Life takes time

February 11, 2014 § 2 Comments

Kong  I’d probably need several years of psychoanalysis to determine why I’m so fond of this character, found on Sunset where Waverly curves down to meet the boulevard. Shouldn’t I find the dark scowl frightening/ disturbing/ threatening?

Instead, I read the face as determined/ take no bullshit/ ready for whatever comes. Walking to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, I give it a friendly nod, happy to know it’s made it through another week unmarred by graffiti.

The remainder of the mural is pretty cool, too.

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The Walker

January 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

He comes to mind periodically, usually when I myself am out walking. We called him The Walker and for years we’d see him striding  briskly through Silverlake and environs, always shirtless and in gym shorts, his head bent down over a periodical.

Over time, he caught the media’s attention and through their stories we learned he was a cardiologist in private practice somewhere in the Valley and that he walked long distances–10 miles comes to mind–every day.

He became a fixture; if you mentioned The Walker, everyone knew who you meant.

I sometimes wondered how a busy cardiologist could have time for a daily 2-3 hour exercise program.

A few years back, we learned the answer when he was indicted for running an opiod prescription mill. The case had not progressed very far before the walking doctor was found dead in his hot tub. He had committed suicide.

The man lives on, however, in two Silverlake murals. The students at Micheltorena School included him in a mural at the far end of their school yard.IMG_2773

Then there’s the artist who wryly inserted him into another Sunset Boulevard mural: Amidst chiaroscuro scenes of bygone L.A. days, The Walker is the sole figure in color.  Now he, too, is gone.

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Mystery lots update

November 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

Two Silverlake construction projects would appear to be moving forward. Mostly the progress is illusionary.

IMG_3017  Months ago, workers dug trenches and poured footers at the plot where Glendale Blvd. makes a 90 degree turn and Rowena begins. And then . . . nothing. Dirt, concrete, rebar left as it was. Unconfirmed rumor: The developers are behind on payments.

IMG_3052Then there’s the site of the late, lamented Coffee Table on Rowena. Developers put up a large sign announcing “exciting” new construction “coming soon”; that was, oh, maybe six months ago. Other than brush clearing, nothing else has been done.

October 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

There’s a new entry in the low-water front lawn category, Silverlake Division.  Our neighbor collected plants and rocks for three years, then spent months placing them just so. It’s a wide-ranging collection of shapes and sizes and every day –and at different times of day– the garden appears altered. Thank you, Allie & Eddy.

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How I know it’s Halloween

October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Coyote tales

August 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

I lived in Silverlake for years thinking the neighborhood had an unusually large number of feral dogs because at night or when police sirens blared a chorus of great throaty yowls arose.

Then I camped in the San Gabriel Mountains, where signs warned against feeding coyotes, and heard the same yipping bark.

I got back to the city and immediately called the rangers’ station in Griffith Park. Was it possible that coyotes from the park could range as far as Silverlake, a good two miles away?

“They could,” a ranger told me, “but more likely they’re living right in your neighborhood.”

But this is a densely populated urban area, I protested; surely no wild creature that size lived so close to humans.

“Sure, they do,” the ranger said. “They’re living in the brush all over those hills.”

Once I accepted that fact, I began to see what had been hidden in plain sight. Coyotes crossing streets, loping from one patch of brush to another. Coyote pups gamboling in the reservoir meadow (back when it was still fenced in). Coyotes sitting inside the reservoir fence staring out, as if we were on display and he a zoo visitor. Pass-throughs just big enough for a coyote dug under the reservoir fence.

From these encounters, I’ve learned that while caution is always advised, coyotes aren’t really interested in messing with two-leggeds. Pussy cats and small dogs are another matter, to which the frequency of “lost pet” flyers attest.

It’s no surprise then that coyotes figure  prominently in our public art. The Gold Line stop on 26th Street in Lincoln Heights features a coyote tale. The Micheltorena Street School painted one into its Sunset Boulevard mural.IMG_3021

And one day, this image—a stencil actually—appeared near the Los Angeles River at the base of a Memorial Bridge pylon. It’s good we snapped the photo when we did: the next time I passed by, it was gone. An overzealous graffiti removal team had painted it over.

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Postscript: Last week, up the hill from our house, we turned the corner and there, in the middle of the street, trotting towards us in a manner I can only describe as insouciant, was a coyote, adolescent-sized. He paused, we moved to the sidewalk, and all of us resumed our travels. Just another day in the urban wilderness.

There goes the neighborhood

July 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s official: That re-do of the Ralph’s shopping center on Glendale Boulevard in Silverlake that I wrote about in the spring will feature, according to the L.A. Times, a Whole Foods store. Right now, the closest WF is in NE Glendale, with the one across from The Grove a distant second.

I should be ecstatic, right? I’ll no longer have to worry about Rice Dream bars melting before I get home.

But ecstatic I’m not and here’s why:

1. Ralph’s is staffed by union workers who get union wages and benefits. Ralph’s will move out so WF can move in–and WF has made sure that none of its stores are unionized.

Full disclosure: I don’t shop at Ralph’s much, preferring Trader Joe’s, which also is non-union. But lots of other people in the neighborhood do shop at Ralph’s, providing those union workers with jobs. Where will those employees go and where will neighborhood folks shop?

2. Not necessarily at WF–or Whole Paycheck, as friends prefer to call it–an upscale emporium selling natural and organic foods along with gourmet speciality foods (Exhibit A: their selection of olive oils). WF doesn’t carry the lower cost brands that Ralph’s does.

3. WF will not be a neighborhood store; shoppers will come from all around. Which means traffic, lots more traffic. The Silverlake/Glendale/Fletcher intersections already are gnarly during rush hours; what will it be like with WF in that block? Thinking about it gives me a headache.

4. WF’s founder and CEO, John Mackey, is a free market libertarian who called the Affordable Care Act “fascist”* and thinks climate change is not necessarily a bad thing. From one natural foods store in Austin, TX, WF has grown to more than 340 in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. Mackey’s business model has been to buy up or merge with other companies, often in a predatory manner, driving many local and regional chains out of business. I hate giving money to this guy.

5. Lastly, I keep thinking about those Rice Dream bars. How am I going to resist taking a three block walk every time I feel the urge for one?

DrillingDrilling rig in Ralph’s parking lot taking core samples in advance of construction.

April 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

CLOPCLOPCLOPCLOPCLOPCLOPCLOPCLOPCLOPCLOPCLOP.

We awoke this morning to the sounds of the Hollywood Half-Marathon making its way through our neighborhood.

Half Marathon Participants came in all shapes and sizes, ages, ethnicities. Also costumes: Superman, Wonder Woman, tutus, butterfly wings, a man in a filmy white dress and blonde wig. Mostly though, they wore spandex, lots and lots of brightly colored spandex. Enough to stretch all the way from Hollywood & Highland, where the race began, to Sunset & Alvarado, the turn-around, and back again: 13.1 miles.

“Thanks for letting us run through your neighborhood!” a man shouted as he legged it past me. Which was nice of him since it was a bit of a nuisance, hemmed in as we were by parking restrictions until 1 p.m.

Back in the ‘70s when the marathon craze was really taking off, I stood on the berm of a country road in Central Pennsylvania giving out split times–time elapsed since the last marker–for the first marathon of the region. It an all volunteer affair and long before barefoot-running, CamelBaks, energy shots–or spandex. By the end of the race I saw men bleeding from their nipples from the chaffing of cotton/polyester t-shirts.

I don’t remember any women running. That’s how it was back then.

I was jogging regularly at the time, though never as fleet of foot as my father who ran cross-country in high school. After watching the half-marathoners, I dug out his medal from the Marquette University Relay Carnival,  c. 1927. On the front, Winged Victory appears in low-relief. Inscribed on the back: 1st prize, 4 mile relay, National Champ.

While my dad might talk about running, he never gloried in having been on a national championship relay team. It wasn’t his way. He never gave up his love of bi-pedal mobility, however, which he lauded by slapping his thigh and repeating the old adage, “Shank’s mare will get you there.”

Evidently all the way from Hollywood to Silverlake and back again.

Open during construction

March 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

20 DVDMysterious happenings at the Glendale Blvd. strip mall in Silverlake: Enterprises are shutting down, slipping away silently into the night.

Ralph’s is still there and CVS has a big sign announcing it will be open during construction. But what construction?

It’s whispered that a make-over is planned. Only it’s been more than a year, maybe two, since stores began closing their doors. For now, as with other Silverlake construction projects, it’s in limbo.

Gone are Baskin-Robbins, Roundtable Pizza, 20 DVD (once known as 20 Video), KFC, and a barber shop. Wong Wok and Winchell’s are hanging on.

I didn’t patronize any of the closed businesses, 20 DVD excepted and that only when we didn’t feel like driving over to Video Journeys. (It was staffed by stereotypical adolescent male  clerks with zero interest in customer service.) But the empty storefronts make our neighborhood mall look like collateral damage from the Great Recession: It’s dirty and down-at-the-heels. And, despite fewer stores, the parking isn’t even better!

Another place in the ‘hood where Something Better is supposed to come along, but all we’ve gotten is Nothing.

Going native

March 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

The move to native plants appears to have leveled off in Silverlake. There are still too many rose beds and banks of English ivy. Grassy lawns abound despite the turf removal program  offered by Metropolitan Water District: $1.50 for every square foot of grass replaced.

Native garden 1  But on a block-long side street less than 100 steps from the walking path you will find the ultimate native garden, a model for how to go native and not rely solely on century plants (Agave americana) and crushed rock as so many do.

I think of this garden as native planting in the English tradition. You know how their gardens burst with blooms, seemingly growing of their own free will? Only they’re carefully planned–planned to look casual, which is hard to do!

Native garden 6There’s one of everything in this garden, well spaced and carefully placed. Though it looks like an oasis you might stumble upon, I don’t think you’d find all of these plants together. Yet it looks natural.

Alas, what I cannot convey is how wonderful the plot smells when plants are blooming, especially after rain. For that you’ll have to find Lakeview Terrace West and visit it yourself.

Native Garden 3  Native garden 4

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