The summer started well enough as KR, Lilly and I drove the Iron Duke north from Puerto Vallarta toward Los Angeles without too many problems. This was an achievement in and of itself. The Iron Duke has 146,000 miles (he’s middle aged now), was in Mexico illegally (he hasn’t had legal plates for two years), and we had to jump start him the morning we left (not a confidence builder before a 1500 road trip). We were sure no one would give him a second glance as he’d taken on the look of a true Mexican Car. The right headlight was duct-taped on, a horizontal crack runs through the middle of the windshield, the tires and rims looked like they’ve pounded into a thousand potholes (which they had), and no surface remained unscratched or undented. The finishing touch was the peeling paint on the hood, giving him a “don’t mess with me because I got nothing to lose” look.
The drive to LA is normally a three day trek, but we took six days making a couple of stops along the way. We needed to go through a major border crossing to get the Iron Duke legally released from Mexico, so we went through Nogales, Arizona for the first time. Then we headed to Prescott to see Bob and Joy Wilson and then up to Flagstaff to attend the Overland Expo, an adventure conference/show.
Most of you want to know one thing: how did we get out of Mexico without being kidnapped or killed by the cartels? An especially relevant question given our route took us straight through the middle of the state of Sinaloa, as in “the Sinaloa Cartel,” purportedly Mexico’s largest drug cartel. And we spent quite a bit of time in one of Mexico’s largest border towns. All a sure recipe for disaster.
Except that nothing happened. Again. Just like the dozen other trips we’ve made through Mexico over the years. Nothing sinister has ever happened to us, in fact quite the opposite is the norm. We meet the nicest people in our travels through Mexico. That’s not to say there wasn’t drama, cause there was certainly drama:
- We ran the entire trip worrying that Iron Duke’s electrical system was discharging, potentially leaving us stranded in drug cartel territory. I finally disconnected the battery whenever we left the Duke.
- Said 300 peso tire didn’t give one confidence either. Given our history with rear blowouts, I was always ready for the worst.
- We didn’t know if the Iron Duke would be seized while trying to get out of Mexico. This forced me to obey all traffic laws, something that doesn’t come naturally:)
- His gas gauge wasn’t working either, making for some close calls on fuel stops.
Not the stuff of reality shows.
The trek north was necessary as KR was (finally) moving back to LA for the summer and we needed to get her, Lilly and the Iron Duke back here. No reality show stuff here, either, as KR has made the transition from 6200 sq ft to 900 sq ft in downtown LA without missing a beat. There’s something to the “absence makes the heart grow stronger” old adage as KR and I hadn’t lived in the same city during the entire construction of Corona. It’s been good, except that KR still gets a bit overwhelmed with LA’s traffic.
Life in the Urban Jungle
We live a very urban life now, the polar opposite of Little Big Sur and Chonchos. Our loft, called Factory Place for a reason, is in the Arts District of downtown LA, which despite its name, has 100x more warehouses and cold storage facilities than art establishments. We’re a stone’s throw from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Lincoln Heights, Central and South Central LA, and the fine city of Vernon (more on Vernon in a bit). These are all ethnic, working class and lower income neighborhoods. We are about seven blocks from LA’s Skid Row, with its hundreds of tents on the sidewalks for blocks in every direction. For most everyone, we live in Frontier Land.
For some reason, we feel in sync with the place.
Like many people, we often go out for a Sunday brunch. Except our brunch is at 7:30AM and we usually head over to Mike’s Hockey Burgers, just across the LA River on Washington and Soto. Mike’s is in the deepest, darkest part of Boyle Heights, which means its deserted on Sundays as the only thing around are train tracks, factories and metal recycling yards. What’s a hockey burger? You haven’t lived until you’ve had the beef patty plus hot dog with every imaginable topping plopped onto your paper plate. This folks, is living:)
After brunch at Mikes, we often cruise down the deserted streets of Vernon, So Central LA, and along the Alameda Corridor. This is warehouse country. And food processing, transportation, garment manufacturing, cold storage, and the hundreds of small businesses that make stuff to sell to other businesses. This is Ground Zero for under the radar business to businesses . I think it makes for a pretty nice Sunday ride, KR is less convinced.
We found the Blue Note Restaurant & Bar buried in the heart of all this stuff, with linen table clothes no less. Open seven days a week, from 9AM-3PM. And did you know that we have more “gentlemen’s clubs” per square mile than probably anywhere else? We have Dames ‘n Games, Deja Vu, and Sam’s Hoffbrau, among others. Who says we don’t have a vibrant night club scene?
Ahhh Vernon, a shining city of … well, no one actually lives in Vernon, the best I can tell. It’s just a bunch of junk yards, scrap metal yards and cheapo manufacturing places, but its got the most gorgeous City Hall that any city would be proud to own. The purpose of cities like Vernon is to collect taxes, so it can build the City Hall, pay its Mayor and assorted city employees a “living wage,” and keep its constituency happy. Which is a bit weird since there are no constituents the best I can tell, except businesses. A wave of corruption prosecutions in small cities like Vernon have hit the Southland in the last several years, so Vernon has been keeping an even lower profile than normal.
Transitioning from Antonio to Eric
We just had a mayoral election in Los Angeles, which is an important event to those of us who are plowing the green fields of cleantech. We know the new mayor, Eric Garcetti, who is a strong supporter of our efforts to build a green economy. Building Los Angeles into a cleantech innovation powerhouse was
Antonio Villaraigosa’s idea, but I’m optimistic that Mayor Garcetti will accelerate the City’s support.
What started out as a one-year, temporary assignment to get LACI started has turned into a 2+ year and counting gig. I’m having fun and we’re making good progress at LACI. We’ve had 18 companies through our program, they’ve receibed $14M in investment, and we’ve been hired to build an LACI-style incubator at a state university campus.
The downside of all of this remains my bad habit of the past — letting work become all consuming. KR and I canceled our planned July motorcycle vacation to Europe because it conflicted with the groundbreaking ceremony for our new 60,000 sq. ft. permanent home, the La Kretz Innovation Campus.
Night -Stalking Transvestites
Leaving Corona behind this summer was more of a challenge than we thought. Not only did we have to button the house up for the always humid and wet summer off-season, we also had to hire a maintenance staff that could take care of any guests that were looking to take advantage of the “shoulder season.”
Shortly after arriving in LA, we started getting curious emails from friends saying not all was right south of the Border. Neighbors reported that our pool guy was bringing visitors into Corona late at night. Maybe he wanted to show his friends our place, I thought? Then we were told that Jesus was bringing in “table girls,” whatever they were, late at night. Then we were told that he was letting transvestites in at 3 in the morning! How can you tell that late at night, I wondered?
So, as I write this KR is back in PV for a week to take care of things. Out went the table girl and transvestite pimp, in went security cameras:) A repair crew is working to repair damage from the one heavy rain we’ve had so far (doesn’t portend well for the rest of the rainy season) and we’re assembling a new staff of care takers. Time will see how Inn Keeping 2.0 works out:)