Goodbye City of Angels

On my last day in LA, I got to see Angels Flight – a funicular that once took Angelenos and visitors up and down Bunker Hill on a short but steep trip.

Its original location (pictured above) was destroyed by city planners in the 60s, when the area’s beautiful, historic and architecturally significant buildings were bulldozed under.

In 1996, due to popular demand, the city reinstalled the funicular a few blocks away. An enchanting form of transit as glimpsed in old photos and such films noir as Act of Violence (‘49) and Criss Cross (‘49), the Flight is now mostly a tourist attraction.

Pictured above – glass skyscrapers replace the ramshackle Sunshine Apartments and other lovely structures: Victorian Mansions that once housed the wealthy and would later become rooming houses. So much lost charm.

Still, riding the car beats climbing all those stairs. Today it costs 25 cents a ride – up 24 cents from when it first opened in 1901. That wonderful apartment building with the sunny (and often ironic) name can be seen on the right in the photo below – it’s one down from the Hotel Hillcrest. A much better view is had in Criss Cross, as Burt Lancaster and friends plan a heist in one of its rooms (although the interiors were studio built).

Also on my last day, I visited legendary Leo’s Taco Truck.

Nearby, in a laneway I noticed a beautiful tree with pale pink flowers hanging from its branches like elegant trumpets.

I learned that it’s called Angel’s Trumpet and that it has hallucinogenic properties if eaten. This was discovered by teenagers in Los Angeles a few years ago, and kids were landing in the hospital at an alarming rate.

While the flowers and seeds are used in modern medicine, the plant can be deadly if ingested raw. It sent the LAPD knocking on the doors of any home that had such a tree in its yard to warn them of its dangers.

No, I didn’t win Best Screenplay. But here I am pictured with my many Oscars. Actually the important items in this photo (shot by Aaron) are my jewelry: crystal necklace was my mother’s, colourful glittery beads were given to me by Aaron, bracelet is a gift from my son Tom – an old-fashioned “M” typewriter key on a silver band, the big sparkle ring is from my daughter Anna and the little silver heart ring is from my daughter Chloe. That old evening bag was a gift from my dear Auntie Elva and in it is a keychain from my big sister Terri. In my heart were all the well wishes from friends and family – if I’d have worn them like jewelry, I’d have been laden. Lucky charms for a lucky duck – so many people cheering me on.

And finally, “Sideshow Bandit” has been shortlisted in the Rhode Island International Film Festival as well as the Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards. The angels must be smiling on me.

Aaron and me. There is a red carpet beneath our well-travelled feet.

Mars Food

IMG_5234_phixrA guy shuffles out of the kitchen with a cornmeal muffin on a plate, puts it in front of me & places a fork & knife on a napkin beside it. He pours my coffee, while chewing on something which he now swallows so he can ask: “Cream?” Shuffling off he mutters to his coworker, “Those cornmeal muffins are pretty good.”
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Mars Food, a diner on College Street, opened in 1951 and hasn’t changed its decor since. I used to hang out in the back booths in the late 70s, smoking and drinking coffee into the wee hours, reading books by Susan Sontag and letters from my friends who were travelling, friends who’d let me hole up in their places while they were away (and even when they returned – thank you, friends).IMG_5238_phixr-2

Also known as the Muffin King, Mars is famous for – wait for it – muffins. Back in the day, I think it was Mars that invented the oversized morning-glory version that we now take for granted.

IMG_5242_phixr My server was right, this cornmeal muffin is pretty good, not amazing but a suitable companion for the Mars cup of coffee, and they come hot out of the oven.

IMG_5239_phixr-2 Mars Food is on the north side of College Street at Bathurst.

Hubbard Park

I submitted the name “Hubbard” for a new TO park then pestered everyone to vote for that name. And it won! Next I wrote an article for NOW magazine about the man for whom the park will be named: William Peyton Hubbard. That article earned me a nomination for a Heritage Toronto Award for Best Short Publication. There was some really worthy competition in that category – of particular note for me were Daniel Rotsztain’s drawings of all the Toronto libraries. Alas, neither I nor Daniel won the award. But, for my part, it was sweet just having won the Name Our Park contest (run by Councillor Paula Fletcher). Also sweet was bringing to light the remarkable history of Toronto’s first African-Canadian politician. Up until now, nothing has been named for the man in our city (save for a Hydro One award) & hardly anyone I talked to in my campaign for votes knew who he was.

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William Peyton Hubbard (above) in a portrait by W.A. Sherwood (City of Toronto Art Collections). Below, Hubbard mingles with the paper hoi-poloi on TO’s finest hoarding in a flyer I made for the “Vote for Hubbard” campaign. I handed these flyers out and posted them everywhere in my neighbourhood; I had to – the competition was fierce: Jack Layton Park was the other name in the running. Everyone knows and loves Layton, while few know Hubbard. More will now! And we look forward to Hubbard Park’s Official Opening on October 22, 2016 at 11 am.

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Dr. R. J. Black D.V.S.

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In operation since 1911, with big front doors for letting horses enter (and what appear to be stables in the back), Dr Black’s Veternarian Hospital has no equine clientele these days but helps out plenty of domestic pets. (Check that dog checking me as I take the snap.)

IMG_2529_phixr-3On Queen East in Leslieville (at Carlaw), Dr. Black’s is just across the street from The Bone House, a good place to get your dog a treat, and right next to Mercury Espresso Bar, for the human treat.

Thunder Thighs

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Behind this door you’ll find the most enchanting vintage gowns and the best suits imaginable for a future on Mars. This little cottage is merely a front for a walkway that connects two warehouses full of fabulous wardrobe for your next film or Hallowe’en party. Thunder Thighs Costumes is at 16 Busy Street, just behind the Queen East Value Village. Its real entrance is just to the right of this faux hobbit house.