Monthly Archives: June 2005

traffic in america this weekend

Well. I am not going anywhere because I have a reality TV screening (which I’ll totally explain when I get it, because then it will be called for) tomorrow, but I’m glad. Because otherwise, I might get caught in that bottleneck “somewhere west of Portland”

I’ve driven that road. I drove it at sunset a year and change ago. It was a secondary growth forest, dripping with honey-colored sunshine, at 8pm on a very long Sunday. Somewhere in between the sleep deprivation, the trance I was blasting, and the quality of the light on the millions of trees, it was just a perfectly happy moment. I hate thinking of it jammed with a roadblock of vacationing cars.

And speaking of things that destroy us all:

    Co-chairman of the International Climate Change Taskforce, Mr Byers appealed to Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush in advance of next week’s gathering at Gleneagles, to heed the warnings of dire consequences for the planet and in particular Africa and other developing countries, if not enough is done to curb greenhouse gases.

    “That is why I think at the G8 next week, that Tony Blair can give political leadership, that George Bush will recognise the responsibility of the United States and that we can then move constructively and positively to take practical steps to tackle climate change and global warming.”

Uh-huh. And leprechauns will fly out of Dick Cheney’s ass!


I’m off to spinning.

I so can’t wait for the end of suburbia. (

best. celebrity. sighting. ever.

Tonight. James’ Beach in Venice. I’m out with vendors. Adam Sandler is having dinner across the room.

There are very few celebrities I respect enough to go up and talk to, but I waited until he was standing around outside, and then I HAD to say…”thank you for making being Jewish cool.”

He laughed. I made Adam Sandler laugh – or, at least, chuckle.

Anyways. That’s definitely the best Los Angeles celebrity sighting so far. Better even than Viggo Mortensen at a Rite Aid in Venice a year ago.

My sister will just die when she hears this.

But seriously, celebrities are part of the background here. I mean, there was Industry in Vancouver, but it was a quaint outpost of Hollywood. L.A. is the real thing. Ben Affleck shops at my Whole Foods; WB stars live in Venice, guy movie stars work out at my gym. You zone it out. I try to forget, that I am living in the epicenter of something as absolutely worthless and idiotic as American pop culture.

Still? Adam Sandler was really nice. THAT was cool. Adam Sandler and the Beastie Boys have done more for being Jewish than any other popular culture figures. And MY juvenile sense of humour thinks that “Happy Gilmore” and “Mr Deeds” were absolfuckinglutely hilarious. I didn’t say that, just introduced myself, said my line, walked off to let the man alone – but still, it was weird, having a voice I’ve heard so much, in movies and the Hanukkah song and countless SNL sketches saying, “what’s up, Jillian?”

Rare occasion when I’ll get psyched over a celeb. Then again – I didn’t come here for Hollywood. I came here to work. Los Angeles is just an American city to me, not the source of all things famous, and this episode is definitely one of the things that reminds me – to some people, this is the end all.

PS. He’s shorter in person. My height – 5’10. I always expected him to be over 6 foot.

a few public service announcements

one :: the SB1 bill

Here in the state of California, there is something called the SB1 bill.

Here’s yesterday’s L.A. Times article for reference:,0,3248023.story?track=tottext

And here’s the Environment California page on the subject:

And here’s the actual bill:

And here’s a summary, cut and pasted from the bill:

    This bill would establish the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, administered by the Energy Commission, with the goals of placing 1,000,000 solar energy systems, as defined, on new and existing residential and commercial customer sites, or its generation capacity equivalent of 3,000 megawatts, establishing a self-sufficient solar industry in 10 years, and placing solar energy systems on 50% of new home developments in 13 years. The bill would establish the Million Solar Roofs Initiative Trust Fund and would provide that, upon appropriation by the Legislature, moneys deposited into the fund may be expended by the Energy Commission for purposes of carrying out the Million Solar Roofs Initiative.

I read a Wired article on “hygrid” homes a couple months ago. Basically, they’re homes that are hooked up to renewable power, like solar or wind, but also on the main power grid. They store power when they can, sell the excess back to the power company when they’re at full capacity, and buy it from the power provider, if necessary, after they exhaust their supply (and the sun isn’t out). I thought it was a fantastic idea. THAT could do a lot to save the world.

So when Environment California came knocking last month, as soon as they said “solar panels on low-income housing”, I gave them a $15 recurring monthly donation. Getting solar in as an option in tract housing? Giving low-income Californians a break (power is expensive!) by installing solar panels at the state cost? Getting this whole state hooked up as hygrid? That’s as wonderful and hopeful a dream as Los Angeles’s public transit.

And yeah, it could jack my power bill a bit. So what? So I pay a few more dollars a month in exchange for helping make a renewable, non-polluting resource a more viable option NOW instead of when the situation is desperate. And maybe if I air-dry more laundry, take shorter showers and turn off all lights more often, then I’ll make up that few extra dollars in conservation.

two :: the one campaign
There is something out there called ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History. I’ve already signed the petition. I will probably start wearing one of their bracelets once I get a chance to research and make sure they’re not spending the money on celebrity endorsements. THAT is something I can believe in, so I encourage everyone to go sign the petition.

I also encourage you all to write to our President and Vice President (remember, it’s, not!) and ask them to represent America as a generous nation at the G8 conference. That is, if you’re American. Canadians should write Paul Martin. And please, UBC students – try not to get pepper sprayed this time, OK? I know it isn’t exactly Kent State, but it was the closest you can get in a non-violent country.

three :: eminent domain? screw you america!

Eminent domain might make a comeback yet, only with someone making more money off it somewhere along the way.

THAT ALREADY HAPPENED IN LOS ANGELES!! (click here for the non-propaganda version)

This is not good, but I can’t figure out a course of action right now. I’ll have to wait until it happens and THEN protest it.

And finally, unrelated:
where to get cheap contacts online

idle hands, devil’s work, etc

My biggest problem these days is that there is simply too much I want to do, and not enough of me to do it.

Or rather, I can do it all – but I have to get organized and manage my time really well, and I always seem to get distracted and fail to do so. Like, it’s tough to get up and do aerobics at 7am when I can’t find my sweatpants because I didn’t do laundry the night before, because I got distracted reading a book that shouldn’t have even snuck onto my reading list.
hooray for summer-induced mania!

not quite what I was tested at, but still…

Your IQ Is 135

Your Logical Intelligence is Genius
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius
Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

this is what history means to me

I went to the West L.A. library today, and found that they have twice the local history books available as my local Mar Vista branch does. Including three cardboard cover bank-commissioned booklets, all dating to 1928. The year before the Depression started. A year in which American Los Angeles barely dated fifty years back. 1928 is not that long ago, but when you are talking about the history of a city that has none, suddenly 1928 becomes primary source material. Which is a little disturbing, when you juxtapose it with the primary sources I worked with in college, none of which antedated the turn of the twentieth century.

the los angeles research project: year two

burning man is everywhere here

There is a large Burning Man community in Los Angeles.

By this, I mean the people that religiously attend the event itself, and then throw parties, maintain costumes, and keep the cult alive from one year to the next.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I found myself in the middle of a crowd of quasi-freaks in Venice yesterday. It was Carnivale, after all. Day One of the Venice Centennial celebration. And Venice is still very much what one would expect it to be: one of the pockets of Alternative America, the Haight-Ashbury of Los Angeles, crossed with Coney Island. Since its founding a hundred years ago, it’s gone to hell and back, from a whimsical resort town to Dogtown to the re-gentrified artist community it is today. It’s home to a half-dozen homes I know of that have been transformed into pieces of art, murals and mosaics galore, coffeeshops, dive bars, and the headquarters of projects like SPARC and Code Pink L.A..

(I know I talk about how much I love my hometown-within-hometown of Venice, within Los Angeles, but I really, really love being someplace just outside the ordinary like this. I love the color and chaos of the boardwalk, the graffiti walls, the quiet fairy-tale quality of the canals, the Americana of the pier. All of it.)

So the Carnivale yesterday had multiple stages of live music, booths of homeopathic medicine, and dozens of Harley Davidsons. Pretty much what you’d expect for Carnivale here. There were hippies and yuppies all over the place. I stopped to look at the classic cars, and to hear a band dressed in extreme Burning Man wear, and then headed home, because I was going out to the Electric Daisy Carnival with Wendy, and we had to get going to San Bernadino.

The EDC is something between a rave and Lollapalooza. They had a rock/rap stage, and five dance stages, plus carnival rides and freak shows. So we were able to see acts on all stages, ride a flying machine, watch firedancers, and dance for hours to trance and breakbeat. The condition I hadn’t accounted for was the FIFTEEN THOUSAND TEENAGERS ON X. I think Wendy and I, at 27, were some of the oldest people there. There were fourteen year olds covered in beads and glowsticks everywhere. And, of course, a massive contingent of extreme Burning Man style costumes, something between rave wear and freak show.

We still had a wonderful time dancing. We watched the Donnas play, which is disconcerting, like seeing a quartet of high school talent show winners possessed by the spirits of AC/DC. We saw Ozomatli, in all their tribal glory – a dozen people, with all kinds of instruments, representing almost every ethnic group in L.A. We danced to DJ Dan and Crystal Method and Ferry Corsten. But, even though I love the music, I think that will be the last time I go to that sort of event. I’m not too old for the artists and the event, I’m just too old for its audience.

I did have an amusing image moment mid-day though. The venue was an old Orange County event center, with multiple exhibition buildings – sort of a late 1960s World’s Fair inspired grounds. I could only imagine the designers of, say, 1965, if they were suddenly transported forty years forward, into a mass of thousands of extreme-rave-wear teenagers. They’d think they’d fallen into an extreme science fiction movie. And it kind of was – even for me, still well under thirty, I felt like I’d fallen into a rave-cult Logan’s Run.

Oh, and Ferry Corsten is wonderful, and I really want to see him in a smaller, 21+ venue now. I hadn’t heard him spin before. I like finding new wonderful trance artists to listen to.

Today, I got up and went to the Farmer’s Market, and to the library. But I’m tired now – still recovering from the damn Vancouver plague that got brought into my home last week – so I’m going to try to nap. And then go for a bike ride. And then catch up with the crew at the Kings Head. I have had enough alternative culture for a while now.

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and this is the city i call home

There is nothing like spending a weekend showing a friend the city to make me realize how much I’ve integrated myself into it, within the past year. I always knew Los Angeles would call me home. I’ve known it since I was fifteen. I think it’s why I was able to settle in so quickly, adapt and learn the city, cross-reference my mental picture of it with my mother’s memories and her family’s history. It doesn’t mean I have to stay here, but spending the weekend trying to convey the city, my city, to a visitor, means that I have to stop and think about how much the city has become part of my consciousness. It brings to the surface how much the city still makes my eyes light up.

more realizations about los angeles, which I have cut because not everyone needs to scroll past the essays

L.A. Story

On Friday, I went out to Burbank. It was for a friend’s birthday party. Normally, I don’t go to Burbank or the Valley, but I do for friends’ parties, because I love them, and will make sacrifices.

Unfortunately, having to go to Strange Part of Town with Confusing Freeways when you are expecting Out Of Town Guest isn’t the best plan. But it was the only plan that I could come up with. I couldn’t miss the party…but I had UBC Wayward Alumni #6 coming to visit.

Fortunately, this particular alumni’s had enough time in the States to figure out the freeway interchanges, and he managed to find Burbank, right on schedule. And so, in a slightly surreal in a random way moment, my ex-boyfriend from Vancouver ended up meeting me at a karaoke bar in Burbank, California.

There are friends from my past that I especially want to see Los Angeles. Andrew was always one of those. Not just because, as he said, three of his favorite movies are set here (Blade Runner, Chinatown, L.A. Confidential), but because he is the person I want to talk to about how I understand America. Andrew’s brilliance, combined with his experience as an expatriate in California, and his understanding of cities and social structure, make him one of the people I most wanted to share my Los Angeles with. I wanted to show him how I see the city, with all its perspectives, its forgotten history, its wonders and its mistakes. I wanted to show him how my Los Angeles is nothing like the external perception of the hellhole that it takes on in the San Francisco/Bay Area consciousness.

So we started on Saturday afternoon with a trip to the Natural History Museum, which is now featuring the exhibit on Jared Diamond’s COLLAPSE. It was fantastic. Andrew got to see dinosaurs. I got to see a model of downtown Los Angeles circa 1940, when Bunker Hill was still well-kept Victorian houses and the Art Deco civic center was the tallest and newest building downtown. And we both got to see the Collapse exhibit, which was done in the slightly overly-artistic way that the NHM tends to present exhibits. It illustrated the points of the book, but in new, multidimensional ways, and with a touch of cartoonish childishness that made it, in places, a child-interface exhibit with adult concepts. And the exhibit ended with a video showing different factors which could drastically affect SoCal’s millions of people, if not addressed and solved. It was a fantastic educational excursion.

Then we cut through downtown L.A., up Broadway and along Sixth, while I explained, “this used to be New York West.” And it was. Broadway, the old backbone of downtown L.A., was built to be like Broadway in New York. The Biltmore, where I always take my out of town visitors, is an old East Coast, neo-classical hotel, the only one of its kind in Los Angeles. We visited Grand Central Market, and went to the Bradbury Building, and then drove over to get lunch at Phillipes.

Phillipes is an L.A. institution. They serve French dip sandwiches. They have since 1908, when Phillipe (one of the members of the then-prominent French community who grew grapes and ran vinyards in what is now East L.A.) either accidentally or on purpose slopped gravy onto a sandwich. He claims to have invented it. Whether he did or not, the sandwiches are very tasty, especially with the in-house sinus clearin’ mustard. There’s sawdust on the floor, and long tables, and coffee is a dime a cup. I adore it. And it has the added bonus of being around the corner from both Chinatown and Olvera Street.

We walked down Olvera Street, but it was too late to see the original adobe. Instead, we contented ourselves with a trip to the “La Reina” mission, a still-functioning Catholic church, built at the start of the nineteenth century by the Spanish. We watched people light candles before Mass and take holy water. And then, as we walked back down the street, I had to stop outside Sepulveda Houseand squint, because I realized exactly how similar the building was to some of the architecture in New Orleans. America was, after all, a Spanish nation before it was an Anglo Saxon one.

On the way back, we had one of the more amusing quotes of the day. A slightly lurching black man came up and said, “Whoo-eee! You guys married?” Andrew immediately emphasized, “No!” The reply was, “you should be, because you got a damn fine woman there!” This was reinforced by the other crazy homeless guy a few feet down who catcalled, probably at my ass. I laughed most of the way back to the car.

From downtown, we went through the tunnels of I-5 to Griffith Park. I love Griffith Park. I love that it exists, almost by accident. I love that the poorer population of Los Angeles can enjoy it just as much as the wealthier. I love that you see people, families, couples, groups of friends, from all kinds of backgrounds, picnicking and hiking on weekends. And, of course, I love that you can see most of the city from it, which was kind of the point. We ended up walking a half-mile up the trail, far enough to see all of West L.A., from Malibu to LAX, from Playa del Rey inland through Watts and Compton and Southcentral. We could see downtown, Koreatown and Silverlake, and could see the Hollywood sign clearly a couple hills over. We could see east along the hills to Mount Washington and Highland Park. “And THAT,” I said, “THAT is Los Angeles.”

Then, of course, I had to get through some of the places we’d seen, so I cut down through Los Feliz to Hollywood, and would have gone past Graumann’s Chinese except for the roadblocks (movie premiere road closure). I took Highland down, cut over to La Brea, and down to Wilshire, to go past the Miracle Mile and the tar pits. I cut back up along Melrose and La Cienega to the Sunset Strip, past the Viper Room and the Whisky, and out through Beverly Hills, Bel Air and past UCLA. I drove all the way through the Palisades to Malibu, and then turned south on the PCH, and came back past the Santa Monica pier, into Venice, past the binoculars and finally, finally, back home.

And then we saw the randomness that is the 99 Center, heated up leftover gumbo for dinner, and went out with some of the girls and guys to the Otheroom in Venice. This is a bar I’ve always seen people spilling out of, and never been to. And there was a line – which was skippable if you could prove you were a local. I have business cards that say I work on Main Street in Venice, so we went right in to find everyone else inside, rocking out to the classic rock jukebox and drinking one of the dozens of types of beer served. “It’s like a bigger, better Burgundy Room!” Kelly exclaimed. We all love the Burgundy Room, but it’s in Hollywood, so finding a place like it in Venice, where we get to skip the lines for being locals, was fantastic. I’m happy.

Today was slow to start, because I cooked breakfast for the crew again. I did this last week, too, after the party cleanup. I made the last of the beignet mix from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. I assigned my guy roomate to French toast detail and the resident deep fat frying expert to her beignet station, microwaved a package of imitation bacon (half beef, half turkey), and served cafe au lait and beignets, along with the more solid breakfast food, outside in the sunshine. Six of us – Deena and her roomate Kelly, my guy roomate and my adopted cousin, Andrew and I, all sat outside in our West L.A. backyard, for a leisurely late brunch on a gorgeous Sunday. It was very, very nice.

Then we had get on with the day, and move down to the beach so I could round out the Los Angeles experience for the out of town visitor. I took the NerdSquad with me to park at the Agency and walk the two blocks to the beach. The other girls went down to our friend Carolina’s new place in Marina del Rey. My crew swam and suntanned, napped and read, for an hour, and then drove down to join them. We found six friends in Marina, and added ourselves to the party chatting around the pool. After all, what’s a weekend in L.A. without a pool party? Or, for that matter, Mexican food? After we left, I suggested we stop by Oaxacan taco place that opened last month six blocks from the house. We tried goat burritos (shockingly good) and Oaxacan cheese quesadillas and very hot salsa.

Finally, we went for a walk down by the Venice canals. I never knew the canals were there before I moved here. But they are – less than 30% of Abbot-Kinney’s original Venice of America. They’re beautiful, of course, flanked with paths, crossed with fairytale bridges, lined with gorgeous gardens. Flowers spill out onto the walkways, and the canals themselves are a nice shade of deep green. On a sunny Sunday, it’s gorgeous. And we finished the walk by wandering down to the Venice pier, to watch the surfers at sunset before walking up the tourist strip back to the car.

“And THAT,” I said, “THAT is my Los Angeles. I totally expected it to be a hellhole when I moved here.”

“Yeah,” Andrew said. “I’ll admit, I’m pleasantly surprised.”

He also told me that I have a great setup here, just being by Venice. “I liked the rest of L.A.,” he said, “but I could take it or leave it. Venice, I can see why you love it. This place is cool.”

Yeah, it is. And I know L.A. now. I’m starting to understand it, through all the layers. I’m starting to see the perspectives, piece by piece. But Venice is really my home, where I spend most of my existence. I think I’ve forgotten that lately. It’s one of the greatest places in America to live, I think. Venice, California, one of America’s mythical destinations. I like it here. I would not be this happy if I’d ended up anywhere else in Los Angeles, if I was more than ten minutes by bike from Venice Beach itself.

And that, that is an L.A. Story weekend for you all. Los Angeles, through my eyes, my city, my home. And I was so happy to get to share it with one more friend. When are the rest of you coming to visit?