August 5, 2005
Dodger Clean Up
From my house in Highland Park, I can see the lights of Dodger Stadium in the distance. Sometimes after a game, I might wake up in the middle of the night and venture to the kitchen for a glass of water. Looking out, I’d see the the stadium lights still on. I found myself thinking of the person working the night shift in that playerless stadium, cleaning up after the thousands of fans, sweeping up abandoned beer cups and peanut shells before the next game. I wanted to talk to them. The Dodger organization graciously gave me clearance and I got to see the other side of Dodger’s stadium…the quiet stadium without the game and crowd where the real clean up crew went to bat.
California Casket Company
On busy Glendale Boulevard in the heart of trendy Atwater Village, you’ll find your traditional bistros, Italian restaurants, neighborhood bar and a casket shop. The last one might make you do a double take. I did. Aimee often dines in the neighborhood. She was the one that gave us the tip about the California Casket Company. We stopped by Richard Butcher’s store. He’s been in the funeral business since he was a teen. Richard grew up in a small community. I imagine what it must have been like living in a place where you knew all your neighbors. Each death would be recognized. And each passing would alter the dynamic of the community. In his store, I see Richard shares that small town sensibility.
August 4, 2005
Late Night 'Dos
Inglewood resident Paul Bushman asked Past Sunset to find out why the local African-American women were having their hair done in the middle of the night. He asked, "Aren’t they concerned about going home at 3:00 am to lay their weary heads to rest, just to wake a few hours later with their perfect coiffures damaged by tossing and turning? Or are they actually getting ready for a 3:00 am blind date?" I was on a mission. According to Paul, "hundreds of late night motorists need to know!"
August 3, 2005
Middle of the night at MCL Distributing
I wish that I’d brought my parka. It’s three o’clock in the morning in downtown Los Angeles, and I am touring MCL Distributing, Inc: Distributors of Fine Produce. Chief Operating Officer Robert Lake is our refrigerated warehouse guide and he is in shirtsleeves, not shivering. He is used to the temperature as well as the hour. I don’t know that I could get used to either.
July 31, 2005
Saturday Night Racing
On Saturday nights at the Irwindale Speedway, you can see all types of races, everything from tricked out trucks to Nascar-like racing cars. I met 16-yr old driver David Ross one evening along with his family – his sister, mom and dad. Racing is in their blood, they told me. David's father and sister used to race and his mom had been around race cars all her life. The shop where they work on their cars sits outside their home. It's larger than their house, and they spend more time together in the shop than anywhere else. They even sit down to eat dinner there every night - mom could never get the boys to come inside to eat.
July 28, 2005
The Love Hike
For a cool night piece and a bit of exercise, we checked out the Sierra Club’s night hikes in Griffith Park. They have seven levels of difficulty, number 1 being easy; number 7 being really tough. I ran with the third level, also known as the “love hike,” the one on which people often meet. Level three turned out to be a bit more strenuous that I imagined, even though I run and work out regularly. I caught up with many of the people on the hike (over 30 people), asking them why they do it and what they see on the trail.
July 27, 2005
Photo by www.KieslerPhoto.com
The sign is as clear as day, but I still miss East LA Occupational Center on my first pass. It’s not surprising that I missed it. LA County Hospital is across the street and enormous. Tarps are draped down the side of the hospital and blowing in the sweltering wind. It’s hard not to gawk at it. It’s 6:00 in the evening, but the heat feels like a noon sun. I ignore the hospital on my right as I pass back to the school.
July 26, 2005
Just Another Night in the ER
We visited a busy downtown ER and trauma center the other night. Beeping machines, pagers, and the intercom hit us, as we walked down the corridor toward the nurses' station, the heart of the ER. Patients lay on gurneys along the hallway, with fatigued faces and weary eyes. One guy stayed close to a plastic bucket, while another man napped. The homeless check themselves in to spend the night here so often that the ER staff call them "frequent flyers." A homeless man on a gurney said that he had been stabbed while he slept in the street. Meanwhile, an asthma sufferer with a tube in her throat moaned and moaned, while the staff tried to comfort her. We spoke with a 97-year-old woman who could not remember why she was there, or when she arrived. And then the paramedics brought in a man in full cardiac arrest. He had a purple face and never regained a heartbeat, no matter what the staff did for him. It was, they said, just another night in the ER.
Take Me to the Moon
Photo by Morris "Mojo" Jones
Old Town Pasadena is especially busy this evening. A man plays a xylophone with thin mannequins looming behind him in a brightly lit storefront window. The sidewalks are packed with Muggles and Hogwarts imitators anticipating the midnight release of the new Harry Potter book. As kids and adults alike queue up in front of the bookstore on the west side of Old Town, they can stop and peer into the Jones’ telescopes. Jane Houston Jones and her husband Morris “Mojo” Jones are Sidewalk Astronomers.
July 25, 2005
Photo by Amy Bentley-Smith courtesy of Grunion Gazette
It's one of those things you always say you're going to do. It’s 10:00 at night and Jackie and I still hit traffic on the 710 heading to Long Beach. Of course, Steve Julian is nowhere on the radio to give us the update on how to get around it. We get past the jam and make it to the Vons on Ocean where we meet up with our guide and head to Belmont Shore. It’s about 11:00 at night and Long Beach is alive with nightlife. Driving east, we breeze by hundreds of people out on the street, walking, laughing, sitting in outdoor cafes. It really feels like summer tonight.
July 24, 2005
Even before Starbucks opened one Monday morning about two weeks back, David and several of the producers set off for the Long Beach port to interview truck drivers queued up outside the terminal gates, waiting for their 7 a.m. work orders and access to the port.
Before that day, everything I knew about port operation I learned while watching Season two of HBO’s "The Wire." As good as the show is, it fails to capture the sense of scale you feel at the port. Everything about the place is massive. Containers piled in stacks of three and four, cranes that seem to descend from the sky, a docked ship so tall you have to lay your head all the way back to see the top of it, and sounds that are as massive as the machinery. Your perspective is instantly changed. You are small and insignificant in comparison. Small and insignificant is sort of the way several truckers felt that morning about the changes that were happening at the ports.