Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
A Los Angeles blog
from Echo Park

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Thursday Diary, missing LA

Before I lived in Echo Park, there was a tiny 1920s bungalow-cottage-standalone house on N. Occidental in Silver Lake. I loved that 850 square feet, which was tucked behind another, nearly identical bungalow, with an alleyway that had been vacated by the city--given back to the residents and owners--and gated off on both ends. There were about ten fruit trees in the tiny yard. I lived there for four years, but my husband and I decided it was time to move to a bigger place (among other considerations), and fate called my bluff when we stumbled onto a perfect rental in Echo Park.

I had a difficult time with the move, grieved it in advance. I filled two albums of photographs of the house we were leaving, and after we left I framed a couple of them and put them on the walls on the house on Sargent Place.

"Oh, honey," my grandmother, Florence, said to me. "Always look forward. Never look back."

Spoken truly like the energetic woman who had moved up in the world that she was. She was still fairly healthy and strong then, and she could not imagine why I was dragging my heels. Certainly, she was trying to help me. But she may also have been annoyed at my lack of forward momentum. It makes sense--if you're in your late 70s and looking forward, wouldn't a granddaughter be part of your viewfinder?

She died while I was living in the "new" house in Echo Park, four years later. But, before then, she showed me that she did, in fact, own a rearview mirror.

My grandfather had died, and I was planning a visit to Chicago to see Florence. She called a few days before I flew out to make sure I had rented a car. She said there was something she wanted me to do but wouldn't tell what. And when she did tell me, she made me swear to secrecy, and she was serious.

What Florence wanted was to drive to her old house from the assisted-living apartment where she had moved immediately after my grandfather's death. She and Henry had built the house (or had it built) and lived in it for about 45 years. They'd been the only residents--it had been featured in design magazines and was very lovely. And now she had heard that the new owners tore it down--they were on some kind of expedited schedule. It had only been a few months since she'd moved out. My uncle did not want her to see it.

But she wanted to look for herself, and so I drove her to Canterbury Court in my rented car. And there was the pure fact: thin air where there had once, solidly, been a house. It looked like a helicopter landing pad, orange dirt packed down with fat tire treads.

"Okay," she said. "Let's go."

For once, I didn't linger. I only linger when there's something to see. I turned the car around in the driveway, which had been left intact for the heavy equipment.

I wrote this because I have been thinking about moving -- or about having moved. In February I moved from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, Ohio. The plan is for a couple of years at least. Los Angeles is an incredible city. Every day I try to remind myself not to compare places that are so fundamentally different as Cincinnati and L.A.

But it's Thursday in September, and I find myself lingering before one of my favorite pictures of Kite Hill in Echo Park. Not visible in the picture--but there nonetheless--are the Baxter Steps. I took the picture in December 2012.


Chicken Corner is flying the coop

Dear Readers, it's true. Chicken Corner has decamped. Just a few months ago, I believed I might possibly never move from my house in Echo Park, and now here I am moved out of that house and on my way to Cincinnati, Ohio. (Via I-40.)

Packing was all-consuming, and I have to admit I developed blogger's block when it came to chronicling the process or even announcing it -- much as I'm sure you would have loved to be apprised of which box my LAPD "Survivor" cup (from 1992) went into as well as all the other one-of a-kind precious or burdensome objects.

Our chickens are guest-staying with friends Kim, Dove, and Jonathan in Echo Park. In the sping they will come to Ohio. (First, I have to build a coop, then find a way for them to travel, then actually make the travel happen.) For the time being, they are doing well in their new digs.

It's difficult to say good-bye to Chicken Corner. It has been a true honor to be part of LAObserved, and writing the blog has added a dimension to my life that I don't know how to measure. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It helped me see and know my neighborhood and the city where I lived for 22 years. In a way, it gave me new eyes. And a new identity. Who ever dreamed I'd grow up and be able to refer to myself as Chicken Corner in third person? Fate has a sense of humor.

I have cherished the emails I received from readers -- sometimes even the angry ones! Thank you for taking the time to check in and to share your opinions, knowledge, and offer encouragement. Your notes helped shape this column.

Because I'm awful at goodbye's I won't say it -- for now at least. I have a number of Echo Park and LA photos from the archives that I'd like to post before the curtain goes down. So stay tuned. They're coming!

Much Love, CC

FAQ: Why am I moving to Cincinnati? My husband, RJ Smith, has started a job there. He is an editor at Cincinnati Magazine, which is owned by the same company that publishes Los Angeles Magazine, where he used to work.

Happy Holidays!


May your 2013 be filled with bright, twinkling lights, flights of fancy, and love!

Photo: Christmas Tree Lane -- AKA Santa Rosa Ave. -- in Altadena, taken a few nights ago when Chicken Corner visited the home of her friends Todd Mandel and Natasha Mitchnik and Laila Mandel. Somehow I had never before visited the spectacular holiday lights-event, which a DJ on KUSC this morning called the nation's oldest electric-lights outdoor Christmas display. First lighted in 1920, the display stretches about a mile and, with lights reaching to the tops of massive deodar trees, it's a breathtaking sight. According to the Christmas Tree Lane Association, it was designed in the 1920s with automobile-viewing in mind. Photo below, right, via Christmas Tree Lane Association.xmas.jpgUnknown.jpeg

Secrets at the echo-spot*

On Avon near Ewing there's a hollow, and in that hollow is a spot. And in that spot, there's an echo. I walked over it hundreds of times, and the little spot kept its secret. But then one day I walked over it while talking to my daughter and heard the echo. That was the magic key. I heard the echo, and now it's a game we sometimes play -- my daughter, Madeleine, and I -- when we're walking the dog. We find the echo spot and speak loudly. We listen to the faint throwback of sound, like a muted bell.

So, it's special place, but we thought it contained only one secret. Then, this past Sunday, our friends Mia Trachinger and her daughter Lotte, came to visit and we walked the dog to Elysian Park together. We forgot about our special echo-location, though, because right there was a display of paintings -- good ones -- in a driveway, and a sign hanging from a tree that read "Driveway Gallery."

I have been walking in front of this driveway since 1999, and I never knew it was a gallery. Not only, but I never knew the inhabitant of the adjacent house was a painter. I learned his name is Bill Rangel. I knew him by sight. Usually because I saw him driving past. But the hundreds of paintings carefully stored in the lower level of his home have been keeping their own silence to a passerby. We talked for a while. I thanked the painter for the earth globe and basketball he and his husband put out on the street and other items that we've picked up and used over the years. And then Madeleine, Lotte, Mia, and I went on our way toward Elysian Park.

We walked longer than we meant to, and it was almost nighttime when we once again passed the special place where there was an echo and a gallery.

The gallery was still installed, like an exhibition in itself -- it was lighted now. But the painter had departed. The following day, of course, it was all gone. But it lingers in the mind.

*Edited post: Updates the artist's name.

Ding dong! Yip yap!

Officer Gregory Randall is an urban ranger, and most likely he is the Facebook wildlife blogger for the Los Angeles Animal Services Wildlife Program. The site is one of my favorite places to visit in those free moments that I find here and there in the margins of the day.

Randall -- or Ranger X we could call him -- has seen just about everything.

For example:

In a November 28 post, Randall describes a memorable bit of invention: An 85-year-old man fashioned a dumb-waiter to lower food to his neighborhood coyotes. The way he knew they were ready for dinner was via a motion sensor in his yard that rang the doorbell.

But there's a fine line between feeder and perpetrator, and, we learn in the comments section that the elderly gentleman paid a hefty price: a $1000 fine for delivering food to the coyotes. (They had attacked a neighbor's dog.)


Lengths people go to feed predatory wildlife. This gentleman feeding the coyotes had a dumbwaiter that lowered down from his balcony to feed coyotes, How did he know they were there? Note the motion sensor in the picture [above] which rang a doorbell in his home. When I knocked on his door he said "how did you know?" ... I pointed at the overweight tree squirrel sitting on my right shoe holding my pant leg and said "A little squirrel told me."

A squirrel sitting on your shoe as you lay down the law, which prohibits dumbwaitering food to coyotes: all in a day's work.

LA in Cinty*

Chicken Corner set foot in Cincinnati for the first time in her life last weekend. It's an amazing city. While I was there I also had the fortune to visit a Zaha Hadid building for the first time. It's the Contemporary Arts Center and massively elegant, made of masculine materials and colors, feminized in delicate massing. Walk into the lobby, and what do you see? Andre the Giant -- in a huge Shepard Fairey wall, some of the pieces of which will be familiar to Echo Park pedestrians (even as they've been de-politicized and de-California-ized). A little bit of home near the Ohio River.


*Cincinnati for short.

Building exterior: Wiki image.

Election Day diary



Election Day and the hens are finally coming home to roost. Only 6-and-some hours to go PST. And then, hopefully, an end to the squawking about who will win, and we can start clucking (hopefully happily) about who did win.

In Echo Park, the polls were busy at 7:30 a.m., with a line outside the door on Morton Avenue. At 11:15 a.m., when Chicken Corner returned, the line was shorter, and the deed was done in less than ten minutes.

Meanwhile, at the Quaker Meeting House in Pasadena, a group of children were busy working on the sign above, which urges people to "go vote." The kids, ages five to ten, are art students of Abira Ali, and the sign was started and completed this morning. They're too young to vote, but not too young to join the effort. Good work! Cluck!

Full disclosure: Abira is my boss at Wisdom Arts Laboratory, where I help with admin and grants.

Shameless plug: This Friday, Nov. 9, Wisdom Arts Laboratory will hold the last of its 2012 Community Fridays events, in which the public is invited to join artists in making wooden toys, Mandarin calligraphy, and other art projects in a program funded by the Gayle and Rowe Giesen Trust. All ages. Free and lots of fun. From 3:45 to 5:30 p.m. at 520 East Orange Grove Blvd. Pasadena 91104.

Angeleno Heights comes alive...

...amid tombstones, hanging corpses, and wicked witches each year at Halloween. The neighborhood known for its large stock of well-preserved Victorian clapboard houses draws many hundreds of people to trick or treat at the done-up homes -- on Carroll Avenue in particular. At 9 p.m. this evening Douglas, Kellam, Carroll Ave. were packed with children and adults, the houses buzzing with parties up and down the blocks, the candy supply already dead at some locations. There were low riders and set designers. And scores of three-year-old Supermans.

We had the pleasure to arrive at Harvey Shields' house on Carroll Avenue in time to see three of four of the famous Mighty Echoes -- an a cappella doo-wop group -- sing "The Monster Mash" for a crowd in front of the house, below:


Before the singing, Chicken Corner had the pleasure of meeting three grass men, the first is below, dressed in military camouflage. Hallowgreen:


There was a witch:


And a rocket-powered lapdog:


And the moon between houses:

A man with the head of a horse:


And a couple visiting from another era, waiting for the bus down on Sunset Blvd. where it was quiet.


Good night, Halloween.

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