Friday, January 30, 2009

Dude, it's called a curtain. Use it.

Someone in the apartment across the way from us is watching a porno on a ginormous flatscreen TV. I was eating dinner and looked out the window just in time to see some guy massaging his junk. *gack* Dinner over.

Seen while walking to work this morning

A homeless man sitting on the corner of 6th & Broadway, playing a clarinet. The tune: Brother, can you spare a dime? The lyrics:

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

People in your neighborhood

MB and I were in Little Tokyo last night when we ran into a friend of ours, Devon Paulson, in front of Spitz. It turns out he designed and built the interior, including the amazing metal sculpture that hangs next to the back counter. Devon is partially responsible for us moving downtown. They don't live here, but Devon has regular shows and performance at Bert Green's gallery and we first got to know downtown when Devon invited us to Art Walk. So a very cool encounter and another reason we like downtown--you run into people you know on the street--what a concept!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Downtown

MB and I have a deal where we trade weekends with Kidlo. MB spends his off weekends up in Lancaster rebuilding old motorcycles and I usually spend my off weekends working on my novel. But I write for a living and I had a bitch of a week and I just did not want to write this weekend, so instead I just sort of noodled around the neighborhood.

First stop was breakfast at Clifton's. It's not the best food downtown but the breakfast is decent, it's cheap and they open at 6:30 am every day. Plus how can you beat eating with redwoods, moose and an animatronic raccoon?

Next was 24 Hour Fitness on 6th and Flower. It's not exactly the lap of luxury, but the gym is clean and has lots of machines so you generally don't have to wait too long to use the equipment. Saturday morning it was pretty empty so I was able to blow in and out.

Then I went to Neihule on 6th and Olive for a haircut. The owner cut my hair and I spoke with her about why she decided to open her salon downtown. It turns out that she and her husband live in the Mandel and they love the urban lifestyle and being able to walk to work. They also love the sense of community in Downtown--friendly neighbors who rally around the local businesses. She says that Neihule is doing really well despite the economy, which is good news. Businesses that fill a needed niche are going to thrive Downtown.

After a nap at home (I told you it was my off weekend and I wanted to take full advantage), I headed over to Cole's for lunch. It was pretty busy, thought unfortunately the bartender told me they haven't been as busy as they had hoped when Cole's reopened. I had a roast beef and blue cheese sandwich with a spicy pickle and it was AMAZING. I didn't snap a shot of the sandwich because it went into my stomach too fast, but I did get a couple of other shots of the interior.

I sat at the bar and got to talk to a couple sitting next to me. Turns out the husband is an ethnomusicologist and the dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. He and his wife belong to the LA Conservancy and they do downtown tours. They asked me a lot of questions about what it's like to live downtown and they were loving the food and the atmosphere at Cole's. That's one of the things I love about living down here--it's easy to strke up conversations with interesting people.

After Cole's, I strolled through the fashion district with my camera. The morning rain had cleared up and the sky was full of beautiful clouds. Sadly, the fashion district was relatively empty and the store owners were pushier than usual about trying to steer customers into their stores. One guy was shouting, "Tenemos chingo trajes...chingo pantalones...chingo camisas..."

It was pretty much my idea of a perfect day.

On my block

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fade into Blue

Wilshire & Bixel, Tuesday 8:30 am

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I have no idea what she's doing...

What is she doing on top of that JLG "Ultra Boom" at 8th and Spring?

I dunno, she appears to be sketching.


She did eventually alight, "Are you planning a mural?" I asked, hopefully. "No, I'm just doing an investigation." She replied. I was going to ask what she meant, but at that moment she had to turn her attention to the very annoyed looking woman with a camera and a thick ticket book.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Birds do it, bees do it...

My husband ran into Ginny Case and she told him that there were two baby showers in our building this past weekend. Damn.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Random observation I made while walking to the gym this morning

"Damn, the rats in Pershing Square sure are fat."

Monday, January 12, 2009

"You're walking home alone in the dark?!"

A conversation today with a woman at my job:

Her: How long does it take for you to get home from work?

Me: I live downtown so it's just a 20-minute walk.

Her: What? You walk? Alone? In the dark? Downtown?

Me: Um...yeah.

Her:But isn't it deserted?

Me: Not at all. In fact, the streets are packed. I can barely walk across Broadway.

Her: *skeptical silence*

Me: No, really. Lots of people live downtown. Even when I was taking a class at UCLA and getting home at 10:30 on a Tuesday night, the streets were crowded with people walking their dogs.

Her:You really shouldn't take such crazy chances.

Me: *facepalm*

(Keep in mind that our office is in City West. I think this woman drives into the garage and doesn't leave the building until she gets back in her car to drive home)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Neighbor, Chillin' in the KRKD tower.

I heard this guy/girl's call, sounds very much like an old western movie. You know, the part where the good guy is stranded in the desert after the wagon train has been slaughtered by Indians.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Alpha and Omega of Downtown

As I've mentioned before on the blog, I grew up in the Bronx in a pretty gritty neighborhood (actually, the same neighborhood as Jennifer Lopez...but try not to hold that against me) and I also went to an Ivy League college. So I've spent most of my life straddling the line between two wildly different worlds. I've had dinners at some of the most expensive restaurants in Beverly Hills and I also shop in Boyle Heights. And I love that my life is that way, that I'm not confined to any one social sphere. That's why I really enjoyed the way Kidlo and I spent our time last Saturday.

In the morning, we went to the LA Athletic Club for a swimming playdate with a mom and daughter who live in South Park. The mom is very cool (she's an active member of the Downtown LA Kids Group) and I had the added bonus of experiencing the luxury of the LAAC. Two swimming pools, a full-sized basketball court, squash courts, two bars, three restaurants, a spa...I could get used to living like this. MB and I are going check out the club on a day pass and see if we can swing a membership (probably not, but I can dream...)

In the afternoon, we got back to reality and shopped at Fallas Paredes on Broadway and 5th. They're basically an overstock store with zero ambiance and incredibly cheap prices. Not the most pleasant place to shop, but a great place to buy kid's clothing. This trip I found a Carter's pajama set and Osh Kosh jeans for $6 each. I hear a lot of complaints about the Broadway shopping district and I understand why--it's not exactly like shopping at Target. But if you're a bargain hunter and patient, you really can find deals.

The LA Athletic Club and Fallas Paredes are a half mile away from each other. I can walk to both from my loft.

That's what I love about Downtown LA. It's really a reflection of how I live my life, all of these subcultures bumping up against each other. There's no other neighborhood in LA like it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I can haz elementary school?

Hi peeps. We did not, in fact, fall off the face of the earth. But we did visit New York, vote for Obama, vote against Prop 8, come down with a hideous virus that turned into bronchitis for me, MB and Kidlo, buy a ginormous Christmas tree and limp into the new year. Oh, and I finished a novel. So, you know, we've been busy.

But now that I feel (somewhat) above water, I'm jumping back into blogging. Today's topic:

We need elementary schools downtown

I've been looking into the school situation downtown. Kidlo isn't even 2 yet, so obviously we have some time before we have to worry about getting him into school. But I figure it's better to start thinking about it sooner rather than later so that I'm not scrambling and panicked when the time comes to send him to elementary school.

The zoned elementary school for most of downtown is 9th Street Elementary. By all accounts, it's pretty crappy. I've not visited the school (yet--more on that below), but I did drive through the neighborhood and yikes.

View Larger Map

You hate to write off a school just from seeing it on the outside, but...really, it doesn't look good.

In despair, I googled for information on the LAUSD and stumbled on a site called Ask a Magnet Yenta. Turns out it's run by Sandra Tsing Loh, who wrote Mother on Fire: A True Motherf%#$@ Story About Parenting! Sandra and her fellow Magnet Yentas offer advice on how to navigate the LAUSD and also to improve the local public schools. From the site:

“Ask A Magnet Yenta” began as an advice column on the LA Times “School Me” blog (2006 to 2007) to help Los Angeles parents negotiate the LAUSD magnet system. Original “Magnet Yenta” Sandra Tsing Loh was joined by Angel Zobel-Rodriguez and a host of other savvy, experienced public school moms in dispensing free online advice.

Our vision (and parents’ network) has since expanded to include charter schools, neighborhood schools, and schools in the larger Los Angeles area. Our core mission continues to be to serve LA families by helping them get connected with good public schools.

I contacted Sandra and the Magnet Yentas and zing! They immediately jumped in with tons of advice on how to proceed. They even created a bright, shiny new thread just for downtown. Some advice from the thread:

The better use of your time is to meet Richard Alonzo, your Local District 4 Superintendent and my favorite LAUSD employee ever. In the odd boundary setting that is oh-so-LAUSD, Carthay Center (my school), just outside Beverly Hills’ borders, and your trio of downtown schools are both in Local District 4 (not to be confused with School Board District 2, which you are also in). Richard Alonzo is a GIFT to LAUSD, an entity that too often receives coal in its stocking.


I want to echo and amplify the praises of Dr. Alonso. He is the Dumblebore of LAUSD, as near as I can tell.

My other piece of advice, in terms of working with schools, is that in addition to visiting the school, another huge first step is networking with other parents downtown. Our experience in Highland Park was that indvidual schools were often resistent to working with us, because they did not have hte budget, or were afraid, or didn’t know what to do. But once you have a group of parents who have a list of things they want, district officials, like Dumbledore/Alonso, can wave a wand and make it happen.

The district wants to get middle class kids back into the school district and if a group of parents come to them with a doable wish list and a committment to support the teachers and the school, it can be a real win win.


Other contacts of ours suggest:

They should contact Raf Rodriguez with PUC Charters about starting a charter, or South of downtown there is the Synergy charter. Another excellent (although hard to get into?) down choice is The Accelerated School.

Right now I'm in the process of trying to schedule a visit to 9th Street Elementary, along with Sandra and anyone else who'd like to tag along. We want to see the school on the inside to find out if it's as bad as it looks. Either way, it's good to have the information so that we can figure out what steps to take next in our Quest to Have a Great Downtown Elementary School. It looks like the visit will take place in late January.If you're interested in joining us, contact me through the link in the sidebar of the blog.

I'm incredibly excited to have found the Ask A Magnet Yenta crew. With all of their advice, energy and support, I really think we can build something wonderful for Downtown kids.