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Ride Me Out To The Ball Game: The Dodgertown Bike Ride

Video highlights from our Dodgertown Bike Ride!

Earlier this summer, my friend and fellow bike advocate/activist Carlos Morales proposed a group bike ride to Dodger Stadium on Saturday, September 1 for his Eastside Bike Club and any other interested cyclists. They would do a 4-mile ride from El Sereno to Dodger Stadium to watch the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game in an unprecedented mass ride to the Stadium. He would coordinate with the Dodger organization to work out logistics. This was perfect timing, since in July during my Dodgers Community Advisory Committee meeting, we met with new Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten. I brought up this ride, and the need for better bicycle accessibility to Dodger Stadium, citing common complaints by the few cyclists who dared to ride up to Chavez Ravine. He was surprisingly open and willing to make things happen, and in fact inquired with his VP about creating a Dodger Stadium Bicycle Policy.

The day finally came, and since I live west of the Stadium, I organized a “feeder” ride from the Vermont/Sunset Metro station, where two women from Los Feliz joined me. We rode straight down Sunset and up Elysian Park and waited for the pack to arrive. We also met LAPD Officer Gordon Helper, who’s the police department’s main bicycling community liaison, mostly coordinating with the Critical Mass rides (and also unfortunately dealing with Friday night’s tragic fatal accident on the UCLA campus). He was our lone LAPD escort, himself on a bike.

The whole process went smoothly. We rode in through the Sunset Gate, entered on the far right lane (didn’t have to pay for parking!) and confabbed in the immediate lot where we met with Dodgers parking staff, riding on electric carts. They had us ride up to Lot B (“As in Bike!” exclaimed Morales, to much cheering) near the Reserve-Level entrance (3rd base/Left Field side).

A number of metal barriers were set up as ersatz bike racks, forming the first-ever Dodger Stadium bike corral. None of us seemed to have a problem with locking up on them, though in a few cases, multiples of bikes were secured alongside each other.

I actually hung my road bike on the top railing via my saddle and left handlebar, and U-locked the frame to the railing.

The game itself was a nice one: The home debut of newly-acquired starting pitcher Josh Beckett, who threw 9 strikeouts and gave up only one run. Solo homers were provided by Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier, and just like that, the Dodgers won 2-1.

This dude had the tightest bike in the pack — a custom-built Dodgers bike! He told me he based it on an inexpensive Wal-Mart fixie frame and added his own parts, cost less than $400 in parts.

We all left our bike corral, lights blinking, and were escorted from the parking lot by Officer Helper and the parking staff on golf carts. Wonder what all the folks in cars thought of us. If they did see us — we were out of the parking lot in less than 3 minutes!

We had cars honk at us along Cesar Chavez — but more due to celebratory fervor than aggressiveness. And the only thing the motorists shouted at us was,”Whoo! Go Dodgers!” It didn’t matter how we got to the game – we were all united as Dodger fans on the streets.

We continued riding through the streets of Downtown L.A., riding on Broadway, 11th, Figueroa, 2nd, Central, 1st and Alameda. I diverged from them at Cesar Chavez, where I continued west towards Echo Park to meet up with another friend who went to the game and was visiting from out of town.

The Dodgers are known for making history: From Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, to Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela to Hideo Nomo, the first baseball team on the West Coast is no stranger to blazing trails. So it’s only fitting that sixty-plus Dodger fans on bicycles made some history of their own. Ramirez and Ethier might have hit the home runs, but Carlos Morales was our MVP. Big props to him for making this happen!

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new era of transportation options to Dodger Stadium. Like Randy Newman says,”We gonna ride it ’til we, just can’t ride it no more…”

Infinitely More (To Write About) – My New KCET Column!

Click on image to read the article!

I’m proud to announce my debut as a contributing weekly SoCal Focus columnist for KCET television’s website!

This all transpired in the past few weeks when, one Friday, I received a rejection letter from a job I had recently applied and interviewed for. I though I would land the job, but I got the email instead. Then, not even half an hour later, KCET website editor Zach Behrens messaged me on Facebook and asks if I’d be interested in writing a weekly column for the website for the next couple months, covering the Asian/Pacific Islander community. Earlier this week we sealed the deal, and I wrote my first piece on Tuesday night, to go live today.

My first column is on the 10th anniversary of the City of Los Angeles’ designation of the Historic Filipinotown district.  Incidentally, it comes exactly 10 years to the day of the 2002 designation.

On Tuesday, I rode my bike to Temple Street, Union Avenue and Beverly Boulevard to take a few pictures. Honestly, I could not find a “cityscape” shot that looked like a good representation of what is Filipino in Historic Filipinotown (hence the main message of the column), so I took a picture of the Filipino American history mural at Unidad Park along Beverly.

What’s interesting is that this is the first journalism-related gig for me in a long time. It doesn’t pay a whole lot, but I can’t even remember the last time I was paid for  writing in a journalistic setting.

I must say that writing for a large audience (much, much bigger than the handful of people who read this blog) got me a little nervous, yet at the same time motivated me. I must have spent about 6 hours writing the piece, which involved lots and lots and lots and lots of hitting preview mode to make sure everything looked right.

When I was in college, I gained a moderate amount of fame as a columnist of the campus newspaper, the Daily Trojan. It was fairly unconventional, brutally honest and in fact, it was very much like a blog, even though it was in print.

About 17 years ago, in my senior year of college, my dream was to be a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to that.

I’ll have lots of fun doing this. So look for me every Thursday on KCET.org!

A Night with the Stanley Cup

On Monday, the Los Angeles Kings made history, garnering their 45-year-old franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup championship , and the first hockey championship in Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, I was all set to go to the Dodgers-Angels game when it was announced the 2012 Stanley Cup Champs will be there and bring The Stanley Cup as well! I left the house early and made sure to catch the Red Lin and Dodger Stadium Express in time to see the festivities. It was my first time seeing the thing with my own eyes and was rather exciting, even from some 400 feet away sitting in the right field pavilion.

Members of the Dodgers and the Kings posed for a photo-op with Lord Stanley’s Cup, and were also joined by the visiting Angels, which might not have made any sense to Dodgers fans (especially since the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks had their day at Angels Stadium), but it made all sense in the world to Fox Sports.

The Kings threw the honorary first pitch(es), throwing it to members of the Dodgers. I’m hoping this was a symbolic way of passing the championship torch from one local team to another, and likewise the Dodgers would show up at Staples Center this fall and show off their World Series trophy. And with the MLB’s best record at the moment, it might just be likely.

It was also Filipino Night at Dodger Stadium, scheduled to coincide with Philippine Independence Day on June 12 (Yesterday was a bobblehead night, so the 13th it was). I was actually the only Filipino in my group, made up primarily of people in my church, who originally bought the tickets to see our fellow choir member Chessa, a finalist in NBC’s The Voice sing the national anthem. But that appearance was cancelled a few days ago, and we decided to go see the game anyway. My friends Louie and Lisa sang as part of the Philippine Chamber Singers, who did a pre-game performance, and the national anthem/God Bless America was sung by another singer (stadium P.A. announcer Eric Smith actually used the word “Pinoy” while introducing her.

The Filipino Night attendees either got t-shirts or backpacks with a modified Dodgers logo featuring the eight-ray sun fron the Philippine flag in lieu of the speeding baseball. Which was way better than giving out red “This is My Town” t-shirts during a game where we played the Cardinals, and offering a Filipino food menu that had an adobo dish that more resembled teriyaki. This year was no-frills, but not embarrassing either.

As we sat near Andre Ethier’s workspace, we watched a game that ultimately had the Dodgers fall 2-1 to the Angels. No big deal since the Dodgers still have the best record in baseball.

But dang, how often do they have the Stanley Cup in the house?

WaBa Grill Opens in East Hollywood

For the past couple months, I’ve been observing the vacant storefront in the shopping plaza on the northeast corner of Santa Monica and Vermont. It’s the westernmost storefront, on 1134 N. Vermont, which for years – every since I could remember – was a Los Burritos restaurant.

But it was cleared out some time ago and signs saying “Coming Soon: WaBa Grill“.

Finally it opened last week, so I came to check it out on Sunday.

It’s billed as “health fast food,” perhaps in the same category as, yet quite a few notches above Yoshinoya. It’s teriyaki bowls and such, featuring grilled chicken, steak or salmon. That food is actually not new to East Hollywood, as we’ve had California Bowl on Vermont and Melrose for a number of years.

The restaurant was brand new, totally immaculate (well, it just opened…) and nicely designed. The curtains kinda made me feel like I was in some fancy suburb. The staff was nice and friendly. Though not packed, there was a decent amount of customers eating here on this Sunday evening.

I ordered a “Mixed Plate” (chicken and steak) and “Salmon Plate” to go. They came with their respective meats, with rice, a small side of green salad and half an orange.

The food was pretty good, not mindblowing good, but I have to say I enjoyed the steak, it kinda reminded me, flavorwise, of Thai beef jerky, only not nearly as tough. Or maybe a hybrid of Thai beef jerky and carne asada? Only in East Hollywood, right?

Speaking of which – and this was the part that blew me away the most – although WaBa Grill is a franchise chain with locations in California and Virginia, they actually call this their “East Hollywood” location(!) It shows up on their menu fliers and on signs:

That’s a welcome change from certain East Hollywood establishments that like to use “Silverlake” or “Los Feliz” as descriptors for their location (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!).

Welcome to the neighborhood, WaBa Grill! You definitely know where you are!

Although…I still have no freakin’ idea what “WaBa” means…

The Tour and The Guardians

I did my first of four summer excursions of East Hollywood Saturday as part of LA Commons’ ‘Trekking LA” neighborhood tours. Hollywood Patch gave my tour some love this morning and featured it on the front page.

I took a small group of folks through Thai Town (even running into my friend Wanda’s Six Taste tour of Thai Town at Thailand Plaza), Little Armenia, Barnsdall Park and Healthcare Square (at Sunset and Vermont). We sampled Thai desserts and Armenian pastries.

I’ve done this tour around four times in various versions, yet there’s still something new I learn or discover each time.

As I led the group down the steps at the southeast corner of Barnsdall Park back down to street level, I saw this, taped to the walls:

It was pleasant and interesting to see, especially after detailing Ms. Aline Barnsdall’s life from Pennsylvania to Chicago to Los Angeles.

It reads:



[Japanese characters]


The Barnsdall Guardians

“Aline Barnsdall donated the park and its Rrank [sic] Lloyd Wright structure to the
city of Los Angeles in 1927. she wished to provide an accessible arts center for families
preserving the HollyHock [sic] house as a vital component. The spirit of Barnsdall intentions [sic] was
to maintain an active arts centerthe [sic] comuunities [sic] longevity.”

Okay, so maybe the flier needed a better copy writer, but hey, at least they are aware of the place’s history.

Still, I can’t help but wonder who these “Barnsdall Guardians” are and how to outreach to them…

Take a Tour of East Hollywood this Saturday!

Here I am giving a tour of East Hollywood during LA Commons' Found LA Festival, October 2011.

I wear many hats, and one of them is tour guide. Or rather, neighborhood docent.

I’ve been involved with the nonprofit organization LA Commons for the past 5 or so years. They do wonderful events and programs connecting people in Los Angeles through art, food, music and culture. One of their programs is the Trekking LA tours, which highlight the Los Angeles that is usually overlooked by the tourism industry. As an East Hollywood native resident and community activist, and board member of Thai Community Development Center, I got to know them back in ’07 when they did Trekking LA tours of Thai Town and Little Armenia. In 2008, Food Network chef Jet Tila and I led a tour of Thai Town for LA Commons. I also assisted LA Commons during their utility box mural art project on Hollywood Boulevard, when they got a couple of muralists to coordinate workshops with local youth to paint community mini-murals on AT&T utility boxes on the street. I was asked to give a history lesson on East Hollywood to them. More recently, I gave a tour of East Hollywood for LA Commons’ Found LA day, in October 2011.

I was born and raised in “Hollywood,” but when I grew up, I noticed that my part of Hollywood wasn’t the same as the rest of Hollywood: No movie theatres, no souvenir shops, no stars embedded in the sidewalk, no tourists. That’s what led me to identify and re-define my community as East Hollywood — though deficient in the perceived glitz and glamor of “Holllywood,” it contains a rich cultural diversity that you won’t find anywhere else. This is tourism – cultural tourism.

This Saturday at 1 p.m., I’ll be leading a tour  of East Hollywood called, “The Other Hollywood Boulevard,” which will trek the thoroughfare from Western to Vermont, and I’ll explain the cultural and historical sights along the way, especially with regard to Thai Town, Little Armenia, Barnsdall Park and “Healthcare Square,” (where three major hospitals are located). Tickets are just $10, and you also get to eat on the tour as well! You can order tickets online here.

I’ll also be giving three other tours of East Hollywood in July, August and September.

LA Commons also does tours of other wonderful Los Angeles neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, San Pedro, Highland Park, Mac Arthur Park, Westwood’s Little Tehran and the Byzantine Latino Quarter. Each of them are given by neighborhood docents who are equally as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their own neighborhoods. For more information on the tours, visit the LA Commons website.

A Look at the Bicycle Kitchen’s New Digs

Back in February, the Bicycle Kitchen announced it was seeking a new home after outgrowing its Hel-Mel location after some seven years (In fact, it was both Bicycle Kitchen cook Somerset Waters and I who coined the name “Hel-Mel” in the Fall of 2005 after we did some brainstorming for identifying that part of the community). The Kitchen, which originated from an actual kitchen at the Los Angeles Eco Village just south of East Hollywood, was no stranger to moving, and growing, so it was time to seek a new locale after its lease ran out in May 2012.

Fortunately, they didn’t go far, and there would be no new lease either — the non-profit bicycle repair education collective, with the help of some grants, donations and a fundraising drive, bought their very own building — also here in East Hollywood — just a mile and a half away at 4429 Fountain Avenue, just east of Virgil. They took over a Filipino bakery called Alice’s Sapin-Sapin (which is a layered Philippine dessert cake made out of rice flour and coconut), which was actually more prominent and successful at its own former location on Sunset and Kingsley than here.

I decided to ride here and check it out on Wednesday evening after watching Game 4 of the Kings’ Stanley Cup match at a sports bar in Los Feliz. They had actually been phasing in operations this week, with an official Grand Re-Opening event later this Summer.

First impression: Yes, it’s bigger. Obviously not airplane-hangar big, but definitely not the cramped space it once was. The four bike stands, which hold two bicycles each,  have been moved here and are now arranged in  parallel. There is actually space for a fifth bike stand, which will be arriving soon.

One of the cooks recognized me as a regular and gave me a quick tour. He showed me the wheel closet, where bike wheels can now be stored at a more accessible height (and more of them can be stored as well):

And just outside the wheel closet are the parts drawers and cabinets:

And if there’s a waiting list, there’s an actual lounge area you can chill and hang out in:

And the main desk is in a centrally-located counter area:

There’s also space in the front for the temporary storage of these things called automobiles:

As with any move to a new location, there is a change in culture; gone are the ice cream runs at Scoops or take out pizzas from Pizza Paul. Enter cheesesteak runs from Boos Philly Steaks across Virgil and take out Peruvian food from Don Felix next door. It’s also closer to the bars and cafes of Silver Lake, and Tang’s Donut, the popular gathering spot for the high-octane Wolfpack Hustle mass bicycle rides, is just yards away.

Meanwhile, back in Hel-Mel, the Orange 20 Bicycles shop remains the lone holdout from the “Bicycle District,” which one Hel-Mel business proprietor said, tongue-in-cheek, is now the “Hair Salon/Eyeglass Lens/Medical Marijuana District.”

But why should we have just one “Bicycle District” in town when we should be having many “bicycle districts” all over Los Angeles?

Most of all, the best of luck to the Bicycle Kitchen on its brand new building, and I look forward to its official grand re-opening soon!

Venus If You Will…

Today was the day of the long-awaited Transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. I made sure to get my errands done (like voting for Tuesday’s California primary election) before 3 p.m. so I can enjoy this astronomical event that won’t happen for another 105 years.

I dug out my old ’80s-era Soligor Short Tube Catadioptric Telescope that my folks bought for me when Halley’s Comet last went ’round back in 1986 (I saw it, and it looked more like a potato). I’ve used this telescope before to watch some solar eclipses, as it contains a filter that makes the sun appear bright green (and thus safe to the eyes).

It was a perfect, cloudless day today, so I just set it up on my driveway and took a peek. And there it was (photo top). I saw it long enough for Venus to appear as a solid circle as opposed to just a tiny slice of the Sun.

Being that this event would last for the next several hours, so I uploaded my pic to Facebook and Twitter. Some friends mentioned they were headed up to Griffith Observatory to watch it, I told them that parking would probably be near impossible there and told them about my telescope and that I’d have free viewings on my front lawn.

First to visit was my friend Mino, whose grandmother lives just across the street and also grew up in the neighborhood. Then just a short while after he left, my friends Angela and Alejandra came by to take a peek:

By then, the transit looked like this:

Then after they left, we suddenly had a little party. Molly and Michael dropped by, offering some of their wonderful baked goods as treats (big-ups to their Secret Goldfish Baking Company), then David and his baby son Eamon (who might be able to see this again when he’s 106), then my sister Lorely dropped by, and someone who lived up the block, Camille, saw the telescope and was offered to look. She summoned her husband, William, to come down and take a look. We even offered other neighbors and even passers-by a chance to see the Transit. And of course I gave out some information on the neighborhood council (outreach never ends!)

After they left, William returned, and said his brother wanted to come check it out, but he was still on his way. By then, the sun was starting to hide behind the houses. By the time his brother Andy and his girlfriend Taz came by, it was too late here, so we hopped in my car and went up to Barnsdall Park to see the Sun before it set. In the nick of time, I set up the telescope right next to where I parked the car and they got to see the Transit of Venus before the Sun’s image got obscured by trees and set for the day.

My last look at the Transit:

And just like that, the show ends.

The coolest thing was, even an event some 25 million miles away suddenly became a community event, re-connecting friends and connecting neighbors.  Hopefully we won’t have to wait 105 years to do something like this again!

On the Virtues of Volunteerism

This morning I addressed around 100 Los Angeles Public Library volunteers and staff on the virtues of volunteerism at a Volunteer Recognition Breakfast at the Pio Pico-Koreatown Branch Library. More on this at the CahuenGardeners blog!

The Expo Line, Circa 1992

Today marks the opening of the Metro Expo Line, the 6th route in LA.’s Metro Rail system, which opened in 1990. Though this line began construction in 2006, it was first planned some 20 years ago as a short 1.5-mile extension of the Blue Line. I first wrote about this as a journalism student at USC, where I wrote for the campus newspaper, the Daily Trojan.

Download Page 1 of the article (.pdf)

Download Page 2 of the article (.pdf)

The proposed “Exposition Park Branch Line”  would share the tracks as the Expo Line does now from the 7th/Metro Center station in Downtown L.A. to where the lines diverge at Washington & Flower. There too would be stations at 23rd St. and Jefferson, and then the line would end at Exposition and Vermont. Where or if it would go beyond Vermont would be discussed at another time.

The branch line was projected, at the time, to cost only $150 million and be completed – at the earliest – in 1996.

I graduated from USC with my Print Journalism degree in 1996.

It is now 2012. Yes, I am old.

The station that serves USC today wasn’t originally in the plan and was considered an “optional” site.  Earlier that year, I followed up with the L.A. County Transportation Commission (what part of Metro was known back then) and attended various community meetings on the line. I guess I got my early start in transit activism back then without realizing it. I also advocated for a stop at USC exactly where it exists today, testifying it would be good not just for students, but for staff and attendees to events at the Coliseum and Sports Arena. My comments were included in the Environmental Impact Report.

Budget constraints in the early 1990s put this and other lines on the shelf, but eventually that line got extended into the 8.5-mile line we know today as the Expo Line. I’d like to think I played my little part in its history by expressing the need for a USC station, and at the very least, making the university aware of the project, even way back when.