Monday, March 28, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

I guess it's a function of age. As you get older, more friends seem to drop by the wayside. A weekly visit to Junior's is like reading the obits, someone else has passed away.

Rob Jensen is the latest. I guess we all saw it coming, he's been in a bad way for a year or so. Very sad. But then, as they say with lifestyle decisions, you pays your money and you takes your choice. He knew what he was doing.

But Rob was a great guy. Beneath that hard boiled, cynical exterior, was a very intelligent, creative, and witty person. It took me awhile, but I came to like him a great deal. He was a founding member of the Northenders, and Saturdays at Junior's will never be the same. He also was a regular at several other downtown bars. He had his route, and people who depended on him.

A larger establishment, the Twilight hosted a wake for Rob last Saturday. Quite the crowd, I'm lucky if I knew 25% of the folks who showed up. Here's some pics...

















Esther got a little group together (Free Range Capons?) and led the bar in a rousing rendition of Robbie's signature tune, Whiskey For Lunch... Rob was quite the songwriter in his time, I only wish he had done more of it. Here's a version of Whiskey For Lunch from a Dixon Line gig at the old Sabre Club. Rob was in typical form.


And to end the evening, the Rubbermaids delivered their Halleluia Chorus tribute to Rob.


It's sad that these wonderful get togethers only seem to happen when someone dies. We need more celebrations of life.

Anyway, to Rob... he will be missed. And to Cyd, who survives, with our hopes and best wishes for her future. And thanks to the Twi and everyone who helped with this event.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Detroit Blues

I'm drinking in this bar, empty except for an old guy down at the end, putting 'em a way pretty hard. A John Lee Hooker tune comes on the juke box, and this guy blurts out "I used to play that". Another round for both of us, and it started... Seems he and his buds were autoworkers in the Hamtramck plants during the fifties. They formed a small, proto-electric band and played in local bars on the weekends.


The Detroit area in those days was of course a hot bed of blues, with Hooker, Dr. Ross, and many others leading the way, so other groups often played in this "Detroit" style. Anyway, this guy in the bar claimed they also made a record, on the famous Vee-Jay label (Hooker's label at the time). Didn't sell much, didn't make them famous, but they didn't care. A steady job on the assembly line and decent pay kept them in a secure lifestyle, at least until the GM reorg screwed their pensions.

Suddenly, the guy gets up off his bar stool and heads for the door. I hear him mumble something about catching a bus to visit his grand kids in Oakland.

I did some searching online, checking out small Chicago and Detroit record stores. Eventually i found this:


They did a great job, hear it here...

Hayden Tract

I've always liked Culver City. From the surviving movie studios (Sony) to the jazz clubs, to the revived downtown area, this part of LA has always seemed comfortable. Yeah, I'm sure there are some dubious parts of Culver City, but that's the same in every urban area.

So I ran across an article in the New Yorker about an architectural renovation of an old warehouse district in CC called the Hayden Tract, a 2-3 block street surrounded by railroad tracks, freeways, and Baldwin Heights. Back in 1980, the developers (Samitaur-Smith), contracted with the architect Eric Owen Moss to renovate, well, more than renovate... to create around this area. As a result, the Hayden Tract is a most visually exciting district. Interestingly, Moss didn't just design one building, but many buildings in this district. So the whole area has his signature... as a testament to his design abilities. These days, the area is occupied by small tech companies, the Tennis Channel, and, in other buildings around this street, the UCLA art studios and many more small businesses. As the following pictures attest, this must be a very fun place to work. Moss has a very modern and even playful approach to these buildings, with very odd and obtuse angles, lots of steel and plexiglass, and yet it all fits over the old warehouse buildings.

First, a free standing staircase marks the beginning of Hayden Ave.


Here are three views of the Samitaur office building.




Here's the Tennis Channel building.


And some other structures...





Moss seems to have a particular fascination with stairwells.



There were some other Moss buildings in this area, but we couldn't figure out how to get to them... seems that for all the great work on the buildings, there are no green open spaces... the only common area for several structures is a parking lot! Curious... Anyway, this was a very fun diversion, reasonably easy to get to (except for all the street construction!) and yet another fascinating adventure found in the greater LA area.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Joshua Tree NP Redux


Back to Palm Springs for a long weekend and celebration of the Spring Equinox... and full moon! I also wanted to check out the northern section of Joshua Tree National Park, the loop from the town of Joshua Tree through the park and out to 29 Palms. First stop was the Keyes Overlook in hopes of getting the full view all the way to Mexico. No such luck... clouds building up and pollution from LA creeping into the Coachella Valley limited the view. However, focusing closer, the view from the Keyes Overlook did improve...

Then it was off for a short hike with my reluctant but intrepid hiking partner to Barker Dam. Early settlers in the area created this stone dam to provide water for stock. Now it's a refuge for birds and night time animals. A very nice short hike but, since it was a Saturday, quite crowded... Here's some pics of the dam and resulting lake.




Below the dam was an interesting construction, some sort of cistern?


Finally, a cool, bush of some sort and of some state... kinda mystical, actually...


That completes my overview of Joshua Tree NP. Next visits will require deeper hiking and/or better timing (for blooming cactus). I like this park (besides being free with my forever senior pass), and it is so convenient to Palm Springs.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quotes

"You can't get liberated, broke" ---James Brown (from the movie Soul Power)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Drinking at Junior's


Saturday afternoons are the only safe time for us old geezers and the remainder of the northenders to meet and drink at Juniors... after 6 or so, the younger crowd comes in. And weekday afternoons are haunted by all the young lawyers from downtown. So Saturdays, about 2-6 is our time.

The participants bring a high level of intellectual discussion to the beer and wine. And, certainly, we are all (and all that's left of?) left leaning, quasi anarcho socialists. Unfortunately, because of our leanings, modern culture drives us to drink to cope... and more than a few bright minds are now on a downward spiral, if surviving at all. Sometimes Saturdays at Juniors is like live obits... and last Saturday toasted the fallen Steve Hall and the impending demise of notorious northender, Robbie.

But we endure as well as we can...

First, the sacrament...


And the artists...


Some regulars...



Sometimes we are blessed with a pretty young woman down at the other end of the bar...


And sometimes the action outside gets interesting... I missed a better pic of the babe in the blue dress as she strutted back and forth in the crosswalk for her filmmaker friend.


And a younger generation finds the Saturday atmosphere intellectually pleasing...


And the "geezer" ski bums (true!)...


A stupid self portrait...


And our regular bartender and confidant, back after a prolonged illness...


Until next Saturday (if in town, that is)...