Tagged: Los Angeles

My Photo of the Not-So “Bad Old Days” of DTLA

It happened again! Someone used a photo I posted on Flickr for a news story.

KPCC, an NPR member radio station in Pasadena, California, used a photo I snapped in January 2010 to illustrate a story about the rising crime in downtown Los Angeles. The 37% increase in crime, over the last two years, has recently unnerved residents, workers, businesses, and tourists. The area has undergone a “renaissance” over the last decade, perhaps best exemplified by the presence of a Whole Foods Market at Grand Avenue and 8th Street. But the recent rise in crime could undermine gentrification in the area.

I snapped the photo in January 2010 during a Los Angeles Conservancy walking tour through the Historic Core of downtown Los Angeles. The photo shows a bustling street on a Saturday afternoon, teeming with pedestrians walking alongside the businesses on Broadway that largely catered to Latinos. A lot has changed in downtown since I took this photo.

Los Angeles Historic Core

Although this is not the first time that a photo of mine was used for a news story, nor do I mind very much that it was used in the first place, I do find its use to be a bit uninspired. The photo doesn’t really illustrate anything that is discussed in the news story. My photo doesn’t show the relatively new nightlife scene, it doesn’t show any symbols of gentrification in the face of growing homeless camps in the area, and it doesn’t show any signs of crime in the area.

But to be fair, this is not something unique to KPCC. You can see this on just about every news outlet’s site that doesn’t employ a professional photographer or photo editors.

If Two Unnamed Cops Say Traffic is Bad Because of a Conspiracy, Then It Must Be True, Right?

Earlier this week, The New York Post published a front-page propaganda piece about the reason why vehicular traffic in Manhattan has been getting worse. The story claims that it’s a conspiracy, between two different mayoral administrations, to “shift as many drivers as possible to public transit or bicycles.” Talk about blatant lies.

Of course, the story quotes two unnamed sources within the NYPD to base this conspiracy, and you should be really suspicious about the story. First, the whole story relies on anonymous sources. Who are these guys? Traffic beat cops? Second, these sources don’t point to any directive or mandate from one of their superiors or from the mayor’s office. They just know…like in their gut. Or maybe they overheard something at a station house. We don’t know because they don’t say.

Not only that, the article lets one of the sources claim that traffic is being engineered for partisan reasons to “blame congestion on President-elect Donald Trump, whose Trump Tower in Midtown is now ringed with security.”

But again, how do they know this? Do they have a proverbial “smoking gun” for a partisan plot to cause a massive traffic jam?

Clearly, the whole traffic-engineering conspiracy theory is partisan propaganda: to support the flooding of Manhattan streets with automobiles and reverse just about every traffic calming measure the city has undertaken to make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists—and other automobiles, too.

Since what this story propagates is bullshit, what is the real reason for traffic? According to De Blasio spokesperson, Austin Finan, who was the only official source to go on the record, the increased traffic is a healthy sign of “economic growth, record tourism, construction activity and a growing population.” The streets, he continues, “are overburdened like never before.”

But since The New York Post is listening to crackpot theories, here is my list of reasons behind the insane gridlock on Manhattan streets:

  1. Deliveries: It’s the Christmas season, and there are an insane number of delivery trucks circling the streets to drop off your Amazon purchases. That’s a lot of additional traffic. And in Manhattan, it’s not like they can pull up to a parking lot. They usually have to double park.
  2. Double parking: I don’t understand how on-street parking is legal in Manhattan. When all those spots are taken, others resort to double parking to pick up and drop off passengers or goods.
  3. Dignitaries: And, even if Trump wasn’t President-elect, Manhattan streets were already crowded with all kinds of VIPs who drive and park as if they’re above the law. These dignitaries take up bike and car-traffic lanes to park their vehicles.

Those who complain about traffic forget that the purpose of streets is not to maximize the number of cars it can carry, but to transport a maximum number of people and goods.

One thing that certainly won’t ease traffic is to undo the pedestrian plazas and bike lanes to add more traffic lanes.

For example, Los Angeles learned this lesson after spending five years and $1.6 billion on expanding the perpetually congested Sepulveda Pass on Interstate 405. Adding 15% more automobile capacity on that stretch of freeway didn’t reduce commute times. They actually increased, on average, by a minute. How is that possible?

According to Juan Matute, who is the Associate Director of UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies and also spoke on the record, “increases in traffic generally correlate to economic activity. When construction on the Sepulveda Pass began in 2009, the country was in the midst of an economic recession. As the recovery progressed, more people began traveling for work or to go shopping or out to dinner.”

“Moving more people,” he says, “is a social benefit in and of itself.”

It’s not a conspiracy. It’s the economy, stupid…

The Best Time to Travel

If March is “in like a lion and out like a lamb,” August represents another transitional month if you’re in the academic game. The beginning of the month treats us as gently as a lamb, but the end of the month beats us like a rented mule. However, the month of August also has the reverse effect on travel. As the kiddies go back to school at the end of the month, it becomes a lot easier to travel, especially par avion.

  • Airports become more pleasant. You begin to see fewer over-burdened families clogging the airport lines and more experienced business travelers zipping through security checkpoints and boarding areas.
  • The weather at most places begins to cool significantly. The heat waves that make most people too grumpy to do anything begin to dissipate in late-August. New Yorkers begin returning to our heat island around this time and stuff begins to happen again. It’s the same in Europe, they tell me.
  • Airfares drop from the stratospheric prices over the summer. It’s been years since I’ve flown to California over the summer because it costs about $500-$600 for a domestic flight to LAX this time of year. That’s double the usual fare. I still don’t get how people afford European summer vacations at these nutty prices.

As happens at this time of year, the off-peak travel season is nigh, and airlines have been discounting airfares for fall travel. That’s great because, as we all know, early fall is the best time of year to travel. Over the last month, several airlines began discounting flights between New York and Los Angeles, the markets I travel most frequently, to some pretty reasonable levels. Because I wasn’t deliberately tracking these fares, I don’t have exact figures, but I recall that it started with the LCCs and ULCCs.

  • Virgin America started a fare war with $300 round-trip fares, between JFK and LAX, for travel between August 25 and November 18.
  • Spirit Airlines offered a $260 fare, which shouldn’t even count as a discount because they will add fees for carry-on luggage and printing your boarding pass.
  • Sun Country did something similar, but every time I’ve searched their fares in the past, there was a ridiculously long layover in Minneapolis–St. Paul. It wasn’t worth it.

Then things got more interesting as the legacy carriers got involved, and these guys know how to wage a fare war.

  • American Airlines and US Airways began offering flights between LGA and LAX, with a connection, for $238.
  • American lowered the price on tickets on their own stock to an even lower price: $216. That is about as cheap as I’ve ever seen a non-mistake fare between NYC and LA.
  • On Wednesday morning, American offered two fares, LGA-DFW and DFW-LAX, that when combined could zip you across the country and back for $150.

I implored friends and family to take advantage of these fares, especially when it dropped to $150, because there’s no way that fare was going to stick around long. And it didn’t. By Wednesday night, that fare had evaporated and flying between LGA and LAX, via DFW, cost $370 round-trip.

On Thursday morning, I saw that United matched American’s aggressive pricing and offered its own $150 round-trip fare, between LGA and LAX via Chicago-O’Hare.

I couldn’t resist and booked a trip in mid November. Although September and October are the best months to travel just about anywhere, they’re also among the best months to be in the city.

I’ll head west as the temperatures begin to drop.

May It Suck Less

Yes, I am aware that this site went all of April neglected like a dissertation chapter and a pile of ungraded, poorly written undergraduate. I didn’t get to update it much because I’ve been preoccupied with a few things:

  1. Yes, I did get that MacBook Pro with Retina display. As you know, I decided the newly updated 13-inch model was the best computer for me…as long as we define “a computer” as a Mac portable. That turned out to be a curse because the computer and I have been inseparable since then. As is common at this time of the year, there’s a lot of work to do. A lot!

  2. I made two, two, two trips to California in April for a couple of weddings. Despite being very sour on flying recently, I kind of enjoyed getting back in the air. If one can be in “mid-season” form going to an airport and boarding a plane, I was in it. Personally, I hate taking taxis to an airport, especially by myself, because of the disproportionate cost in traveling five miles to, say LaGuardia, compared to flying 2,500 miles to Los Angeles. And the chances of crashing are much higher in an Uber on the BQE than sitting in a Boeing six miles above the ground. Thus, I prefer to save some bucks and go multi-modal, using the subway and bus. That results in some just-in-time arrivals, which I don’t mind because it spares me from the gate lice. My friend Mark, a multimillion-miler on American Airlines, concurs with this approach.

    Of course, the trips themselves were fun, too. I saw a lot of people, including lots of friends and family. I ate King Crab on a pier in Santa Barbara and fried scallops in the warehouse district southeast of DTLA. I even got to go on a bike ride.

    And the weddings were great, too. I realized that, despite my earlier reservations, I like going to weddings. It helps that I don’t have to hear Sarah’s friends criticize every aspect of their own friend’s wedding, such as “can you believe this food?” and “this has to be the worst one yet!” Also, since there’s no immiment threat of staging my own wedding, I don’t feel that sense of failed dread I had when I was a teenager riding in my friends’ cars before I had even had my learner’s permit.

  3. The weather is finally nice enough to enjoy cycling. Aside from crashing my bike on East Third Street in late March, I have really enjoyed being out on a bike. That crash, which happened on my way from Brooklyn to NYU, was bad enough that since then I’ve been unable to fully bend my knee. I can extend it just fine so I can ride a bike as far as ninety miles with almost no pain, but tying my shoes has been an entirely different matter. March was an especially miserable month for bicycling, and we had to two rides shortened because of icy road conditions. However, in the last few weeks, we’ve stepped things up and have been riding 80-90 miles on a single weekend day.

  4. It’s softball season. Softball really is like the mob. No matter how hard I try to get out, I can’t not play. The only possible ways I can see “getting out” is to relocate to a far-off, remote place where no one knows I ever played softball… or to die. I wound up on four teams again, although I have missed a lot of games to that nagging cycling injury and because of my other commitments. However, it’s nice being out there again doing something I’m relatively good doing.

Now that I’m becoming accustomed to this new pace, to carrying around a heavy backpack and a light sweater, I’m genuinely excited about breathing and such. No, seriously. Not only has it been a hard eight months, but over the winter, it literally hurt to breathe that bitter, icy air. I’ll settle for the occasional allergy attack.

Fond Expectancy of Spring

Just as our long, brutal winter ended in the northeast, major league baseball swiftly returned last week to usher in the new spring season. It couldn’t come soon enough.

2015 04 06 18 48 34 2

Although I didn’t mention it on this site at the time, baseball—along with late-season bicycling—was a welcome distraction last fall as my life was basically falling apart. Baseball seemed like an unlikely source of solace at the time because I had essentially missed the entire 2014 regular season. As a cord cutter, it was impractical to watch a game on television. Also, watching baseball at home was, to me, not unlike drinking—it’s kind of fun but socially unacceptable unless you’re doing it with other people.

Even more unusual for me, I didn’t attend a single baseball game in 2014. I hadn’t gone an entire season without going to a baseball game since the Clinton administration. The closest I came to following the 2014 baseball season was catching a few occasional glimpses, such wood-cover notebooks for the hipster set that resemble baseball bats, better-than-perfect games, a film about the late Doc Ellis, and yes, Derek Jeter retiring. It was so bad that I was basically shocked to learn that the Washington Nationals were considered a favorite to win the World Series.

As I was sleeping on a friend’s couch in late September, I learned via Twitter that the As and Royals were playing perhaps the best one-game playoff in the history of the game. That excitement, that connection to other people, and that feeling of not-knowing the outcome are why I loved watching baseball in the first place. After that game, I was determined to watch as much baseball as possible to reconnect with friends and strangers alike. I had felt alone for the past two months and, even if I was always around my friends, they were around mostly to console me. With the baseball playoffs, however, it was an activity we could all share that wasn’t about my own emotional pain. In the end, I watched every almost game of the playoffs anyway I could: on a television screen at a friend’s place, on a projected image at a local bar, or through a streaming device using a VPN. By the time the World Series finished at the end of October, my life seemed to make a little more sense than it did before the that crazy game in Kansas City.

For all the relief baseball brought me last year, I had basically missed spring training and was vaguely aware that baseball was starting this year. But last week, while I was in California for a wedding and some other business, my brother came through with an irresistible offer: he had tickets to Opening Day at Dodger’s Stadium.

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I forgot how exciting it is to go to an Opening Day game. It had been close over ten years since I had been to one, most recently at the now-demolished Shea Stadium. It had been even longer, since 2001 or so, since I had seen an opening day game at Dodger Stadium: I remember Chan Ho Park pitching a shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers.

2015 04 06 15 11 52

Last Monday was a truly exhilarating experience that included several highlights.

  1. The Dodger Stadium Express bus didn’t exist more than five years ago, but it was a very popular way to get to the stadium that day. When we saw the long lines of people waiting board the bus, one guy in our crew called an Uber to take us to the stadium. It was a foolish decision because the driver couldn’t get us any closer than a mile from the stadium. We ended up getting out of the car and hiking up the hill. After the game, however, we waited patiently to board the bus, but it took close to an hour to travel down the hill to Union Station. The interminable trip however did not dampen our mood: most everyone remained festive recounting the game’s highlights and debating about the best option for post-game revelry. By the way, the duration and popularity of this shuttle bus service convinced me there are two places in Los Angeles that could really use direct rail service: LAX and Dodger Stadium. I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.

  2. Two things happened around the same time. Pitcher Yimi Garcia entered the game in the seventh inning to relieve Clayton Kershaw, and new Dodger and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit a three-run homer to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning that ultimately won the game for the Dodgers. First, we learned to pronounce Garcia’s first name—Yee-mee!— in the seventh. We later repurposed it for Rollins in the eighth—Yee-mee!

  3. Getting reacquainted with Mexican slang and their colorful uses at a ballgame. Although this is hardly what I would call a “family blog,” I won’t get into any details here.

  4. Watching the game in person was not only the best way to watch the game, it was probably also the only way for most people. For the second season, most fans can’t watch the Dodgers on TV because of a retransmission dispute between SportsNet LA and most area MVPDs, including DirecTV. My guess is that the game was available on TV for as many people in 2015 as it was when Dodger home games were available only on ON-TV in the 1980s.

It was not only a great way to start watching baseball again, it was the best way end this awful and depressing winter.

The Fall and Rise of a Hollywood Expat

During last month’s end-of-the-semester Gradeathon, which is as painful but not as fun as the Climbathon, I spent a bunch of hours sitting at a few coffee shops around my Superfund site grading papers and exams. I like grading outside of the home and office for several reasons: it allows me to feel like a social being watching other “knowledge workers” do their thing, someone other than me makes me a fussy coffee, and I get to listen to something other than my stale music collection and esoteric podcasts.

One song I heard during my “residency” at Budin in Greenpoint was “Hollywood,” a song by Canadian singer Tobias Jesso, Jr. The song is very simple: it consists of almost all vocals and a few notes on the piano throughout the song, and it is punctuated by a few horn riffs at the end of piece. The lyrics are filled with agonizing feelings about Hollywood, apparently referencing some really difficult experiences Jesso had while making a go of it in Los Angeles some years ago.

And I don’t know if I can make it,
and I don’t know if I should,
I think I’ll say goodbye to Hollywood.

I don’t know if I can fake it,
if they tell me I’m no good,
I think I’m gonna fry in Hollywood.

It’s a lovely tune for what is a common refrain about struggling in Tinseltown and might make a suitable musical accompaniment for Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra, a 1928 silent film by Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapich. In 9413, an actor with dreams of stardom arrives in Hollywood only to find a series of rejections. Instead of stardom, 9413 is anonymous and disposable.

As I listened to Jesso’s “Hollywood,” I kept thinking of 9413.

Kino included a version of this film on the DVD set Avant Garde: Experimental Film of the 1920s and 1930s, which is the same as the one I embedded above (and linked here in case oEmbed stops working). The music is so grating and distracting I always try to watch it silent. “Hollywood” might be for a better soundtrack to accompany 9413, or at least it will make for something to keep in my head because the song is much shorter than the film.

But unlike 9413, Jesso’s prospects are looking bright. Earlier this week, he released a second song, “How Could You Babe.” He also has an album, Goon, in the work for release in March on Saint Patrick’s Day. And he’s touring, too. He’ll be in New York at Baby’s All Right on Friday, March 27.

Can I Afford Los Angeles?

If you’ve been around me for the last few months, you’ve heard that I am not planning on staying in New York beyond May. Nothing is imminent at this time: I’m not planning on leaving, but I am seriously considering moving out of here to start a new different life .

Mom and Dad and LA City Hall

One of the places that makes a lot of sense for me to move is Los Angeles for a few compelling reasons:

  • I could be near my family. My entire family is in Southern California within 60 miles of downtown LA. It would be nice to be close to my brother, watch my nephew grow up, and be around my mom and dad while they’re still in good health.
  • I could ride my bike year-round. It was a pleasant treat to ride almost 200 miles over the holidays, and with year-round riding, I would someday be able to ride a double century or something crazy like that.
  • I could find work in my field. Even if I don’t teach, either part-time or full-time, I could still work in IT and media like I do at NYU-TV. And talking with a stranger at a bar in West Hollywood during my most recent trip, I learned that there a exciting prospects for me there.
  • I could still have a kind of big-city life. I know very well that LA and New York are very different, and I would be a fool to think that I can transplant my life here out there. Instead, I would be open to finding and making great things out there. I still get excited every time I visit and feel a little frustrated that I didn’t do as much as I would have liked before I have to head “back east.”

Unfortunately, as I learned while listening to KPCC’s The Breakdown, I probably could not afford to live there:

You need to earn at least $33 an hour — $68,640 a year — to be able to afford the average apartment in Los Angeles County, according to Matt Schwartz, president and chief executive of the California Housing Partnership, which advocates for affordable housing.

The news is not all that bad. First, this report quotes average not median prices. I might not be affected since I’m used to being a below-average renter. Second, I would likely find a job that pays above this $68,000 figure, so I wouldn’t be in too bad of shape. The point of this report is to simply show how impossible it would be to get by with the proposed $13.25 minimum wage for the city of Los Angeles.

However, my prospects turn gloomier should I want to buy a home. I would need to earn significantly more to afford the median-priced home.

In order to afford to purchase the median-priced home in Los Angeles, you’d need to earn $96,513 a year, according to HSH.com, a mortgage information website.

The most surprising finding from this report was that Los Angeles was the least affordable city in the United States—something that should surprise people in San Francisco, New York, or Washington, DC. It’s not that housing is the most expensive in the nation’s second largest city, it’s just that wages are lower, making it harder for the average worker to afford the average apartment.

New Year’s Crash and Cold

My California adventure on two wheels continued unabated in the New Year because I have done something a bit foolish.

I got a used road bike off Craigslist.

West Coast Bike

Like the Green Monster I rode with the LA Wheelmen after Christmas, this bike is also from the late 1990s. Curiously, the late 1990s was about the time I started riding a bike more than a few miles at a time because gas prices spiked to the then elevated $2.00 per gallon, and I was unhappy paying more than $20 per week to fill up my tank.1

There’s a bit of lunacy in getting a bike that will sit in California while I live in New York, but I suspect that I will be coming out west a bit more frequently in the coming months. If that’s true, it might make sense to keep a bike to ride out there rather than renting one from time to time, as I’ve been doing. Also, my dad said he was thinking of riding it.

As soon as I got the bike, I made some minor though necessary repairs such as replacing a worn-out front tire, truing a rear wheel, and buying new bar tape. The chain could have used a thorough cleaning, but I was itching to get on the road the next morning and figured that the drivetrain might need more work than I was willing to do after getting it to my parent’s place. Instead, I said, “fuck it!” and rode to Oxnard on New Year’s Eve.

I rode the bike again on January 2. I had initially planned to ride a century from Orange County, where I was visiting my cousin for the day, to San Diego. But after talking with my family, I skipped that idea and decided to ride north towards Los Angeles.

Anaheim to Los Angeles via Long Beach

My planned route seemed easy enough. I would start in Anaheim and head towards the San Gabriel River Bikeway, where I would proceed south towards Long Beach.

Anaheim to Los Angeles

From there, I would ride along the beach and connect to the Los Angeles River Bikeway and head north towards Maywood and then onto surface streets to downtown LA.

Anaheim to Los Angeles

If you’ve tried to ride this route, between the San Gabriel River and LA River Bikeways along Long Beach, you’ll find that it’s not very easy to connect from one bikeway to another. The bicycling layer on Google Maps suggests that it’s just a matter of keeping the beach on your left, but it’s not quite that easy.

SG River to LA River Bikeway via Long Beach

When I finally found the bikeway on the beach, I found that the bikeway was closed due to construction, and there was no marked detour to continue. As I backtracked, I noticed another cyclist also riding to the closed section. As I looked back to see his course of action, figuring he might know something I didn’t, I ran into a curb and went over the handlebars. Ouch!

Fortunately, I was not seriously injured besides a sore shoulder and a bruised ego. After gathering myself for a few minutes, I got back on the bike and proceeded to Ocean Avenue in search of this elusive Los Angeles River Bikeway.

Los Angeles River Bikeway

The other blow to my cycling adventure came the day after riding from Orange County to downtown Los Angeles: I caught a pretty bad cold. That and the residual soreness from the crash basically kept me off the bike for the rest of the trip. I skipped two rides that I had wanted to do before heading back east. Instead of coming with a hundred-plus miles ridden for the new year, I returned to New York, where there is snow on the ground and temperatures that will not reach above freezing this weekend. I will also be nursing a tender left shoulder and a crushing sinus headache.

As I’ve said before, riding a bike sometimes requires a bit of insanity. I’ll be needing some of that to ride again in the coming days.


  1. It’s funny how gas prices, not adjusting for inflation, are about that price again at the beginning of 2015. 

Seventy Miles in December

LA Wheelmen Ride to Santa Anita Canyon

Aside from some basic commuting-by-bicycle, I have been off my road bike for three weeks since I rode to Philadelphia with the New York Cycle Club, and as I’m still visiting family in Southern California for another week, I felt the urgent need to get on a bike. On Sunday, I rode with the LA Wheelmen from Alhambra Park east to the city of Upland for a seventy-mile loop to burn off some of my “holiday excess.”

LA Wheelmen: Santa Anita Canyon ride

The name of the LA Wheelmen club was a bit of a misnomer: we didn’t ride at all within the LA city limits, and there was more than one woman who rode with us. (Please note that I’m being sarcastic here.) The ride, called Santa Anita Canyon, was also misnamed as I don’t remember us stopping to admire a canyon. We did however stop at a Carl’s Jr for lunch, halfway through the ride, although it did seem like a long way to ride for an All-Natural Burger.

Normally, I hate eating a heavy lunch on a ride because we usually have hills to climb shortly afterward. But this club did things right. After lunch, we rode more or less downhill for the entire second half of the ride.

Santa Anita Canyon: First half up, second half down

In order to ride out here, I rented a green, 1990s-era Cannondale touring bike with finger tip shifters from Spinlister that I’ve dubbed the “Green Monster.” This bike is considerably heavier than my road bike, but it rides well, as you would expect from a touring bike. As I’m accustomed to riding a road bike, I had a some trouble adjusting to the 48t chainring. While it happens to be the same sized chainring as my single-speed bike, I didn’t really appreciate the difference a 53t chainring makes when I want to go fast.

But this is December, and who cares if I can’t pedal a bike faster than 17 MPH. It was a treat to ride seventy miles on a balmy (for me) and chilly (for them) Sunday along the San Gabriel Mountains with temperatures in the lower 50s. There were some nice climbs and decent views but, sadly, no beer stops.

Another funny difference with this group was how obsessed this group was with riding centuries. Like one a week…even in December. (They save the double and triple centuries for the warmer months.) They were a nice pleasant group and invited me to ride their Kick Off Century on New Years Day, which I was tempted to ride but ultimately decided to skip.

Of course, as is my custom, after finishing my ride, I was in search of a burger and a beer. As I browsed Twitter, I saw that Grill Em All, a celebrated food truck serving heavy metal–themed burgers, was doing a chicken wing special.

But I learned that they no longer get around on four wheels. They have a permanent store in…of all places…Alhambra. That was a mile and a half from where the Wheelmen finished their ride. My brother and nephew, who picked me up in Alhambra, met me at Grill Em All for a post-ride meal.

Grill Em All

Getting back to my parents’ house the next day was via a familiar way: commuter train.

Multimodal

Metrolink offers a pretty nice bike storage setup, allowing you to not only roll your bikes on board without a reservation but also to secure your bike with Velcro straps.

Riding out here with the group was a great way to test out bike riding in Southern California, and I look forward to doing more and more rides throughout my stay here.

Save Me One of Those Last Remaining Seats

The Los Angeles Conservancy has just announced the lineup for this year’s Last Remaining Seats film series. This annual festival takes place in June with movie screenings at historically significant movie theaters throughout Los Angeles, mostly in downtown Los Angeles. This year, the entire festival will be downtown.

I’m a dues-paying member but have only attended once because, you know, I live 2,500 miles away. You can probably see these films on video at home, but that would be missing the whole point of seeing a film in a movie palace or midcentury music hall. Sure, you can rent these and watch your big TV at home, but I’ll bet you that their screens are bigger. And you’ll miss out and having a bunch of strangers laugh and cry with you.

The Lady Eve (1941)

Wednesday, June 11, 8 PM
Los Angeles Theatre (1931).

Although I’ve never seen this film, reading the description seems like it’s one of those 1940s films noir where some helpless schmuck (Henry Fonda) gets taken by a cunning and relentless femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck). Poor guy!

The Lady Eve has her clutches of Adam Henry Fonda. PARAMOUNT/The Kobal Collection.

The Lady Eve has her clutches on Adam Henry Fonda. PARAMOUNT/The Kobal Collection.

The front-of-house card depicts a leggy Stanwyck clutching and practically choking Fonda against a background of an apple with a bite taken from it. An apple? A bite? A lady named “Eve?” Oh, I get it.

Of all the venues in the series, the Los Angeles Theater is probably the hardest one to get into. Go!

West Side Story (1961)

Saturday, June 14, 8 PM
The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1964)

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, an icon of modern architecture and revitalization in downtown Los Angeles, is turning fifty this year. It will also host the Robert Wise-and-Jerome Robbins–directed version of the venerable stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein (yikes!). The film features a young Natalie Wood and launched the career of Rita Moreno, one of the few Latina actresses to play complex (i.e., non-maid) roles in Hollywood.

Footlight Parade (1933)

Wednesday, June 18, 8 PM
Orpheum Theatre (1926)

This musical (yes, another one) is emblematic of the Warner Brothers musicals choreographed by some guy named Busby Berkeley. Along with 42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933, it is part of the trilogy of film musicals about stage musicals.

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Footlight Parade (1933). WARNER BROS/The Kobal Collection.

By the way, those films were all released in 1933 and feature dazzling dance numbers that boggle the mind in their uniform execution. It made for a great distraction during the depths of the Great Depression.

Back to the Future (1985)

Saturday June 21, 2 PM & 8 PM
The Theatre at Ace Hotel (former United Artists Theatre, 1927)

This theater has just been renovated as part of the new Ace Hotel. They will host the first film from this triology (yes, another one) about time travel and saving yourself family from being “erased from existence.” One could argue that the Ace Hotel saved the United Artist theater from the same fate facing the McFlys in this treasured film from my childhood.

El Gran Calavera (The Great Madcap) (1949)

Wednesday, June 25, 8 PM
Palace Theatre (1911), Co-presented with the Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles

This movie I haven’t seen (yes, another one) was Luis Buñuels first dramatic film since L’Age d’Or in 1930, a film that was banned for, among other things, comparing Jesus Christ to the Marquis de Sade. Buñuel came to Mexico at an opportune time as the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema was underway. Buñuel thrived there for the next three decades, making over a dozen films, before returning to Europe in the late 1960s.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Saturday, June 28 2 PM & 8 PM
Orpheum Theatre (1926)

The second greatest film ever made closes out the series at the Orpheum Theater. With the newly renovated Ace Hotel theater getting all the buzz, I’m going to call The Orpheum the second cleanest picture palace on Broadway. Kudos to the curators for pairing the two!

If you haven’t seen the film, or even if you have, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Why is this the second greatest film ever? I didn’t get it either because I thought the ending was unsatisfying. After a few viewings, though, you realize that the whole point of the film isn’t the great reveal of “Rosebud,” but the way you see a man’s life from the perspective of various people. Whenever one of us leaves this mortal coil, how do others speak of us? What would they say? Would that be who each of us really is? Get to know Charles Foster Kane those who loved and hated him, those who knew him best.

If you don’t appreciate that, then you won’t appreciate this: it’s a sled!

Citizen Kane Rosebud

Rosebud from Citizen Kane (1941). RKO/The Kobal Collection.

What Happened to… ?

Three things strike me as I look over the list:

  1. The Million Dollar Theater? This storied movie palace, which has served as the site for many Spanish-language films and Mexican vaudeville shows, is not participating in this year’s festival. In the past, it has hosted a Spanish-language film during past Last Remaining Seats. However, the programmers did schedule a Spanish film, El Gran Calavera at the Palace Theater.
  2. The Saban Theater? The recently renovated theater in Beverly Hills is also missing from the list. My parents saw The Wizard of Oz a couple of years ago as part of this series. Do the Beverly Hills types not appreciate the unwashed DTLA masses?
  3. Silent films? All of the films are talkies. Not too long ago, there was at least one silent film screened at Last Remaining Seats with live musical accompaniment.

Putting on a festival like this can be a lot of work, especially for a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that has a lot on its plate. The logistical challenges of continuing to use the Million Dollar or scheduling a silent film with live accompaniment must have been difficult to overcome. But it looks like another worthwhile series. Hopefully, I can make it out there for a screening or two.