Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Santa Anas Blow In New Area Residents

By Blythe Moorcraft, Quilt staff


While neighbors are pulling felled palm fronds out of front yard chicken enclosures and chasing patio umbrellas down the street as they tumble back home towards Big Lots, Merl Zygmont of Nita Avenue, in the tight knit NitWick neighborhood,
is busy dealing with some unexpected house guests.

"A few of them flew in last night when I was bringing in groceries. They were buzzing around so loudly I thought they were bees. Then I managed to smash one with a rolled up newspaper [Not the Quilt, we hope! - ed.] and, oh boy, that was a mistake! It stunk something awful."

Yes indeed, the long-awaited stink bugs have finally come to Canoga Park.

One of Merl Zygmont's stink bugs investigates a cupboard door. Staff photo.
Experts note that the arrival of the comically clumsy creatures to the West Valley was always a matter of when, not if.

"Oh, we've been tracking their progress across the country for some time now," says Dr. Morris Detzer, Chief Entomologist at Pierce College Winnetka. "Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken them this long. I guess the recent winds were just the push they needed to get them over the Santa Susana Mountains and now here they are."
Dr. Morris Detzer. Photo: Mimi Detzer

While many Canoga Park residents are familiar with their smaller (and less noxious) green cousins, brown marmorated stink bugs are a sight - and smell - new to the area.  Introduced to America in 1998 in Pennsylvania from the mysterious Orient, the hardy insect soon gained a foothold in its new home and, much like democracy did some six hundred years ago, spread outward across our great nation.

But this is by no means a full-blown invasion, insists Detzer. "Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no! Things will get a lot worse - a lot worse - before they get better, if they ever get better. All I can say is don't bother planting any soybeans," he adds with a sardonic chuckle while shaking his head. "Just don't waste your time."

But a representative of the Canoga Park Friendly Neighborhood Council doesn't share the professor's opinion.

"We're not all that concerned," asserts Invasive Species Coordinator Paul Lindgren as he opens a manilla envelope labeled "Stink Bug Invasion Contingency Plan" and pulls out a small green card. "We're counting on our large crane fly population to take care of the problem. Nature always finds a way."

Unsealed: The CPFNC's bold plan addresses a nightmarish "What if?"
scenario should the brown stink bug population start to grow. Staff photo.
As for Zygmont, she's still dealing with four large stink bugs banging around her charming mid-century home. "One of them landed in my coffee cup this morning just as I was about to pour in the coffee.  I tried to catch it to flush down the toilet but it took off again before I had a chance. Then I had one of them on the kitchen cabinet there by the side entrance, so I opened the door to sort of, you know, push it out with a broom, and two more flew in.

"I spent a half-hour this afternoon chasing them around with the vacuum like some kind of jackass. So I've kind of given up. It's a little unsettling. They're noisy and they bang into everything."
Nature's Acrobat: The brown marmorated stink bug has the ability to walk
upside-down; in this case, on the ceiling. (The photograph was achieved by
standing on a chair below and pointing the camera lens skyward.) Staff photo.
The retired receptionist half stifles a startled gasp that devolves into an exasperated sigh as one of the inch-long bugs slams into her eyeglasses, knocking them askew, before climbing onto her forehead and taking off for the light fixture in the ceiling. "I mean, how long can these things live?

"No, I'm actually asking you. Do you know?"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Come One, Come All - To The Fair!

by Michale Hemmingway, Quilt staff


If you're one of the many Canoga Parkians who this past weekend drove by Lanark Park - "the recreation center so sublime they made it rhyme" - and thought for a moment you'd made a wrong turn at Farralone, somehow ending up in Anaheim, don't feel too bad. For almost three glorious days, it really did seem like Disneyland. What's more, judging by the smiles on the faces of the hundreds of carnival-goers, the southwest section of the out-of-doors public space briefly stole the mantle of "Happiest Place On Earth" from its venerable Orange County rival.

This weekend Lanark Recreation Center was transformed into a veritable land-locked Coney
Island, with all the sights, sounds and smells of a lively and rollicking carnival. Staff photo. 
Hopefully you didn't just drive past the park. Because if the kid in you was intrigued and took the reins, you just might have pulled over, parked, and headed onto the usually semi-grassy expanse and bought a fistful of scrip from one of the friendly ticket sellers. And if you did, you likely had yourself a time that would have made Walt Disney himself grin.

Canoga Park residents enjoyed a fun and frolicsome time riding rides, playing
games, and snacking on such delights as popcorn and cotton candy. Staff photo.
From the Tilt-A-Skew to the Zingshot, from the Twanger to the Swing-Diddler, there was a ride or attraction that satisfied most everyone's idea of fun and excitement, from wee tots to those well in their golden years.

"We've been on the Ferris wheel and the swan carousel twice and the mini-planes I think three times," says Eleanor Decker of Schoolcraft Street. "I left my cane on one of them. Okay, sweetie, let's try the Caterpillar Coaster again - maybe I left it there," the 79-year-old says to granddaughter Bethany, two-and-a-half, a sleeping bundle nestled in one arm and clinging to her neck, as Grandma trundles off a bit unsteadily, no doubt heady from an afternoon of fun.

You don't have to be LeBron James or even Lew Alcindor to win at Mini-Basketball and take
home Scooby-Doo or one of the Care Bears gang - a little luck is all that's needed.  Staff photo.
The Sky-Flip was perhaps one of the fair's most popular attractions, gathering a mob of onlookers each time the ride began. Almost on cue, a raucous cheer would go up from those on the ground as the ride propelled its passengers skyward, and then flipped the strapped-in riders upside down, raining pocket change, cell phones and more on the eager crowd below, all but drowning out the shrieks of delight from above.

"My car keys, Christ, there go my car keys!" exclaims one excited voice from somewhere near the treetops.

"I got a brand new f_ckeeng Galaxy S 5!" laughs a young man on the ground as he shows off his hard-won prize. "I f_ckeeng saw it starting to fall from like way over there an' sh_t...? And I had to like f_ckeeng run and knock like three little kids out of the way, and I caught it before it hit the ground an' sh_t! This sh_t's brand new! Ha ha!"

This Wally Gator look-alike is praying you'll take his fun kiddy coaster for a spin, and also that
Hanna-Barbera's attorneys don't aggressively protect forgotten characters from 1962. Staff photo.
All the thrills & chills of the rides and games can build up quite an appetite in busy fair-goers; luckily the carnival was prepared. Soft drinks and snacks were available for purchase and heartier fare - hamburgers, frankfurters and the like - were grilled up to order for those who didn't want to miss a minute of the fun by heading to nearby restaurants.

"Yeah, I've been doing, like, nothing in sales these last coupla days," says Pavel Zagar, who usually enjoys a bustling weekend business selling his wares from a pushcart in and around Lanark Park. "My stuff's cheaper, I make the sausage myself, and it's ready to go, shee-_t. You don't wait ten minutes for your food with me. But I have to stay on the sidewalk and I gotta try to reach people before they get to any of their concessions.  My throat is sore from trying to yell over the sound system from the damn Zip Swings. GRILLED SAUSAGE, GET YOUR GRILLED SAUSAGE HEEEEE-YA!  Shee-_t. And if I have to listen that damn Jason Derulo song one more time...!"

The colorful and dizzying Crazy Crane Fly has always been one of the
most popular attractions when the carnival comes to town. Staff photo.
A young lady with a desperate look on her face strides over from the midway and hurriedly approaches the 38-year old Reseda resident while holding a melting ice cream cone in one hand and a hot dog dripping mustard in the other as the opening notes from "Talk Dirty To Me" again start blasting from the speakers around a nearby ride.

"Oh, I hope to Christ you're not coming to me looking for napkins, lady!" Zagar shouts loudly, perhaps overcompensating for the volume of the song, the brassy chorus of which hadn't yet kicked in to drown him out. The woman stops in her tracks and turns around without a word.

And the excitement didn't end when the sun set, either: Fun and games went on into the night, with the carnival and its myriad of lights taking on an even more festive atmosphere after dark. Somehow, the cheers and laughter seemed even more boisterous at nighttime as the joyful clatter cut through the unseasonably chilly April air.
Bright, gay lights, such as those on the Ferris wheel, were
a beacon for fun as night came to the carnival. Staff photo.

"Jesus H. Christ, I wish I had known this was going to be happening this weekend," says Cohasset Street resident Dominik Mendes, whose daughter, Tiana, was to celebrate her sixth birthday with friends and relatives in an area he'd cordoned off with streamers at the north end of the park, "I spent two hundred dollars renting this bounce house and another hundred and fifty on food, and everyone just wandered off down there. It's not even worth setting up the grill for two people." He gestures, indicating his sole remaining guest: an elderly man, the birthday girl's great uncle, who sits alone in a wheelchair among fifty or so empty folding chairs. "Isn't there usually some guy selling grilled sausage around here?"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014: Local Artists Answer The Call For Funding LA River Revitalization

by Ingomar Schoenborn, Quilt staff


Celebrated in film, television, and perhaps most famously, song, the Los Angeles River has long been an integral part of the culture of the flavor of the lifestyle of Los Angeles culture. 

“You can’t separate Los Angeles from its river,” Mark Twain famously once said, “But you can build a bunch of chain link fences around it and do your darndest to choke it out with concrete.”  And Twain knew - he spent two frustrating years on it, piloting a riverboat up and down an 8’ wide channel between Vineland and Tujunga.

The glorious LA River as seen from the Owensmouth Bridge. Staff photo.
Some say the river herself is as much a born-and-bred LA celebrity inextricably linked with our great city as, say, beloved stars Mel Gibson or Justin Bieber; a sprawling, hallowed landmark that traces a jagged path across the cityscape like the spiderwebbing varicose veins on the bestubbled thigh of an enormous, unpleasant woman suffering from diabetes and a litany of other health issues as she stands in front of you in line, opening, eating and quickly discarding the wrappers of discounted Easter candy at Dollar Tree while arguing with someone named Frankie on her Nokia Lumia 1520 and fishing her EBT card out of her purse to pay for a three-liter bottle of Shasta tiki soda. 

But unlike the legs of a dollar store shopper, damage to the LA River is somewhat reversible and local government is now forging inroads towards making the waterway less of an eyesore. 

 What better place for a revitalization of the LA River than at its official start, right here in Canoga Park?  And who better to get that revitalization underway than the LA River Revitalization Corporation, Friends of the LA River, the LA Department of Water & Power, the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, the City of Los Angeles, the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority, the US Army Corps of Engineers, The Dr. Morris & Mimi Detzer Foundation, Los Angeles County Flood Control District, the California Coastal Commission, and viewers like you?

And when better to celebrate it than today, Earth Day?

What’s more, the project is already well underway. Those heading north on Owensmouth right before Bassett, in the tight knit Bassmouth neighborhood, may have recently noticed something different just as they cross the LA River bridge (if they’re not too busy aggressively jockeying for position as one of two northbound traffic lanes disappear):  Where there once were difficult-to-scale, pants-tearing fences posted with “Public Access Prohibited” and “No Trespassing” signs now stand handsome stone-studded gateways welcoming the public to bike, jog, and leisurely avoid dog doo along the newly opened and partially landscaped river-adjacent thoroughfare.

Perhaps awaiting an unveiling ceremony, signage along the recently opened ex-
panse of greenway remains covered, but the public is welcome to stroll along the
LA River's breathtaking and scenic headwaters here in Canoga Park. Staff photo.

Bundles of PVC pipe strewn alongside the river's north pathway indicate landscaping continues, and what is now a dry, arid, dusty brown walkway will likely soon be transformed into a lush tropical forest, not unlike numerous images seen in river revitalization proposals used to sell the project. Can abundant wildlife - macaws, tapirs, perhaps a jaguar or two - be far behind, making the ecosystem complete?

Hardy plants such as this Queen Anne's Lace
were chosen because they don't require much
water or to even be planted properly. Staff photo.
Such an ambitious undertaking is certainly not without its costs, and thankfully, Canoga Park’s elite have answered the call. Artists from the area have sponsored various sections of the newly-installed retaining wall in advance of its official opening, making our section of  the river definitively Canoga Parkesque.

Local artist 'Dmak' shows his love for the community by
sponsoring this section of the new Greenway. Staff photo.

At least half a dozen art installations complement the brand new retaining walls along our newest public promenade - and sources expect there's more to come. "We really owe it to our wonderful local artists who gave of their time, talent, and spray paint to help make the Greenway a little less brown," says head of the Canoga Park Friendly Neighborhood Council's neighborhood beautification committee Donald Culross. "We anticipate most of the drab, pristine brickwork will be covered with similar artwork within six - eh, two months."

This ambitious - and as yet unfinished - masterpiece flocks
a section of the south side of the walkway. Staff photo.
A map and guide to the individual pieces will eventually be available in downloadable PDF format on many of the river revitalization partners' websites as well as on the LAPD's gang identification page. "But you'll want to come back and revisit the Greenway often," Culross advises. "New pieces will be added on an ongoing basis, in many cases replacing some of the older ones. Art is not static."

Despite the title "F_ck What You! Say! It's My Art," by an unidentified local artist,
works like this can be appreciated by the entire community - indeed, art is for all. Staff photo.
A marvelous celebration melding local culture, reclaiming underused outdoor spaces, and promoting a "greener" way of living, the new walkway, flocked by its progressive and in some cases, provocative art is a wonderful "Earth Day present" from the city with a riverful of civic pride, Canoga Park!

Correction: Mark Twain died in 1910, twenty-eight years before the concrete encasement, or concresement, of the L.A. River. We regret the error.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Salvation Army Receives Large Donation of Chicken Knick-Knacks

By Charlotte Rudnick, Quilt staff


The Easter Bunny came early to local business leader Salvation Army Family Store near the corner of Roscoe and Canoga in the bustling Rosconoga neighborhood.

“Yeah, someone gave us a lot of ...uh... chicken things,” reports Donation Intake Coordinator Trenice Campbell. “They’re being priced and are going on the shelves as room is available. This is an employees-only area, ma’am, I need you to go back out to the main floor.”

Canoga Park's Salvation Army Family Store, purveyor of porcelain poultry,
thanks to a recent generous donation.  Photo: Parker Glassport for the Quilt.
Those with a penchant for poultry or a fetish for fowl are advised to get there soon as soon as possible to get their pick of the litter flock as these chickens that have come home to roost are now flying off the shelves.

These handsome rooster coffee mugs are $1.95 each. Just the two on the
shelf are available now, but maybe there's more in the back. Staff photo.
“Actually, a lot of it’s been there for a few weeks now, ma’am. Donation came in at the beginning of April,” Campbell mentions. “I’m going to need you to step back, please. Sales floor is out there, ma’am.”

Chickens and roosters and hens, oh my! But what about eggs and baby chicks - items perhaps associated a bit more closely with Easter?

Just a few of the hundreds of wonderful chicken items available right now
at Salvation Army's Canoga Park retail location on Roscoe.  Staff photos.
“Ma’am, we received a large donation, a lot of boxes, we don’t know what’s all in them, so far it’s only been chickens; like I said, we’re opening them up as we get more room on the shelves. Now I’m going to need you to exit this area--”

So where exactly did this cornucopia of cluckers come from? 

Mystery solved!  Staff photo.
“Now ma'am, I can't tell you that. I can't discuss that information with you. That’s information of a confidential nature between the Salvation Army and the people who give to--”

A clipboard of donor receipts  on a nearby stack of cardboard boxes provides the answer.

“Ma’am, that’s not--  You can’t--  Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to give that back.”

* * *

Gwendolyn Lundquist of Granada Hills remembers the first chicken item she ever got. 

“Yes, it was a tin recipe box. It had roosters on it. Someone gave it to me as a housewarming gift when Ed and I moved here in 1962. I must have said I liked it - I mean, it's a gift, what are you going to say? - and then suddenly after that, everyone’s giving me things with chickens on it.

“I actually did like that box, and I used it for years. It matched the color scheme we had back then in the kitchen. But I was never a fan of chickens. They sort of give me the creeps, and I don’t even like the taste of chicken, really, unless it's in a casserole, or chicken salad. But somehow, everyone I know got it into their heads that I collect these things, and every blessed birthday and Christmas and gift-giving event since then, everyone’s giving me chickens.”

Another small sampling of the breathtaking collection. Staff photos.
Such an extensive collection then begs the question: Does each figurine, each decorative plate and tile trivet, each butter dish and salt & pepper shaker set hold a cherished memory for her, of who gave it to her, when, and for what occasion? 

"Nope. After about the tenth identical cookie jar, it's all a blur."

December, 1983: The employee Christmas party in Topanga Plaza's May Co.
store, where Lundquist worked part-time. "I probably got ten of those ridicu-
lous t-shirts that year. Oh, I never wore any of them. They went into a drawer.
Years later, I gave them to Ed to wash the car. " Photo: Gwendolyn Lundquist.

And that first special item that started her treasured collection? 

“My niece Sarah really wanted it so I just gave it to her last year, after she bugged me about it forever. She collected recipe boxes at the time, so I finally let her take it. Then two months later she tells me she decided to just collect pictures of recipe boxes on some internet website, which I don’t even understand. She sold all of the ones she had on eBay, and I would have loved to have mine back. Frankly, that really kind of pissed me off.”

The Box That Launched A Lifelong Obsession: Gwendolyn Lundquist's original
recipe box, by Style-Craft, now resides in a private collection.  Photo: Pinterest
Last year husband Ed passed away and Gwendolyn decided it was time to move. 

“The house is too big for me. I’m moving to a little condo in Thousand Oaks. And I’m finally getting rid of the chickens, all of them, thank God. I’m officially done with it. No more chickens. Period. I still have about twenty-five cartons of this stuff - there wasn't enough room on the truck the first time they came. You said something about the Salvation Army - are you here to pick up the rest of these? Can you at least take a few boxes? You don't even need to bring them there, I don't care. There’s a Dumpster behind Von’s down the street...”

A pair of amorous chickens enjoy a passionate
embrace while a lonely ceramic mermaid won-
ders if she, too, will ever find love. Staff photo.
We left Gwendolyn as she wandered sentimentally among her two dozen boxes of precious memories. Thinking of all those who'd given her so much joy. Through chickens. Remembering the good times that each spoon rest, each scouring pad holder represented. 

* * *

Back at the Salvation Army, there was definitely some lively interest in the amazing collection.

“F_ckeeng look at all this sh_t, man. It’s all f_ckeeng chickens an’ sh_t," exclaims an enthusiastic young man as he tenderly picks up a colorful ceramic bird from the shelf and carefully turns it over in his hands. "Holy sh_t, this one looks like f_ckeeng Heisenberg, my f_ckeeng rooster an’ sh_t.

“F_ckeeng three ninety-five. Naw, man, this ain’t three ninety-five, ha ha!” he laughs as he picks at the price tag with his finger, not unlike a chicken scratching at the ground with its foot. “Aaah, f_ck it, ha ha,” he laughs, as he quickly pulls up his shirt and shoves the rooster into the waistband of his underpants before making a beeline for the door, no doubt heading out to his car to retrieve his forgotten wallet so that he might purchase his newfound treasure.

Meanwhile, a blonde woman in her late 20s glances in the direction of the bric-a-brac shelves and her eyes go wide. 

“Oh my God, Brian, come here!” she says to her companion, a thin young man with a full, bushy beard that would make Fidel Castro green with envy.  “Look at all this chicken stuff! Oh my God - Aunt Gwen’s condo-warming party in Thousand Oaks next Sunday! We have to get her all of this stuff! She is just going to freak!”

And while the young lady’s purchases briefly left some empty spaces on the thrift store’s shelves, there’s still coopfuls of chicken memorabilia available for the plucking: Trenice Campbell reports there’s plenty more for chicken-loving collectors in Canoga Park.

An unopened cheese plate, a ceramic rooster (sold!) and other henabilia are among the
many wonderful items you'll find at our local Salvation Army thrift store. Staff photos.
“I’ve got a truck picking up another 25 boxes of this stuff. I don’t know where I’m going to put it all. We're going to have to start stacking it outside.

"And I’m not going to tell you again, ma’am, you can’t be back here. I will call Security.”

Salvation Army Family Store is located at 21375 Roscoe Boulevard. Open Monday through Saturday 9 am to 8 pm.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Canoga Park/West Hills Chamber of Commerce Breakfast A "Delicious" Success!

By Blythe Moorcraft, Quilt Staff


A breakfast sponsored by the Canoga Park / West Hills Chamber of Commerce at Fallbrook Center's Hometown Buffet was a rousing success, according to attendee Marty Silva, of Silva & Sons Auto Repair on Roscoe.

A good time was had by all at Hometown Buffet in West Hills. Staff photo.
"We all had a really good time. I was hoping for, whaddayacall, uh...mimosas! I mean, this is fancy-schmancy West Hills, after all! But they didn't have none. It's probably just as well because I can never stop at four and I have a brake job to do later this morning anyway," the proud member ("Joined up in '87!") reported.

The well-attended event was open to Chamber of Commerce members and their guests, and featured a welcoming introduction to new members; it also included an appearance by Councilman Mitch Englander, who represents a district other than Canoga Park.

Breakfast - and fellowship - was on the agenda for this morning's Canoga
Park/West Hills Chamber of Commerce get-together. Photo: Marty Silva.
There was fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, donuts, an omelette station, and for those watching their figures, cottage cheese. Small individual packets of jelly and jam were conveniently placed atop each of the tables in receptacles and, with the use of a knife, these delights proved to be easily spread on the furnished toast and bagels. Coffee - both regular and decaf - was gladly supplied, as well as hot water and tea bags, for those who wanted tea. Milk and orange juice were offered as well.

The atmosphere was convivial and lighthearted for most of the get-together, and when things threatened to take a darker turn, such as when an unidentified business owner loudly and pointedly asked why the Chamber of Commerce for West Hills is shared with and located in Canoga Park, others quickly changed the subject.
Gretchen Biery, West Hills business owner,
in her shop. Photo: Gretchen Biery

"No one wanted a replay of Nibblers," said forty-two year Chamber of Commerce member Gretchen Biery, who owns West Hills' high-end dress shop "Boutique a la Biery" in Platt Village Shopping Center.

She's referring to the last time the Chamber held a breakfast at Fallbrook Square (as it was then known), back in 1974 at the Nibblers restaurant (since closed) - that ended in a fracas  responsible for some forty-eight dollars in dry cleaning bills.

"I remember it like it was yesterday: West Hills business owners on the right side of the restaurant, and, um, you people from Canoga Park on the left. It was tense. And when someone - someone on the left, as I recall - threw that first waffle...! That's what set it off. My friend Joan ended up with syrup in her hair. I'll never forget that."

But, she concedes, "it was a different time then. I think we've come a long way. Canoga Park, West Hills, we're all the same. There's no reason we can't get along. This was wonderful this morning.

"By the way, are you folks dealing with some sort of shortage of Sweet 'N Low over there? I'm just wondering because I noticed that mousy woman who runs that sad little print shop on DeSoto put like ten packets in her purse."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's With That Big Pile Of Sand, Asks Nosy Canoga Parker

Congratulations to Jennifer R. of Baltar Street for her winning "Name Our New Feature" contest entry. She and her husband will be enjoying dinner for two on us at an exclusive Canoga Park restaurant. I'm thinkin' Arby's!

On with our inaugural column!

Canoga Please! What's the deal with that mound of sand at the southeast corner of Vassar and Valerio? --Russell B., Cohasset Street

We presumed this must be a recent development because this was news to us. So we sent a team of Canoga Park Quilt investigative reporters out to the corner of Vassar and Valerio, in the tight-knit Vassalerio neighborhood, to see exactly what Russell was referring to:

Staff photo.
Our first thought: Since it was literally across the street from Canoga Park Elementary's Early Education Center, that perhaps due to LAUSD overcrowding, a new sandbox for the so-called undergifted children was to be installed here on the corner, in a well-intentioned but arguably misguided attempt to keep the less intellectual (but just as adorable!) small fry isolated and far away from any students showing potential. We reached out to Canoga Park Elementary staffer and friend of the Quilt Judy Maxwell who denied it had anything to do with the school.

The Vassar/Valerio Sandmound. Despite its proximity to Canoga Park Elemen-
tary, the school insists it is not affiliated with the large pile of sand. Staff photo.
Racking our brains, we came upon another possibility.  Sure, children like to play in sand - but not as much as cats like to crap in it. It seemed possible that the West Valley Animal Care Center, finding itself with an enormous surplus of funds, decided to help keep the area's feral cat population down by depositing sand treated with an expensive sterilization agent, developed in the West Valley Animal Care Center Laboratories ("We Don't Test On Animals, We Test For Animals!"), at various spots around the Canoga Park area. 
File photo.
We reached out to West Valley Animal Care Center's Chancellor of Feral Cats Shelly Blaine with our thoughts who replied it was "perhaps the stupidest thing [she'd] ever heard," that no such budget surplus exists nor has anyone invented any sort of cat-sterilizing chemical to spray on sand "and I don't know where you came up with this lab nonsense."

She also mentioned she'll be speaking to the LA City Council next week on an unrelated matter and "maybe I'll bring this Chemical Neuter Sand idea of yours up. Seems like the kind of thing they'd vote for. Hell, we could use the money."

Good for her, of course - but all this talk of feral cats was bringing us no closer to solving our mystery, and making us hungry. No time to eat - back to work!

Huge mound of sand, huge mound of sand, hmm...  Of course! Irradiated ants. We reached out to our research department back at Quilt headquarters and they looked into them, and by them, we of course mean the 1954 cult classic, "Them!" 
Joan Weldon and James Whitmore face off against a giant ant in a heart-
warming scene from the coming-of-age film "Them!" Photo: Warner Bros.
Our suspicions seemed to be panning out: a quick IMDb search revealed that star Edmund Gwenn had in fact died in nearby Woodland Hills a mere fifty-four years before, officially from "pneumonia and complications from a stroke," but likely from giant ant-inflicted injuries. Is it possible that over the last half-century these monster ants have tunneled east, beneath Topanga, only to surface here and terrorize Canoga Parkians?

We reached out to Pierce College Winnetka professor of myrmecology Dr. Morris Detzer who unfortunately squashed, like a bug, what we considered a most promising hypothesis.
Dr. Morris Detzer.  Photo: Mimi Detzer

"Nope, the largest ants on earth today are only about three centimeters long. And fossils records indicate that even prehistoric ants didn't get much bigger than two and a quarter inches long. 

"As for that sand, well, I suppose a colony of Allegheny mound ants could build something that size, but you're not going to find them here. Ha! - a colony of Allegheny mound ants in Southern California! You find a colony of Allegheny mound ants out here, then you call me," laughs Detzer. "Then you've got a story!" 

One particularly interesting theory came from a nearby resident who happened to be walking down the street. We reached out to him and asked his opinion. "Canoga Park First-Wednesday-of-the-Month Women's Club - there's your culprit," nodded Téodor Pasternak definitively. "My guess is there was one of those old, concrete light posts here, and the intense vibrations of the pounding music pouring out of the club's back doors during this past Saturday night's weekly blowout caused it to disintegrate back into the individual grains of sand and pebbles it was made from." 
Good times had by all - who attended, anyway! - at the Canoga Park First-
Wednesday-of-the-Month Woman's Club's Weekly Shindig. Staff photo.
Sounded reasonable to us - after all, the Canoga Park First-Wednesday-of-the-Month Women's Club is as well know for its marvelous inability to police its own premises during raucous events as it is for the magnificent work it's done for the community throughout the years. So we reached out to LA Department of Public Works - Bureau of Street Lights, Old Concrete Light Posts Division, to confirm that the thundering noise from the clubhouse could have reduced a nearby light pole to dust. 

We spoke with department head Al Sousa who at first confirmed our suspicions: "Women's Club?  Party? Ludicrously oversized sound system? Tiny, uninsulated venue? Back doors open? Absolutely it could have done it. However..."  

And with that 'however' we knew we were back to square one: Al then pointed out there was already an aluminum light pole on that corner and the only part of Canoga Park that ever had concrete light posts was the fancy section, "you know, up there by ooh-la-la Rodax Street," he said. 
Pasternak Theory Debunked:
The aluminum light post. Staff photo.
Yet another dead end.  Or was it?

Sousa said our inquiry gave him the perfect excuse to drive out to the West Valley, maybe grab some lunch ("Everyone knows, you want a good feral cat street taco, you go to Canoga Park. Hell, that's one of my favorite Huell Howser episodes," he later told us.) and check out the mound in person. After a hearty meal on Lanark Park's fashionable east side (in the bleachers), we headed back to Valerio and Vassar, where Al studied the strange phenomenon at length and finally announced that in his professional opinion, the sand was "probably just dumped by some asshole who wanted to get rid of it."

But, as Huell himself would say, our story does not end here! No sir, not by a long shot!

A dramatic shot of the Canoga Park Sand Monolith,
affectionately nicknamed "Moundy" by locals. Wal-
greens has begun selling t-shirts bearing an image of
the sand pile for $5.99 each / 2 for $10. Staff photo.
While contemplating the sand, he noticed something fascinating at this four-way-stop intersection: The cars heading south on Vassar as well as those crossing Valerio blew through the stop signs as usual (one nearly clipping Pasternak - who was determined to write an angry letter to someone about the experience).

However, cars driving north on Vassar slowed down considerably - some very nearly stopping! - as they approached the mound of sand, briefly prying their eyes off their smartphones to stare curiously at it.

Sousa put in a few calls and excitedly described his findings to colleagues in the Los Angeles Department of Traffic. While he's unable to comment publicly, the unofficial word from the an unnamed source (!) in Public Works is that we just might be seeing mysterious mounds of sand alongside many more largely ignored stop signs in the near future.
--Burton Cantara

Do you have a question about Canoga Park? Email it to us at and it may be answered here. Questions may be edited for brevity or to accommodate photos we've been looking for an excuse to run. Sorry, due to the volume of mail we receive, we cannot respond to every inquiry.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Free Curbside Dial-Up Internet Access Coming to Canoga Park

By Charlotte Rudnick, Quilt staff.


While Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield makes the case for wireless internet citywide, here in his own district, the Canoga Park Friendly Neighborhood Council (CPFNC) continues to move forward on its promise to deliver free curbside dial-up internet access to every resident within Canoga Park city limits. 
Residents throughout Canoga Park have begun noticing the appearance
of free dial-up internet access terminals along city streets. Staff photo.

Work has already begun on the Canoga Park Dial-
Up Initiative along Valerio Street. Staff photo.
“We’re very lucky to have Councilman Blumenfield representing us,” explains CPFNC 'Technology Tsar' Devang (“Dev”) Noorvash, “but we’re operating completely independently of Bob’s office on this particular project.” 

Local municipal government insiders are reporting unanimous Friendly Neighborhood Council support and enthusiasm for the ambitious plan, but note some dissension among the ranks as to its impact and aim.

“There are a few who are saying free internet access for the entire city of LA is a pie-in-the-sky idea that will never happen, so we should at least take care of our own here in the West Valley,” said one anonymous source inside Canoga Park Community Center.

Conversely, another tipster says that a few on the CPFNC feel that by implementing the program locally, they'd be showing the rest of the city just how feasible such an initiative can be, with Canoga Park leading the charge toward a bright new era in 21st century community-based connectivity and communication.

A Series of Tubes: The World Wide Web will be carried be-
neath Canoga Park's streets through these pipes. Staff photo. 
Work began last week on Valerio Street at DeSoto, Canoga Park’s easternmost border, where the road was torn up in order to lay a dedicated line through which the World Wide Web will be delivered. Residents of the tight-knit ValeriSoto neighborhood will be among the first in our area to be able to “surf the Web” (access the Internet) for free via any of the thousands of television monitors - which many Canoga locals are beginning to see installed on the sidewalk or, in the cases of streets with no sidewalk, on the dirt or dead grass by the edge of the street - in front of every residence or place of business.
Web-TV box, keyboard & accessories: What you'll need to
access Canoga Park's free Internet. Photo: Wikipedia.

Residents will be required to furnish their own interface to connect to the TVs if they want to access the Information Superhighway.

Not sure what you’ll need or how to get it? No need to worry - the Neighborhood Council has partnered with a large waste management and salvage firm that can provide up to tens of thousands of Web-TV boxes, keyboards and cables.

“We put in a bid for just a few thousand units, and luckily it was accepted. It’s a good thing I called when I did - they were about to be buried in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico,” explains CPFNC Treasurer Erica Bauerle.

Canoga Park' first free internet access point was installed in front
of an apartment building at 21171 Valerio Street. Staff photo.
The cost of the initial order was easily absorbed by a surplus in the town’s coffers, thanks to robust ticket sales from last year’s always popular Amateur Night at the Madrid event - with enough left over to help subsidize the cost of the units to Canoga Park residents of virtually every economic circumstance who hope to purchase one.    

“Certainly, those who live in Canoga Park are welcome to purchase hardware on their own, if they like. Goodwill’s a great place to start, or eBay, or yard sales or even trash bins in communities where there are a lot of elderly people,” notes Bauerle.

And of course, if you already own a Web-TV box and keyboard, you can use that. “If you like your hardware, you can keep your hardware,” she explains.
A limited number of internet access portals will feature municipal storage
units, to be used to house shared cables and wires, or in case users might
need clean underpants or maybe a fresh pair of socks. Photo: Dev Noorvash
A preliminary test of the system suffered a few minor glitches. “Once they installed the first three blocks of cable, from DeSoto to Variel, we tried getting on the Neighborhood Council website at an access point at the end of the line. But it was taking too long - it wouldn’t open. Then we tried something a little less graphics-heavy - the Google search page and - voila!” Noorvash smiles. “After only four or five minutes, the page loaded successfully. But then someone - we’ve narrowed it down to a residence on Loma Verde or Independence - picked up their phone to order a pizza and we got knocked off.”

Another of the recently installed units. Staff photo.
But the genial Noorvash reports that a representative from Geek Squad is “working ‘round the clock” on these technical issues and despite the minor setbacks, Noorvash expects the system to be completely operational across all of Canoga Park within the next twelve to sixteen months. 

And once it’s up and running, it’ll certainly be a win-win for members of our community who want to “stay connected” in today’s fast-paced world.  

Soon everyone in Canoga Park - not just those with “Smart-Phones” - can stare at screens, check emails, compose and send tweets (“Twitter” messages), share cute possum photos on their Face-Books and watch the latest You Tube video, all while wandering down the street. 

As Dev himself wrote so prophetically to the Quilt in a test email message he sent on Tuesday from a Valerio Street access point (that arrived quick-as-you-please this morning): “The future is here in Canoga Park.”