Secret Stairs of LA Walk #2 – Eagle Rock

What a weekend it’s been! NFL players taking knees, political meltdowns, war, the threat of war, disasters, humanitarian crises the world over… Just typing words onto a screen is a chore when the mind is chock-full of so much stuff. Fuck it! We’re talking about some stairs, kiddos!!

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #2 — Eagle Rock

Welp, I didn’t get murdered on my first walk, which made me super eager to do walk number two!

I love this part of LA. I once heard someone say that “Los Angeles is basically nineteen neighborhoods looking for a city.” Doing my own research, however, it’s more like forty neighborhoods. Each has its own flavor if you will.

This walk clocks in pretty close to four miles according to my Garmin. So you’ll want to eat your Wheaties before embarking on this bit of Urban Hikery. The walk starts on the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Townsend, in Eagle Rock. Fun fact: You can take Townsend south and it will take you into Highland Park and deposit you onto York—if you park, you can treat yourself to some mighty fine donuts at Donut Friend. Thank me later.

Before I get too far into this, I’d like to apologize to Charles Fleming. I said, in the words of Senator Clay Davis (a personal hero), from The Wire, some shameful shit about him in my first post in this series. I take it back, Fleming is not a turd burger and I love this book for the fact it indulges my love of aimless wandering without getting murdered—but now with seventy-two percent more purpose! Thanks, Chuck! If you haven’t done so, buy his book!

Logo

The first set of stairs you encounter is a bit curved and takes you up a good bit before depositing you out onto Neola Place. It’s a quiet and pretty street. The houses were colorful, with a mix of old craftsman and more modern structures. The wind was doing its thing, making the leaves dance and blowing someone’s awesome bbq into my suddenly hungry and jealous face.

At the end of Neola, is another staircase which descends into a dead-end street, with a school as the backdrop. Lots of fun artwork is installed on the fence grating surrounding the school (I took a couple photos).

The sound of children at play and people living their lives is what I notice—everyone seems to have a place to belong if that makes sense. The sun, by that point, was waiting to be relieved by the moon, I could still smell the residual of rain from earlier that day, as if the trees, bushes, grass, and assorted plants were taking a collective deep breath.

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Yosemite is the next street you come up to, it’s a busy street that runs from Figueroa to Eagle Rock Blvd and beyond. There’s a tiny set of stairs connecting the split-level Oak Grove Dr. As I make my way over to Fig, I have to take the crosswalk and wait for a light, I’m just not that fast to run across the street. Not only is that a bad idea, it’s against the law! The next staircase, is built right into the side of a hill and it has a fancy mural painted on it, the Zen Mural I think it’s called. It’s a bit of a climb and a bit of a descent—what goes up must come down after all (I swear, I’m just as insufferable in person).

If you’re lucky, you can cross back over Fig, to the west side of the street and not get hit by a car. Real life Frogger is fucking terrifying! There was a taco stand setting up when I walked by, which was neat, however, they weren’t open for business just yet. They posted up next to another set of steps leading up to Eucalyptus and Buena Vista Dr. It’s a narrow road with a lot of old houses that have a wonderful view over parts of Eagle Rock and Occidental College. A lady, who was walking her dog, said, “Sir, I like your mustache very much!” So friendly! I twirled stache in appreciation like the savage villain that I am.

There’s another set of stairs as you descend from Buena Vista on Nolden. It was getting dark, so they are easy to miss if you’re heading down. There’s a railing there, too, if you’re the sort who tries to end their lives by falling on their face a lot. I’m that sort of person, fyi.

The last set of stairs is on Linda Rosa. They’re steep, as is the hill they’re built into. If this walk was a video game, then these stairs would be this level’s boss. Fear not, you made it this far so unless you want me to call you names and leave you garbage email, you better eat your steps and get to the top!

Then on your way back, you can hit up Trader Joe’s or walk another couple of blocks down to Casa Bianca, which Jonathan Gold said was one of his “99 places” he recommended you ought to eat at. It’s one of the better slices in the city, I think.

Gmap Pedometer Route
http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7147051

Photos from the walk

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #1 – La Loma Road.

Last weekend I went to Vroman’s in Pasadena to buy a book. I didn’t have anything in mind so I figured I’d just purchase the first thing of interest. On the recommended books wall I saw ‘Secret Stairs’ by Charles Fleming. It’s an LA Times bestseller about the various urban stairways throughout greater Los Angeles.

I haven’t read the book in its entirety but I’m pretty sure Fleming and I wouldn’t be friends—the guy seems like a judgemental turd burger or Debbie Downer’s more annoying and obnoxious cousin from the South. I base that judgment purely on his writing style and talking shit about peoples’ homes and noisy pets. Eff you, Chuck!

I’ve walked up a few of these historic staircases throughout Los Angeles—Echo Park and Silverlake are a couple that comes to mind. I’ve also walked a couple in Highland Park and in Mt. Washington. But I wanted to go through these walks in their entirety. As someone who likes to wander neighborhoods like a fucking madman that you tell your children not to take candy from, you can bet that I am going to be all over these walks!

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #1 — La Loma Road.

This is my first official walk from this book. I have to say, it’s a pretty neat walk. This particular walk apparently goes through Pasadena, just like Charles Fleming said! I also confirmed it on Google Maps.

Pro tip:

The maps in the Secret Stairs book are decent and accurate from what I’ve seen. Google Maps on mobile (and desktop) seem to know about these staircases, too. And if you know what to look for their not too hard to spot, although it is somewhat vague. See screenshot:

Google Maps displays steps on mobile devices. Pretty cool.
You can see stairs on the Google Maps app on mobile devices

The walk isn’t too long and I’d wager you could finish it in less than an hour; it clocks in just shy of 1.5 miles. There’s plenty of steps (oh and if you think I’m so OCD that I’m going to give you a step count on this you can instantly forget that notion!) and it’s a pretty and well-shaded walk. Given the suburban nature of the walk and how it starts out, it seems like you’re not going to see all that much but I was proven wrong. There are a lot of interesting homes to look at; it’s a pretty neighborhood and that there are so many stairs is surprising—I love how they just seem to pop out from nowhere.

I would advise bringing water or some other beverage with you.

Pro Tip 2:

Don’t be that asshole who wears jeans and a shirt on this thing. It’s rigorous enough that you’ll work-up a sweat. Don’t be like me—I looked like a goddamned hooligan who lost his clown suit en route to scaring the living shit out of every child in a two-mile radius! Wear breathable, moisture-wicking, material aka athletic wear.

Oh, here’s a Gmap Pedometer of the route. I’m pretty fucking cool, right?

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7143696

Post-walk meals

I don’t really have any recommendations for places walkable from this walk’s starting point.

I’m a big fan of Little Flower cafe—it’s the kind of place you’d expect every grandmother to sit down and have her soup and sandwich (at least that’s what my Nana liked to do). Little Flower is east on Colorado blvd. and up the hill.

Eagle Rock Kitchen is the other direction on Colorado, a few miles down. They serve Filipino Comfort foods. The place is run by a Mother and Son combo. Get the ERK fries and Adobo chicken for fucks sake! Also, they use the .kitchen domain on their website. Strong!

If you’re feeling extra fancy and give zero fucks about how rank you smell after your rigorous walk then make a reservation at Little Beast. In all honesty, it’s pretty gross how many awesome places there are to eat through that particular corridor of Colorado Blvd. as it runs through Eagle Rock. You can’t really go wrong. Oh, if you’re feeling extra shitty about life and want to serious damage your arteries there’s Oinkster. I’m not going to link to it. I won’t be responsible for your rage shits or spontaneous heart explosion.

Pics along the way

Running Route from Pasadena to Union Station

One of the great things about living near Los Angeles is that, if you’re a runner, you can be a bad ass and run from one neighborhood and through to the next one and catch various glimpses of city life.

I run with the Snail’s Pace Running Academy out of Monrovia—it’s a swell group of folks if you’re looking for people to run with!

There’s a particular route that I enjoy running that starts at the Metro’s Pasadena Del Mar Station. It winds through Pasadena, into South Pasadena and into Highland Park eventually driving you to Union Station.

The route ends up being about ten miles if you don’t get lost af.

It’s a fun route and it’s relatively easy since the vast majority of it is downhill except for a stretch that goes through Highland Park up Avenue 60.

As you start through Pasadena you run through some nice parts of town and you get to see some nice houses. There’s a brief stretch that follows along the well-known Arroyo-Seco trail which results in a little trail running.

You’re running through the burbs mostly as you run through Pasadena and its hated Step Sibling, South Pasadena which is known for not having noisy lawnmowers. They’re totally green and proud and pretentious and I’m pretty sure that’s the town motto if it isn’t Fuck you, Pasadena!

Once you get into Highland Park the homes are a little less pristine and things get more urban. Running up avenue 60 is a real pain in the ass but worth it once you get to the top. Collis is a nice decline that seems to go on forever and a nice reminder that if you’re coasting through life you’re going downhill. Sage words from Mehrdad Mohdjtahedi.

As you run down Huntington and onto Mission, the neighborhoods are more worn, revealing the city’s working-class homes and businesses. It’s a stark contrast from where you begin your run in Pasadena. Eventually, you run alongside the “Piggyback” rail yard and along the fencing. At the time of this writing, you’ll no doubt see the myriad homeless encampments that have claimed their space here—it’s telling how pervasive the homeless epidemic in Los Angeles truly is and how the city and state are not doing enough to combat this problem to help those in the margins find solace and a safe space to live.

As you pass by the train yard eventually you’ll run by a row of auto repair shops blaring a variety of music before bumping into Cesar Chavez Blvd. You’ll turn right there and run along the north side of Union Station. Behold mother nature at its finest as you cross over the LA Reservoir (or river as it’s usually referred to)—during the final stretch you’ll run beneath an overpass, with cars whizzing by you kicking up all kinds of dirt and other stuff you don’t want to think about into your face, I encourage you to yell at the top of your lungs and hear the echo of your bad-assery as you emerge to the other side where Olivera Street is in sight.

Boom! You did it!!

Treat yourself to a nice coconut margarita at Casa La Golondrina. When you’re done hop on the Metro Gold Line and back to Del Mar Station as you give absolutely zero fucks about how fucking savage you smell, much to the disdain of your fellow passengers. You earned it!

 

Birthday

It’s my birthday. Today I’m forty-one or, as I like to put it “forty-fun.” It’s a good bit older than I thought I’d make it. Stupid stunts, drugs, and over much alcohol consumption couldn’t bring me down. I’m still here.

I do a thing on the morning of my birthday. It’s an odd thing but I head over to Diego Goldberg’s website to look at his Arrow of Time. No doubt you’ve seen it or read about it somewhere (link).

Why? I don’t really know. Time is persistent and it’s always moving and pulling us along for the ride irrespective of what we do. Each year the family gets a year older, a year shabbier, and, really, just another year closer to what happens next. I guess it’s comforting knowing or seeing other people go through this stuff, too.

***

My friend Lizz asked me my own question, So what did you lesson did you learn this past year? I told her to instantly shut her flavor hole with such questions! But actually, that didn’t happen because she terrifies me.

I knew the answer immediately. Sometimes success happens as a result of not quitting and not so much actual skill. Sometimes. When I was twenty I don’t think I’d had guessed I’d own a small business and work for myself. But I do.

I’m grateful for what I have and for those things that I do not have I’m learning that it’s okay not to have them.

***

How does one celebrate my birthday? Well, just so you know, there are two days I celebrate. One is my birthday and the other day is April 5th, my name day.  Both can be enjoyed in the same way!

How to celebrate my birthday without me

  • No gifts, please. Instead, donate to a charity. Solving homelessness and drug rehabilitation are two causes that are important to me.
  • Find a wine (likely a Pinot Noir) from the Willamette Valley and drink it.
  • Find a good beer from a brewery in Salem, Or. Anthem Cider is produced in Salem if you want a really good cider.
  • Eat cherries! Lots and lots of cherries!! Rainier cherries are preferred by me.
  • Take a photo of yourself wearing a Portland Trailblazer’s jersey and send it to me.
  • Tell someone that they’re awesome.

Some of my favorite people and some places from my big day…

Guess My Age

I remember my first flight that I took by myself. I think I might have been seven or eight years old at the time, somewhere around 1984. I remember it well, it was magical. I felt special. I had the attention of airline staff guiding me right up to the plane, but not before getting a cup of hot chocolate!

I was guided to my aisle seat. I recall sitting next to a pleasant woman. She was taken by my fiery red-headed ringlets. She complimented my hair and asked to touch my hair. I remember being okay with that if a little embarrassed. Random female strangers, along with the women in my family, would constantly grab at my hair or my cheeks (the ones on my face, people). It was always a little embarrassing. I’ve always been fond of attention, even if it’s embarrassing.

The nice lady asked me question after question when she asked me, “Well, haven’t you got anything you want to know about me?” I was dense as a little kid (I’m still just as dense as an adult) and shrugged my little shoulders. She asked me, “How old do you think I am?” Now that, I recall, seemed like a fun and interesting question—I had no idea what sort of shit-starter such a question would be at that time obviously. It didn’t take me long to blurt out “62!!!” The nice lady’s smile disappeared from her face, like the receding waters of the ocean. She looked ahead, pursed her lips, visibly annoyed, and said, “I’m forty! And a bit of advice, you should always guess younger than you think that person is.”

She promptly opened up a book she brought on board with her and dove into it. She didn’t talk to me again until we landed for her connecting flight.

Even as a young fella, I was always charming people.

***

The concept of time is interesting, isn’t it? We don’t know how much of it we’ve got. As a child, I had no concept of time; I didn’t know what it meant except that bed time was 8 pm for me. Now, a few decades older, time has a different meaning. There’s not a lot of it for any of us. I’m aware of time’s watchful eye but I ignore it yet it always keeps track, tallies up every micro-moment and second like a stubborn choppy river, it keeps on moving.

We’re all fugitives of time’s long reach. It can be unnerving but also comforting in its constancy.

Insult someone you know by telling them they look older than they are today.