Saturday, July 16, 2011

CARMAGGEDON UPDATE! - feelin' fine

Yeah, so right now everything is smooth sailing in L.A. People were sufficiently terrified to go anywhere or do anything last night and today and all the major highways are as clear and open as a theater showing 'The Green Lantern'.

In other "LA transportation ridiculousness" news, saw this story today in the L.A. Times with the appropriately mocking headline - "IN L.A., A SNACK SHOP IN A SUBWAY STATION COUNTS AS NEWS"

Here's the full online article, pretty much talking about how L.A.'s subway system finally has a water-coffee-newspaper shop in it. You know, the kind of shop that is usually IN EVERY BUSY SUBWAY/ 'L' STATION IMAGINABLE.

Sometimes its pretty unfathomable that this is the second largest city in America. Anyway, here's the story....

In L.A., a snack shop in a subway station counts as news

Commuters and urban-development watchers cheer a small snack shop's opening at the 7th Street/Metro Center station. Such outlets are common in other cities, but this seems to be L.A.'s one and only.

Metro snack shop
A mirror reflects the entrance to the 7th Street/Metro Center subway station, where Rush Snack Bar owner Andrew Cohen talks on his cellphone. He expects to open the shop sometime this weekend. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times / July 16, 2011)

The dreamers of downtown are sensitive, even to the smallest shifts.

Brigham Yen was among the first to feel the one at 7th and Hope streets, 16 steps beneath the surface of the sidewalk.

When he documented it on his blog about a month ago, the news spread fast to others tracking downtown development.

"Wow, this is almost too good to be true!" one reader commented. "This is very awesome news," agreed another.

The object of their glee, still under construction: a small shop with a glass front and a young owner who planned to sell coffee, fresh-squeezed juices, salads and sandwiches.

The excitement, however, was not over what Andrew Cohen would serve.

In subway stations all over the world, travelers can buy things — newspapers and magazines, coffee and candy bars, aspirin, tissues, cough drops, and even, in some places, meals. That hasn't been the case in L.A., which has rankled boosters who want this city to hold its own against the big boys, above and below ground.

Rush Snack Bar, which Cohen expects to open sometime this weekend, will be the first retail establishment underground in a Los Angeles Metro station.

Or close enough.

It is, in fact, a former basement storage unit for 655 Hope, an apartment building that used to house offices but now bills itself as "the ultimate urban living experience," with "live-work, flexi-space units" and kitchens of "stainless steel motif."

The shop is not on Metro property. And it's not on a subway platform. But it fronts a corridor leading in and out of the 7th Street/Metro Center station, and those entering or exiting on the Hope side will pass it, going up or down the stairs.

To Yen, a self-described "transit and urban geek," that's worth celebrating.

"I just feel there's not a lot of love for this city. I think the city needs cheerleaders. It's important to be rah rah rah, and really kind of focus on the steps that are made in the right direction instead of the two steps backward," said Yen, a 30-year-old sales agent for the online real-estate brokerage Redfin.

"I've looked at stations in New York and Madrid and other cities. They are so cool. They have all these shopping options and eateries. L.A. is more utilitarian," he said. "So when I saw the snack bar, I just about flipped. I was like, 'Wow, this is symbolic. This is what other cities have.' I like to call it urban maturity, L.A. maturing."

Cohen, 24, had hoped to open Friday — in time for the big "Carmageddon" weekend, when some subway lines would operate for free. He passed his health inspection. His two staffers came in early on opening day. The place looked spiffy with its blackboard menu, bright reds and yellows, and wall of urban-chic reclaimed wood planks. He looked hip too, in dark jeans and a fitted blue and black lumber shirt.

He spoke of pulling inspiration from European travels, and said he'd offer discounts for Metro riders and Metro employees.

"People are telling me that it's revolutionary," he said of the little shop.

But he was having a sort of Barmageddon — a malfunctioning cash register, a front-window sign slow to arrive — that left his actual moment of opening uncertain.

Still, at morning rush hour, hundreds of people paused to look — lawyers wearing suits, young fashion and design students wearing hardly anything.

Some lifted bikes up the stairs. Others spit in the corridor's trash bins or dug around for scraps. One woman in a swimmingly large T-shirt, worn jeans and flip-flops said loudly to no one and everyone, "How do you like that? There's going to be snacks."

It's the smallest of shifts, a blip, a pebble plopped in the ocean. But it has been noted.

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That's it from the land of La-La. Enjoy your weekend in a normal city, Chicago!


Friday, July 15, 2011


So, for all those friends and family who are on the verge of enjoying yet another GORGEOUS summer weekend in the city of Chicago, I want to alert you to an unspeakable evil that is about to envelope Los Angeles tonight (no, not 'The Kardashians' they're.....they're always here).

No, the epic, frightening, "Katrina-esque" hardship coming our way is the event known as CARMAGGEDON.

Now, I don't know if this news has traveled all the way to Chicago, much less east of the 210 freeway, but one of L.A.'s biggest and most crucial freeways - the 405 - is being shut down for two whole days beginning at midnight tonight (midnight, of course, is the most epic deadline time to set, whether its getting home before the carriage turns into pumpkin or finding the deed for Toontown).

This complete shutdown is expected to create traffic havoc across all of Los Angeles as the cars who would be on the 405 fan out to alternative routes, further clogging L.A.'s already overcrowded streets. I mean, this thing is like a man in desperate need of a cholesterol reduction seeing how many Culver's Bacon-Butterburgers he can eat in an hour.

This trafficapocalypse has been Micheal Bay'd into the term CARMAGGEDON.

Cue appropriate music!

People all over L.A. have been freaking out and the city is doing its best to put the fear of God (or, whatever L.A.'s many atheists would be afraid of) into residents into staying home or leaving town to hopefully lessen the congestionopolis.

I have been getting a really big kick out of the whole thing because I've never felt closer to my fellow Los Angelinos. The thing is, for a city that barely shares the same air, let alone any kind of collective experience, CARMAGGEDON has really given everyone - from the slickest, coked-up agent to the lowliest background actor - a common topic of conversation. Nowhere is that more true than in my 'hood of Venice, because the whole of the Westside will be ground zero for the CAR-trastrophe.

Here's a map I found online that is very helpful for navigating the disturbances.

From 'A' to 'B' is what is going to be completely closed. Now, as you can see, Venice is right in the F*CKED zone. To make things trickier, I often travel from the F*CKED Zone to the area that is S.O.L. (Shit Outta Luck) you can see how this could disrupt my weekend plans.

But, how often does one get to be in a city going through such a massive crisis of transportation, infrastructure, AND identity?

I think that's what's really going on. L.A. is being forced to stare its Automotive Addiction right in its ugly smog-filled face. I mean, there is NO WAY to get from the Valley to the Westside other than driving. No trains or decent alternative routes are available and it's just a reminder of how messed up this city is. But, meh- that just the way things are out here.

I will attempt to flee the F*CKED Zone entirely by escaping today to the Eastside of L.A., where I will be taking a bit of a 'Staycation' in a friend's apartment who'll be out of town. I'll often go to the Eastside for a night every so often, but now I am taking my "casual sex" relationship with the Los Feliz/Silverlake area to a new level by spending a whole weekend together. Now, don't think this means I'm getting a divorce from Venice...just taking a little break....JFK used to do that all the time.

Confusing neighborhood-sexual metaphors notwithstanding, I'm hoping I don't feel too left out staying half a city away from the swamp of congestion. I do always enjoy these ridiculous "problems" that usually get way overblown (see my report on the Santa Monica Tsunami), but only because they provide such rich material to make funny things, and CARMAGGEDON is no exception.

Case in point, this rather brilliant video of Hilter raving about the 405 Closure... (The HITLER RANTS video from 'Downfall' has been used on everything from sports catastrophes to bad movies to...the actual rants themselves), but this one is really pretty good and painfully filled with local L.A. jokes.

This part about people living downtown LA is pretty on the money.

Keep tuned to the Twitter for all the CARMAGGEDON updates you don't care about because you'll probably be at  Cubs game or a cool street festival or on a boat on Lake Michigan instead of a stupid burnt-out city desperately trying to fix its infrastructure that will probably be destroyed by an giant earthquake in the next five years anyway!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On the Blog Again...

Well, there's never any post I hate writing more than the one after taking a month or more off for some or no good reason.

I had good reasons, though, and I'm going to do my best to recap the past month or so as succinctly and humorously as possible with a little thing I'd like to call "Highpoint - Midpoint - Lowpoint."

Hopefully, just going over these three things will give a slightly accurate portrayal of each event. I'm going to run a test case first....

FOR EXAMPLE: 'Jurassic Park'

Highpoint: EVERYTHING...but especially "Clever girl..."

Midpoint: "Mommy can you see the fleas?"

Lowpoint: they shoot the raptor and Hammond's all like "Noooo!" Dude, your grandkids are about to get eaten.

Okay, that kind of we go


Highpoint: Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich's speech. Highlights include "I was rejected from USC" and "You will all fail. I hope you fail soon." Amazing. Perfect.

Midpoint: Sumner Redstone's speech, with a BAHSTON accent so thick it could have been selling peanuts at Fenway PAHK.

Lowpoint: pre-ceremony flask whiskey fill-up in bathroom (also highpoint!)


Highpoint: The Spa at Ceasar's Palace. No question. The pool is a close 2nd.

Midpoint: Losing yet again at my beloved game of roulette. Just didnt get my numbers.

Lowpoint: "This weekend can be summed up as a series of poor decisions and bad luck."


Highpoint: Um, finishing? (also post-race drinking)

Midpoint: 6.55 miles

Lowpoint: Running past the mall with the Cheesecake Factory. Really SD? this is the best route you could come up with? All that ocean and I'm running past a Cheesecake Factory? Can't wait to run a real route...Chicago 2012...full 26.2 mi, anyone?


Highpoint: Dinner at Chicago Q w/ fam and beers at Nick & Kelly's.

Midpoint: Burgers at the Billy Goat.

Lowpoint: Russ going beard-to-beard with a crazy homeless White Sox fan outside of Daily's.


Highpoint: EVERYTHING. Seriously. Filming in the Midwest + great friends + a shocking amount of alcohol. Can't wait to start making stuff in CHI. If forced to pick standout highpoint, I'd say the Wisconsin wrap party complete with party bus.

Midpoint: Some people got slapped.

Lowpoint: When it was over. Also, my being identified with 'salad' the entire shoot and beyond.


Highpoint: Smores.

Midpoint: Pool.

Lowpoint: Stepping into a cactus.


Highpoint: EVERYTHING. Its America's birthday. Fireworks @Dodger Stadium were pretty good.

Midpoint: Pool.

Lowpoint: 30 minutes for a goddammed Dodger Dog. I hate LA.

So that's it. I actually really like this game. I think I'll use it whenever I hear a long and probably boring story coming...just interrupt: "Um, yeah...can you just gimmie the highpoint-midpoint-lowpoint? I've got blogging to do...."

Anyway, that's been the last few weeks. You may notice a distinct lack of entertainment industry-related events going on...that will change...more USC posts to come and info about the dark and stormy post-grad waters ahead....

Feel free to highpoint-midpoint-lowpoint this post!

- mk