Monday, March 31, 2008

Essential Primer On Cycling In Traffic

I saw this video on illuminateLA. It's an extremely useful primer on riding your bike safely in traffic. Making yourself visible and knowing when to control the lane are skills that are absolutely essential for street riding, and this video illustrates them both very clearly.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Good Day

Anne and I had a good active day today.

Glendeal: Superior Grocers

I love a good deal. Lately I have been getting circular ads for Superior Grocers, promising unbelievable prices on produce and other grocery store staples. Unfortunately, while there are 28 locations of Superior Super Warehouse around Los Angeles, there is not a Superior Grocer IN Glendale. The closest are in Highland Park and North Hollywood.
Yesterday I went to the North Hollywood location to see if there were any deals that would justify the occasional drive to Superior.

The verdict: worth the drive! Great bakery, great fresh Mexican food products (warm tortillas!), and most impressive: beautiful, unbelievably cheap produce. Almost everything in the produce section was a steal, but the best deal was 10 POUNDS OF ORANGES for ONE DOLLAR.

This morning Anne and I made some delicious OJ with the oranges.
Here are the stats:
28 oranges per ten pound bag
Average yield: 5 oranges per cup (8 oz.) of OJ
Yield per orange: 1.6oz of juice
Total yield: 45oz fresh squeezed OJ

Friday, March 28, 2008

Veggie Burgers?

The things people will shoplift! From the Police Report:
500 block of North Glendale Avenue: A 35-year-old Los Angeles man was arrested Thursday on suspicion of being in possession of stolen property, two packages of veggie burgers.
I've read that meat is one of the most commonly shoplifted items in grocery stores, so this makes sense, in a way.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Burbank Badminton Club

Badminton is my favorite sport, largely because it's extremely fast paced and really hones your reflexes. I started playing in high school, lapsed for years, and started again about two years ago. I lapsed again for a few months, but yesterday I got up early and played with some of the very friendly players of the Burbank Badminton Club. They play four times a week from 9am-noon, plus Monday and Saturday evenings. Venues include the North Hollywood Recreation Center, McCambridge Park, Olive Recreation Center, and Glendale Community College.

Burbank Badminton Club Schedule

Americana Sign Is Up

Sayonara, Famima

The employees created handmade 50% off signs. This is the only one with an upside down cross!

Almost everything is gone.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What We've Lost

The image of a trolley on Brand that I dug up for a previous post made me feel a tremendous sense of loss. When I was downtown today I tried to replicate the shot, and then merged the historical photograph with my own.

Glendale By Bike

Glendale is definitely not a cutting edge city when it comes to cycling. Recently I've had the opportunity to bike in cities that have really made an effort to provide amenities for cyclists, such as Santa Cruz, Aptos, and Santa Barbara. In fact, I was able to bike the 10 miles from Aptos to Santa Cruz entirely in a bike lane without any major traffic conflicts.

There's no reason Glendale can't become a leading bike friendly city: we have good weather, fantastic pavement, fairly wide streets, and a central downtown area that is becoming more dense and urban by the minute.

To my amazement, this week I discovered an existing bike lane in Glendale. For three blocks. It's on Riverdale between San Fernando and Central. It's a nice touch on a pretty street, but not exactly a comprehensive solution for getting around Glendale safely.

Whaa? A bike lane, in Glendale? Are there others? Nothing is listed on the city website.

The bike lane also intersects with the city's only traffic circle.

Neat house on Riverdale.

Searching the city website for information on bike lanes doesn't yield anything specific or useful, other than a few vaguely worded studies about downtown traffic flow. I've heard rumors that Glenoaks will be getting a bike lane soon, which is at least something.

I get around Glendale fine on my bike now, but when cities start building amenities such as bike lanes that make biking in traffic less stressful, it entices more casual riders into taking their trips on bikes instead of cars. I would love to lobby the city for bike lanes, and am looking for ways to get involved.

While walking around Glendale today, I noticed the Verdugo Wash and couldn't help but think, wow, that concrete is beautiful! I'd love to ride down there! Maybe I'm hopelessly naive here, but doesn't this look like a perfect spot for a bike path? Four miles of pristine, level, grade-separated concrete. Is this a rampaging river during winter? Would there be too much gunk draining across the bike path? What if the path were raised to allow drainage to flow under? The layout appears similar to the Arroyo Seco bike path...

Looks pretty appealing, aside from the drainage.

What do you think?

Northwest Glendale and Glenoaks

I biked up to Glendale Cyclery on Glenoaks today to drop one of my bikes off for service, and decided to walk back the long way. I walked about five miles and took some photos.

Decapitated house and chimney. On Jackson just south of the 134.

According to the historical marker:
727 Kenneth Road
Built in 1922 by Mattison Boyd Jones, businessman, politician, and community leader. Home and gardens frequently used as background for motion pictures, television, and commercial filming.

Private residence."

Glenoaks, between Pacific and Brand: NOT pedestrian friendly.

New tree, fake windows.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Downtown Glendale Time Capsule

The view of downtown Glendale from Google Maps has not been updated in quite a while. Here is the Americana site before any demolition or construction had taken place:

Below is the future site of City Center II at Brand and Wilson. This image captures the lovely moment when the now-barren and fenced off lot was open and surrounded by trees. All of the trees were pulled out about eight months ago and the fences went up shortly after.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

L.A. River: Looking Good!

The last time I rode the river bike path, about three weeks ago, the river was ugly. The recent rain storms pushed a huge volume of water and trash through the river, which stripped all of the greenery off of the vegetation in the riverbed, and then deposited plastic bags all over the remaining pathetic twigs. Not a pretty sight. Then, yesterday I went on a bike ride along the river with my friend Brendan, and here's the sight that greeted us:

The river looked gorgeous and was extremely green.
And, looking down from the Hyperion Bridge...

Look closer...

Carp swimming upstream! Sure, they're an undesirable invasive species, but it's still thrilling to see something alive down there.

Although the river looks great, be careful on the bike path--two good Samaritans flagged us down as we were heading north and warned us of a swarm of bees on the bike path near the soccer field.

Paying For Faux Whimsy

There was a full page ad for the apartments in the Americana on the back page of the Glendale News-Press yesterday. The rents are about double the current market rate for newer apartments in downtown Glendale.

Anne and I started renting our cute one bedroom apartment (with garage and hardwood floors) almost a year ago. According to Google Maps, our apartment is 0.6 miles south of the Americana. Our rent is literally $2000 a month CHEAPER than a comparably sized Americana unit would be. Half a mile away! Unbelievable.

On the other hand, we aren't paying for anything but shelter. One of the biggest benefits of living in the Americana, according to the ad:

Of course, real trolleys once ran down Brand, Broadway and Glenoaks. THAT I would happily pay for.

Note the Alex Theater, far right.

Live Nude Girls Getting A Makeover *Updated*

Correction: An anonymous commenter has informed me that The Gentleman's Club is just inside the City of L.A. Related new post here.

Glendale's only strip club is being remodeled.
The Gentleman's Club, on San Fernando Road, has been an eyesore among eyesores, with the obligatory giant "LIVE NUDE GIRLS" neon sign, plus a bunch of white statues of naked women out front.

However they remodel the exterior, I doubt it could be any worse that it was, but I actually wish they'd keep the discreet industrial wasteland look they're sporting now--it blends right in with the rest of San Fernando Road.

Friday, March 21, 2008

It Came From the River

I could have a whole blog called devoted to the bizarre goings-on near the L.A. River. For instance, last Saturday my parents told me that they had spotted something odd at the Los Feliz Blvd. exit from the 5 freeway. When I drove by the same spot with them later in the day, I swung my camera around and took a snapshot as we drove past:

Look closely.

Yes, there are two giant carp slung over the one way sign.

Later, I mentioned this to my friend Michael, who lives a block away, and he said that as he was walking over the river on Los Feliz Blvd. that same Saturday an alarmingly self-reliant looking man down by the river was holding a giant carp in his hands. The man saw Michael, and offered to give away the carp by throwing it up to him on the sidewalk. While Michael appreciated the gesture, the offer was courteously refused.

Still, it's good to see that there are (or were) some fish making their home in the river.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

We've Made It In Glendale

Oh yes, we've made it.

My girlfriend Anne and I have MADE THE WALL at Kozy Korner.

Scrap Metal Theft Hits Ben Franklin Bench

The copper wiring being stolen from the L.A. River Bike Path lighting system was bad enough. Then the sculpture of a miner at Carthay Circle was stolen and sold as scrap. Now this: two bronze pigeons have been stolen from the Ben Franklin bench at the sadder-by-the-second Glendale Exchange complex.

You may notice the awkwardness of Franklin's pose in the first picture. His pose is awkward because he is supposed to be resting his hand on a cane and reading a newspaper, but the cane and newspaper disappeared at least four years ago, before I started working in Glendale. Here is an intact version of the bench that I found online.

Come on now, Glendale Exchange. The ante has been upped. Glendale is going upscale. Do you see Rick Caruso standing for this shit?

*Update: It's not supposed to be a newspaper - it's THE CONSTITUTION! They stole the Constitution for scrap!

Glendale Farmers Market

One fun thing to do in Glendale is the Downtown Farmers Market. I went today and loaded up on produce, so much in fact that I filled up my backpack entirely and had to stuff avocados in my pockets to be able to bike home. There's plenty of organic fruits and veggies, and much of the non-organic stuff is pesticide-free.

I highly recommend the blood oranges and strawberries.

The Farmer's Market is every Thursday from 8:30-2ish on Brand between Broadway and Wilson.

Local Police Reports

I compulsively check the "Police Report" sections of the Glendale News-Press and the Burbank News-Leader because I like to know what's going on in the neighborhood, and also because oftentimes the blurbs written about each crime offer bizarre details that are stranger than fiction. I'll post a few below from this week's papers, and will add more interesting crime blurbs as I find them.
1200 block of Riverside Drive: A Burbank man reported Saturday that someone broke into his residence and stole a telephone worth $180, a pair of scissors and 60 rolls of toilet paper.
60 rolls of toilet paper???
200 block of Spencer Street: A Glendale woman reported Monday that she heard scratching noises coming outside her residence, which could have been a burglary attempt.
Or possibly...a cat.
900 block of Hollywood Way: A man reportedly stole a bottle of liquor and four bottles of shampoo from a Rite Aid Tuesday. No arrests were made.
You'd think he'd shoplift four bottles of liquor and ONE bottle of shampoo...

90% of the Glendale items are usually graffiti, catalytic converter theft (recent trend), drunk in public, or side mirrors stolen from a Mercedes. A few months ago there was a rash of BMW emblem theft.

Don't Smoke In Downtown Burbank

From the Burbank News-Leader:
An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday for Shia LeBeouf, the 22-year-old actor who starred in last year’s “Transformers,” police said Tuesday.

LeBeouf failed to appear in Burbank Superior Court Tuesday morning after police cited him in February for smoking in Downtown Burbank, a misdemeanor offense, under the city’s smoking ordinance passed last year, a court representative said.

“He received a smoking citation at 314 N. San Fernando [Blvd.] on Feb. 18,” Sgt. Travis Irving said.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Scientology Tour of Downtown Glendale

The Church of Scientology, the dubious religion dreamed up by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, was founded in Glendale in 1954. So it is at least somewhat fitting that numerous buildings in Glendale are still occupied by the organization. This post just focuses on Downtown, but there are other buildings scattered in other parts of Glendale as well.

Next to the historic Alex Theater, you will see...

The Scientology Mission of Brand Blvd. Occasionally, you will see people sitting at a folding table offering the infamous "personality test". On busy weekends they sometimes also set up in front of the Borders at Brand/Broadway.

At Maryland/Wilson, we find a Dianetics/Scientology Personal Improvement Center.

And finally, at Maryland and Broadway, is the Way To Happiness Foundation. This is a Scientology front organization. They frequently have a sign outside looking for a receptionist: "minimum wage, experience required." Doesn't sound too happy to me.

Famima Now 50% Off (Mostly)

Most merchandise at Famima is now 50% off, so if you have a hankering for fancy mints and gourmet chocolate, now is the time to stock up. It looks like I missed the Pocky train, unfortunately, as they didn't have any left in stock. Cigarettes and perishables are still full price. Picking over the carcass of a soon to shutter business has become too common on this stretch of Brand--last year it was CompUSA and Tower Records.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Angela's Bistro

I had lunch this week at Angela's Bistro, which has been open for a month in the former Organica/Bread Affair/Rosemary space on Wilson between Brand and Maryland. The people who had owned Rosemary for the last year or so were staggeringly incompetent--they could turn a transaction as simple as ordering a small drip coffee into a grueling, 15 minute ordeal that played like something out of an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm".

So when I saw the new "Angela's Bistro" sign I was worried that the owners of Rosemary had just changed the name of their hopeless business, but happily they have sold the business entirely and are no longer involved. Yay! The new owner, Angela (obviously), has done away with the old menu of unappealing and absurdly overpriced faux-health food and started from scratch with an appealingly simple sandwich and breakfast menu.

I had the smoked turkey with swiss ($4.50), served with chips and a pickle. The turkey was smoky and fresh, the slice of swiss generous, the roll perfectly toasted, and served with just the right amount of mayo and dijon mustard. Thank god for the dijon mustard, which is not a given at this price point. I know this isn't rocket science, it's a turkey sandwich, but it was pretty close to my platonic ideal of what a turkey sandwich should be.

Angela's is a welcome addition to the downtown lunch scene, and a pretty amazing value for the quality of the food. I will definitely be making it a regular part of my lunch rotation. Between Angela's and the excellent paninis at La Belle Cafe (at Broadway/Maryland), downtown Glendale is now blessed with two great sandwich shops.

No Famima Deals Yet

Hoping for delicious 50% off goodies at Famima's closing sale? There isn't anything good for sale yet, just a small table with beauty supplies, but I'll keep you updated.

I still don't understand why Famima has announced it's closing now. With 338 residential units opening across the street on June 1st, isn't this a great time to be the nearest purveyor of milk and other essentials? Wouldn't it be worth sticking it out for another six months to see how the Americana affects traffic? Or is it possible they might relocate to the Americana?

Americana In Progress

Construction on the Americana continues at an almost unbelievably rapid pace. I walked around the construction site this week and took these photos.

This is the view from Central looking towards Brand.

Downtown Glendale is flooded with men in hard hats.

Last time I drove by this spot, this building was just a cinder block cube. This is the back side of the movie theater. Note how many fake details have been pasted on to this side of the building to disguise the fact that it's just a big windowless box. Windows, doors, all fake. There are cinder blocks (painted black) underneath the windows.

Not actually a door.

The owner of the Golden Key perseveres. The Americana has literally been built around this one site on Colorado Boulevard. Presumably the owner hasn't sold out, or is waiting for the right offer.

A variety of textures, colors and architectural styles have been smooshed together to break up the silhouette and give an appearance of organic variety to a building that otherwise would have the architectural charm of a Costco. Or the Ice Block Death Star across the street...

More Americana In Progress pictures are available in my Flickr set here.