Friday, February 28, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Storm on the way

The radar map on Weather Underground is showing, in real time, the radar image of the storm that is supposed to hit us later this evening.

Here's the Southern California coast, from Manhattan Beach, down at the three o'clock point, the coastline curving up into Santa Monica and then turning westward to Malibu, and rounding the bend at Oxnard, going north. Point Dume in Malibu is the little pokey-out place close to the center of the map.

Our house is in the mountainous area just above the little white oval number one. We're probably right where the little green number 51 is.

That mass of green and yellow? That's not land.

That's the storm that's advancing on us. Fast.

Outside, in the creek below our house, the frogs are croaking for the first time this dry winter. They know what's coming.

It is raining

After so much drought, you would think I'd be pleased at the sound of raindrops on the roof of our house.

But no. Not while we have four giant pits dug in our backyard, in the middle of a septic tank repair. Will it all flood and collapse?  

Pelicans fly over Santa Monica Beach

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shadow message

In 1990, when televangelist Dr. Gene Scott bought the 13 floor Gothic-Art Deco office building where the United Artists Theatre is located, he installed two huge neon signs on the roof. "Jesus Saves," they proclaimed to the world and to the few remaining inhabitants of lower Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.  The message was large and bright enough to be seen by the sweatshop garment workers toiling in nearby lofts, and the people lining up at Tacos Mexico in the parking lot.

Scott's estate sold the building in 2011, and this January it re-opened as the trendy Ace Hotel, complete with a restaurant, pool, and a very cool rooftop bar.

Ace Hotel facade
One sign disappeared in the night during the renovation, its whereabouts still unknown. The other still stands, facing west.

From the rooftop bar, at the right time in the afternoon, the sign's shadow can be seen, thrown against the flat surface of the building to the north. As you sit, beneath faux-Morrocan awnings, sipping hipster cocktillian concoctions, behold.

UPDATE: Here's a link to a story that gives the history of the "Jesus Saves" signs:

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Who doesn't like pickled vegetables?

Here are assorted pickles from Baco Mercat, a restaurant on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. Cucumbers, onions, fennel, beets and red grapes are nicely pickled in a sweet-sour vinegar solution.

They go real good with a cocktail.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fashion district

There's a sign on a pole as South Spring Street crosses 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles that says "Fashion District." The center of the garment industry on the West Coast, this 90 block area of town includes retail stores, wholesale distributors, supply and material dealers and factories, as well as schools to train young designers and manufacturers. It encompasses the southern portion of the historic core and runs south and west where low concrete block warehouses line potholed streets.

Here at Spring Street, gentrification hasn't quite touched the old buildings, which are still shabbily beautiful. At 721 S. Spring, we would have completely missed the California Millinery Supply, if it weren't for the sign in the window.

A single piece of white paper was stuck on the glass, in front of the white, winged shapes that were buckram hat frames. "Thoughts," it said, in ornate fraktur script. And a list:
  • The greatest handicap                     Fear
  • The best day                                  Today
  • Easiest thing to do                          Find a fault
And on and on, down to the last:
  • Greatest thing in the world               Love
The doors
 We decided to look inside. A set of heavy bronze doors, ornately embossed, stood open, leading to a narrow warren of a shop, display cases and cutting tables on one side, racks and racks of goods on the other.

"Come in, you can look around." The voice came from a grey-haired woman sitting behind a desk. A long-haired grey cat uncoiled itself and jumped down from a chair it was sleeping in, and scurried to the back of the space.

The rows and rows of shelves were lined with braid, ribbon, piping, fringe. There were boards holding samples of silk flowers. The whole place looked like a treasure chest to explore.

"It's funny," I said. "I never wear hats, but now I find myself wanting to make them!"  When we stepped back outside and looked up at the curiously beautiful building, we noticed, up high in a protected niche, a colorful figure of a standing Buddha.

California Millinery Supply has been at 721 S. Spring Street since 1939. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Resident expert

Here's a new one. I just took a phone call from a guy who wanted to know what kind of permits he needed to skydive out of a plane and land on the public beach.

My current job is to administer a complicated and very detailed set of ordinances regarding one narrow function - events that take place on public property. I get calls from all kinds of people wondering if they need the kind of permit my office issues to do the things they want to do for fun; things that range from holding a beer garden on the beach (not allowed) to setting up a table in the park with a petition (allowed), to inviting a food truck onto their own property (no permit required).

I'd say about half the calls I get are from people whose business is not in my jurisdiction, but I try to help them anyway.

Yesterday I got a call from a woman who wants to stage an elaborate charade as part of a surprise marriage proposal, involving a mock film crew (with real cameras) and the Ferris Wheel on the Pier. Nope, you don't need one of my permits, I told her, but I referred her to the Film Permit office (film crews, even fake ones, need a Film Permit).

Other times I hear from people who want to do something that the ordinance clearly prohibits. Close down a major thoroughfare for a 10K run where the runners shoot at each other with paintballs? Sounds like fun, but not here, buddy.

This morning I got a guy who wanted to launch a hot air balloon from a public parking lot. Then this afternoon, the skydiver.

I hope I don't need to start learning about flight regulations!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


What is it about our sense of timing? Today just zoomed by! I looked up from my desk and it was 4:30 pm.  Then, only minutes later, it seems, I heard a co-worker call out, "You coming?" It was 5:30, quitting time.

I work a schedule they call "980" which means we work 80 hours over nine days. So Monday through Thursday, we work nine hour days, and on every other Friday we work eight hours. Alternate Fridays, we get the day off.

This is a particularly sweet week, since we had Monday off for the President's Day holiday, and this Friday is our Friday Off.

Those nine hour days can seem very long. But that's not how it was today. Today zoomed!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ghostbike in Pacific Palisades

Ghostbikes mark the location of bicycle fatalities. The phenomenon began in St. Louis in 2003, when a witness to a fatal accident marked the location with an abandoned bike painted white, and a sign saying "Cyclist killed here."

Temescal Canyon Boulevard is a broad, sloping street that rises up from Pacific Coast Highway linking Will Rogers State Beach to Temescal Canyon State Park. Visibility is good on Temescal, and the bike paths are clearly marked on the side of the road.

Despite this, on December 22, 2013 at 9:15 in the morning, a car hit and killed James Campbell Rapley, an Australian tourist. The driver was 19 years old and drunk. Unlike many of these terrible accidents, at this one the driver stayed at the scene.

Like the roadside shrines seen on highways, ghostbikes are treated differently in each state and municipality. On a stretch of PCH that runs through Santa Monica, a memorial to a young woman killed by a hit-and-run driver last July was removed after only a few days by Cal-Trans, the State Transportation authority.

James's bike has been allowed to remain. How long that will last, I don't know. Ghostbikes are a stark reminder - don't drink and drive, don't text and drive, and - please - share the road.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Black water

Our home's previous owner - self-portrait in the garden
Rural living! Wide open spaces. Natural beauty. Wildlife. Most people who embrace the rural life find its beauty worth the minor inconveniences. Rutted roads. Deer in the garden. Occasional power outages. Septic tanks.

In mid-December, we asked our housecleaner Rosa to clean our grown son's bedroom, in preparation for his holiday visit.  That was when we discovered the first eruption of the shit geyser in the basement.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I am proud to know the woman in this article. I've known her as a colleague for a couple of years. I was not aware of this part of her life until I read it today.

The choice this couple made is not what I might have done, but I'm glad I live in a city where they can live their lives as they wish.  I'm delighted they are happy, and brave enough  to tell the world!

He says she's a hero. I think they both are.

What do you think? What would you bravely tell the world about yourself?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Farewell, Leonard Knight

Leonard Knight, creator of Salvation Mountain, in the California desert southeast of the Salton Sea, passed away yesterday at the age of 82.  The mountain was inspired by Leonard's faith, and became an attraction for a diverse group of fans. Rest easily, Leonard.

Misty morning

We've had a few welcome rain showers. It's not enough, but it's a start.  In the morning, the canyon is full of mist.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Home style cooking

Acorn jelly, or dotorimuk
Mapo Kkak Doo Gee is a tiny little restaurant on a strip mall in Koreatown known for its home-style cooking and excellent panchan, the small dishes that accompany a Korean meal.

It's easy to decide what to eat, because on the wall is a huge poster with photos of all the dishes on the menu. Mapo is known for two specialties - kkak doo gee, or pickled cubes of daikon radish sauced in mild chili, and "dough flake" noodle soup. Soojebi are noodles made by pinching off bits of dough and flattening it with the fingers - irregularly shaped bite-sized noodles.

This day, I wasn't hungry enough for noodle soup, so I ordered fried sole. Before the fish came, the nice older lady server brought a plastic cup of cold barley tea and nine little dishes of panchan. This is quite generous for a lunch time meal, and especially for a solo diner. Most dishes on the menu cost around $9, so getting this many panchan is a great value.

I can identify most of the dishes, starting in front with acorn jelly, or dotorimuk, and marinated seaweed. In the second row, from left, cabbage kim chee, steamed broccoli in soy sauce, and the signature pickled daikon. In the third row, also from left, the peculiar Korean-style macaroni salad, vegetable pancake, something I can't identify, and wilted cabbage with doenjang, or soybean paste.

I'm posting the photo I took of the fish, but I apologize for the quality. I took four shots and they all came out bad. But it gives you an idea of what you get - three whole fish, minus heads and tails, perfectly pan-fried. It couldn't have been more simply done, served with a wedge of lemon. It's tricky teasing fried fish off the bone with chopsticks and the ubiquitous Korean long-handled tablespoon, but it was worth it.

As for the panchan - I loved the broccoli, marinated seaweed and the wonderful pickled daikon. It was crunchy and sweet and the chili added flavor rather than heat. I've had acorn jelly before and wasn't excited by it, but I gamely gave this version a try. It's comically difficult to pick up with chopsticks, but I finally got it to my mouth. The sauce, a garlicky soy-sesame spiked with red pepper flakes, was good, but the jelly itself was tasteless to me.

I was intrigued by the macaroni salad, which was similar to that served with Hawaiian plate lunches. Mayonnaisey and slightly sweet, it included elbow macaroni, chunks of red cabbage, and raisins. It was odd, but I couldn't stop nibbling at it.

One interesting detail was the rice - mixed with different grains and black-grained rice, it was lavender-colored and had an expanded dimension of flavor and texture beyond white rice.

This is the kind of Korean food made at home by grandmothers and aunts. It's simple and delicious, and served with love.

Mapo is on West 6th Street at Normandie. Parking is tight in the lot - try to find a meter on the street.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pink Saturday - Shopping for pink

Daiso Japan is a Japanese discount store on the ground floor of the MaDang Plaza mini-mall on Western just north of Wilshire in Koreatown, and it's as pretty and as pink as you could wish. Just in time for Beverly's Pink Saturday!

Everything inside costs $1.50 unless otherwise marked, proclaim signs in Korean, English and Spanish, giving the nod to the unique multiculture of Los Angeles. You can get warm fuzzy terrycloth socks, colored crystal bead room deodorizers, laundry baskets, bound blank-book diaries, paper lanterns, hair clips, wrapping paper, and crazy Japanese candy.

And almost everything is PINK!! The place is a schoolgirl's heaven!

You can also get fabulous brightly colored silicon kitchenware, and I couldn't resist a buying shocking pink wire whisk, a chartreuse vegetable peeler, some cute cat-patterned rice bowls, and a pink mandoline slicer - who knows how long it will last in use? But isn't it fun? And it only cost $11 for all of it!

The rest of the stores in Madang Plaza are just as attractive to young people - and I mean very young. When I was there, a double line of six year olds were being led in formation by a teacher on an outing to see the Lego Movie at the third floor cinema. There's one restaurant that operates on the gimmick of serving the favorite lunchbox snacks of Korean kids - targeting young adults who are nostalgic for grade school. Downstairs boba shops and a Beard Papa creme puff shop were both filled with back-pack toting high schoolers.

I felt a little old among all this youth, but, hey - now I have a shocking pink whisk to cook with!

Round and round it goes

A look at the carousel on the Santa Monica Pier from an unusual viewpoint.

I bet you didn't know that there were offices and conference rooms on the second floor of the carousel building! I attended a meeting here earlier this week. This is the view from the hallway window.

The wooden roof of the carousel building
 What a great place it would be to work!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway

I first visited Los Angeles's Broadway maybe ten years ago, and started going there whenever I could find the time. I was fascinated by its tawdry yet vital energy. Downhill from the movers and shakers on Bunker Hill, it carried on without notice from the city's big business community or the celebrity scene, or even - then - the hipster cachet. No, it was Spanish-speaking, dirty, cheap, a little dangerous and full of life.

Thematic Photographic - Made of Steel

Carmi at the blog "Written, Inc." hosts a photographic get-together, based on a weekly theme. This week, the theme is "Made of Steel."
Click to "embiggen"
This is Richard Serra's 2006 sculpture Band, a huge ribbon of steel that undulates and swirls in a room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Two hundred tons, twelve feet high and seventy feet long - it's hard to believe such graceful fluidity is made of steel.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Marquee from below

Neon on the marquee of the United Artists Theatre in downtown LA
Here's what you can see if you look up.