Sunday, September 30, 2007

Washington Post Covers Downtown Art Walk - And All Of Downtown!

Excellent article on the rebirth of Downtown in today's Washington Post and, appropriately, it opens talking with Bert Green about the monthly art walk....

Angelenos' New Refrain: 'I Love (Downtown) L.A.'City's Once-Wasteland Is Hipster Heaven

William Booth Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, September 30, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- It's nighttime in downtown Los Angeles and the sidewalks are packed with pretty people out for the monthly Art Walk. Dressed in their skinny jeans, they're trolling the edgy little galleries, clutching their plastic cups of wine, sidestepping the panhandler wearing a garbage bag. Suddenly, a stylish young couple appears -- pushing a stroller. Bert Green, a gallery owner, points at the nuclear unit. "That's what I'm talking about," Green says. " It's happening."

A family in downtown Los Angeles. After dark. This is news.

Because until recently, most of downtown L.A. at night looked like the set for a zombie movie. It was either empty or scary. There are lifelong Angelenos who have never been downtown after sunset. Aside from a Lakers game or a night at the opera, large stretches were no-go zones. Downtown L.A. was where you went on trial, not on a date.

But now? Downtown is one of the hottest residential real estate markets on the West Coast, with a first wave of pioneering artistic types being smothered by a second, larger wave of 20- and 30-something trendsetters. Many are from the creative industries and Hollywood, snapping up 1,100-square-foot "Zen retreats" and one-bedroom "soft lofts" with communal rooftop party pools for $529,000, parking for the Prius included.

What happened? After decades of dashed real estate schemes and city-planner dreams, downtown Los Angeles is suddenly cool.

Just a few years ago, you couldn't get a pizza delivered downtown after 8 p.m. "You could buy drugs. But you couldn't buy milk," recalls Carl Ramsey, a painter who lived downtown until upward-spiraling rents pushed him and his studio a few miles west into the Salvadoran barrio.

Now there are chic restaurants and underground dance clubs with dress codes and guests lists. Downtown is an official destination for scenesters -- and almost every newbie to DT (that's what some bloggers call it) blurbs the same thing. "I can't believe I didn't know about this," said Nili Martin, a Web designer, as she sat with friends at Warung Cafe in the Old Bank District (formerly a half-abandoned slum), listening to the Pan-Asia house music while grazing on his tapas and sipping soju. Martin has lived 12 miles away for the past seven years: "I've never been downtown, but this is so much fun. It's like New York . . . almost."

Why are they here? The newcomers are drawn by the insidery buzz of the next cool place, by a desire for authenticity and a specific vibe -- arty, multiculti, a bit scruffy but not hairy. They want to be around their own kind -- employed college graduates -- but they want to live in a neighborhood with an edge. They want to feel as if they are discovering something. That they are unique. When asked, that's what the new downtowners say: They like how it feels.

"This is the story of people looking for the hip, the cool, the genuine," says Sharon Zukin, sociology professor at City University of New York and author of "Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change." "This is the flip side of the suburbs," with their bigger homes and better schools. "Here people are looking for something in the air, and there's almost a universal language of cultural signs -- a certain kind of bookstore, boutique, art gallery, coffee, design. The first good bottle of wine in the corner store."

These cool-hunters are zeroing in on the sudden appearance of specific social clues -- American Spirit cigarette butts, or black kale on the menu, or art graffiti (as opposed to gang tags) -- that signal the presence of like-minded urbanites.

"You know it when you see it," Zukin says.

Every city now has (or wants) a loft district. Whether they actually have artists and old warehouses to turn into studio lofts is irrelevant. Soft lofts are newly constructed "loft-like" condominiums designed with open floor plans, high ceilings and purposely distressed concrete floors.

It all began in New York, of course: Greenwich Village begat SoHo begat the Lower East Side, etc. But the cool neighborhood gold rush is now a nearly ubiquitous phenomenon: Wicker Park in Chicago, Pearl District in Portland, Fishtown in Philadelphia. Even the unlikeliest cities are getting in on the urban living trend, like Old Town in (seriously) Wichita and the East Village of . . . Des Moines. In Washington, transformations are underway (or complete) in Logan Circle, Penn Quarter and Mass Ave. The trend is global: Kreuzberg in Berlin and Fitzroy in Melbourne and Xujia Hui in Shanghai.

A giveaway: Watch for rebranding. You don't live south of Market Street in San Francisco; you live in Soma. Or LoDo in Denver. Or SoBe in Miami.

While downtown was relatively inexpensive a few years ago -- artists and galleries are drawn by cheap square footage -- it is now almost as pricey as any other well-established middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles.

The downtown here harbors at least 16 micro-neighborhoods boxed by the freeways. There's a Little Tokyo, a Chinatown, the original Mexican pueblo. There are vibrant wholesale districts selling flowers, toys, produce, apparel, jewelry, fish. There are glass towers for office workers and the City Hall, the courts and the Staples Center ($400 million), the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels ($190 million) and Walt Disney Concert Hall ($274 million). During the day, downtown can be the busiest place in Los Angeles. About 400,000 workers punch the clock here from 9 to 5. Then -- poof -- they drive home. Or they used to.

Since 1999, when the city passed laws to encourage loft conversions from abandoned offices and warehouses, more than 9,300 residential units have been created in downtown, most of them in the past few years. In addition, 8,000 condos and apartments are under construction, and 8,500 more are on the drawing boards.

"You see change week to week, it's that fast. A new restaurant, new scaffolding round a building; it's just remarkable how fluid the streetscape," says Eric Richardson, a computer mapmaker who moved to downtown L.A. three years ago and founded

For years, these buildings and streets have served as backdrops for cop shows and car ads supposedly set in an ersatz New York. The historic core (the forgotten Wall Street of the West) harbors one of the largest collections of turn-of-the-century office buildings in the country.

There are blocks and blocks of Beaux-Arts buildings that have spent the past 30 or 40 years empty above the ground floors.

"Wow, what's this?" says Josh Buxbaum, a former child actor ("Alf") and now a real estate broker specializing in downtown lofts, as he steers his Mercedes sedan on a quick tour of new properties. Buxbaum is pointing at a building called 655 Hope. "It's my job to know every conversion project, and this? This one is new to me. When did this start? Yesterday?"

"Comfortable, elegant, secluded, secure, yet just steps away from everything about the city that you expect, demand and delight in," reads 655's Web site. "The heart of downtown, L.A.'s most rapidly expanding real estate market, is pulsing with the excitement of a new city lifestyle."
Buxbaum is living that new city lifestyle. His live-work space is a converted warehouse down by the railroad tracks that allows him to drive the Benz into his loft -- like some kind of Batman, if Batman lived in an AIR building -- which stands for Artist in Residence, (versus Realtor in Residence).

Buxbaum's recent clients? A record label owner, a denim designer, a photographer. "We love the grittiness," he says. "They've been talking about downtown happening for 10 years. Now it has happened. There's no turning back. There's too much money to turn back now."

Whether downtown L.A. real estate weathers the slowdown, time will tell. But Buxbaum is correct about the money. On one end of downtown, by the Staples Center, there is the $2.5 billion L.A. Live entertainment and sports complex. On the other, by the Disney concert hall, there's the $2 billion Grand Avenue project of hotels, skyscrapers and condos. The original boom driven by conversions of old office buildings and warehouses is now driven by new construction of high-rises, with modern, meaningless names like Elleven, Luma and Evo, the latter boasting "couture living" and "impossibly modern architecture" straight from the pages of Dwell magazine


"People were absolutely shocked," Julie Swayze says, when she and her husband, Steve Bowie, opened Metropolis Books on Main Street this year. Swayze imitates their reaction: " 'It's a bookstore! On Main Street! On Skid Row!' And I said, yes, there is."

A friend who opened Old Bank DVD down the block inspired Swayze to take the chance. And business hasn't been bad, she says. "The neighborhood is very into nonfiction, very literary authors and classics. Every imaginable classic, I sell out of," Swayze says. "Also architecture and the history of L.A. is huge -- anything about revival, or ruins or specific architectural design, they buy."

Swayze welcomes the foot traffic that will come when an old theater next door is converted to a rock club and a corner lot is turned into a dinner cabaret, but she's a little worried about the upwardly mobile new downtowners, that the edge -- that feel -- will be lost as downtown becomes more affluent, safe and homogenized.

Says Carol Schatz, executive director of the Central City Association, quoting from the most recent demographic surveys: "The vast majority of residents moving downtown are between 25 and 35 years old, with sizable disposable incomes, making $100,000 or more a year. And they are moving here because they want a cool, hip, nontraditional living experience."

"Everything is catering to them," Swayze says of the middle-class newcomers. "Will downtown look like Rodeo Drive in 10 years? Or will it look like it did in the '50s and '60s, when it was mom-and-pop places and people came down here and enjoyed themselves? Nobody really knows where it's going," she says. "I think we want a little bit of both."


It is a fact that people who have lived downtown for just a couple of years are already talking with nostalgia about the old days. But it is also true that downtown L.A. has been so void of middle-class residents that the opening of a Ralphs supermarket in July (the first large grocery store here in 57 years) was hailed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who attended, as a "historical moment."

Staff writer Sonya Geis contributed to this report

Grand Avenue Festival TODAY!

Going for Another Grand Slam

Annual Street Festival Features Food, Performances and Free Tours
by Anna Scott Downtown News

Be warned: This Sunday, you might see Martians on Grand Avenue.
More than 25,000 people are expected to attend the free Grand Avenue Festival on Sunday, Sept. 30.

The event is on Grand Avenue from Temple to Fifth streets.

That's not a reason to run for the hills. The Martians, along with singers, dancers, food purveyors and more, are part of the fourth annual Grand Avenue Festival. From 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sept. 30, Grand Avenue between Temple and Fifth streets will offer performances, workshops, tours, art, food and the Martians, or, rather, a display about the surface of Mars, which will be inside the Natural History Museum's simulated research lab. The festival is expected to draw at least 25,000 people.

"If it's a good day," said Leticia Rhi Buckley, director of marketing and communications for the Los Angeles Music Center, one of the festival's main sponsors, "it may even be more."

Launched in 2004, the Grand Avenue Festival grew out of the Creation Festival, a smaller event held the year before to celebrate the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall. "We said, 'Why don't we invite everybody?'" recalled Josephine Ramirez, vice president of programming and planning for the Music Center and the festival co-chair. "Why don't we make it a Downtown thing?"

Thus the Creation Festival was combined with the Taste of Downtown food fair and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the past few years, the Grand Avenue Festival has more than doubled in size, adding new participants and drawing attendees from all over the city."It's a real motley crew," Ramirez said jokingly of the festival-goers, who this year can expect to find more to enjoy than ever before.

New additions to the festival include discount tickets to 1 and 6:30 p.m. performances of the musical Avenue Q, available at the Ahmanson Theatre box office; a giant sidewalk mural between First and Third streets, which everyone is invited to work on, depicting the L.A. River; a drum procession by the CalArts African Music and Dance Ensemble followed by a noon performance at the REDCAT theater; and a performance on the Grand Avenue outdoor stage by the Oaxacan youth brass band Banda Solaga.

The festival also offers a unique opportunity to indulge your inner urban planning geek, as the city Planning Department is preparing an educational exhibit on a set of proposed, pedestrian-friendly new street standards for Downtown Los Angeles."It's kind of whimsical," said Ramirez of the exhibit, expected to include an installation demonstrating some suggestions for sprucing up Downtown's sidewalks.

Other festivities will include free performances by a children's choir and various Mariachi bands, along with a cookie decorating booth and an art exhibition throughout the day at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels; a free L.A. Philharmonic performance at Disney Hall; dance performances throughout the afternoon at the Colburn School; free guided tours at MOCA; and family-friendly concerts at the Los Angeles Public Library.

New participants this year in A Taste of Downtown, offering local food samples for $6 or less, include Hearts Challenger ice cream, Tiara Cafe, Warung Cafe and gourmet hot dogs from Weeneez. Restaurants returning from last year include California Pizza Kitchen, Ciudad, Kendall's Brasserie, Noe at the Omni Los Angeles, Pete's Cafe, Pinot Grill and Spring Street Smokehouse.

For first-timers hoping to take it all in, Ramirez has a few words of advice: "Go to the information booths. Chart your course and then pace yourself." And, perhaps most importantly, "Make sure you understand that Avenue Q is not a kids' show." The Grand Avenue Festival is Sunday, Sept. 30, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Grand Avenue between Temple and Fifth streets, (213) 972-7611 or

Sunday, Sept. 30, Grand Avenue Between Temple and Fifth Streets

11 a.m. Sister Cities International Student Welcome Event Music Center Plaza Chamber music with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Walt Disney Concert Hall auditorium (11:15 a.m.) A program of works by composers when they were young.

11:30 a.m. Korean Classical Music and Dance Ensemble Music Center Plaza Drum Downtown Grand Avenue at First Street (also at 2 and 4 p.m.)

12 p.m. Moscow Nights Music Center Plaza Brasil Brazil Grand Avenue Street Stage (also at 12:45,)

1:30 p.m. Cal Arts African Music and Dance Ensemble Grand Avenue at Second Street

12:30 p.m.L.A. Philharmonic Family ConcertWalt Disney Concert Hall auditorium Northern Lights: Music of Sibelius Tickets required; details under Special Tickets. Sunday Mass Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Futa Toro West African Dance Ensemble Music Center Plaza

1 p.m. Colburn Ballet Colburn School (also at 3 p.m.)Avenue Q Ahmanson Theatre (also at 6:30 p.m.) $20 Hot Tix Tickets required; details under Special Tickets. Sakai Flamenco Music Center Plaza Get Your Chops Back - Summer Strum Grand Avenue at First Street

1:30 p.m. Jackie Ibarra with the Cathedral Choir, Sal Soria and Mario Alberto Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Colburn Jazz, Mime and Dance Colburn School The Tinkers Music Center Plaza

2 p.m. Upground Walt Disney Concert Hall auditorium, Band performs a blend of ska, jazz, reggae and cumbia. Tickets required; details under Special Tickets. Performing Books - Westward Ho, Carlotta! Central Library (ages 4-10, also at 3 p.m.) Colburn Conservatory of Music performance Colburn School (also at 3:30 p.m.) Jackie Ibarra with various Mariachi groups Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels plaza (2:15 p.m.) Jenufa Los Angeles Opera Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Tickets from $20.

3 p.m.Children's Choir Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels plaza. Sal Soria, organ demonstration Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels cathedral church Bitter: SweetWalt Disney Concert Hall auditorium

(3:15 p.m.)Shana Halligan and Kiran Shahani present trip hop. Tickets required; details under Special Tickets. Banda SolagaGrand Avenue Street Stage Mario Alberto, Jackie Ibarra and Mariachi Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels plaza (3:15 p.m.)Get Your Chops Back - Flute ChoirGrand Avenue at First Street (3:15 p.m.)

Ongoing Programs

A Taste of Downtown L.A. (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) Grand Avenue between First and Second streets

Children's Workshops (11 a.m.-2 p.m.)Artmaking including celebration hats, fantasy foam creatures and animal medallions (ages 5+).Music Center Plaza Children's workshops with Rosanne Kleineman (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) Decorate beads made from turned wood and string them to create your own colorful necklace. Walt Disney Concert Hall GardenHit + Run Customized T-Shirts and Dublab DJs (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) Walt Disney Concert Hall, Keck Amphitheatre and GardensFree live T-shirt screen printing with designs while Dublab Soundsystem spins.

Urban Design StudioRe-imagine Downtown, envisioned by the city of L.A.'s Urban Design Studio.Second Street at Grand AvenueCathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (1:30-5 p.m.) Sacred art exhibition, conference center; puppet show, children's garden; mural of expression; children's cookie decorating booth; Raul Rodriguez display; and Guadalupe Radio live broadcast, on the plaza.

Colburn School Tours of new campus (12-4:30 p.m.) Discover Colburn art workshops (1-4 p.m.)Museum of Contemporary ArtFree admission and hourly exhibition highlight tours (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Singing Dogs and Sliced Buildings Family Tours and Artmaking Workshop (12-4 p.m.).Urban Garden TourWalt Disney Concert Hall Gardens (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) Space is limited; tours run every 30 minutes. Plant Doctor Is InWalt Disney Concert Hall Gardens (adults, 12-4 p.m.) Free gardening event providing advice from the team that maintains the Walt Disney Concert Hall garden.

Los Angeles Public Library (1-5 p.m.) Central LibraryGallery spaces and library services

REDCATCaricature artists in the lobby and street painting Second Street (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)Viewing of Barry McGee: Advanced Mature Work in the gallery (12-6 p.m.) Wells Fargo Museum Wells Fargo Center (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) The museum's Skymobile shows how rocks and minerals can unlock a planet's past. Also fossils from the museum's collections and dinosaur crafts. Grand Avenue at Second Street

L.A. River Mural making (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)Grand Avenue between First and Third streetsGroup painting of a huge street mural.

Special Tickets Free tickets at Walt Disney Concert Hall Tickets are free but limited and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis approximately one hour before each performance.

Go to the L.A. Phil ticket booth on Grand Avenue and First Street. Limit four per person.$20 HOT TIX at Center Theatre GroupFor performances of Avenue Q at 1 and 6:30 p.m. (Ages 16+). Limit two tickets per person at the time of sale.

Contact Anna Scott at

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Second Los Angeles Archives Bazaar - TODAY!


Students, teachers, historians, and local history enthusiasts will find a treasure trove of L. A. history at the 2nd Annual LA History Archives Bazaar. Presented by L.A. as Subject, a research collective hosted by the USC Libraries, the Bazaar offers numerous resources for exploring the rich histories of L.A.'s diverse communities and virtually any subject related to the Los Angeles region. Held at the Huntington Library, the Bazaar will feature exhibits by 43 local historical collections, museums, and archives. Attendees can browse collections, schedule research visits, and consult with experts. Educational Programs will also be available throughout the day.

Location: Huntington Library, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA

Date: Saturday, September 29, 2007

Time: 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.



11:00 a.m. What is LA as Subject? --- Ken McGuire & Phil Ethington

11:30 a.m. DNA – The Archive of Your Ancestry --- Doug Miller

12:00 p.m. Get Involved – National History Day --- Lourdes Morales

12:30 p.m. You Can’t Take It With You: What to do With Your Collection When Your Kids Don’t Want it --- Carol Wells & Michael Palmer

1:00 p.m. There’s No Time Like the Present To Explore Your Family’s Past --- Paula Hinkel

1:30 p.m. Going Digital – Research Collections in the Electronic Age --- Todd Grappone

2:00 p.m. Everybody’s a Star: Preserving Your Home Movies --- Lance Watsky

2:30 p.m. Researching in Your Jammies: An Introduction to Accessing Archives from Home --- Jennifer Allan Goldman

3:00 p.m. Preservation 101 – Basic Tips for the Household Archivist - Michelle Light

3:30 p.m. What is LA As Subject --- Ken McGuire and Phil Ethington

Friday, September 28, 2007

Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic To Hire Architect To Design His House! Whom Will Christopher Hawthorne Hire?

At the Grand Avenue Zocalo event Tuesday night at MOCA, moderator Dana Cuff of UCLA introduced Los Angeles Times architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, and indiscreetly mentioned Hawthorne was about to build his own house in Eagle Rock (and I think she said Eagle Rock, but it was some community in Northeast Los Angeles).

After the panel discussion, I then equally indiscreetly asked Christopher which of the many superb residential architects of Los Angeles he had hired, and it turned out - he had yet to make that decision.

So we then had a brief discussion about his predicament; if Christopher Hawthorne hires an LA architect to design his own home – could he ever again write about that architect's work?

We both agreed that could be somewhat… problematic.

His options thus seemed to be two fold. Either hire a non-LA architect he would be unlikley to review– which we each agreed would be a tragedy. Or, let any architect he hires know he would likely never be able to review his/her work in the future.

But the more I think about it, while Hawthorne would have to be careful about writing about this architect, should there be some compelling reason why that architect should be covered in the LA Times, that might still be possible with a disclaimer.

So all you architects out there; who's feeling lucky? Who wants to gamble on a commission that might guarantee you will never be written about in LA Times? Applications are now being accepted below.....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Superb Summing Up Of Jane Jacobs's Place In History!

In today's New York Times, Edward Rothstein reviews a show about Jane Jacobs at the Municipal Arts Society in New York. But it really is a concise overview of all of Jane Jacob's many strengths - and a clear headed look at what parts of her dogma did not always work.
There will never be another Jane Jacobs - just as there will never be another Robert Moses, and that is fine. We needed both for their times but now we need a multitude of voices and viewpoints to tell us how to find the numerous paths between the two.

September 25, 2007

Exhibition Review
Jane Jacobs, Foe of Plans and Friend of City Life


Nearly a half century ago, at the dawn of an era renowned for its utopian dreams and dystopian diagnoses, a journalist who loved the American city wrote an attack on all the professional planners and idealists who believed they could design the perfect urban habitat, the city beautiful, a metropolitan Eden.

Forget it, was the message Jane Jacobs elegantly hammered home in that 1961 book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” There is no utopia to be found. And every fantasy of such a paradise — the Modernist towers of Le Corbusier, the Garden Cities of Ebenezer Howard, the cleared slums and ribboned roadways of Robert Moses — has led to urban desolation and ruin. At the time she wrote her book, cities were beginning to totter like drunken derelicts seeking lampposts for support.

As an exhibition opening today at the Municipal Art Society reminds us, Jane Jacobs did not believe that planners could ever restore life to American cities. Instead she put her faith in the chaos of urban life, in diversity, in people — the grocery store owner, the young mother, the child playing in the street, the watchful busybodies leaning out of windows. Cities were at their best, she wrote, when the “ballet of the sidewalks” was evident, a dance that was intrinsically “spontaneous and untidy.” Her prescription was simply not to get in its way.

And in the summing up:

But partly because the exhibition is so clear in this exposition, it also inadvertently draws attention to some of the flaws in Jacobs’s vision. She was open to many aspects of urban life, but the “ballet of the sidewalks” tends to overshadow its other features, and the show amplifies her flaws with its narrow focus.

Despite her argument, for example, there are times when “single-use” blocks have their own value, creating, for example, residential neighborhoods in which children really do play in the street; 1960s-era Hudson Street, where Jacobs lived, is not the only vital urban model.

Neighborhoods like Forest Hills, zones of aspiration and private retreat, have always been part of a city’s life, making their own contributions to its appeal.

And while there is much to be said against single-use construction of arts centers (which have created eerie, car-centered oases in many dark downtowns), Lincoln Center’s impact over 40 years has transformed the entire Upper West Side of Manhattan, spurring the evolution of many vital neighborhoods in a way that a single concert hall could not.

Moreover, though Jacobs wrote that “there is a basic aesthetic limitation on what can be done with cities,” she has little to say about the impact of beautiful design and public spaces; in the mid-19th century, for example, Haussmann destroyed swaths of medieval Paris, triumphantly reshaping it with his aesthetic ideals. Great ancient cities are unthinkable without ideals of form and beauty that do not interest Jacobs at all.

Even the community activism being heralded here needs a larger context. Despite their achievements, there are times when community groups may have too parochial a vision to be taken as guides to a city’s future.

In fact, despite Jacobs’s own warnings about planners and their doctrines, there is even a whiff of utopianism in the way in which her ideas are being celebrated, with a prescriptive focus on diversity and populism.

One of the virtues of a city is that it allows more diversity than even this exhibition suggests. It allows the creation of neighborhoods that serve single purposes; it allows grand boulevards whose expanses seem to lead the imagination beyond the city walls; it allows figures like Robert Moses to change the geography of the landscape so the city can adapt to technological revolutions.

And finally, it allows a figure like Jane Jacobs to make her own distinctive contributions — warning us against expecting too much from any visionary and expanding our understanding with her meticulous and generous imagination.

“Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York” continues through Jan. 5 at the Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue, at 51st Street; (212) 935-3960 or

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mr. Cowboy's Great Adventures! Or - Has Mr. Cowboy - FINALLY - Grown Up? Or Not?

While I entered the pool area of my gym, I passed the woman’s locker room door just as a short and thin young lady unexpectedly appeared with an absolutely … staggeringly-sized… rack.

Imagine Kate Moss if she was five foot one – and had bowling ball implants.

It was amazing she could even stand, much less move.

Unluckily, I had on rather thin boxer swim trunks and had to discreetly – like that was remotely possible – deflect Mr. Cowboy’s sudden appearance by forcefully grabbing him with both hands and frantically trying to wrestle him down.

And, clearly, Mr. Cowboy is getting a lot more exercise than my arms and is in a lot better shape than they are.

Now if we were at the beach, Mr. Cowboy would have been safely corralled, i.e., strapped down within an inch of his life - in his custom swim suit that keeps a tight rein on him and prevents those nasty whip lash injuries, injuries my Blue Cross claims adjustor never, ever wants to hear about again, much less cover.

My problem, though, was that while swimming at this particular gym, it was, alas, all too rare we needed to take any precautions against my better half’s far too natural urges, and so we had both gotten a bit lax.

However, upon reflection, I realized that Mr. Cowboy’s reaction to this violation of all known laws of nature and physics (as well as good taste) was actually somewhat lukewarm by his usual energetic standards and that’s why I escaped with just a forearm muscle pull and a small, if painful, tear in my groin.

But I then realized this was all a bit odd since while my brain can understand just how grotesque plastic surgery of this kind is, Mr. Cowboy never, ever exercises that kind of judgment.

So just as I was about to congratulate my little mare buster on his most welcome, if fully unexpected, maturity, I suddenly recalled the new drug my neurologist had given me the day before and its affect on Mr. Cowboy’s enthusiasm during his last outings of that morning and on the afternoon and the night prior; a temporary diminishment of his eagerness that was on occasion the case during his adjustment to new medications.

And so, tragically, it appears this supposed new maturity of Mr. Cowboy’s is only a cruel, bitter hoax of his and Mr. Cowboy will soon be the same horny, bone-headed 17-year-old he has always been.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why Trash Talking Cornhuskers Can Be Dangerous To A Cowboy's Health!

Reading T.J. Simers series in the Los Angeles Times about the not so delicate art of insulting the corn fed residents of the Cornhusker State – Nebraska – and particularly those who are fans of the Cornhusker Football Team – brought back some fond memories – and one not at all fond – memory.

Back in my fighting days, trash talking was a necessary part of my repertoire for three reasons. First, once my opponent found the person he was going to fight (moi) was a hundred pounds smaller then he was and often over a half-a-foot shorter, some guys felt embarrassed at how unmanly they would look ‘beating up’ someone my size, so they needed a little encouragement to fight. Luckily, smart ass that I am, I could generally arrange that to happen in 30 seconds – or less.

Second, after what happened to the first guy, the second opponent of the evening would usually then be even more reluctant to fight, but, of course, now for an entirely different reason.

So a few choice words about the size of his yellow streak or his lacking certain parts of the male anatomy to the point I felt sorry enough for him to volunteer to service his wife if should he ever want little ones running around – would usually incentivize him enough to cowboy up, even if it was clearly against his better judgment, much less his best interests.

But far and away the most important use was when my opponent was not just a lot bigger but was also clearly a serious and experienced fighter. This was particularly so if he was going to be the first fight of the evening and my dopamine levels were still dead zero – as opposed to the far higher levels they would be by the third fight of the evening. So my strategy was to get them so angry they would come with such haste it would be easier for me to get them to the ground, which was 90% of the battle for me, since I pretty much (comparatively) sucked on my feet.

And this all worked very well for several years until I discovered one dark and gloomy Texas night there was one place to never, ever go when it came to the Taunting Of Le Not So Petite Cornhuskeroise.

I was scheduled to fight just one man that night, who made his entrance with two other men – who appeared by their equally massive square cut jaws to be his brothers – and they were all attired in bright Husker red logo laden clothing even though we were far from Husker territory.

And after they entered, six foor three (plus) Tom walked over and stood by them to demonstrate to me that this one guy was easily six foot five, making him close to a full foot taller than I was, not to mention his outweighing me by more than a hundred pounds. It was then clear why they had declined to book anyone other than him to fight that night, even though we had asked for up to three guys.

I might add this was early enough in my career that while my strength was already up to where it needed to be and my skills were pretty much there – I still only weighted about a buck fifty, sixty tops as I seem to recall this was my last or second to last year at UCLA – maybe ’69, which would have been during my last couple years of serious stateside fighting before hitting the overseas fighting circuit after college.

And it quickly became clear my would be opponent was going to refuse to fight me – particularly since I was accompanied by some far more worthy physical specimens. And I should mention here that of the four guys with me, three instantly told me that I was not going to fight this guy - period - and that Bachelor would be fighting him - and even Lance told me that if I got in over my head, he would not stop the fight, unless my life was at risk, and that I would have to live with the consequences of being the complete idiot that I was, though quite a few other adjectives were also attached to that noun.

So when one of the bystanders helpfully offered me some suggestions on how to annoy this guy enough to make fight him, I was very thankful for his assistance though – at that time – I did not realize this particular person was the one who had bet the most money that my opponent was going to beat the crap out of me (and, yes, I really was that stupid).

So before Bach could issue his challenge, a quick flurry of insults from me convinced the guy to stand up against me, and I next prepared to get him to bull rush me so I could manage an 'easy' takedown. So I marched up to him and informed him that just beating him and humiliating him in front of everyone wasn’t going to be enough for me, but that was I was also going to do to him exactly what Oklahoma had just done to his beloved Cornhuskers (not that I had a clue as to what that was, of course), except I that was going to make him beg for it (this of course, being a somewhat sanitized version).

I then gave a slight nod to my new found 'friend' - who was by then already spending his guaranteed winnings – for having given me the ammunition I need to get my opponent to the ground.

Now the reason I can so clearly recall all this is because how deeply imprinted into my brain still is the expression on my opponent's face. Because instead of getting mad and charging me, the degree of anger on his face made it clear he was not going to get mad.

He was going to get even.

Big time.

He quietly informed that that not only was I already a dead man – but that he had the shovel in his truck he was going to bury me with under the Cornhusker’s goal posts (a seriously cool line I later ‘borrowed’ and often modified for my own use).

He had also figured out my only option was to fight a ground game, so rather than wildly rushing me at me, he just stood there and… waited for me to come to him. And when I hesitated to come at him, he taunted me, reminding me I was the one who wanted to fight him while he suggested all the reasons why I was now too cowardly to fight him (none of which, of course, are remotely fit for a family rated blog).

He took an experienced wrestler's stance that made it very hard (OK – almost virtually impossible) for me to take a man of his size to the ground at my then pathetic weight. And the only way I could reach his jaw – would be to use a three step ladder. So I would have to come at him and with his reach exceeding mine by about a two to one ratio, his fists didn't have that hard a time finding me, much less keeping me away. And so before I had even a nick on him, my blue shirt was now a… bright red shirt.

Cornhusker red… as he proudly put it.

So I kept futilely charging him, trying to get even a single leg, when I suddenly was able to break though and get a full double leg just as he was falling – seemingly on his own accord and landing flat on his back - to everyone's laughter which totally puzzled me. I could see one side happy and cheering – but both sides laughing – made no sense.

And it wasn't until after the fight that I discovered that Mr. Cornhusker had done such a good job of painting the floor with my blood, that as he dodged my takedown, his right boot heel stepped in a sizable pool of my blood and he slipped and fell backwards just as my double leg takedown took hold; so I had grabbed two legs that were already off the ground – and heading down.

But he was down now and I was now on top and as a recent graduate of Tom’s ‘how to throw a three inch punch course’ after two years – and with a hell of lot more clearance than three inches to pull back my fist, in less than a minute I had jack hammered his face even worse than he had mine. And I was so into what I was doing, my own team was forced to pull me off of him before I did any permanent damage.

Now if this was a novelization of these events – I would leave the part of 'my team pulling me of off of him’ uncommented upon, leaving behind an image of four men struggling to barely tear me off of him. But, alas – this will likely be part of my memoirs – so I have to report that all that this ‘pulling of’ entailed was Lance walking over, slipping four fingers under my Levi’s waist band and then effortlessly hoisting me high enough in the air that my fists were suddenly hitting dead air rather than my opponent’s jaw (a considerably seriously less heroic visual image, alas).

Now since said opponent was no longer capable of asking that the fight be ended, Lance paused long enough for anyone with any money on the fight's outcome to object to his ending of it and, hearing no objections, he walked back to our corner and unceremoniously dumped me on the floor; seriously displeased I had embarrassed them by not ending my assault once it had been clear to them - though not me because with all the blood in my rapidly swollen eyes, I was practically blind – that the other guy was no longer capable of even defending himself, much less able to pose any further threat to me.

The two brothers (and they did turn out to be brothers - with the bigger of them being his fraternal twin) then had to defend the family honor and a deal was quickly struck that I would fight them back to back, but that there would only be one purse of money – and that it would be awarded to whoever won the second of the two fights, assuming I had survived the first one, of course.

And the extent to which they opened their wallets for this bet, made the others unusually generous in their donations to our collective wallets

By then, though, my brain was so ramped up on dopamine that the outcomes were never in doubt, as they quickly discovered, so they instead used their efforts to inflict as much pain upon my body as they could. But this time, each time I felt the fight go out of one of them, I took the proper pause to give them a chance to nod to show they were done and I then stood and extended a hand for them to get up, hoping to make up for my previous – though inadvertent – bad behavior.

And so while I did walk away with a lot of money, I also walked away with a lot of less of me than I had walked in with. This was because I left more blood, skin, scalp and even hair where their bare knuckles had raked across my scalp - on that floor than I had ever done in any fight and it was a long time before I could go out in public without terrifying women and small children.

And so when we all shook hands at the end, I made them – and, more importantly, myself - a promise; that I would never again insult in any way - the Huskers.

And with that pledge in mind – I will decline to mention the hugely lopsided score in yesterday's USC vs. Nebraska rout.

Friday, September 14, 2007

URGENT! Need referal to Orthopedic doctor downtown hollywood area TODAY!

Brady Westwater 213-804-8396 Should be red line adjacent - but will consider anyone who can deal with an intense muscle back pain that is POSSIBLY tumor related

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cowboy Eats... Sheep!

Yes, tonight, for the first time in his life, LA Cowboy dined on the hoved vermin otherwise known as... sheep.

Yes... sheep.

But, in his defense, he was with great company, it was for a good cause and he has promised the Great Cowboy in the Sky to never, ever do it again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

LA Times Opinion Blog Links To Local 9/11 Posts - Including LA Cowboy

Matt Welch of the Los Angeles Times reviews the local bloggers' posts on 9/11 from yesterday and uncovers a number of excellent posts I had missed. Check them all out at the above link.

His post is also noteworthy in that it is probably the first - and last - time the words Brady Westwater and humility will ever be found in the same sentence.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11, 2001

There are no easy answers.

Tens - if not hundreds - of millions of people are daily told it is not just acceptable but desirable to kill themselves in suicide attacks to protect their religion from anyone who disagrees with it.

And there is nothing we can do - or not do - to fundamentally change this. Change can only come from within and that will only happen once the costs of allowing these teachings to go on becomes too high for the countries and organizations supporting them.

Before then, though, the world will have increasing numbers of terrorist attacks and, eventually, nuclear devices will be exploded throughout the world, including within the United States. And, unfortunately, it will likely have to come before any real change can come.

As for what to do about this? I have no idea.

I'm only glad I am not the one who has to make these decisions. Because not only are there no easy answers - but there may be no answers - at all - that are within our control.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Filming In Downtown LA - Part 354

Between once having been and about to again be a working member of the film community - but also being a person who lives, works - and sleeps - downtown, I find myself on both sides of the filming on Downtown issue. We need Hollywood to stay in Hollywood but we also need people to be able to live - and sleep - in downtown.

Sometimes, though, this serious issue can also be a bit... amusing.

For example, after rolling out of the bunk house #3 at the fashionable hour of 10 AM, I made my way to Cowboy Central - otherwise known as my office and discovered a filming notice taped to my front door.

It described what would be occurring in the hallway below mine:


OK - nothing odd there.

Just another day at the office.

Or at least this cowboy's office, except on my wrestling mat - there's nothing stunt about the fighting, or the blood for that matter...

The amusing part is this:

We plan to decorate the alley & parking lot with many picture vehicles to facilitate the scene.

Further reading, made it clear that having production vehicles parked in every single parking space around the building is now called - decorating the alley and the parking lot.

I'm... Back! Or... At Least I am Visiting....

Actually, I’ve been more or less functioning – at least part time for a little over a week since my early July dopamine crash which lasted well over a full month, including most of August during which time I essentially ceased to exist.

But first, before going into all the gory details in later posts, I would like to thank everyone who has sent me their best wishes and those have have assisted – and one person in particular downtown – during the recent unpleasantness. And, most of all I would like to thank three wonderful ladies - ladies in every sense of the word, to coin a cliche - all of whom deserve far more than this old cowboy can ever give them. But he will keep trying, anyway.

Second, it was a shock to suddenly resume being aware of an outside world after not reading 5 to 7 daily newspapers, another dozen weeklies, far more magazines – and countless websites and blogs. I also have a few thousand unanswered emails I will be needing to get to…

Third and last - for the moment - I was really surprised by how many major events happened during my absence – such the virtual defenestration of Kevin Roderick over at LA OBSERVED by Veronique de Turenne.

Now I know over at LAO it says Kevin is just on ‘vacation’ and he will be returning on Monday.

Yeah, right.

I think that's just a clever ploy by Veronique since she knows the trail will go cold by the time the police start looking for Kevin's body... which I predict will be found many years from now hidden... under a cement cistern overlooking Malibu Road.