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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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.

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.

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The Meadow

February 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

meadow 1Okay, I admit it: I was wrong.

When someone proposed commandeering a chunk of “unused” reservoir property to use as parkland, I was aghast. “It’s not unused space,” I said. “It belongs to the coyotes.”

True enough: Everyone had their stories about seeing coyote kits gamboling in the field or coyotes slipping underneath the fence or coyotes sitting placidly inside the fence watching us watching them.

I liked having fallow, open space unsullied by humans. I worried about increased human-coyote contact if coyote habitat were curtailed. I didn’t relish more traffic and parking hassles. I envisioned pedestrians attempting to cross Silverlake Boulevard and being mowed down by cars.

The community split: You were either “Open the Meadow!” or “Save the Meadow!” The issue became so contentious that a Saturday morning public meeting held on the contested property drew more than 150 people.

meadow 3The “open” folks claimed that the park would be a quiet place, “you know, where people come to sit and read poetry” (actual quote). Traffic? No problem: Visitors will come from the neighborhood; they’ll walk, not drive.

Nonresidents told us that if we didn’t open the land, we were being selfish. They said just because you have backyards for your kids to play in ( I don’t), doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t have more space.

The openers won. Existing fence was torn down and  moved closer to the reservoir itself. The walking path was relocated. Non-native plants were excised, trees planted, and sod laid.

After more than a year of work, the Meadow (it now required capitalization) was opened with great fanfare. I did not attend the ceremonies.

I couldn’t boycott the place forever, though. Several weeks following the opening, I walked through the Meadow; young parents with a toddler sat on the grass as their child ran free. Then, I “got it”: A vast expanse of open lawn safely enclosed by a low fence where no dogs were allowed was just what city kids needed.

meadow 2Where else could you fly a kite? Where else could you lie back and watch clouds sailing by? Where else could you call up a few friends and hold an impromptu picnic? Maybe some folks even go there to read poetry.

The Meadow is not problem free. Traffic has increased and parking is at a premium. A strategically-placed crosswalk cuts down on—though does not eliminate—jaywalking, but the crosswalk’s traffic light ruins the view of Richard Neutra’s VDL House.

Even so, I don’t mind being wrong when the outcome is so right.

Mystery lot #2

February 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

Coffee Table 1 It’s no mystery what used to be in this empty lot on Rowena: Blackburn Lodge—a down-at-the-heels board & care facility—a couple small cottages, a showroom with ever-changing tenants, and a neighborhood restaurant called The Coffee Table

Food at the Coffee Table was good enough that you’d take out-of-town friends there for weekend brunch and prices were reasonable. (Plus it was one of the first places around to have a vegan entree of scrambled tofu). They also sold The New York Times.

Seating was plentiful:  a smoking section out front, large roofed patio in the back, and, in between, tables surfaced with colorful mosaic tiles.

All sorts of folks turned up at the Coffee Table: moms met other moms for coffee while their kids slept in strollers, community groups gathered  for committee meetings, writers bogarted the tables near the windows, employees from local businesses came in for lunch.

Then, abruptly last year, our Peaceable Kingdom was upended: The landlord gave the Coffee Table  one week to close up shop. Staff who had worked there for years were suddenly unemployed. Everyone was stunned.

We could have seen it coming. Years ago, developers bought the building and land under it intending to build condos. Blackburn Lodge shut its doors, but the other businesses held on while the new owners went through the permitting process. Neighborhood push-back forced the developers to integrate the Coffee Table into the project and to decrease the number of units being built.

Then the Great Recession hit and/or the developers got fed up with city and neighborhood demands, the project stalled and eventually the property was resold. The Coffee Table lived on, using portions of the Blackburn Lodge property for parking.

But, invisible to us, deals were in the works. New owners appeared, shut everything down, razed the buildings, and put up a chain-link fence. Rumor was that condos were in play again. That was at least a year ago.

I believe the property has changed hands again–or maybe I’m thinking of yet another sale during the Great Reprieve. In any case, nothing has been built–not even a building permit posted–and the lot remains empty save for castor plants.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Roger that

February 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

IMG_2659Remember when giving human names to business enterprises was in vogue? There was, for example, Ted (United Airline’s brand that attempted to compete with low-cost regional carriers) and George (the glossy monthly co-founded by JFK Jr.).

The commonality of these efforts, besides the attempt to anthropomorphize decidedly unanthropomorphic entities, was how short-lived they were. Five or six years and they were history.

Except here in Silverlake where we still have a building named roger (yes, small R).

Some things last. The Slinky. Rock ‘n’ roll. Patriarchy. The Koran. Others do not: Nehru jackets, pet rocks, the Pennsylvania Railroad. And male names for businesses.

Roger excepted.

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