The Propagator

Walker Firestone, Marina del Rey. November 2016

We recently got a new brew pub here in Venice. Walker Firestone opened this brewery/bar/restaurant/retail store in what was originally a Sizzler restaurant. Called ‘The Propagator’, they brew some of the beer here on the premises, import some from elsewhere, and have a bottle shop with some of their most popular six packs. You can get a 2-quart growler of most any draft and a big 22-ounce can that they fill and seal right at the bar.

They offer a bewildering array of varieties, some 20 or so, with perennial favorites and a rotating selection of various projects F/W is working on. Wild yeasts, high gravity (read high alcohol, like 14%), blends, fruit infused, and so on. Most of their beer is of the hoppy IPA style that has become so popular. Personally, I find much of it is too bitter. I prefer a darker, maltier brew with the hops in balance, not overpowering. We went shortly after their grand opening. We haven’t been back since. Some of the beer is good, the food so-so. Thus ends the commercial.

These benches are in the foyer cum lobby where you wait for a table. Presumably, some days you can watch the minions going about their brewing chores if you sit there long enough.


The Empty Bank


Bank of America, Venice. February 2016

This is what was my local bank. I did business with Bank of America for many years with my former business. Originally, we used a BofA that was across the street from our accountant in Westchester and had a spectacular personal banker there named Ellen. She took great care of us and our business accounts. BofA has a lot of regulations surrounding its business accounts, someone once characterized it as a law firm that accepted deposits, but Ellen always managed to make it easy for us. But it was a schlep for me to deposit the checks in Westchester, so I mostly used the ATM at my local branch on the Venice traffic circle. Ellen retired and we changed accountants around the same time so I officially moved our accounts to this branch.

We had a couple of personal accounts there as well. Jake had one and we used our account to transfer money to him occasionally. We never kept much money in there, we don’t use BofA for our primary personal banking.

I”m not quite sure why I was in this bank last year, perhaps to finally close our last remaining accounts. While the lobby isn’t exactly completely empty, it isn’t exactly bustling with activity either. This photo captures two distinct waiting areas and not a customer in sight.


Even Kids Have to Wait

While most waiting areas are set up for adults, there are some which have made provision for children. Most notably in doctor’s offices or medical centers as children get sick too, or have to wait with their parents who may be there seeking medical advice. It has been many years since I was in a pediatrician’s waiting room, but I remember Jake’s doctor had an awesome one. Toys, books, things to climb on; they had put a lot of thought into furnishing it with stuff to keep kids occupied.

The bottom picture, however, is at the Pacific Division Station of the LAPD. It struck me significant in some way that there would be kid-sized chairs and tables and a Little Free Library specially for children in a police station. Obviously, enough children had come through there with parents to warrant this area by the door. You can see the ATM through the window should you need to get some quick cash to bail someone out – perhaps the parent of one of the kids who might sit in these chairs and read a book while mom or dad concluded whatever police business brought them there.

I was there inquiring about a handgun that had appeared on my back deck when we were on vacation one summer. J. our house-sitter phoned me in a bit of a panic to tell me she had found a chrome plated ‘Saturday night special’ just sitting on our deck the 4th of July.

gunApparently, some miscreant had been passing by and had tossed it over the fence. It was unloaded, had no magazine, and I told her to call the police. They came and collected it and informed her that if no one had claimed it within 90 days, I could keep it.

After the requisite three months, I went to the police station to check it out, and the amount of paperwork I had to fill out was staggering. The gun, a cheap, unreliable thing, wasn’t worth it, so I just let the cops destroy it.

Off to the Laundromat

Laundromat, Venice. March 2014

One of the great benefits of home ownership is having a washing machine and dryer in the garage. No trips to the laundromat with a carload of dirty clothes. No feeding quarters into a Speed Queen industrial washer. No negotiating with other patrons over dryer space. No watching the clothes spin through the glass door counting the minutes until you can fold them and get the heck out of there. Gee, I sure don’t miss it.

I had the idea of incorporating a laundromat with a pub so people would have something to do for the hour or so it took to complete the wash and dry cycle. I wonder why no one has opened one here in LA yet. (I’ve checked.) Might be some permit conflicts or some other bureaucratic impediment. I mean, Suds and Duds? It’s a natural.

For those who do not have unfettered access to a clothes washer, it is off to the laundromat. This one is two blocks from my house next to a 24-hour liquor store, a low-rent version of Suds and Duds. It is a very informal place, and the “waiting area” reflects this. One can see the most eclectic collection of folks there, many of whom have nothing to do with clean clothes. The liquor store and the nearby McDonald’s form a little axis of attraction to an ever-changing transient population. Not that I hang out here, or even patronize the liquor store regularly but on rare occasions we need a pint of milk for pancakes or an emergency 6-pack. It was on one such foray that I snapped this photo.

On the Boardwalk

Ocean Front Walk, Venice. March 2014

In February I began volunteering at Venice Arts, a local media arts program for youth. I needed to get out of the house, out of my head, and my mom suggested I check it out. They offer a variety of programs – photography, filmmaking, graphic art, animation – to primarily low income middle and high schoolers. I became a volunteer mentor in an intermediate photography class. The theme of the class was “youth culture”, and the students worked in groups illuminating the various aspects of that culture through photography. Ultimate they produced a series of photo cards with  text that commented on the 6 areas chosen at the beginning of the class: Music, Consumerism, Drugs, Sports, Fashion, and Culture, as well as individual photographs for a fold-up paper box to hold the cards. Ironic isn’t it? Youth culture in a box.

The work was fabulous, these kids have such a fresh unencumbered viewpoint that even after a lifetime in photography I learned as much as they did. Maybe more. Additionally, being able to give a little back of my own photographic knowledge allowed me to be a bit closer to Jake. He was an accomplished photographer and began his photographic journey in earnest at just about the same age as my students. It was bittersweet to be sure, and since my emotions were still so raw and ragged, I had to walk away from the group once in a while to compose myself.

One of our field trips took us to the Ocean Front Walk in Venice. If there ever was a hotbed of youth culture, this is it. A stretch of souvenir shops, pizza stands and tattoo parlors along with an array of street vendors, musicians, performers, beggars, homeless, tourists, residents hanging out on balconies, sidewalk cafes; it really must be experienced to appreciate. No trip to Venice is complete without a visit.

I couldn’t resist this photo. The bright red couch served as waiting area for two establishments – tattoo parlor and marijuana dispensary. You could get inked and baked all at once.

Domino’s Pizza

Domino’s Pizza, Venice. November 2013

Back on Lincoln Blvd., this Domino’s is two blocks away from my house. Not that we ever, EVER order from Domino’s, but I pass it on my way to Spring Nail Spa or to our shul. When Jake was living in our guest house, he used to make the short walk over frequently, and I would often look out our living room window and see him trucking down the street holding the flat red, white, and blue box on his way home. It still baffles me how a wonderful chef like Jake would stoop to eating take-out pizza, but hungry is hungry. Plus they have coupons.

I guess as far as fast-food chain pizza goes it isn’t too bad; I confess to having eaten Domino’s more than once in the past. In fact, we even had it delivered a few times. Did I mention it was in the far distant past? Now we go to Eddie’s Italian restaurant down the street. The pizza is way better, but I have to drive the 4 blocks to get it; they don’t deliver. Anyway, our local Domino’s recently replaced these red metal chairs with a couple of red upholstered booths to encourage people to “dine in”. No longer “Carryout Only”. Why anyone would want to dine in the foyer of a Domino’s is quite beyond me. ‘Dining’ seems an overly optimistic description of what you would do in a Domino’s. The ambiance isn’t quite … well … anything. I guess it takes all kinds.

Great Western Steak and Hoagie

Great Western Steak and Hoagie Company, Venice. June 2013

The Great Western Steak and Hoagie Company is a little stand on the corner of Lincoln and Superba in Venice. It has been there for more than 40 years serving up a Los Angeles version of Philadelphia’s legendary sandwich. Housed in a former Tail O’ the Pup façade with the hot dog ends removed, it resembles a giant hoagie bun. The original brown “bun” has been painted recently, sea blue with scenes of Venice beach life, and is barely recognizable. It has changed hands many times over the years but the food has remained remarkably consistent. They still cook the thinly shaved meat on the same flat grill, flanked by heaps of onions, mushrooms and peppers and topped with a slice of melting cheese. The whole hot mess is scooped into a long doughy roll and splashed with a ladle of “pizza sauce” before being wrapped in paper, slipped into a brown bag and handed over the formica counter. The array of gallon jars of pickled cherry and hot sport peppers on the counter has been expanded to include Giardiniera (pickled vegetables), fluorescent green dill pickle slices, and fresh grilled serrano peppers. I don’t eat there any more, but enjoyed many of the steaming sandwiches in years past when I lived around the corner. Venice Arts, where I teach photography is just up the street and I pass by the GWSHC occasionally on my way from parking my car nearby. I peered in one day for nostalgia’s sake and discovered what may be the most rudimentary and least glamorous waiting area in the entire Waiting Room Project.

This Guy Really Knows What He is Doing


Standing in the checkout line at Staples, I encountered this guy who really knows what he is doing. Must be a professional. Or he is good at following directions. Either way, it makes for a compelling commentary on the state of our societal mores, the compulsion to obey random absentee commands, and the willingness of mankind to delay gratification for the sake of social order.

Down to the Car Wash (Bomp-dee-bomp-dee-bomp)

20 years ago, one of my neighbors initiated a campaign to plant street trees in our neighborhood. He chose a variety that spits tiny droplets of sap, dead leaves, and twigs throughout the year, and a multitude of little yellow flowers during the spring. I can usually wait about a month or so before our cars are too disgusting to stand, so it’s down to the car wash. This collage includes 4 different establishments. The one with the two dogs waiting for their car was my go-to when I worked in Santa Monica. I could stop on my way in, get a quick once over and still get there by 9. Now, my regular hookup is Handy J’s at the intersection of Washington Blvd. and Washington Place.

When you bring your car in for cleaning, you fully expect to wait, and these four places have similar but different vibes in their areas. Handy J’s has an outdoor barbecue restaurant on the corner owned by the same folks that run HJ’s. They grill on a large charcoal barbecue and the smell of tri-tip and ribs wafts across the lot, borne on the perpetual on-shore air from the ocean to the west. Santa Monica has free wi-fi, little bistro tables, and if you are hungry, a McDonald’s right across the street. Millennium is one block away and in a pinch I might go there, but HJ’s does a better job and I get coupons. Now that we all have our mobile phones, it doesn’t much matter where we are, we are always in our own little worlds. In years past, you might strike up a conversation with your fellow waiter, but there isn’t much conversation anymore; we are all too busy peering at our 5-inch screens.