Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Wai!

One of the cool things about working in Pasadena, basically right below Mt. Wilson, is that, when it's cold, and after a rainstorm, I get to see a fresh blanket of snow up atop the San Gabriels. I caught a distant glance at it from East Hollywood right before I descended into the subway, and as the sun rose and my Gold Line train arrived at Sierra Madre Villa, there it was, some 5,000 feet above me.

It may not look much, and I'm sure some east-coast type people will crack up laughing, but up atop the mountain is one of the closes places us SoCal folks "go to the snow." Which reminds me, the last time I actually got up there to play in the snow was some 21 years ago.

Actually, once you're up there, it's a veritable winter wonderland, and thanks to the magic of the Mount Wilson Webcam you can see it in all its powdery glory.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I Made The Front Page!

Twenty years ago, as the editor-in-chief of my high school paper, and geared up to study journalism in college, if you asked me if my name make the front page of the Los Angeles Times, then I would have said, "Oh definitely." Of course, my name would have the word "By" before it, and I would be the one writing the article. Two decades later, my name's on the front page, but this time, I'm the one being quoted.

On Sunday, both my name, and one of my little creations - the BARACKCYCLE! bike ride - made the front page!

Link to the online article here:

A few weeks ago - on my birthday, in fact, someone with a 415 area code phone number called my cellphone, and it was an LA Times reporter who had heard of the BARACKCYCLE V!: The Victory Ride on the Obama website was interested in covering the event for an inauguration-related article. I told him, "Sure!" and rounded up the troops. But alas, the November 29 ride was on Thanksgiving weekend, so the chances of a good turnout were slim. Most of the BARACKCYCLE! veterans were out of town or occupied that day, but we managed to get a good turnout of 15 folks, and the presence of Times reporter Peter King and photographer Kirk McKoy made the ride all the more interesting.

Man, it still hasn't sunken in...I made the front page of the L.A. Times!

A Dime vs. A Nickel

Like every other Filipino out there, I spent Saturday night watching the big Pacquiao vs. De La Hoya fight, which resulted in an 8-round TKO by the Pac-Man.

Call it ethnic pride, but I knew the Pacquiao would win...but not in this way. I figured it would go a full 12 rounds, a drawn-out bout of size vs. speed with the judges giving Pacquiao the decision, not the Pinoy pummeling of a 147-lb punching bag.

Once the starting bell sounded, I had to admit I had a few reservations with the taller De LA Hoya sparring against the more diminutive Pacquiao, sending there might be a little unfair mismatch action going on here.

But eight rounds later, I was instantly reminded of a quote by Carlos P. Romulo, a 20th century Philippine hero and once the president of the United Nations General Assembly. Romulo, an intelligent, industrious man, stood all but 5' 4" inches among his fellow global dignitaries, and his stature made for many comments and prejudgments by others. But he one said that he felt like "a dime among nickels" -- referring, of course to the fact that a dime is smaller in size, but larger in value to a nickel.

So on Saturday, December 6, 2008, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the world witnessed a nickel being defeated by a dime.

And here's a picture of myself with a fellow 5'6" left-handed Filipino Sagittarian (Taken June 14, 2008 at Lake Street Park in Historic Filipinotown):

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hollywood Area Fire

Found a thick column of smoke emanating from the northwest as I left the house this morning. It looks close enough that it may still be in E-Ho. I can hear helicopters overhead approach towards it and the faint wail of LAFD sirens in the distance. This picture was taken at about 6:40 a.m. at Santa Monica and Edgemont. Acording to the LAFD blog's alert widget, it's a single-family dwelling at 5675 Franklin Ave., where a tree fire spread to a 4-car garage. It took 30 firefighters about 20 minutes to douse the flame, and no injuries were reported. Great work, LAFD!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Today we had our last regular Obama bike ride, BARACKCYCLE 4! which rode a 17-mile route from Olvera Street through Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Mt. Washington, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Atwater Vilage, Elysian Valley, Cypress Park, then back through the industrial areas north of Downtown back to where we started.

The pack met at the plaza at Olvera Street, as I rushed to head over via Red Line. We spent the time attaching the Obama signs to our bikes using a hole puncher and zip tie, and I also distributed spoke cards - thanks again, Stephen Box for the lamination services - and the "BARACKCYCLE!" logo buttons my sister made.

This was the first time none of the previous BARACKCYCLE! regulars were on the ride, a lot of them had other commitements. Still, we had about 11 people ride out. As each ride is in a different area, we got a different group of riders. This time, the majority of the riders were male. (Only one female rider rode, in contrast to BARACKCYCLE 3! which was all-female, save for me and two other dudes), Latino - I learned a new Obama cheer - "¡OBAMANOS!" - and the riders rode primarily road bikes. The ride was also rather quick; we finished before 2:30 p.m.

We also made pitstops at the Flying Pigeon bike shop in Highland Park for some air, grease, and a cool-down break (Josef wasn't yet in). We also dropped by the Northeast L.A. Democratic headquarters, in a minimall located at Figueroa and the Gold Line tracks, where we said "hi" to the staff, and they treated us to coffee, water, donuts and bagels. Some of the group also bought some Obama shirts they had for sale there.

Afterwards, we ended up on the campus of Occidental College in Eagle Rock, where Obama spent his first two years of college, from 1979 to 1981. We got to stop outside the Haines Hall dorm, where Obama lived during his freshman year:
It's also been said that the multicultural atmosphere of L.A. influenced Obama, as he arrived from Hawaii as "Barry Obama" and left as a transfer student to Columbia as Barack.

Instead of taking lunch in Eagle Rock, since we were well ahead on time, we just continued on and decided to finish the ride and get lunch at Philippe's. Incidentally, we saw a few other people wear "Obama-Biden" buttons.

Another great ride meeting some great folks. So what next for BARACKCYCLE!? If Obama wins, I plan to organize a victory ride in November, and also an Inauguration ride in January. I also plan to continue the last-Saturday-of-the-month ride in a different form, perhaps as a general L.A. tour, with stops at a couple eateries.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Attack of the Flying Pigeon!

I stopped off at the Gold Line Highland Park station after work today to drop by Flying Pigeon Bicycles (5711 N. Figueroa St.) to drop off a flyer for Saturday's BARACKCYCLE 4! ride.

Right there I saw the owner, Josef Bray-Ali, whom I met earlier this year at the March EHNC meeting where we endorsed the Cyclist's Bill of Rights. We chatted about neighborhood councils and how communities and elected officials can gain important resources through existing data services and the work of grad students. He was totally cool about me promoting my ride there, and even offered to have our riders do a pit stop on Saturday.

The bike shop is unique in that it sells just one kind of bicycle - a (Mainland) Chinese-made utility bike - a rather large one at that - complete with front basket, rear-axle kickstand, rack and rear-wheel lock. They come in different colors, though from their size look rather heavy. Even if large Chinese bikes aren't your thing, the shop also does bike repair and sells needed bike parts and accessories, such as tires, tubes, lights and brakes.

The shop, which has a strong "overseas" scent to it (anyone who's traveled abroad knows what I'm talking about) and a flatscreen TV that plays DVDs of martial arts films, also hosts events. On October 29 at 7 p.m., the shop will host a debate on Measure R between transit advocate Hank Fung (Yes on R) and blogger Randall Flemming (No on R). They also host a Dim Sum ride
which starts at the shop on Sundays. In addition to bike, the owners are also passionate about guerrilla gardening, where they've planted strawberries and other small plants in a pavement cutout right on the sidewalk.

Flying Pigeon adds to the already unique flavor of Highland Park, so definitely check it out if you're around.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ode To Joy - Fishing Tackle

I stumbled upon this shop along Santa Monica the other week while walking to church: Joy Fishing Tackle (4914 Santa Monica Blvd). A fishing tackle shop, 15 miles from the nearest shore? LOL WUT? So during my deli quest today, I discovered it was open and decided to check it out.

The store sells fishing poles, tackle, nets, reel, bait (both frozen and live), other fishing-related gear, and even fishing licenses.

In chatting with the owners, I learned that this shop recently relocated from their old location near 1st and Western in Koreatown, where they had been operating for a few years. The folks behind the counter, a woman and a man, in their 50s or 60s, run the place. The guy, whose name is Shin, is the owner and I did some outreach and gave him my EHNC card. I also talked to the customer at the counter and asked him where he does his fishing. He told me he goes deep-sea fishing off of San Pedro and has been a loyal customer of Joy Fishing Tackle since they were at their old location.

Well that sort of clears it up, at first I thought opening a fishing tackle shop 15 miles from the sea was rather crazy, but if they were able to run for years in Koreatown (14 miles from the sea), then I guess that's not that too far-fetched. Anyway, when I was a kid and went fishing with my dad, he'd get his fishing gear from the local Thrifty's (now Rite-Aid), at Vermont and Santa Monica. He even got his fishing licenses there. Of course, Thrifty's didn't sell bait, we'd often get it closer to where we fished (in the local Southern Cali lakes or by the sea).

The last time I went fishing was sometime in the fall of 2003, on a boat off the coast of San Diego. And before that was when I was a kid. I guess if I wanted to take up fishing again, I know exactly where to go!

Hello, Deli!

I woke up hungry this morning, after a full night's sleep, wanting to make omelets, especially ones with melted cheddar cheese inside, and a sprinkling of feta on top. I really didn't wanna make a supermarket trip, so I decided to head over to the local deli.

A deli? In L.A., you say? Well, certain neighborhoods in town do have markets with a delicatessen counter. Here in East Hollywood, home of Little Armenia, many Armenian markets have meat-and-cheese deli counters, and the strip of Little Armenia near my place on Santa Monica Blvd is no exception. I went into the best-stocked counter, at Taslakian Market (4906 Santa Monica Blvd.) where I bought half a pound of cheddar ($3.99/lb) and a pound of Greek feta ($2.99/lb) for my needs. I also discovered they sell flaky-crust boreks here, for $1 each! In no time I was cookin' up some cheesey omelettes. Scrambled eggs with feta cheese = yum!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Farmer's Market, Highland Park Style

While riding the Gold Line home today I finally got to check out the farmer's market in Highland Park, called the "Old L.A. Certified Farmer's Market," which happens every Tuesday just outside the Highland Park Metro Rail station, an extremely convenient location if there ever was one! Right after stepping off the train, I quickly perused the L-shaped market grounds looking for a bite to eat, and maybe some produce to take home. The fruits looked - and tasted, judging from the sample slices - delicious, but a little pricey for my budget. I did get a jack cheese and pepper tamale from one of the food vendor tents, which was considerably larger than the average tamal.

But I actually spent most of my time there chatting with the community folk at the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council's outreach booth. I asked them about what was up with the Southwest Museum, which, since 2003, has been under the guise of the Autry National Center and currently under seismic renovation. To my surprise, they informed me the museum is actually open, but only on Saturdays. I was also introduced to and had a chat with Ruth Anne Tarletz, a former member of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council who currently organized a Northeast L.A. area peace march that got a lot of community participation. Guess that's what I do as a community leader -- talk shop with other community leaders.

My train ride continuing back home was an easy few steps away. It may not be as big as the one in Hollywood every Sunday morning - but then again, what farmer's markets are? - but it's definitely worth checking when you're in the area.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

(Re)Birth of a Mural

Artists Eye One (left) and Caché (2nd right)
hard at work on the new mural.

While going down my street on Sunday I discovered a rebirth of the recently-defaced Caché mural on Heliotrope and Melrose. The incident not only created a neighborhood crapstorm, but apparently caught the attention of Metblogs L.A. and the L.A. Weekly. Not long after, my friend Enci Box contacted her friend Caché, the mural's artist, on the deal. Apparently the artist is currently living with his girlfriend in Massachusetts, but expressed a willingness to return back home to fix what's been broken. Well, he went good on his word to head Back West and not only restored the old mural, but designed a new one.

I introduced myself to Caché and asked him a little about his process. He showed me his sketchbook which had the image of the familiar Zapatista and chicken characters (as seen on his Silver Lake/Echo Park murals along Sunset Blvd) riding bicycles and holding U-locks. I also asked him about his color schemes, by which he revealed to me he does have his own familiar set of bright background colors. Also, the wall is so coveted by local artists, that other muralists were ready to jump on putting their own pieces there. However, the staff at nearby Orange 20 Bikes took great pains to reserve the wall for a Caché mural redux.

Artist Caché sprays on some familiar-looking tentacles.

Assisting him on his mural was artist Eye One, who actually devised the hooded Zapatista character and himself looked...rather familiar. I asked Caché what his real name was and it confirmed that my guess was correct - Eye One was an old classmate of mine from Marshall High! I hadn't seen him since graduating...uh...19 years ago! When I was the Editor-In-Chief of the school's Blue Tide campus newspaper in Spring of 1989, he was the Art Editor. Now, I'm a community leader in East Hollywood and he's one of the artists that designed one of its most popular murals. How things go full circle. After a long "catch up" conversation, he told me he's stayed local and has been active as a graphic artist for many years. We also have a few post-high school mutual friends, so it's a wonder why our paths hadn't (re-) crossed sooner. He also talked about his art, as well as the idiosyncrasies of his mural pieces - for instance, the arrow on the Zapatista's zapato usually points to the northeast when it's in murals (though the new Hel-Mel mural is an exception, as he discovered).

But hey, it's a small neighborhood, a small town and a small world.

Tear Down This Wall!

The construction barrier for the new L.A. City College parking lot/athletic field along Heliotrope Drive came down on Thursday after being up nearly three years. The diagonal parking appears to remain, though the parking meters have yet to be re-installed.

The 950-space parking lot will be open on Tuesday, September 2 - the start of the LACC school year. Work on the rooftop athletic field, which will feature a track, plus a soccer and softball pitch, will continue for another two months.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Although it's Summer, June July August gloom can be a nice thing sometimes, especially in the early morning when you get to see the San Gabriels peek from a layer of cloud cover. This view of Mt. Wilson greeted me as I waled towards the office, so I had to take a snap.

Interestingly, the cutie who gets on the Gold Line at Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park and seems to work near me said something like, "Are you okay?" as I took this. I just briefly explained to her that it looked beautiful. Hey, like the clouds, the ice has been broken. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Welcome To The Cube

My new domain.

Today is the first day of my new jorb. After several months of unemployment free time, I entered the work force today. Welcome to the 9 to 5. Or rather, the 7:30 to 4:30, although I got to start my first day at 8:30 a.m. Not an easy thing for a person who's kept up "artist's hours" for over a year and a half.

Last month I accepted a job offer as a "Grants Research Analyst" at a company in Pasadena called eCivis. If you really do need to know more about what I do, just email me, as I really don't want this blog to be about *work* per se insomuch as it's about the work experience. Got it? Besides, if I start, say, griping about my job on his blog, I can potentially get into some deep doux doux.

The view from my window:
The structure on the left is the Gold Line Sierra Madre
Villa Station Park N Ride.

The cool thing about my job so far? I work just yards from the Metro Gold Line's Sierra Madre Villa station. Though I drove to work on my first day, I look forward to taking the Red and Gold lines there... from Vermont Santa Monica (VSM) to Sierra Madre Villa (SMV). From East Hollywood to East Pasadena. How bout that?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Construction Time Again

A large construction crane raises a likewise large concrete panel into place at the new L.A. City College athletic field/parking structure. The structure is slated to open just in time for the opening of the LACC Fall semester, the athletic field a number of weeks following that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There IS an East Hollywood!

Twelve years ago, I got into the community improvement thing partly because I lived through the 1992 L.A. Riots and wondered, "Okay, I'm still here, what should I do now?" and partly because back then, after volunteering for a community cleanup event in Echo Park, I wondered, "Wow, how do I get something like that going in my neighborhood?"

So I started a little community improvement association that year and wondered what name to use to describe the area. I guess I decided to use "East Hollywood" because it's the eastern, non-touristy part of Hollywood, and also that I heard some vague historical reference that this area once actually had that name.

"East Hollywood" was common sense to many and a hard sell for some; a few of the improvement association members bought into the "Anything that's the 'East' is not good" stigma, but I didn't care. Eventually it just grew on me and a semblance of community pride grew around that term. And eventually I organized a neighborhood council with that name.

A few years ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contracted French outdoor advertising company JCDecaux to place street furniture, newsstands, ad kiosks and coin-operated, self-cleaning public toilets near transit stops around Los Angeles, just as they have done in Paris, or more locally, in San Francisco. The Los Angeles amenities either have "Los Angeles" emblazoned on the top of the dark-green structures, or the names of the communities in which they are located. I always thought it would be cool to see an "East Hollywood" ad kiosk, for example.

On Tuesday night, bicycle activist, fellow urban geek and friend Stephen Box gave me a call and told me he spotted exactly one of those over the weekend, on the corner of Hollywood and Sunset boulevards -- yes they do intersect, at a complicated 6-way junction. I got so excited I rode my bike there ASAP and snapped the pictures above.

I hope having those things help put to rest those silly names some people call this community, as well as an overall lack of neighborhood identity. Aside from having a certified neighborhood council, our Councilmember Eric Garcetti's Office recognizes "East Hollywood," there's an East Hollywood Business Improvement District and the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has an "East Hollywood" project area. One local pizza chain lists their Vermont Ave. location as "East Hollywood." I even saw a newscast tonight that used "East Hollywood" as a dateline for a police incident - okay, not the greatest thing to be proud about, but I'll take it.

The only thing missing? Those wonderful blue community signs that officially designate communities in the City of L.A. There are about 170+ of them, and the EHNC is spearheading the effort to gather the 500 signatures to get East Hollywood an officially-designated community. Within East Hollywood there are the designated communities of Thai Town and Little Armenia - both of which long-deserved - that represent the businesses and cultural institutions of their respective ethnic groups. An "East Hollywood" designation will neither cancel nor downplay any of their designations - in fact many prominent Thai and Armenian individuals and groups support the "East Hollywood" designation - but rather tie them both together into one super-diverse community (joined with many other groups as well). We are also home to "Virgil Village," designated in the late 1990s, which started as a project neighborhood of the Richard Riordan-created Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI) program. But not many people actually use "Virgil Vilage" and the LANI project quickly became inactive after its implementation, and not much happened after the project's local organizer passed away in 2003. There's also a "Wilshire Center" sign in our neighborhood, and no one uses "Wilshire Center" to describe any neighborhood anymore (It's either Mid-Wilshire or Koreatown).

The old East Hollywood also included a large portion of modern-day Los Feliz and was in fact an independent city until 1910. It, along with Hollywood, got annexed into the City of Los Angeles to tap into L.A.'s aqueduct water supply. Hopefully, by 2010 we can celebrate a century of East Hollywood being a Los Angeles community, with an official designation for this neighborhood.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Scoops!

Today, Scoops celebrates three years of business!

Well, not really. Owner and proprietor Tai Kim isn't much into celebrations or milestones. He professes that he doesn't even celebrate his own birthday. But East Hollywood's own eclectic ice cream sensation opened on Saturday, April 9, 2005.

After honing his ice cream Jedi-Master skills at Portland's Western Culinary Institute, Kim apparently searched for an ideal location for which to sell his tasty, cold wares. He settled on the row of shops on Heliotrope Drive mainly because of its proximity to Mondo Video, of which he was a huge fan of when it was located in Los Feliz. Right timing, since the Bicycle Kitchen also set up shop around that time as well. And the genesis of the corner came about after the now-defunct Night in Tunisia Cafe opened in late 2001 and got people used to hanging out on the diamond-motif sidewalk.

In the three years that Scoops has been serving unique gelato-like ice cream (or is that ice cream-like gelato?), sorbets and soy-based vegan flavors, he's spent virtually zero dollars on marketing -- an entrepreneur's dream. The fanaticism has been propagated via word of ice-cream-filled mouth, hastened by today's technological media: Internet forums such as Chowhound.com, blogs, sites like Yelp.com and text messaging. Ironically, Scoops does not have its own website, and Mr. Kim seems to prefer it stay that way.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Happy Anniversary, Tai and Scoops!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

John Williams All Up In My Hood

Oscar-winning film composer John Williams made a visit to his alma mater, Los Angeles City College on Wednesday night. He spoke in a Q&A session with LACC music professor Dr. Doug Dutton (my brother's music appreciation teacher, who also owns Dutton's Books in Brentwood), who asked the maestro questions from LACC music students.

He talked about attending LACC in the '50s (he transfered from UCLA because LACC had a better music program at the time!), his workday, composing over 60 bars of music in his Universal Studios office, working with just "pen and paper" over software, meeting a young Steven Spielberg for the first time and the importance of musical keys in his composition choices (apparently, he's fond of B major) and his start as a studio orchestra pianist.

Afte rthe Q&A, there was a concert of LACC student composers, bookended by Williams' compositions (from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Schindler's List, The Witches of Eastwick and Far and Away). Williams didn't perform or speak at the concert but he sat proudly in the center of the Camino Theatre.

As a fellow musician and (newbie) film composer, it was quite the educational experience to hear from one of the greatest contemporary American composers of all time.