Tuesday, January 30, 2007


"Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide"
Martha and the Vandellas

There's a pattern to the challenges of living in a loft space. The available space is vertical, the space is open, the mundane objects of existence must be stored in plain sight. The nature of the beast demands attention be paid to the placement of every object. I find it alternately challenging and aggravating.

No matter how sparse I keep it, no matter how carefully placed each object is, there is always something jarring. Simplicity requires a continuous shedding.

The balance of functionality and beauty is a dance whose feet I frequently step on. The first rung of choice: keep or discard and the second: placement. That was why I lined up my martini glasses. I just didn't want to throw them away!

They'd been sitting there upside down for many moons when a houseguest came to visit. She stayed home while I was at work and always cleaned the kitchen to earn her keep. When I came home (to a spotless kitchen) I saw that she had carefully placed a colored cocktail umbrella on each of the glasses.

They really were a thing of beauty.

Here I was always so focused on subtractions and she made an addition to such a delight. I marvel when I meet someone with that "eye" for detail. When they arrange it, it seems obvious, as if it had been put in the only place it could be.

For me it is mostly an effort that comes from inspiration by others (and sometimes imitation). I've only met a few with this gift, my sister and two of my friends. But every time I witness it, it brings me back down to my place among the humans. Humbled and impressed.

Here it is (from several view points), may I introduce...the work of Sara Zuniga:

Monday, January 29, 2007


One of the joys of living in LA is discovering the great shortcut. I hope the oft repeated notion that people will actually refuse to share these secret routes is an urban myth. What would the rationale be? Fear of some sort of stampede that would turn aforementioned shortcut into a traffic jam?

Since Lincoln Heights sits at the center of the famous Glendale Junction, it would appear to offer access to every area of Los Angeles. It is after all a place where seemingly all the major freeways of Los Angeles converge. Somehow I have failed to find a satisfying way over to Hollywood...and then...it happened. I found the perfect shortcut.

Here it is in all it's glory: Jump on the 5 North, zip up to 134, take the Forest Lawn exit and sail down to Barham, which flows into Cahuenga, which flows into Franklin, which deposits you promptly on Sunset Blvd. Voila. I was no longer a world apart.

Like any secret route, I had to run it many times before I got the kinks out. One false move and you wind up in Burbank or stuck in a traffic jam at Highland and Hollywood Blvd.

Because driving at a cruising speed is a rarely experienced pleasure, I've come to really enjoy this run, especially at night. Forest Lawn, so named as it traces the border of its namesake, the Forest Lawn Cemetery. Appropriately, the road is as dark as an old country road, and curves gracefully across the miles of this peaceful place of eternal rest.

The remains of Bette Davis are entombed here, adorned by her epitaph "She did it the hard way".

Each night drive home, just as I come up the hill, I see the arch of an entryway, and it's white marble sign with its tag line prominently displayed. It reads: "One call or visit arranges all".

Better a truism there never was. One visit is all it takes.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Enough complaining already! One of my co-workers heard me b---ing about the sick trees on my block. "Well if you want to learn about trees how about getting out there this weekend?"

Oh wow, you know me, I can't back down from a challenge.

The crews were out planting 37 trees in Boyle Heights. I participated in getting two of them in the ground.

Things I learned about myself: 1) I can't swing a pick axe to save my life; 2) this might well have been the first time I used a shovel; 3) I prefer accounting!

Yes, yes, I did feel closer to nature, but more importantly I feel a lot more hopeful about my ability to help "my" trees on Broadway.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...
Time to write "I love my loft" on the blackboard 100 times.

Looking over the street from my second floor perch gives me an eagles eye view of the world outside. Fearing inhaling the car exhaust, I don't open my window until the evening. I can tell it's all clear when I see the neon blue and red of the taqueria blink off for the night.

I sit by the window and listen to the quiet interrupted by the sights and sounds of the evening street. Occasionally the loud sucking sound of two gentlemen and their crack pipe. Sometimes I watch a man standing on the curb peering intently at his open cell phone. As a car drives by he steps back into the darkness and as it passes, back to the curb.

Last night by the window talking on the phone to my sister, the smell of "smoke" wafted up. "I think I'm catching a buzz Sis," as I burst out laughing.

"I swear I didn't inhale" (wink wink) I told her presidentially.

Just then my loud doorbell buzzed. "Identify yourself" I ordered. The familiar voice of my friend Jon, doing a poor imitation of a Monty Python dude, called out "It's a crack addict! Can I have some crack?" Sorry that's down the block now!

That was when it occurred to me: the intercom as social intervention. Now, when the mood strikes me, I push the "talk" button and intone "This is God speaking, step away from the doorway!!!"

I love my loft, I love my loft, I love my loft...


Welcome to Lofty Thoughts!

If you’ve just landed here, Lofty Thoughts launched in July, 06. The blog is devoted to observations about loft living in Lincoln heights; especially the natural contradictions created by gentrification. I'm still in wonder of the neighborhood that envelopes me and the work of art I live in.

If you aren't a subscriber yet and want to catch up, here are a few highlights by topic to get started:





loft /lɔft, lɒft/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[lawft, loft]

  • a room, storage area, or the like within a sloping roof; attic; garret.
  • an upper story of a business building, warehouse, or factory, typically consisting of open, unpartitioned floor area.
  • such an upper story converted or adapted to any of various uses, as quarters for living, studios for artists or dancers, exhibition galleries, or theater space.
  • Also called loft bed: a balcony or platform built over a living area and used esp. for sleeping.
Here I am writing a blog about Lincoln Heights Loft Living and I have yet to write a post on the Lofts of Lincoln Heights. Solipcistically, the only Loft I've featured is the one I dwell in. So let me correct that...

First let's talk nomenclature: Loft - an apartment with a "Loft", something maybe built in an old warehouse, maybe just the bed is above the rest of the room, just to maximize limited space..maybe originated in New York?

Now, my apartment, a cross breed, an apartment that is loft-like having some of the features of a loft, and some of an apartment, thus a "Loft-ment". Definitely a re-purposing of a building which has sat on Broadway since the 1800's. I get a kick out of living on part of the original route 66.

In stark contrast, there is Puerto del Sol, newly built complex, a hybrid of apartments, condos, low-income house and senior living. Took a tour of some of the condo units last month. The condos advertised as "Lofts" hardly seemed to qualify. Just doesn't seem right that you build something new and call it a Loft. At least some of the units had a "loft". The work seemed shoddy, the units had those plastic hardwood floors, an elevator that "wasn't working yet"; a courtyard that screamed "I'm a development".

Am I alone in thinking that you can't make a loft from scratch? Something is just so wrong. Especially annoying was the day I got caught in the infamous CD 1 speedtrap on Spring Street. After writing me a ticket, the cop leaned an elbow on my window and said "so...ya live over in those lofts?". God! You can give me a ticket OR you can flirt, but you can't do both.

I wanted to scream "those aren't lofts!" and yes I live over there, but in a REAL loft. Sigh. I decided it was better not to press my luck and just get the h*** out of there.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Every morning I look out my window; if it's a clear day I have a beautiful view of the downtown skyline. But even it's not a clear day, I gaze upon the face of "Our Lady of Lincoln Heights". This beautiful painting is displayed on banners all along Broadway and Main Street. But until today I did not know the artists identity.

An anonymous Lofty Thoughts reader clued me in. The artist who brought us "Our Lady" is Irene Carranza. I am awestruck by her work; checkout her gallery.

Her painting, Cariño Maternal, won the 2001 Mujer Award.

Her work is currently showing at Carlotta's Passion in Eagle Rock. I missed the reception last Saturday, but I will be there before the showing ends on February 14th!

All Hail Irene!

See my original post at: Our Lady of Lincoln Heights

Monday, January 15, 2007


"The sun is shining.
The grass is green.
The orange and palm trees sway.
There's never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it's December the twenty-fourth,
And I'm longing to be up north." from the "lost" first verse of "White Christmas"

I haven’t had a camera around lately and so I’ve been taking some mental “shots”. They exist in my memory just as I had captured them on film, sadly, I can not share them with others, in fact I can’t really keep them at all, as they were moments, gone and unlikely to be repeated. Here are a few:
  • Lincoln Heights, today, Saturday, January 13, 2007, walking home down North Broadway from the LA Bakery with my morning coffee. I walked about a block behind a man in a cowboy hat. Even from behind I knew he was a vaquero—the Mexican variety of cowboy. His gait was bowed (as from a lifetime of riding a horse). His hat was red (i.e. decorative not functional), and he sported a matching red scarf in his back pocket. What really struck me was that as I saw this figure ahead of me, was a mental flash I had, of the archetypal western cowboy. “There’s only room in this town for one of us” I thought. The reason? He walked with his arms away from his body, bowed similar to his legs, as if poised to reach for a pair of pistols. John Wayne would have approved. And me without my camera. 
  • I was heading for my ex’s house, traveling down Alameda from Downtown towards South Gate. The neighborhood (if could call this industrial strip a hood) gets increasingly (shall we say) rough. Here vendors walking the median strip are common place, selling anything and everything, from socks to incense. But it was nearing Christmas and the goods were aimed at last minute shoppers. At a stop light, up walked a heavy set Mexican vendor, leather bag slung over his shoulder, and on his hand…a bright yellow duck puppet. The ducky was so cute and fluffy, and the man so grimy and gruff, I couldn’t stop laughing, which unfortunately only encouraged the salesman, who then quacked his duck with ever more fervor. I would have died to have a camera with me for that one.
  • I made a wrong turn coming home from just before Christmas, and ended up driving through Burbank I came to the intersection of the roads, a brightly lit area, and noticed a crowd gathering. I looked over and saw a brand new red Miata convertible with the top down, driven by Santa Claus. Only in LA, Santa in a Miata (which makes me wonder what it would be in Northern California: Santa in a Prius? – in Chicago, Santa in a Buick? - In Manhattan? Santa in a Taxi? There is such potential here.
  • A tall black man dressed in red from head to toe. A red suit, red hat, red socks, red shoes. I really, really wanted a pic of him, because my father has a great shot of what he calls the “blue man”, shown at right, and it would have totally cracked him up. If only I could have had a shot of "red man". Too bad. You'd think I'd learn!

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. -Wu Li

What would Wu Li say if he lived in Los Angeles Lincoln Heights neighborhood? How about: Dead Tree, Broken Meter?

In April of 2003, Council District 1, City of LA, planted five trees on North Broadway. The budget was small, small enough that the trees that were planted were only 15 gallon plants, not the 24" boxed trees that the downtown lofts have ponied up for. Price difference? Under $100 for the 15 gallon's; $250-$750 for 24-36" boxed.

The 15 gallon tree is the minimum size the City of LA's Street Tree's Division permits; and the trees shall be secured to the stake with two rubber trees ties (as you can see, ours have only one tie.

Here's the 2007 tree report (four year update):

The tree on the East side of the street in front of the gas station: snapped in half (vandal? car impact?). The tree was removed (source unknown, the gas station owners, the city, a passer-by?). Tree's on the west side of the street: Of the four trees, one dead, three sickly. We can only hope that the semi-living trees rebound come the spring.

I could go on and on about what's wrong with the town but..What's good in the City? Tree People

Their mission? "..to inspire the people of Los Angeles to take personal responsibility for the urban forest..".

Consider me inspired.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Boba-boba, fa-boba, Boba! In Chinatown the other day (for the Jackie Chan film festival) I ordered a smoothie. "Would you like Boba with that?" the proprietor asked. What the heck?

Boba, I now know, is an interesting thing, part food group, part desert. I would describe Boba as a small gelatinous ball made of tapioca. These little balls rest at the bottom of your drink (iced coffee, fruity drinks, etc.) and are chewed slowly after slurping your drink. Unfortunately the straws are so wide that one can (as I did on my first try) suck one straight through the straw into ones windpipe!In large parts of LA, the Boba place has supplanted the coffee shop. Even places that still call themselves coffee shops offer Boba.

The Boba stores have names like: Bobalicious, Boba World, Bobapioca and the perfectly cross-cultural (and my personal favorite) Boba-loca.

Perhaps this delight might sound more appealing if one thinks of them as gummy-bears (but not as good). Boba is sometimes known as “bubble tea” or “pearl tea” and is typically served in iced tea, now can be found resting at the bottom of anything from a strawberry smoothie to a cafe latte.

There is even a web site called boba-fate which offers (if you can deign to email them a photo of your Boba, (and by-the-way they suggest you use your camera phone for this)) a fortune-teller to study and interpret your Boba image. You will receive a return email with your fortune (in less than a day)! How about that? I can’t say I ever considered my future might lie in a Boba (except that one that landed in my windpipe)!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Anybody know who she is? The artist I mean.

I never stop marveling at the existence of a winery in the Los Angeles city limits. Kind of ironic that I moved all the way from Sonoma County (wine country) to land within a mile of a winery!

Monday, January 08, 2007


Defying logic, every once in a while I still get lost in Lincoln Heights. This time the goal was to find the Macy's furniture outlet. At the point where Broadway branches into North and South Mission Blvd. I made the wrong choice. It was twilight as I cruised over the bridge past the beautiful Lincoln Heights park. For the first time I saw open space instead of urban grit. I had a flash of times past, a time when Lincoln Heights was the chic "IT" place to live.

It was getting dark, and I drove a while and when I reached Soto, I circled back down Mission. It was after work and I was getting tired, so I ditched the Outlet quest. In the darkness, the glow of a large red LED sign caught my eye. Words scrolled by...Los Angeles County Coroner.

I had to wonder, on the heels of my recent encounter with a coyote, was somebody trying to tell me something? Maybe this is how the angel of death lets you know it's time....with a message on a scrolling LED sign. Anybody remember Steve Martin's talking sign in "LA Story"?

The message scrolled by, and another appeared: Visit LACoroner.com

"Somebody is pulling my leg!" I thought. Why in the world would a coroner have to advertise? It's not like they need to drum up business and even if they did, how exactly would that be accomplished by a website?

Laughing all the way, I couldn't help rushing back home to my computer to check out the website. Just when you think you've seen everything...there it was at the top of the page: "Skeletons in the Closet--for those of us with dubious taste". I'll let you see for yourself, but in case you don't have the time (or have good taste), you are invited to open the closet. Inside you will find such cheesy options as "BOOverley Hills Drive, Pacific Ghost Highway, Earthly Remains", etc.

The point of all these corny puns? A store of course. I have to admit, I have my eye on a toe-tag keychain. Can I interest anybody in a "Body Bag" garment bag to carry their suit on the next business trip? Try that one on homeland security!

Mercifully, profits go to a drunk driving prevention program for young people. Whew!

Now you know what I want for Christmas next year!


I heard a howl on Broadway last night. Yep, you heard right, howl. I had the TV on low while a car commercial ran. I figured the howl was part of the commercial and disregarded. Then it came again. Awooooooooooooooooo. It's true I have my share of drunk guys stumbling out of the Social Club downstairs, and so far I've heard a few songs belted out, but never a howl. I looked at the television, no sign of a werewolf.

Awooooooooooooooo. That time the howl scared me. I ran over to the window and pulled up the blind just in time to see a dog running across the street to the gas station. I felt a chill, fearing that the poor baby had been hit by a car. As I watched, he stopped by a pump, sat down and raised his head and howled. He didn't look hurt. He howled again and then loped away into the dark neighborhood.

Loped? Loped. Not ran off. That's when it occurred to me that maybe it wasn't a dog. Had I had a wolf sighting on Broadway? It looked like a wolf, it howled like a wolf, it loped like a wolf. Dog or Wolf? Or...a Coyote.

I admit I'm a bit of a Castaneda fan and even superstitious on occasion. Maybe it was a vision? my spirit animal come a calling to remind me that there was still mystery in the world. Howling to tell me to turn off my television. I obeyed.

But in the morning, the timer turned the TV back on. There on the news ran a teaser: "Coyotes in Los Angeles? More at the end of the hour".

This from the Associated Press:

The number of reported coyote sightings has increased in West Hollywood, the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills, officials said Thursday.There have been about seven coyote sightings in the last seven to 10 days, said Sam Baxter, West Hollywood's facilities manager.

I didn't report the Lincoln Heights sighting. Who says only the rich people see Coyotes?

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Cultural diversity is one of the things I love about living in Lincoln Heights (and LA in general). Our area is a mish-mosh of ethnicities. A bit of self-segregation happened at the opening of the new State Historic Park (Phase I). I sat to the left of the aisle and looked over to the right and saw a beautiful display of parasols across from me:
The scene led me to ponder the origins of this custom. Tonight with the photo above in mind, I checked out "umbrella"on WikiPedia ( know, I know, by its very nature it's a fallible source), but veracity aside, I really enjoy it.. You can read the whole thing yourself at WP, but here's a slightly hacked quote:
The...umbrella (was) invented...in ancient China, roughly 1,700 years ago. The Chinese character for umbrella is 傘 (san) ...a pictograph resembling the modern umbrella... (The) tradition(of carrying an umbrella) ...originated in ...banners waving in the air, (and) the use of the umbrella was often linked to high ranking (though not necessarily royalty) in China."

I myself thought it was something more simple, like keeping out of the sun.