10 Tips for Running Effective Meetings

Photo of a Food Lobby Coop Meeting that occurred at the LA Eco-Village

Tonight (Tuesday, June 15th), from 7pm to 9pm, I’m leading a Running Effective Meetings Workshop at the LA Eco-Village, and I invite you to attend.  To rsvp, contact crsp@igc.org or 213/738-1254.  $35 sliding scale.

Many of us spend much of our times in meetings.  Having attending numerous meetings as a facilitator and participant, I’m happy to share the following 10 quick tips for running effective meetings with you:

1. Designate a Facilitator: Whether it’s a member of the group such or your group decide to bring in an outside facilitator, the facilitator’s role is to help keep the group focused and moving forward.

2. Develop an agenda before the meeting:
At the core of a good agenda are items that require the group to make decisions.  Project how much time each item will take and assign the outcome you hope to accomplish.

3. Stick to the agenda during the meeting:
Many temptations exist to stray off topic.  Stay focused to get the work done you need to get done and record other ideas brought up at the meeting for future meetings.

4. Record decisions made:
Have a notetaker at every meeting to take minutes and have them record each decision, who is responsible for implementing it and if any future actions need to happen.

5. Start and end on time:
When groups slide from starting and ending on time, people loose motivation for attending meeting.

6. Set groundrules:
Groundrules help ensure civility between members. Some examples:  test assumptions, share all relevant information and focus on interests, not positions.

7. Address conflict when it comes up:
Dealing with conflict can be challenging but not dealing with it and letting it fester can potentially be worse.

8. Use graphics:
Have someone scribe notes on a dry-erase board or poster paper to visually record people’s thoughts.

9. Evaluate:
Occasionally ask what about the meetings work well and what could be improved…experiment with ways to improve meetings.

10. Thank people for attending:
If folks feel appreciated and valued, they are more likely to show up at future meetings, especially if they are a volunteer.

If you’re group needs an outside facilitator to make your meetings more effective, please contact me.

Lovely Long Beach Bike Lanes

Yuki pedaling along on Second Street in Long Beach

Yuki, Federico and I took the Metro Blue Line down to Long Beach today. Mainly we were there to visit Long Beach’s Depot for Creative Re-Use, which is a cool place, and which we’ll blog about soon, and which may well serve as a inspiration and template for a future creative re-use space in our eco-village neighborhood… but I wanted to do a short blog entry showing off Long Beach’s wonderful green sharrow bike lanes.

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Photos from Boishakhi Mela 1417

Lots of yummy Bengladeshi food booths. These women were selling sweet pastries. My favorites were ones with coconut filling.

Apologies for my meager cell phone photos which don’t quite capture the vivid visuals of this great event. Last weekend was the annual Bangladeshi New Year celebration – Boishakhi Mela 1417. Eco-village blog previewed the event here.

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Telematique Ensemble Creates Rideable Art Installatation

This past Sunday, I got the chance to ride a piece of artwork that’s the collaboration of a handful of eco-villagers. It’s not everyday I get to ride a piece of artwork; nor one this excellent!

View from the pedi-cab seat. Somer on cello on the left. Aurisha on violin on the right.

The artwork is billed as follows:

The City Re-Emerged When We Arrived
A multi-media event by Telematique Ensemble: Aurisha Smolarski, Doran McGee, Somerset Waters and Federico Tobon

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The True Story Behind the City’s New Bike Signs

New city bike signs installed at the corner of 2nd Street and Vermont Avenue - right around the corner from L.A. Eco-Village

This post was emailed to me by G.B. Chan, one of Los Angeles Eco-Village’s  residents. I’ve fixed some grammatical errors, but other than that, all the words and links and photos came straight from GB. I haven’t verified the verisimilitude or veracity of all of GB’s claims, but I’d certainly never heard a lie uttered from GB’s lips… and it does seem like these new bike signs are all over!

Pedestrians and bicyclist will by now no doubt have noticed or are noticing new bicycle safety signs installed in the city of Los Angeles. According to the city of Los Angeles’ Green Transportation Commission vice-chair E. Henry Thripshaw, these signs may well be “the city’s [attempt] to validate the importance and validity of bicyclists on the city streets and roads and such.”

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Upcoming benefits: Streetsblog April 9th, Rock the Boat May *21st

L.A. Eco-Village frequently hosts speakers, workshops, and, yes, benefits to help raise funds for causes that eco-villagers get involved in. Here’s a quick preview of  two benefit events coming up soon. More details closer to the events:

6pm Friday April 9th 2010
Fundraiser for L.A. Streetsblog
at L.A. Eco-Village, 117 Bimini Place, L.A. 90004
Come support streetsblog – a phenomenal local resource for news on transportation and livability issues for Los Angeles, California and the nation.  Some more details and flier here… more information to come.

7pm Saturday May 8th 2010RESCHEDULED to 7:30pm Friday May 21st!
Fundraiser Screening for Rock the Boat
at L.A. Eco-Village, 117 Bimini Place, L.A. 90004
Come support the completion of the documentary Rock the Boat – a chronicle of a 2008 kayaking trip down the Los Angeles River. A dozen boaters took a three day trip down the 50 miles of the river to prove that it is navigable and that it deserves protection under the federal Clean Water Act. Eco-Villager Joe Linton was one of the kayakers – to read his account of the trip, check out L.A. Creek Freak.
Come watch a 30+minute rough cut of the feature documentary (preview above), and contribute to its completion. More details soon!

An Eco-Villager’s Office (in Griffith Park)

Many of us who live at the LA Eco-Village work for sustainability in various ways professionally – whether it be organizing for environmental justice organizations, installing solar power, restoring the LA River or advocating for better bicycle infrastructure, among many other things.  Many of us are also self-employed and all work in varied environments around town.

As a consultant, I spend much of my time facilitating meetings with various clients around town.  But when I’m not doing that, I often enjoy riding up to beautiful places like Griffith Park and working up there. I made this short video yesterday that gives a tour of one of my many office locations around town. Enjoy!

Arturo Aranda’s The Blood and The Marigold

Arturo reading crop

Arturo Aranda reads

Here’s a beautiful story by eco-village’s resident poet/playwright Arturo Aranda. Arturo read it at the recent Dia de los Muertos Maybe Fridays reading. It’s a great story, and even better when he reads it in person. Enjoy.

The Blood and The Marigold
By Arturo Aranda Lopez

for my dad

Ramon dijo, ‘Ojala que llueva gasolina…
Por tres dias.
Y luego, que caiga una tormenta
De puros rayos…
Y que nomas se oiga la gritadera.’


The day my pop’s papa died a whirlwind tore down the old man’s street.  A little girl with obsidian eyes, awoke from her sleep in her mother’s arms, she smiled and said to her mother in her ear, “Mami, ya llego.”  “Quien, mija?” asked her mama.  “Ya llego el angel”, said the little girl with the most beautiful eyes in the mourning room.  Her eyelids were still wet and heavy from the ocean in her dreams.  It was Satan coming to pay his respects.  Maybe he owed the old man some money, yeah that was probably it.  He was always making bets with the angel.  He probably won a few.  Satan showed up in a little tornado.  Where the old man is from they call the little cyclones Diablitos.  Satan showed up in a spin blasting dust and pebbles into the sun baked faces of mourners gathered round the old man’s big, black, metal front door gaping open for the sleepy townsfolk to come visit their dead neighbor.  The don of their town.

The gorgeous angel stood at the old man’s door in a long black coat.   His coat was thick, long, and heavy like an animal’s hide.  It shined in our star’s glare.  He wiped the dust off his black leather shoes and smiled at the hot swamp of human tears bubbling around the wooden box.   His eyes were obsidian like the shards you would find scattered all over the hills of the little town, ancient lava rocks from the earth’s belly.  His silver hair was braided in many tentacles.  Black beads hung at the end of the braids that shimmered and twinkled, and shimmered and twinkled, like little galaxies.

He stared down the angry sun and did not go blind.  He turned his palms up to the sky.  He prayed, licked his lips, and smiled.  Hidden children would appear from the curtains of the angel’s coat and peak out at the gang of mourners.  They chased each other around between the angel’s legs and laughed.  They would pear at the onlookers, they would whisper to each other and disappear back into the angel’s darkness.  He seemed to have brought two little brats with him that time.

It smelled like it would rain for sure before he showed up, but at the last minute God got the message that the old man had died so she reined in her storm clouds.  She sent some cute little breezes instead.  “I’ll be damned if I’m going to rain on his death party,” God said to herself.

I watched my old man’s old man die, watched him pull on his last gulps of earthbound air, watched his face sink in and out in his toothless skull as he snatched his last gasps.  The nurse had his teeth in a little bowl of water at his bedside table.  I felt the last little beat of his heart on his wrist.  I searched for life in his neck with three fingers when his chest fell for the last time.  I warmed up his heart with my right hand, readied it for takeoff.  My dad’s brother, almost his twin, took the old man’s teeth from the bowl and put them in his mouth before his jaw would become too stiff to open, so he would look nice, so he would look like himself.  As soon as the death silence that follows us all settled in I turned to my dad.  I just now realize that he asked me with eyes, is he gone?  He knew.  For a moment he wanted it to not be, but it was so.  He smiled back his wails.  He chewed on his cries.  I gave him a hug.  Let’s not think of the inevitable huh?  Not right now.  I pulled some latex onto my hands and helped the nurse handle the man’s body.  Some of my body came from this warm, dead body turning hot due to a fever that attacked him before he passed.  We wrapped him up like one of them ancient Egyptian rulers.  Long, white, and a belly in the center.  We didn’t drain his blood and fill him with chemicals and other things, someone else did that, somewhere else, when he was not in our protection in our home.  We placed something called a rosary on his chest.  It was crystal and wouldn’t quite stay in place, wouldn’t quite stay centered on his chest.  The holy thing lay there sort of crooked and out of place on his body.

Three days before the old man died he called for the priest.  The say people know when they’re going to die. The holy man of the town was summoned, a man that the old man probably put at the altar to forgive the people of the township and promise them things, like everlasting life and things of the sort.  The fat, blockheaded cleric was brought to the old man’s bed.  The old man wanted a ceremony, or a ritual, or something.  The old man was not looking for any type of rights or forgiveness from the cleric.  The old man wanted ritual from the cleric and nothing more.  He wanted it for the eyes of his loved ones that surrounded him, the ones that were going to miss him when he was gone.  The cleric in his robe and block head said some words, he read from the book, he put on a sad face and spoke in a tone.  The old man said, “Mira nomas la cabezota!”  The priest asked, “Que dijo?”  He heard.  He heard perfectly clear.  The cleric gave the old man a wafer for his soul and as it rested on his lips the old man told us all to go to hell.  “Chingen a su madre!” said the old man.  The old man was special.

Once, a few moments of who knows how long before the old man died, he waged my soul in a card game with my cousins.  Poker was the game, with peanuts, not money, that’s tacky.  The old man called to Satan!  He offered my soul to Lucifer for a seven!  The soul of his first grandchild!  He dealt the card!  It was not a seven.  I won.

The old man taught me how a real man walks this earth.  How a man greets and smiles as he moves through space.  This isn’t some macho bullshit. Do you know how to walk?  Like a woman?  Like a man?  This is believing in things.  Right now that’s our problem, humans. We think the problem is that we believe in too many things.  No, it’s that we don’t believe.

So now I had to walk through the swamp of tears.  I remembered my lessons from the old man and allowed myself to become lost in the jungle of mourners, never quite finding the right place to sit or the right way to be.  Me, his first grandchild.  Well, technically, his second.  My dad’s brother had a little girl before I was born.  I’ve met her.  She’s beautiful.  She has the old man’s eyes.  I wonder if she knows.  Her name is Rosalba.  But, sadly we won’t speak of her now.  I guess I represented his grandkids.  Some said I was lucky to be there.  I guess.  I don’t know yet.  I don’t know if I wanted to see that, but I did, so…I walk without sinking in the swamp of sadness.  Just like my temper I can sit on my sadness.  Eyes everywhere saying, I accompany your family in your sadness.  I would think to them, You accompany us in shit! But, I can see in your gaze that you loved him so I believe you! Even if in actuality you’re happy he’s gone your eyes say that you loved him in spite of you, so I believe you!  Thanks for coming!  Thanks for showing up!  Bring flowers! Bring sweet bread!  Bring cinnamon!

Bring coffee! Bring all the tequila!  Bring the whole damn field!  Bring lemon grass!  Please bring hugs! Bring your kids!  Bring everyone!  Everyone!

I knew the angel was coming.  He was late.  Not Death!  Fuck that fool!

You say you’re my uncle.  I guess.  If you say so.  You ask me if I remember you.  I say of course I do, but I don’t.  Now we hug.  You say you’re my aunt.  I guess.  If you say so.  You ask if I remember you.  I say of course I do, but I don’t.  Now we hug.  You say you’re my cousin.  I guess.  If you say so.  You ask if I remember you.  I say of course I do, but I don’t.  Now we hug.  You say you’re a friend.  I guess.  If you say so.  You ask if I remember you.  I say of course I do, but I don’t.  Now we hug.  My cousins and I would constantly ask each other, Who is that?  I don’t fucking know! Mourners would ask us, Who’s are you?  Oh!  Who’s are you?  Oh!  Ok. After every hug from some stranger I would moan to myself, Can I go now?  Where’s my dad?

The gorgeous angel watched the mourners and shook his head.  “Y la musica?” he asked.  No one answered.  “Queria musica” he said.  The angel spoke in the old man’s voice.  My grandfather’s voice came from the angel’s throat.  “En este cuarto no quiero nada te tristesas.  Cuando arranque carrera quiero dos horas de mariachi.”  No one answered.  “Y el mariachi?” asked the angel.  A child reached out from the angel’s coat.  One small, pale, chubby arm beckoned, and a little voice reminded “Monchito queria musica, hermanos.  Porque este silencio en su cuartito?”  Another little voice from inside the angel cried, “Donde esta el mariachi?  Una tambora!  Quiere una tambora!  Como su vida!  Pun!  Pun!  Pun!  Pun!  Pun!”

In this town they still take their dead to the temple.  There the family gang of wailers stood before an altar.  Loved ones took turns standing at the wings of the wooden box accompanying it to heaven.  The blockheaded cleric stood before us.  He read from the book.  He made gestures with his hands.  He put on a sad face.  He spoke in a tone.  He fumbled with the microphone attached to his face.  The angel took his turn at the box.  He found it horribly difficult to hold back the hellish wrath that painted its portrait on his faith.  What did this holy man babbling before us with his voice echoing and bouncing off the walls know of community?  Of love?  Of family?  The angel was proud of the old man in the box.  What did the holy fat man know of him?  His fat kind were a joke to the old man!  The angel remembered the holy fat man ridiculing the old man’s grandson at his wedding a few moments of who knows how long before the old man’s death.  The cleric ridiculed the grandson for not knowing his prayers and for not paying enough homage at the temple.  The angel was there.  The old man had invited him to the wedding.  The angel fought back grins of pristine anger on his face that made the holy fat man quiver in his robe.  The angel roared and shrieked a perfect song that no one heard.  Only God, only the old man, only the angel.  Love was the only holy thing at that moment.  Not the temple.  Not the fat man.  Amen.  Then it was time.  Time to take the old man to the hill.

Men paid to move the body here and there bore the box in a big black car.  It crawled alongside the river farting exhaust in the faces of the family in their sunglasses and dust coated shoes.  The angel stepped into the path of the car.  The driver squinted his fat face into the windshield, and hit the brakes.  “O, chingado!  Haste un lado cabron!”  The angel smashed the front end of the car into the dry earth with his fist.

The angel reached into the car, his braided hair wrapping up the car like a giant squid cradling a submarine.  He tore the driver out of the car by his hair and tossed him into a pen of squealing pigs.  He opened the back of the car and pulled the box out with his right hand. The angel held the old man in the box over his head and scolded the crowd in sobs.  “Ustedes llevencelo!  Se lo llevan en el ombro al campo santo! Como-?!  Es de ustedes.  Es de ustedes!”  He set the box down on the cobblestones.  Six came to lift the old man onto their shoulders.  Twelve grips held on to the dead and carried their loved one to the hill.

Funerals are for the living.  The living family chose a mausoleum for the old man.  A square, stone pit with concrete shelves for the bodies.  The angel stood at the edge of the pit.  From inside his coat came two little girls.  Twin sisters.  Their hair floated and bounced like they were underwater.  They slipped out and climbed down a steel ladder to the concrete floor.  “Con cuidado” said the angel.  One child had eyes the color of marigolds.  The other had eyes the color of blood.  “Que es esto?” asked the marigold child.  “Es un poso pa’ los muertitos.” answered the blood child.  “Donde ponemos a Monchito?” asked the marigold.  “Yo voy a escojer!” said the blood.

The child pursed her lips and tapped her chin with her little finger, “Aqui!” she proclaimed to the space at the bottom left.  “Perfecto!  Le va encantar!  Un lado de su papito” shouted the marigold.  Across the way from the chosen space was a short wall of bricks where my great grandfather is buried.  “Mira” said the marigold child as she felt the cold, rough brick with the palm of her hand.  “Aqui esta.  Solito”, she said.  “Juntitos!  Van a estar juntitos para siempre.  Para siempre!” said the blood child.

The children crawled into the designated space for the newly dead.  They shouted to the angel above, “Encontramos algo, maestro!”  “Dejame ver.  Quiero ver!” he replied.  The girls walked out of the darkness carrying a small wooden box.  The box nearly crumbled in their little hands.  The lid of the tiny box was of a pink turned grey.  The lid was of fabric, like a quilt, adorned with bows.  “Que tiene adentro?” asked the little girls.  “La queremos abrir!” they shouted.  The angel shrieked “No!  Dejenla!  Regrensela a su lugar!  Horita!”  The children obeyed.

The mourners brought rope and began lowering the casket into the earth.  The children sat on a concrete slab and watched the grunting humans lower the old man from above, blocking out the sunlight.  The box was set on the floor.  The ropes were yanked up in dusty whips.  The little girls with no help from the mortals pushed the coffin into it’s space.  The little box was safely tucked at the head of the big box.  The angel said, “Que duerma con su angelita.”  The children asked the angel from below, “Ya le damos su regalito?  Ya?  Por favor!  Ya?”  The angel smiled.  “Si”, he replied.  “Primero le cantamos”, the children shouted happily.  They sang.

Estas son las mananitas que cantaba el rey David
En el dia de tu santo te las cantamos aci.
Despierta mi bien despierta mira que ya manecio
Ya los pajarillos cantan
La luna ya se metio.

Mourners above approached carrying dirty, red bricks.  “Ladrillos no.” said the angel.  “Lo tenemos que encellar!” they said.  “Ladrillos no.” he said.  The little girls gave each other a hug and began presenting their gifts for the old man.

From their tiny mouths the little girls spit up perfect little wet handfuls of gold nuggets, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, gems, amber, silver coins, and obsidian.  The offerings burst in light in their strong, little fists.  They went to work.  They arranged their sparkling gifts throughout the confines of the dark space.  They arranged light in little handfuls from their lips.  They sang and laughed as they decorated the coffin with rubies and emeralds.  They filled the darkness of the shelf with small bits of light.  The light from their gifts grew brighter and more beautiful as they worked.  Color and light swelled out of the pit and shined more powerful than the sun above.  Greens, reds, gold, and startling white shimmered and pulsed out of the pit.  A rain of color bubbled out and burst into the bitter heat above.  The angel watched the children happily from the edge of the pit.  His figure lost in the color swarm.  The clouds of color seemed to carry the girls voices out into the open air.  His body lost in sparkling mist.  His silhouette crowned and adorned by the children’s spectacle.  The family squinted into the brilliant color fog gushing out of the mausoleum nearly blinded.  The little girls worked in an underwater world of brilliance.  The two constructed a perfect wall to protect the two boxes, a beautiful little wall at the floor of the pit. They smoothed out the wall with their perfect little hands.  Together they set the final ruby.

A smooth buzz was heard from the sky.  A tiny wasp dove into the explosion of color.  The insect dove into the pit like it was called.  The blood child caught the bug by its wings with her fingers.  She raised the bug to her sight.  She crinkled her nose.  The bug kicked and flexed in her grasp.  She blinked twice and the wasp was slowly frozen into cold, stiff silver.  Its little body crackled still.  “El rosario por favor!” she called out.  The angel slowly pulled the rosary from his mouth, bead by bead, from his lips, his face to sky, his left palm up, tears streaming.  He dropped the rosary into the pond of lights.  The children pinned the crystal rosary in the center of the wall of jewels with the silver wasp.  They kissed the wall.  “Adios, Monchito!  Adios, Juanita!  Nos vemos en unos cuantos momentitos!” they said.  They sat on the floor of the mausoleum.  “Que bonita” they said.  They held hands and watched the wall shimmer and twinkle, shimmer and twinkle, like little galaxies.


M.F.R. Pa’ Los Muertos this Friday

Announcement from the one and only Arturo Aranda:



QUE ONDA?!?!     BUENAS!!!     SALUDOS!!!





skull image – public domain – from wikimedia

Los Angeles Beaming Bioneers Oct 16-18, 2009 Downtown

Flyer for Oct 16-18 Bioneers Conference in Los Angeles www.labeaming.org

Flyer for Oct 16-18 Bioneers Conference in Los Angeles http://www.labeaming.org

October 16 – 18, 2009 at The Downtown Independent Theater (251 S. Main St., LA 90012)

Go here for details:  http://labeaming.org/

OCTOBER 16, 17 and 18

Project Butterfly, Electric Lodge, Evolution Jewels and Downtown Independent bring you
1st Bioneers Conference Simulcast in LA!




Andrew Weil M.D.:
the nation’s foremost authority on holistic medicine, is author of numerous books including international bestsellers, Spontaneous Healing and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health.

Michael Pollan:
one of the most influential thinkers on food and agriculture, award-winning author of bestsellers including The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, and most recently In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

Joanna Macy:
a celebrated Buddhist teacher, author, co-philosopher and activist in the peace, justice, and ecology movements.

Jerome Ringo:
president of the Apollo Alliance, and the first African-American to head a major conservation organization, the National Wildlife Federation, Ringo will stress the imperative of creating fair jobs that are healthy for people and the planet.

+ Many Others    L.A. Eco-Village is a co-sponsor of this event
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Diane Meyer Photo Show – Featuring Lots of Eco-Villagers

Eco-Villager Melba Thorne at the Wilshire/Vermont Metro Red Line Station. All photos: Diane Meyer

Eco-Villager Melba Thorn at the Wilshire/Vermont Metro Red Line Station. All photos: Diane Meyer

Diane Meyer’s photography show Without a Car in the World: 100 Car-less Angelinos Tell Stories of Living in Los Angeles runs October 17th through December 11th. It’s at the 18th Street Art Center, which is located at 1639 18th Street, in Santa Monica. The opening reception is this Saturday October 17th from 7pm to 10pm.

Diane Meyer photographed 100 L.A. people none of whom own a car. These include various LAEV residents: Esfandiar, Lois, Melba, Ron, and me. Melba is featured prominently on the invitation above. There’s a longer write-up on the show at L.A. StreetsBlog here. Come down to the opening this Saturday night.

Lois Arkin in the LAEV bike room. The door to the right of her is the kitchen where the Bicycle Kitchen got its start.

Lois Arkin in the LAEV bike room. The door to the right of her is the kitchen where the Bicycle Kitchen got its start.

Ron Milam in the LAEV courtyard

Ron Milam in the LAEV courtyard

Esfandiar Abbasi in front of the LAEV chicken coop.

Esfandiar Abbasi in front of the LAEV chicken coop.

Eco-Village’s Jimmy Lizama appearing with David Byrne October 2nd

David Byrne's new book

David Byrne's new book

Eco-Villager “El Jimmy” Lizama will be appearing with David Byrne in a few weeks. The event is called Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around and is hosted by the L.A. Public Library’s ALOUD speakers series. It takes place on Friday October 2nd at 8pm at the Japan America Theater in Little Tokyo, Downtown L.A. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased on-line.

Jimmy Lizama is one of the folks who started the Bicycle Kitchen at an actual kitchen in Apartment #110 at Los Angeles Eco-Village. He’s a messenger, a wheel builder, an astonishingly good cook, and quite possibly the sexiest person who has ever lived at LAEV.

David Byrne is a musician bicyclist whom you’ve probably already heard of… right?  He has a new book out. Bicycle Diaries is all about his bicycling adventures in New York City and in various locations around the world.

Also on the panel is the city of L.A.’s bicycle coordinator Michelle Mowery. For more than a dozen years, Michelle has been in the trenches of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s bikeways division working to squeeze a few more feet of bikeways onto L.A.’s all too car-centric landscape.

Rounding out the panel is UCLA’s bicycling economics professor Don Shoup. Along with Bicycle Diaries, everyone should read Shoup’s book The High Cost of Free Parking! I can honestly say that Shoup’s writings have  changed my thinking about how we can re-shape cities to be more bike-friendly and more people-friendly and less resembling one huge barren ugly-assed parking lot.

Get your ticket now – before they sell out.

Intersection Repair Event 12 September 2009

A view of the mostly-complete southern half of the intersection mural - photo by Yuki

A view of the mostly-complete southern half of the intersection mural - photo by Yuki

We enjoyed another great talk by Mark Lakeman of Portland’s City Repair last Friday night, and on Saturday we were inspired by their example to paint a new intersection repair mural.

 These photos are worth many thousands of words – thanks to Kathy Hill and Yuki Kidokoro for documenting the event!

We had a lot of help from the youth of the neighborhood - Jennifer (in red) did a lot of great work - Photo by Kathy

We had a lot of help from the youth of the neighborhood - Jennifer (in red) did a lot of great work - and that's me on the right - Photo by Kathy


Young eco-villager Jean Michel prepping the area before painting

Young eco-villager Jean Michel prepping the area before painting

Another hard-working neighborhood youth named Mohammed - photo by Kathy

Another very hard-working neighborhood youth named Mohammed, he has just finished outlining that triangle in purple - photo by Kathy


Adonia and a youth whose name I can't remember (sorry) putting down our new crosswalks - photo by Kathy

Adonia and Christopher putting down our new crosswalks - photo by Kathy

 There’s a lot to say about it… and a lot more folks that did a lot of work whose picture I didn’t get in to this quick blog entry.  I am still exhausted and have other work to catch up on… so this blog entry is all too brief, and hopefully others can help fill in more details in comments, etc.

The central wheel of the design is based on a bicycle wheel, extending its spokes into a circle design about 15 feet across - photo by Yuki

The central wheel of the design is based on a bicycle wheel, extending its spokes into a circle design about 15 feet across - photo by Yuki

Josie at work on the northern part of the mural which features a water swirl design that commemorates the historical waters of Arroyo de la Sacatela and the Bimini Slough

Josie at work on the northern part of the mural which features a water swirl design that commemorates the historical waters of Arroyo de la Sacatela and the Bimini Slough

Kwanwoo did a lot of excellent detail lettering in this, the northmost section, which featured a commemoration of the railroad tracks in our street which used to convey the H-line streetcars.

Kwanwoo did a lot of excellent detail lettering in this, the northmost section, which featured a commemoration of the railroad tracks in our street which conveyed the H-line streetcars.

LINKS and LINKS to more articles about the intersection repair:

More historic info on the Bimini Slough, Sacatela Creek, and our train tracks here.

Earlier Eco-Village blog articles in anticipation of this event here1, here2, and here3.

There’s excellent event coverage over at Homegrown Evolution. (Check out the comments there…  looks like the new crosswalks we painted look almost too official!)

Eco-Villager Adonia Lugo has more excellent coverage here,  including much better descriptions of the railway section where she and Bobby took the lead. She and contrasts how different parts of L.A. approach their common spaces. 

Here’s a link to Kathy’s photo gallery on Picassa and to Yuki’s photo album on Facebook. (I am  not 100% sure that these are completely available to the public… if they don’t work for you, email us and we’ll see what we can do.)

I covered it on my art blog, too.

At the end of the day we painted handprints and footprints of all the folks who worked on the mural. Here's Mark Lakeman getting his foot painted blue, so he can print it on our new crosswalk. Photo by Yuki

At the end of the day we painted handprints and footprints of all the folks who worked on the mural. Here's Mark Lakeman getting his foot painted blue, so he can print it on our new crosswalk. Photo by Yuki

Intersection Repair Videos!

Portland City Repair’s Mark Lakeman will return to Eco-Village in two weeks. He’ll be speaking Friday September 11th at 7:30, then Saturday September 12th from 10am to 6pm he’ll be leading an intersection repair project here. For more event details, see this earlier post.

Lakeman is an excellent speaker – whom I highly recommend. His presentation expanded the way I think about public space. It also changed  my ideas about how to get things done in making changes locally. For many years I have been involved in excellent urban environmental non-profits that spend a lot of time pressing the city/county/state/etc. to do things. City Repair’s approach teaches us that social capital and taking things into our own hands can be much more effective – especially at a neighborhood scale.

I thought I would promote Lakeman’s L.A. appearances by running a couple of videos about intersection repair as it’s done all over Portland Oregon. Both videos include Mark Lakeman.

First up is a 10-minute documentary from StreetFilms (a phenomenal resource – part of the StreetsBlog family.) “It’s a great community event. It’s great for families and kids and just for creating a sense of place”

And here’s an 8-minute film that the Portland City Repair folks did themselves. “Design the city for people and lots of other things that are wonderful and healthy will happen”

And if that’s not enough, here’s a half-hour interview with Mark Lakeman on Permaculture in Urban Spaces.

Intersection Repair Mural Designs

Jimmy, Josie, Lara, Doran, Melba, Angie (youth from Bresee) and I put our heads together and came up the rough scheme for the intersection repair mural that we’ll all be painting on Saturday September 12th. For more information about the event, as some photos of the previous intersection repair mural, see this earlier post.

Here’s the basic idea:

The Planned Mural Design

The Planned Mural Design

It will have a central circle based on a bicycle wheel. Wrapped around that will be a salamander/lizard. Where the crosswalks go, we’ll be doing lighter colors. In the crosswalk, participants will paint their footprints. Along the lizard, we’ll be writing welcome in multiple languages (likely at least Spanish, English, Korean, and Bangladeshi.) Extending from this will be stylized swirling pattern representing waters. Most of the details will be worked out in the street in chalk on September 12th.

This all grew out of an in inital salamander sketch of Jimmy’s, that has been brainstormed on top of here:

Initial Salamander Sketch

Initial Salamander Sketch

We wanted the creature to help delineate the crosswalks, so we ended up swirling her/him more like this:

Salamander Configuration

Salamander Configuration

These are blurry cell phone pictures… but perhaps they’re enough to communicate the basic ideas. The actual drawings are taped up in the lobby of 117 Bimini Place. If you have suggestions, ideas, etc., please let us know what you’d like to see.

Mural Painting Street Party September 12th

Eco-Village intersection repair painting from a few years ago - the street was later repaved

Eco-Village intersection repair painting from a few years ago - the street was later repaved

Portland City Repair‘s Mark Lakeman is returning to Los Angeles in September. He’ll be speaking at eco-village on Friday September 11th then will lead an all-day intersection repair project on Saturday September 12th from 10am to dusk.

The first time I heard Lakeman speak it really changed my thinking about public space and ways that communities can work in a very guerilla do-it-yourself way to reclaim our space. I highly recommend that folks come hear his presentation. It’s Friday September 11th 2009 at 7:30pm at Los Angeles Eco-Village, 117 Bimini Place, L.A. 90004. There’s a suggested donation of $10, with noone turned away. Reservations are recommended, either call 213.738.1254 or email crsp [at] igc.org

Another shot of past eco-village intersection repair in process

Another shot of past eco-village intersection repair in process. The central design was based on a bicycle wheel.

On Saturday September 12th from 10am until dusk, we’ll be putting Friday night’s lessons into practice on the ground at the intersection of Bimini Place and White House Place. We’ll be painting a new intersection mural, and probably a few other projects. The Saturday event is free, all are welcome. Lots of hard-working volunteers needed. Wear clothes that you can get paint on, bring potluck food to share. We’re especially reaching out to families and kids in our neighborhood. There will be music, piñata, arts and crafts, face-painting, and much more!

Plan to participate on Saturday September 12th!

End of the day celebration of the completed mural!

The neighborhood celebrates the nearly-completed mural!

Comments about Joe’s Play

To my new river to see a play
June 2009

My friend Joe Linton hasn’t been coming to our weekly potlucks and meetings for the last few months because he has been in rehearsal for a play. Since he’s not an actor, this has been an interesting development and he always sounds a bit scared about the whole thing. But last night a bunch of us carpooled and biked to a performance.

Even the box office was outdoors

Even the box office was outdoors

some of us biked

some of us biked

Joe is a river hero around here. He is incredibly knowledgable about the LA River ecosystem and wrote a highly respected book on the subject. He has actually kayaked the entire length, proving it is navigable. A longtime volunteer/staffer of Friends of the LA River (FOLAR), he is an artist. And gardener. And cook. But not an actor! (He did fine, was glad to see us.)

When we got there we saw some strange stuff at the end of the road.

two art installations for the river

two art installations for the river

A bunch of us got there an hour early to do an educational walk along the river. This section does have the usual concrete banks, but the bottom is natural because the water table is so high here they can’t get concrete to stay put. There are bike trails on both banks. My neighbor Randy is a bike messenger and rides here several times a week, especially likes it as a place to have lunch.

This section of the river is called Taylor Yard. Lots of water – it comes from a sewer reclamation plant upstream. “Toilet to tap” was such bad PR that they just dump the nice clean water in the river.

Taylor Yard

Taylor Yard

Access is awful, you can live close by, but have to drive miles and miles to get to the river. This is changing. We heard a lot about the plans to reclaim the river from its concrete straitjacket. And that’s sort of what the play was addressing. Characters included radicals with jackhammers, locals who did not want their neighborhoods changed by construction. (Plans call for hundreds of little feeder streets to direct foot traffic to the riverbank.) I was not allowed to take pictures of the performance.

Just before the walk ended I saw a great blue heron in the river. Then a heron was one of the first characters in the play. Notice how the bank drops off right behind the stage area to the right of KwanWu. They used the hidden bank as a backstage area. They even used the opposite bank of the river in one scene. But mostly they just used the road as the stage, in the area under the lights.

This salvaged car was part of the set

This salvaged car was part of the set

All the scenery and set design elements had been pulled out of the river, including the old car. Same with elements of the costumes. My favorite was a marvelous sea turtle whose carapace was covered with squashed beer cans.

The river takes center stage

The river takes center stage

These were used to make a house, too, as you see here, next to the band.

The most interesting element of set design was the river, which was in every scene. Almost everyone walked in it. Some characters swam or kayaked in it. It was the star of the play. The character who did not walk in it was in an electric wheelchair (Mallard). But she pulled an invisible monofilament string so her ducklings swam in it as they followed her.

Critters like Mallard, Ridley (turtle), Heron, etc. were all played by people, believably, except this excellent puppet played a river spirit and she was so fine! There was plenty of humor – one character was named Cachoo so every time she was introduced, the response was “God bless you.” Joe’s character was modelled on Joe.

A wonderful puppet had a role

A wonderful puppet had a role

Can’t describe the whole plot for you, but I can tell you how the play ends. The character called “Roger Vadim!” who opened the play admits that he’s not the famous director, drops his exaggerated French accent and his jackhammer and his radical ways. He pulls a photo out of his pocket and displays the Seine – a beautiful dramatic urban scene in Paris, with plenty of greenery, steps going down into the water, boats, fishermen, birds, tall buildings, walkers, streets. The idea that we could have a beautiful human-scale riverscape here in the great city of Los Angeles comes to life in a whole new way.

Wade, fish, swim, kayak in this river

Wade, fish, swim, kayak in this river

I found that there were tears running down my cheek. The entire performance was moving and thrilling and discreetly educational, rewarding and entertaining and heartwarming and alarming and something of a call to arms.

We were mostly freezing, even though the temp was around sixty, as the weather is quite damp (they call it the “June Gloom,” but the gardens benefit)… for an hour or so we were so engrossed we forgot the chill and the discomfort.

The Elizabeth will always feel like my home river, but it’s a thrill to encounter this same spirit of can-do must-do river restoration three thousand miles away, with hard work and a big heart and an intuitive feel for what it really takes to heal a river.

–Kathy Hill