A Museum Day in the Valley

userpic=san-fernando-valleyYesterday, my daughter (who is home for break from UC Berkeley) ask to spend a father-daughter day. Knowing she’s a history major, I suggested visiting our two newest museums in the San Fernando Valley, which we did today. So as I record an album appropriate to the day (see Music: below), I though I would tell you about them.

The first museum we visited was the Valley Relics museum in Chatsworth, at 21630 Marilla St. (where Marilla and Owensmouth meet). Although some view Valley Relics as a museum, it is really much more of an organized collection. This isn’t a bad thing; rather, it reflects the fact that museums provide more interpretation and context for the items displayed. Valley Relics is much more about the relics, and they have a remarkable collection. They are a wonderful place to wander and go: “I remember that!”. You’ll find memories big and small: from all sorts of Van Nuys High yearbooks and Busch Garden’s memorabilia to loads of Nudie stuff (including two cars) to restaurant menus from valley restaurants to large signs galore (including the signs from Henry’s Tacos, the White Horse Inn, and the Tiffany Theatre). There are bus and train artifacts, including time tables, and loads of stuff from all sorts of valley businesses. There were quite a few items that I personally have copies of, including the 1971 magazine on the Sylmar Earthquake and the San Fernando Valley book. They would be particularly interested in the albums I’m recording right now, as they came out of CSUN in the 1970s. I’ll note that the curator and collector, Tommy Gelinas, was at the museum and was very friendly; he’s been collecting this stuff for 20 years and finally opened the exhibit space in 2014 (after gaining loads of publicity when he rescued the sign from the Tiffany Theatre and from Henry’s Tacos). Valley Relics is open Saturdays from 10am to 3pm. I plan to be back, and might even have some relics to donate.

The second museum we visited is much more of a traditional museum: The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. This is a much smaller facility, located on the second floor of an office complex in Northridge, at 18860 Nordhoff St., Suite 204, 91324 (about a mile or so from our house, at Nordhoff and Wilbur). They, too, have been a wandering museum for a long time, finally finding a home in 2014. They fit the museum title better, having interpretive exhibits that explain the portion of the collection on display and put it in some semblance of context. To me, I wish the context had a bit more valley content; for example, there was a wall of pictures of motion picture stars — I would have liked to have seen more explanation of each star’s connection to the valley. There were a number of exhibits up when we were there, including an exhibit on the Westmoreland family of Hollywood makeup artists, an exhibit on the valley’s contribution to defense efforts, an exhibit about public art in the valley, and a photography exhibit. Between all these exhibits, however, there was much less of the valley’s history shown. There were also knowledgable docents, who were also board members. The museum also had a library: I was able to look at valley plat maps from 1966, which showed conclusively that Rinaldi Place was previously Rinaldi St., and (after a discontinuity over Aliso Creek), continued on through to Reseda and points west (before it was wiped out by the 118 freeway). Again, this is a place I want to visit again. The Museum of the San Fernando Valley is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 1 to 6 pm (8pm on Tuesdays).

Contrasting the two facilities is interesting. Valley Relics provides many of the cultural touchpieces that those who grew up in the valley will remember; in doing so, it provides much of the valley’s history. The Museum of the SFV provides much more interpretation and context (which is needed), but over a much more limited window into their collection (due to space limitations). It is definitely worth visiting both facilities, and one wishes there was a true facility that covered the complete history of the region, the forces that shaped its development (water, the movie industry, farming, defense, planned communities, and much more). Although the Autry is peripherally in the valley (being at the edge of Los Angeles and Glendale in Griffith Park), and would have the facilities to tie all the pieces together, it doesn’t have that focus in what it shows (or at least, in what I’ve seen).

Music: Let’s Eat Cactus (CSUN ’78 Jazz Band; Joel Leach, director; Gordon Goodwin, tenor sax):  “Four Pictures for Jazz Orchestra”

Music: Studio CityMusic Minus One (Piano) (CSUN ’76 Jazz Band; Joel Leach, director; Gordon Goodwin): “Puesta Del Sol”


Saturday News Chum Stew, If Your Pipes Can Take It

Observation StewAfter my wonderful plumbing experience yesterday, my mind cannot make sense — or find a theme — in this collection of news articles. I’ll leave it to you to find the theme, or determine whether these items need to be tossed into the garbage disposal and washed away. Let’s just hope they don’t clog your pipes…



Some Local News Times (for varying values of Local)

userpic=simpsonsThis has been a weird week, what with April Fools day at the start, and a roadtrip to UC Berkeley tomorrow. But here are a few items about various “local” things that have caught my eye this week:

Music: The Six String Conspiracy (Rick Ruskin): “Frere Jacques”


Mapping the LA Election

userpic=valley-los_angelesWhile eating lunch, I’ve been staring and playing with this really neat map of yesterday’s election published by the LA Times. Here are some of my observations on this map:

  • It is interesting to note how the electorate split this election, and how it differs from past elections. If you switch to the precinct winner view, you’ll see a very clear split of support: the valley predominantly went for Greuel, the main part of the city went for Garcetti, and south-central went for Perry. Now look at past elections, and you’ll see a very different split: as opposed to Valley/City, the split is East/West (which if you know the city, is a more hispanic/non-hispanic split).
  • In all of the past primaries, including this one, South-Central tends to support a candidate different than the rest of the city.
  • Kevin James was the only avowed Republican running in the race, and if you look at the level of his support throughout the city, you can see why Republicans in general are having trouble in Los Angeles. There are only select pockets in the city where there is Republican strength. It would be interesting if the Times map went back further — in particular, to the election of Richard Riordan — to see how the pockets of Republican strength have changed.
  • The results demonstrate the power of one vote — in this case, mine. At the last minute, I changed my vote from Perry to Garcetti, because I didn’t like Perry’s stance on the subway in Beverly Hills. Look at the vote totals in my precinct, #9006270A. This is the green precinct surrounded by blue (on the N and W) and magenta (on the S and E) in the northern SF valley (near Lassen and Wilbur, if you know streets). The totals were: 64 Garcetti, 63 Greuel, and 62 James. This means, had I supported James instead (as Don W wanted), it would have been a tie for the top three in our district. Even if I had done as originally planned and gone for Perry, it would have been a tie between Garcetti and Greuel. Wow.
  • Turnout in the election was piss-poor, on the order of 16%. C’mon folks — if you want the right to complain about your government, you need to exercise your right to put better people in office. Don’t carp without doing something about it. (Steve Lopez at the LA Times expresses a similar opinion). Oh, and those of you who are apathetic about elections and couldn’t be bothered to vote: do you really want the extremists — on either side — to be dictating your political future? Shouldn’t you be out there making sure your voice is heard? Mark Lacter, over at LA Observed, has some interesting opinions of his own regarding why people didn’t turn out. One of them is that transit should have played a larger role in the discussion. In support of that, here’s another neat interactive map: Average Commute Times in Southern California.

Music: Bark! The Musical (Original Cast): “Dirty Filthy Old Flea Bag”


Historical News Chum: Coins, Reseda, and Missing States

Today’s lunchtime news chum brings together a collection of stories, all with interesting historical aspects to them:

  • Coin Collecting. I work co-located with an Air Force base, and so I’ve seen this curious custom they have of collecting coins from various events and displaying them elaborately. So I was very happy when Mental Floss wrote up a history of these coins, which are called “challenge coins”. Generally, they are a small medallion or token that signifies a person is a member of an organization (or has participated in some memorable event as part of a group). Nowadays, even Presidents and Vice-Presidents have their own coins.
  • Marion Turns 100. Yes, it is the 100th anniversary of Marion, better known as Reseda. The most interesting thing that I discovered reading about the history of Reseda was that it was the home of Filmation. That’s right: Star Trek: The Animated Series, Fat Albert, and He Man all came out of the heart of the San Fernando Valley. Back in the 19-teens, it was the home of sugar beet ranches.
  • Historical States. I’ve talked before about how I love “How The States Got Their Shapes“. So what better to close out this news chum with than an item from Mental Floss about 12 Proposed States that Didn’t Make the Cut. Most of these would have hurt the need for equality of states, although I would have liked the state of Sequoyah.

Music:Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge (Original Cast): “Coney Island”



Celebrity Neighbors

Today, Kevin Roderick at LA Observed did a post about when Ayn Rand lived in the San Fernando Valley. Kevin noted that she lived in Northridge during the late 1940s in a very architecturally distinct house.

All steel, concrete and glass, with a moat encircling the house and a water-cooling system for those hot West Valley summers, the residence was built in 1935. Neutra was commissioned by the director and art collector Josef von Sternberg, at a time when the horse ranch district west of Northridge was home to a lot of Hollywood figures. “I selected a distant meadow,” von Sternberg said later, “in the midst of an empty landscape, barren and forlorn, to make a retreat for myself, my books, and my collection of modern art.” Julius Shulman photographed the home for Architectural Digest in 1947.

Rand moved in in 1943 and moved back east a few year later. The house was torn down in 1971.  Kevin mentioned the house was in Northridge, so I was curious. I did some searching, and found an earlier article of Kevin’s where the address was given: 10000 Tampa Avenue.

So, I looked up the address on Google maps. It is basically at Tampa and Merridy, just north of Nobel Middle School (where our daughter went).  It’s the newish gated development space. There’s some good discussion on it here. It’s only a few blocks from our house. Cool. (There are some good pictures of it here; here’s a video of the destruction of the house)

(Note: Not that I admire Rand at all, although reading the summary of the critical review of her book was interesting. I do, however, have some friends that are enamored of her, and I thought they would get a kick out of this.)



Humpday News Chum: Making Money, Spending Money, Rocketdyne, South California, and Soda Jerks!

Today was the first day in a while where I had some lunch time to look over the news, and thus I present a slightly larger-than-usual humpday late lunch news chum:


Food Trucks vs. Local Restaurant: A Growing Battle in Granada Hills

Last night, Giga Granada Hills posted a very interesting article on the growing food truck war in Granada Hills, and it’s led to some interesting discussion on Facebook.

For those unfamiliar with what is going on: “Old Town” Granada Hills is the original commercial portion of Granada Hills, on the stretch of Chatsworth St. between Encino and Zelzah.* For the past year or so, it has been a growing food truck capital, with the trucks parking along Chatsworth. Originally there were just a few, who evidently showed up at the invitation of a new cupcake store on the street. We would see them every evening as the vanpool trundled along Chatsworth after dropping off ellipticcurve. The crowd of trucks has grown, especially on Fridays. Last night I rode my bike up there (had some good barbeque at the Smokin’ Willies truck), and there were 15-20 trucks on both sides of the street over a two block area.

Well, this has created some tension with the brick and morter restaurants in the area, in particular one of the original Numero Uno outlets. Evidently, the trucks often park in front of their business and drive away customers, plus making it hard for take-out customers to park. Numero Uno (which has great pizza, by the way…. when I order take out pizza, that’s where I get it from) has been writing about this problem for a while on their Facebook page. There have been a number of solutions offered, but for them to work, Numero Uno needs parking. But the trucks block the parking, and it’s become a battle… even becoming nasty at times.

Now, I’ve go up to the trucks a couple of times, more out of curiousity than anything else. I went to this spring’s Food Truck Festival at the VFW (which even had minature golf). I was up there last night. For all the trucks, I’m not finding much to eat—either the fare is too spicy, has peppers (which I can’t eat), is too greasy (which I won’t eat), or is overpriced for what you get. But there are a few that look interesting, and I can see the benefits of having the trucks there. It brings attention to a long-neglected part of Granada Hills, and it could benefit the merchants… if they were open. There’s got to be a compromise that benefits both local merchants and the trucks.

Here are my ideas:

  • Work with the owners at Granada Village (which is under reconstruction) to make this a designated parking area for those patronizing the trucks. Signage directing people to that lot might help. Depending on the construction situation in that lot, perhaps trucks could even form an informal food court in that lot.
  • Work with the city to restrict the density of trucks in a given block, which would permit the trucks but also provide space for parking.
  • Work with local businesses to have them be open later on Friday evenings, using the food truck traffic to grow business.
  • Restrict truck parking in front of local restaurants. There are only a few in the area (Menchie‘s, which is OK with the trucks), Vegetable Delight, Numero Unos, A Sweet Design, O’Grady’s Lounge, Ali Baba’s (an excellent Persian restaurant), Red Devil Pizza, Frosty Queen and the few restaurants on Zelzah). There’s plenty of other spaces for the trucks to park, so why antagonize?

I still don’t see a good way of ensuring that only restaurant patrons use a particular restaurant’s patio seating (i.e., so food truck patrons don’t drive away restaurant patrons). There should be a way to make this win-win..

* And for those unfamiliar with Granada Hills: it is a community within the City of Los Angeles, located in the northern San Fernando Valley. See this map.