Hello, my beloved, adored readers!
I'm happy to detour you away from the usual art fare on FBC! to give you a complete report on this year's edition of the Great LA Walk. Initially scheduled to be under 14 miles, the organizer Mike Schneider had us go up and down Adams and Washington at the start of the walk to see the beautiful architecture of West Adams, so we ended up covering 17.4 miles, all the way from the Shrine Auditorium to Venice!
Yours truly got up around 6 AM to quietly eat the breakfast of champions, get ready and hop on the bus and on a later connection to make it around 8.30 at the Shrine Auditorium and wander on the USC area for espresso before our 9 AM starting time. I was incredibly grouchy as the 4 or 5 people who had professed for weeks their enthusiasm at doing the walk with me all flaked out at the last minute (bunch of wusses and losers!) under the most dubious pretexts. Since I'm in chronic pain after all my car accidents (back and shoulder injuries give me no rest) and *I* did it, I didn't take too kindly the various excuses my flaky friends gave me (but I still love you people!).
Fortunately during the walk I met several people who made it really enjoyable and fun: Adam, Lee, Liesl, Ronda who joined us in Culver City and Maggie who walked with us after we passed Sepulveda. At the end, in the bar in Venice where we had the after-party we were joined by Lee's boyfriend Eddie (I think?) who very kindly gave me a ride home after, and saved me from the 3 bus rides home my old and desiccated body would have had trouble to undertake. Thank you so much all of you for all the fun!
We were about 250 people gathering just for the fun of walking all the way to the sea, thanks to Mike Schneider of the awesome blog Franklin Avenue who organized everything for us. Epic walker Walter was here too, who did all the previous walks and then some more, as attested with the cute little signs he painted on his helmet. Walter walked the length of Western Avenue from North to South a couple of years ago, which took him 2 days. Respect!
Mike's son Evan got his daddy to push him in his stroller for half of the walk, so in addition to his leg muscles Mike must now have really toned biceps as well! Mike's wife and their baby were following in their car all day long, so we all got to see and meet the family behind the Great LA Walk. Thanks so much for organizing such a fun adventure!
So we started at the Shrine Auditorium, where I hadn't been since a Chemical Brothers concert in the late 1990s. It was a really cool place to start as I realized (duh!) that it was named after the Shriners organization, something I know virtually nothing about except they do put ex-votos near their statues, wear fez hats, have some deity (??) named Malakhai (spelling?) and an organization that include a "potentate" and a "rabban". If anybody has a good book to recommend about the Shriners, I'm interested to learn more! I liked that the parking lots has a domed logo replicating the Shrine's on its sign.
From there we walked a block West to see the Felix auto concession with its namesake cartoon character effigy, a "since 1921" stenciled above its door and the names of US carmakers in dire straits (Chevrolet, Cadillac), we passed the magnificent headquarters of AAA (seriously, everybody should go visit them), passed by the last remaining 50 feet of the Zanja, LA's original irrigation system that must date back from the late 1700s (?) and is under threat from developers willing to build a disgustingly ugly student housing complex to disfigure and obscure the adjacent and magnificent Thomas Stimson mansion and the Saint Vincent de Paul Church. We had someone from the West Adams Heritage Association give us a small talk about te neighborhood.
After this we sauntered up and down Adams and Washington, visiting the grounds of Mount St Mary College (including the Doheny Mansion and plenty of other interesting buildings), the Amat Residence where silent-movie era celebrities such as Theda Bara, Joseph Schenck and Norma Talmadge lived but also the (in)famous Fatty Arbuckle. Ronda mentioned the book "I, Fatty" about the scandal, I hope to check it up soon.
Many of the palatial mantions and houses we saw were beautifully restored and were converted (alas) in USC frat houses (I shudder thinking about drunken fratboys vandalizing the delicate interiors) but many more were sadly derelict and run-down.
It was really interesting walking around West Adams to see how there were pockets of obvious wealth within really dingy neighborhoods, and how some really beautiful architecture was still existing everywhere, regardless of the economic status of the various places we walked by.
The other thing we realized was how big West Adams was and how largely residential it remains. I can imagine how it could be subject to further gentrification in the future, once Eagle Rock/Highland Park/Glassel Park/Atwater Village/Silverlake and Echo Park all have merged into the final über-hipster bourgeois enclave it is ineluctably destined to be (you know, like SoHo in NYC).
Along the way we saw the house where Marvin Gaye was killed by his father, the house used in Six Feet Under, the house that used to belong to the mother of Gaylord Wilshire (he of the boulevard name - read the book!), and the Ray Charles studio. We also passed by the gorgeous Angeles-Rosedale Cemetery where I've been a couple of times. It's full of very interesting tombstones, and the chapel is really adorable too.
Around 12.30 I found myself walking with the charming Adam, who kindly shared his bag of carrots with me (thank you so much!) and then patiently waited for me when I got myself a really good burger at the Jonnie (I think) burger stand on Adams and Crenshaw. Don't try their fries, but the burger is good, they also have a pastrami hot dog that looked really great, and I don't even like pastrami.
My camera battery died around there, unfortunately.
After this we were firmly and definitively on Washington, where we passed by the Nate Holden Theater where other walkers spotted Magic Johnson who was attending an event, and then we all stopped for lunch in my 'hood, where the Mid-City Neighborhood Council passed on water, trail mix, candies, sunscreen wipes (true genius!) and hand sanitizers to all of us, and the Atomic Café had concocted a $5 bagged lunch special (turkey sandwich, chips, cookies). I had their really good blackberry/boysenberry smoothie, Adam got some chili, and I saw some ribs that looked really good too. Unfortunately, 250+ patrons took their toll on the small bathroom and we clogged their sink. Sorry, sorry Atomic Café! I hope we will bring you more clients, as your food is really good and fairly priced.
Waiting on the side near Atomic for us was the Marked 5 truck (Japanese burgers on rice "buns"). We were tired and hot and sweaty and thinking, "hey, where's Coolhaus when we need them????". I would have enjoyed the Nom Nom truck as well, and I think this morning near USC the Buttermilk truck would have made a killing, had it been there (because, you know, Starbucks and Dennys...)
After an hour break we started walking again, when I met Lee and Liesl with whom I crossed into Culver City, yay! We all shared a common taste for cooking, good food and fun, so our goal was espresso at Surfas Café where Lee needed to get vanilla bean paste, and Liesl and I were more than happy to use their bathroom. I also got a great lemon bar with lavender, and Lee got a chocolate cannelé. Liesl was good and got nothing! We passed by the ridiculous Royal T, restaurant row in downtown Culver City, missed the 2.30 meeting point at the old City Hall (I think we were trailing Mike and the boys by a good 15 minutes) but met Ronda then, who is a resident a Culver City and knew all about places to stop by and get treats and bathroom stops.
During the second part of the walk we realized how BIG and WIDE and LONG Culver City is, dammit!
We passed by a stretch we dubbed "pastry shop row" because we saw several stores including the delicate and sophisticated Platine where goodies are very small and pricey but look really appetizing. We were not hungry so we bought nothing, but I hope to go by one day and try their "vanilla oreos". After we passed pastry shop row where one "healthy" store was not attractive to my Frenchy self (but will appeal to SoCal natives) the walk started to be... difficult.
We set our sights on Sepulveda and the bloody 405 thinking, yay, we're on the West Side! Only...er...4 more miles to go???? I had never been so happy to see the 405 ever, but the realization we had to pass Centinela...Lincoln...until we made it was, uh, daunting.
We stopped at Samosa House where we didn't get anything but enjoyed looking at the store, then at Leaf so Ronda and Lee could get some coconut juice, and we all used their bathrooms.
I know I'm mentioning bathrooms a lot, but when you're on a 17.4 miles walk the issue is critical, and all the places we stopped at were beacons of kindness and cleanliness, so I do hope you will go patronize them and eat/buy goodies there.
After Lincoln the Sun was rapidly declining and in the waning sunset, at 5 PM we finally spotted the lifegard shack on Venice Beach in a postcard-perfect moment, with rows of impossibly tall palm trees aligned on both sides. It was too dark to join the group photo at the end, so we gratefully ended up sharing drinks and food at Baja Cantina where we rested our sore bodies. I was limping so much when we left that I'm very thankful to Lee and Eddie for taking us all back home as I don't see how I could have possibly walked up to Venice to catch the first of 3 buses to reach the Frenchy But Chic Mansion (it's palatial). I sauntered to bed at 9 PM, and got up on Sunday at 9 AM.
Now two days after I'm still very sore all over, but thanks to my investvment in my Saucony Jazz sneakers and my ASICS Kayano II socks my feet and toes are in tip-top shape: no cracks, no blisters, no bunions, no callouses. I mentioned my injuries earlier, so in all honesty I have to say I was on meds all day, so thanks to Cartrex and Voltaren (both are prescription-only) I was in no more pain than necessary.
I'm mentioning all these brands not because I am a shill - no one sent me any free sample of medications nor sponsored my choice of socks and shoes but myself - but because last year I was inadequatly shorn and ill-equipped, so I ended up dropping out of the walk after 9 miles thanks to a ping-pong ball-sized blister under my left foot. This year, I researched better what I needed, trained in September with a 9-mile walk on Route 66 between South Pasadena and Arcadia, and I'm very happy I made it all the way, from start to finish, on the Great LA Walk 2009.
It was really a fun adventure and I'm very proud we all made it, so I hope to see you, beloved readers, as well as my new friends next year on November 20, 2010 when, for its 5-year anniversary, the Great LA Walk 2010 will tackle Wilshire again. Hopefully by then a generous benefactor will have offered me a couple extra battery packs for my Canon Powershot SD 750 (hint, hint) so I can document the second half of the walk!
And, lastly, if I can make a plea to Mike Schneider: could we start about 30 minutes earlier next year, so we have a bit more daylight to take pictures at the end of the walk?
[I will be posting more pictures of the walk later in the next couple of weeks or so]