Friday, May 4, 2012

Coda: The Nature of Los Angeles

EARLIER THIS week, one of my reporter colleagues was on Facebook grousing, in that way people do there,  about the gray skies over  Los Angeles.  He took his mini-vent one step further to say that there was something about a cloudy day in Los Angeles that was worse than a cloudy day somewhere else.  There were a smattering of comments following up that mildly agreed or disagreed. I thought about adding my two cents, but it seemed beside the point.

I realized that this writer was suggesting something that we've been talking about from different angles in our class all semester: The ways in which the ante is upped here in Los Angeles, that even less-than stellar weather (!) can be a grounds for deep disappointment.  This seemed unfair, of course, as it was still in the 70s and  it was hardly an inconvenience. Simply, if you think about it, a day off for the sun.

Why such the high standard of subjective perfection?  He's a transplant from thousands of miles elsewhere,  which got me thinking.  I realized again, the perspective difference. For me, as a native, gray skies offer an alternative, a different way to see Los Angeles; it's a break from being "on," a different mood from that megawatt smile.  I see the city in a different way on days like that. The sky might look like steel-wool, the mountains with the snow on the peaks, jut out against it, the green of the trees look that much more vibrant. It's still stunning and textured, but you see a different side -- something more layered, contemplative.

On the same theme,  this week The New Yorker put up an engaging short interview with the photographer Bruce Davidson talking about photographing nature in Los Angeles.  In a way, if he were in our class, his final piece would have been Arcadia/Utopia. He literally is looking for the places in L.A. where nature and man-made urban life intersect.  "I had a vision of the superhighways intermingling with the trees," says Davidson early in the interview. "Nature has this way of commingling, of living with the city itself. Nature clings, nature will adapt. Nature will find a way to live even under concrete. Nature is there surrounding the grid of the city itself. I was drawn to this challenge."

Watching the images and Davidson speaking about his process a second time,  I realized that what he's observing about the Southland's nature -- flora and fauna -- is true about us --  humans.   Angelenos, those who are drawn to Los Angeles, compelled to stay, find themselves figuring out ways to adapt to what it the city is -- the broken dream or promise,  the "dingbat" apartment instead of the sprawling ranch-style home -- in other words,  the reality check, or better, the compromise.

Los Angeles, in its postcard moments -- the first hours after a storm has scrubbed the basin, or an aggressive but not violent Santa Ana gusts through -- flaunts its otherworldly moutains-to-the-sea beauty. But as most of us know, rarely does it look like this everyday. The Los Angeles that we come to love, hate, feel ambivalence about is something that goes deeper than what's at face.

For me, it's always been those small stories at the edges of the postcard, the things that get cropped away from the official picture that I "cling" to.  The stories that "commingle" as Davidson puts it, with the forward-rush of the city. As a reporter, I've always loved to talk to people about their dreams, their plans, their past, their goals, their disappointments, their joy, and how place has tied itself up in those stories. We fall in love with places we say, but really when we say that we mean that we've fallen in love with a confluence of things: a quality of a life -- some of which is the backdrop and the rhythms of a place, but much of which we've constructed through our choices.

 The "nature" of Los Angeles that Davidson speaks of and is documenting is a Los Angeles of persistence and resilience and adaptation.  But instead of it being  read as "survival of the fittest" it could be read as  the persistence of the imaginative.

Thank you all for being contemplative, imaginative Angelenos this semester and for bringing the more nuanced, complex story  of the city forward. Your persistence and imagination, will help to shape and shade the official story.

top photo: Bruce Davidson via The New Yorker
bottom photo: L.G.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Coordinates: Santa Monica Blvd and Formosa Ave

ON THE southeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Ave there a neon green sign glows out of the darkness that surrounds.  This intersection is unusually dark for a Hollywood intersection, unusually vacant.  Quiet, even.  Or maybe I am just too fixated on the neon cursive the sad-looking reddish lobster painted awkwardly at it's side.  The nights is cold.  I am wearing a vintage coat by Dolce and Gabana and feeling very Los Angeles.

Underneath the Fromosa Café there is--very luckily--a vast parking lot, flourecently lit, mostly empty.  There are so many parking spots to choose from, it is almost eerie... like a mouth smiling without teeth.

At the front entrance, beneath a brown and white striped awning, I expect to be met my a door man, I expect a guest list or a reservation requirement or a secret password that I don't know.  But there are none of these barriers--I walk right in, unnoticed, and join the already-tipsy crowd beneath dim, rust-colored light.

The walls are painted a rich, maraschino red, and on them hang rows upon rows of black and white photographs--photographs of old Hollywood stars who once drank and dined within these very walls.  The whole place is a shrine for the creatures of talent who once roamed the streets, a nostalgic trip to a place of long lost charm.  There is almost a sadness about the cafe, as if mourning the loss of something remarkable that cannot be retrieved.  It makes me think of Joni Mitchel's lyric: "We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came and go round and round and round in the circle game." The Formosa Cafe seems to acknowledge this reality, taking great advantage of the fact that we CAN look back to where we came from (i.e the past) by showing us joy and melancholy in the black eyes of Marilyn Monroe...hoping that maybe her presence will stay with us if we plaster her photo enough places.

The original owner, Jimmy Bernstein, originally operated the Formosa Cafe out of a red car trolley in 1925! Because Jimmy originally set up shop directly next to the Samuel Goldwyn Studio, Hollywood's elite quickly took to it as a nightly hangout.  For generations, movie stars have been drawn to the Formosa Cafe despite its quirky, unremarkable set-up.  Although the Formosa does not look like it is bursting with money and fame, there is an inherent sense of glamour built into the walls, stitched into the is almost as if the essence of it's classy guests has lingered.  Either that or it was built already having a beacon of decadence and wonder.

The Formosa Cafe is filled with legends.  Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable were known to dine and drink there on a regular basis.  Frank Sinatra hung around in the 1950s, supposedly watching Ava Gardner from afar, longing to have her.

Inside the cafe, as well as all over the internet, one can find a list of over 50 celebrity patrons ranging from the 1920s to 2012, that include everyone from Marlon Brando to Britney Spears.  What people do not talk about, however, is the equally strong history of drug dealing and prostitution, as the corner of Santa Monica and Formosa is not a particularly fancy one. In fact, prostitutes could be seen even during the day until 2004 when the West Hollywood Gateway shopping complex opened on the same block, ushering away the lower class.

Interesting, though, that for so long movie stars, drug dealers and prostitutes could coexist at the same corner bar.  For this reason, the Formosa Cafe is the ultimate Los Angeles spot, bringing all that is glittery and all that is filthy together in one city, all that is fortunate and all that is downtrodden, constantly blurring the lines between the two.

-- Zahra Lipson
photo via flickr creative commons

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coordinates: 6671 Sunset Boulevard

LOCATED ON Sunset Boulevard and Las Palmas in Los Angeles, Cross Roads of the World is considered America's first outdoor shopping mall.  The mall features a central building designed to resemble an ocean liner surrounded by a small village of cottage style bungalows. According to the Cross Roads of the World website, it was designed by Robert V. Derrah and built in 1936.
       It was once a busy shopping center, the Crossroads now hosts private offices, primarily for the entertainment industry. It has been used for location shooting in many films, T.V. shows, and commercials.  According to the official website, a reproduction of Crossroads' iconic tower and spinning globe can be seen just inside the entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida!

     Today, Cross Roads of the World is the creative home of a variety of "unique offices" and Eckankar, a new church that "promises a personal experience with God every day".  Some of the "unique offices" that I saw while exploring the Cross Roads were offices for music publishers and producers, television and film script writers, film and recording companies, novelists, costume designers, publicists and casting agencies.
     While the monument still stands the same as it did 76 years ago, everything else has changed around it.  The fact that it stood the test of time and has been preserved shows that not all aspects of Hollywood are easy to paint over and use as movie sets.  That there are certains things, perhaps "firsts" in Hollywood, that are seemingly off limits in terms of tearing down.  The pictures below demonstrate the contrast from 76 years ago to today.  If you look at the bottom layer of the original building it still is exactly the same, only a difference in the inhabitants and businesses, perhaps acting as a microcosm for Hollywood and its movie sets: the sets remain the same, but the movies and actors are constantly changing, trying to stay fresh and relevant.


Photo Credit:  Present day ones are mine
Old photo is from the official website

Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

Photo Credit: 
     OVER THE weekend I searched for some beautiful nature in Los Angeles, which is hard to come across in a city made of interweaving freeways and buildings. My search on the internet lead me to the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden located in Bel-Air. The garden's website says, "the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden is modeled on the gardens of Kyoto. The beautiful hillside garden was designed by noted Japanese garden designer Nagao Sakurai in 1959 and constructed between 1959 and 1961. It is recognized as one of the finest examples of Japanese gardens in Americas and was donated to the University of California in 1964." I fell in love with this place and the natural beauty before I could see it in person. The pictures I've seen on the internet look like they were actually taken in Japan. There is more green than I thought possible to find in Los Angeles. I could hardly wait to go to this garden and forget what city I was in and maybe even which country I was in.
Photo Credit: 
      Unfortunately, my internet search of this beautiful work of natural art also led me to the sad discovery that it is now closed to the public and its survival may be threatened. UCLA has decided to sell the garden "citing rising maintenance costs, deferred maintenance, and the lack of attendance due to limited parking" as their reason. UCLA is selling this priceless and iconic garden with no restrictions, so there is a chance it may fall into the hands of someone who will destroy it in order to make a profit. The Los Angeles times has even stated that UCLA has begun removing objects from the garden. The Hannah Carter Japanese Garden is possibly the most beautiful garden in Los Angeles, and we as Angelenos have the responsibility to ensure its survival. The following link has several ways, including an online petition, which we can help preserve this unique natural beauty amongst buildings, freeways, and traffic.
Photo Credit: Bluepupae via Flikr

Please visit if interested in signing the petition

-Nastassja Habers

D'Amore's Pizza - A Slice of Home

LOS ANGELES, more than a large percentage of other cities, has something to offer just about everyone. Naturally, this is one of the reasons why so many people still to this day choose the Southern California city as their choice of permanent residence. In my particular case, this was a slightly frustrating thing at first, but ended up turning into something great. I had just visited the Beverly Hills tapas restaurant, Son of a Gun, with my girlfriend and do to the small size and high prices of the food neither of us were as full as we wanted to be upon leaving. During our time at the restaurant, I had been eyeballing this pizza place across the street called D'Amore's. I had never heard of it before, but when I saw their pizza was supposed to be "Boston Style" I was inherently inclined to give it a shot. I had tried a number of supposed "East Coast style" and "New York style" pizzas during my time here and while some had been good enough to satisfy my craving none had really impressed me and reminded me of something I could order back home. This has long time been a complaint of East Coast transplants to the region, with many claiming the water used plays a factor into the taste of the pie.

I was excited to try D'Amore's in the hopes that they would prove me wrong, and show me it is possible to get a pizza up to my standards out West. I had a good feeling going in due to the specificity of "Boston" style, and my good feeling proved itself to be true after tasting the first bite. As soon as I took my first taste, my brain recognized everything instantly and I was assured that it was indeed the real deal. Everything about it was consistent with what I would qualify as a pizza done right. The dough was stretched thin but not too thin, the crust was cooked enough so that it was slightly crispy but not burnt, the sauce was distributed evenly and had a bit of a tangy zest to it, and the layer of mozzarella covered the sauce but was not an overpowering amount of cheese. All it took for me to become a convert was two slices, I have found my favorite pizza place in LA and my search is over. After checking out their website it seems as though they import the water they use for the pizza dough from Boston - so my question of whether it actually has something to do with the water still lies unresolved. To be honest though, as long as D'Amore's is still around I don't care what the magic is.

-- Derek Dellovo
photo: LA pizza blog

Manhattan Beach and Venice: Namesakes and coin tosses

I AM OFTEN struck by how vastly different Venice and Manhattan Beach are from their namesakes. The car-less maze of canals and bridges in Italy doesn’t seem much like Venice, Calif. And the laid-back, cute town of Manhattan Beach seems to have little in common with bustling New York City.

But delving into the history of each Los Angeles County town sheds light on the connection to their namesakes thousands of miles away.

According to the Manhattan Beach Historical Society’s website, the town was the result of two public transportation systems coming together. One area was named Manhattan by its developer, Stewart Merrill, after his hometown on the east coast.

Venice, as we learned in class, was developed by Abbot Kinney. Before it became the T-shirt vendor-lined muscle beach of today, it was a cultural city modeled after Venezia, complete with its own gondolas on man-made canals.

Interestingly, the history of both Manhattan and Venice involved a coin toss: To determine town’s name Merrill won his coin toss against realtor George Peck, who wanted to name it Shore Acres. According to the Venice Historical Society's website, Kinney won a coin toss to determine which half of the oceanfront land he would purchase. He surprised the four other developers by choosing the barren, marshy property that is now Venice.

We’ve discussed how Pasadena was shaped by the Midwest roots of the people who settled there: several groups of people traveling across the country to re-create their home elsewhere. But, as with Manhattan Beach and Venice, the vision of one developer can bring a piece of another city to L.A. too.

– Emily Rome
Top photo: Manhattan Beach (Credit: Mr Bulitt / Wikimedia Commons)
Bottom photo: Venice (Credit: SameerKhan / Wikimedia Commons)

Visiting LA

EARLIER THIS month one of my best friends from high school, Mariah, unexpectedly called me up to tell me “Hey, I’m in LA, when can I see you?” I was quite excited, but I am also not the most spontaneous person - my days that week were precisely planned with exactly what I needed to get done in order to prevent procrastination and excessive stress. So her and her friend, who had driven the entire way here, crashed on my couch for a few days. They had a car and everything, but they waited until Friday night to go out. They just hung out in my apartment, both when I was there and when I was in class. If I had driven so far, I would for sure be maximizing my time wherever I was. They had no idea how lucky they were! A free night on a weekday to explore? I would kill for that, and not just because Thursday night is the night all the celebrities come out - according to the paparazzi my friend Lauren and I had befriended one random Saturday night. 
When they did go out, they wanted to go to Hollywood and Highland. That’s the same place my other friend Lyndsay wanted to go when she visited. And then they wanted to eat at Saddle Ranch. They went to Venice, and the Santa Monica Pier. I’ve been to all these places - except Saddle Ranch - but I kept trying to tell her that there are so many other places in Los Angeles that are much cooler and more interesting. But they insisted, because it was Mariah’s first time here. Are we only allowed to find that out after we’ve visited all the touristy places? They’re not all LA has to offer, but maybe you come to the city and think you’re missing out if you don’t see all the stereotypical places for yourself. What they didn’t know was that, by only going to those places, they actually ended up missing out on a lot. But then again, maybe you have to experience the stereotype in order to be able to move beyond it. 
-- Allie Flinn
Photo Credit: from Flickr, taken by Shawn S. ParkVi

Hollywood and Back

LAST WEEKEND I was doing my best to fulfill any clichéd adventures I could think of in Los Angeles.  I began by seeing a movie at the Disney El Capitan Theatre.  The film was Chimpanzee, and it featured a live animal show prior to starting.  The drive to the theatre featured a twenty-minute commute down Santa Monica Boulevard, which featured a very different L.A. than the one I am used to.  The scenic Beverly Hills neighborhoods immediately brought me back to the idea that West L.A. is a state of mind.  When we finally got to the El Capitan half of the boulevard was under construction and it instantly reminded me that we were still in L.A. 

The next day I made my way toward Beverly Hills via my intuition.  The progression of scenery from Washington Boulevard and Centinela Avenue to Beverly Glen was captivating.  When I finally made it to Frida’s Mexican Restaurant it was clear that I was in Beverly Hills.  Luckily, the menu’s prices were not as Beverly Hills as I thought they might be.  During my meal a stray dog walked up to me, and was a lot cleaner than my family’s dogs.  After lunch, I ventured toward Rodeo Drive to check out the tourist attractions and shops.  Unlike lunch, the prices at these stores were very Beverly Hills.  I only went in one store, and the prices of men’s ties were the reason--$230 plus. 
Lastly, I followed my intuition toward the Hollywood Hills.  The roads were windy and treacherous.  I would drive miles without any stop signs or streetlights, and the speed of cars behind me were dangerously fast.  I ventured through East Mulholland Drive and stopped along all of the scenic viewpoints.  Tour vans, with convertible tops, would frequent the street, and I wonder what details the drivers knew that I did not.  My stop before heading home was above the Hollywood Bowl.  I have never attended a concert there, but the view of the Bowl and of the city, despite the smog, was still amazing.  While my roundabout tour of West L.A. was long-winded and carried many identities, it was well worth it.      

Photo: Art Flores

--Art Flores

The Griffith Park Excursion

A random Saturday a couple weeks ago turned into one of the more fun and interesting days I've had in Los Angeles in a while. My roommate and I were sitting at home bored and frustrated because we felt that we didn't have anything to do. If I told any friends from back home this, I'm sure they would reply, "but Los Angeles is so big and there's so much to do, how could you be bored?!" Well, unfortunately Westchester is nowhere near exciting, and Los Angeles' traffic is often prohibitive to accessing other parts of the city. Well, this Saturday when we decided that we were not going to let traffic limit our enjoyment of the city in which we live. We were going to drive past Downtown to Griffith Park and go take a hike.

We swooped up another friend of ours and began our journey. It was not soon after we got on the 110 Freeway that we hit our first bout of traffic, but a quick lane change over to the carpool lane solved that problem and we were cruising steadily. Upon our arrival, we realized none of us had ever been to the area of Griffith Park we were currently in. We decided instead of driving over to the Hollywood sign area we would stay where we were and try to find some trails. We ended up finding some, and by our stroke of luck it turned out to be more than just some trails through the natural LA landscape. We had stumbled upon remnants of the old Los Angeles Zoo, which has been closed down since the 1960's according to the signs. We got to stand where animals once were caged, and see how the old buildings and structures have decayed over the years and become targets for people to practice tagging. After continuing our quest up the trails we came to a peak with a tall metal tower residing at the top. The peak was tall, and had a view of Downtown on one side and a view of the valley on the other. Seeing the city from a view like this makes you look at it differently; it helps you piece together the different neighborhoods based upon landmarks you can see and more than anything else makes you realize how close many things in the city are to each other and that it shouldn't take as long as it often does to travel between them. After this Saturday, I promised to myself that I would try to go on more of these spontaneous excursions to new places in the city whenever I was feeling bored or feeling that I had nothing to do. The best way to enjoy a city is to get to know it the best that you can, and that is what I hope to accomplish.

--Derek Dellovo
photo: me

Mr. J. Michael Walker

  EARLIER THIS month, we were visited by a man responsible for "All Saints in Los Angeles" and "City in Mind", Mr. J. Michael Walker.  His illustrative designs aimed to give the backstory to all the saint streets and their inception and design a lyrical map of Los Angeles, respectively. When asked about his inspiration to do take on such a feat, he said it came to him serendipitously, while looking for a street name in a map book.  He noticed all the streets that began with 'St.' and wondered what their origins were.  Having done research, he came to the realization that he would create his own guide to the saints' streets and their history.
       The sheer amount of detail put into each saint is remarkable, and to see that up close really gave me an appreciation for his abilities. As he read an excerpt from his book, All the Saints of the city of Angels, I got a better understanding for his work and just how much thought and back story there is to every symbols and stroke.
        His newest piece, "City in Mind" brought to light some parts of Los Angeles that I didn't even know existed, or that they were known for certain stars or locations.  Looking at his lyrical map I was in awe, never having seen anything like it; it's remarkable it took him less than a month to complete the entire thing!

--Julian Portera

Photo Credit: Myself

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Waiting for Godot at the Mark Taper Forum

AUDIENCES WATCHED a silhouetted figure travel down a lonely road toward the stage as they waited for the play to begin.  Slowly and ominously, the figure approached the stage with a dreariness akin to the playwrights established sense of style.  Once he arrived, the lights dimmed and Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" had begun.

Anybody who has spent a good deal of time as a director of plays knows that Samuel Beckett had a clear and particular vision for all his works.  Even after his death, the playwright made sure that his estate kept tabs on all of the major productions of his plays to ensure that they were done according to his vision.  For this reason, directors know that if they are going to do a Beckett play, they better do it right.  Fortunately for director Michael Arabian, critics and fans agree that his production of "Waiting for Godot" at the Mark Taper Forum was a smashing success.

You can tell by judging John Iancovelli's simplistic set that the emphasis was on dialogue and action.  Rocks bordered the barren stage that sported a single tree.  Arguably, the biggest set change was the single leaf that appears on the tree in Act II.  If Beckett was alive, I trust that he would have approved of this production at the Mark Taper Forum.  In a letter, Becket once wrote that the set was to be “a place of suffering, sweaty and fishy, where sometimes a turnip grows, or a ditch opens up.” Afraid that a highly aestheticized set would cause audiences to consider the play as an allegory, he emphasized that directors and set designers go for simplicity.  Clearly, Iancovelli and Arabian got the memo.

When it comes down to it, it was the acting that made this production so great.  The two key roles, Estragon and Vladimir, were played by Becket enthusiasts with great experience in taking on his tortured roles.  Alan Mandell, who plays Estragon with a surprising livelihood for an 84-year-old actor, is established as being one of the great Beckett actors of our time.  Similarly, Barry McGovern who plays Vladimir, has actually twice before taken up the role in well-received productions.  Perhaps the most surprising addition to the cast is Hugo Armstrong's wonderful portrayal of the very unlucky Lucky.  Armstrong's performance peaks at Lucky's incoherent monologue that excites madness and inspires great sympathy from audiences.

For Angelenos, "Waiting for Godot" offered an opportunity to see one of Beckett's great plays in rare form.  It is tough to expect a production of this quality anywhere far from Ireland these days, and Arabian's rendition surely did not disappoint.  We were reminded of the tender affection Beckett held for these characters affected by an existential crisis that everyone can relate to.

-- Carey Uhl
Photo taken from

The Mysterious Taco Truck

Carne Asada Tacos

THERE IS  is a taco truck that is parked just down the street from me. It is there every day, except Sunday, until 5 pm. I would walk my dog by it, and there would always be at least one or two people ordering or waiting for food, but I was always too weirded out by food prepared in a truck to try it. I’m going to refer to it as the “taco truck” because I have no idea what it is called. I looked for the name once, but the only was able to find a picture of an octopus. This makes more sense now, because I just went to Yelp and searched for “taco truck” in Marina del Rey and a couple of the reviews said it is known for their seafood. It was pretty nondescript - just a white truck with blue “fins” that identified it as a food truck.

I was still wary of all food trucks, but then I watched “The Great Food Truck Race” on the Food Network. I decided I didn’t need to be afraid of food trucks, especially since they seem to be a pretty big deal in LA. But I still only went to the ones that had been featured on the show because I am super concerned of germs and very picky about where the food I eat is prepared. I figured if they were on the food network they were probably okay.

Finally, one day I was sitting in my apartment and I was really hungry. Looking through my fridge, I didn’t really have anything to eat and, besides, the only thing that sounded good was... a taco. I debated internally for a few minutes before I grabbed some cash (I was quite the food truck aficionado at this point and was well aware most only take cash), put my black Pomeranian on his leash, and walked to the taco truck. I hadn’t taken Spanish in years, but luckily I really paid attention to the classes on food, which prevented me from ordering a tongue taco instead of a steak taco. It was one of the best tacos I have ever eaten. Its now my “go to” lunch spot if I don’t feel like making anything, or have anything to make. And now I finally know its name: Guillen’s La Playita Taco Truck.

-- Allie Flinn

Photo Credit: found on Yelp, taken by Jason R.

Expect the Unexpected

RECENTLY WHILE planning an outdoor concert for Loyola Marymount University’s student body I realized just how many hoops we have to jump through in L.A. to make people happy.  The first hoop was finding an artist after our first opener cancelled “due to family obligations that they had thought they could get out of” the Wednesday afternoon before the Sunday show.  This disappointment reflected just how meaningless RSVPs have become nowadays.  Even better, once people learned that the artist had cancelled on us there were countless phone calls and text messages from students making their case for artists.  It was awesome to see this reaction, and it definitely helped us replace the artist.  However, there were instances where some were so passionate about artists that they “knew,” that once we informed them that we were not choosing their artist, they chose to take out personal frustration on us and blame us for hurting relationships. 
The next day, Thursday, we were informed that it was now going to rain.  Collegefest had never been held indoors and the idea of going inside would inevitably hurt us.  However, we chose to move it indoors since we only had hours to choose before the move would become impossible.  Again, the solution turned sour when we found that our new location was not as suitable for our stage had been told.  After hours in the gym putting in time rigging the stage with the crew the night before the show, it was finally all set. 

While artists still kept me waiting in the rain for hours for their arrival, the show went on.  Students flooded the gym, and the artists put on great shows.  I would never recommend doing it again, but jumping through those hoops was an L.A. experience that we all must experience every now and again.  

May Day 2012

    TODAY ANGELENOS, will need to give themselves even more extra time to get from point A to point B. Today, May 1st 2012 there will a protest organized by Occupy L.A. The protest is planed "around a “4 Winds” People’s Power Car and Bike Caravan through the urban sprawl of Los Angeles that will culminate in Direct Action in and around the Financial District of downtown LA." According to the May Day website the protest will be, "beginning in the late morning, coming from the North, South, East & West, will be an amalgam of cars and bikes, occupiers and unions, community orgs and organic communities — taking over our streets on routes designed to bring to light to societies ills, past and present, and engaging with residents and workers as we connect the disparate voices, races, classes and nationalities that make up Los Angeles. The caravans will stop at flashpoints along the way. Flash occupations, food giveaways, and other direct actions targeting the foreclosure crisis and police brutality will be undertaken at these flashpoints on our slow, city-paralyzing, carnival-esque descent into the center of the city." What this really means is even more traffic! For those of us who have finals today, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to school since the traffic may be even more ridiculous than normal due to the wet roads from last night's rain and L.A.'s 99% occupying our roads.

When I was in the art district a few weeks ago I stumbled upon the cloth advertisement with May Day 2012 spelt out in red and green with a heart of the A that reads "Somos 99%." I liked the advertisement, and not knowing what May Day meant I took it down to take home as a souvenir from my trip to city when I ventured out from the South Bay.

-Nastassja Habers
-Photo Credit: Nastassja Habers

Hidden L.A.

A FEW responses to guest speaker W. Lynn Garrett, creator of

“I see it not as a city but as a country with many villages.”
I think this is an apt description. It captures how vastly different neighboring areas of L.A. are but also that within one city there are lots of communities, areas and groups that are tight-knit and have their own cultures.

The L.A. River
I learned a lot about the river from Garrett. It was especially fascinating to watch the video of people kayaking and canoeing down the river – I had no idea that was possible. It’s wild to think that you can experience that right in the middle of a desert city.

“Go to work, come home, go to work, come home.”
This also captures the experience of many Los Angeles residents. This unbroken routine of is part of the reason there’s so much of the city that is hidden to us, that we don’t see or only see from our car. It’s an odd existence, when you think about it: Living life only from our homes and our places of work. When you think about it like that and realize how limiting it is, it does make you want to get out and see the city some more!

– Emily Rome

Photo: The Los Angeles River. Credit: FlickrLickr / Wikimedia Commons

Little Ethiopia

I WANTED to explore an area in Los Angeles that I had only visited a couple of times but have always wanted to go back and visit. The community/neighborhood is Little Ethiopia. Little Ethiopia is located on Fairfax Ave. between Olympic Blvd and Pico Blvd. To be more specific, it is located 5 minutes east of Beverly Hills and 10 minutes south of Hollywood hills, 15 minutes Universal Studios, 15 minutes to Downtown L.A., 20 minutes to Santa Monica, Venice Beach and LAX on Fairfax Avenue this newest LA Ethnic enclave was christened in 2001.

I was able to browse an Ethiopian store, which is definitely one of a kind and talk to the owner’s son about the store's life (or working life since no one actually lives here) in Little Ethiopia. He preferred not to be named or photographed because he said he was shy. But he was still very helpful in giving me details about LE and letting me take pictures of the store. His mother founded the store in the early 1990’s and it has been a staple in the Ethiopian community for more than two decades. Currently his mom is in Ethiopia, she left for six weeks to pick up new items and bring them back to the store. It is very important to her to have authentic clothes from their country. He said it would be insulting to their customers if they tried to pass off U.S. made clothes as Ethiopian. Everything is imported no matter if it is at a greater cost to the owner and the store because it is a point of pride that they are able to provide their community with little pieces of home.

Little Ethiopia is a really small area physically and socially, so everyone knows everyone and there is a little bit of competition since there are so many restaurants in the area. I was even able to get inside details about each of the restaurants and their owners which was very interesting. For example, one restaurant has never been filled to capacity and everyone in the community knows it’s not a very good restaurant and the only way that particular restaurant stays in business is by attracting tourist and non-locals. In fact I was shocked to learn that the best Ethiopian restaurant, which always has a waiting time of about an hour to be seated, is actually not in Little Ethiopia on Fairfax Ave! It is a couple of streets over on Olympic Blvd., but that is still fairly close to LE and the central focus of the community, which is Fairfax.

Finally we talked about his life for a few min. I found out that he doesn’t wear traditional Ethiopian clothes because he feels that when in traditional garb he sticks out and that makes him feel uncomfortable. Even in LE he doesn’t like to wear traditional Ethiopian clothing because LE is not the only place he is in. He works in LE, lives in another part of Los Angeles, while visiting friends in a completely different part of the city. He expressed that it is hard for him to be a chameleon and change his clothing according to what he is expected to wear.


Photo Credit: Myself