Sunday, March 29, 2009

Coast Starlight

I got home to LA from Portland via the Coast Starlight on Friday night. Well, I got home on Friday night, but I left Portland on Thursday afternoon. That's Amtrak for you! Driving that distance only takes 16-18 hours, but the train'll take twice that long.
There was this one really surreal moment in the southern Oregon wilderness when the train stopped and the lights went out and a few minutes later I saw the rest of the train go by outside my window. There went the parlor car, the observation car, the diner car, all the people I'd seen earlier in the café. Why was my car left alone in the darkness? I felt a moment of panic, but realized that Amtrak, as institutional a service as it is, probably wouldn't abandon riders in the woods. Later someone made an announcement to explain the kerfuffle, and then the train came back and picked us up and we continued on in the darkness. I messed around a whole bunch with iPhoto and Final Cut, trying to make a sort of stop-motion slideshow of pictures of faces. Should be done soon.
I mostly managed to avoid becoming part of the train "community," antisocial loner that I am. I prefer to use the train as a private space, where I inhabit my own ontological zone. Headphones make it possible.
I took some footage out the window, and having reviewed it last night, I've found that the window offered a sort of 1970s sunset glow to most of it. Plus smudges.
Now I'm back in LA, I went to the farmer's market this morning, and I'm starting to feel less disoriented here. I can't get over this Belle & Sebastian album that I apparently never bothered to listen to before, and it's got some fine ass pop songs. Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Portland Tally

Since I've been in Portland this week, I've
- gone to Rontom's twice
- gone to Bailey's Taproom once
- tried Pambiche's breakfast (ugh)
- tried Dove Vivi for cornmeal crust pizza (mmmm!)
- visited Astoria and the lovely Fort George Brewery
- tried the apple turnover at the cafe at Little T (oh, my love!)
- eaten at the Hungry Tiger Too (which was probably much nastier when smoking indoors was legal here)
- spent hours at my precious Aalto Lounge
- spent hours at the charming Crema
- ridden the bus a lot
- ridden borrowed bikes a little
- mocked hipsters as though I'm outside that category
- watched trees start to blossom
- bought some Naturalizers at Red White & Blue in Milwaukie
- bought some very large seafoam pants at the Bins
- eaten at Ken's Artisan Pizza
- sat for a long time at Opposable Thumb
- kicked myself over and over for leaving this place
- made plans to live here over the summer for fieldwork
- loved every wet inch of my city

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Koreatown to Burbank by Bus/ Rail (No Holds Barred!)

I have a weakness for IKEA. Somehow I'm disgusted by places like Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens & Things, and even Target sometimes, but IKEA can get me to go to places like Tustin and Burbank at the drop of a hat. It's probably the meatballs. Or the hilarious names, like an alarm clock with a large snooze button named "SLABANG"(!). It was a cheap piece of crap, otherwise I'd be "SLABANG"!ing myself awake every morning. I'd reach over, yell "SLABANG"! and simultaneously slam the snooze. I probably wouldn't be able to go back to sleep after such a performance, though. Another good one: "SLUMRA," which was the name of their cheapest sheets. I imagined some snooty IKEA employee looking at someone like me and saying, "Oh, you'd be interested in our SLUMRA sheets." I'll show you SLUMRA! SLABANG!
Anyway, so we took the Red Line to Universal City and waited for a long ass time because Metro's trip planner sucks. In the meantime we explored the spot where the Capitulation of Cahuenga took place (the truce that ended the Mexican-American War in 1847). Then we took the #96 bus to downtown Burbank. Wow! Talk about one too many Greek restaurants (I don't have anything against Greek food, but I associate Greek restaurants with a certain atmosphere of gross group meals where people shout and wear ugly blouses). It was the kind of soulless shopping district carved out of a once-functional Main Street USA that d-bags crave. We did a delightfully disruptive thing, though, walking through the Burbank mall as though it were an avenue rather than a destination. On the other side of the mall, this IKEA had the most pedestrian-friendly entrance I've ever seen. Even in Portland, where there's a light rail stop right by IKEA, you have to wend your way through a massive parking lot to get in the front door.
Then after our hours-long quest through the crowded bright halls, with two lamps we'd bought for $1 each and new blinds in hand, we made our way back through the mall to Olive Street and caught a different bus (#94) to downtown LA and got back on the Red Line at Civic Center. See our nice loop around Griffith Park:

View Larger Map

Tangentially, we got off the bus right by the space where, the LA Times recently reported, there are plans to build a massive show park. What's funny is that nobody wants to admit that a) there currently is a park there already, and b) why a big park right here in a dead zone? Do they really think the rich old people who go to stuff at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Music Center want to frolic in the big fountain with the hoboes? No, the city is more likely to pretend there is no park there and start again from scratch rather than make a minor investment in improving and promoting what is already there. That fountain's a doozy, lemme tell you, and the approach up to the Music Center from there is really cool. Already, now, without millions in investment.
But who uses parks in LA? Thar be dreaded piñatas in them there parks!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bike Summit = Burst of Energy

For some reason I haven't been moved to write about my current goings-on here. Recently I've been to the desert, experienced people's biases against grown ups who don't drive, got a jaywalking ticket (more on that later), and saw Werner Herzog defy all his moderator's attempts to guide his locution at a talk at UCLA.
On Saturday I attended the all day Bike Summit at LA Trade Tech. It was a great chance to meet other bike activists and find out about all kinds of advocacy projects going on in LA. I totally think it's silly to talk about "networking" as a straightforward activity, but that's what it was.
There were keynote speakers from New York's Transportation Alternatives, my friend Elly Blue from, and two NGO professionals from DF, Mexico. Then there were three sessions of workshops and presentations.
I went to City Lites' presentation about their Inner City Bike Tour that happens in May. I'll be volunteering there this year, and I think it's a great program to support bicycling in South LA. It's weird, though; they seem to take bicycling as a mode of transport for granted, when the rest of us are doing our best to legitimize the practice. I guess that's a good thing?
Then Bobby and I gave our presentation on our efforts to get a ciclovía going in LA. Well, really Bobby gave the presentation he'd made, and I chimed in along with other ciclovía committee members when there were questions.
Next I attended Elly's presentation on bicycling with families, which is a hot topic in Portland but seems more out of reach here in LA. Good discussion.
I was pretty exhausted all day because of the LA bike culture and activism ride the night before that took us all over central LA with many stops to explain points of interest. Not much sleep.
Still, I connected with some different people on my two main bicycling projects, the ciclovía and the City of Lights bike light distribution program. This latter one gets me majorly excited because it addresses the lack of inclusion in bike activism in LA: who represents the interests of Latino immigrant cyclists? The Midnight Ridazz stuff is wonderful, but does it include those who don't speak English or fixie?
So on Monday Bobby instigated going and doing some light distribution at our local Metro stop, Vermont Beverly, and we gave out lights to six bicyclists. All men. I have to brush up my technique, but as usual my Spanish was much more functional than I expected it to be. It was a chilly, breezy afternoon.