Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hallway - 8 months down the line

Today we finished the hallway, it only took 8 months and some possible black lung.

When we first moved in it looked along the lines of this:

Then it looked like this:

Now with a satisfied smile, it looks more like this:

And here's a shot of the backyard from the now sealed-up second floor doorway:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

House update...

Down with the stairs! And the precariously perched 'outdoor toilet' - how it got there is a mystery to all. Sealing the missing door to outside, too many polar bears getting in during the winter weather.




The view from above:



Upstairs hallway nearing completion, and some hired help is resulting in the outside being sanded in preparation for painting. Getting less punk by the day

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Backyard update

After just witnessing a hawk try to pick off a chicken in my backyard (in the middle of one of the densest urban neighborhoods in L.A.), I figure its time to post some photo updates on the backyard. Since returning from Tucson in September, and inspired by those that make use of their space there, I set to liberating some of the garden from the masses of weeds, and building an access point from the back of the house in to the yard. We have also got a compost pile going, and I'm slowing reading up on the ins and outs of composting. After a few months of me dragging shit out of the yard and piling it up, we also borrowed the neighbors truck to remove the tons of crap that had accumulated over the past 50 years.

Some things found so far:
- 8 crack pipes, 3 syringes
- Rotten chicken eggs
- 1 wheelchair
- 1 bicycle
- 1 car door
- 3 car batteries
- 1 television
- 50+ playboy magazines, circa 1970
- 10 solar heating panels for a pool

BEFORE: Back in April the back of the house looked like this. No way to get out in to the backyard.


December: I built some sketchy stairs with bricks and no mortar, and the woodpile was removed, along with all the trash in between. The staircase is being dismantled next.




In case there was any doubt in your mind about the status of our yard/neighborhood, I recovered 8 crack pipes in the last few months from our yard. Gloves are always a good idea it turns out.

I also did a shitload of weed removal that we had started back in May. This strange weed I realized was enveloping whole trees, and a more garden-savvy friend noted at the potluck in November that there was an orange tree underneath some of it. This weed was over 90% of the mass, slowly killing all it covered.

After raking out some other weeds and mess, I noticed a puddle. That puddle got bigger, then I realized I was actually excavating a pond, which for the previous 14 months did not know existed...

During the excavation:

After completed excavation. The pond was so covered you could walk over it, and not know it was there

Two truck loads emptied from the yard, filled to the brim:

Next step: remove staircase, start garden, actually use massive amount of space that no one else has in L.A.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Within a few blocks from my house...

Mariachi's by the 100s...

(from L.A. Times blog)

and bodies in trash cans...

Boyle Heights Murder Suspect Caught in Las Vegas

We often see rewards announced, but more rarely see them work. Police are announcing today that they've caught Adam Quintana, who they believe killed his friend Fernando Garcia with a hammer on November 17th before dumping the body in a trash bin just east of downtown on the 200 block of Breed Street. "The combination of the media coverage and reward of $50,000 played a role in finding Quintana in Las Vegas. He was taken into custody on November 28, 2008, by Las Vegas Police investigators and was brought back to Los Angeles to face murder charges," the LAPD said in a statement.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Release the Bats!

I have written about the ghost-town of Ruby before, but failed to produce any photos of the bats that live there. The bats migrate from Mexico and live in old mine-shafts in the ghost town, a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Some 'bat experts' estimate there are upwards of a million bats in the mine shaft. Every night for several months the bats exit the mine shaft right on sunset to go feed. Slowly the bats start to come swirling up out of the shaft, until 1000s upon 1000s flock out creating a gust of wind. Occasionally the odd bat loses its way (if not being picked off by a hawk), hit something and stuns itself, then regains composure. The whole process takes about 30 minutes before all the bats have exited. Sundog, the caretaker of Ruby (I'll get to a separate post on him one day) harvests the bat poop in the mine shaft, otherwise known as 'guano'.

And in fitting tribute, here's the Birthday Party circa 1982 doing 'Release the Bats'...

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Finally I managed to stop at the Cabazon Dinosaurs during daylight hours, but again not during 'non-business hours', gah. About 2 hours out of L.A. you see these on the I-10 freeway. A few years back some 'creationists' bought the dinosaurs for a little over a $1 million, in order to teach passers-by about how dinosaurs were intelligently designed. They also featured in Pee Wee's Big Adventure...

A great story on the Cabazon Dinosaurs on why everyone thinks America is full of wack-jobs from the L.A. Times

This also reminded me of passing through Pismo Beach briefly earlier this year, where I learned of the 'Dinosaur Caves', where some guy managed to construct a giant dinosaur by the beach that led to a diamond-studded tunnel down to the beach/caves

Brown began constructing a large concrete dinosaur to attract tourists vacationing up and down Highway 1 during the booming post war years. A doorway in the side of the dinosaur opened to an 80 foot long tunnel path studded with fake gemstones for atmosphere. Natural holes to the sky provided light for the foot journey through the old Caves of Mystery to the beach. Brown named them Dinosaur Caves, reportedly regaling tourists with tales of dinosaur remains found in the caves. Because neighbors objected to the dinosaur, Brown never completed construction, leaving the dinosaur headless for more than a decade. A fire followed by a bulldozer brought about an end to the creature in the 1960's. Brown continued his lapidary business until the caves collapsed, along with a large portion of the bluff, in the early 1970's.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hair Banditry

So it gets better, as the story below describes. What is even weirder is that I ride past the jail he is imprisoned in almost every day...

Arrest of Alleged 'Hair Bandit' Startles Friends.

Michael Howard's arrest New Year's Day has confounded his relatives and business partner, especially because of the charge: that a hair fetish allegedly drove him to chop off women's hair on the streets.

"It's very bizarre," said Howard's older brother Jack, a Los Angeles County probation officer. "We don't really understand it."

He described his brother as a family man and bicycle shop owner who had lived a stable life and had never been in trouble with the law. However, he said, family members noticed a dramatic personality change in mid-December that they believe was triggered by drug abuse.

Jack Howard said he called authorities after the "Hair Bandit" attacks were reported in the media, but would not say why he suspected his brother.

"That was not an easy thing to do," he said. "But given my position and experience, I've got to think about victims."

Police say Michael Howard, 47, attacked six women and a young girl in the Long Beach area and East Los Angeles in the last two weeks of December. He is accused of grabbing them from behind as they sat or walked along major streets, then shearing their hair with scissors or a knife.

Gian Simonetti said his friend and business partner never mentioned any fascination with hair in the 25 years they worked together.

"He surprised everybody," said Simonetti, who owns Simo Cycle--a custom bicycle shop in Huntington Beach--with Michael Howard. "I thought it was crazy, and feel sorry for him."

Howard, who lives in Norwalk, had been struggling recently with drugs and had not worked a full week in six months, Simonetti said.

He Likes the Sound of Scissors
"He was always coming in late," Simonetti said. "I've been going to his house, trying to get him to come out."

Though Howard's brother and Simonetti did not learn about the suspect's alleged hair fetish until recently, a woman who described herself as a longtime friend said she knew Howard had paid women as much as $200 to let him cut their hair.

"He liked playing with it, brushing it, everything about it," said 51-year-old Vicki Parker, who said she had been a prostitute in the past. "He says he likes the sound of scissors cutting hair."

Howard was ashamed and didn't know what to do, she said. But she called him a "wonderful person" and said she never felt threatened.

The suspect had been depressed over his father's death and his failing business, she said.

"He was just not in his right frame of mind," she said.

Raised in Inglewood, Michael Lynn Howard became interested in bicycles as a boy working a newspaper route. He started fixing and building his own bikes, and teamed up with Simonetti soon after high school.

A stocky man with a rough complexion and goatee, Howard was married for several years but never had children, his brother said. More than 10 years ago, the suspect purchased a clay-colored stucco house with a manicured lawn in Norwalk.

His neighbors said Howard is quiet
"It was mostly 'Hi' and 'Bye' with him," said Hector Montenegro, who has lived next door to Howard for four years.

"He's very private," said Christene VonRavensberg. "I don't think he liked the neighbors."

On New Year's Eve, a sheriff's deputy spotted Howard as he was allegedly holding a woman in a chokehold at a pay phone in East Los Angeles. The deputy chased Howard, who climbed into a nearby car and tried to run him down, authorities said. The deputy responded by firing several shots, but the suspect drove away, police said.

Police arrested Howard the next day at an apartment building on Pine Avenue in Long Beach, where he had gone to see a friend.

The victims ranged in age from 12 to 45, and all but two were Latinas, police said, adding that some of the women suffered neck injuries.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Carbaugh said Howard is a dangerous criminal whose alleged crimes were sexually motivated.

Howard was charged Thursday with six counts of second-degree robbery, one count of committing a lewd act on a child and one count of assault on a police officer. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

He is in Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court for arraignment Jan. 17. Authorities say they are still checking for additional victims.

Deputy Public Defender Michael Concha said prosecutors have taken a leap by charging Howard with a lewd act on a child in addition to the robberies. "There's no sexual molestation here at all," Concha said.

Sheriff's Det. Joe Purcell said he believed that violence might have occurred if an arrest had not been made.

"It's a strange case," the detective said. "It's the first time I've ever heard of something like this."

Many Fetishes Grow Over Time
Hair fetishes are rare, but people who engage in them could collect hair for sexual gratification, said Al Cooper, a Stanford University psychologist and clinical director of the San Jose Marital & Sexuality Centre.

"There are a million different kinds of variations, whether it's fingernails, hair or underwear," he said. "Hair is not the most common, but it is not unheard of."

Cooper added that fetishes escalate over time in about half the cases.

Some women in the Long Beach area were relieved at the arrest. With her long chestnut hair pulled into a knot behind her head, housewife Veronica Alvarez waited for a bus Thursday on Long Beach Boulevard.

"I'm glad they caught him," she said. "I don't know what I would do if he came up to me. I would scream, and I would fight him

The Devil Wore Red

I have needed to replace the Bianchi for sometime, it was always a little small, advertised as a 57, but really a 56, when in reality I need a 59.

Enter the Medici. Out with the real Italian, in with the non-Italian-Italian sounding-fully kitted-out in Italian parts, ah, I forget where I was going with that

Somewhat interestingly, Medici bikes were made only a few blocks from my current residence. East L.A. pride on two wheels

Medici Bicycle Company is the name of an American bicycle manufacturer established by Gian Simonetti and Michael Howard when they left another bike manufacturer, Masi California, in 1978. Located near Los Angeles, the Medici catalog included mostly road bikes and frames.

The name Medici was chosen to for its association with Italian European Enlightenment. The Lion Rampant symbol was used for decals on the bicycle frames.

In the mid-90's they lost the rights to the Medici name, but continued on as Simonetti Bicycles.

So now on to the best part, one of the owners of Medici was put in jail a few years back for "hair banditry"...

Californian man locked up over hair cutting spree

When police finally came to Michael Howard's home they came across quite a lot of hair.

They discovered a thin carpet of it covering the floor, huge mounds of it on the bed, piles of it in the closet, and to capture that perfect hairy moment, photos of severed ponytails lined up as neatly as bodies in a morgue.

Californian police then deduced they had finally caught up with the notorious "Haircut Bandit".

For three weeks in December of 2001, Howard cruised the streets of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, casing bus stops and park benches for women with ultra-long tresses.

Before he was caught, Howard chopped hanks of hair or entire ponytails from the heads of nine victims, aged 12 to 45.

Investigators began closing in on the bicycle repair shop owner on New Year's Eve when a deputy sheriff saw him approach a woman at a bus stop and shear off her waist-length hair.

He escaped, dropping his scissors and his hair trophy, but police nabbed him the next day.

On Thursday, Howard entered a surprise guilty plea and was sentenced to eight years in prison for his hair-raising rampage.

His attorney, deputy public defender Gregg Hayata, says Howard became fascinated with hair as a boy and that as an adult, the sound of scissors cutting hair sexually aroused him.

But the lawyer says lust never interfered with his leading a law-abiding life until December 4, 2001, the first time he went into the street and attempted to shear some locks.

Mr Hayata says his life began to spiral out of control after his father died and his business began to fail.

"I think the combination... made him start experimenting with drugs... and he just lost control of it," he said.

Before his highly publicised foray into hair banditry, Howard was known as a cycling fanatic who had learned to fix and build custom bicycles as a youngster, a passion which led him to open a bike shop with a high school pal.

Howard, who was once married, owns a home in a suburb south of Los Angeles, and has been described by neighbours as quiet.

Family members say Howard underwent an extreme personality change in the weeks corresponding with his haircut spree, that they attribute to cocaine addiction.

Police also unearthed reports from friends that Howard had often paid women as much as $200 to let him cut their hair.

They confiscated more than 40 hair fetish videos depicting people getting haircuts.

"There were naked women getting their hair cut, videos of (Howard) cutting women's hair, some of a couple who had each cut each other's hair and shaved each other's heads," one police officer said.

"There was a Spanish game show where, if you answered the question wrong, they would cut your hair."

They also seized photos of the apparently consensual bobbing of a woman's long hair and of a row of about 15 neatly severed ponytails.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dragon fruit!

The things you learn during drunken conversations in your backyard. I had noticed some flowers on the cacti that half-supports the old servants quarters in our backyard a few weeks back. I realized they were night-blooming flowers that close back up in the daytime. A much more gardening aware friend pointed out today that they are dragon fruit. Sadly I didn't get any shots of them fully open, and it seems its now too late in the year to flower again.

"The pitaya (also known as pitahaya, dragon fruit, huǒ lóng guǒ (火龍果/龙果), strawberry pear, nanettikafruit, or thanh long) is the fruit of several cactus species, especially of the genus Hylocereus. Native to Mexico and Central and South America, these vine-like epiphytic cacti are also cultivated in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia. They are also found in Taiwan, Israel, and southern China. The pitaya only flowers at night, they are large white flowers that are often called Moonflower or Queen of the Night."