Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LA Derby Dolls

First off- Derby Dolls Hadley gives you mad props. Hadley doesn't want any trouble with you. Hadley thinks you are 2X times cooler, stronger and hipper than she is and is pretty sure you are better in bed than she will ever be.

Seriously. Please don't be mad.

I'm talking to you Fleetwood Smack~ I saw the way you body slammed Queen Elizadeath II and was amazed by your huge cheering section, so please don't bring them to my apartment. Because what I am going to say about my experience has nothing to do with y'alls fierce athleticism and fabulous burlesque meets street fighter attire.

It has to do with your actual sport. I found your sport kind of....boring. The pomp and the pageantry was fun((I appreciate you girl with face painted like a lizard) but the actual match was... Four quarters of y'all skating around a tilted track and occasionally running into each other. It was like NASCAR in fishnets. Even after I read the rules of the game it was still kind of blah. A woman from each team called the jammer earns points by skating past as many blockers(four on a team) from the other team as possible in 60 second matches. OK. Next....

Plus we had to stand the whole time. I am a tired waitress and have to stand enough in regular life so I prefer sitting on my butt when watching others exert themselves physically. And since I am a waitress I could not afford the VIP tix that allowed me to sit with all your rabid fans who were very entertaining and may have helped me enjoy the game more. Also the neighborhood your arena is in is SKETCHY and we had to wait in line forever to pick up our will call tix and the match started an hour late and you patted down my friend Matt not once but twice and checked Cat and my tiny purses like we had bombs in there.

On the plus side I was really impressed with how serious this sport is and how friendly everyone there was. Going to a Derby Dolls event is stepping into a whole specific culture of women who have found a place where they belong. One gets the feeling that a lot of these women did not have the best high school experience-the coolest adults usually didn't. But here they have earned the right to have well-versed announcers(even if their PA system sucked) groupies, rivalries, a children's league(who skated fearlessly at halftime) an 11 old Britney-Spears-in-the-making singing the Star Spangled Banner and mad skating and blocking skills. One of the jammers named Armed Candy was this tiny blond dynamo who just sailed though girls five times her size as they tripped in heaps behind her.

Plus they had really yummy hot dogs on a stick. I love me some hot dogs on a stick. I'd say go at least once. You might love it(Matt did) or you might end up leaving at halftime like we did, Cat and me kind of underwhelmed and a little disappointed with it all.

Travel: B
Ease: C
Content: B
Subjective Coolness: B-
Overall: A very SOLID B-, like an 83%. It's a very respectable rating Helen Surly Frown, I promise!

Directions: Take the 101-S. Exit at Alvarado St. Turn right at North Alvarado. Take first left onto West Temple. Street parking is available, though there are handmade pink signs up saying "No Event Parking." Just ignore them, those signs are illegal fools. The states not so broke that they have to hand-write parking signs... yet.
Hours: Season schedule- http://derbydolls.com/tickets/
Price:Varies depending on time of day and type of ticket. Refer to website above.

***Sorry about the lack of pics. Cameras are not allowed inside the arena. There are lots of pics on the Derby Dolls website if you are interested!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Murphy Ranch (aka Nazi Compound)

You park on Casale Road, a winding street with modernist mini-estates in the hills of Pacific Palisades. Shiny Mercedes mini-vans and Priuses sit in the driveways. Children ride bikes with their nannies. Everything is familiar. You then walk into Rustic Canyon Park on a yuppie hiking trail much like every LA hiking trail: amazing mountain views (spectacular ones here of the Pacific Ocean), hard packed dirt paths that fall into the green valley below, horribly skinny women who look like some actress you've seen with big floppy hats walking side by side.

About 2 miles into the park, deeply engrossed in delightful gossip,
things start to get strange. A forbidding padlocked wrought-iron gate, surrounded by a low lying stone wall sits nestled on the edge of the trail. You and your friend, Farhana, have to climb over the wall, a portion of which has clearly been broken for this very purpose, and jump onto a new path which winds beautifully, like a country road in the South, deep into the canyon. Strange rusted debris starts to appear on the side of the paths. What looks like an old water filtration system, broken pieces of farm equipment, half buried sinks, strange concrete
slabs with graffiti . A lovely little steam appears and makes delightful background noises, lizards and birds scatter about your feet.

And then you see it. A burned-out overgrown concrete building completely covered with graffiti. Cartoon of Hitler? Check. Declaration of undying teenage love? Check. Inside even more graffiti, tons of beer cans and notices from the police department to cease and desist the vandalism. The bunker of the building is exposed and filled with trash; a metal cage sits menacingly in the corner, and outside a series of stone steps wind up to what seems to have once been a sustenance garden. The steps then continue all the way to the top of the canyon (3,000 steps in all) and ghosts of America Nazis patrolling the wilds fill your head.

Baby, we aren't at the Grove anymore...

We are at the Los Angeles Nazi Compound! Its history is as shady (bad pun intended) as the site itself. In 1933, a cypher named Jessie M. Murphy bought 50 acres from the screen cowboy Will Rogers. A mysterious group began to build on the land. Murphy does not seem to have ever really existed and the real leader was thought to be a man called Herr Schmidt, who led a group of about 40 or 50 Nazi sympathizers who lived at the compound. An unnamed rich couple reportedly became followers of Schmidt (who believed that "Murphy Ranch" would become a power base when Germany took over the USA) and built up the property, eventually contracting a prominent architect to design a 22 bedroom mansion.

But the plans were dashed days after Pearl Harbor when law enforcement officials raided the ranch. Later the site became an artists/hippie commune, as the rusted out VW bus resting on its side further up stream attests. Andrew Wyeth supposedly stayed there and it shows in his eerie,
still paintings (think Christina's World). Things become even creepier when you get to another burned out steel building filled with old appliances and twisted metal (a hoarders dream), connected to a strange spray painted arch that hangs over the main pathway like a perverted Arch de Triumph.

A dilapidated barn surrounded by a menacing (and in terms of history, haunting) barbed wire fence sits in an breathtaking tree dotted clearing at the end of the settlement. The fact that evil and beauty can coexist so naturally is well in evidence at Murphy Ranch and even though it's
awesome to visit, you can't help feeling a little lighter once you climb
back to civilization.

Post script: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the only people we encountered in the Canyon- three French tourists by the stream who were like something out of a Truffaut film, eating a picnic, the young man taking a dip in his tighty-whities while the women conversed rapidly.
You absolutely made my aesthetic day.

Travel: C
Ease: C
Content: A+++ (hey it's my blog I can break the rules if I want!)
Subjective Coolness/Creepy factor: A++++ (I just don't know when to stop....)
Overall: A (I hope that is correct, my math ain't that good)

Directions: Con-fus-ing. Take Sunset down to the Palisades. Turn right on Monaco Drive. Continue on Capri Drive. Then turn right at Casale Road. Park on Casale Road and then walk into the park via Sullivan Fire Road. Walk for about 1 1/2 miles until you see the un-missable wrought-iron gates, then follow the path down into the Canyon (there are two paths -they both lead you there).
Hours: I would NOT go there after dusk, unless you are very interested in LA gang life.
Price: Free except for gas and the money it takes to get all the dirt off your gym clothes.

All photos but one courtesy of Cat Vasko(thanks Cat!).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Craft and Folk Art Museum

I grew up in the college town Chapel Hill (as I think anyone who has talked with me for more than two minutes is overly aware) and spent a good portion of my childhood running around the University of North Carolina campus stalking basketball players, laying on the lawns and exploring old buildings. I consider myself quite the campus expert and here is something I have noticed-

At every college(including my beloved alma mater Hollins) there is a scuffed white-walled exhibit space, usually in a 60's-era student union or arts building, where students and faculty put on half-assed shows- that usually feature lots of Jackson Pollock ripoffs called like Melting Stew:2012 or have a bunch of black and white photographs of girls at computers on card stock with acid thrown on them. These spaces are usually empty, furnished with an uncomfortable reject couch from a dorm and a visitors book with penises drawn in and Cheetos residue on the pages.

That's the Craft and Folk Art Museum in a nutshell.

Now to be fair, the museum sits on Wilshire in the shadows of the amazing LACMA and the tar pits of the Page Museum. It's not a level playing field. When Cat and I went there we were spoiled; having just seen the awe-inspiring Renoir exhibit at LACMA. But still... there were only two exhibits in the small space, one of which seemed to have been assembled with scotch tape and a quick trip to the hobby store.

This was supposedly a show about tarot cards, and I guess it was if you consider curating buying a bunch of different tarot cards, sticking them in big picture frames and then writing a smattering of new-agey confusing things about what they all mean. The upstairs exhibit, I have seen at about a thousand regional museums(along with random mummies) - a nomadic textile exhibit. As Cat perceptively quipped - textiles seem to be the go-to thing for museums that don't have anything else to display.

I'm not trying to be mean. The docents were very elderly and very nice, it is VERY cheap at only $5 and the gift shop is by far the best part of the museum. It is the perfect place to get your yoga doing, caftan wearing, pot-throwing aunt her very own imitation Mongolian throw, some pretty stenciled candles or a pair of crystal chandelier earnings made by a bored Ojai mom.

And that is it- it was just boring. If you feel the urge to go to the Craft and Folk Art Museum here is a tip. Make something yourself! It'll be more fun, and someday maybe you too can display it in some similar space. I have this theory(that, not to brag, got me an A in the Philosophy of Art) that there is not art, just socially elevated craft. Well this little trip blew my precious theory out of the water. LACMA is filled with ART; the Craft and Folk Art Museum is filled with....well....craft.

I'd rather see the art.

Travel: A-
Ease: B
Content: D-
Subjective Coolness: D-

Directions: Take Wilshire all the way down to the Miracle Mile. Museum is directly across from the Page Museum.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11am-5pm, Sat-Sunday 11am-6pm
Price: General:$5, Kids under 12: free, Students and Seniors: $3 (The docent thought we were students, which was the perk of being the youngest people there by thirty years.)