Palm Trees at Sunset

Here's a classic LA sunset for you… a skyline of palm trees silhouetted against a colorful cloudy sunset on an unusually hot and muggy day.  This was taken in olde Van Nuys. It's a more mature part of the Valley with tall palm trees lining the streets and churches topped with red tiles and municipal buildings with whitewashed Deco-Moderne walls.
Above the architecture grow our Fan Palms or Washingtonia robusta.  From across a parking lot they show up against a light blue sky full of pink clouds.. and just a touch of retouching.  If you look carefully you might notice a streetlight or a power line or two hiding amongst the trees and a fortress-like utility building in the lower left.

Valley Icon Henry's Tacos was to Close After 50 Years

The Los Angeles Institution known as Henry's Taco's will be closing at the end of December 2012.  For the last 51 years the North Hollywood walk-up restaurant has stood at the corner of Moorpark and Tujunga.  Ravenous devotees have devoured burritos and taco burgers through earthquakes, floods and wayward drivers.

This LA temple of tacos has a western theme and giant red and green letters on yellow squares lighting the front of the building.  A cactus-studded landscape and logo stretch across one side of the tiny structure.  Diners munch over wooden picnic tables on the patio, drink soda with real shaved ice, stargaze and wait for their Midnight Snack to-go orders.  Henry's unique architecture has appeared in TV and films, been immortalized in songs and added colorful atmosphere to novels. 

Janis Hood broke the sad news on the Henry's Tacos Facebook Group last night:

"I am very sorry to have to announce to everyone that it looks like Henry's will be closing for good on December 31. As some of you know, Henry's is just too much for me as a single, childless woman approaching 60 with no family within 1700 miles. I have had several prospective buyers committed to continuing the tradition, but all have been turned down by the landlord. The current prospective buyers have agreed to all the landlord's terms, but he has ceased communicating with them. Therefore, I have given my notice and it has been accepted by the landlord.
I believe this all goes back to my unwittingly angering the landlord by nominating Henry's for Historic Cultural Monument status. As Councilmember Krekorian put a stop to that, the landlord may want to bulldoze Henry's and build something else. I am hoping to get some media coverage in the next few days. Needless to say I am heartsick that after 51 years, Henry's may end for no good reason. Thanks to you all for your support."

Heartbroken fans have been leaving condolence posts:

John: And another piece of our youth bites the dust. Hang Ten, Helms Bakery, Farrell's, Hostess, and now, this. What's next, Val Surf?

Marti: Deja Vu. Voicing concerns to the landlord or Krekorian fell on deaf ears last year beginning around this time. It's all about ego, power trips, and greed. No concern for history or our community at all. An outsider who knows nothing about Henry's Tacos or our Studio City/NoHo community could care less. That's the reality.

Last year the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted 5-0 to designate Henry's as a Historic-Cultural Monument, but it never made it to the full City Council for a final vote.  Although anyone can nominate any building for historical status, it was owner Janis Hood who did the research, hired experts and nominated the building.  Unfortunately, the new landowner appeared clueless as the value of the building or the legion of decipels usually standing 4-deep in line over at Henry's Tacos.  He opposed the designation, and Councilman Paul Kerkorian, in whose district the building sits, never submitted the proposal for a full City Council vote.

Financial concerns may have also added to the decision to close.  According to Henry's owner/operator Janis Hood, the complicated lease renewal last year included a steep increase in rent.  This year, with no to few options left, it all proved to be too much.

Some Henry's aficionados plan on stocking up their freezer with tacos, chili and bean & cheese burritos.  Others hope to see Henry's Taco sauce bottled for the internet, or a Henry's food truck.  Like a great combination burrito with extra cheese, perhaps we can hope for one of the potential buyers to create a food truck version of Henry's and bring this special brand of food to a corner near you.

Visit the Henry's Tacos group page at:!/groups/19286894022

Red Neon Fireplace Signage In Encino

It is cold and rainy in Los Angeles this weekend, so here's some fiery fireplace signage to warm you up.  The sign for Encino Fireplace mixes white neon and bright red plastic.  I like the use of neon for the fire elements.  The white dots in the image are not ghost orbs, just raindrops on the camera lens!

This is a cool shop even if you aren't in the market for fireplaces, they also have BBQ accessories, mailboxes and lots of great brass pieces for decorating your mantle… and if you happen to be in the market for a mantle, they have those too.

The owner is a friendly, helpful guy.  He also owns the Floyd S. Lee Fireplace Fixtures shop in Pasadena whose sign has been designated as historic.

Just for fun I tried a neon enhanced neon sign version for you:

Keep warm and drive safe!

Instead of Oaks to Silt, How about Mud to Parks?

The proposed clearcutting of an ancient grove of oak and sycamore trees in Arcadia (now being called the Arcadia Woodlands) has created an uproar, but even if we save this grove today, we may not save the next grove tomorrow without solving our Silt Problem.

Saving the Oaks:

The LA County of Public Works needs to dredge the silt out of the Santa Anita Dam.  So far so good, but their idea to dump it on a pristine grove next to the Angeles National Forest seems insane in this day and age.  The LA Times published some beautiful photos of the area to be cleared for the silt dump.,0,2198704.photogallery 
I'm not an arborist, but those oak trees look a lot older than 100 years.

Off the top of my head a few arguments against hacking down pristine watershed come to mind:

LA County appears to be violating it's own law against cutting oak trees:

The Los Angeles Department of Public Works has links to their reports on the Santa Anita Reservoir Sediment Removal Project on their website.
On glancing through the LACPW report it appears that there are several endangered plants and animals that will be impacted by this project.  I find it hard to believe they didn't find some of the other plants and animals they were supposed to survey for.  It would be great if we could get someone from Sierra Club, Audubon and/or a Native Plant Society up there to take a closer look -- hint, hint.

Adding this land to the Angeles National Forest seems like a better option than clearcutting. Where are the Oaks Preservation people?

Silt Solution:

Now, I like to scream and protest as much as the next Californian but my Personal Druidic Campaign to Save The Oaks aside, we still haven't dealt with the silt.  We need to find a long term solution to the silt created in all the reservoirs across our all our foothills.  If LADPW is able to just dump it on the ground, I am assuming there are no chemicals in this silt.  If it flows from the Angeles National Forest it probably is clean -- making it pure gold for gardeners and landscapers.

Why are we treating this nutrient-rich natural resource like garbage?  The state of Illinois and the Army Corps of Engineers has been experimenting with recycling silt for a few years now with a program called Mud to Parks:
They have been able to reclaim lands and restore riverbeds with excellent results while cleaning up the Illinois River.  Why aren't our federal representatives working with the Army Corps to get a few of their people over to help us with a similar program?  Why aren't County engineers talking to Illinois about this?  Where is all that innovative, green California spirit I keep hearing about?  Seriously, clearcutting ancient oaks for a garbage dump sounds like a line out of an Airplane movie; surely Los Angeles can do better than that!

Silt = Gardening Gold

As a gardener clean silt, like compost, is invaluable for augmenting and improving soil.  LA County already has a green mulch recycling program going: 
Why can't we augment our compost with silt?  If they can't find a way to use this resource why can't citizens swing past the existing silt pile in Arcadia to pick up a load like we already can at County Green Recycling centers?

Better yet, how about raising some revenue by selling silt as valuable topsoil like the Fox Waterway Agency is doing?  Once again gold flows out of the San Gabriel mountains and what does California do?  Trash it.  Please just once could we stop being so wasteful and short sighted?

Oak Organizing:

It appears several people are organizing to save the Arcadia Woodlands.  If you have a Facebook page, Arcadia Woodlands Flicker group or other resources specifically related to Arcadia or Silt Recycling please post it here.  And I have started the twitter tag #ArcadiaWoodlands for your viewing and posting pleasure.

Tony Curtis Hollywood Freeway Mural Moving?

The Tony Curtis Hollywood freeway mural has delighted jaded locals and enthusiastic tourists alike for over a decade.  This week as we bid farewell to the Hollywood Legend, Class Act and 1950's Heartthrob, we can still look to his face smiling over us as we battle gridlock.  The painting by artist George Sportelli covers the Sunset overpass of the southbound Hollywood Freeway and is perhaps best viewed from down in the gridlock grind.

Now, the constant battle against taggers has the artist looking for a new location for this famous piece of Los Angeles street art.

The mural has a digitized headshot that changes focus depending on distance plus an image of a long, lanky Curtis leaning against the wall next to himself.  He's wearing the standard Hollywood Heartthrob uniform; tight jeans and a t-shirt.

In a way, this mural has a story similar to the great Curtis himself.  It reflects the daily battle in this town for recognition, endurance, survival and remakes (no, I'm not talking about plastic surgery).   

This is actually the second version of Tony Curtis.  It was first created in 1995, but graffiti is such a problem it has already been completely repainted once.  This newer version added a round Hollywood, CA date stamp with a filmstrip frame in the upper left corner and a yellow outline around the standing Tony.  The mural is primarily maintained by the artist himself at his own expense.

This second photo of the mural shows how simple maintenance can be a dangerous affair.  The ivy spilling over the top of the overpass is turning Tony's perfect ducktail into a shag hairdo and completely obscuring a ladder to the stars on the far right.   

I cannot imagine having to hike down that steep hill to work on the wall and I shudder to think what is hiding under the ivy.  The short little fence is missing part of the rail.  Then there's the drop-off directly onto the freeway.  Even the Caltrans sign identifying the Sunset overpass is covered in gang tags.   

In the upper right corner of the photo, across from the palm tree is part of the retro KTLA sign, each letter is on a block going up the side of a radio tower.

Tony Curtis Freeway Mural Moving?  
To the dismay of drivers, Tony may be moving off the freeway completely.  On September 30, George Sportelli posted this on his deviantART page:

After over 15 years of maintaining it all by myself and at my own expense as well... I just can't do it anymore.. but I've invested too much time and money in it to just let it go...I promise when I do find a new location somewhere on Hollywood will be just as visible and never damaged or tagged ever again and people will get to enjoy it up close.  If you drive by my other murals regularly you'll still see this one because it will be in the same neck of the woods as the others.... I'm just waiting for the perfect wall to show itself to me preferably somewhere by his star on Hollywood and Highland.

Perhaps it is time to let Tony retire from his rough and tumble freeway location to a more comfortable existence on the Hollywood streets.  The artwork would be easier to maintain and fans could linger to appreciate the artwork without causing a 10 car pileup on the freeway.  But the question remains; when Tony is moved, will they paint over the overpass version -- or make us watch his slow demise as he is obscured by graffiti?

You can see the 1995 version of Mr. Sportelli's Tony Curtis mural (and let him know if you can help him) on his deviantART site.
No matter where Tony Curtis resides in Hollywood, he will always remain in our hearts and dreams.


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