Sunday, December 14, 2008


I looked out the window last night and saw men working on taking down the Vons sign.The red plastic cover was already off the "S". A neighborhood store that served the community for decades, was being dismantled under cover of darkness. I grabbed my camera and dashed across the street to capture the final moments but by the time I crossed the street the men had lowered the cherry picker. I missed my action shot and just stood in the night watching through the gate.

Feeling bummed, I walked back across the street and took one last glance, and there it was again, up by the sign. Too far in now, off I went back across the street, steadied the camera on the gate and took the shot.

As the shutter closed I snapped one last shot, with the aperture open long enough to pierce the dark. As the picture snapped I thought something was wrong because all I saw through my view finder was black. In the moment it took for the shutter to close...the sign had gone dark. Vons was no more.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008


The Life Cycle of a Local Grocery Store: Vons, the adventure continues..

Life can be depressing. Sometimes it's your serotonin level...and sometimes it's not. These days I'm sure I am not alone in feeling a little bit of economic dread. Watching giants fall is one thing, but when it comes to your neighborhood, that's another thing. I'm not cutting through the cliches here fast enough, so let's start at the beginning:

I went shopping tonight, just a quick run to the local Von's for a bag of cat litter (pine chips of course). The store looked clean, but it wasn't any cleaner than usual, what it was...was...empty. There was a lot of vacant shelf space going on. I had a moment of hope, maybe the dreamed of re-model, a face lift for Von's, maybe even the elusive "Fresh Faire" upgrade, maybe we'd go full upscale and move straight to Pavillions.

But that moment was short lived as I came up to the check out stand and said "a little spring cleaning?". "We're closing" was the reply. No laugh, no sparkle in the eyes. "You are kidding right?" There was no answer. The manager standing nearby muttered "it's been coming, but we got the final word tonight"

Why would I feel my heart breaking a little bit? Von's and I had at best a love-hate relationship. I wryly called it my Ghetto-Von's. The store always had a down-on-its-luck feel. Once, when new to the neighborhood, I presciently talked with a manager about the inconvenience of locked cabinets for the toothpaste and Tylenol. He said "if it weren't locked up it would all be gone by tomorrow". My reply "but the people who come here to spend money won't come back".

When the big financial institutions started to collapse I rationalized (markets are self regulating, blah blah blah). When the foreclosures started I thought "well good thing I didn't buy a house". I didn't shed a tear when Payless Shoes and Linen's & Things closed their doors, and certainly not when Circuit City filed for bankruptcy. I actually gloated when WAMU fell (they screwed me when I needed them most).

But tonight, at the checkout stand, it all came home for me. "They can't close "my" store", I said to myself, if they do that it might all be real.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


As our country dives into the next great depression, I'm thinking it's time to find some levity in my life.

I thought all the fun was over when the Annenberg Cornfields art project ended with an LA Times infamous article that led with the line: "Porn in the corn creates scorn". Yes, it's a real quote.

But the good old days aren't over yet. Ate breakfast at a new place downtown called "The Nickel" Diner. The menu is full of drug references. Want comfort food? Have an order of "Smac on Cheese", want a small portion? Have a nickel, want a little more, have a dime bag. OK, it isn't even very funny, but they're trying. At first I thought it was just another wanna be hip place but turns out it's legit. In the good old days you used to be able to come in and buy a twenty dollar hamburger. Throw away the burger and turn over the plate and voila, taped to the bottom of the plate: a bag of "H". Now there's a way to loose weight!

Walking back to the car I noticed a sign for what appeared to be a new hotel call "Stay". In fact it was a Youth Hostel done LA-Style. The rooms were done up in bright Orange, with Plasma TV's on the wall, and a nod to 60's pop art (anyone remember the Hand chair, shaped like a hand, you sit in the giant plastic palm? I'm still trying to forget it, I can never shake the image of the mechanical hand in King Kong).

"How do I know what the rooms look like?" you may ask. I didn't need to go for a tour thanks to Yes you guessed it, the two front dorm rooms are glass storefronts, no curtains, no privacy, just're staying in a bubble. Hmmm, they aren't getting my $29 bucks for that. Me, being the basic mid-western dork that I am, walked up to the glass and waved. I was greeted with a blank stare. I don't think they understand the concept. You're in a bubble people!

But my senses weren't overloaded yet. That didn't happen until I noticed that the "Stay" hostel was bookended by two shops; 1) an art gallery called "Arty" (cute, whatever) and 2) A corner shopping mart called "Marty".

Want to come to LA? Grab a dime bag, an exhibitionist friend, and "stay" with Marty and Arty. We'll leave the lights on for you!

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Where can you find a Jack O'Lantern eating a burger and a shake? How about a pinata ghost? Lincoln Heights of course!

Had to take this shot of the window at the Lincoln Heights Dino's Burgers before it is replaced by Santa Claus and elves (and maybe little red riding hood?)

I am so behind the times, the last time I hit a piñata it was a donkey. Come to think of it, I did have a terrible sighting of a Santa Claus piñata a few years back. I have to say the idea of encouraging kids to beat Santa Claus to a pulp did not appeal to me...

Found this ghost at Victor's Gift Shop on Main Street in Lincoln Heights.


If you blinked you missed it! Kasil Art Gallery opened on Broadway last month but it's days were numbered. Organized by Sevin (formerly Martha Riley) of the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council, and space donated by the generous owner of Kasil Jeans upstairs, the gallery was a great space for our local young artists.

Looks like an Ice Cream Shop is opening in its place sometime soon, just in time for Winter. Hopefully they can compete with Rite Aide!

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Flower Power & Skid Row

Way back in the summer of 2007 a group called Farmlab created a project called "Agbins on Skid Row" with the lofty goal of bringing "a communal garden to the homeless community". 30 bins were set up and seeded with vegetables and flowers. Several Skid Row hosts were to foster and care for a bin during the summer. The purpose (beyond the communal garden for the homeless that is)? to bring the joy of growing food to displaced people. Farmlab waxed prosaic with this bit "our hope is that these agbins become like a single garden, in several locations, within this defined community".

Ah art.

Now let's get down to reality people. 30 ugly plywood bins painted with cheap flat house paint were built and seeded with all the parsley, rosemary and thyme a homeless person could dream of...
What did they become? little hiding places to stash your drugs? sometimes. Spare public toilets? sometimes. Empty sad looking boxes full of trash? sometimes.

Do I hear any communal gardens of happiness? Sorry folks. But still…a year later our three boxes may be down on their luck like the neighborhood, but one flower was determined to find purchase there.

Another became a painting surface for a very Chagall-esque street artist:

Maybe it was not what the Farmlab-ers were hoping for...But it was supposed to be a community project right?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Our town pulls all the stops out for the "North Broadway Street Lighting Ceremony" on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 at 7:30 pm at the northwest corner of Avenue 24 and North Broadway.

Councilmember Ed Reyes and the Department of Public Works Bureau of Street Lighting invite the community to attend.

The lighting project, on North Broadway between Sichel Ave and the LA River and a portion of North Spring between Avenue 18 and the LA River, replaced the existing street lighting (older concrete poles) with decorative steel roadway lighting poles and pedestrian lighting poles. 135 new lights were installed including 47 pedestrian lights and 88 roadway lights.

To celebrate the completion of the 2.3 million installation of "historic" street lights... it looked like Councilman Reyes switched on the lights...but looks can be deceiving.

It looked like the Councilman pulling the switch that turned on the lights...but was (scroll down)


I'm sorry I caught you with your eyes closed dude!

Monday, January 14, 2008


If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning (not the night!)...

It was a hot night and my window was open. I couldn't sleep. There was a loud banging noise outside. It was very loud, and very close. The part of my brain that evolved to make sure I wouldn't get eaten by a mountain lion if I was separated from the herd--woke up. Then it was very quiet, followed by another noise which would be best described as spray paint noise. I didn't realize how much I wanted to catch the neighborhood taggers until I found I was willing to jump out of bed and stake out the bad guys. I tip toed across the floor to the window and peeked out.

There on the roof of La Playita were four men dressed in black (so cliche). I heard more banging, and it looked like they were trying to get in through the roof. So, noble citizen that I am, I called 911. I watched as they dropped down into the night. Car headlights went on and a sedan drove off down the alley. They were gone. Almost 20 minutes later, a squad car nervously approached flashed a light, sat a safe distance and then drove away.

Another 30 minutes and the noise started again! This time I looked and the morons were INSIDE the restaurant. So I called in my second burglary in progress. If it's a night janitorial crew, then they wouldn't be on the roof dressed in black. So then one of the guys came out on Broadway and actually stood lookout. Still waiting, I was sure they'd be long gone by the time the next squad responded.

What would they be stealing in there? Tacos?

I looked out again and yes they were gone, the truck was gone. Then my phone rang, it was LAPD. "They were working on the roof ma'am". "Oh, wow, thank you for letting me know" "Good night Miss" "Good night"

Of course I still couldn't go to sleep. What? Working on the roof of Taco Restaurant at 11:30 at night? Wearing black? Yep.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Proving the old adage, "no news is good news", Lincoln Heights had a sad entry on the LA Times Homicide report this week. Now I know why I saw all the police cars...

1/5/08 - Sergio Serna, a 21-year-old Latino man, was shot and killed at 2601 Mozart St. in Lincoln Heights about 1:20 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5. Two other Latino men were also injured and taken to a local hospital by ambulance; one is in critical condition and the other is stable. A male suspect, Latino, was last seen running north on Mozart Street to an awaiting vehicle, according to LAPD officials. The suspect was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a black bandana covering his face. Anyone with information can call Hollenbeck Homicide Detectives Smith or Marin at (323)526-3679

More info from the Homicide Report