Where Fools Fear to Tread — A Montreal Snapshot

Note: I visited Montreal for the first time last summer (2014) and immediately started writing a Where Fools Fear to Tread piece but put it on the shelf for various reasons. Now that I’m back from visiting England and Scotland, I thought that perhaps it was high time to finish it, so here it is.

*****

Montreal
Montreal

Last year, after Una and I made plans to visit Montreal, my sister informed me that she was finally graduating. The fact that it was from Princeton was commendable in its own right but it seemed especially worth celebrating as it followed something like 23 years of university education. The trip to Montreal was thus transformed into something of a Grand Tour of the northeast.

Epcot's Canada Pavilion (Disney Dose)
Epcot’s Canada Pavilion (Disney Dose)

The first time that I remember consciously contemplating Montreal was as a child on a scuba trip in Florida. Our group group went to Disney World‘s Epcot Center where I was sort of surprised to see Canada represented alongside pavilions meant to evoke China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, and the United States. Not that Canada doesn’t have just as much as any of the other cultures represented but like most American children, Canada for me was a place where people went on fishing vacations and where Bob and Doug McKenzie came from. It seemed no less a part of the US as Alaska, Hawaii, or TexasI must’ve been eleven or twelve at the time so I cut myself some slack. As an adult I tried drive the main route of the Trans-Canada Highway but never got past Vancouver. This time I decided to take Amtrak’s Adirondack train from New York.

Looking behind Adirondack Line's no. 69 (train erotique)
Looking behind Adirondack Line’s no. 69 (train erotique)

In 2011 Montreal’s population was 1,649,519 people. It occupies an area of about 432 square kilometers, making it roughly the same size as Los Angeles’s Harbor District. It’s the eighth largest city in North America and the second largest in Canada, after Toronto. It was founded in 1642 as Ville-Marie in New France (although indigenous people had lived in the area for at least 4,000 years before that). The French colony was conquered by the British Empire in 1760. Montreal was incorporated in 1832 and was the capital of the Province of Canada from 1844 until 1849, when the capital was moved to Ottowa.

Relations between the Franco-Canadians and Anglo-Canadians have not always been smooth. During World War II, Montreal’s mayor, Camillien Houde, protested against conscription and was imprisoned as a result until 1944. The 1970s were a period of turmoil as the French-speaking majority fought to preserve their culture and language in the face of an increasingly Anglo-dominated business sector. Two government officials were kidnapped by members of the Front de libération du Québec in 1970 which culminated in the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act in Canada’s history. In 1976, Parti Québécois’s leader, René Lévesque, became the premier of Quebec.

Rue Saint-Paul
Rue Saint-Paul

One of the first things that struck me about Montreal was how few Montrealers seem to drive. It’s not the only city that I’ve been in with bustling sidewalks but in my experience, even in cities with large public transit networks like Chicago, New York, Paris, and Los Angeles, there are still enough people unwilling to travel by any means other than automobile that the streets are always filled with cars. Underscoring this observation was the fact that many of the parking spots were open, or had been surrendered without obvious protest to café seating and parklets. At one point I walked two blocks without seeing a single parking spot occupied by a car. At another, I (a walking Angleno) overheard to Canadians talking about what wimps and babies Angelenos are for being unwilling to walk anywhere.

Mont Royal Station
Mont Royal Station – Métro

When visiting a new place, walking is always my preferred means of getting around. Bicycles require to much attention to traffic and public transit separates the passenger from the streets. I did take Métro de Montréal a few times, sometimes finding it to be popular to the point of insufferability. It’s the third busiest Metro system in North America, in fact, following Mexico City and New York. Comprised of just four lines, though, it was nearly always uncomfortably packed with people making me want to walk instead.

La Ville Souterraine
La ville souterraine
La ville souterraine
La ville souterraine

Walking, on the other hand, is not as pleasant when its freezing cold out. However, despite Americans’ perceptions of Canada as a frozen tundra, Montreal’s record low was -37.8 °, the average January low is -8.9 ºC and the average July high is 22.3º. An alternative is La Ville Souterraine (officially renamed RÉSO in 2004) an interconnected, largely subterranean series of complexes built in 1962 comprised of over 32 kilometers of tunnels with more than 120 access points.

La ville souterraine
La ville souterraine

I quite liked the underground network — especially as most of it felt like a very tidy space station which had just been evacuated. Above ground most Montrealers seemed to relish the cancer-causing sun. Parks were filled with cherry-red white folks sunbathing and playing volleyball. Even in the Quartier chinois I never saw a single parasol in use and when I complained to a woman about the sun, blizzard of pappus, heat (28º), and humidity (40%), she claimed that she was enjoying it and was, in fact, surprised that I an Angeleno didn’t.

Even though it seemed like no one in Montreal drove, many of the people on the Metro and sidewalks turned out to be there for the Grand Prix Montreal, which we knew nothing about. Because of that there were almost no available hotel rooms available and those that were were considerably marked up in price. Without reliable wifi it was hard to search once we were there and we ended up, much to Una’s chagrin, staying in a hostel. That it was a seedy area (OK, the Quartier du Red Light) didn’t seem to bother her as much as the fact that as is the case with many lodgings outside the US, the bathroom was a shared one. I tried to console her with poutine and a tallboy of Labatt to no avail and the next morning we set out for somewhere else to stay — which ultimately turned out to have a shared bathroom but was in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Montreal is a multicultural metropolis comprised of varied neighborhoods and people. 73% of Montrealers are white (23% French, 10% Italian, 6% Arab, 5% Irish, 4% English, 3% Scottish, and 2% Spanish), 9% black (mostly Haitians), 6% Asian (3% Chinese, 3% South Asian), and 4% Latino of any race. In the Greater Montreal area, 66% speak French, 13% English, 4% Italian, 3% Arabic, 3% Spanish, 1% Creole, 1% Chinese, 1% Greek, and just under 1% Portuguese, Romanian, Vietnamese, and Russian.

Boroughs, neighbourhoods and suburbs on Montréal Island (map by Emdx)
Boroughs, neighbourhoods and suburbs on Montréal Island (map by Emdx)

Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in world, surpassed only by Paris. I tried to speak French as often as possible but found the experience rather different than in Paris. In Montreal, whenever I appeared to struggle to find a word in French, everyone would immediately switch over into perfect English, a bit like in Junior High French class. I’ve never experienced anything comparable in Los Angeles, where 38% of the population speak Spanish as a first language but few Anglos could comfortably speak anything but English.

In our walk from the first hostel to the next we passed through Le village gai. Una’s gaydar isn’t the mostly finely tuned but I think she got the signal loud and fabulous when a very camp stranger laden with shopping bags sashayed up to us and (as if we were old friends) asked me, “Honey, did you just arrive?” There were also rainbows everywhere and no suggestion that they’d been installed by members of America’s National Rainbow Coalition. Alas we were just passing through on our way to another hostel in Le Plateau after a lunch break for mediocre Thai.

Later we visited the rather small Quartier chinois, where more people spoke Cantonese than either French or English. That area, especially Saint Laurent Boulevard, was apparently once the center of Jewish Montreal but long ago a population of mostly Hongkongers arrived with the construction of the railroad.

I wanted to check out La Petite-Italie. Italian-Canadians comprise roughly 10% of Montreal’s population and are the city’s second largest ethnic group. The Italian presence in Quebec dates back to the 17th century when Italians served in the Carignan-Salières Regiment but large-scale immigration began in the 19th century, many of whom also worked on the railways, in mines, and lumber camps. The peak of Italian immigration came between 1946 and 1960 and many settled near Jean Talon Market and the Church of Madonna della Difesa, which proved to be the origin of La Petite-Italie. A second Italian population is centered in the Montreal borough of Saint-Léonard, nicknamed Città Italiana. We weren’t able to visit either area.

Petit Portugal
Petit Portugal
Petit Portugal
Petit Portugal

Montreal also has a small Greektown, known as Parkaveneika, centered along Park Avenue between Mount Royal and Van Horne avenues. We did pass through Le Petit Portugal, centered along Saint Laurent Boulevard between Pine and Marie-Anne streets.

The famous stairs of Montreal
The famous stairs of Montreal

We did pass through several other neighborhoods although I’m not sure if we ever “arrived’ in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Anjou, Cité Multimédia, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, DeLorimier, Griffintown and Goose Village, Jeanne-Mance, L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, La Petite-Patrie, Lachine, LaSalle, Le Sud-Ouest, Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Mile End, Montréal-Nord, Outremont, Park Extension, Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Pointe-Saint-Charles, Quartier international de Montréal, Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles, Rosemont, Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, Saint-Henri, Saint-Laurent, Saint-Léonard, Saint-Michel, Sainte-Marie, Shaughnessy Village, Verdun, Ville-Émard, Ville-Saint-Paul, Villeray, or West Island.

Vieux-Montreal
Vieux-Montreal

Montreal’s collection of architectural styles is commendably incoherent and characterized by a dramatic juxtaposition of old and new. The legacy of successive colonization by the French, the British, Canada and (at least culturally) the US. The results aren’t always pretty. Many of the main streets are lined with three or four story boxes whose only aesthetic charm comes from their brutal ugliness and the staircases which seem to be stabbed into their entrances. Other homes are more charming — but still almost always feature similar iron staircases. Homes along side streets tend to be more charming and the fact that everyone seems to live in an apartment rather than a detached home filled me with warmth.

THE Mont Royal that Montréal is named after... Located in the huge, Frederick Olmstead-designed Parc du Mont-Royal ...and
The huge, Frederick Olmstead-designed Parc du Mont-Royal …and “the castle” (lower left)

There are beautiful buildings too. Sitting on a lawn in Milton Parc (aka Ghetto McGill), Una pointed to what looked to her like a castle on a hill (a hill which doesn’t look especially tall from a distance and after which the city is named). I assured her that the journey to it would be and easy one and lead us up Mont Royal.

Chalet du mont Royal
Chalet du mont Royal

When we got to beautiful-but-not-castle-like Chalet du Mont-Royal I realized that the “castle” was actually two pavilions of the Royal Victoria Hospital and that we’d climbed 150 meters more than Una had wanted to. The climb was scenic and the view stunning but even a visit to the snack shop made Una question whether or not I’d ever been right about anything. After descending again I pointed to the charming and numerous castle-like buildings on the campus of McGill University which seemed to do little to improve her mood.

MacGill faculté de droit
Castle-like MacGill faculté de droit
Castle-like Lady Meredith House
Castle-like Lady Meredith House
Castle-like McGill Newman Centre Catholique
Castle-like McGill Newman Centre Catholique

There are fairly anonymous, glassy, Corporate Internationalist skyscrapers, the sort which could be swapped between cities and go unnoticed except by (maybe) those who work within them. Perhaps interchangeable high rises were so popular in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s because they allowed one city to pass for another in cinema.

There have been films shot in Montreal which take place in Montreal and those in which Montreal plays another city. Likewise there have been foreign (including American) films shot there and domestic one.

Foreign films shot at least partly in Montreal include Wait Until Dark (1967); L’ultima chance (1973); The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974); The Jackal (1997); The Whole Nine Yards (2000); The Score (2001); Taking Lives (2004); Blades of Glory (2006); Away We Go and Mr. Nobody (both 2009); and Life of Pi (2012).

Canadian films shot in Montreal included Shivers (1975); City on Fire (1979); Le Déclin de l’empire américain (1986); Jésus de Montréal (1989); Léolo (1992); The Red Violin and Un 32 août sur terre (both 1998); Maelström (2000); A Problem with Fear, Les Invasions Barbares, and  Mambo Italiano (all 2003); Eternal (2004); C.R.A.Z.Y. and Maurice Richard (both 2005); Barrera de Amor, Bon Cop, Bad Cop, and October 1970 (all 2006); End of the Line (2007); J’ai tué ma mère, Polytechnique, and The Trotsky (all 2009); Barney’s Version, Les amours imaginaires, Good Neighbours, and Incendies (all 2010); and Starbuck (2011).

I generally think that music is an even more accessible entry into a culture than film and there are several Montrealais music festivals including Acoustic Nights Montreal, Black and Blue Festival, Carifiesta, Les FrancoFolies de Montréal, Festival St-Ambroise FRINGE de MontréalFrancouvertes, Heavy MONTRÉAL, Mondial Choral, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Montreal International Reggae Festival, MUTEK, Osheaga Festival, Piknic Électronik, Pop Montréal, and UnPop Montreal.

There are far too many musicians from Montreal to name individually although some of the bigger names (or ones with which I’m at least familiar) include Arcade Fire, Bootsauce, Bran Van 3000, Céline Dion, Chromeo, Corey Hart, The Dears, France Joli, Gino Soccio, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Grimes, Leonard Cohen, Lime, Men Without Hats, Oscar Peterson, Rational Youth, Sam Roberts, The Stills, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, and Trans-X.

Perhaps more even than music or film, food is the most revealing glimpse into the soul of a culture, the cumulative expression of a population and its history rather than the expression of a single artist. Although the most obvious influences on Montreal’s cuisine are French, there are also obvious Native American and Irish influences.

Some of Quebec’s best known and most popular dishes and items are bacon, baked beans, cretons, grand-pères (and other maple desserts), ham-based dishes, Le Riopelle de l’Isle, oreilles de crisse, pâté chinois, pea soup, pizza-ghetti, pommes persillade, poutine, spruce beer, tire Ste-Catherine (and other molasses treats), tire sur la neige, and tourtières, whippet cookies.

There’s a strong Jewish presence in Montreal, which at least partly accounts for the popularity of bagels and Montreal-style smoked meat. Una picked up a smoked-meat sandwich from Schwartz’s and proclaimed it more to her liking than any pastrami she’s had before or since. Other prominent influences on Montrealais cuisine include German, Portuguese, and Missourian (primarily Kansas City Barbecue). As the vegetarian half of our duo, I was pleased with how often the poutine gravy was vegetarian but otherwise found the city reasonably accommodating for those who abstain from eating flesh.

Maple skies
Maple skies

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

One Album Wonders: Opal’s Happy Nightmare Baby

OPAL – HAPPY NIGHTMARE BABY (1987)

Opal - Happy Nightmare Baby

Opal was an American band associated with the Paisley Underground and whose guiding force was David Roback, a guitarist and songwriter from Pacific Palisades. Roback graduated from high school in 1975 and in 1981 formed The Sidewalks who, renamed Rain Parade, were seminal within the Paisley Underground scene.

Opal band photo
Roback quit Rain Parade in 1983 after the release of their debut and formed Clay Allison with Kendra Smith from The Dream Syndicate on bass and Keith Mitchell (drums). As Clay Allison the band released “Fell from the Sun” b/w “All Souls.” After they changed their name to Opal, they released two EPs, Fell from the Sun (1984) and Northern Line (1985), which were later combined and released as Early Recordings. Opal’s sole full-length, the mostly T.Rex-indebted (albeit almost narcoleptically laid back) Happy Nightmare Baby, followed in 1987.

Whilst performing in Hammersmith, Smith abruptly quit the band mid-performance. She was replaced by Hope Sandoval, whose duo Going Home had recorded a still unreleased album produced by Roback the previous year. With Sandoval on lead vocals, Opal began work on a planned follow-up to be titled Ghost Highway but by 1989, the new line-up was reborn as Mazzy Star — which also included Opal performers Suki Ewers and William Cooper.
Opal with Hope Sandoval

Smith formed a new band, The Guild of Temporal Adventurers, with Jonah Corey and A. Philip Uberman, who released an eponymous mini-LP in 1992. In 1995 she released a solo album, Five Ways of Disappearing, on 4AD. In the years since Opal’s dissolution, Roback has mostly worked (albeit with long hiatuses) with Mazzy Star although he wrote and produced songs for Maggie Cheung in the 2004 Olivier Assayas film, Clean.

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

There It Is, Revitalize It — Visiting the Silver Lake Reservoir

View of the Silver Lake Reservoir from the south dam
View of the Silver Lake Reservoir from the south dam

The other night (24 June), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and outgoing (in both senses of the word) city council member Tom LaBonge arranged to have the gates of the Silver Lake Reservoir unlocked for a few hours and thus the South Dam was briefly opened to the public. Despite the complete absence of yarn-bombing, live music, or food trucks, the turnout was large and seemed to suggest that more than a few Silver Lakers have interest in claiming this now decommissioned reservoir as a future public space.

*****

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Silver Lake
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography’s map of Silver Lake

The Silver Lake Reservoirs are comprised two concrete-lined basins separated by a spillway, the small Ivanhoe Reservoir and the much larger Silver Lake Reservoir. The Silver Lake Reservoir has a roughly 3 million liter capacity and was used to store drinking water until it was replaced by the Headworks Reservoir in Griffith Park. Since its construction in the 1900s it has provided the surrounding community with its name and served as its focal point. Despite the hardscape and chainlink fence, it’s nonetheless a surprisingly lovely feature of the neighborhood.

*****

Though artificial, the location of the Silver Lake Reservoir was once a marsh fed by the Los Angeles River, which after descending from the San Fernando Valley was historically prone to major shifts in its course. In 1825 its mouth moved all the way from the Ballona Wetlands along the Santa Monica Bay all the way over to its current terminus in the San Pedro Bay. This nomadism wouldn’t do what with people trying to build a city here and considerable effort went into committing it to its present course, including most famously its channelization in 1938. 

Development of the Ivanhoe Tract began in 1877, when most of the area that’s now Silver Lake was located just north of Los Angeles’s border which corresponded to Fountain Avenue. The community’s developer was a Scottish-Mexican immigrant, Hugo Reid. The claim is often repeated that the arid Chaparral scrubland reminded Reid of the wet, verdant highlands of Scotland although having seen both landscapes I have my doubts. Whatever his inspiration, Reid named the tract and several of its streets (including Kenilworth, Locksley, Rowena, Scott, and Waverly) after Glaswegian author Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe.

Construction of the reservoir in 1906
Construction of the reservoir in 1906

Silverlake_Reservoir

The Ivanhoe Reservoir is the older of the two reservoirs, built in Ivanhoe Canyon and put into service in May 1906. It was originally topped with a wooden cover.

Ivanhoe Reservoir in the 1930s (Department of Water and Power Photo Archive)
Ivanhoe Reservoir in the 1930s (Department of Water and Power Photo Archive)

To its south, the Silver Lake Reservoir began in 1907 and it went into service in May 1908. It was named after former Water Board Commissioner Herman Silver and soon after the communities of Ivanhoe and part of Edendale to its east were more commonly referred to as Silver Lake, which was annexed by Los Angeles as part of the East Hollywood Addition in February 1910. Silver died in 1913.

Aerial view Silver Lake Reservoir, vicinity - 1924 (LAPL - Security Pacific National Bank Collection)
Aerial view Silver Lake Reservoir, vicinity – 1924 (LAPL – Security Pacific National Bank Collection)
The Silver Lake Reservoir in 1927.
The Silver Lake Reservoir in 1927.

The reservoir was never just a source of drinking water. It was originally stocked with black bass, primarily to control potentially works-gumming minnow population but also provided enjoyment for fishermen.

Laetiporus (aka Chicken of the Woods) growing at the base of a eucalyptus
Laetiporus (aka Chicken of the Woods) growing at the base of a eucalyptus

In 1912, over 2,000 trees, including a grove of stately Australian eucalyptus along the western shore, were planted by the Los Angeles Parks Commission.

Silver Lake Reservoir - 1932 (LAPL - Security Pacific National Bank Collection)
Silver Lake Reservoir – 1932 (LAPL – Security Pacific National Bank Collection)
The Silver Lake Reservoir c. 1935 (Image Source: LAPL)
The Silver Lake Reservoir c. 1935 (LAPL – Security Pacific National Bank Collection)

The reservoir was expanded and retrofitted in 1932. Cypress trees were planted along the south dam but unfortunately, a  chainlink fence was erected. Later, barbed wire was added, which really marked the beginning of the reservoir’s uglification and isolation from human contact. Chlorination came in 1947 which gave joggers around the reservoir an unpleasant lungful. The reservoir was drained and re-sloped in the 1950s and the edges were hardscaped to keep back vegetation.

“Don’t tell me I did something wrong, officer.” Ahna Capri arrested in Silver Lake

Although aesthetically diminished, the reservoir still had charm enough to feature prominently as a backdrop in the 1969 episode of Adam-12 titled, “Log 172: Boy, the Things You Do for the Job.” In it, officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed serve a woman with a traffic ticket but then proceed for most of the show’s duration to drive in and endless loop around the edge reservoir. If you watch long enough you might also catch site of Sylvie, the Silver Lake Sea Serpent (likely some sort of immortal, freshwater plesiosaurs like Nessie).

Sylvie breaking the surface
Sylvie breaking the surface at twilight (perhaps plesiosaurs are crepuscular)

In 1988 the LADWP proposed that all of the city’s small reservoirs be covered. In most cases, people living near them strongly resisted on aesthetic grounds. With most reservoirs, the drinking water is piped to a distant community (in the case of the Silver Lake Reservoir, South Los Angeles), so if it became contaminated that was someone else’s problem, right? In 1989, the Silver Lake Reservoirs were designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 422.

For decades, concrete barriers and fences protected the reservoir from people but all that separated people from careening cars was a line of white paint. In 1995, Diane Manahan and her husband Michael were walking around the reservoir when Jorge Rodriguez hit both of them, injuring Michael and killing Diane. When the driver sobered up and realized what he’d done, he commit suicide. The death motivated the city to approve the construction of a protected, 3.5 kilometer jogging path in 1996 and a mere sixteen years later (during which time many veladoras were were lit along Silver Lake Boulevard), the path was finally completed.

The Ivanhoe Reservoir filled with balls (Mast Egg)
The Ivanhoe Reservoir filled with balls (Mast Egg)

In 2007 the LADWP announced that the uncovered reservoirs were contaminated with high levels of cancer-causing bromate, formed by a combination of natural bromides, chlorine, and sunlight. Both reservoirs were drained and 400,000 black, shade balls (also known as “bird balls”) were added to the Ivanhoe Reservoir to prevent sunlight (rather than birds) from interacting with the water. The Silver Lake Reservoir, perhaps too large for such balls, was taken off-line completely.

In 2011, the City of Los Angeles opened a 1.2 hectare park called the Silver Lake Meadow. The area had originally been a shallow cove of the reservoir but had stagnated and was filled in in the 1950s. After that it was a large, fenced off meadow primarily enjoyed by young coyotes. Their domain was diminished by opening of the park but the sight of them frolicking on the other side of the fence is not uncommon, especially near the Silver Lake Meadow Native Garden and the solitary hill. The meadow is off limits to dogs and active sports (and baseball) are prohibited but on its best days the meadow is blessed by the presence of the Silver Lake Croquet League.

The South Dam being enjoyed by the public
The South Dam being enjoyed by the public

Now the reservoir’s future is uncertain.Maybe it will be refilled and left alone so that in the case of fire, helicopters can suck water from it as they did during the 2007 Griffith Park fire. One camp have suggested turning it into a swimming hole called the Silver Lake Plunge, drawing the predictable complaints about gang members, taggers, and other “undesirables” enjoying it as well as the inevitable lack of parking spaces (to which I say sell your car and get a bike, walk, or take Metro‘s 201 or 92 line).

The Silver Lake South Outlet Chlorination Station
The Silver Lake South Outlet Chlorination Station
Silver Lake South Outlet Chlorination Station at night -- future Airbnb rental?
Silver Lake South Outlet Chlorination Station at night — future Airbnb rental?

In the interest of preventing a complete bourgie takeover of the neighborhood I propose building a floating, 24 hour KTV/noraebang and jet ski rental. Barring that, how about transforming into a wetland that can be used to recharge the Los Angeles River and Ballona Creek watersheds. Whatever happens it should continue to serve as a sanctuary for migratory birds traveling the Pacific Flyway

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

One Album Wonders Northside’s Chicken Rhythms

NORTHSIDE – CHICKEN RHYTHMS (1991)

Northside

My introduction to the quartet named Northside came in my second year of college, I believe, a few years after the release of their only album, Chicken Rhythms. As a teenage fan of all things Madchester, I’d heard of them, of course, but it wasn’t until Liz lent me a cassette that I was able to give it a listen. Although I was at first dismissive of what seemed to me to be by-the-numbers Baggy, over time the album unexpectedly grew on me.

Northside were formed in 1989 by Warren “Dermo” Dermody (vocals and United supporter) and Cliff Ogier (bass and City supporter). They were soon after joined by Michael “Upto” Upton (guitar) and Paul Walsh (drums). Upton was soon after replaced by Timmy Walsh. All were residents of either Blackley or Moston, in Manchester‘s Northside. In August they recorded a demo at The Cutting Rooms, part of Abraham Moss College.

Northside received some airplay byTony the Greek’s program on Piccadilly Radio and Craig Cash on KFM, Stockport. They capitalized on their growing local fame with their September live debut at Manchester’s Boardwalk which sold out. Not long after, Tony Wilson visited them at their rehearsal space and offered them a contract with Factory and they accepted. They closed out the year opening for Happy Mondays at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall in November and a performance (supported by Paris Angels) at the Haçienda‘s Christmas party. In early 1990, Northside were profiled on the Granada documentary, Madchester – The Sound of the North.

In April Northside headed to the capital to record their debut single with producer Ian Broudie, Shall We Take A Trip” b/w “Moody Places,” released on Factory. It was very much of the time, with wah-wah guitar, funky drumming, and vocals sung in the style of The Stone RosesIan Brown or The CharlatansTim Burgess. A not at all veiled paean to LSD, it was predictably banned by the BBC and climbed to No. 50 on the singles chart.

Second single, “My Rising Star,” was both less derivative and less distinct but no less winning. It was their first love song and it reached No. 32 in the charts and spent seven weeks on the charts.

Northside Chicken Rhythms

Chicken Rhythms was released in 1991 (some re-issues also included “My Shining Star”). The album’s cutesy artwork, designed by Manchester’s Central Station Design, suggested strangely that Northside were some kind of twee boy band. Their third single, “Take 5,” climbed to No. 40 in the UK (and No. 1 in Canada). It was released on 1 June, the same day they played Leeds’s Elland Road Stadium with Happy Mondays, The Farm, and The La’s.

Northside began working on demos for a follow-up but Factory went out of business in 1992 and the follow-up was never completed. Northside went their separate ways in 1996. In 2003, Dermo and Ogier formed Silent Partners, with Malc Law (drums) and Danny Yates (guitar). Ogier left and was replaced by Dom Morrison.

In 2006, following the reformation of Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays, Dermody, Morrison, Yates and new drummer Spencer Birtwistle (The Fall) played as Northside on a handful of dates. In 2014, the original line-up of the band re-formed but so far no new material has emerged.

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

A look at The New Adventures of Philip Marlowe on the anniversary of its debut

NBC‘s The New Adventures of Philip Marlowe was the first of two radio dramas featuring Raymond Chandler‘s most enduring literary creation, hardboiled Los Angeles detective, Philip Marlowe. The program was popular

Van Heflin
Van Heflin

but short-lived, a summer replacement which kept a time slot warm and whose star after its conclusion returned to film. It was followed one year later by the even more popular The Adventures of Philip Marlowe on rival network, CBS.

Philip Marlowe was first introduced in the 1939 novel, The Big Sleep (although re-printings of earlier Chandler works would rename the title characters “Carmady” and “John Dalmas” as Philip Marlowe. In film it worked the other way, with Philip Marlowe being renamed “The Falcon” in his first two outings. Marlowe first appeared on screen as himself in 1944’s Murder, My Sweet. He was most famously played by Humphrey Bogart in 1946’s The Big Sleep. My favorite Marlowe, however,was Elliott Gould in 1973’s The Long Goodbye.

First edition of The Big Sleep
First edition of The Big Sleep

On radio, Philip Marlowe first appeared in 1945, in a Lux Radio Theater episode titled Murder My Sweet.” NBC’s The New Adventures of Philip Marlowe debuted on 17 June 1947 starring Van Heflin as the detective. It was a summer replacement for The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope and retained that series’ sponsor for its short duration, Pepsodent.

The New Adventures of Philip Marlowe debuted with an adaptation of one of Chandler’s best short stories, “Red Wind.” All of the series’ episodes were adapted by Milton Geiger (Perry Mason, Dragnet), who also wrote screenplays, theatrical works (Edwin Booth), and short stories. It was produced and directed by James Fonda, who would later produce television shows like The Amos ‘n Andy Show, You Are There, Dennis the Menace, Hazel and others).

The show’s music director was Lyn Murray, a composer, conductor, and arranger known for his earlier work (at CBS) with Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, and Louis Armstrong. The show’s announcer was Wendell Niles, a man whose voice was heard on a great many radio programs. In addition to Heflin it featured Harry Bartell, Lurene Tuttle, William Conrad, William Johnstone, and Gerald Mohr, who a year later would of course star as Philip Marlowe on CBS’s, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe.

“Red Wind” was followed by “Trouble Is My Business”, “Circus Story,” “King in Yellow,” “The Sandman,” “Gold Fish,” “The Orange Dog,” a second “Trouble Is My Business,” and five more episodes, the titles of which are lost. The finale of The New Adventures of Philip Marlowe concluded its thirteen episode run on 9 September after which the show’s slot was filled by Favorite Story.

Van Heflin almost immediately returned to film, next appearing on screen in Green Dolphin Street. The public was hungry for more Marlowe and, played by different actors, he subsequently showed up on Suspense, again on Lux Radio TheaterHollywood Star Time, and the series, The Adventure of Philip Marlowe. Van Heflin ultimately acted in 66 film and television roles, his last being 1971’s The Last Child. On 6 June of that year he suffered a hear attack whilst swimming and after weeks in a coma, died on 23 July 23, aged 60. His ashes were scattered in the ocean.

Of the The New Adventures of Philip Marlowe’s thirteen episodes, only four are in circulation: The audition episode (“Who Shot Waldo?”), the premiere, the fourth, and the eighth episodes The easiest and free way to hear them is at the Internet Radio Archive. There, as with many sources, they’re lumped in with the many more circulating episodes of The Adventures of Philip Marlowe — despite the fact that the two series aired on different networks in different years, starred different actors, and had different crews and titles. You can also listen to them here:

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

One Album Wonders: The Paris Sisters Singer Everything Under the Sun!!!

The Paris Sisters

Real life siblings Priscilla, Albeth, and Sherrell began cutting records as The Paris Sisters in 1954. In the fifteen years that followed, they only released on full-length studio LP and in their final year as a recording unit. The San Francisco trio did appear on more than 25 singles, however, and are best remembered for the perfect pop hit, “I Love How You Love Me.”

The Paris Sister Decca years

When The Paris Sisters first performed, they did so in the style of earlier popular sister acts like The Boswell SistersThe Andrews Sisters and The McGuire Sisters, releasing nine singles through Decca (two backing Bings son, Gary) that didn’t perform terribly well commercially. In 1957 they released two singles for Imperial that also went nowhere.

In 1961, they struck gold at the legendary Gold Star studios in Hollywood with the Phil and Shirley (as Cory Sands) Spector composition “By My Boy” b/w “I’ll Be Crying Tomorrow.” The change was dramatic, trading the 1940s close harmonies (it was, after all, by then the 1960s) for a love-buzzed atmosphere similar to Spector’s own group, The Teddy Bears. Priscilla was made a lead vocalist and although just sixteen at the time, sung with a surprisingly convincing sultriness.


In 1962 The Paris Sisters appeared in Richard Lester’s debut feature film, It’s Trad, Dad! The sisters continued spinning Brill Building gold for a few years but by the release of 1966’s live Paris Sisters Sing From “The Glass House, Priscilla revealed herself to be a gifted songwriter and more than half the record’s songwriting credits are to her. The Paris Sisters Sing Everything Under The Sun!!! was released in the group’s final year as a group, 1968, and is unmistakably no longer a Phil Spector effort but even further from the prevailing psychedelia then coming out of San Francisco.

The Paris Sisters Sing Everything Under the Sun!!!

After the band broke up, Priscilla went on to release three of solo records, Priscilla Sings Herself (1967), Priscilla Loves Billy (1969), and Love Is (1978). Tragically, she died in 2004 from injuries sustained in a fall in her home. In 2006, Varèse Sarabande released an essential collection, The Complete Phil Spector Sessions. The Paris Sisters Sing Everything Under The Sun!!! was released on compact disc in 2004 by Eric Records.

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!

An introduction to Crime Classics on the anniversary of its debut

Crime Classics was a CBS radio series which following a 1952 audition aired from 15 June 15 1953 to 30 June 1954. To quote its own introduction it was “A series of true crime stories from the records and newspapers of every land, from every time.” It’s one of the finest programs of its sort.

Elliott Lewis
Elliott Lewis

Crime Classics was created, produced, and directed by radio actor/director Elliott “Mr. Radio” Lewis (Broadway is my Beat, Suspense) Like true crime docudramas on radio before it (e.g. Somebody Knows) and on television after (e.g. America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries), Crime Classics relied on dramatizations of criminal acts. Unlike those shows, however, Crime Classics didn’t appeal to listeners to turn vigilante and solve the crime. The crimes depicted on Crime Classics were “classics” and the motivation in their recreation seemed primarily to have been motivated by Lewis’s morbid fascination with the subject matter and his desire to entertain rather than even a pretense of solving crimes or catching criminals. There was, although the crimes were historic in nature, a tabloid feel and they were recounted in a droll, ironic manner by he fictional Thomas Hyland, a “connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders” who was portrayed by actor Lou Merrill. In some ways, its tone was closer to EC Comics‘ horror anthologies than to other true crime series.

Each episode was co-written by David Friedkin and Morton Fine (Bold Venture, Broadway is My Beat, Gunsmoke, and Suspense). The theme was composed by none other than the incomparable Bernard Hermann, at that time still known mostly for his association with Orson Welles and two years off from beginning his partnership with Alfred Hitchcock.

Although the crimes recounted on the show were not actually of “every land, from every time” they did span several millennia and continents including ancient Greece and Rome, Renaissance Spain, and 18th and 19th century America and Europe. Episodic in nature, various radio actors appeared in, often in several roles including the great William Conrad, Jack Kruschen, Herb Butterfield, Betty Harford, Betty Lou Gerson, Clayton Post, Jack Edwards, Jay Novello, Mary Jane Croft, Sam Edwards, Edgar Barrier, Eve McVeagh, Hans Conried, Harry Bartell, Irene Tedrow, William Johnstone, Alec Harford, Alistair Duncan, Alma Lawton, Anthony Ellis, Barney Phillips, Ben Wright, Benny Rubin, Bill Bissell, Bob Cole, Byron Kane, Charles Calvert, Charles Davis, Charlotte Lawrence, Curt Martell, D.J. Thompson, David Young, Dick Beals, Dix Davis, Ellen Morgan, Eric Snowden, Florence Wolcott, Frederick Shields, Gary Montgomery, Georgia Ellis, Gladys Holland, Hy Averback, James Eagles, James McCallion., Jane Webb, Jean Howell, Jean Wood, Jeanette Nolan, Jerry Desmond, Jerry Hausner, John Dehner, Joseph Granby, Joseph Kearns, Julie Bennett, Junius Matthews, Lamont Johnson, Lary Thor, Lee Millar, Lillian Buyeff, Lou Krugman, Martha Wentworth, Marvin Miller, Norma Varden, Paul Frees, Paula Winslowe, Raymond Lawrence, Richard Peel, Roy Glenn, Russell Simpson, Sammie Hill, Sarah Selby, Shepard Menken, Steve Roberts, Terry Kilburn, Tony Barrett, Truda Marson, Tudor Owen, Vic Perrin, Virginia Gregg, and Walter Tetley.

Of the 52 broadcasts, 51 episodes are in circulation. The easiest (and free) way to hear them is from the Internet Radio Archive. The most thoroughly-researched, accurate, and thoroughly-recounted information on the series is available at The Digital Deli Too

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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Click here to offer financial support and thank you!