New Book Embraces L.A. History, Both Iconic and Mundane

September 21, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Murphy Ranch Photo:
Josh McNair/Abandoned & Historic LA: Neon & Beyond

Like many transplants before him, Jason Horton was in love with the West Coast before he’d even seen it. And now that he’s fortunate enough to call Los Angeles home, he’s released a book that contains some serious L.A. nostalgia. Abandoned & Historic LA: Neon & Beyond is mostly photos, peppered with anecdotes and insight from other Angelenos—some native, some not. It’s a love letter to L.A. through a rosy lens, the kind that finds beauty in its grit but doesn’t dwell in it. 

Horton was born in New Jersey, grew up in the Hudson Valley, then moved to San Diego in 2002. It was in 2006 that he made it to Los Angeles where he’d already been commuting for improv and sketch classes at iO West and UCB. 

“Like most people, I was enamored by California,” he said, citing pop culture touchstones that painted a picture of the West Coast. There was the song “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys, not Marky Mark, he clarified), Three’s Company, Last American Virgin, and Valley Girl. 

“Plus I loved the punk and hardcore bands from California. I was sold on moving here, sight unseen,” he said. 

The photos featured in the book come from both Horton and a group of photographers. As he put it together, he talked with his wife, who grew up in the Valley, for some native Angeleno context.

The images include famous neon signs—like the Circus Liquor clown—as well as more mundane ones that you’re sure to recognize from late nights cruising around or taking the bus. There are places you don’t want to explore (the Cecil Hotel, for example), and places you should, like Griffith Park’s old zoo. There are cultural landmarks, like the Capitol Records tower. Then there are empty, dead malls and faded signs outside of mattress stores and car lots.

I used to walk by half the images from Hollywood nearly every day on my way to work, but the photo I lingered on was Pink Motel’s empty, fish-shaped swimming pool. If this wasn’t L.A., it could be any Route 66 motel advertising a color TV or waterbeds in every room. Yet here, the Pink Motel only exists in TV and films. It’s a prop. I lingered on that photo for a bit, thinking of all the things I’d seen that fake motel in. Later that same night, I saw it in an episode of Lucifer. In it, a TV writer had used it as his crash pad before he was murdered. 

When asked what his favorite images are, Horton says, “A lot of the neon signs from the Valley are all great. The House of Spirits in Echo Park is a great photo and is now painted over, and the sign is being renovated. I worked with great photographers. My own photos I would get organically. If I saw it and liked it, I took it, and if it made sense, it went in the book.” 

House of Spirits. Photo:
Glenda Smith/Abandoned & Historic LA: Neon & Beyond

There’s also something bittersweet about looking at a collection of abandoned places and realizing that even this brand new book paints an inaccurate picture of the Los Angeles that’s to come. There’s a photo of the neon Amoeba sign on Sunset, for instance. Amoeba closed alongside everything else in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, Amoeba announced that the record store would never reopen in that location again, instead focusing its effort on its new location on Hollywood Blvd. Horton intentionally got a photo of the sign, knowing it would soon be removed. Who knows what else will be gone by the time we’re out of this mess?

The anecdotes in the book are from a collection of Angelenos, many in the music industry. There’s Josie Cotton, whose song “Johnny, Are You Queer?” appears in Valley Girl. There’s musician and music writer Carlos Ramirez, who recalls coming to L.A. for the first time to play a show with his band and insisting on finding The Rainbow on the Sunset Strip. There’s comedian and Koreatown Neighborhood Councilmember Kristina Wong, who offers a pithy comment on the neighborhood she reps. There’s author Terra Newell, who is perhaps most famous for her appearance as herself in the Dirty John podcast.  Newell heroically killed her mother’s abusive ex in self-defense.

In terms of future projects, Horton says he already had so many photos they couldn’t fit into one book. If there’s a sequel, he hopes to explore further from the center, into South and East L.A. and the Westside. 

“I also wish I had access to more vacant mall related photos. I’m mall-obsessed, which I got from the L.A. representation in movies and TV,” he said. 

If you want to check out Abandoned & Historic LA: Neon & Beyond for yourself, it’s available on September 28 direct from Arcadia Publishing, or via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Target, Indiebound, and local bookstores in L.A. 


Atlas Obscura’s Most Popular Online Shows Return Next Week

September 18, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Brandon Hodge. Image: Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura is a great site for discovering strange and wonderful places while on a road trip, but it’s also been offering a host of virtual at-home experiences to enjoy while travel is off the table. For Fan Favorites Week, September 21-25, you can choose among 10 of their most popular offerings.

Here’s the schedule:

September 21: The Forged and the Filched ($12). Kylie Holloway and Erin Thompson dive into the “most fascinating forgeries and thefts of the art world.” 

September 21: The Supernatural Cats of Japan ($10). Author and folklorist Zack Davisson explores the kaibyō, or, supernatural cats.

September 22: Weird Homes Tour – Ghosts in the Machines ($10). Occult historian Brandon Hodge offers a peek inside his Wayne County, New York home and his collection of “artifacts and relics of Spiritualism, a religious movement that gained popularity in the 19th century.” They include Ouija boards and other mediums used to talk to the dead. 

September 22: Every Penguin in the World ($10). Do you love penguins? Do you want to know more about every type of penguin there is? Then join author and photographer Charles Bergman as he tells you everything you want to know about the world’s many penguins. 

September 23: The Art of Pickling with Liz Alpern and Jeff Yozkowitz ($25). Gefilteria co-owners Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern will talk about how to preserve and lacto-ferment fruits and vegetables, the history of Jewish pickling traditions, and how to pickle with ingredients you likely have at home. 

September 23: A Peek Inside Legendary Hollywood Estates ($10). Learn about and see inside historic homes once inhabited by the Golden Age of Hollywood’s biggest stars. 

September 24: The Show Begins on the Sidewalk – Movie Palace History ($10). Hey, remember when we could go see movies in theaters? In this online show, join historian Leyla Royale as she shares how silent film and society led to the majestic movie palaces of the1920s and how movie theaters have evolved since. 

September 24: Camera Tricks: An Exclusive Magic Show with Ben Seidman ($25). Magician Ben Seidman offers a 45-minute magic show you can watch from home. There’s also one “fake” trick in the mix, which the audience will be tasked to expose. 

September 25: Atlas Obscura Trivia Night ($7). The Atlas Obscura Guild of Trivial Knowledge and Fascinating Ephemera will test your knowledge and fact-finding abilities in a two-hour match of wits. Trivia takes place every Friday at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. 

September 25: Dino 101 ($10). Dustin Growick, host of The Dinosaur Show on YouTube, and middle school teacher Kristina Gustovich host an adults-only, dino-themed party featuring a bingo drinking game, art activities, trivia, and more. For this particular installment, the theme is “Dinosaur Roast,” where they pick on the ugliest dinos there ever were (with love, of course). 

For more information and to purchase tickets, go here.

Culture, Lifestyle

‘Elf on the Shelf’ Drive-Thru Coming to Pomona Fairplex

September 18, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey

We haven’t even been to our first Halloween drive-thru experience, and now we’re hearing about Christmas ones! Opening November 12 at the Pomona Fairplex is The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey, a multi-sensory story that guests experience from within their cars. 

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a 2005 children’s book by Carol Aebersold and her daughter, Chandra Bell. It tells the secret of how Santa knows whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Essentially, he sends an elf to your house to spy on you. Every night, the elf flies to the North Pole, where it reports the day’s events to its boss. Every morning, it finds a new place to hide and the children must find it. This continues until Christmas when the elf is free to return home. It is… actually very terrifying when you think about it. 

The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey does not take place in your house, however, which is great for families worried there’d be no real-life holiday events this year. In this story, Santa Claus’s sleigh breaks down, and guests must travel by car through several beautiful dreamworlds to help him recover the magic he needs to fix it. Scenes include an arctic wonderland, a gingerbread village, a toy repair workshop, and something called “Santa’s Magical Grotto.” Each realm is filled with lights and music, and the whole thing concludes with a drive-thru retail experience—’tis the season, after all. 

The thing about this particular drive-thru is that it’s helmed by a team that really knows its stuff when it comes to putting on spectacles and events. It’s presented by The Lumistella Company (which Bell co-founded with her twin sister, Christa Pitts) and CAA’s Constellation Immersive. It’s designed by David Korins (Broadway’s Hamilton, Beetlejuice, and Dear Evan Hansen) while Constellation Immersive Chief Creative Officer Vance Garrett directs. His previous credits include NYC’s Sleep No More and 29 Rooms

The Elf on the Shelf’s Magical Holiday Journey runs November 12 through January 3 at The Fairplex in Pomona. Tickets go on sale on September 22 at 11 a.m. Prices start at $19.95 for children and $24.95 for adults. Spanish narration is available.

Culture, History

Documentary Shows Jay Sebring as More Than a Manson Victim

September 17, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Jay Sebring cuts actor Jackie Cooper’s hair. Photo: 1010 Films and Sebring Family Collection

If you were one of Hollywood’s leading men in the 1960s, Jay Sebring was the stylist you wanted to cut your hair. His clients included Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, Warren Beatty, Bruce Lee, and Paul Newman. He gave The Doors frontman Jim Morrison his shaggy “Alexander the Great” locks. He was a pioneer of men’s hair, a Navy vet who dreamed of elevating utilitarian cuts into iconic styles and then made it happen in his own salon at 725 N. Fairfax, on film sets, and beyond.

But Jay Sebring isn’t always associated with his success or cultural legacy. The sum of his life is often overshadowed by its final moments, when he was murdered by Manson Family members Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Susan Atkins on August 9, 1969, at the Beverly Hills home of his close friend and former girlfriend, Sharon Tate. He was 35 years old. 

Tate was the wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was in Europe at the time of the murders. She was a beautiful, young actress, weeks away from delivering her first child. In media coverage, headlines often described the victims as “Sharon Tate and 4 Others.” Those others were Sebring; Polanski’s friend, Wojciech Frykowski; Frykowski’s girlfriend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger; and Steven Parent, who was killed while attempting to leave after visiting the home’s caretaker.

“Four others” is a phrase that sticks with filmmaker Anthony DiMaria, whose documentary Cutting to the Truth attempts to dispel rumors about the murders while painting a holistic picture of Jay Sebring. Sebring was DiMaria’s uncle, his mother Peggy’s oldest brother.

While DiMaria was just three years old when Sebring died, he remembers that Sebring would visit his family at their home in the Las Vegas area. His parents had moved there from Detroit in 1965 to work at a salon in Caesars Palace, with plans to ultimately work for Sebring in California. DiMaria says his memories of his uncle aren’t “vast, but they are indelible.” In particular, he recalls chasing one another around the yard. 

“He didn’t seem like an adult, the way he interacted with me. I certainly don’t think I understood him as my uncle. He seemed more like my cool friend. It’s hard to describe, but that’s really the impact he had on me,” DiMaria said. 

A few years later, DiMaria was browsing a family photo album as his mother did the laundry. He came across a picture of Sebring and remembered him right away. Excitedly, he asked his mother when they might see him again.

“I saw a pain in her eyes that I don’t think any kid is used to seeing his mother or father go through,” DiMaria said. “It wasn’t like she was sobbing or crying, but I saw something, even at that age, that disturbed me to the core that I would somehow cause my mother this type of pain.”

From that moment on, DiMaria had an urge to know more about Sebring, and it’s a feeling that never left. He’s not sure if it would have ultimately faded had there not been dozens of reminders, year after year, in tabloids, TV shows, movies, songs, documentaries, and even on T-shirts depicting the people who killed his uncle and their infamous crimes. Or, had his family not been compelled to attend numerous parole hearings, where they sit alongside other victims’ loved ones and “remind everybody who the victims really are.”

“There’s something about being a family that has been impacted by a violent crime, a murder. But also, what would normally be a personal private tragedy among the family, these murders were different. They were so notorious that they were played out on platforms and narratives as a form of entertainment,” DiMaria said.

Charles Manson, who died in 2017 at 83, and his so-called followers have been characters in South Park and American Horror Story, and in countless nonfiction and fiction interpretations of the murders. Some are musical adaptations. Other are alternative histories. They range from low-budget, poorly-rated exploitation schlock like Honky Holocaust (2014), in which Manson successfully pulls off his ‘Helter Skelter’ race war, to Quentin Tarantino’s award-winning Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), in which (spoiler alert) the murders never happen.

In this clip from ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,’ Tate (Margot Robbie), Sebring (Emile Hirsch), Folger (Samantha Robinson), and Frykowski (Costa Ronin) have dinner at El Coyote, during which Sebring talks about the high price celebrities pay him for a haircut.

Wanting to find out who a deceased family member was isn’t so odd, especially if you never got the chance to know them. But DiMaria also sought to untangle all the bizarre rumors that surrounded Sebring, especially in the period after his death.

Media, in an effort to figure out why the Polanski-Tate home had been targeted, rushed to paint the victims as “freaky”—into the occult, drugs, orgies, BDSM, and other taboos or counterculture that, by today’s standards, are fairly vanilla. (I won’t link to them, but “exposés” into the victims’ supposed secret lives can still be found in tabloids today.) In truth, Manson directed his followers to the home on Cielo Drive because Terry Melcher, a music producer who didn’t sign him, once lived there. It didn’t matter to his followers that Melcher had since moved. They were there to kill everyone inside the house and that’s what they did. 

This victim-blaming is something you’ll see today if you scroll to the comment section on any news story about someone who’s been harmed. “Why were they out so late?” “Were they drinking?” “Why were they wearing that?” “Where were the parents?” “I heard they have a criminal record.” There’s something about pinning violence on the victim’s real or imagined behaviors that makes us feel safer, as though we’re putting a barrier between what happened to other people and what certainly won’t happen to us. It also allows us, in some ways, to guiltlessly enjoy the great money-maker that is true crime.

“There’s a formula to the exploitation of notorious, sensational true crime and the first thing you have to do is strip the victims of their humanity,” DiMaria says. “They’re not like you and me; they’re not a real human being.” 

Anthony DiMaria chats with Sebring’s friend, actor Dennis Hopper. Photo: 1010 Films and Johnny Bishop

To find the real, human Sebring, DiMaria talked to his uncle’s friends, former colleagues, and exes. He talked to his own family members. He pored over documents obtained from the District Attorney’s office, using autopsy reports to piece together Sebring’s final moments.

You might be surprised to know that DiMaria’s family also had three meetings with Quentin Tarantino regarding Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In the final meeting, Tarantino completed an interview that appears in Cutting to the Truth. DiMaria said he was impressed with Tarantino and producer Shannon McIntosh because they treated Tate (played by Margot Robbie) and Sebring (Emile Hirsch) as people—something, he says, that rarely happens. 

Cutting to the Truth is as much about Jay Sebring as it is about DiMaria’s journey to know him. In the end, DiMaria says he learned there were two Jay Sebrings: the man who lived, and the man who died. To tell Sebring’s story, he had to dissect the mythology, folklore, gossip, and subtext. And underneath it all, he found that Sebring’s story isn’t just a tragic tale or a salacious crime saga, but an “inspiring, glorious” story about a person who, like many before and after, came to L.A. with a dream.

As for DiMaria, he says he used to want to “kick someone in the teeth” when he saw them sporting a Manson shirt or tattoo (yes, people really get those).

“But through this process, I’ve known that Jay’s story will finally be told [and] I don’t have those feelings anymore,” DiMaria said. “Because I know for once, after 51 years, there will be knowledge of Jay with human dimension.” 

Cutting to the Truth is available on streaming platforms, including Apple TV and Amazon, September 22. See the trailer below.


Ugly Drum is Opening a Pickup/Delivery Deli

September 16, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Photo: Ugly Drum

Far be it from me to try to sway you if you’re a diehard Canters or Langer’s fan, but if you haven’t tried Ugly Drum’s pastrami sandwich, you are missing out. Typically, this incredibly tender delicacy was only available at Smorgasburg LA on Sundays. But now, Ugly Drum is launching a deli-style cloud kitchen and we couldn’t be more excited. Starting this Friday, you can order that sandwich, plus a whole lot more, any day of the week. 

Ugly Drum: Deli.Delivered launches on September 18 at 609 N. La Brea. The menu includes pastrami and turkey sandwiches, meat by the pound, matzo ball soup, sides including fries and potato salad, desserts like brownies and gelato, soda, cold brew, cocktails, beer, and wine. The cocktail list includes a jarred Bloody Mary that serves two and a horseradish-infused vodka. Starting October 3, you’ll be able to get breakfast sandwiches on the weekends. 

Guests can order online for pickup, or request delivery via platforms including ChowNow, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and UberEats. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. More info here.


Sip a Negroni for a Good Cause This Week

September 15, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Negroni Week would have happened in June, celebrating the classic cocktail (equal parts gin, Campari, sweet vermouth) while donating to the charities that participating bars chose. But due to COVID-19, that didn’t happen, so Negroni Week is currently underway virtually. Campari is hosting an online fundraiser here, but you can also join in locally now through September 20.

Big Bar/Alcove (Los Feliz) 

Big Bar’s always got some kind of clever cocktail special going on and this week is no exception. They’ve got two Negroni specials and their charity this year is Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. They also carry Party Beer’s BLM Golden Ale, the proceeds from which also go to BLMLA. For Negroni Week, choose between:

Negroni Special 1: A Sipmith Negroni and a Big Bar Burger for $25. Available via outdoor dining or for takeout/delivery. 

Negroni Special 2: The Boo Radler cocktail, available via outdoor dining. Or, get the Boo for Two to-go, which comes with a keepsake martini bitter bottle and two servings of the Boo Radler base, a can of Steigl Grapefruit Radler, and a lime. 

Loving Cup

The Loving Cup’s Gaby Mlynarczyk offers a canned sparkling Negroni + Coke all week long. Available at Winsome in Playa Vista (@eatwinsome). Proceeds benefit No Us Without You. 


What to Do When the Air Quality is Unhealthy

September 15, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Monrovia’s gloomy skies due to the Bobcat Fire. Photo: Person-with-No-Name/Flickr

Though Los Angeles is hardly considered a bastion of clean air, the air quality has been pretty bad lately due to the ongoing wildfires. At a time when outdoor operations are nearly all that’s allowed due to COVID-19, the bad air can feel extra isolating. Here’s what Public Health recommends we do to stay healthy, plus some suggestions from us on how to stay occupied indoors.

Today, the South Coast Air Quality Management District declared unhealthy air quality for much of the L.A. area through at least tomorrow. Affected areas include: Central L.A., Northwest Coastal L.A. County; Southwest Coastal L.A. County; South Coastal L.A.; Southeast L.A. County; West and East San Fernando Valley; West, East and South San Gabriel Valley; Pomona-Walnut Valley, South Central L.A. County, Santa Clarita Valley, and the San Gabriel Mountains. 

Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said via a release that because it’s difficult to tell where smoke, ash, or soot from the fires will go, the department is asking everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful, even if you’re in good health. 

“If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health. These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults, and people with heart or lung diseases,” Davis said. 

Davis said the department is also advising day camps to postpone outdoor recreational activities for the time being.

Breathing in wildfire smoke particles can result in:

  • Burning eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat 
  • Headache 
  • Illness (for example, bronchitis) 
  • For those with sensitive conditions, it can also result in difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, chest pain. 

For added apocalyptic vibes, some of these symptoms overlap with COVID-19 symptoms. If you think you may have come into contact with an infected person, you can see a complete list of COVID-19 symptoms here and register for a free test here.

To avoid breathing in wildfire smoke particles:

  • Stay inside, especially if you can see or smell smoke, particles, or ash in the air.
  • Limit physical exertion.
  • Keep your indoor air clean by closing windows and doors. 
  • Do not use fireplaces, candles, or vacuums. Clean dusty indoor surfaces with a damp cloth. 
  • Avoid A/C units that draw from outdoor air or that don’t have a re-circulating option. Check the filter on your A/C unit and do so regularly. Note that air filtration devices with HEPA filters can further reduce the level of particles that circulate indoors.
  • If it’s hot and you don’t have a safe way to cool off your place, consider going to a cooling center
  • Avoid smoking. 
  • If you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to smoke exposure, including severe coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea, or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, call your doctor or go to an urgent care center. If life-threatening, call 911. 
  • Don’t leave your pets outside. If they show symptoms of respiratory distress, take them to an animal hospital. For dogs, that includes panting or seeming out of breath. For cats, symptoms are the same, but may be less noticeable. 
  • If there’s ash in your area, follow this guidance when you clean it up.

Okay, so what can I do?

All the online activities listed on our Things To Do guide.
Play games with friends online.
Watch some TV. Here’s a list of L.A.-centric shows to binge.
Explore all the things you can access for free with your library card.
Fill out the 2020 Census.
See for yourself how bad the air quality is using this website. (My ZIP code is “unhealthy.”)
Bake these lemon raspberry ricotta muffins. They’re very good.

Culture, Lifestyle

Register Now for L.A. County Parks’ Outdoor Fall Classes

September 14, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Photo: Syed Shameel/Flickr

L.A. County Parks and Recreation is hosting a series of outdoor fitness and art classes this autumn. It’s a great way to get out and learn something or get in some exercise while most indoor operations remain closed. 

There are several types of in-person classes you can try. They include mixed media art, improv, martial arts, music, dance, sports, yoga, mindfulness, dog obedience, self-defense, knitting and crochet, tutoring sessions, cooking, and more. All of these classes will follow County health guidelines, which means you can expect social distancing, temperature checks, and mask-wearing. 

There are also numerous virtual offerings, too, if you’re not ready to try an outdoor, in-person class yet. 

Registration for fall classes opens today. Check out the class schedule here. You can filter by date, category, location, days of the week, and more. 

Culture, News

Will Smith Rents ‘Fresh Prince’ Mansion on Airbnb

September 14, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
The ‘Fresh Prince’ mansion is available on Airbnb for just 5 nights. Photo: Airbnb

It’s been 30 years since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air first aired on September 10, 1990. To celebrate, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air mansion is now available for just $30 a night on Airbnb—sort of. It’s only available for five, single-night stays and it isn’t actually in Bel Air, but rather Brentwood. But hey, it’s still a mansion that rents for cheaper than a shady motel.

As you most likely know, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air stars Will Smith as a West Philly teen whose family sends him to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Bel Air. Smith is named as the host of the property on its Airbnb. listing. It reads: “If this place looks familiar that’s because it’s just as fly as it was when I first rolled up the driveway. I’m back. And this time, I’m handing you the keys so you’ll have my wing of the mansion all to yourself – but my sneaker collection is off limits, aight?”

The series only used the outside of the mansion for its exterior shots, while the interior scenes were filmed in a studio. So while it may not actually be where the family comedy played out, Airbnb says it is replete with “bold graffiti art, posh interiors, timeless family portraits, and Philly cheesesteaks served on silver platters.” Smith’s “wing,” which does not include the entirety of the home, boasts a bedroom, bathroom, pool, outdoor lounge, and dining room. Other amenities include “a fresh pair of Jordans” for shooting hoops in the bedroom, a “fly look” courtesy of the Prince’s closet, and—since you won’t have access to a kitchen—catered meals. 

The bedroom. Photo: Airbnb

You may be curious about what COVID-19 protections are in place during this staycation. For one thing, each guest is only allowed to bring one other person. No one else is permitted (and Airbnb has cracked down globally on parties altogether). The space will be cleaned before each guest’s arrival using Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Protocol, which takes its cues from the CDC. Guests are greeted virtually by DJ Jazzy Jeff and in-person by a socially distant concierge. They’ll wear a mask and keep six feet of distance, and guests are asked to do the same. After the keys are exchanged, the concierge leaves. 

Reservations are just $30 per night, but there are only five of them. They open to L.A. County residents on September 29 at 11 a.m. here and we suspect they’ll probably be gone in a flash. Available nights include October 2, 5, 8, 11, and 14. As part of this promotion, Airbnb will also make a one-time donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia. 

DJ Jazzy Jeff will also host an online experience on October 1 where he’ll teach you how to spin and scratch. You can book that for $100 here.


See 2020 Census Progress on This Interactive Map

September 14, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
See how the Census is coming along via this map.

Want to see the self-response rate to the 2020 Census in your neighborhood? The U.S. Census Bureau updates the results each day, then the state’s Statewide Outreach and Rapid Deployment (SwORD) team uploads them to this map, where they’re divided by census tract. 

By now, you’ve probably seen several reminders to complete your census, or perhaps a census worker has even knocked on your door. If you haven’t filled yours out already, you can do so online in less than five minutes. Just go here or call 1-844-330-2020.

After that, you may find it interesting to see how self-reporting is going in your neighborhood. The map divides Los Angeles by district, listing each district’s number and its city councilmember, then by census tract. If an area has a high percentage of self-reporting, it’ll be purple. If not, it’ll fade to a rust color. For example, Census Tract 4806 near South Pasadena has a 2020 self-response rate of 76.1%, which is 5% higher than the last census in 2010. Census Tract 1901 in Hollywood is currently at 45.2%, compared to 56.3% in 2010. 

As you browse, it’s worth noting that self-response rates are reported as a percentage of all housing units in a given tract. If a tract has a low population or a high rate of vacancy, like the tract that contains Griffith Park, it may seem like it has a disproportionately low response rate, even if most of its residents have responded. 

Why is it so important to respond to the census? It’s designed to count the entire U.S. population. That count will determine how federal funding is split among states, counties, and communities. This is the money that pays for schools, roads, public transit, hospitals, and other public needs. The census also determines how many of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives each state gets for the next 10 years. If people don’t respond to the census, it could result in an undercount. And that could result in missing out on political representation or crucial funding. The census also affects redistricting, and how businesses decide where to open new locations.

Due to the pandemic, census field data collection, including door-knocking, was suspended in March. Initially, the Census Bureau had planned a delayed timeline, in which both self-reporting and field data collection would end on October 31. However, the Bureau later switched back to its original timeline, meaning the deadline is September 30—just a couple weeks away.

The City of Los Angeles and other entities filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to go back to the extended timeline. Last week, that lawsuit moved forward and a federal judge ordered census officials to not wind down their counting efforts, according to LAist. But for now, plan to wrap up your census by September 30 to be counted. 

Culture, Food

‘The Bite LA’ Combines Food & Frights This Halloween

September 10, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Photo: The Bite LA: Halloween Food Crawl and Creature Safari

Here’s another drive-in Halloween event for your spooky seasonal celebrations. The Bite LA: Halloween Food Crawl and Creature Safari at Legg Lake combines food and creepy entertainment that you’ll enjoy from the safety of your vehicle. 

The Bite comes via Meyer2Meyer Entertainment, creators of last year’s House of Spirits: A Haunted Cocktail Soiree and the Rated R Speakeasy. 

Here’s how it works: your party will drive slowly around Legg Lake in the Whittier Narrows Natural Area, stopping along the way to enjoy eight different seasonal foods served by sinister characters. As you progress, you may notice some creatures lurking in the scenery. Use a flashlight to attempt to spot them as they prowl. Eventually, you’ll come to your final destination: a virtual ‘campfire’ where you’ll park to hear ghost stories and enjoy campfire desserts and hot cocoa, cider, or coffee. 

Each ticket includes eight bites (vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options available); one dessert; one fall drink; and access to the event. If you choose, you can dress up your car for a car costume contest. Additional food will also be available for purchase. 

The Bite is open select dates throughout October. Tickets are $38 to $98 per person. See the event’s COVID safety info here.


Finally, COVID Testing at Union Station

September 10, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Waiting area in Union Station Los Angeles. Photo by Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

While city officials have been quick to brag about our robust testing capacity, there’s been one thing that’s remained difficult, at least depending on where you live: getting a test if you don’t have a car. Now, a kiosk at Union Station’s south patio makes it a little easier for Angelenos who don’t drive to get a free COVID-19 test.

Union Station’s testing kiosk opens today. According to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who gave a COVID-19 briefing yesterday evening, the kiosk can complete 500 tests each day it’s open. Hours are Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Curative is the company that manages the kiosk. You don’t need an appointment to get a test at the kiosk, but you can make one on Curative’s website. These tests are self-administered oral swabs, not the ones where you jam a swab up your nose. All tests are free.  

We checked out the appointment link, and it looks like there are more than 100 available slots each day through September 13. Still, that means over half of the spots have already been claimed, so we’d suggest booking an appointment in advance just to be sure. Curative also runs a walk-up site at Edendale Library in Echo Park, plus a handful of drive-thrus. 

For more testing sites, see the county’s testing website here.