Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shopping for Furniture?

You might try here (or not):

It seems to me if they can't synch their sound, they shouldn't be licensed to sell furniture.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Colonialism in the Modern Age (or The Age of the Moderns)

First, giving credit where credit is due, I swiped the image below from the blog, LA Curbed

I don't know where this was found - a laundromat or something.

There is so much friction in Echo Park between the old timers and recent transplants ( also known as the gentrifiers and those sometimes known as Hipsters). So, as a relatively recent transplant, how do I stack up against this evaluation of Hipsterism?

1. Hipsters are usually white - in this case, "white" means of non-Hispanic European descent. In my case, well . . . it's complicated.

2. Hipsters are dirty but have homes with showers - The husband thinks I'm a germaphobe, so there.

3. Hipsters wear stupid hats - OK, I confess, the picture below is of me . . . but it was my birthday. Does that let me off the hook?

4. Hipsters wear tight pants- I've put on some weight. Cut me some slack on the slacks thing.

5. Hipsters complain about parking when its there fault there's no more parking - yes, I do complain about parking. But I complain about everything. One of my favorite things to complain about is people who can't grasp the concept of the contraction for it is and who fail to grasp the difference between there and their. So there.

Incidentally, according to this post from the blog, Stuff White People Like, I've just answered the question posed in #1.

6. Hipsters wear t-shirts with ironic slogans - whenever I have anything ironic to say, I like to say it myself, thank you.

I will not continue on to the next point because my mother reads this blog. But, I will say that I did in fact read the list and laugh - not because I am a Hipster but because the writer is so ridiculously self-important in his little rant.

I didn't come to Echo Park to displace low-income residents but I admit that may have been the unintended consequence of our relocation. At one time this small house was divided into a duplex and rented to people who couldn't afford more spacious accommodations. I have no idea who the renters living in this house might have been. I suspect they were immigrants, meaning they probably had few resources and may have been unaware of their rights.

Whoever they were, I know they were living among a lot of building code violations. The upstairs room had a vertical window installed into a horizontal space. Outside the window were security bars with an escape crank that didn't work. This means that in the event of a fire, even if you could remove the bars you probably wouldn't have been able to easily escape through the opening of the improperly installed window.

I know that the fireplace was a carbon monoxide hazard even though I was told by the PO (who was by then living here instead of renting it) that they often used the fireplace to heat the home.

I know there was a gas heater in the downstairs bedroom. I also know that for us, the gas company refused to turn on the gas for that heater because apparently, one is not supposed to have a gas heater in a bedroom.

I know that when we moved in, the house had later electrical wiring tapping into the original knob and tube wiring with open splices. Big no-no.

I don't know where the low-income people that rented the apartments in my house are living now, but I hope it's in safer conditions.

Yes, the neighborhood has gentrified over the past seven years that we've been here. There's now a wine bar down the street and a doggy daycare around the corner. Formerly there were more botanicas selling herbs and religious items for a variety of magical uses. Not to be patronizing but I'm not sure poor people are better off spending their money on promises of magic.

The ranter/writer is correct that this country was stolen by Euro-invaders but he makes the common error that invasion is unique to Europeans. The Toltec people were conquered by somebody but it wasn't Europeans. Genghis Khan wasn't European. And if anybody was forced out of Echo Park, I don't think it was the family who sold us this house and moved on to a fresh new house in the suburbs where they are now living their own American dream. They probably think of us and think suckers.

The ranter/writer lacks historical perspective. He's only thinking of the Echo Park he grew up in in the '80s and '90s. He is nostalgic for the Echo Park of legendary gangs, rampant tagging and nightly shootings. It must have been a paradise.

What he doesn't remember is that the socialists and progressives who gave Echo Park the name Red Hill were likely not Spanish speakers. He doesn't remember that the people who founded the first movie studios in Los Angeles built those studios in Echo Park and those people were probably not Spanish speakers. He must be delusional if he thinks the grand Victorians of the Carroll District were built for people of MesoAmerican descent.

He forgets. He forgets that the only reason this area was ever affordable for low-income residents is that the middle class moved on, leaving behind the old, turn of the century houses they didn't want. They left behind the fire traps, the lead paint, the cracked foundations and structures with shaky brick to be inhabited by poor people.

He forgets that, for many people, the only way to to accumulate wealth is (or was) through home ownership. Because the family who sold us our home saw a pair of suckers coming, they were able to move into an area that was (for them) more desirable. Without the promise of gentrification it is highly unlikely that they would have been able to sell their home for a price that would have allowed them to buy into their coveted new construction. Without the promise of gentrification, there would be no child-free entertainment industry professionals all up and down these streets, paying the property taxes to fund the fresh new elementary school at the end of my block that will benefit the families that have been longtime residents. Without the promise of gentrification, these century old homes would continue to age and to decline and the people renting them out to poor people would continue to strip out the original fixtures as necessary and replace them with the cheapest possible replacements.

Hey, ranter, we're not all hipsters; we're not all invaders and we are not the only ones who benefit from the changing landscape.

While we should always advocate on behalf of the less privileged, we should make sure our arguments are truly on their behalf and not self-involved rants against incursions into our own tiny little comfort zones.

So there. That's my rant for the day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Don't Mean to Creep You Out, But . . .

. . . this is a good reason to check between your sheets each night.

Last week I woke up with a nasty three-pronged bite from something or other. I hope it wasn't her. Eww!

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Don't Mean to Shock You But . . .

. . . did you know that the average age of a homeless person in the US is often cited as . . . 9?

Can that be right? The statistic has been disputed but the National Alliance to End Homelessness does estimate that about 5 to 7.7 percent of youth experience homelessness each year.

This is one child's story.

You can see all 5 parts of the series here.

You may not see them. You may see the panhandlers but you don't see the children. But just because we don't see them, it doesn't mean that they're not there. Where do they go?

Last week, the city of Los Angeles decided to eliminate 1,000 city jobs. Yeah, I know the city is broke. But I don't see how adding 1,000 unemployed people to the population is going to help anyone. That's 1,000 more people in danger of losing their home. That's 1,000 more people at risk of losing their health insurance. That could potentially be 1,000 more families with 1,000s more children at risk of falling in with gangs, selling drugs, dropping out of school and more, all so that the city can save the costs of 1,000 workers in the short-term.

When so many are struggling, shouldn't government create jobs, not eliminate them?

Think, Mr. Mayor. Think! Think of the long-term.

The homeless problem isn't about cleaning up a public nuisance. This isn't about making downtown safer or more business friendly. This is a national security issue. One day, and probably one day soon, extremist terrorist organizations won't have to recruit from Somalia or Yemen to plan attacks on the U.S. The children who are now growing up on our streets are ripe for recruitment. They are ready and willing to fall under the spell of some charismatic leader. These children have no investment in our society. I've written in the past, here and here and here, about class division and disenfranchisement and the elements of the population who have no investment in the community. One day, it won't be about tagging, or litter or class struggles between hipsters and bobos. One day, it will be about real destruction.

All that blather from the last administration about fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here - why do I have to be the one to say this? They are here and they are here now. They're just not trained yet.

On this President's Day weekend, if I had the attention of the President, I would say, "Can we please take the billions of dollars that we are sinking into failing wars and invest in these kids now?"

We need BOTH jobs and health care reform to prevent more families from falling into the state of homelessness. We need an aggressive effort to lift up the families that are already there.

Solid statistic or not - remember that number. 9. If it's not true now don't let it be true, ever.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Don't Mean to Bum You Out, But . . .

. . . this long President's Day weekend, as you work around your home, consider the millions of Americans who have no home . . .

Beth's Story from TakePart on Vimeo.

To see and hear them tell their stories, visit

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Billy? Is That You?

I never got around to showing you the transformation of the library. I only started writing this in July. Ready to see some pictures? -

And to answer the question in the title, yep, that's him. That is indeed the ubiquitous Billy from Ikea:

except, you know, with the glass front doors and moulding. But more about the moulding later.

I wish I had pictures of this room from before The Destruction. But, there was really nothing to photograph. Before we moved in it was just another room with white painted paneling, Listerine green carpet, broken louvered windows with security bars on the outside and an air conditioning unit stuck into the louvered windows with a piece of plywood holding in the a/c's lower half.

Yeah, it was something to look at.

Then, we took it apart. The door to the living room used to be way over to the side

With the old window gone, we had a view to the great outdoors -

we also created a view to the living room -

Fast forward to putting in the new window -

And the light shelf. Remember the light shelf?
Here's a start -

After installing rope lights (not florescents as had been threatened) K put up moulding -

Finally, to give Billy that built-in look, K had to build him up with a little moulding at the base -



Now, K had to cannibalize a third unlucky Billy just to get the shelf that would straddle the window space. But first he had to create a way to hang the shelf, as it would have no natural support (the width of the window was greater than the width of Billy)

At last! we were ready to unpack our precious books that had been in storage for 6 1/2 years:

(I know, the timeline is not successive here. For some reason, the books had to be unpacked before the moulding was complete. I don't remember why.)

And here we are, theatre books on the left -

(remember the desk?)
All non-theater related books on the right -

(note the painting, painted by an actual movie star. I'll tell you about that one day.)

The weirdly fortuitous thing is that that Billy's width exactly matched the wall space available on both sides of the window.
On the other side of the room, another fine Ikea product, Benno, holds our CDs and is dwarfed by the giant vintage armoire K bought at a thrift store -

We bought this old wicker trunk at Montgomery Wards, probably in 1985. We've had it ever since and now it gets to be a window seat -

That's a patio seat cushion. I don't think I love it but it'll do for now.

She seems to like it -

(update: I should have included in the original post that we don't have the luxury of having a room solely devoted to books. This was house's original and only bedroom and it now holds the only closet - the door is between the CDs and the armoire. So really, in addition to storing books, it also serves as a dressing room and with the desk, an alternative office space, alternative to the office space upstairs.)