By Bob Vickrey
As you make the drive down Ocean Boulevard in Santa Monica, there stands a modest—almost ramshackle—building amid the bustling growth of new condominiums and hotels there.
The late Jay Fiondella, the founder of Chez Jay’s bar and restaurant, might well have taken exception to his beloved watering hole being listed on several sites under the designation of “LA’s Favorite Dives,” but he also might have had to acknowledge that his half-century-old iconic haunt does appear that it belongs to another era. Read more
Billy Jolly (left) and Kron Nicholas (right)
BY KRON NICHOLAS
Bill Jolly was the wildest bloke I’ve ever come across in all my years as a pilot for Quantas. He was also one of the best instructor I ever had. We used to fly from about 2 in the morning at a place called Blyth in the desert in the Mojave Desert. Just a lonely strip with no back up services 35 minutes from San Diego. On return we’d drive down to Mexico in his pickup and drink all day at a place on the beach an hour south of Tijuana. Sleep the night and repeat the performance every other day.
Bill was an alcoholic presenting himself in whatever outrageous way the currant climate allowed at the time. Bars, women and fighting were part of the whole scene followed by indepth discussions of why the world was as it really was. Mixed in my spoils were free trips to see my grandparents, Aba and Nonnina in Los Gatos who I hadn’t seen in a life time, who for some odd reason I got on well with. Don’t really see why as I was in a state of drying out most of the time between another trip to Blyth finishing up in Mexico again. Read more
Faced with deepening public concern over the growing homeless crisis, both Los Angeles city and county in early January issued major plans. The more ambitious was from Los Angeles City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, a 237-page “Comprehensive Homeless Strategy” presenting a ten-year plan to reduce homelessness in the city to zero. The County posted a 113-page unsigned document titled “Draft Recommended Strategies to Combat Homelessness” that offered funding on a range of homeless-related issues for the year ahead.
Both documents contain many good ideas, make clear how complex the homeless population is, with its many distinct components, each with different needs, and propose spending very large amounts of money. We all hope the money and commitment will be found to follow through on this long-term project. Many of us remember the last ten-year plan to end homelessness. Called Bring L.A. Home, it was announced with much fanfare in 2003. It largely died by 2005, and today there are more citizens living on the streets than ever. Read more
Last month I wrote an open letter to The Burbank Leader thanking our City Council for voting 5 to 0 on a compromise measure last Dec. 14 to have the Mariposa Ave. Bridge continue to be open to all, including bicyclists. Little did I dream that immediately afterwards the local horse riding community would be organized by the owners of the Circle K Horse Stables to use their considerable local political power to reverse that decision, although I suspected something was amiss when I saw one of the Council members meeting at the bridge with Circle K people only a couple of days after the vote. He would say to me then that he was there “for personal reasons only” and then refusing to say more to me.
I was not surprised, then, when I learned that a second vote was scheduled for Jan. 26 to reconsider the previous vote, which I sadly then expected to see reversed as a result. I was unprepared, however, for the throng of horseback riders who showed up for that Council meeting, all bitterly angry at the previous vote to allow bicyclists to walk their bikes over the bridge and go southward on the asphalt service road towards the Victory Blvd. overpass and the LA River Bike Path beyond. Dozens of the horse folks got up to address the Council to angrily denounce bike riders as interlopers on “our bridge”, stating that there would be inevitable horse stampedes, injuries, and an end to their neighborhood way of life itself! None of them, however, were able to cite any accidents or injuries that had ever occurred on the bridge resulting from the presence of a bicycle, and none seemed to understand that the bridge does not exclusively belong to them, but is owned by ALL Burbank taxpayers.
I later asked a Leader reporter present at the Council meeting if he was aware of any previous unanimous decision being re-considered for a do-over only six weeks after a decision had been made, and then being it reversed by another 5 to 0 vote, and he said he was not aware of any such precedent for that, but that’s what did happen at that emotionally charged meeting on Jan. 26.
So now, for the first time since the Mariposa Bridge was first opened in 1938, it is still legal to hike across it but its forbidden by the City of Burbank to not only ride, but also push or even carry a bicycle over it, which can then result in a citation for “Unlawful Possession Of A Bicycle”.
“Go ahead. I dare you to convince yourself that you will eventually get around to reading this behemoth set of history books!”
By Bob Vickrey
As a newly married young man in my twenties, I belatedly discovered the pleasure of reading, and began my life-long love affair with books.
I had recently taken a job with a book publishing firm, which immediately led to a growing book collection in our small Houston apartment. The initial experience of receiving complimentary books from my publishing house was thrilling for both my wife and I, as we buried ourselves in our favorite new novel each evening.
We found ourselves living out the old adage, “So many books; so little time.” That first year, we were making great progress in reading just about everything that arrived at our front door. That is—until the day one of our friends dropped by with a house-warming gift, which would ultimately haunt our lives for many years in the future.
Our friend’s generous and well-meaning gift was a complete 11-volume set of Will and Ariel Durant’s landmark series, The Story of Civilization—all 38 and 1/2 pounds worth. Read more
By LIONEL ROLFE
Altadena’s Boyd Lewis spent more than three decades in the news game, starting with editing newspapers in Atlanta at the height of the civil rights movement.
Ending his career after moving to Altadena and first becoming a copy editor at the Pasadena Star-News and later a teacher in Sun Valley, Lewis also did a brief stint at CNN in the mid-1990s.
But Lewis was perhaps best known for hosting “Southwinds,” an “All Things Considered”-style program covering news and featuring interviews on Atlanta Public Radio station WABE. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
Maybe our moods were altered somewhat by the cold, gray December day we had chosen to visit the historic Farmers Market on Fairfax Avenue, or perhaps it was simply the memories of trips there in our younger days that triggered a nostalgic feeling among us, as we walked the aisles of one of the great Los Angeles institutions.
Our monthly lunch club get-together took on a different tone than some of the earlier trips in the past year. The conversation was more reflective that day as we each shared stories about our early memories of time spent in the old market that had always best symbolized the cultural melting pot that is Los Angeles. Read more
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) is now conducting its Los Angeles County-wide homeless count every year in place of the previous every two years. The next count is set for three days in late January 2016. Of those days, the South Los Angeles count will take place on Thursday, January 28. This is one of the poorest sections of the city with a predominately Latino and Black population. The count results here are particularly important as the numbers will affect federal and state funding to combat homelessness. As a long-time resident of South LA, I am serving on LAHSA’s committee planning the January 28 count.
Last January 5,500 volunteers turned out to cover 89% of all the blocks of every street in L.A. County. They found more than 44,000 homeless people in LA County and 25,000 in the city, a 12% increase since 2013, with an 84% increase in homeless camps and people living in vehicles.
The January 28, 2016, count takes place between 8:00 pm and Midnight. Teams, usually of 3, go out with Census Tract maps. One person is the driver, one the navigator with the map, and the third is the Counter. Some 6,000 volunteers are needed for the county as a whole, and about 600 for just the South Los Angeles portion. At this writing many more volunteers are needed to get enough to cover this huge territory.
Sign-up now at the link below:
The county for many agencies is divided into Service Planning Areas (SPAs). Be sure to sign up for SPA6, which is the South Los Angeles area, to stay in our South LA neighborhoods.
By LIONEL ROLFE
A few days ago, Judith Aller, a prominent concert violinist and conductor in Europe and America, wrote me a note saying that her now dead husband’s film about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was going to be premiered–and asked me if I wanted to go.
I had known Bruce Cook before I knew her, and they did meet at a party at my house, as I remember. Bruce was a wonderful and grand fellow–he was book editor of the Los Angeles Daily News and he gave me lots of room to write for him there. He had also been book editor at USA Today and a senior editor at Newsweek. He even wrote a novel about a Latino private detective in East Los Angeles.
He married Aller in 1994. It’s no accident that he was particularly proud of having written one of the first books on American beatniks–The Beat Generation in 1971. And, I hate to mention it, I had once given a book of his about Bertolt Brecht a bad review in the LA Times–I hope he never saw that review, because he was an old fashioned gentleman who wrote with passion and caring about those who stood up to power. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
Barry Stein is the only native Angelino in our monthly lunch group, and he prides himself on knowing every back road and alley in all of Southern California.
His job as driver commands such respect that other members of the group have been instructed to call him “The Driver” when he picks us up for our trips to some of the oldest and most famous restaurants in the city. He often reminds us to capitalize the “T” when designating his role as “The Driver.”
Barry is a photographer whose finished works are so secretive that few of his friends have ever seen his photos. Only employees of Pricewaterhouse, the accounting firm that protects the secrecy of the Oscar ballots each year, have allegedly seen his work. Read more