Thursday, April 30, 2009

L.A.'s Most Prolific Serial Killer Worked In Glendale

A surprising bit of notoriety to be mentioned on some future Glendale crime tour - L.A.'s most prolific serial killer, John F. Thomas, spent 20 years working as an insurance claims adjuster at the State Compensation Insurance Fund here in downtown Glendale.

From the LA Times:

...authorities say they have linked John Floyd Thomas Jr., a 72-year-old state insurance claims adjuster who twice has been convicted of sexual assault, to five of the slayings. Detectives also describe him as a suspect in up to 25 more based on the circumstances of those crimes.

"When all is said and done, Mr. Thomas stands to be Los Angeles' most prolific serial killer," said LAPD Robbery-Homicide Cold Case Det. Richard Bengston.

Thomas was arrested at his apartment in South Los Angeles last month and charged April 2 with murder in connection with the deaths of Ethel Sokoloff, 68, in the Mid-Wilshire area in 1972, and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in Westchester in 1976.

He said Thomas' DNA matched evidence found at five murder scenes, spanning both crime waves -- the two homicides he has been charged with, one in Lennox in 1975, one in Inglewood in 1976 and one in Claremont in 1986.

Authorities are analyzing evidence in 25 other killings they suspect might be linked to Thomas.

Thomas had been working as an adjuster handling workers' compensation claims since 1989 -- the year the killings stopped. He resigned after his arrest March 31.

Jennifer Vargen, a spokeswoman for the State Compensation Insurance Fund, would not comment on whether the employer was aware of Thomas' criminal record, saying it was a personnel matter.

Co-workers at his office in Glendale described Thomas as quiet but friendly. They said his job mostly involved paperwork.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Truck Goes For A Drive In The LA River

Here's a new addition to the crazy stuff I've seen in the LA River - a Ford Bronco driving upstream underneath the Los Feliz Bridge!

Dude, you're lost!

"Which way to Costco?"

Watching this truck ford the river was almost as crazy as seeing completely naked homeless guys merrily splashing around in the water near Fletcher a few months ago.

Today I also saw this band shooting a music video in the river - they must've been quite hardworking, because they were still in the same spot several hours later when I biked back from Chinatown.

Signed Up For the LA River Ride

I'm posting this publicly so I can't wimp out - I just signed up for the LA County Bicycle Coalition's LA River Ride on June 7th. Specifically, I signed up for the 70 mile route from Griffith to Long Beach and back.

The most I've ever biked in a day is about 40 miles, so 70 will be a challenge. After months of not biking, I've been on my bike almost every day for the last month, and a few weeks ago I did 30 miles on my knobby-tired mountain bike without any difficulty, so hopefully I'll be okay once I get back on the road bike and start racking up miles. Who wants to train?

Grilled Cheese Invitational Photos

I biked over to the Grilled Cheese Invitational today with my friends Michael and Joe, but when we arrived at 2pm there was an hour and a half long line to get in. We chatted with a woman who was leaving, and she offered me her wristband, which fit nicely on my (apparently slender and delicate) wrist, so I was able to skip the line and get inside for a few quick photos. While inside I ran into City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian and my friend Alan Deane, who was volunteering. After grabbing a few free Izze drinks for my compatriots stuck outside the gates, I fled and spent the day wandering around Chinatown with my buddies. Here are some photos.

Crazy line to get into the Grilled Cheese Invitational.

Biking the unimproved stretch of river path between Fletcher and downtown.

Free wristband!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friedman Sworn In, Quintero Elected Mayor

Here are a few photos I took at Monday's special organization meeting of the Glendale City Council. The city councilmembers, treasurer, city clerk and school board members elected during the recent election were sworn in and then the new council voted for this year's mayor. (In Glendale, the Mayor is a regular city councilperson who presides over ceremonies and runs the City Council meetings.)

Yousefian leaves the dais.

I was a bit surprised that everyone who was elected got to give a speech. Some of them were quite lengthy - it was like the Oscars, but without the orchestra waiting to play the winners off the stage. (I was also a bit surprised that the GCC board of trustees are sworn to protect the US from all enemies- foreign and domestic.) Despite his less than dramatic unopposed election bid, I thought Ardy Kassakhian gave quite a good patriotic speech. John Drayman's speech as outgoing mayor was also quite moving.

Najarian, Quintero and Friedman are sworn in by City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian.

Incoming councilmember Laura Friedman takes her seat on the dais.

The most dramatic moment of the evening was during the mayoral selection vote - Najarian nominated Laura for the mayoral position - against her wishes. Weaver and Quintero nominated themselves for consideration. After Laura made her displeasure at being nominated known, there was some back and forth with Ardy as to whether or not a nominee could withdraw their name from consideration - and they can't. So the first vote was:

Friedman: Weaver
Najarian: Friedman
Drayman: Friedman
Quintero: Quintero
Weaver: Weaver

Which made it a tie between Weaver and Friedman, triggering a revote. The councilmembers voted in alphabetical order, so Drayman voted first and changed his vote to Quintero. Friedman also voted for Quintero, and Frank voted for himself, so he's this year's mayor. Here he is moving into the mayoral seat as Drayman steps aside.

The video of the meeting is archived here. The final mayoral vote starts around 1:17:

Sandbag's and Great Steak & Potato Co. Gone

Two big vacancies just opened up at the usually pretty full, teenager-ridden Glendale Marketplace - sandwich shop Sandbag's and the Boba place/Great Steak & Potato Co. both closed in the last few weeks.

Jewel City Photo: Easter At St. Mary's

Tiny Car, Big Art

I take great pleasure in fitting improbably large items into my tiny car. With the top down, you can really fit quite a lot in a Miata. Ikea runs are fun, too.

Cool Spotted Moth

This guy caught my eye on a sidewalk in downtown Glendale...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grilled Cheese Invitational Tomorrow (4/25)

Tomorrow I plan to bike over to Los Angeles State Historic Park for the annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, which I've heard is really fun - and tasty. It's $5 to judge. Should be a nice cool day for an outdoor event.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Riding In Traffic

My cycling buddy Colin Bogart wrote a concise summary on the rights and responsibilities of road users in the News-Press today that is worth a read by motorists and cyclists alike.

While cyclists have the right to ride in the street, that right is conditional because cyclists usually travel at a speed that is slower than motorized traffic. Vehicle Code Section 21202 says that a cyclist must ride as far to the right as “practicable.” The word “practicable” is used intentionally and is quite important. A cyclist must ride as far to right as he/she can, but only to the point that he/she can do it safely. And riding to the right is also conditional. A cyclist can ride farther to the left in certain situations such as avoiding dangerous or bad road conditions, when passing another cyclist or vehicle moving in the same direction, when turning left, when approaching a right-turn-only lane (and the cyclist is going straight), or if the lane is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. This last condition is widely unknown among motorists and even many cyclists.

Lately I've done a fair amount of riding on the street with (terrified) newbies and one of the things I stress is that maintaining a consistent position towards the right side of a lane - but outside of the door zone! - is key to safety.  No weaving in and out of parked cars, no squeezing so far to the right that you end up in the gutter.  You need to be visible, predictable, considerate, and assertive. 

I'd like to add that on Saturday's Glendale history ride the motorists our (law-abiding) group encountered were for the most part very considerate in sharing the road and giving us space.

Beating A Red-Light Ticket At Mountain & Verdugo

When you exit the 2 Freeway in Glendale at Mountain and drive down the hill, if you happen to be in the left lane, you learn (just before you approach the signal at Verdugo), that you must turn left.

There's no sign warning you that it's a left turn only lane.

So drivers like me find out at the last minute that they are being forced into a left turn.  There isn't any time to correct, and you end up in the crosswalk if your intention is to keep going straight.

Good to know!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Glendale History Bike Tour Photos

My photos from yesterday's Glendale History Bike Tour are up on flickr.  I'll write a longer post about it soon, but in short, the ride went very well and was really, really fun.

Here's how much fun Vince, Jen and Evan had:

B-2 Stealth Bomber Over Glendale

While walking to lunch in downtown Glendale on Monday I heard an unusual jet sound, looked up and was stunned to see a B-2 Stealth Bomber flying overhead.  It's hard to mistake the silhouette of a B-2 for anything else.  This is how planes SHOULD look.  I assume it was coming back from a flyover on opening day at Dodger Stadium.  Very cool.  As a side note, both yesterday and today I saw a B-17 Flying Fortress over the skies of Glendale.  Here's a lucky photo I took of the B-2.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Overheard At The Armenian Market

At the butcher counter:
woman: Do you have lamb?

butcher (in very clean english): Which part?


butcher: uh, I said, "w h i c h  p a r t"...

Glendale History Ride TOMORROW, 4/18

Just a reminder that the Glendale History Bike Ride is TOMORROW, April 18th. Meet at 9:30am at the Glendale Transit Center, 400 Cerritos Avenue, and join us for a fun ride. The total mileage will be close to 15 miles, and is all pretty flat except for a few uphill blocks to Brand Park.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Glendale CNG Station Hopefully Opening In November

The design for Glendale's long-awaited compressed natural gas station, which was given the go-ahead by the City Council in September, has passed another set of approvals by the City Council and Glendale Redevelopment Agency and will now hopefully be opening around November.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jewel City Photo(s): Election Day

Free Outdoor Movies At The Americana Today (4/09) and Next Thursday (4/16)

Get warmed up for the outdoor movie season by seeing Shrek and Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Americana for free. Shrek is playing today (4/09) at sundown, and Raiders is next Thursday, 4/16. I hope they do more of this.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kogi Truck In Glendale Tomorrow, 4/09/09

My co-worker Kyle just tipped me off that the madness that is the Kogi taco truck will be in Glendale tomorrow.

From the Kogi schedule:

12PM-3PM@Americana - 889 Americana Way in Glendale
5:30PM-8PM@JANM - 1st & Central in Little Tokyo
9PM-1AM@4100 Bar - 4100 Sunset Blvd in Silverlake

Laura, Ara, and Frank

Full results here:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Historic Glendale/Cycling Mash Up

Here's the base image of the history ride flyer that I put together using an old postcard of downtown Glendale that I own and a creative commons licensed flickr photo from Ben Ostrowsky. Note that 108 N. Brand is visible in the postcard, and that the Pacific Electric rail depot is still at the corner of Brand and Broadway. The Security Trust and Savings bank was built on that site in 1923, so the postcard pre-dates that.

Tuesday, April 7th Election Information

Tomorrow is election day and The Pasadena Weekly and The Glendale News-Press both have pieces online with information on all 12 candidates for city council. Do your research and get out there and vote!

A Dozen Reasons To Vote (Pasadena Weekly)

Glendale City Council Candidates' Q&A (Glendale News-Press)

Find your polling place here:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Glendale History Bike Ride, April 18th

Yep, a history themed, city-sponsored Glendale community bike ride. How awesome is that? I'm helping put it together with Colin Bogart of the LA County Bicycle Coalition. Docents from the Glendale Historical Society will also be involved to help provide information.

Definite stops include the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, Grand Central Air Terminal, Brand Park, and The Alex. Casa Adobe De San Rafael and a lunch break at Porto's are likely stops as well. We will be swinging by Glendale's recycling center, where the city will be giving away a bike. It'll be a fun day.

Saturday, April 18th.

Meet at the Glendale Transportation Center (the old Southern Pacific Rail Depot) at 9:30am. The ride leaves at 10am. The route will be 12-13 miles at a slow to moderate pace with numerous stops. Helmets are required. Rain cancels.

I put the flyer together using an old postcard of downtown Glendale and a awesome creative commons licensed photo of bicyclists by Ben Ostrowsky.

Tropico Station Endorses Laura Friedman For Glendale City Council

My absence has unfortunately coincided with the Glendale City Council election, which I have rather shamefully neglected covering. So this is long overdue, but I am officially endorsing Laura Friedman for Glendale City Council.

Laura is a smart, strong, capable woman who is fully qualified to serve on the council. Specifically, I believe she is truly dedicated to environmental issues and like her plan for revitalizing the San Fernando corridor with arts related businesses. With her in office, we can help Glendale become a more progressive, environmentally and arts friendly city in a fiscally responsible manner. I felt strongly enough about this to do some volunteering for the campaign and host a meet and greet for Laura in my home. A vote for her is a step in the right direction.

In addition to my meager endorsement, she has also been endorsed by the Glendale Firefighters' Association, The Glendale Police Officers' Assocation, The Glendale News-Press, The Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, the LA County Democratic Party and The Sierra Club. The election is this Tuesday, April 7th. Get out there and vote.

While I'm on the election, I'd like to give thanks to the blogger at Sunroom Desk for her indispensable volunteer coverage of the nuts and bolts of the city council candidate forums and the election generally.

Menace 2 Society

While Atwater Village grapples with another senseless gang murder, here in Glendale we have our own crime problems (beyond rampant identity theft) to worry about.

From the Police Log in the News-Press.
2700 block of North Verdugo Road: A 47-year-old man and 70-year-old man, both of Glendale, reported Monday being hit by a water balloon as they were strolling on the sidewalk.
Let's get the SWAT team some Nerf guns so they can deal with this menace immediately!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Glendale On Film: Double Indemnity

Tropico's beautiful Southern Pacific Railroad Depot is a crucial location in Billy Wilder's wonderful film noir Double Indemnity, based on the novel by James M. Cain. Here's a screen capture of the station in the film accompanied by shots I've taken recently.

A photo of the depot in 1927.

The current depot was constructed in 1923 and replaced the original Tropico Station (ahem) built in 1883.

Glendale Noon Concerts: Still Awesome

My friend and musician, dedicated cyclist and all around good guy Alan Deane took a moment to write a nice little note to the News-Press today about the excellent Glendale Noon Concerts organized by Jackie Suzuki at the First Baptist Church in downtown Glendale.
There’s a great little free opportunity that I take advantage of here in Glendale, and you should too: Glendale Noon Concerts. I go every time and they’re top notch — let’s spill the secret! If you live in the area and are free at noon, so is the concert. In these hard times, when money is scarce and no one is working, come on out. It’s a bright little half hour every other Wednesday on Wilson Avenue and Louise Street.

I couldn't agree more. There is now a blog for the Glendale Noon Concerts with info on upcoming shows. I highly recommend stopping by on your lunch hour for a free concert. Bring friends.

"Where Have You Been?"

You've probably noticed that I've neglected the blog for the last few weeks. I've been quite busy and need to catch up with what's going on here in Glendale. If you'd like to know what I've been up to, here are some photos of random adventures from the last, oh, month and a half...

I hiked in the Sierras during a snowstorm...

hiked in Griffith when it was mildly cloudy...

did some target shooting (7yds)...

judged a baking competition...

took a Crime Bus tour of Pasadena...

got really cold...

did some reading...

hiked in Joshua Tree...

watched some fire department action...

ate some delicious chicken...

shot some clay pigeons...

climbed a peak...

slid down a snowy hill...

ate some tacos...

and did some more hiking, in Glendale this time.

Thanks for staying tuned.