Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I only made it to the very beginning of Zero-Point Space's last show on July 19, and I somehow managed to forget my camera at home. These images were taken with my phone.


Sound control:

First act:

She's playing that guitar with a bow.

City for sale

"Opposite of War" art pieces

I would have purchased this piece if I'd had the cash. Alas.
The event started a bit late and I had to leave early, but I'm glad that I got to see Zero-Point Space one more time before Christine and Stayne leave. July 31st marks the end of their occupation of 1049 32nd Street.

If there any comparable or even vaguely art/music spaces in SoDo, please let me know. (To me, South Downtown is the area east of the 110, south of Olympic, and north of King-- I've not yet decided upon eastern border.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From the El Rey to SoDo

Out of necessity, I've finally begun to take my hefty, darling rust-bucket of a bicycle on both Metro Rail and on a Metro bus. I don't think I secured my bicycle properly to the Metro 20's rack last night, but I'll consider it a success since it survived the trip from Wilshire & Western to the El Rey Theater.

A couple of friends had come up to LA to see Jay Brannan perform at the El Rey and another friend came up via Amtrak to meet them after the show. I couldn't pass up the chance to hang out with my Orange County pals, especially since one of them took a train to get to LA instead of driving. We met at the Wilshire and Western, the last stop for the Metro Purple Line (which I feel doesn't get mentioned nearly as often as it should considering it goes to K-town where there are still many things to do after 7PM). While walking down Wilshire and waiting for the Metro 20, my friend and I marveled at the fact that we were wandering around Los Angeles via public transit, something that had never even crossed our minds as a possibility less than a year ago.

We waited at the (recently opened?) Doughboys Lite next to the theater and caught portions of songs faintly through the doors. We were tempted to ask the security guards to let us in just for the last portion of the concert, but opted instead to sit and write until our other friends came out. (Yes, I know, we are very exciting people.)

When the concert ended, I spent a few minutes catching up with my friends and then we parted ways, them in a car headed back to Irvine, and me on my bicycle to the bus stop. I waited for the Metro 20 for about ten or fifteen minutes, only to see it whiz right by all of us at the stop, already crammed with people, its bike rack completely occupied. I considered waiting for the next bus for about five minutes before deciding to just ride my bike rather than wait for the next one.

During the thirty or so minutes that it took to get home, no buses passed me. I expected at least a Rapid to go by, or possibly even another 20, but neither did. The ride down Wilshire was cool and peaceful and mostly downhill, for which I was thankful. I had to climb a few hills down Hoover, but it wasn't too bad. I didn't realize that my hip flexors were aching until I got to Pico, at which point I saw the sweet vision of the 10 freeway in the distance. I've come to love the 10 freeway coming into sight and letting me know that I am almost home.

Upon getting home, I looked up the distance from my apartment to the El Rey and realized that "far" wasn't as far as I thought: 6.5 miles is hardly spectacularly long on a bicycle. I'm sure the ride would have been even easier if I a road bike. Every time I ride a little bit farther, or take a new, unfamiliar bus route, my confidence in my ability to get around LA without a car increases.

I doubt I would have ventured out were it not for the fact that I own an EZ Pass, which eliminated any concerns about fumbling with cash or change for fare. Now that I'm over my bike-on-transit phobia, I imagine that I'll be using the pass even more often. As long as the buses have space for me.

Metro 20 (opens a PDF timetable) travels between 7th & Main in Downtown and Pico & Main in Santa Monica via Wilshire.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Zero-Point Space's Last Show This Saturday

Zero-Point Space, which has been hosting art and events in SoDo since January, will be having its final show tomorrow evening. (I'll be performing spoken word at the event.) After eight months at their 32nd Street location, Christie Scott and Stane Hubert will be closing Zero-Point Space's brick-and-mortar venue and have plans to continue cultivating "love & ruckus" as a nonprofit.

(Note: the space is in the upstairs portion of a barn-like building on 32nd and Central.)

View Larger Map

Saturday, July 19
6PM - Midnight

Zero-Point Space
1049 E. 32nd St.

Hello EZ Pass, Goodbye Loretta?

Loretta, my car, is sitting in a parking lot, collecting more dust than ever. I've made up my mind to get rid of her. I bought an EZ Pass for July and though I know that I technically may not ride a full 70 dollars' worth each month, the convenience of not having to worry about whether I have enough change or small bills for fare makes up for it, along with not having to worry about how much it costs to travel in Long Beach or Santa Monica (or any other part of LA County). With an EZ Pass, my bicycle, and my legs, I can get around fairly well.

Even knowing that, it's difficult to think about parting with the car now that the time has come, after weeks of declaring with fervor that I wanted to do it. When I told a friend about this, he suggested that I purchase leisure insurance so that I would still be able to use the car when I might really need it, and the idea was more enticing than it should have been. It's hard to abandon the convenience of having a vehicle, though oftentimes it doesn't feel convenient at all. A paradox.

I won't sugarcoat anything: it can be incredibly frustrating using public transit to get around, and yes, Metro and Metrolink can be unreliable (especially on weekends and holidays), but my feeling about it is that they won't get any better or more accommodating if ridership doesn't increase. I know that I'd much rather deal with Metro's Trip Planner than with traffic or parking, and I generally only have to figure out how to get to a place once; after I familiarize myself with the route, things get easier. The two things that makes me want to keep the car is the matter of transporting various heavy things around, and going places at night after public transit shuts down. Getting leisure insurance seems better than subscribing to ZipCar, which has questionable service in Downtown anyway.

It's hard to part with the car-dependent mindset, but I guess I just have to bite the bullet and really say goodbye to Loretta. My parents think that I'll never see them if I don't have a car, or that it's a sign of being poor. I'll just have to convince them otherwise.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Harlem Place Alley in May

Presenting Andre, the self-proclaimed friendliest denizen of Skid Row, outside of Lost Souls Cafe:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Four Little Green Habits

When I was a young tyke at Washington Elementary School, I acquired a copy of 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. The tips and ideas about conservation and recycling excited me-- they were so creative. I learned about conserving water when bathing, I experimented with making my own recycled paper from old newspapers, I became interested in gardening, I made my own play-dough, and many other experiments. There were varying degrees of success, but I always had fun.

Admittedly, that spirit of conservation was mostly play and I don't think it actually gelled with me in terms of everyday life back then. As I reflect on my habits throughout adolescence and adulthood, I realize that I was probably very neglectful of the amount of waste I generated, the amount of fuel I used, and the amount of processed food I ate. Luckily, I also happened to grow up with parents who are incredible gardeners, who taught me the art of re-purposing things, and who taught me to enjoy building things with my hands.

While we don't exactly agree on my desire to get rid of my car (which is a large discussion that deserves its very own post), I know that the way that I try to do my small part now is directly supported by the knowledge they gave me.

I thought I'd share a few of the habits I've cultivated to be a bit more environmentally friendly and to be less wasteful in general. I believe that we should make small changes if we can, because even if our efforts seem small, they add to our general consciousness about sustainability and normalize conservation instead of making it seem like something that only hippies and hipsters do (This piece by Michael Pollan is about food, but it's a great article and relates to this.).

Four Little Green Habits

1. Bring your own beverage receptacle. I began this habit when I started going to Antigua Cultural Coffeehouse on a regular basis. Many cafes serve their beverages in paper or styrofoam cups whether or not you leave or go, so I've taken to carrying around either a mug or this Pom Tea glass (left) with me when I plan to spend time at a cafe. I think I enjoy this sturdy, re-usable glass with the tight-fitting, snap-on lid more than I enjoyed the Pom Tea that came in it. Now that it's warmer, I often get a "Balance" (also known as an Arnold Palmer, also known as "half lemonade, half iced tea") at Lost Souls Cafe instead of my usual Soul Drip. Another plus of this is that if I don't finish it by the time I have to leave, I can pop the lid on, put it in my backpack, and ride my bicycle off into the sunset.

Why am I re-using a glass instead of getting a nifty Nalgene-esque bottle? Because I think that it's important to remember that when we buy newly manufactured things, especially plastic things, in an effort to conserve, we may actually be defeating the purpose. Though it might be slightly heavier and has a bit less active-lifestyle cred, glass doesn't retain odors, is completely recyclable, and is easily cleaned. I don't plan on rock climbing with it, so it works for me.

2. Forgo the bag (and use the one you have). My first job was in retail and we were taught to bag everything. Even if there was just one small item, we had a small plastic bag that was made specifically for occasions when customers would make a small purchase. I didn't think about it at the time, but it was very rare to hear a customer say "No thanks, I already have a bag." I carry a backpack or messenger bag with me most of the time, and I've taken to telling cashiers at checkout that I don't need a bag. I keep a canvas bag inside my backpack so that I can easily pack groceries in and protect them from getting mixed up with the various objects I have floating around inside my bag. Carrying around a backpack isn't feasible or desirable for everyone, but it's possible to consolidate items into a single bag or to tell the checkout person that a bag is not necessary for just a quart of milk.

3. Keep reusable cutlery at work. When I worked at places with a regular dining area and a kitchen, there was always communal metal cutlery. The building I currently work in has a small staff and we do not have the luxury of a kitchen, so I started out using the plastic cutlery that was always available. After a few weeks of this (I know it shouldn't have taken me that long), I realized how much plastic I was wasting and so brought a knife (for cutting fruit), fork, and spoon from home. I actually didn't stop there-- I also brought a plate and a bowl for microwaving my food because of my paranoia about plastic leeching toxins into food upon being heated.

Enci at IlluminateLA had a great idea about carrying camping utensils around in order to avoid using disposable cutlery on the go. I think I may begin to carry around a set of silverware from Goodwill as she suggested in the comments. Dessert-size silverware is smaller and would be easier to carry around than full-size cutlery, and though it lacks the nifty-ness of the camping utensil set, it doesn't involve the manufacturing of more plastic things.

4. Avoid buying things in plastic packaging. I try to buy things in glass or aluminum whenever possible. There is a scary trend in the produce section of shrink-wrapped-everything. The days of sorting through, touching, and smelling produce before purchasing are slowly creeping out of fashion. When I was in Japan, I was astonished to see that things like bananas and broccoli were vacuum-packed, a trend which seems to have spread. I am inclined to believe that this is for ease of sale, not so much to retain freshness, as plastic generally isn't very friendly to produce. I guess we are supposed to judge our fruits and vegetables solely on looks.

Even with the skyrocketing price of oil, more and more plastic packaging seems to be appearing, more and more individually wrapped, this-many-calories-only "snack-paks." It might be convenient, but the amount of extra trash it generates is alarming.
Of course, there have been times when I have violated these habits, but some action is better than none. Better to try and falter than not to try at all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

2008 Lotus(-less) Festival

The 31st Annual Lotus Festival sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks is coming up this weekend. The Lotus Festival began as a way "to promote an awareness and understanding of the contributions by the Asian and Pacific Islander people to our culture and to the local and surrounding communities." I'm very excited about attending the festivities but I am also terribly disappointed to learn that the lotuses that once filled Echo Park Lake are, in a word, gone. It is intensely upsetting to me. How the city could have allowed what was once the "largest lotus bed in the United States" to dwindle away to nothing is beyond my comprehension. To me it shows a lack of concern about maintaining symbols of the community's heritage and that is unacceptable.

I think I was so excited about the festival because the thought of lotuses reminded me of the month my family spent in Cambodia, walking around snacking on fresh lotus seeds bought from kids who carried around whole bouquets of them to sell. We'd tear into the spongy, alien-looking seed heads and pop the edamame-like lotus seeds into our mouths. They were everywhere, but I particularly remember a day at the riverside in Phnom Penh, sitting across from the Independence Monument with my father and brother. Cars and motorbikes and cyclos (see-cl-ohs) whizzed by us, the humidity was made bearable by a warm breeze, and it was beautiful knowing that we were thousands of miles away from home, and together.

On that note, while I will wish with all of my being for lotuses to miraculously appear for the Festival, I will keep in mind that the point of the festival is to nurture and celebrate community--the absence of lotus blossoms does not hinder that.

Festival Schedule:
Friday, July 11 - 5PM-9PM
Saturday, July 12 - Noon to 9PM
Sunday, July 13- Noon to 8:30PM

Metro Bus 2, 4, 603, and the Dash Pico Union-Echo Park all run from SoDo to Echo Park on the weekend.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thursday: Downtown Art Walk!

I went to my first Downtown Art Walk last month and it made me regret missing the last six walks that have taken place since I moved to SoDo.

(Tangent: As the LA Times points out in this article about the nebulous "South Los Angeles," having distinct nomenclature is important for neighborhood identity, so I'm trying to nurture mine.)

I rode my bicycle up Main Street last month and was amazed to see how many people were in the streets, walking from gallery to gallery, hanging out at Lost Souls Cafe, standing around listening to bands perform on the sidewalk.

Even more amazing to me was the fact that there was so much life in downtown after 8PM.

The images in this post are from the LAMP Art Project. This exhibit struck a particular chord in me. The politically-charged pieces reflected the people of this city who are largely ignored, abandoned, and abused. The collage of images and words communicate the voices of the silenced, and I appreciated seeing a reflection of these ideas during the walk. While the LAMP Project is what resonated most with me, there were many interesting exhibits at the various galleries and I encourage folks who haven't gone before to check it out, to get out and enjoy this wonderful cool spell we're having if nothing else.

Downtown Art Walk

July 10
(2nd Thursday of Every Month)
Admission: Free (as access to art should be)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Libros Revolucion

If you've been in Berkeley, then you must have seen the branch of Revolution Books nestled in a plaza downstairs by a parking garage. The Los Angeles, Spanish-language version is tucked away on 8th and Hill among the various clothing vendors, nestled next to a pet shop. After a visit to one of the first South Park Flea Markets (when it was held on Olive and 8th), a friend and I wandered around SoDo and spent some time at Libros Revolucion. I hadn't expected to come across this bookstore while wandering toward the Jewelry District, and was excited to go inside to peruse their stock of political texts and materials. The rear part of the store is an open space reserved for events and readings. I've yet to return since my first visit, unfortunately.

Being a proud bastian of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, it is not surprising that a Google Search revealed that Libros Revolucion faced serious harassment when it opened in the late 1980s. This letter published in the New York Review of Books in 1989 cites
"Uniformed and plainclothes police, right-wing religious fundamentalists with bullhorns, and callers identifying themselves as members of "death squads" appear to be working in concert to intimidate people associated with the store."

It's good to know that the store has stood strong for nearly twenty years.

Libros Revolucion
312 West 8th St.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12PM-8PM