Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy 30th, Criterion -- May your next 30 be even better

Criterion is, without a doubt, the most loved video-distribution company in the video distribution game. No one (outside Korea) packages their films so beautifully and today they released a lovely, book (just in time for Christmas) of their "covers, supplemental art, and never-before-seen sketches and concept art" featured on their releases over the years called Criterion Designs. They're also beloved for their supplemental special features, which are similarly rarely paralleled, and the high quality of their restorations. My only problem with them is over the films which they release -- or rather, those that they don't.

Criterion Designs
Criterion Designs (image source: The Criterion Collection)


Criterion was launched back in 1984, when Joe Medjuck, Aleen Stein, and Robert Stein founded the company in New York City. From the get go Criterion chose films from Europe, North America, and Asia for their lovingly attentive treatment. I only became aware of the company around 1999. I recognized a lot of their films from introductory film school classes -- the canonical status of which was usually advertised by the stamp of Janus Films. At the same time, couldn't help but notice the glaring omission of ANY films from South America or Africa. When I pointed this out to Criterion loyalists and asked for their thoughts I got the following replies: "Do they make films?," "You mean like Tarzan?," and "You mean like Superfly?" My answers to all three were, "Are you *censored* kidding me?"

While Cinema EpochFacetsFilm MovementFirst Run FeaturesKinoNew Yorker Films, and Zeitgeist all regularly release films from less-exposed corners of World Cinema, none of them enjoy the loyalty, and thus power, that Criterion does. For many film fans, Criterion is unfortunately the first and last word in foreign and art film. In the minds of Criterion's completists, the fact that Criterion ignores entire continents means there's nothing there for aspiring film lovers.

Three decades later and Criterion have still yet to release a SINGLE film from South America. It only took thirty years and the involvement of Martin Scorsese for the label to release its first (two) African films, Touki Bouki and Trances, both among the six films in that director's collection, Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project. Next year Criterion are set to release their first ever South American film, Lucrecia Martel's La Cienaga (2001).

Criterion have long been more open to Asian Cinema, especially if the film in question is from Japan. Japan has accounted for nearly 90% of Criterion's Asian films whereas only five films from China have been deemed worthy. Meanwhile, mo more than two films each in the collection come from IranKorea, or Taiwan. Criterion have released no Turkish films which means no films from Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

If you need a graph to see what Criterion's bias looks like, here you go:

Criterion's Western Bias

Of course there are acclaimed directors from Africa and South America, directors like Alejandro Jodorowsky, Abderrahmane Sissako, Souleymane Cisse, Ousmane Sembene, Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Carlos Diegues, Gaston Kabore, Youssef Chahine, Andres Caicedo, Anselmo Duarte, Carlos Mayolo, Daoud Abdel Sayed, Eliseo Subiela, Farid Boughedir, Fernando Meirelles, Glauber Rocha, Hussein Kamal, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Juan Jose Campanella, Luis Ospina, Med Hondo, Mweze Ngangura, Oussama Fawzi, and Raja Amari, to name a few.

So whilst bells, whistles, and shiny wrapping paper are all nice -- but how great would it be for Criterion to broaden their scope to include great films from around the world? Mark Cousins's documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey, which came out in 2011, was surprisingly encompassing and in 15 hours did more to correct western bias than Criterion has in its first thirty years. Let's hope that we won't be saying the same 30 years from now.

*****

Alan judging

Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. Job offers must pay more than slave wages and involve neither listicles nor television personalities. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogKCET Departures, his art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured as subject in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington Postand Notebook on Cities and Culture and been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and on Twitter.

Monday, November 24, 2014

One album wonders: World of Twist's Quality Street

WORLD OF TWIST - QUALITY STREET (1991)
World of Twist Quality Street
 
World of Twist are one of the greatest one album wonders, on par with The La’s and The Sex Pistols — if unfortunately much more obscure than either. Although they’ve been broken up for more than twenty years, their cult still remains small although it seems inevitable that they will some day be granted the adoration which they so deserve. It seems only a matter of time before an excellent documentary on them screens at Don’t Knock the Rock or appears on video. 
 
World of Twist
As with many one album wonders, though not prolific as recording artists, the World of Twist’s members were involved in music for many years. From 1977-1979, Dave Conner (vocals), Gordon King (bass), James Fry (guitar), Julia Adamson (guitar), and Tony Ogden (drums) played in a punk band called The Blackout when all were art students in Art & Design at Stockport College in Greater Manchester.
Around 1982, King and Fry followed the latter’s older brother, Martin (of ABC) to Sheffield, then one of the most musically interesting cities in the UK (see Made in Sheffield). Over the next few years the line-up grew to included Ogden, Andy Robins (synthesizer), and Rory Connolly (saxophone). After Robins quit they were joined by Andrew Hobson (bass) and Nick Philips (organ) and by 1984/’85 they had a repertoire of about a dozen songs which they recorded as demos. Three songs from 1985 were released in 1992 after World of Twist had split up. 
World of Twist - "The Sausage" (1985)
 
As the Sheffield scene grew increasingly predictable and homogeneous, solidified around bleak, industrial post-punk sound, World of Twist were increasingly and defiantly at odds. They opened started a club, The Wigwam, at which aimed to meld Northern Soul vibes with the aesthetic of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Aside from Julian Cope and Dexys Midnight Runners, they weren't just out-of-step with Sheffield, but music of the era. In 1988 the band gave up on Sheffield and Hobson, King, and Ogden moved to Manchester where they shared a house with Martin Wright of Laugh. Fry moved to London to pursue photography and Ogden took over vocals. New members of World of Twist included Alan “Adge” Frost on synthesizers and visual effects, Julia “MC Shells” McGreechin on “swirls and sea noises,” and Angela Reilly on visual effects. Before long, Nick Sanderson (formely of Sheffield’s Clock DVA and later, Los Angeles’s The Gun Club) came along to fill Ogden’s vacant drum kit.
World of Twist Record Mirror
 
World of Twist gained attention in part for their live show, inspired by that of The Residents and progressive rock bands and which included an elaborate set pieces and effects. Their live show was described by various writers as “a dry ice fantasia” and “ a mesmerizing mix of Bacofoil, ancient technology, and Brylcreem” but because they were danceable, based in Manchester, and this was the late 1980s, that World of Twist were to be lazily lumped in with the Madchester/Baggy scene was inevitable. In reality, only fellow pastichists Happy Mondays approached the breadth of World of Twist’s bricolage, drawn as it apparently was from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, bubblegumDetroit proto-punkglitter rockJoe Meek, Krautrockmod, and space rock.
  
 
A series of demos were recorded at the beginning of 1990 but the only label which showed interest was Virgin subsidiary Circa — then known for sort of adult alternative and sophisti-pop bands like Hue & CryNeneh CherryJulia Fordham, and Millions Like Us but as with all majors, Virgin were eager to sign a band from Manchester, which they did with World of Twist. In August, World of Twist sold out Manchester’s International 1. On 22 September, the newly-signed band recorded a Mark Goodier Session at Studio 5 in London.
 
 
World of Twists’s debut single, “The Storm,” was released 15 November, 1990. It was famed producer Martin Hannett’s last production work — he died in April 1991 of heart failure brought on by obesity and drug abuse. The band made their national television debut on Channel 4’s The Word. Guest Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood described them as great and likened them to "The Velvet Underground on acid." On the other hand, when it was reviewed on BBC's Juke Box Jury, a bit normal guest Bernard Sumner derided them as "a bit 'we are weird'."
 
 
Although hotly tipped and huge at home, “The Storm” failed to connect outside the north and only reached #42 in the charts. On 23 December they sold out the Manchester Ritz, supported by Laugh, who’d recently changed their name to Intastella.
 
By the spring of 1991 World of Twist’s fame had grown sufficiently to the point that they sold out the London Astoria on 27 March, 1991 — supported by Saint Etienne (whose then-new singer, Sarah Cracknell made her live debut with them that night) and Sensurround. On 29 December, World of Twist returned to Sheffield for a homecoming band, supported by another band who’d left Sheffield in 1988, Pulp. Five recorded songs from the show were shown on Granada. On 25 June, they recorded a Peel Session.
 

Music writer Simon Reynolds summed up World of Twist’s sound as “kitsch-adelia” but their next single, albeit again seemingly delivered with tongue-in-cheek, was the stomping "Sons of the Stage,” released the same month they again played The Leadmill again with Pulp, the then growing increasingly kitschadelic themselves.
 
 
On 30 September, 1991, the World of Twist released the “Sweets,” dripping with saccharine  and ironically promoted with packs of cigarettes. The two singles did less well than "The Storm," climbing only to #47 and #58, respectively. Still the band were earning themselves fans, sometimes in high places.
Saint Etienne’s debut, Foxbase Alpha, was released the same month as "Sweets" and the lyrics of “London Belongs to Me” included the lines:
To the sound of the World Of Twist
You leant over and gave me a kiss
It's too warm to even hold hands
But that won't stop us from making plans
Likewise, Noel and Liam Gallagher were so enamored of World of Twist that they considered naming their dadchester band Sons of the Stage before settling on Oasis. They also used World of Twist's James Fry as their photographer and Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye went so far as to record an unremarkable World of Twist cover.
 
Tony Ogden
Tony Ogden (image source: Die Rache)
 
What was to be World of Twist’s only album, Quality Street, was released on 28 October, 1991. It included a cover of The Honeycombs’ “This Too Shall Pass Away” and nine, single-quality originals. However, the mixing and production of the original release were problematic. In a 2005 interview with The Guardian, Ogden claimed, “We spent £250,000 making an album with the smallest bollocks in pop history.” (A 2013 re-issue does wonders in correcting the mix and adds a disc of extras.) Quality Street only reached #50 in the charts (which were then populated with artists like Amy GrantBryan AdamsRoxette, and Seal) and their label dropped them. They had a meeting with Alan McGee and seemed like an excellent fit at Creation, but they didn’t sign. Ogden had let it be known that he no longer wished to sing or appear on stage.
NME announced World of Twist’s split in the 27 June, 1992 issue. Ogden became something of a recluse, moving back to his parents’ home in Stockport. He continued to write music as a solo artist (listen here) and later, as Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion, who released the digital EP Escape in the Love Machines in 2005. Ogden also collaborated with Mum & Dad on 2000’s “Dawn Rider.” Fy, King, and Sanderson continued to perform together in a new band, Earl BrutusThe Pre New are comprises of Fry, King, Laurence BrayStuart BoremanStuart Wheldon, and Vincent Gibson.
Although World of Twist failed to top the charts or even record a second album, their influence could be heard several bands and scenes that followed. In 1992, the British music press tried to make a thing out of the so-called Glam Revival (The AuteursDenim, and Suede). In 1993 they pushed the junk-shop retro-futurist Crimplene Scene (Pulp and Saint Etienne). The more interesting bands of Britpop combined influences drawn from the 1960s‘70s, and ’80s. In 1995, Romo briefly attempted to correct for New Lad with some New Romantic revivalism. In 1997, U2's the sound and video of "Discothèque" suggested that the Irish veterans had discovered World of Twist.
Ogden died suddenly, at the age of 44, in 2006. Sanderson died after a long struggle with lung and lymphoid cancer on 8 June, 2008. According to his obituary, his idea of heaven was driving a train whilst listening to Steve Hackett’s Spectral Morning. In 2009, artist Jeremy Deller created a piece, Procession, which included a “We Miss the World of Twist” float. In 2012, Saint Etienne again sang about World of Twist in their song, “Over the Border,” which recounts a break-in to Peter Gabriel’s house by late Nick Sanderson. It's only a matter of time now before the rest of the world catches on.
 
We Miss the World of Twist
Special thanks to World of Twist (library) for keeping their legacy alive.
*****
 Eric BrightwellAlan judging is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. Job offers must pay more than slave wages and involve neither listicles nor television personalities. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogKCET Departures, his art has been featured by the American Institute of Architectsthe Craft & Folk Art Museum, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured as subject in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington Postand Notebook on Cities and Culture and been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One album wonders: The Shop Assistants' Shop Assistants

SHOP ASSISTANTS - SHOP ASSISTANTS (1986) 

Shop Assistants band photo

In this week's installment of One album wonders we look at the Scottish band, Shop Assistants. On the eve of the Scottish independence referendum they were officially named on of the Top 50 Scottish bands of all time (see Top 50 Scottish bands of all time).

The band formed in Edinburgh in 1984, originally as Buba & The Shop Assistants). The original line-up was Annabel "Aggi" Wright (vocals), David Keegan (guitar), Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums), and Ann Donald (more drums). Stephen Pastel produced, provided the artwork, and sang back-up on their debut single, “Something to Do" on the very short-lived Villa21 Records. Soon after Pastel nicked Aggi for his own Glasgow-based band, The Pastels.


Aggi's replacement was Alex Taylor and with the line-up change came a shortening of their moniker to Shop Assistants. Shop Assistants debuted with Shopping Parade EP in 1985, released on on The Subway Organization, run by Martin Whitehead of Bristol-based band The Flatmates. Its lead track, "All Day Long" was described by Morrissey as his favorite single of the year."


Donald quit shortly afterward and without her the band recorded and released "Safety Net" on Keegan's own 53rd & 3rd Records. In 1986, another of their songs, "It's Up To You,” was included on the NME’s now famous scene-making C-86 cassette. 


Having achieved some independent success Shop Assistants next signed to Chrysalis Records, the Blue Guitar Records imprint of which was credited on their sole full-length album, Shop Assistants. Considering its quality, it performed surprisingly poorly commercially. In 1987, Taylor disbanded the band in and formed The Motorcycle Boy with former members of Shop Assistants and East Kilbride's second-finest, Meat Whiplash. They also proved to be one album wonders, releasing just Scarlet in 1989.
Shop Assistants LP

In 1990, Shop Assistants reunited -- albeit without Taylor (or Wright, for that matter). This time around original bassist Sarah Kneale assumed vocal duties and the line-up additionally included the addition of Margarita Vasquez-Ponte of Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes on drums. The new lineup released “Here It Comes” and “Big 'E' Power” in 1990 before again splitting up and after which another member (this time David Keegan) defected to The Pastels.

*****

Alan judging Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. Job offers must pay more than slave wages and involve neither listicles nor television personalities. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogKCET Departures, his art has been featured by the American Institute of Architectsthe Craft & Folk Art Museum, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured as subject in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington Postand Notebook on Cities and Culture and been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and on Twitter.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Urban Rambles: Exploring the area along Hoover and Virgil

Los Angeles is often characterized as a city in which one simply cannot exist without a car. And yet, as the millions of Angelenos who bicycle, take public transit, or walk will tell you, driving a car is no way to get to know the city. Since Los Angeles County is even larger than the island of Jamaica, walking everywhere would be a time consuming endeavor but there are highly walkable areas located throughout the nation's most populous -- and most densely-populated -- metropolitan area and under the heading Urban Rambles, I will explore some of them.


*****


Not far from Sunset Boulevard is an appealingly walkable area around the edge of Silver Lake and East Hollywood. Its low-key vibe and under-the-radar attractions make it ideal for an urban ramble, which is precisely what I decided to do, accompanied in this case by my neighbor, young Master Banphaburut. The entire adventure took us, two averagely healthy people, a little under an hour to undertake.

Oil Paint map of the area of our ramble
My oil paint map of the area of our ramble (Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography)

The first street we walked along was Hoover Street, a road which stretches south from the Los Feliz neighborhood over to the campus of USC in University Park to the south, essentially following the original western border of Los Angeles, as established in 1781, and thus the western edge of the Mideast (aka the Old Westside) region. To the east of Hoover, in Silver Lake, the streets were laid out in 1781 by the Spanish and are thus oriented according to the rules prescribed by the leyes de Indias. On the Hollywood side of Hoover, the streets were laid in the late 19th Century by Americans and therefore follow Thomas Jefferson's prescription that they be oriented along the cardinal directions.

Hepburn Manor
Hepburn Manor


Technically Trapezoidal
"Isn't it technically a trapezoid?"

The intersection of the American and Spanish layouts results in triangular lots and the presence of a couple of 1920s flatiron buildings upon them including Hepburn Manor (built in 1923, and which has its own Twitter account) and a smaller one to the south, also built in 1923, that was not long ago home to the underground music venue, Beauty is Pain (BIP)... and which my companion pointed out is technically trapezoidal.

Shady streetscape of Hoover
Shady Hoover streetscape

Small storefronts along Hoover
Small storefronts along Hoover

Little Shops of Hoover
Little Shops of Hoover

The Silver Lake section of Hoover is characterized by shady sidewalks, small homes, and small shops – many with wooden storefronts and most of which are frequenlty scarred by the placas of La Mirada Locos and then splotchily re-painted.

La Mirada Locos placas
La Mirada Locos placas

We briefly popped into a vintage guitar shop but the guy behind the counter was such an insufferable asshole that we just as quickly abandoned it and crossed the street where we discovered a collection of lawn ornaments which though lifeless possessed exponentially more charm and personality.

Practically Pee-Wee's Playhouse
"Good morning, Pee-Wee!"

Although nearby Edendale was the pre-Hollywood hub of West Coast film production, the area around our excursion is home to several former film studios, including Monogram Studios (the oldest building was constructed in 1912 for the Lubin Manufacturing Company), Occidental Studios (built in 1913), Vitagraph Studio/Prospect Studios (built in 1915), and the Mabel Normand Studios (built in 1916). We didn't visit any of them but you certainly can if that's the sort of thing in which you're interested.

By the 1940s, the area around Sunset Junction, the intersection of Sanborn Avenue and Sunset Boulevard has been known as an epicenter of Los Angeles's gay scene. On the last night of 1966, the assembled patrons of the Black Cat Tavern and New Faces bars shared customary New Year's kisses and the then-homosexualtiy-obsessed LAPD responded with arrests and beatings. This time, however, some of the patrons fought back. Increased tolerance from straights and applications like Grindr have contributed to the closure of many of the area's old gay bars although in the vicinity of our ramble there are still a couple of leather bars, Eagle LA and The Faultline, and a few bathhouse including Slammer and Flex (which seems to have closed since our ramble). Some of the formerly gay bars, including Akbar, Black Cat, and 4100, now cater to a mostly mixed and mainstream clientele.

Smog Cutter and a posh Louis Vuitton car
Smog Cutter and a posh Louis Vuitton car

On Virgil Avenue, on the other hand, bars range from the bourgie (The Virgil) to the decidedly not-bourgie (The Smog Cutter). Smog Cutter opens at 1:00 but my companion was in junior high so, after stopping to gawking at an old, Louis Vuitton car, we walked on.

Cafecito Organico

Marvin mean mugging
Cafecito Organico

The area of our ramble also included passing several restaurants and one popular coffee house. The latter, Cafecito Organico, beckons coffee drinkers with its strange, lighthouse/windmill-like structure and great coffee. I've stopped in there several times and never had to wait. I've also never had to wait at Intelligentsia or LAMILL but that's only because I've never bothered to patronize them because they both seem always to have ridiculously long lines and look a bit like knave scenes.

Cha Cha Cha
The Cha Cha Cha

Cha Cha Cha is an established Caribbean restaurant popular as much for its great ambiance as its food, which long ago made it a popular birthday location amongst my friends. I can't remember whose it was -- it may have been my own -- but pitchers of sangria have a way of erasing such unimportant details. Two neighboring Thai restaurants, Bulan and Sompun, offer two very different takes on the world's tastiest cuisine. Bulan is all vegetarian and Sompun, sadly, appears to be changing owners although my fingers are crossed that it will re-open soon.

Amalia's
Amalia's

Other establishments in the area include Amalia's, Capillas del Rosario, Don FelixManila Sunset, Point-Point Joint, Las Ranas Café, Roman's Pizza, Romero's Rotisserie Chicken n Donuts, SqirlTaqueria el CharritoEl Unico Pollo Taquero, Valerio V Family Bake Shop, and Wah's Golden Hen. In addition to the restaurants there are several small markets, carnicerias, taco trucks, a 3D sugar printer (Sugar Lab), and food carts -- many of which offer pupusas in front of several storefront churches. "And lead us not into temptation [pupsas], but deliver us from the evil one."

Not all of the churches along our walk are as nondescript -- although none of the more architecturally interesting ones apparently offered delicious Salvadoran street food as enticement or even seemed to be open to casual would-be churchgoers. There's Guardian Angel Parish National Catholic Church which was formerly the Hollywood Church of the Nazarene, and was built in 1924. The Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral is the second oldest Orthodox Church in Southern California.

Saint Vladimir Orthodox Church
Saint Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The most attractive neighborhood church we visited was Saint Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is itself located a few blocks east of the Ukrainian Culture Center.

The Church on Melrose
The Church on Melrose

Most curious, perhaps, is The Church on Melrose, a strange, hexagonal building which looks to date from the 1920s but whose fashionably inane “the ____ on ____” name is a dead giveaway that the current congregation is either a new inhabitant or at least recently re-branded.

Cahuenga Branch
Cahuenga Branch Library


Installation by Rik Martino
Installation (?) by Rik Martino

Another sort of historic, spiritual institution along the course of our walk is the Los Angeles Public Library – Cahuenga Branch – the third oldest library in the city. I've never been inside that particular location but in 2009 I helped plant a guerrilla garden there -- my first such effort. All signs of that garden seem to have vanished now but upon the library's lawn was a cryptic message/street art installation from famed "Birdman of Silver Lake," Rik Martino.

Public Storage

The tallest building in the area and the most eye-catching is a highrise, Art Deco, self storage structure designed by Arthur E. Harvey and built in 1928. It was formerly topped by a couple of Prohibition era speakeasies -- The Roof Garden and Thirteenth Heaven. Even more scandalous are the eye-searing purple and orange detailing added by current owners, Glendale-based Public Storage.

Uni Discounts
Deformed but recognizable cartoon characters

Most of the art in the area of our ramble consists of graffiti and commercial murals – both found in abundance along (and in the alleys off of) Santa Monica Boulevard.

Marvin checking out graffiti

More graffiti

Even more alleyway graffiti

The parking lot at Santa Monica and Vermont Avenue is also home to an interesting bit of public art, a luminous installation called Vermonica. It's made from 25 street lamps from different eras of Los Angeles history, the oldest dating from 1925, when the Bureau of Street Lighting was established.

Vermonica
Vermonica (better viewed lit)

Although Chris Burden's not dissimilar Urban Light (2008) piece at LACMA has inspired a million Instagram posts and Facebook profile profile pictures, Sheila Klein's older piece, from 1993, is more popular with chess-playing elderly Pinoys than manic pixie dream girls -- apparently drawn to the strip mall's turo turo joint and bakery rather than photo ops.

Bellevue Recreation Center
Bellevue Recreation Center

There were at least three parks in the vicinity of our ramble -- four if you count Laurel and Hardy Park (aka Del Monte Triangle), a small pocket park at the foot of the Music Box Steps public stairway. The largest park in the area is Bellevue Recreation Center, which rivals the Silver Lake Recreation Center in size, functionality, and hostility to association football with its community room, gymnasium, playground, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and a playground.

Hoover and Temple Soccer Field
Hoover and Temple Soccer Field

On the edge of Filipinotown is the artificial-turf Hoover and Temple Soccer Field. Small, sun-baked Madison West Park is located in the Dayton Heights neighborhood and has just a small playground and a few picnic tables.

Other sites of potential interest to the urban explorer or neighborhood resident include a former residence of writer Charles Bukowski, located at 323 1/2 N. Westmoreland Avenue. The famous author and substance-abuser lived there from 1952 until 1955. Interestingly, the fictional substance-pusher Saul Silver (from the film Pineapple Express) later lived (fictionally) at 118 N. Westmoreland Avenue. Silver was played by James Franco, who (probably coincidentally) wrote and directed the not-yet-released film, Bukowski.



*****


If you'd like to explore the area of this ramble yourself, you could always ride your bike to it, as we did, and ideally walk once there (or bike slowly, as my neighbor did). The area is also flat and easily walkable and there are dedicated bike lanes along parts of both Virgil and Santa Monica. The area is served by Metro's 2/302, 4, 10/48, 14/37, 175, 201, 204, 754, as well as LADOT's DASH Hollywood buses as well as Metro's Red Line subway which stops nearby at both the Vermont/Beverly and Vermont/Santa Monica stations.

Big Lizard on Temple
Big Lizard on Temple that you wouldn't likely notice from behind the wheel

Urban rooster on Santa Monica Boulevard
Urban rooster on Santa Monica Boulevard parked in front of a fire hydrant


*****


Alan judging Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. Job offers must pay more than slave wages and involve neither listicles nor television personalities. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogKCET Departures, his art has been featured by the American Institute of Architectsthe Craft & Folk Art Museum, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured as subject in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington Postand Notebook on Cities and Culture and been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and on Twitter