Sunday, December 03, 2006

The price of being a Trojan in Bruin Territory

Rapid 761 - Westwood/Lindbrook

'Twas the night Bruin beat Trojan, and all through Westwood
Massive parties were brewing, tonight's bash would be good.

Pennants and flags hung from balconies with care
from beach to Coliseum, to our teams we swear.

So the parties commenced, students drinking 'till two
And then heading home, with more liquor to consume.

And I'm sure that the ten was a colorful sight;
Overfilled cars pulled over by black-and-whites.

On the eve of AIDs Day, with the Philippines stuck,
Our educated in LA were busy running amuck.

(Look on the bright side, one of my friends stated:
Their cheers were clever, and condom related.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nooner + Boss + Co-worker + Large Organ + Church = Classic

Metro Local 18 - 6th/Commonwealth

Every Thursday at noon the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles opens its doors for a free (can't beat that), non-denominational concert played on the largest church pipe organ in the world.

The concert lasts about 45 minutes, which is just enough time to waste your entire lunch break. I can't say I know many people who would voluntarily spend their lunch break at church. But this was worth it.

Today's concert was comprised of uplifting, patriotic tunes, played by the very animated (and limber) Organist-in-Residence, S. Wayne Foster. The pews shook. The tin trumpets blew. The air was wonderfully cool despite the ninety-degree weather outside.

All-in-all, it was a testament to the little wonders hidden within LA. A bit of culture. A bit of history. A bit of damage to our ear drums.

Candace, one of my co-workers, was the one who discovered this little trip away from ordinary. So that is how I came to have a nooner with the largest organ in the world while sitting next to my boss and co-worker in Church.

Needless to say, I was the youngest one in the room.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dia de los Muertos

Red Line - Union Station


It's the day of the dead.

There will be music and light. Dancing and food. Confetti and cheap souvenirs.

I'm like most Los Angelinos. There are certain areas of the city which I grew up visiting before I was old enough to appreciate them. Certain places where the annual field trips became so routine in elementary school that it no longer seemed an adventure to travel there.

Olvera Street is one of those places.

So I went back to re-discover it on the day of re-discovery and remembrance.

The outside courtyards were more beautiful than I remembered.

(This was probably at least partially due to the contribution of an abnormally warm and clear November day.)

And the streets were more of an adventure.

Between the pueblo and the bricks the temperature dropped about ten degrees. If you ignore the touristas stumbling through their Spanish, you could pick up on the Spanish in the air - store talk and singing, complaints and directions.

Trees and grapevines shade the street. One row of stalls smells of leather. One row smells of jalapenos. Everywhere are hand-written signs advertising: Mexican Jumping Beans, Candy Skulls, Piggy Banks, Leather Purses.

Plus there was a donkey and plenty of colorful sombreros. It's like Tijuana, but cleaner, with no traffic or chickens in the road.

Behind the shopping and haggling, the colors and crepe paper, the history of this area, the history of L.A., waits for you to notice.

This is still an educational field trip in disguise.

The original bell from the Los Angeles Mission.

A shrine honoring the life of Christine Sterling, the founder of Olvera Street.

Listen. Her bones are dancing down the street.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Metro Rapid 720 – Wilshire/Western

Every music venue has its own personality.

The Wiltern’s is a wry sense of humor and strong grasp of the obvious.

By taking its name from its own intersection (and keeping it, even after corporate sponsorship), the Wiltern provides plenty of “deep thoughts” moments. It also provides endless amusement when someone doesn’t know how to get there.

And it often hosts concerts like this one. Evanescence on Halloween weekend.

I didn’t get to go.

It’s just as well, since the crowd camped out in front (all gothed out and camped out) was giving me weird looks.

Which was disconcerting, to say the least.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Metro Local 304 – Santa Monica Blvd/Purdue

Boots are made for walking, not driving!

Well, except for the Quality Shoe Service boots. There are actually two driving boots (that I'm aware of).
This red one is a new phenomenon. They’re better known for their large black cowboy boot.

Although I’ve never seen either of them driving. They’re always parked.

Maybe it’s true. Maybe they can only walk!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good Will

Metro Local 304 – Santa Monica Blvd/Barrington Ave

This is the best Goodwill ever.

No, really, I’m serious.

They have brand new, brand-name clothes. They have Ikea furniture. I have even seen real furs, runway clothes, and genuine Swarovski crystals.

Best of all, they have talking raccoons.

He says: Wendy – Please take me home. I love you. Feed me.

I even met Wendy (you can almost see her and her friend in the background of this picture).

It turns out she hates raccoons. They steal her cat’s food.

Go figure.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Moving Cargo

Metro Blue Line - Long Beach Transit Mall

They do things big down here. And I’m not just talking about the big rigs.

Big murals, big boats, big traffic.

People cargo moves around real nicely. The Blue Line light rail avoids the perils of driving the 110 (otherwise known as Frankenstein’s Freeway – anyone who has driven it will know why. Anyone who hasn’t…just take my word that you don’t want to), or of dodging trucks on the 710 (just imagine being the frog in Frogger).

Once you’re in downtown Long Beach, you can walk anywhere. Restaurants, hotels, the Queen Mary. Since I was down here on business, I didn’t get a chance to do much more than see the view from my hotel room. Still, it’s a nice view.

The real problem here is that the actual cargo, Long Beach’s bread and butter, moves around real slowly. The ebb and flow of containers depends primarily on Big Rigs.

Long Beach shares a problem with the Port of Los Angeles - insufficient freight train access. The ability of trains to reach the ports (Long Beach and Los Angeles) has improved drastically since the completion of the Alameda Corridor in 2002. The 710 is still a sea of diesel trucks.

What is it they say? Something about the smog and sunsets...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Crack is bad, mkay?

In the words of a furby I once encountered:
Ahh. Scared....

Saturday, October 14, 2006

(sub)Urban Yard Watching

Walking means that you get to slow down, take the side streets, walk against traffic...

...hang out in strange places. someone new...

...see something that's not from around here...

...and realize that, even if you don't have to mow the lawn, you still have to rake the leaves.

(Yes, that is all fake grass. Have I mentioned lately that people are weird? They are. Quite.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weird things to drink that don't involve alcohol.

My Jamba Juice looks like split pea soup.

I'll skip the less pleasant analogies I could make here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Engine Co. No. 28

Metro Red Line - 7th Street/Metro Center

Welcome to the old firehouse.

Although it might be fairly common in New York or London, it isn't every day that you get to knock back a few in a building that's nearly a century old. Between earthquakes, expansion, and a vague feeling that history is well...old, L.A. doesn't keep many buildings for more than a few decades.

The Engine Co. No. 28 building has been around since 1912.

It's just half a block from the train (good news if you're drinking!), across the street from the Wilshire Grand, and in the part of L.A. that is Downtown L.A. (south of Crenshaw, north of skid row, and parking is impossible so be ready to tip your valet).

One part historic landmark
Two thirds restaurant
One third bar
Substitute plate glass for two fire doors
Add a dash of freshly made potato chips
And top shelf alcohol
Mix with a few burnt-out coworkers and friendly bartenders

Serve chilled, over ice.

Oh and, watch it - the drinks will wet your thirst and start a fire in your belly.

(These are two of my co-workers. Our bartender felt obligated to forbid us from talking religion or politics while inside the building. We did anyway, but only while he wasn't looking. Both are mild-mannered by day. Honest.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Metro Green Line - Aviation/LAX Station

Getting to the airport is a special kind of hell in LA. LAX is one of the reasons that the 405 freeway is generally referred to as a parking lot. There are only so many times you can convince friends to drive you there before they stop returning your phone calls. So an industry thrives on providing a cornucopia of alternatives.

Alternatives which aren’t always appealing. A taxi ride can end up costing as much as the flight itself. Super Shuttles insist you need to be at the airport days before your flight is scheduled to arrive. And airport parking lots always seem to offer the minimum peace of mind at the maximum price.

And then there is public transportation.

The Green Line lands at Aviation Blvd.

A lot of major local bus lines converge at this station. It is as close to LAX as public transportation reaches (not counting the new Flyaway shuttle, which goes directly to LAX from Union Station, but also costs extra to ride). From here, you can take a shuttle to your terminal.

The station has the right ideas. Different bus lines to cater to practically every direction a rider needs to go.

Although the bus lines don’t accept each other’s passes.

A major lightrail station above the bus terminals.

Although the green line isn’t the easiest train to get to, it doesn’t travel through the best of neighborhoods, and the shuttle busses connecting to the airport could never carry even half a train full of people.

Large, well-lit areas, scattered with plenty of public seating.

Although the station is in an unpopulated area, with no shops, far from walking distance from anything, and is not staffed or patrolled on a 24 hour basis.

For the sake of traffic, sanity, and travelers, it would make more sense to have the station in or nearby LAX. Certainly there is a spare parking lot which could be used for this purpose.

But that might dent the profit margin for fleets of super shuttles and taxis.

“I saw the best minds of my generation
Destroyed by madness,

Alan Ginsberg

Friday, September 29, 2006

Port Angeles - Art Outside

Port Angeles, WA

Somewhere between eccentric and magic, there is the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s Art Outside project. Over 75 pieces of art can be seen scattered along the trails through Webster’s Woods.

At first, the pieces seem obvious. Roots lead from the parking lot to the forest. Large floating thought bubbles surround the entrance.

But inside the forest, along the trails, the pieces skew your perspective. Make you look at what is in front of you through a different angle.

Granted, some of them are absurd. The prospect of being able to create art which will sit in a forest seems to bring out the Blair Witch in everyone.

But sometimes you can see into the art.

And feel tiny.

You can also see into a few backyards. The Art Center is hidden in the middle of the suburbia surrounding Port Angeles. But that only makes it seem more magical to encounter mathematical gates hiding behind trees with stones hanging like fruit from their branches.

Sequim - These boots were made for walkin'

In Sequim you can still pick blackberries on the side of the road.

Lots and lots of blackberries.

So many that your hands turn purple, and you itch from the tiny thorn-scratches.

But blackberries are good on just about everything.

And free and fresh beats $2.50 and paper or plastic.

Just look where you are going, and where everyone else is going. Sometimes there aren't any curbs to walk on - just blackberries and roadside ditches.

Nature runs alongside civilization here. Sometimes it even runs right down the middle.

Like it does in Carrie Blake Park.

Sculpted and wild at the same time, the Japanese Garden in Carrie Blake park provides a tranquil entrance.

It is sponsored and maintained by the Sequim Rotary Club as part of their sister city program with Sisco City in Japan.

Ducks swim around the lantern at the center of the pond. Trees, bridges, and even Squirrel Houses fill the area with the perfect touch of nature. Roads running around the park are visible but feel unobtrusive, separated in space and time through landscaping and the ever-present trickle of streams.

In one direction, these streams lead to your traditional grassy park-swing set-visitor center and parking lot combination. Where children and dogs jump from cars, and try to take off running before Parents can catch them.

In the other direction there are flowers and white oak trees growing, even as we head into Autumn.

The fields next to these trickling steams are furrowed by gophers and fire breaks.

Cross the fields to join the boaters at the pond on Fridays. They run along the bank, racing their ships, sails straining against the wind.

They are sailing, of course, model ships with remote controls.

When they aren't present, kids 14 and under can go fishing in the pond.

The park is an amazing network of nature and civilization. A park that, while not quite on the scale of Central Park or San Francisco Gate, would make any city proud.

Just be certain you pay attention to the signs posted throughout the park.

Don't drink the water.

Carrie Blake Park is a reuse demonstration park, consisting of a meandering network of streams, marshes and ponds working toward water reclamation for Sequim.

But you wouldn't know it to walk through there.

Sequim - Small Town, big Elephant (er, Mastadon)

Sequim, WA. A small, self-proclaimed retirement town overlooking the Pacific Ocean and, on a good day, Canada.

A main bus line running down the 101 freeway (on its way to Port Angeles) comprises the majority of the public transportation on four wheels. Trails and walks crossing the town and surrounding farms provide the rest of transportation.

Retirement cities are some of the few places where the number of car-owning, driving citizens is shrinking faster than the teenagers waiting for their driving permits.

In other respects, Sequim is a perfect, quaint ocean town. Surrounded by farms and oceans, one of the main downtown attractions is a public restroom building.

Another is the giant Mastodon, which a resident found while digging a pond in his backyard.

I am not entirely convinced that the two are unrelated.

The tusks were the first parts of the Mastodon discovered. They look like a partially cracked, curved tree branch, and both are lying in a covered drinking trough, submerged for preservation.

Since the tusks were discovered underwater, they were in particularly fine condition. So fine that the person who found them didn't recognize them. Well, not at first.

I always love stories like that. On one hand, it seems strange that anyone could miss a bone. Bones are one of those materials (like radioactive waste and kryptonite) which everyone should be able to recognize outright.

On the other hand, if you've ever seen a bone in the ground, next to a piece of driftwood, half-buried, covered in mud, sitting on your kitchen table, or otherwise rendered unrecognizable, you know what every other bone-finder knows. Those things are nearly impossible to spot. And even more impossible to recognize.

So you have to admire someone who was able to, while ticking off an item on his Honey Do list, figure out that an ancient tusk was not a tree branch, and call the proper authorities.

The museum has two other eye-catching permanent exhibits (about seventy-five percent of the exhibit space is rotated in order to accommodate a variety of large exhibits in combination with local art). Both of these exhibits seem to reflect Sequim well to this day.

A cross-section of an old irrigation pipe.

The original Post Office boxes.

Irrigation has always been extraordinarily important to Sequim. The city and surrounding areas are both surprisingly temperate and nearly rain-free. Despite what you may think of the Washington/Seattle area, there was hardly a cloud - and certainly not a drop - in the sky during my entire visit.

The original Post Office boxes speak volumes. Not simply because no one today remembers the combinations for the doors to the safety deposit boxes, but also because Sequim has nearly always had the problem I am sure many of are having already with its name.

How would you pronounce "Sequim"? Do you think you could pass the spelling bee if asked to stand up there and recite?

When the town was first created, the USPS couldn't even spell the postmark correctly. Letters arrived or were sent addressed to "Seguin", "Sequin", and "Segun". These letters still found their way. Or so the Visitor Center/Museum would have you think).

But the dawn of the Washington coffee age (think: Starbucks) helped to resolve both problems.

(Local, delicious coffee provided by The Beehive, with nary an obscure reference to Moby Dick in sight)

Or, maybe the caffeine simply contributes to their lawn ornaments playing major contact sports on the side of the freeway, without being overly productive in the process.

I believe the yellow tennis-ball helmets were winning 21-13 when this picture was taken.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sunny Farms Country Store

Sunny Farms is the supermarket/natural foods store/co-op that Bert & Ernie would have invented.

Just off the bus line, also known as Callam Transit, running through downtown Sequim, Sunny Farms has everything from Organic plants to Burt's Bees.

Even with its crunchy granola roots, Sunny Farms is best known for its deals on local produce. Paper bags advertise the daily produce rates, with exotic fruits piled next to native squash and creatively bred pumpkins.

The word spreads fast in small northern towns. While walking across Hurricane Ridge earlier, two families were talking about stopping by Sunny Farms instead of Costco and Wal-Mart, since the produce was cheaper.

This particular trip to the "farm" boasted oysters harvested less than three hours earlier, potato and mushroom mixes, and a rainbow of bell peppers. Who knows what the next trip will serve.

Hurricane Ridge

There's no hurricanes here.

Just Glaciers.

Well, far-away glaciers.

Very far away.

It's still Summer. And there's that whole Global Warming thing to consider.

But the snow does reach here every once in a while.

At least, that's what the Olympic Ski Patrol would have us think.

(This cabin is called "Ice Station Zebra". If I were going after a black and white animal to name an Ice Station after, I'd pick one with a little more experience. Ice Station Penguin or Orca might conjure more inspiring images of sure-footed snowy navigation.)

I think maybe it's just that they like their little cabin out in the wilderness, next to the trees which grow slanting and stunted due to the winds that this ridge is named for.

Apparently they're Hurricane-strength.

But today the breeze wasn't even strong enough to disturb the last of the bluebells.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A beat of a different drum

Port Townsend, WA

This is one of those little towns that accepts anyone who accepts anyone else. Equipped with little more than a few Victorian buildings down Main Street and some piers stretching out toward Canada, Port Townsend still manages to attract Antique collectors and Skateboarders at the same time.

There's Quimper Sound (the Analog Lounge), where vinyl and orange prevail, and you can listen to your tunes in what might be the only (or at least the oldest) genuine record vault. Quimper Sound occupies the former First American Bank Building at 230 Taylor Street, which means that their record vault is an original, intact bank vault.

Port Townsend has its own big city draws, such as the Port Townsend bus line (where each stop has a classic, Victorian feeling) . It also manages to pull off some even cooler feats which no big city could accomplish, such as Thirsty Dog water bowls scattered through downtown, and unexpected gatherings, such as the Kinetic Race.

The town doesn't feel like an old town section of a larger urban area, even though it has some similar characteristics. There is the eccentric shop filled with everything from party tricks to greeting cards (April Fool & Penny Too); the old-fashioned & delicious ice-cream parlor (Elevated Ice Cream); a coffee shop that knows the value of fresh pastries (Bread & Roses); and plenty of crafty, artsy, near-souvenir shops with even funkier names.

Up the highway is Fort Worden (more on that later), and if you look down certain alleys, you can spot plenty of dive bars and kids hanging out in beat-up cars.

There's plenty to see. And the entire place is miles from your average small-town. Okay, so they could have been a little bit more creative with the name of the town. But at least you know where you stand when you're there.