Monday, September 28, 2009

Which way LA?

Someone needs to reverse-install this pair of pedestrian wayfinding signs at 8th and Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The sign that should be facing east is facing west, and vice versa. I feel bad for the innocents looking for Broadway theaters or flower bargains who end up walking the opposite way from their destinations. Good luck to them. How long have the signs been incorrectly up like this?

When I was in kindergarten I went to school once with the left shoe on the right foot, right shoe on the left foot. Damn. As you see, I've never forgotten, but at least it never happened again.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

KFC: the new spliff dispensary


When the KFC shut its doors on Exposition and National due to the bad economy, a new business took over the prominent trademark building. And the newbie entrepreneurs kept the famous initials. Kind for Cures is now KFC. Instead of extra crispy chicken leg, you can order rice krispies laced with the best Oregon bazooka. Yes, ganja is available at this medical marijuana dispensary. They even have an on-site medical doctor ready to hear your troubles and write a prescription for you then and there. Nice.

frank lloyd wright slammed and dunked

One of the attractions of going to Kansas City was seeing the church Frank Lloyd Wright designed. It was a twist in the gut to see that the great architect was karate slammed by churchies who had no idea whose bench they were sitting on. Cottage cheese was everywhere. 80s block glass lined outer walls giving it a Less Than Zero look. The clear glass windows with Lloyd's signature etching were wrenched out. Only one pane of glass was left. Painful...

KSC moderns modern

Never assume anything...a wise person says and she was right. I thought Kansas City was going to have hay to trod on instead of concrete (this is an exaggeration, of course). But here it is. The downtown is well-preserved and the modern and contemporary buildings don't disappoint.

Historic Jazz Row in Central L.A.

After our stint in Kansas at Charlie Parker's old haunts, B,S, and I went cruising down L.A.'s Central Avenue in search of Jazz Row. A park dedicated to musicians that frequented the club scene was tagged up. Important buildings looked deserted as well as dilapidated. I am truly humbled by Kansas City...the way they preserved their musical history.

The Bird, Kansas City, and Lots and Lots of History

Southwest threw out their $30 each way trip and we picked up the drippings with tissue. Everything was sold out - including New Orleans which was our first choice. Since we didn't jump the bandwagon early, we ended up in Kansas City, MO. I gotta say, I'd never been asked, "What's there?" so many times. "Charlie Parker," I'd say. Again, the blank look.

The Blue Room where Charlie Parker played was first on our list. I had this image of smoky, body-to-body-crowded jazzio, and the Bird playing Ko-Ko with "Lady Face", his legendary alto saxophone. Instead, a group mostly comprised of white jazz players performed the Saturday night we came. I counted five minorities and the rest looked like bored gangs of sorority and fraternity waiting for the song to be over. So I closed my eyes and took painful sips of martini which I thought was cool since James Bond liked it so much. Drinking the stuff was like downing rubbing alcohol. I imagined the footage I'd seen on Ken Burns' Jazz and tried to conjure the man who brought back improvisational playing that bands like Glen Miller killed. I touched my stool, tapped the table I imagined Parker got drunk on. I waved away the nagging voice that said, "The table's newish, you dummy."

It was a great experience though. After we left the club, we walked around 18th and Vine where clubs, movie theaters, and the magic of jazz still existed. Kansas City and other cities in Missouri were good to us. Jesse James, Pony Express. Just a throw away in Kansas there were Amelia Earhart's childhood home and Topeka's monument to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Great weekend trip. Truly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seasick sea serpent

How common is it for a student to skip a grade? Does every school have a skipper, or are they extraordinary kids of legend? They're certainly less common than students who have to repeat a grade...I actually know someone who flunked kindergarten.

I remember this girl...Cecil was her name, pronounced like Sa-seal, not See-sal. She was with the same batch of school kids that came up with me at Hellyer Elementary in San Jose, but come 7th grade at Sylvandale Junior High, she leapfrogged into 8th grade. And that was that...8th graders universally don't hang out with 7th graders.

So Cecil pops in my head when I see the Hotel Cecil on Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Normally. But now the blade sign is stuck as "Ho Cecil," and Sylvandale Cecil was the last girl you would associate with "ho."

Hehehe...even funnier considering that last week the sign was illuminated as "Ho Cec." In other words, the property management took care of the burned out "il," but thought "Ho Cecil" was worth keeping.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Three apples high

I spent Saturday morning on the Green Building Walking Tour set up by the City of Santa Monica. Those folks are waaay ahead of the mossy green curve. We took in several LEED-rated projects, including the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (yes yes...SMURRF), and I learned that the local storm drains have been known to take in lovely deer carcasses.

When the coordinator asked who lives in Santa Monica, this one joker said, "I live one block south, but I consider that Santa Monica." Wow...when did it become too embarrassing to admit you live in Venice?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Here's one cutesy design flourish that's overused...wall tiles adorned with punctuation marks. I first saw this in Westwood, and now we have...

The Collection in Downtown Burbank...

...and the Ralphs parking garage in Downtown Los Angeles...

...although I do like the birds and trees. They can stay.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Here comes the Predator

I have news...Predator has been defeated. These two unassuming fellows saved the residents of SB Lofts in Downtown Los Angeles from a dreadful fate. Los Angeles thanks you both.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Eastridge Boys

When I moved last month I found a stash of old marketing brochures I had saved when I was a young whippersnapper in San Jose. It's a half-decent set of amusement park maps, park highlights, and chamber of commerce rehash. Amazing the things that avoid the landfills...

These are photos taken from a Eastridge Mall pamphlet from the early '80s. That place has seen its ups and downs as shopping tastes have changed through the years, but in those days Eastridge was a sparkling, regional retail destination.

And it was a playground to kids like me. The intoxicating scent of popcorn filled Sears, and in this pre-VHS era we could watch cartoons for a quarter in a filthy plastic booth. I remember getting in trouble with my cousin Marcos, who had brilliant ideas like sliding down the dividers between escalators and wading in the fountains to filch the coins. You've heard of mall rats...we were more like mall rugrats.

Looking at these pictures, I love the geometric patterns, the elongated bubble canopy over the information booth, and the sculpture (since relocated to downtown San Jose), which I liken to a metallic peacock.