Secret Stairs of LA Walk #27 – Silver Lake

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #27 – Silver Lake

The simple act of walking can have the ability to spark an echo from the past…

I didn’t decide one day that I would pick up the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles book, by Charles Fleming. An ex told me all about it and took me on a walk once upon a time ago. After we broke up I ended up purchasing the book from Vroman’s Bookstore, in Pasadena (which I recommend you visit if you haven’t). 

Sometimes things just leave you raw and that’s how I felt after that relationship ended. As I was looking for that first staircase off of Effie St., behind Lamill Coffee I realized that somewhere along the way I healed. Time has a way of doing things you least expect while never letting you in on the secret. I’m grateful for those things that I took from those moments in my life.

Silver Lake is a neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles. If you don’t live here then it’s easy to talk shit and say something clever about the neighborhood. I don’t live here and I’m not qualified to offer a treatise on the place. I can say with certainty that it’s an expensive grimy bitch of a neighborhood that has a lot of neat little cafes and shops — oh, and lots of stairs! 

It should also come as no surprise that they don’t truly have a lake (it’s man-made) and there are no traces of silver, it’s not even silver-like. It’s actually a reservoir and it was named for Herman Silver, one of LA’s early water commissioners.

No matter if you’re a dog, if you’re homeless, or a one-percenter, the one thing in common is that no one, even our furry friends, cares to sleep in their own squalor. That’s what I think about as I see the streets lined with endless trash bins. Trash day is tomorrow, a local resident tells me. I’m a fucking genius.

While walking up the stairs on this route, I spotted some really neat homes. Since I’m not a design snob and know little about architecture, the best thing I can come up with to describe some of the homes is that they’re very Bohemian. That is, many of the homes I found along the way were designed for form moreover function, I felt. 

A number of the homes seemed inspired by the many Case Study Homes of the 40s and 50s that a number of architects and designers were commisioned to build. Two of the most prominent, and well known, among them was the design duo of Ray and Charles Eames. You’ve probably seen the Eames Chair at some point, whether you knew it or not. While I’m on the subject, if you live in or around LA definitely consider visiting the Eames house in Malibu. Save some money and do the interior tour! It’s worth it. I promise!

Anyway, the thing about Silver Lake that I like is that there are lots of opportunities to get lost here. There are a lot of hills and winding back-street roads that run over them.  When I walk through some parts of a neighborhood, I feel like I’ve uncovered a secret — it’s like hearing that sound from The Legend of Zelda when link finds a secret. 

The Four Stooges

It was a patchy-cloud kind of day, the heat finally broke, which made the walk pleasant for a change. 

As I walk through these enclaves, I’m reminded of how much I enjoyed my trip to Singapore. It was magic. There’s a pull to explore other parts of the world, I’m impatient to do it. Few people I encounter here say hello let alone make eye contact. Perhaps, I should stop doing these walks all commando.

Seeing the homes along the way, I’m reminded of how little I have to my name, in terms of equity. I guess that shouldn’t matter but I would like own a place some day.  I often ask myself who are these people? What do they do? How can they afford these homes? I think about that like there’s some big cheat code for the Game of Life that no one is sharing with me. Is that weird? Maybe a bit.  I don’t pretend to know.


If there’s one thing that these walks have taught me is that change comes whether you’re ready for it or not. Silver Lake was allegedly affordable once upon a time. It’s home to movers and shakers in TV and Film and who knows what else. As the prices of housing continue to rise, they push out the old tenants and make way for those who can afford to pay more, leaving people to scramble to nearby neighborhoods for housing that isn’t any cheaper and offering less than what they were used to. Like many neighborhoods in LA, this place is gentrified as fuck. I heard a couple discussing the topic of gentrification when one person said, Look, shut the fuck up. You know we’re the biggest part of the problem, right? Maybe they’re not the largest part of the problem but they certainly have benefitted or pushed less privileged folks out of their homes, even if they didn’t realize it.

More than anything, the message I take with me, the one I always forget to remember: Life is more than what your fingers can’t grasp. I think it’s a verse from Mos Def and Talib Kweli aka Black Star. 

I have a bad habit of comparing, of looking elsewhere rather than looking right in front of me. What I have is enough and I can be happy with that. What I have isn’t much but what I do have I have in great abundance!

Maybe it’s time to let go of the past, of uncertainty I grasp at, and of this tireless evaluation of the unknown. 

Eating a Carolina Reaper

Eating a Carolina Reaper

If you’re the kind of person that throws caution to the wind, jumps out of airplanes without checking their parachute, or if you simply eat ridiculous things for very little to no money then I have only this to say to you: I GET you. You’re dumb but I get you.

Having eaten a couple of Carolina Reaper Chilis (not one but two) I can tell you with certainty that eating them was mere child’s play…

Child’s play, that is, when compared to the severe aftermath of what happens to your body after you eat them!

You can see from the video above that my cherubic features are under intense fire after consuming the two super-hot chilis. It’s an interesting sensation eating something that painfully spicy. It’s not the pain itself that’s interesting, that straight fucking sucks. The intriguing part to me is simply what the body wants to do with itself once it has detected the very dumb and stupid thing you’ve done to it. 

Where does one even score these super-hot peppers? You can typically pick these up from places that sell the seeds. Cal Poly Pomona has such a program. For me, I have a guy who works one of the local Farmer’s Markets who grows these things. I purchased a baggy with a few peppers in them. I had Scotch Bonnets, a Reaper hybrid, along with a few Carolina Reapers.

First thing’s first…

The body knows something is wrong; it knows that the brain done messed up. The mouth is on fire, the throat, and tongue are not exempt from the torture either. All of your mouth instantly hates you, as the rest of your body is adjusting the new normal of pain and suffering you’ve just subjected it to.

The first thing you’re likely to notice, aside from feelings of instant karma and regret, is the onset of violent hiccuping and burping. It’s funny for a moment and then it’s not. As the pain burns on, you start producing tsunami-worthy levels of saliva, your nose begins dripping, whatever moisture is left in your body tries to escape in the form of tears and sweat. You’re a literal hot fucking mess! No one will ever right-swipe you on Tinder. Get outta here!

After four to six minutes of intense suffering, the heat levels begin to wane and things begin to cool down. You’ve made it you bad-ass Stud McMuffin! Good on you! No eat something nice and cool or drink some milk. You earned and your body is begging for it. Enjoy it, you heroic so-and-so because no one else is going to celebrate this victory with you. Instead, if like me, you posted a video like the one above so your loved ones could see, be prepared for messages telling you, “Hey buddy, that looked like it hurt. Please don’t do that again.” Or, “I hate seeing you suffer, please stop doing this shit.” It’s nice to know people care but it really puts a damper on what should be a joyous victory celebration.

Next thing’s next…

If you didn’t consume adequate amounts of casein (calcium, milk, etc) then you’ve got something to answer for from your stomach. The chilis finally make their way to your stomach. Even for a seasoned heat chaser a raw super-hot pepper can create serious issues and send them to the hospital.

You see, I went to bed — I foolishly thought I’d kicked those peppers right in the dick. The joke was on me as my stomach tried to digest them reapers and replied with Yeah, I’m gonna pass on these buddy. It’s your problem now. My stomach was rejecting the peppers I consumed and with good reason. I vomited the reapers. It was next level torture, like watching The Wicker Man, with my eyes pinned open while women from a cult poor fire ants on my body and let them bite me. I can now articulate how Nick Cage films make me feel, I have the tools now! What I threw up came up through my nose and it burned something fierce. I began sweating and hiccuping.

The stomach pain was so intense I called an on-call nurse to see if I was dying. She asked me some questions and said, “No, you’re not dying. What you’re feeling is stupidity and it hurts. Just ride it out fella.” I mean, she didn’t literally say that but the eye-rolling was audible (and justified).

Lastly

After consuming the Reapers I can tell you that I’ve not suffered more physically from a poor life choice than I did then. Eating those two peppers by far is the dumbest thing I’ve done in the last week. I would not recommend to anyone. There are folks who can handle these peppers without issue, I’m not one of them. The people who can handle these peppers are made something different, they are the LeBron Jameses of spice eating, while I’m over here G-Leaguing that shit.

If you go forward and decide to eat one of these things don’t do it. Instead donate money to the Red Cross, reconsider your life, and cuddle something you love. I hereby hang up my tights and relinquish my title of Unofficial Pain and Suffering Correspondent for now, not forever.

About Reviews

About Reviews

I’m writing this from Ojai, Ca tonight. I’m in Ojai on vacation, a no-work vacation or distraction-free if you like.

After getting settled at my hotel, The Emerald Iguana Inn, I needed to get out and about, find something to eat and drink. I didn’t hesitate to pull out my phone and start searching up local establishments. I find myself searching Google Maps first, just to get a quick read of what’s close and walkable. I scan the reviews and they’re mostly positive, helpful, and I can make a choice.

I’m talking about reviews because my friend, Rebecca, asked me what I thought about this video where Bourdain shares what he thinks about Yelp and Elite Yelpers (spoiler alert: It’s not a very positive opinion). I looked at the video and it hit me in a couple of ways, you see.

Review systems are common, we all use them, often, without thinking about them. I always feel myself bristle while reading reviews and I couldn’t figure out why. I’ve used reviews countless times to inform my purchase and eating decisions. I can tell a helpful review from a troll-ish one, too.

The thing is, reviews are the first layer of information that people go for when looking up what to do and where to go. And that’s their sole bit of information they rely on before they pull the trigger.

I think that’s sad. I know, I know; this is all just an opinion, my opinion. Why does my opinion matter? It doesn’t. I’m not college-educated, I don’t have an intense love for a specific type of food or drink. About the only thing that I do like is a good story.

Small Businesses and Reviews

One thing I do is that I volunteer with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) once per week. I love small businesses. I really do. I’m the pretentious turd of a person who will take a few steps out of my way to support a local shop, or at least one that is involved in their community. It matters to me.

As a volunteer at the SBDC, I help business owners with pretty much all things digital marketing and strategy. Most business owners are addled by the online review. Whether it’s Yelp or Google My Business, small biz owners have strong opinions about them. I always ask the business owners I speak to: What do you think of online reviews? Many folks shrug, some have a visibly irritated and frustrated reaction. They complain that, in the case of Yelp, many positive reviews are set to Not Recommended. Yelp says that some reviews are placed there due to the reviewer being less established or potentially having bias etc. It’s at their discretion completely as to what reviews go there and when or if they are ever moved up with the rest of the non-flagged reviews.

While Yelp states that they have a good reason for why they flag certain reviews, I have seen how they use those reviews as a stick to get businesses to signup for their ad programs. Twice in 2017 I’ve seen fed-up biz owners signup for ads and within months find those previously flagged reviews suddenly show up with the rest of their reviews. It’s sketchy as fuck!!

I think Yelp can go to extra hell, to be honest.

Google My Business doesn’t outwardly appear to engage in this practice but I think that their reviews can be harmful, too. I say this as a Level 8 Local Guide. I know, I’m a big fucking deal around here.

Let’s be real, none of us really knows how reviews affect a website’s search engine rankings. Review platforms tend to claim many top spots for a variety of popular searches for things you might be interested in that are locally based. I often see my results littered with Yelp discussions on lists of things to eat or drink — or I’ll scope out reviews from Trip Advisor or other similarly annoying services that have reviews as part of their platform.

I’m seriously done with reviews and feedback platforms—I’m mostly annoyed at how review platforms litter search results, pushing down relevant opinion-centered content.  I’ve just grown tired of them. I know that these review sites are the byproduct of an ever-increasing global movement to share information but man, I’m exhausted. I really don’t give a shit about what many people say about one place. I really only care what a couple of people, or even just what one person says about a place.

Bespoke Opinions Still Matters

In our world, the review serves as a barometer of quality that we can quickly use to make a decision right away; these reviews are cobbled together so we can get a range of opinions on a given product or service. Reviews are great but they’re not perfect. Many times, people jump in, leave a review or a rant or a love letter and get the fuck out. I want more than that.

We have Pandora, Spotify, and Google Play Music dispensing their algorithm based recommendations for our listening pleasure, which is fine. I mention this because I still want the opinions of people who know more than me on given subjects. Some of my favorite music is discovered when sharing artists with friends or strangers, hence why I’ve gravitated more to 8-Tracks recently

I just want a simplified suggestion and experience from someone who has done their homework, someone who cares about a thing more than I do and who can give me feedback that really means something.

I think reviews are a way for someone to provide quick and honest feedback about their limited experience with something. Someone who is a “curator” doesn’t necessarily have that on their LinkedIn as a job title. Someone who curates their experiences is someone, in my opinion, who cares about the stories, about the why, and they want to learn. They want to add something to their consciousness that didn’t previously exist. Perhaps that’s my definition because that’s what I want to do myself.

It’s my opinion that reviews really do leave out many lesser known, less-well-marketed businesses. How? Again, I’m not sure. But with over 90% of people looking at reviews before making a decision, the devil lies in those statistics somewhere. People are more likely to pass on the family owned hole in the wall because it has a three and a half star rating rather than a four or five.

I don’t have a clear solution on how to solve for this but I have an idea. I believe that humans are the best barometer. Humans who care about stories, about experiences, and who seek these things out with aplomb and have no expectations and leave their biases at home as best they can.

Support your local bloggers; support your local news and event writers; support the art of conversation; and support the art of being childishly curious and ask people what they care about.

Maybe your questions lead you to your next adventure.

You Don’t Look Like a Vasquez

I’m Alex. The last name is Vasquez. I’m part white, and I’m part Mexican. I have red hair, and I’m six-foot-four.

I look about as Mexican as a taco salad.

I’m proud of who I am and what I am. I could stop right there and move along. But I’m not going to because where is the fun in that?

I’m tall, and I say wickedly funny (and often shitty) things and typically at the worst possible times, like that time I told a woman she had a nice box (she was holding a box, though!), her boss was not amused, but I digress.

The thing I get a lot of and have for my entire life, is: “You don’t look like a Mexican/Vasquez/Hispanic.” I don’t look like what I am. I used to feel like that was something I needed to apologize for. Good sir or ma’am, I’m genuinely sorry that I do not look like what it was you were expecting me to look like given my name.

I’m assuming that when people hear a Hispanic surname, they immediately think about Mexicans and then what they think about what a Mexican ought to look like. They have some ideas. Don’t worry you’re not alone! Google has some ideas, too!

Not a single stereotype to be seen here, folks.

and that’s a form of bias. And, yes, I know, I know, not all people think of Hispanics and Mexicans in this manner. In and of itself, to me, it’s harmless; rather, I do not think that people who wonder about my looks and surname have ill-intent in pointing out how I’m different from what they expect.

I’m just really tired of the feeling of having to explain myself. So from here on out, I’m not going to because I don’t have to. If someone does not fit inside a person’s frame of reference that’s their problem, it should never be yours.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had the name Vasquez. It’s my Mother’s maiden name. Why I use Vasquez instead of my Father’s surname just isn’t any of your business. So stop asking! =)

As a child, I was embarrassed by my name. I was embarrassed because teachers when they would see me the first time, would ask me “Well, how did you get that name?” And I’m over there like ¯_(ツ)_/¯. Substitutes would ask that question without fail, too. Because of how often I was asked and probed about my looks I felt insecure about my name. It wasn’t Smith or Stevens or something white, that would make sense given my physical features. So I grew up being at odds with my identity.

Over the years, as my confidence grew and I grew into the rest of my body, the question didn’t bother me as much. I had an answer that I rolled with, something in the back pocket at the ready—I was coping with my inconvenient truth.

The thing is, it wasn’t just white people who made this observation, that I didn’t look like a Vasquez. I should note this isn’t a Dear White People post because I get this shit from everybody of every color; heck it was even people in my own family; it was also other Mexicans telling me that I wasn’t a Mexican.

I get called out for not being Mexican enough pretty much weekly. I had a date last weekend, and my date casually rattled off “You don’t look like a Vasquez.” She’s a woke college-educated white woman. She should know better. She didn’t. Another friend once told me, “You’re not a real Mexican” after I related how my family made tamales, too. She asked, “Do you speak Spanish?” I replied, “No” and then she said, “Oh, then you’re not a real Mexican.” Even people in my own family would tell me, “You’re not a real Mexican. You’re not one of us.” As a kid, I already knew I was different from my family that I grew up with, and I wanted to do anything to be more like them. One of my relatives would say, “Hey, Al, if you eat this Jalapeño you’ll become a Mexican eventually. But you better not cry or bitch about it!” And so I began eating Jalapeños, a lot of them. It didn’t change the color of my skin or my hair; it didn’t help me with speaking Spanish either. It did, however, support my digestive system in the most painful ways possible. I enjoy Jalapeños these days but I do so on the premise that consuming them would make me more of a Mexican. I’m reminded of that fact often, and it’s something I’ve had to put to rest.

While at a party, a guy overheard my name and said to me (can you guess what it is?): “Hey, you don’t look like a Vasquez.” I was drunk and way too high from eating edibles earlier in the evening, when I replied, “Hey, you’re right! Please go find me a Vasquez-looking person and when you do bring them back here so we can see what a Vasquez should look like!” The gentleman took a sip, gave a quick nod and then surveyed the room, looking for a Vasquez; surely there was someone who looked like a Vasquez in a room full of humanity. A few moments later, he returned his gaze to mine and offered, “I wasn’t supposed to do that, was I?” I smiled and said, “No, but it’s okay.” We both laughed and went on with life.

I am Mexican and I am white (with a whole lot of other whiteness mixed in). I get to be both. I’m proud of who I am and what I am. My Mexican family raised me, I was raised on that food, and I was raised on a great many traditions of Hispanic culture, and I have been loved that culture and accepted into it. Even though I am unmistakably white looking, a Gringo, I do identify more with my Hispanic heritage because it’s been a part of me from day one. I don’t loathe the white part of me, that side is a part of me, too, and I love who I am (and so do a lot of others).

Can I say that I’m tired?

I’m tired of telling you people why I look like the kind of Vasquez that I look like.

I’m tired of having you people point out how white I look and how I don’t look like a Mexican at all.

I’m tired of you asking me if I speak Spanish. I don’t. I wish I did so I knew when my Grandparents were talking shit about the rest of my family or me.

I’m tired of explaining to you why I don’t use my Father’s surname.

I’m tired of you telling me I’m not a real Mexican.

I’m tired of your questions because I don’t fit your frame of reference.

I’m tired of your shit, and I’m just really tired. Okay?

Your confusion is not my cross to bear. I’m not confused about who I am. If you are then, that’s on you.

I want to let you all know that I’m not mad about it; I don’t look at this as yet one more way Americans suck. No, it’s not that at all. We all have biases. I have them, too, and some I don’t even know I have. Being a human in the world is a complex thing; it’s a hard thing to be and it’s even harder to do well. But if we can check-in on these momentary lapses and understand them and then own them we’ll get on the right track!

The good news is that I believe in you—I believe in us! And we can do better together.

How can you help?

I mean, just stop doing the above. That would be great! But if you must—

Ask yourself: “Is it really important that I know the answer to this question?” Can I just be a white-looking guy with a Hispanic last name? Will that destroy your reality? If we get to know each other well enough I’ll tell you the story, I promise!

Should you decide that you still want the answer then there are other ways to go about getting the information you seek!

Ask me about my family. I’ll probably tell you that I was raised by a single mom and that my dad wasn’t in the picture. I’ll probably even bring up the Vasquez-name thing, too!

Ask me how I grew up! Surely, I’ll tell you holiday stories and memories. I’ll probably tell you about my great uncles, who, in my eyes were these amazing Chicano giants. Maybe I’ll tell you about my Grandfather, who is one of the hardest working men I ever knew. Just maybe I’ll tell you about my Grandmother, who grew up working in grape vineyards in Old Cucamonga, with her brothers and sisters—she was eclectic, well-read, well-spoken, and hilarious. And perhaps I’ll tell you about my mother, who kept a roof over my head and made sure I was taken care of always.

I’m not alone. There is no shortage of mixed-race folks in this country. It’s a diverse place! So if you see someone who doesn’t look the way you think they should ask yourself what they should look like and ask why it’s an important observation to you. Try to understand the why.

I embody the Mexicans I grew up with in some way or another, maybe it’s my Nana’s artistic pursuits that I carry, perhaps it’s my Grandfather’s grit or my Mother’s we’re going to make this work no matter what attitude. I’m a Mexican through and through and I’m proud of that heritage and that identity.

Lastly, this shit is hard. I know it is! I’m going to drop a Tweet here that I think sums up really nicely how I feel about all of this.

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #4 – Mt. Washington

This Secret Stairs of LA Walk #4 is brought to you by Powdermilk Biscuits. Has your family tried em? Heavens they’re tasty!

This walk takes you through Mt. Washington, a neighborhood that sits high above Los Angeles. If you pay attention to the “delightfully” offensive (and fairly spot-on) hoodmaps…

you’ll find that the area sits right in the middle of LA’s most “gentrified war-zone,” rife with hipsters, pricey coffee shops, people who haven’t taken down their Feel the Bern signs, and steep-ass fucking streets.

Pro-tip:
So, a lot of these walks that meander about these well-to-do neighborhoods often have garage sales on the weekends. I scored a new set of dishes (https://www.crateandbarrel.com/jars-tourron-black-16-piece-dinnerware-set/s345156) for $22 smacks to the urethra. Granted there is a missing mug and plate, but I’ll take it. Your mileage will vary, but that’s a good incentive to do these walks on the weekends as opposed to mid-week. Each time I’ve made purchases at a garage sale I scored something good and the sellers accepted Venmo. So be prepared with the cash or the Venmo.

You can take the Metro Gold Line and get off at the Southwest Museum station and walk a bit south down to Avenue 45.

There’s only a couple sets of stairs on this route, but it still clocks in at a distance of 3.2ish miles, so you’re still “putting in work.” Bring your water bottle and airy clothing. There are a lot of pretty views once you get up to Kemper and Kilbourn.

The walk ends up taking you through Elyria Canyon park as you round your way back to your starting point. It’s a dirt road right in the middle of your walk. It’s hard to get lost unless your’re the “try hard” type who gets lost a lot. Take the time to take in the views and a few deep breaths while you’re at it. Also take a moment to think about what you’re thankful for.

Photos from walk

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #9 – Circles of El Sereno

Today’s walk is brought to you by the number pink and the color threeve. Also, you may have noticed that these walks are not in order. You get no prizes for making this discovery. Now move along!!

In my continuing conquest of kicking asphalt and mastering so many stairs across LA’s vast metropolis, I’ll tell you all about the “Circles of El Sereno.” I should note that I’m writing this from Dry River Brewing near the LA River in Downtown LA. If you like sour beers then you absolutely must go to there!

Much of El Sereno is a working-class town with a large Hispanic population, speckled with shops and tiny eateries so it’s usually bustling pretty well most times during the day.

The walk has you starting at Gambier St. and Eastern, where El Sereno Middle School sits. Fleming writes in his book that this is one of the “doggiest walks” he completed during the course of putting his routes together. I didn’t notice an overbearing volume of barking dogs, which I was worried could mar my walk so that was a good thing.

The Circles of El Sereno are interesting and the walk itself is pretty easy. The first incline is a bit of a doozy, on par with the steps over in Mt. Washington. As you cross Eastern and jaunt over to Lynnfield you catch the white noise of the neighborhood with cars constantly hurdling down the street, muddled with the chatter of children at play and other folks yelling hello to one another from opposite sides of the street. This neighborhood reminds me of where my Great Grandmother lived in Upland, where I spent many Summers as a child—it seemed like the neighborhood was close-knit, people knew one another well. Phelps reveals your first set of stairs as you turn onto Lynnfield, which slice into the side of a large hill and through two sets of circular streets for which this walk is named. The first set of stairs are split in two, divided by Chadwick Cir. When you get to the top, on a sunny day, you’re able to catch sweeping panoramas of the San Gabriel Mountains, Downtown LA, with a lot of peoples’ backyards and abandoned cars.

The stairs are described, in the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles, as painted green. Most of the color has faded from sight leaving only the concrete beneath the paint, which lends to the staircase’s imposing stature.

Making a half-circle around Chadwick will lead you to your next set of steps which descend to Ballard. The streets are fairly tight, so make sure you’re paying attention to oncoming traffic and especially cars coming from behind (I’m looking at you people who listen to music while out and about).

Take Ballard to the left, then left on Chester, and finally another left back to Lynnfield. You’ll end up back at Phelps where you’re on your way to your last set of steps. Turn right on Templeton and left at Castalia, which is a dead-end street. Where the street ends is where you’ll find your final set of steps, which are pretty insignificant honestly but, hey, if you’re reading this then you’re a completionist asshole just like me—so you do your fucking stairs and you like it.

Route on Gmap Pedometer

Photos from the walk

Secret Stairs of LA Walk #3 – Glassell Park

The world is burning, folks, but hey, I did another of these walks and it was fucking decent!

Alrighty, I did my third secret stairs of LA walk this past week. Walk number three put me over in Glassell Park, which is where one of my favorite breakfast spots is located as well as one of my favorite coffee shops! If you’re curious, it’s the Lemon Poppy Kitchen and Habitat. If you’ve been out with me you’ll note that I’m a big fan of “hipster” type places, which both those eateries are.

There’s a shopping center at the intersection of Avenue 40 and Eagle Rock Blvd where you can park your car. Also, there’s an awesome fish market, too!

This walk just gets right to it, with an uphill strut on Avenue 40. At the intersection with Sandia Way, you’ll see your first set of steps—they lead up to Verdugo View (fun fact, Scandia was a shitty mini-golf place in the Inland Empire where you could get high af and have unprotected sex with people your parents told you to avoid!).

The next set of steps isn’t for a while, so just look around and enjoy the views and quirky homes. You can catch majestic views of the 134 and Occidental College (they’re not really that majestic, I hope you caught the sarcasm!).

You’ll end up winding around on Palmero for a bit, turning left on Nordica and then Olancha. Eventually, you’ll hit this hairpin turn and take these stairs down that are covered by a canopy of trees, probably trash, and poor life decisions. It’s pretty interesting, really; the fences on either side of the path leading down to these stairs are in various states of disrepair, much like your cousin’s shitty party-too-hard-let’s-do-one-more-line-of-coke body.

You’ll get down to Oneanta Dr whether you like it or not because, let’s face it, you can’t fly. You’ll take Oneanta and you’ll like it and for a while, too, until you get to one of the city’s few five-way intersections. City planners really failed the good people of LA with this fuck-sore.

You could go visit Jessica’s Triangle, but why?

So turn your ass sharply left down Nob Hill where you can see a fine collection of garages. Eventually, you’ll get to Frieda—it’s there where you’ll find your next and final set of steps. These steps are really neat as they have a bunch of murals painted on them all the way down. Love. It!

The stairs deposit you next to Cleland Bicentennial Ave. Park and a good reason to become a skateboarder. It’s a pyramid type staircase for some reason, with stairs on the left and right of the main steps. I have a feeling the same team who worked on that five-way shit show had something to do with this set of stairs, too.

Gmaps Route

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=7151292

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!