Archive for April, 2009

Ah, Los Angeles Good Friday

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Religious holidays seem to bring people out of their privacy for the benefit and detriment of society.  This Good Friday, so named because Jesus was betrayed and flogged and humiliated and nailed to a cross, the wonder of human activity was on display in the city. (okay, I know the reason it’s called good friday but, even as a four year old hearing, with incomprehension, the story of the passion of Christ, I thought the term was pushing it)

You get tickets for Leonard Cohen’s performance at the impressive Nokia Theater.  You are psyched about joining 7500 of your closest friends for an intimate evening with an amazing song writer.

You set out, giving yourself plenty of time for the vaguaries of parking.  Even though the Lakers and the Kings are playing elsewhere, you can’t count on the Staples Center, next door to the Nokia, to not host some bit of silliness.  The Clippers, maybe.  You come down from your aerie to find that your access to your egress is blocked by a penitente procession of sorrow.

If you’ve never seen a penitente procession, it’s something to behold.  Fellow citizens earnestly and devotedly acting out the via dolorosa: Roman guards beating the young man playing Jesus, blood, whipping, screaming, a heavy cross, Simon helping carry it, the thieves, Mary, Mary, John, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth.  You hope, but aren’t sure, that the blood is fake.  Regardless, it’s a sight to behold.

Once you’ve beheld the sight, you look at your dashboard clock and wonder where the police are to move traffic around the reenactment.

You don’t want to get testy with a devout crowd.  Politely, oh, so politely, you edge across four lanes of traffic, including two oncoming  now stopped by the procession and by rubbernecking, to get by the scene.  You feel sacrilegious for even wanting to go to your concert.  For wanting to use public streets.  For wanting to not gawk.

Despite hand gestures from some of the Roman guards, you get by.  On to the Nokia

If Los Angeles stands for one thing, it’s the outrageous cost of parking.  Supply and demand you tell yourself after you’ve been  gouged.  You get near the Nokia, not next to it but near it and parking costs $20.  Divine retribution for skirting the penitentes .

Once in the Nokia, you are impressed by the display of aged hipness.  The crowd is a mix of everything. It’s uniting factors are a love of Leonard Cohen and a certain chicness that went out of style for a while and has come back.

Leonard Cohen comes onstage with an amazing band, wonderful backup singers including his sometimes collaborator Sharon Robinson and a spryness and energy that belies his years which add up to about 75.  Really belies them.

Aside from loving the poetry and music, you hope that one day, you can be as agile as Leonard Cohen as he skips off and on the stage and kneels to emphasize certain parts of his songs.

The evening, despite the size of the venue, is three hours of one on one performer with audience.

You wend your way home.  At midnight, the bars haven’t let out so you fly home.  As you approach the church, which was the home of the penitente gathering, you thank them for allowing you to witness their celebration and still make it to yours.

Ah, Los Angeles 110

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Ah, The 110.  Ah, moving.  Moving is clearly one of the modern seven deadly sins.  It’s suggested that by the time children now in high school reach thirty-eight, they will have changed jobs an ungodly fifteen times.   Although that doesn’t promise a move every time, it suggests the possibility.  Moving is bad.   If you didn’t have to move your stuff, moving wouldn’t be all that bad.  The stuff causes the problems.  Therefore, stuff is bad.   Is that how Karl Marx got started?

You move from the groove and grit of Silver Lake to the outland wilds of Monterey Hills.  It’s a place most Agelinos have not heard of which gives it the cache of mystery but still, it’s on the east side.

Silver Lake has a mystique and urban panache that, upon hearing, westsiders nod in a kind of, “well if you’ve got to live somewhere over there…” approval.  Monterey Hills bears none of that chic.  It’s easier to say South Pasadena–blocks away.  Many blocks away but, using fingers and toes, you can count the distance in blocks.  Saying South Pasadena not only gives friends and acquaintances an ability to locate you but also a feeling that you’re still safe to be seen with.  Even though it’s over “there.”  On the wrong side of the 110.

The 110 is also known as the Pasadena Freeway or Harbor Freeway depending on which way you’re going.  Monterey Hills sits off the Arroyo Seco part of the freeway from Downtown to South Pasadena that has quite a history.  Officially, “The Arroyo Seco Parkway (Pasadena Freeway) was the first divided-lane, high-speed, limited-access road in the urban western United States and the first stretch of road for what would become the extensive Los Angeles freeway network.”  That’s from the Historic American  Engineering Record, which should know.

Unofficially, before highways were ever thought of, the Arroyo Seco was a flood plain although a dry one evidently.  Somewhere in the early years of the last century, Pasadenans thought a large bicycle path between their craftsmen homes and downtown would be a good thing.  They built part of it until the wealthy people with automobiles thought that the arroyo would make a perfect place for them to let their hair down and drive their amazing machines like the wind — a twenty mile an hour wind but a wind never the less.

In 1938, the divided lane highway now known as the 110 was born.  The problem is that the entrances and exits for this stretch of freeway were  built for those early cars and bicycles and not for modern cars.  Some of the exits are like residential street turns with no turn lane.  The entrances give you about ten feet to accelerate to 65 to keep up with the traffic bearing down on you.   It’s white knuckle time on the east side.  While entering or exiting this part of the freeway,  you find yourself softening your voice, adding a hint of Southern drawl and doing your best Blanch Dubois:  “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”