Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vin the Sky Poet

What's up, Strato-Cumulus:

Incredible sky last night. The sky couldn't figure itself out yesterday, all day. It rained early morning, was hot midday, then clouded over and rained warm and muggy. Unsettled sky, like a teenager, just volatile and in-between. During the Dodgers-Braves game, Vin Scully was moved to remark repeatedly on the state of the sky around Dodger Stadium. He said in parts it was like a used Brillo pad; adjacent were stretches of blue; overhead it was black. On the 10 East tonight I noticed an odd mix of types of clouds. In this case, the word "mix" doesn't really feel as accurate as the Spanish word "mezcla." That word has the colors in it required to describe last night's sky.

On the 5 in east L.A. at dusk, San Gabriel mountains in the clouds. I took these pics with my ancient flipphone.  It is an idiot-savant camera. 

I drove by Dodger Stadium as I usually do on my way home. I've been loving Vin so much lately, I want to somehow embrace him and keep him, forever. When I drive past and there's a game, the lights of the stadium shine in the dark sky, like there's someone home, and there's a big pot of chili and the stove and music on the hi-fi and the gate's open. And I know Vin is there.

As a radio lover, I am aware that Vin is probably the greatest radio broadcaster I will ever know. And as immortal as is clearly is, he is also human. As untouchable and essentially perfect as he has become, he is also mortal.

Over and over I think to myself, how lucky have I been to live with radio this good—all my life?

This is not just hometown sentimentality. Everyone knows it. Everyone in the whole country who knows anything about baseball knows it.

Vin Scully is probably the secret reason New York hates us.

That, and the fact that we get to watch the sun set over the ocean.

Venice Beach. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

O My Soul

Hey, Baby Fishmouth:

I know, that's the oldest joke in the book. "Baby Fishmouth"—as in, "Baby fishmouth is sweeping the nation" (from When Harry Met Sally. Do you remember that line? They are playing charades). In any case, that phrase is so old, it was actually referenced in a now-old episode of Gilmore Girls, with the line:

"Rocket gum is sweeping the nation."

(This kind of writing is why Gilmore Girls is and will always be my best, very most beloved show of all time.)

Let's start this whole thing over.

What's Up, Rocket Gum?

I have a rather major announcement to make.

Drumroll. Thanks.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Friends, Loved Ones, Pets, Family, and Future Ex-Frenemies:

WHEREAS     Ye Olde Rockblogge began 10 years ago on May 12, 2002, thanks to Pre-Google, Pre-Facebook, Pre-Twitter Blogger and one Tony Pierce, goofball supreme,


WHEREAS    El Bloggo De Rocko was horribly dehydrated for a period of time while its author took a vow of silence and retreated to a French cloister where she studied dandelion DNA for five years


WHEREAS    Le Blogue de Roque has been recently rehydrated and is practically a real blog again


WHEREAS    I can't hardly imagine anything better,

I declare May 11, 2012 as the Rockblog Day of Reckoning.

This means absolutely nothing, by the way. It is worth noting, however.

Someday soon, I'll try to explain what happened at the cloister. I feel an especial debt to those readers who held on to this blog long after I let it go, and loved it in a way that I could feel across miles and even years. Cara Mia is the first who comes to mind. Cara Mia read this blog when it seemed no one else did, and she asked me politely, but repeatedly, to write more.

Jonathan Gold, my hero.

Oh God, now I'm namedropping. Matt Welch, my longtime friend and writing inspiration. Tony. My brother, Ben Sullivan. My sister, Maggie Sullivan. My best friend, Debbie Beukema. Laurie Ochoa. Emmanuelle Richard.

I am so blessed—god! Yes, I can say it—I am blessed, and I thank you, God (or whatever You is), and all the good souls who have loved me, helped me, taught me, and inspired me by just being themselves.

There are so, so many people I owe. And I know you know what I mean, because there are so many people you owe, right?

I'm glad we're together in this, owing them so much more than we can give.

And I owe you too, you know. 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greetings, Sons of Sniglets:

Been watching more "CHiPS" lately than one usually does. (Which one should do from time to time.)

One of the great discoveries on offer is that just about the entire show was shot on the same three-quarter-mile stretch of the secret 2 Freeway, between Glendale and Flintridge/La Cañada.

Rollin' 2 style

At least for the first season, every episode features the exact same landscape, continually presented as if it were a different part of the vast L.A. freeway system. It's really something special.
 Anyone living outside L.A. would think L.A.'s freeways were wide and rural and barely used, and nowhere near the center of the city.

"CHiPS"'s groundbreaking shin-cam 

The 2 Freeway has been my favorite freeway for some time now, because it is so elevated it makes your ears pop, and it overlooks fog-nestled foothills and approaches august mountains that evoke Olympus and Middle Earth. It is much wider than it really needs to be, which means it is never crowded (except nearing the southern end, where it dumps into Echo Park). Something about the freeway's elevation, its isolation, and the quality of its surface creates a sense of quiet inside your car. There's muffled peace stuffing your ears as you climb higher, higher, toward what becomes Angeles National Forest. The 2 turns into Angeles Crest Highway and leads to the snow. Maybe that's also why I love it. It is a freeway that leads to trees. It also leads to the stars.

Drive with me to heaven, won't you?
The 2 Freeway is the road you must take to reach Mt. Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble discovered that other galaxies exist outside our Milky Way. Just off the 2 Freeway, Edwin Hubble discovered evidence that our universe is expanding, supporting the ideas of Jesuit priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître, who first posited the Primordial Atom, or Big Bang Theory.

Just off the 2 Freeway, Albert Einstein's life was forever changed.

In the years leading up to that singular day in 1933, Einstein had been somewhat resistant to Lemaître's work. Lemaître was a younger man, a student of Einstein's theory of relativity. And he was an upstart, in a sense, attempting to use Einstein's foundation to create his own, very different and totally wild explanation for the formation of the universe. He described his origin theory as a "Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation."

For some time, Einstein resisted. And he also wondered whether Lemaître had been too influenced by his religious training in cooking up this creation story.

But in 1933 Einstein and Lemaître were both in L.A.—Einstein was an occasional guest professor at Cal Tech in Pasadena. At Mt. Wilson, Einstein listened to Georges Lemaître explain once again his theory about the origin of the universe. At the end of the lecture, Einstein stood up and clapped, and proclaimed that Lemaître's theory was

"The most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened."

I love that instead of feeling jealous of Lemaître, or threatened by the leaps this fellow genius had taken, Einstein applauded. (It's especially admirable since this theory must have made Einstein's concept of a "cosmological constant"—which he once called "the worst mistake I ever made"—seem more awkward than ever.)

I love Albert Einstein, because he stood up to praise a rival. Just off the secret 2 Freeway.

A couple eggheads chillin' in Pasadena, Jan. 10, 1933.
As "CHiPS" DVDs reveal, the 2 Freeway hasn't changed in 30-odd years—which only makes me love it more.

It's difficult to imagine any square mile of Los Angeles County could remain unmolested by overpopulation and development in 2012. And yet, when I drive the secret 2, my eye lingers on miles of open, naked mountain forest and undeveloped hillside. My view isn't so very different from what Ponch and Jon saw as they chased hophead bikers and runaway dogs, or from what Lemaître and Einstein faced as they climbed the hills from Cal Tech to Mt. Wilson.

There's a unique power in knowing that the view you see is the same view others have seen for years, decades, even centuries. It seems that today, incremental changes in technology represent quantum leaps in our experience of reality. Yesterday we were regular people living in the real world; today we're hyper-interconnected-technoheads spending much of our lives in some obscure half-lit pseudoreality.

Then again, you see Mt. Wilson, and you know how small that shit really is.


PS: Of course, the road to Mt. Wilson in 1933 wasn't the 2 Freeway. The 2 was built in the 1970s. You may be amused to learn that during its construction, it was apparently used to shoot several choice films including Corvette Summer, Death Race 2000, and Earthquake.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hey, Secret Spice:

Are you from Los Angeles?

Do you remember Lawry's California Center?
Special Occasion Central

It was an outdoor courtyard restaurant in the 1970s and '80s. A Mexican restaurant run by Lawry's Seasonings, adjacent to a spice-packing plant. It featured fountains and steaks and mariachis, oh my.

These photos capture it much as it exists in my memory.

Lawry's closed in 1991 and sat vacant and overgrown until it was rehabbed in 1998 to become the Los Angeles River Center, home to the Friends of the LA River, as well as a popular site for weddings and other events. (Tsar played a secret reunion show there!)

Lawry's California Center had something of the lush al fresco languor of Disneyland—specifically, Adventureland and New Orleans Square. Sometimes when I am eating at Rancho Zocalo, the Mexican restaurant at Disneyland, I get a visceral memory-meld of those times.
Rancho Zocalo lanterns
Dig the xeriscaping

Do you remember Lawry's?