I've been busy, stressed, and somewhat frazzled lately, and to quote my girl (and sometime Hawkwind groupie) Samantha Fox, "I wanna have some fun." I spent most of my spring break running errands and taking care of obligations, and otherwise feeling lousy, so this week's weeknights (what's left of them) are my take-2 at some actual R&R and catching up with friends. Tonight I'm at the Echo watching the fabulous OOIOO be Japanese and effervescent; Thursday night is hott three-way Silverton-Batali-Bastianich action at Pizzeria Mozza; Saturday night I trek up to Burbank and take a crack at Sardo's 37,000-song karaoke library.
I have to put in a good word for the Central Library in Downtown L.A.,
one of the most beautiful and underrated buildings in the city and a
personal sanctuary for yrs truly whenever I'm killing a few hours in
the area. They were actually close to demolishing this in the '70s,
which wasn't such a radical idea at the time, just another bit of ye
olde history-doesn't-exist-here modernist mythmaking and
self-fulfilling prophecy. But they didn't demolish it, and a few
decades and some nips and tucks later, it's stunning, full of detail, a
cross between 1926 "Spanish" deco (think L.A.'s Union Station, although that's from 1939) and a
small, vaguely exotic revision of the "City Beautiful"/Beaux-Arts ideal.
It's also locally infamous for being one of the only places downtown
where anyone can loiter, sleep, or use the bathroom without being
reprimanded by security. Downtown L.A. is thought to have the highest
concentration of homeless people in a city that's cited widely as
being the homeless capital of the United States, and guess where many
of them go when they get kicked out of the shelters at sunrise, or just
get tired of walking all day and want to take a leak and look at a
magazine? Libraries are great for stopping, refreshing, collecting
yourself. Better than Starbucks, and cheaper. The Central Library even
has a cafe, if coffee has to be part of the equation.
The elevators are completely amazing -- the walls are clear
fiberglass panels with the old printed catalogue cards lined up behind
them, floor to ceiling, in alphabetical order. I think this
transparent-walls-displaying-cool-innardy-shit is a trendy
design concept lately, feeding off the building-materials-mania of a
few years ago -- I just heard about an idea for a school (K-12 or
somewhere in between) where the building itself would be part of the
curriculum and students would get full visual access to the support
beams, aluminum siding, wiring, etc. (Back when I was a product of
NYC's decaying public school system, we didn't need prize-winning
architecture to see any of this stuff, and we got asbestos as an added
Anyway, yeah, there are books, and signs that helpfully tell
visitors that most of the collection is deep-stacked away somewhere out
of reach, and ask for it if you can't find it. But for a main library
circa 2007 (libraries in crisis omgwtf), what's on the shelves ain't
bad. It just about made my day yesterday when i saw a copy of Excelsior You Fathead.
These pictures don't do the library justice, but oh well. If you're in L.A. you've probably seen it a million times anyway.
I get to the bar early last night and I'm chillaxing, nursing the martini I've just ordered. Female bartender takes my $20 bill. As she walks toward the
register, a cute guy walks in and strikes up a conversation with her. They know each other, but haven't seen each other in a while. He
appears to have come in to see her.
Girl: "How's your wife?"
Guy: "Actually we split up."
Girl (cheeky): "Oh, I'm sorry."
Guy: "No, it's fine, I'm the one that left."
Five minutes later the guy's outta there, but not before...
Guy: "By the way, can I get your number?"
Eventually she does give me my change. Good egg that I am, she gets a $2 tip.
25 SIGNS YOU HAVE GROWN UP (forwarded along to me by a fellow member of "the '70s club" -- the small handful of MPLs that were born prior to 1980). Let's see if any of these apply...
1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can't smoke any of them. I don't have any houseplants. I bought a beautiful vase on sale at Cost Plus, but I keep forgetting to buy flowers to put into it.
2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question. Not necessarily. Depends on whether the other person in the bed is worth it.
3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge. I have no beer in the fridge (and anyway I've cut back on my alcohol intake). I went grocery shopping earlier in the week though, and my fridge is well-stocked with food.
4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed. Generally true, but with my class schedule it's not that common for me to wake up at 6 a.m. either.
5. You hear your favorite song in an elevator. I've been hearing my favorite songs in elevators all my life. I always have to stop myself from singing along.
6. You watch the Weather Channel. I read the Weather Underground. (What might make me old is that I know the historical significance of the phrase "the Weather Underground.")
7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of "hook up" and "break up." I have a few married friends, some of whom are several years younger than I am. And I have friends who are older than I am who still have regrettable hookups.
8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14. I'm going to be solidly busy through my next major "vacation." But I am on break for a week right now.
9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed up." I just went to a networking event wearing a black v-neck sleeveless dress with a (visible) Badtz-Maru t-shirt under it.
10. You're the one calling the police because those %&@# kids next door won't turn down the stereo. I've never done this.
11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you. These sometimes come in the form of PG-13-rated e-mail forwards. As long as the jokes aren't about those relatives, I don't mind.
12. You don't know what time Taco Bell closes anymore. It's been a couple of years since I was last in a Taco Bell. I've heard Fight Club-esque horror stories from ex-employees about the kitchen conditions and the fine upstanding people that handle the food.
13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up. Car? What's that?
14. You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers. My cat (no dog) is back in New York with my folks, but he's been eating prescription food for probably a decade now.
15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt. Everything makes my back hurt.
16. You take naps. I worship naps.
17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one. Hey, sometimes the dinner and the movie are better than the date.
18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 AM would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach. If it was the whole basket, yes... but I wouldn't turn down a couple of late-night wings. I'd prefer disco fries though.
19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests. I mostly go to the drug store for shampoo, deodorant, vitamins, and to pick up prescriptions.
20. A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good shit." While I wouldn't call Charles Shaw "pretty good shit," Trader Joe's wines have really come through more often than not.
21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time. I don't know what this means. Does it mean that I eat breakfast? I try to. I don't often have the kind of breakfasts I'd love to start every day with -- eggs, buttered toast, bacon, potatoes -- but I'll usually scarf down a banana or a nutrition bar or something. Does it mean that I don't eat breakfast food in the evening? In practice, I tend not to. On principle, I'm all for it.
22. "I just can't drink the way I used to" replaces "I'm never going to drink that much again." "I don't drink the way I used to" is more apt. And when I do, my thoughts revert to the latter sentence.
23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work. No, less than that. I could do more real work on the computer, but I haven't yet fully subscribed to the paperless society. I do love my laser printer.
24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar. What's with all the drinking questions? (Oh, and I started doing this in my early twenties, when I was living in a town with a shit bar scene.)
25. When you find out your friend is pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking "Oh shit, what the hell happened?" In these cases, what I say and what I think don't always correlate.
Tonight in my Infrastructure class we got off on a tangent about manhole covers. I sheepishly mentioned that a few years ago someone gave me a book about manhole covers for my birthday -- and everyone in the class who knew me started cracking up. I guess I've been elected class weirdo.
In Burbank, to be exact, looking at the mountains outside the windows at the JetBlue terminal. This airport is an absolute pleasure compared to LAX -- it's totally non-stressful, and there are some cool aviation-history display cases on the way to the gates, and there was hardly anyone in line at the security checkpoints and I breezed right through with two hours to spare before my departure time.
Still, I remember last time I flew into Burbank, and the baggage carousels had crowds around them eight deep as people from multiple arriving flights fought their way towards their luggage. It's a very small airport, and it's probably experiencing growing pains with all the spillover from overloaded LAX.
Admittedly, getting here today was costlier than I would have liked. My M.O. was to take a cab to Union Station and grab the Metrolink to Union Station, but I had just missed my train by a few minutes once my cab arrived, and there wasn't one leaving for at least three hours. There was a Metrolink to the city of Burbank that would have cost me $5, but that wasn't due to leave for another couple of hours either -- and I worried about not having enough time to check in and go through security. So I ended up taking a cab from Union Station to Bob Hope Airport, which lightened my wallet pretty significantly, but I guess I didn't have much of a choice. Next time I'll leave earlier. Oh, and I bought breakfast when I got here, and now I'm even poorer: $10 and change for a breakfast sandwich and a Diet Dr Pepper. Ouch.
I'll be in New York for the next month, by the by. I'm done with my fall semester and I'm looking forward to a nice long break. I plan to sleep a lot and watch as much of my parents' digital cable as possible. I'll check in here for sure.
Since August, my neighbors and I have complained about the conditions in our university-owned apartment building -- gates that don't lock properly, rusting metal, rotting wood on door frames, broken exterior bricks, smelly/dirty carpeting (I got mine replaced), holes in the walls (I bought spackle the day I moved in), broken bike racks, a hedge out front that homeless people were using as a naptime area (we got this removed), not to mention problems with crickets, roaches, waterbugs, mice, and at least one snake (the pest-control issue is being dealt with case-by-case, but something much more comprehensive needs to happen). But we've been collectivizing and reaching out to various people, and later this morning, at last, the big guns are coming in: the Los Angeles Housing Department is inspecting for code violations. What that means is...
Properties that do not meet City and State codes
regarding issues of maintenance, use, or habitability are cited with a
"Notice to Comply". Property owners are generally given 30 days to have
the required repairs completed. A re-inspection is performed to verify
that the corrective work was done.
repairs are not completed within the time period specified on the
Notice to Comply, the owner will be summoned to an administrative
hearing at the Housing Department to determine the reason for
non-compliance and when the required repairs will be completed. If
further enforcement steps become necessary, the file may be forwarded
to the Office of the City Attorney as a criminal complaint.
The news came in the form of a flyer on my door Tuesday morning, one day after an internal inspection by the university's housing office -- I don't know the overall results of that survey, but the checklist they left behind on my kitchen counter suggests that I've been doing my part to keep things up to whatever their departmental code is. (Basically, my smoke detector works and there aren't any immediate fire hazards or accumulated garbage -- but then, I'm paranoid enough that I take out my trash nearly every day now.)
My fear is that our building will just squeak through the LAHD inspection and our housing people will continue to do the absolute minimum and spend the least money they can until they can get us out of here in May (when our contracts end) and start work on the extensive teardown/renovation/miracle transformation they have planned.
1) I saw an odd MTA house ad on the bus today. It was pimping its website's intermittently useful Trip Planner. Nothing odd about that, but the sample destination address the ad showed was "Fairfax/La Brea." I know they don't mean to imply that Fairfax and La Brea intersect, seeing how the two avenues are both north/south (and don't have a little arc intersecting them the way Glendale Blvd/Silver Lake Blvd do) and are separated by at least ten smaller streets at any given longitude (rough estimate: I spent 5 seconds looking at GoogleMaps).
I'm still new here, so forgive me, but if "Fairfax/La Brea" is one of those cutesy real-estate neighborhood designations I haven't heard it yet -- but it could just be a lazy conflation of the Fairfax District and Park La Brea.
I just typed "Fairfax/La Brea" into the Trip Planner with Union Station as the starting address, with a departure time of Sunday at 10:00 AM. It recognized Union Station and for the former it came up with "NO LOCATION" and this message: You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds
to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near
'brea-ycoord) AS subdwalk, hdsgn1 AS dhs, MIN(freqx) AS dfr.
2) I'm doing the AIDS Walk next Sunday, in and around West Hollywood. Here's my donation page -- the proceeds go to AIDS Project Los Angeles and other HIV/AIDS nonprofits. (The walk's 6.2 miles, and yes, we cross both Fairfax and La Brea Avenues -- on foot, so who needs that stinky Trip Planner anyway?)
On a more serious note, HIV/AIDS is still a real crisis in this country (and in the larger world), despite the deafening silence on the issue from career politicians and the mainstream media. It's great that events like the AIDS Walk(s) do their share in keeping the epidemic in the spotlight, albeit for short bursts of time. I wish more could be done (I wish we could wipe the whole f-in' thing out; I also wish I could go back in time and prevent Ronald Reagan from being born), but the total monies raised by this walk will go a very long way indeed -- toward research, education, treatment, counseling, advocacy, and fulfilling such basic needs as groceries for HIV-infected people and their families. Please donate a few dollars if you can. (That link again.)
There's so much I'm still discovering in this town. Tonight I finally get to check out one of the hipster "urban pioneer" outposts of the still-sketchy New Downtown, a bar called the Golden Gopher (which I've seen a few times from the 37 bus as it goes east on 8th). I don't go out much at night (the plight of the carless in L.A.), so I'm always really grateful when I can coordinate an evening get-together with someone who does have access to a car.
In this case the coordination at the top level was done by the Associated Students of Planning and Development, the student-run organization that puts together extracurricular social, professional, and academic events. I've been attending some of their meetings and am starting to get involved with their "scholarship committee" -- as far as ideas, I've been thinking about how to use the (physical) city to help make first-year planning students more passionate about and invested in what they're going to be spending (at least!) the next few years doing.
I love the enthusiasm and commitment my professors (and their favorite theorists/leaders/crackpots) have, and how there's a spark there that transcends the drudgery of academia. My fellow students are quite intelligent, but it seems like a lot of them have just come out of undergrad and still have this sort of "college" context for what they're doing -- looking at all this as a bunch of cumbersome homework and Supreme Court opinions to be memorized and grades to be gotten, and you can tell who the older students are, the ones who've been out in the field or on the battleground, by the glint in their eyes and the shake in their fists when they talk about bureaucracies, interest groups, personal heroes, sworn enemies, bungled decisions, and brilliant ideas.
The madness of The City (TM) is thrilling, even on those days when I feel like strangling it with its own red tape. I get this feeling from the Ph.D.s and second-years in one of my upper-level classes, but it would be so terrific to see more of this from the younger kids, as well as more desire to just get cocky and try to conquer the sheer volume of history and information and photographic/filmic evidence and tactile, sensory stuff out there. Learn with our eyes. Learn with our feet. Our tastebuds too, maybe (when I first got here I figured out my way around town with printouts of Jonathan Gold's restaurant reviews in one hand and an MTA route map in the other).
My idea is to have groups of students and faculty do self-guided walking tours of Southern California communities by their particular planning history -- not just focusing on one pivotal event (like slum clearance or freeway construction), but a long and winding narrative that accounts for trivial changes as well as major ones, visual totems of consensus, dissent, compromise, what is versus what would have been if one small variable were different. And things that haven't changed at all, that have remained extant against all odds (not so much stuff that's been preserved by law, but places that have just... survived). It would be fun to focus on the Valley, which is just rife with secret history and the ghosts of Charles Phoenix housewives and roads to hell paved by kooky cigar-chomping land speculators. And I'm kinda thinking about touring some of the sleepier, less-trod parts of unincorporated/general-law northeast L.A. County -- like Montrose and Sierra Madre.
I hope we can pull this off (just once or twice, even). I've been a total hermit since school started and I'm dying to go exploring again.