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12/7/07: Trips to Stella Adler and La Opinión
The eager young art patrons in the shot below await the opening curtain of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood. To save you the trouble of squinting and pointing at every child in this photo (and leaving those telltale peanut butter and jelly prints on the monitor): there are eighty-one jersey clad kids in the theatre, on hand for the November 28 performance.
The good samaritans at the Stella Adler announced a month’s worth of Monday and Wednesday morning Christmas Carol matinees, beginning on November 12. Teachers don’t always snap up booking opportunities, but they positively gang-tackled this one: twelve teachers grabbed spots for four separate performances within days of receiving the announcement. We herded such large groups of kids on the Red Line that several LASD security assistants pitched in to lend a hand.
Four groups and fifty-eight kids traveled with TransitPeople to the 2003 Earth Day at the Aquarium, but last month’s Christmas Carol turnout was by far the largest in our history for a single program offering. Thank you, Stella Adler and LASD staff, for helping to set a record.
According to their online media kit, Los Angeles' Spanish language newspaper La Opinión reaches a half million readers daily ... just, uh, barely nosing out the page views here at TransitPeople. On November 21, we visited for our first ever newspaper tour. Laura Barrera, at left below, introduced us to editor in chief Pedro Rojas, several reporters, a page layout designer, a graphics professional and staff in the advertising department.
A big tip of the transit pass to ace photographer J. Emilio Flores, who helped make this booking possible.
(An L.A. Times tour? They’re available, they’re free, they’re transit accessible – but ya gotta be a Big Kid, at least ten years, which rules out many of the smaller fry we travel with. One of these days, perhaps with a fifth grade class ... )
In case anyone hasn't noticed, we’ve chaperoned an all time record 4,100+ kids already this year, with a half dozen trips left to go in 2007, and thus are especially grateful that a few of Santa’s helpers visited us early this year to help pay for our travels: thank you, thank you, Lluella Morey Murphey Foundation, Good Works Foundation and Pergo Foundation, for your generous grant contributions. Please feel free, web site visitors, to spread the good word among any other Santa's helpers you might know, or potential Santa's helpers.
(Or Thanksgiving, Halloween and Independence Day helpers, for that matter. In fact, according to the Earth Calendar, today is officially Felix Houphouet-Boigny Remembrance Day on the Ivory Coast. Felix Houphouet-Boigny Remembrance Day helpers, do you feel like pitching in? TransitPeople won't turn you away.)
The wet, drippy stuff on the window? Easterners call it r, digraph ai, n. Rain. That's why you haven't seen us at the Observatory yet. A couple of trips cancelled.
Look for us there in January. Real Soon Now. Before you know it.
11/25/07: Observatory transit access
The shuttles run weekends only now, and a bit less frequently than in the good ol' days of the 203 line, but at least now we can visit without bringing our pedometers: yesterday LADOT restored public transit service to the Griffith Observatory.
This LADOT news link tells the tale. The first bus departs the northeast corner of Sunset and Vermont at 10:00, and swings in front of the Astronomers Monument sixteen minutes later. Subsequent buses leave at 10:35, 11:10, 11:45, and every thirty-five minutes thereafter, until a long-after-TransitPeople's-bedtime final bus at 9:40 at night.
How much? A whopping 25¢ each way, 65¢ cheaper than the fare on the #203.
The shuttles are practically empty. The service debuted yesterday, with little fanfare; hardly anyone knows they exist. Observatory staff surveyed informally today reported only a handful of boardings on southbound buses. Ridership is bound to swell as stargazing transit riders get the good word -- so if you want to book this trip for an astronomy lesson, now's the time.
Special thanks to Councilmember Wendy Greuel and staff, for graciously fielding questions about transit service to the Observatory.
11/5/07: 40+ classes lined up for November
Some dates may cancel, some may be rained out, but if we board trains and buses with the classes now booked for November trips, we'll travel with more elementary schoolers this month than in all of the year 2000, and twice as many as in all of 1999.
Of course, that's a big if. Feel free to keep a skeptical eye on the stats pages, if you'd like to see how well this prediction pans out.
(For those new to TransitPeople and considering a first-ever outing: December might be an easier month to get a trip on the calendar.)
The amiable young wordsmith in the Casablanca overcoat is none other than Siel, environmental blogger for the Emerald City guide to green living on the L.A. Times web site. On October 27, she journeyed to Long Beach to meet our troops at the aquarium. Click here for the story.
This screen is gratified to see that one comment writer logged a long-overdue public credit to trip leader Perias Pillay, who has chaperoned TransitPeople groups nearly every Friday for over four years. Perias knows city transit well; he's used public transit here daily for over twenty years.
10/17/07: November/December Trip Ideas
(1) Summer has gone, Halloween and Dia de los Muertos draw nigh, and, like clockwork, another issue of the TransitPeople special events weekend trip ideas list appears on this web site, this time for November - December. No human intervention was involved here. It fell from a tree like a maple leaf and was carefully pressed into the sub-directory linked above, with minimal bruising of the outer shell.
(2) Why three bookings in the last month for the Watts Towers Art Center? (Or so you may have wondered, if you love nothing more than curling up by the fire with the scintillating prose found on our trip stats pages.)
Here's why: it's an excellent complement to the third grade Imagination unit in the Open Court reading series, a staple in the L.A. Unified school district. Obliging Watts Towers staff often can set up our visiting groups with tours, video presentations, and, when we're lucky, mini art workshops.
(Although this destination is as one-of-a-kind as destinations get, Towers' builder Simon Rodia may have shared a few critical genes with a certain homeowner in Sao Paulo; see today's BBC News online.).
10/14/07: Destinations Update Redux
Good news item #1: Thanks to a much-appreciated helping hand from the LACMA docent council, TransitPeople can start booking teacher-guided LACMA visits with considerably less lead time than in years past.
Teacher guided means your visit won't include a friendly LACMA guide who knows the exhibits inside out and can introduce third graders to Impressionism. That would be a docent guided visit, and docent guided visits will require plenty of lead time to set up. (We haven't had one yet, but have hopes for the future.)
But the first, second and third priority of most teachers requesting this trip has been to Just Come, to be permitted inside to see the ancient Egyptian mummy, the Greek sculpture, the Picassos and Rembrandts and so on (but not the Ed Kienholz). From here on in, thanks to the docent council, that should be easier.
Good news item #2: The obviously pleased young naturalists in the shot above are shown with insects ensnared during the Creepy Crawler activity, part of last Friday's City Wildlife program at Debs Audubon Center. We can start booking trips here again -- hooray hooray! -- although teachers interested in visiting Debs still should allow plenty of lead time.
The problem: only a few staff are on hand to teach and do most everything else at Debs. If you've booked this trip, you know how good it is -- and, for better and worse, many other Los Angeles teachers know it, too.
If you're patient, though, we should be able to get you in.
10/10/07: Destinations Update
A few hastily-penned updates re destinations visited often, destinations visited not often enough, and, first on the list below, one especially promising destination not yet visited at all:
Griffith Observatory: For understandable reasons, teachers all over L.A. have e-mailed and called about this one. Often.
The observatory re-opened in November, 2006, to huge crowds and a special, timed shuttle ferrying stargazers here from the Hollywood-Highland subway station and the zoo parking lot in Griffith Park. The Hollywood-Highland shuttle closed, leaving only the current shuttle from the zoo -- a difficult place for any transit rider to begin a trip, as getting to the zoo aboard the #96 is a significant journey in its own right.
Soon the shuttle-from-the-zoo will close as well, which begs the question: how will the Los Angeles transitophile visit the observatory in the future?
Here's the latest: next week, representatives of the Department of Recreation and Parks, LADOT and councilmember LaBonge's office are scheduled to meet to discuss future transit access to the observatory. You read it here first. (If you can get the really big scoops from TransitPeople, why bother with newspapers?)
LADOT, as veteran straphangers here may recall, once offered an every-twenty-five-minutes-or-so ride to the observatory and Greek Theatre via the Community Connection #203 line. The #203 morphed into the current Los Feliz DASH line when the observatory closed.
(A special tip of the transit pass to Mark Panitz, Hank Fung, and Kymberleigh Richards of SoCaTa for sharing transit knowledge on this one.)
If full #203 service is restored, we'll probably be stargazing from the hills before you know it. If it isn't restored, or if only irregular transit access is provided, we still can start booking trips here, but we'll have to come much of the way ...
(Cue drum roll.)
Yes, you read correctly. Figure a one hour hike, one solid hour uphill from the Hollywood-Western subway station. It can be done, although not with the little ones and not in hot weather. But it's possible.
LACMA: It's a fantastic destination, right next to a #720 stop, with a just-for-kids gallery of its own -- but if you'd like to visit, please allow four to six weeks of lead time. We can't book this one rapidamente, as we do for other venues.
Click this link and you'll see why. They need a reservation request sent by postal mail, followed by a faxed confirmation letter, for a teacher-guided visit.
Please do sign up ... but please, allow four to six weeks before the date of your trip.
Debs Audubon Center: Positive word-of-mouth has made this a popular destination for their tailored-for-third-grade City Wildlife class. Alas, Debs is now undergoing renovation, and has limited their schedule of class bookings.
We were lucky to nab one City Wildlife class slot in October, but for now, that's all we can get. Stay tuned. Several teachers are waiting in the wings to sign up.
Aquarium of the Pacific: This is the ideal time of year to book an Aquarium trip. A teacher who volunteers at the Aquarium once said that he takes his own classes here in October or November.
You'll contend with many other school groups if you put off your trip until March or afterward, but if you sign up now, you may have some parts of the Aquarium to yourself. (Almost.)
Natural History Museum The Discovery Center and Insect Zoo are open again! Hooray! Sign up and see for yourself.
9/10/07: Ahmanson 2006 Annual Report
Click here, if you're the type who needs proof. Scroll down to pages 38 and 39.
See? Recognize the kids and the jerseys and the zoomy train? Did you really think an upstanding URL like this one would make something like that up?
Fifty-five years young, the Ahmanson Foundation is merely one of the largest and most important private foundations in California. Selection as a Grant in Focus in their annual report is an important honor for us, and richly merits publicity.
The guy you see on the #40 every morning, who looks friendly but always makes the driver snarl because he takes too long to get his bicycle out of the rack? Tell him. Call the mayor, call your gestalt therapist, call NORAD high command. Go to a seance and call Merv Griffin. All these folks secretly crave to know this news, but haven't yet felt the craving consciously. They need your help.
TransitPeople. Capital T, small r, small a, a big P in the middle, all one word. Officially a Grant in Focus in the 2006 Ahmanson Foundation annual report. Pages 38 - 40, where you won't find the Red Cross, Goodwill or other small timers.
8/25/07: September/October Trip Ideas
If you're ready to brave the boulevards with your class of '07-'08, consider one of the outings listed in the September/October special event weekend trip ideas list, linked here.
Included offerings: Three, count 'em, three Central Library matinees, two aquarium shindigs, the first two shows of the season's World City Music Center line-up, the Grand Avenue festival, Kids' Day L.A., a JANM drum circle, two family days at the Pio Pico state park, two Norton Simon family days, and a bunch of keen-o sounding festivals that have been listed before and that no one ever signs up for.
Your class, your weekend, your curricular plans, your choice. E-mail, call, fax, holler, or send a hearty telepathic entreaty to TransitPeople, if one of these events looks appealing.
6/21/07: New trip ideas ... and we're on CNN
(1) ...but we're not on CNN because the new trip ideas list has been posted. (This time.) CNN Headline News for South Bay cities is airing the Time Warner cable video about TransitPeople (described below) through Sunday, June 24. Now you know.
(2) The trip ideas list is, of couse, for July and August, and you can get it by clicking here.
4/27/07: May/June Trip Ideas
The May/June special event weekend trip ideas list is now online. Download it, send it to friends, celebrities, even ancient historical figures, at least if they're on your IM buddy lists. Slip a copy into your plan book and ponder the immortal prose while munching one of those yummy celery sticks you sometimes tuck into the lunch sack. Or a granola bar, even. Splurge!
Do with it what you will. It's a computer file. It doesn't care. You can even use it to hunt for field trips to book with TransitPeople. (Hint, hint.) The choice is yours.
4/4/07: TransitPeople on Time Warner Cable
Time Warner cable tv subscribers: after finishing the paragraphs below, stand slowly –- perhaps with fingers pressed lightly to sternum, to still the understandably eager palpitations of your heart –- turn to the closest television and crank it up to cable channel 1017.
That's right, four numbers: 1017. Make sure you’re in the Southern California news folder, and scroll down the story list to TransitPeople. Hit play, and there you are: one and a half exquisite minutes devoted to our non-profit.
Camera operator Gino Salerno – obviously enjoying himself, in the shot below – decided we were story-worthy after happening across our dot org on the internet. On March 23, he and gentlemanly reporter Ben McCain of Time Warner met our intrepid travel group at the zoo, where the kids fielded questions and were immortalized on tape while visiting giraffes, lions, chimps and other zoo residents.
The resulting video will remain available 'on demand' on channel 1017 for the next three weeks. (But only, alas, for cable subscribers in Southern California. If web browsing from out of area, you’ll just have to close your eyes and imagine the remarkable scenes in this video -- like the one in which the eight year olds single-handedly rescue a zoo docent from a rampaging grizzly, and force it back into its enclosure. Great footage, Gino!)
1017. One oh one seven. Be there or be square.
3/19/07: Ballona Wetlands Tours
Thank you, Santa Monica and Los Angeles Audubon Societies, for sponsoring this one: a Ballona Wetlands tour on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings, from late October through the end of May, for grades 3 and up. Participating kids hike the trails, borrow binoculars for bird watching, visit a microscope station to study channel invertebrates, and receive expert information from volunteer guides on the flora and fauna encountered along the way. Ballona volunteers give the kids a take-it-home booklet, and even can visit the participating teacher’s classroom for a before-the-tour preview.
Is there a catch?
Unfortunately, yes, at least if you’re booking it with TransitPeople: for most of the schools that travel with us, only the once-an-hour #115 ‘long line’ will get you out to Playa del Rey to meet the Ballona tour guides. That’s great news for Graham Elementary, which is next door to the #115. Miramonte can do the trip too, by transferring from the Compton #55. Others face a tougher trek.
Take a look at the MTA 115 schedule and decide if this trip will work for you. Please note that only the Pacific & Culver ‘long line’ will get you to Playa del Rey.
3/5/07: U.S.O.C. evaluation team visit
If a United States city is going to win hosting rights for the 2016 Olympic games, which city do you think it should be?
Odds are high that you picked (1.), given the address now showing in your web browser's address bar. (True, Studs Terkel doesn't live here, but we do have better weather.) Many of the L.A. high and mighty feel likewise, unsurprisingly -- and so the visiting United States Olympic Committee evaluation team walked onto the figurative red carpet last Thursday and Friday, when local VIPs introduced, among other things, the area's transit system.
Hence, these photographs. Our primary grade crew happened upon the USOC gathering at the First and Pine Transit Mall station in Long Beach, on our way to the Aquarium of the Pacific. That's Metro CEO Roger Snoble in the first shot, Rail Operations General Manager Gerald Francis in the second, and rail transportation DEO Melvin Clark with the teacher in the third. Their ride, in shots four and five: an Ansolobreda (say that fast) P2550.
These kids will be in high school by 2016. USOC is expected to make the 'L.A. or Chicago' call on April 14. Perhaps we can lure Terkel out among the palms before then.
2/15/07: March/April Trip Ideas
The March/April trip ideas list is online and awaits downloading to the hard disk cubbyhole of your choice. Nine, count 'em, nine pages, laden to the margins with one and two day weekend special events accessible by transit and well-suited for grade schoolers.
The perks of living in a big city: lots to do. (Barstow Unified, eat your heart out.)
Click right here. All yours.
1/17/07: Three trip ideas
• According to the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce office, the date of the annual Golden Dragon Parade has been cast in stone: Saturday, February 24. (Which, yes, contradicts the web site.) Starting time is the usual 2:00 p.m., which would permit a before-the-parade stop at the Central Library or Olvera Street.
This would be a seriously long trek for most of our participants: 720 Rapid Bus west to Westwood, and then the 761 north to a stop on Sepulveda next to this lovely center. Please give TransitPeople a holler if interested.
• Dance classes! Dance classes for little kids! The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach will offer these on the first, third and fifth Sunday of every month, empezando in early February, for ages 5 through 12. A cautionary note: the classes run from 3:00 to 4:00, which might make for an after-dark return to your school site. Perhaps combined with a museum visit?
1/1/07: Happy New Year!
Happy New Year, straphangers! Our humble nonprofit officially commences its ninth year of operations, and what better way to commemorate the occasion than with a flurry of year-opening entries on the News and Announcements page?
• 2006 was our biggest year ever, narrowly surpassing 2004, when much-missed volunteer Michael Chien was available to chaperone regular trips on Fridays. The 2006 stats pages tell the story. A survey of our 2006 financials is also online, for those interested in peering into the checkbook.
• The January/February 2007 Trip Ideas list is up and yours for the clicking. We're unlikely to be booked for the first weekend of January, which is a bit of a shame; several of the events listed for January 6 and 7 look quite promising. (Parents, check 'em out!)
(Q: Why isn't the Chinese New Years Parade listed? A: The date isn't definite yet. We can sign you up anyway, of course, as long as you're sure your students won't mind waving at passing trucks and taxis on Broadway for a couple of hours if the date gets switched ... but, with few teachers likely to leap on that offer, let's wait until the date is certain before booking this event.)
• We finally paid a return visit to the Stella Adler theatre, for their terrific 'A Christmas Carol' in December of last year. Far, far too many tokens and tour passes have been clutched by little hands since our last trek here; after all, we were grateful regulars in 2000 and 2001.
Go to the home page, click on the navigational dealie at bottom left of the slideshow, and you'll access the relocated photo galleries. These include a photo report of our Stella Adler trip. (Actor Danilo DiJulio is in the photo above, signing autographs for his public onstage.)
• Thank you, Lark Ellen Lions Foundation, for once again stepping up to the plate with a generous year-end donation in December! Attorney Tom Himrod introduced TransitPeople to the Lions in 1999; they've supported us every year since.
The Lark Ellen Lions join the Ahmanson Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation, Walter Lantz Foundation, Stern Foundation and new donor Pergo Foundation, all of which contributed to our nonprofit in 2006. (For details, see our contributors page.) Praise, accolades and gratitude to you one and all.
• 'Photo of the Day' debuts on the home page, to reward regular web site visitors with something new every orbital cycle. An unforseen calamity could downgrade this, er, feature to 'photo of the week,' or 'photo of the month,' or even 'photo of the millenium' (which a distant descendant will have to post in the year 3000 with his or her trusty 56K dial-up modem, which should be quite affordable by then.) For now, though, a new photo daily seems appropriate.
(If all you see is the same home page you saw in 2004, your computer may crave an updated version of the free Adobe/Macromedia Flash Player. This website may not be nearly as bright as the children we chaperone, but even it knows enough to default to the old home page if it detects a Flash-deficient computer on your end.)
• The online 'upcoming events' calendar is no more. This was a holdover from our salad days in 1999 and 2000, when teachers generally could book only on pre-arranged dates -- for instance, to Bug Fair at the Natural History Museum, or to a special event at the Aquarium. Nowadays, the teacher does the date choosing. If a trip leader is avaiable to chaperone, we book the trip.
We are a better known program now, too, and it seems unnecessary to inform absolutely anyone with an internet connection where the children will be on a given date. For similar (and perhaps overly protective) reasons, the public stats pages will no longer include the name of individual schools participating in trips.
• The December 17 changes in the Metro bus itineraries brought a bit of bad news to some East L.A. participants. Heritage Park in Santa Fe Springs is still accessible, but you'll now have to take two buses to get there: the eastbound #111 to the Norwalk station, and then the once an hour #121 to Norwalk and Florence. We haven't visited that often in the past, but may not return frequently in the future. Vamos a ver ...
• Griffith Observatory update: It's open, it's gorgeous, and very much geared to education for children. A teacher couldn't ask for more. Nonetheless: they're still not rolling out the red carpet to school groups, and the grand re-opening crush is still very much underway. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue -- and, for us, a necessary one now, as relates to the observatory.
Some children, incidentally, are surprisingly smitten with the tragic true story of Colonel Griffith J. Griffith. If curious to know more, please e-mail for a link to an unsanitized, grown-up version of his rise and fall. You then can expurgate according to taste and grade level, if you'd like to share a child-appropriate version of the story with your students.
(Can't be bothered with e-mailing? Okay, here's a googling tip: the article originally appeared in the Glendale News-Press.)