CicLAvia: San Pedro Meets Wilmington


Last Sunday, I participated in a CicLAvia event that ran from my hometown of Wilmington, CA to San Pedro, another city close to my heart.

If you’re not familiar with one of these events, here you go. Ciclovía events started in Columbia over 40 years ago as an alternative to traditional means of transportation. Streets are closed to automobile traffic and open to everything else non-motorized: feet, bikes, skateboards, you name it. There’s really no better way to discover your town no matter how large or small. I’ve walked through Los Angeles a few times in my life and I have to tell you it’s so much more than what you see on TV – all cities are pretty amazing when you’re not trapped in a car watching them whiz by.

This event was particularly personal since I grew up in Wilmington and spent a lot of my time in San Pedro as well. While I spent many years pedaling around the city on an old Huffy but having the opportunity to ride down the palm tree-lined main street of Avalon Boulevard was much to good to pass up.

Now I could go and post many of the pictures I took that day but I’ve narrowed it down to these because I have stories to go along with most of them. A ton of them are already on Instagram anyhow. So without any further ado, here they are.

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The Banning Mansion in Banning Park. Historic not only because of its Civil War roots but because its owner, Phineas Banning, was the mastermind behind what would eventually become the Port of Los Angeles. That’s only the busiest port in the country.

I spent many a summer riding around Banning Park. The smell of the eucalyptus trees still gets to me and even though there’s a fence around the perimeter of the mansion, I took a little sentimental journey around the park on my bike. It was like I never left and I felt like a kid again. I almost had a moment just thinking about all the good times me and my friends had at the park.

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A few blocks away from the mansion is Avalon Boulevard. Those palm trees have been there forever. This was taken just after the event began so there’s very little traffic yet but by the time I rode back from San Pedro, wow. People everywhere and they were all smiling.

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The building you see on the right of the Avalon Boulevard shot is The Don, a senior apartment complex. This is one of the Wilmington landmarks – most likely because of it’s former seedy reputation. What I always laugh about is the fact that it was once called Don Hotel so when they changed the name, all they did was remove the H and L and rearrange the letters. I always wondered what happened to those. And look! More palm trees! Those are all around Wilmington Town Square Park which has been a congregation area for transients since I was little.

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Literally across the street from The Don is Fire Station 38, the only one in town. Really, this is it. If there’s something big going on in the area then the neighboring cities of Carson and Harbor City would most likely join. Dad would often take us here to see the fire trucks up close and personal in the days when they would let you slide down the pole. Yes, it has a pole (you can almost see it on the right of photo, or to the left of the fire truck). Definitely have some fond memories of this place.

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Here’s my old elementary school, Fries (pronounced “freeze”) Avenue School. Aside from the fancy-schmancey digital billboard out front, it pretty much looks the same from the outside. I attended at a time when we still had duck-and-cover disaster drills complete with air raid siren blaring on the last Friday of every month. I can still hear it – extremely creepy yet somehow comforting thinking back on it. The stairways also had “Fallout Shelter” signs (complete with the radiation symbols) posted as you made you way downstairs.

If you were to walk through those doors, there might be a mosaic hanging on the left wall depicting Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street, a project that my Enrichment Class worked on. Yeah. I was a nerdy kid in enrichment. I was supposed to advance a grade but Mom held me back for the sake of not putting too much pressure on me. Made sense. It was also at this school where I was chosen to be the narrator for the 5th grade Christmas play based on Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka. Apparently I was the only one in the class who could stand in front of a crowd and read, which probably explains why singing karaoke doesn’t bother me. For the play, I remember I was speaking into one of those bitchin’ classic microphones similar to this. Good times.

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No story here. I just thought this was a cool building.

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The signs at C & C Liquor have not changed. Dad would take us here sometimes on the weekend for, presumably, his Burgermeister and some snacks for us. Remember Ice Cubes chocolate candy? This is where we would buy them. They were soooo good.

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We are now in San Pedro. This is the sign at Neptune Electronics, a place that has been there forever. And like most things in the area, the sign has not changed. I remember seeing it all the time as we took Dad to work but never got the chance to get close to it until last Sunday. It was almost like a religious experience for me to be so close and admire it after all these years. Some may see a dirty, faded sign. I see something beautiful.

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Speaking of seeing things up close for the first time, here is the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. For years, I’ve driven past it but because parking is at a minimum on these small streets, I never got a chance to see it. Sunday changed all that and it was worth it.

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I’m a big fan of Art Deco architecture, art, anything. So standing here looking up at this magnificent structure was one of the highlights of the day. It’s absolutely amazing.

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Ceiling detail at the Warner Grand. I swear I was born in the wrong era.

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As I made my way around San Pedro, I had to pause for a moment and reflect. These are the docks where Dad used to work, right next to the Vincent Thomas Bridge. I remember how he used to love driving over the bridge and look down (the best he could) at the water below.

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There is now a small park next to the bridge and this is there I paused, took a deep breath, and wiped a tear from my eye. I can still see him going to work. Still smell the bean burritos in his lunchbox. Still…everything. It was tough but it made me smile. Note the Calder-esque mobiles.

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Oh. These. So beautiful. These are lights that line the walkway of the park as well as the bike/walking path, and the design is based on these columns a few miles away. There used to be more of them including some near a pond filled with lilly pads, yet another place Dad used to love taking his lunch. As you can tell by the image in the link, these fixtures are much smaller but with better detail. Sadly, most of the originals are horribly weathered after years of exposure but it’s awesome that someone decided that they should be honored in this way. They are all over this park – and I love it.

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Without a doubt, the coolest BofA sign ever. EVER.

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Although this is the new fire boat, Dad used to take us to Station 112 to see the old one which is currently undergoing a major restoration. I was there when this new fire boat arrived many years ago.

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During the ride I thought it would be fun to take a picture of my bike at different, interesting locations along the way. I don’t think you can get more interesting than a battleship, right? The USS Iowa is dubbed The Battleship of Presidents for good reason, and I highly recommend boarding her if you’re ever in town. I also witnessed the USS Iowa arrive and make San Pedro her new home.

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Heading back to Wilmington. This is a relatively new structure and park. I’d never visited the park or been on the bridge so of course I took advantage of it.

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You get a great view of the harbor from up here.

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But CicLAvia was about people-watching, too. The lady in the picture rides her skateboard at every local event and this is the third time I’ve run into her. Seriously. She’s pretty awesome.

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The there’s this gentleman who was riding a recumbent bike while wearing a Russian MIG fighter helmet that he bought on eBay. Yet another cool person.

By the time I made it back to Wilmington I wasn’t really tired. If anything, I was pretty darn pumped to finally be able to see both cities in a way I never have, exploring places that I always new about but never had the opportunity to visit.

You know what else?

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Peacocks! Yes, we have them! They’ve been a part of the area for as long as I can recall and they just keep breeding. They are always fun to see but are extremely loud.

I took so many pictures. I logged over 20 miles round-trip. I ate lunch – two burgers and chili fries – at Tom’s #9, a burger joint I frequented as a kid. I ate for less that $5 since many restaurants were having specials because they had limited car access. Oh, and I got free ice cream. YES.

I made my way back to Banning Park and rode one more lap just for old time’s sake. This was without a doubt a great day and I’m not only looking forward to the next CicLAvia, but the one in this area in particular.

It really took me back.

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And Wilmington, you’ll always have my heart.

All images shot with iPhone 7 Plus and adjusted with Snapseed

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That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore


PHOTO_20131024_135307-picsayThe image you see to the left is how the front yard of our house, the one we’ve lived in since 2004, starts to look as the leaves begin to fall from the sweet gum tree situated in the parkway. It’s a big tree on city property that yields shade in the Summer and as is obvious, requires a little maintenance in Fall.

This is not the worst the front yard has looked, though. Over the years the tree has dropped enough leaves for Anthony to play in a pile of them which makes for a fantastic backdrop but a few years ago, that problem was solved when the city decided to trim the tree down a bit. The leaves you see are just about all we get now.

Yet someone still complains.

You know the person because every neighborhood has one: the resident who has been there the longest and knows everything there is to know about everyone who ever set foot on the sidewalks. The resident who lives on gossip, is always right, and whose grandkids are much more superior than your kids in every category.

Yes, that one. In this case and for obvious reasons, we’ll call her Mrs. Kravitz.

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When we first moved into our place (formerly the home of Ann’s grandfather), we had already known Mrs. Kravitz and a little about her tendencies to gossip as well as her nosiness. Once we were settled and raking up the leaves on the front yard became my normal weekend activity, Mrs. Kravitz dutifully reminded me of how Ann’s grandfather would rake them up every day and make sure there were no leaves left behind.

Fine and well. He was also retired and had little to do outside of dining out every meal of the day.

(An aside: because of her gossipy ways, I tend not to speak with her nor give her information. She once saw me and Anthony in the store after I had taken him to the doctor. She asked why he wasn’t in school and my simple response was, “He’s sick.” She needs to know nothing else.)

She also liked to point out, while smirking, that leaves would swirl around in the wind and often land on her yard, or how they would just be over there in general. Mrs. Kravitz suddenly labeled the leaves of the sweet gum tree “your leaves” and she would remind me every time she saw me with that same smirk and goofy slack-jawed expression when she first noticed them falling.

That was in 2004. Over the years, Mrs. Kravitz still went out of her way to tell me that my leaves were falling on her yard. It’s not like it was a total surprise since it happens each Fall and my God, the woman has lived here longer than the tree. But as 2004 turned into 2005, 2006, etc., the joke had definitely run its course.

I remember one time a few years ago. I had just pulled up in front of the house after a long day at work and before I could set foot on the ground, Mrs. Kravitz who was watering her grass told me, with that same smirk on her mug, that “your leaves” were on her yard.

“You have a rake, don’t you? Clean them up.” That was about all I said as I went into the house.

Other responses have been for her to call the city and have them cut the tree down, a simple shrug of my shoulders as I walked away (pretending I didn’t hear her), or just a smug look on my face and not a single word being spoken with the latter being after the tree had already been trimmed and the leaves no longer being in excess.

There’s only so far you can take a joke before it becomes as old and stale as the person telling it, and Mrs. Kravitz reached that milestone many years ago.

So Mrs. Kravitz, I don’t care where “my leaves” fall because that’s what they do this time of year. It’s property of the city so it’s not my concern since I didn’t plant the thing. They will fall where they will fall and pretty-up the landscape whether you like them or not.

And I don’t need to be reminded of them, tomorrow or ever again.

That joke isn’t funny anymore. Let it go, man. Just let it go.

Tom Hanks Filming at Local K-Mart


I had heard through the proverbial grapevine that Tom Hanks would be at our local K-Mart today, so I decided to go and check it out to see if the grapevine was right.

And right it was.

(Click on any image to embiggen):

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See the man in the red shirt? As blurry as the image may be, I can assure you that that’s Tom Hanks right there, taking a sip of something between takes. (Note that security was tight and I had to sneak in this cropped-at-home shot with my phone—real spy stuff). Right after each take, Hanks ran immediately back to view what had just been shot. He is the director, according to IMDB, which also summarizes (working title) Larry Crowne as:

After losing his job, a middle-aged man reinvents himself by going back to college.

In the scene they were shooting, the crowd of U-Mart (as it is called in the movie) employees is engaged in a rousing cheer about their products and prices:

“[Fill in the blank with product name] for only [fill in the blank with price]!” and so on and so forth.

Kind of reminded me of the Wal-Mart Cheer that I was subjected to during my years working there only with real enthusiasm.

I guess the title also explains the name on the sign at the entrance (which means they can use my likeness forever and I can never ask for payment):

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…and this one near the rear of the store:

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And in this day and age, the movie is no real secret if you follow Twitpic or other forms of social media. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and follow a hunch that this would be happening right down the street.

I get the feeling, however, that the “commercial” (as I was told) they were filming in the toy department at that same store last week was just a preparation for what I saw today. Just a hunch but I could be wrong.

Either way, there you have my celebrity sighting for the day. Cool stuff, and the crew was a class act–even when we unknowingly almost walked into the background of the hot set! In fact, according to Anthony, this is the best day ever for the following reasons:

  • His second round of golf lessons start today
  • He got a cool Matchbox car while at U-Mart…um, K-Mart
  • He got to see (and hear) Woody 🙂

He also told the cashier that they were filming in the store today.

“I bet you didn’t know that, did you,” I said.

“No, I didn’t,” she replied. She then asked Anthony, “Do you know who’s going to be in it?”

“WOODY!” he yelled.

All the cashiers laughed–and Tom Hanks himself probably heard him all the way at the back of the store.

Well, time to go play LEGOs with Anthony for a bit then golf lessons. It’s gonna be a busy summer!

UPDATE: I ended up working at that same Kmart later in the year and they had this prop hanging in the manager’s office:

To see all of my blog entries that are related to filming in my area, click this link.

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So It’s Come to This


218270 So…how you all doin’ this fine Saturday evening? I’m good, thanks for asking.

Aren’t you going to ask me what happened today? Because I’d be more than happy to tell you. It really is a nice story.

This morning while I was getting ready to take Anthony to his t-ball league’s Closing Ceremonies by loading all of the equipment in the truck, a Long Beach police unit come rolling down the street and parked in front of my next door neighbor’s house. The officer sits and waits.

A few minutes later another unit arrives. By now, another neighbor across the street, Sherry, is out and wondering what’s going on. Her grandkids then arrive and ask to play with Anthony.

As I walk across the street to take Anthony to Sherry’s, I approach one of the officers and ask if everything was okay.

“We just need to go talk to your neighbor,” he says.

“Oh, okay. I’m just asking because there’s been a lot of activity on the street lately and we’re a bit concerned.” He nods and both officers head to Dick’s* house, aka Mr. “Happy Birthday Jesus Sign 365/24/7.”

They are in his house for some time and our curiosity is getting stronger. Did he beat his wife again, much like he did years ago and served time for? Did they have a little spat that needed police intervention? Inquiring minds wanted to know!

Well, as we all stood and wondered what exactly they were doing there, we see the officers exit the house and slowly walk down their driveway—then slowly head up ours. I excuse myself, walk to the house and wave over to them.

Here’s the part when Dave SHOULD have lost it BUT for the sake of all involved and keeping my reputation intact, I didn’t.

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Rain and Flooding: Phone Cam Evidence


This was my trip home after picking up Anthony from school. By the time I left the truck, picked him up and returned, we were both drenched to the bone. I’m not saying it was bad but we’ve had several advisories: tornado, high surf, etc.

It was so bad that all the manhole covers were being popped and thrown in the middle of the streets (see middle of picture):

I also saw quite a few trash cans floating down the street:

I ended up calling the police and they dispatched help immediately:

And here’s the flood channel behind Ann’s office:

Yes, it’s almost to the top.

And this street was completely flooded:

Despite all this, keep in mind that the worst is yet to come. Yeah, so it’s not snow or anything but it’s bad enough. Either way, I still love the rain.