seen here basically more than three weeks ago.

The funny thing is, I’ve still been communicating, but mostly on Facebook, which for reasons known only to Mark Zuckerberg has been able to squirrel its way in to becoming something of my defacto mode of e-communication. I don’t even tweet much anymore.

But enough about that. Without any further preambling, here’s some of the stuff I’ve been doing of late:

1) Kayaking The Los Angeles River

As part of a pilot program this summer, a section of the long-lost Los Angeles River coursing through Elysian Valley was reopened to the public for use as a recreational resource, an opportunity angelenos have not had since the 1930s when the river’s channelization was begun to prevent flooding.

As a boy I accidentally discovered the river, and from that single experience I have never stopped being enamored with and zealously protective of what so many others have dismissed as our city’s woeful waterway — little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though I’ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day I’d see such a sea change in perception so that  the river would made accessible and embraced not as a prohibited place but as public parkland to be explored and experienced and as something to connect with after so long a disconnect.

kayakroute

So for me, thanks to L.A. River Expeditions (Facebook), to be among the first wave during this historic first season and doing what you see in these clips at the top and after the jump: putting a kayak into its waters and putting my butt into that kayak and paddling — however awkwardly — downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, it’s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.

No, it’s much more than that. To me it’s nothing short of a glorious miracle. And for that I’m thankful to everyone who has fought so tirelessly and valiantly over the years to get the city’s much-maligned and misbegotten river recreated in enough influential minds so that it can now be leisurely recreated upon.

Physically and soulfully these waters were very moving.

2) Unrocking The parkway in front of our house

I can’t remember if it was four or five years ago, but it all began when our next door neighbor contacted me to tell me he was redoing the section of parkway in front of his house with river rocks, and would I be interested in going in for half of the cost and doing mine as well to give the two parkways some continuity.

I figured why not. It would look better than the dirt and dead grass that had been there and it would be an opportunity to do something positive with the guy with whom, frankly, I’m not on the best of terms.

So a few weeks later he shows up with a metric ton of the palm-sized rocks and we pour them out, and the continuity lasted for all of as long as it took for the grasses and weeds to grow from between our rocks. See, he keeps his section of the parkway completely sterile, using gardeners he’s instructed to pluck pretty much even the slightest growth of green. Me? I’m my own gardener and I instructed myself not to give a hoot about what grows.

The only thing I’d been meticulous about is putting the rocks back that people for some stupid reason can’t resist kicking or tossing all over the place: the gutter, the street, the sidewalk, our front steps. And yes, I’ve even confronted people I’ve witnessed taking the rocks – literally picking up several and walking off as if there’s a “Free Rocks — All You Can Carry!” sign posted.

Fast forward to this week, and I’m finally done with these rocks. Agreeing to partner this design option for our parkways did nothing to improve things with the neighbor, and so I decided that it’s time to reclaim or refresh our decidedly seedy section of the parkway and remove the river rocks.

I started yesterday (August 12), and quickly discovered that it was something easier said than done. What I thought would take a couple hours of clearing the roughly 40′ x 4′ area, is going to take about eight or more… mostly because over the ensuing rainy seasons, what started as one layer of rocks on the surface of the soil is now in places two or three layers of rocks that have been buried by the flow of water and soil, hastened by those people who’ve tromped on them and pushed them deeper. It’s really quite remarkable how low some of these rocks have gone.

I found out during the first four/five foot long section I cleared from the driveway apron to the magnolia tree, which also involved digging up all the dead patches of grass. And there are a LOT of dead patches of grass.

Soooo, what you’re seeing here in this timelapse is roughly 45 minutes of me attacking with little more than a spade and begloved hands the second four/five foot section between the magnolia tree and the brick walkway. Ended up filling the bucket three times. That’s a lotta rocks. And I’ll do it again tomorrow. And the day after. Until it’s done.

Not sure yet what I plan to do once it’s all cleared. I may just leave it bare. I may plant something. Or I may supersaturate the soil and set the rocks back into the wet dirt side by side like so many tiles. At least that way if some idiot wants to take one or toss one  it’ll require a little more effort than just bending over and getting grabby.

Menial labor? Meaningful labor? Bit of both from where I’m toiling.

Though not without cause given how little I’ve been riding this year, any reports of my having forgotten how to ride a bike all over the dang place have been greatly exaggerated, as seen in this to-Whittier-and-back of 46-miles Saturday, split in the middle by eight hours of classroom instruction at Rio Hondo College.

I must say that the “out” half beginning in the near-deserted early morning was much more enjoyable than the “back” portion in the late afternoon, which involved scads of traffic, a ceaseless headwind along the entire straightaway length of Valley Boulevard, and me riding in something of a zombie-fied state due to fatigue and my internal fuel tank being almost completely empty.

The morning ride was also enjoyable because of the nearly six-mile-long game of leapfrog you’ll see in the above vid that I have on the nearly Valley Boulevard with an MTA bus that began near Cal State LA and didn’t end until I bailed onto the Rio Hondo Bikeway in El Monte.

But the other thing that ran out of gas too early was the camera, konking out after a brief respite spent at Lincoln Park.

Full roundtrip route: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5953724

In what’s only my fifth ride of the entirety-to-date of 2013 (egad!), I tripped on over to the Glendale DMV to pick up a copy of the latest edition of the California Vehicle Code.

There’s something fulfillingly off-kilter about biking to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is exactly why I did it, in this case from Silver Lake to the Glendale branch and back, about 17 miles under a wonderful second day of spring.

Buster is a mind-changer. Most of my life I considered tortoises to be plodding, simple-minded and uninteresting creatures. But then along comes this Russian tortoise into my life in October 2001 and she burned that opinion to the ground — and continues to do so.

Even though this clip ends in her failure to escape and me coming to her rescue, it’s a great reminder of how awesome she is and how incredible tortoises can be — how curious, how energetic, and how stubbornly unstoppable. Her ancestors don’t date back 200-million years because they just sat around the planet.

She looks at the almost two-foot-tall pile of river rocks I’ve arrayed on the left not as a way to be kept in, but as a way to get out. And though she suffers several setbacks in her escape quest, she ultimately gets thiiiiiiiiiis close to succeeding — all the more incredible when you consider how poorly equipped a tortoise is to such a rigorous endeavor.

Regardless of how inadequately outfitted Buster is to climb over a pile of rocks, “quit” is simply not in her vocabulary. Well… neither is “vocabulary,” but you know what I mean.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for a lot of things and one of them is Buster’s indomitable spirit, which keeps inspiring me — especially so at this latter stage of my life when I’m attempting to scale my own disproportionate rockpile and achieve a place in a new career field.

As I’ve done for many years now during the Memorial Day weekend, I get on my bike and make a solemn sojourn to Los Angeles National Cemetery. Late last week, in response to an inquiry from KPCC as to who or what their listeners would be thinking about and doing for the occasion, I recorded my thoughts for them via SoundCloud:

My Memorial Day Ritual by wildbell

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful ride, and as you’ll see in the video, I did my annual duty in righting a whole bunch of individual flags that had fallen. But I pedaled very pensively the way home, thinking both about the freshest graves I found there of soldiers killed in Afghanistan in August and September of 2011, and of those undoubtedly to come.

To make a trip to the Echo Park post office, visit my mom in Burbank and just generally get the hell out of the house to clear my head, I wiped off the two weeks of dust that had accumulated on El Naranja since I last rode it and pedaled to Burbank and back. It proved very successful. The several hours involved marked the longest I’d gone without blubbering about Shadow.

19.67-mile route

For my first ride of 2012, I saddled up before dawn in search of the sunrise, which you’ll see I find peeking out over the hills around Mt Washington/Highland Park east of my location in Griffith Park, about 9.5-miles in to the nearly 20-mile route up and down the Los Angeles River between Griffith Park and Lincoln Heights.

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