The Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research is a great place to learn about the rich history of progressive movements in the city of Los Angeles. A non-profit entity, operating on a shoestring budget, the library houses some 30,000 books, 3,000 periodicals, and 1500 posters, just to mention a few of the documents inside. Of course, access to all of this is free of charge.

The library was founded by a man named Emil Freed who was an activist and a member of the International Association of Machinists until he was expelled for participating in the 1945 Hollywood Studio strike.

Starting back in the 1940’s, and increasingly in the 1950’s as McCarthyism reached its’ peak, many activists in the area were getting rid of a whole bunch of books, pamphlets, movies and other materials. Freed was doing his best to rescue those items. He accumulated masses of these materials, storing them in a garage, moving them into a storefront library downtown, and finally, into their current residence at 6120 S. Vermont Avenue.

The outside of the building on Vermont is covered with murals depicting the history of the people of Los Angeles. Preserving the history of communities in struggle for social justice and the multicultural nature of the city; and ensuring this is accessible to future generations is the mission of the library.

Here, you can see original materials from the great civil rights defender, Leo Gallagher, who actually went to Nazi Germany to defend George Dimitroff, who the fascists charged with burning down the Reichstag. The library also holds archival collections on the Walls Rebellion, and Chicano activism. Other popular items that folks are particularly interested in include documentary films from the Film and Photo League of the 1930’s as well as those from the 1960’s Newsreel collective of the SDS.

All of these items are free to browse. You do have to be a member to check out books or tapes. Basic membership is $40. They also have a student rate of $20 and a “People’s rate” at $10. This is for a whole year — a great deal! You can join the library by going there in person, and writing a check, which I recommend; by phoning them at 323-759-6063; or by going to and paying with PayPal.

There’s always something happening at the Southern California Library. This Saturday, I went to a book signing by author, Robert Lee Johnson. Mr. Johnson discussed the history of the city of Compton, alongside historical images taken from his book, Compton: Images of America. It was a very informative talk, followed by a nice discussion and a chance to chat and meet new folks.

Aside from the free stuff, the library has some great deals going on right now on books you can take home and keep. They’re offering a selection of great titles, with paperbacks going for $1.00 and hardbacks for $2.00. They’ve also got some fascinating historical pamphlets dating back to the 1930’s that you can keep at only $1.00 for four of them! They’re really unique pieces of history.

Another deal the library is offering right now is a coupon for $2 off of one of three newly unionized car washes in the city – and it’s only a block away. For $10.99 with the coupon, I got a super spiffy union job on my car and it looks spectacular!  You can print out the coupon from the library’s website; and, when you use it, the library gets $1 for each car washed. So, you can help the library, help wash away injustice for car wash workers and get a sparkling vehicle to run around town, all in one go!


Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research (map)

6120 South Vermont Avenue, L.A., CA 90044

Phone: 323-759-6063


Vermont Car Wash

6219 S. Vermont Avenue, L.A., CA 90044 (at Gage) (map)

Phone: 323-778-7100

Union Proud!



Photo credit: Taken from the Mexican Revolution Exhibit running now through February 2013 at the Los Angeles Central Library

Our public library is really such a darn good deal, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, I decided to make a series of videos called Gem of the City: The Los Angeles Public Library. Because of its beauty and its vast collection of activities and material, I wanted to feature the Central Library especially. I made up my mind I was going to find out everything there was to know about the library from an expert. So, I arranged an appointment with a librarian with the help of the LAPL’s public relations specialist, Brenda Breaux.

Boy, it was hotter than Hades yesterday when my cameraman and I ventured on downtown to our destination. My air conditioning is out in my car and I have to tell you, when I stepped across that threshold into the library, I was relieved! I’d say another perk for hanging out at the library during these sweltering days is the air conditioning!

When we got there, we were delighted to find that we actually had an appointment with the acting director of the Central Library, Ms. Giovanna Mannino. She knows just about everything there is to know about the library; and, she filled us in on all of it during our stay.

While we were there, we saw three exhibits the library has on display right now. The first was “Treasures of Los Angeles,” which is ongoing in the Annenberg Gallery and contains part of a larger Hollywood exhibit that is on display at the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Branch. Next we took a peek at “A Nation Emerges: The Mexican Revolution Revealed,” and “As the City Grew: Historical Maps of Los Angeles.”

All in all, it was a fun and educational afternoon. You’ll find out all about it by watching the videos! It was also free. We did have to pay for the parking: $9 for a little over two hours. If you really want to spend some time at the Central Library, I would recommend taking the train. The Metro Blue Line and Metro Red Line both have stops near the library. You can walk just a few blocks. It’s fun, especially if you ever lived in New York City. You can pretend you are back there for a minute.

I hope readers enjoy this series on our public library and continue to support the library and all of the wonderful and vitally needed resources it provides in these hard times.


Central Library  630 W. 5th Street, 90071 (map)

Phone: 213-228-7000Hours: Mon. 10-5:30, Tue. 10-8, Wed. 10-5:30, Thu. 10-8, Fri. 10-5:30, Sat. 10-5:30, Sun. Closed

Validated Parking Rates

$1.00 for 1st hour (or portion thereof) $1.00
$4.00 for 2nd hour (or portion thereof) $5.00
$4.00 for 3rd hour (or portion thereof) $9.00
$4.15 including tax per 10 minutes thereafter $37.60 Maximum including tax
Cars entering after 3:00 p.m. (until Library Closing) $1.00 Flat rate
Saturday (10 a.m. – 6 p.m.) $1.00 Flat rate


Last Saturday night at Noche Cubana, I was a dancin’ fool. My YouTube lessons really paid off. I even started a Conga Line!  It took a few go-rounds; but, in the end, my dance partner and I succeeded in whipping everybody into a dance frenzy. We got ‘em up on the floor where most of them stayed for the remainder of the night.

After all that excitement, Natascha and I decided to meet up again the next morning to reminisce over some serious coffee and a good breakfast. With the salsa beats still ringing in my ears, I headed on down to meet her at Black Dog Coffee, where I knew we’d get just what we needed.

First on the agenda – the coffee. Back in 2002, the first thing then boyfriend and I noticed about this little gem on Wilshire Boulevard was the sign on their window: Home of the Caffe Cubano. This is their signature coffee. On our first visit, we ordered the largest ones we could get at $4 apiece. They were fantastic. All coffee drinks are delicious – made from whole bean fair trade Groundworks coffee

As then boyfriend and I continued to frequent the café, we naturally began to explore the menu. Over the years, as we evolved, Black Dog’s menu did as well. The results have always been tasty. One of the newest items is breakfast soup that’s served all day. It consists of their homemade black bean soup, topped with two poached eggs, cheese, diced tomato and onion and garnished with avocado and sour cream.  I like to dispense with the sour cream myself. Sour cream or no, the whole kit and caboodle comes in at $5.25.

There are a whole lot of great items on the menu here, and everything is fresh and wholesome. If I was pressed to choose my favorite, it would probably be what they call their signature sandwich, the roast turkey pesto. $6.50 is perhaps not the least expensive sandwich; but, for the sheer quality you’re getting with this baby, it is incredible.

First and most important, the meat is real turkey breast, not that weird lunchmeat-type processed material. The combo of the fresh pesto sauce and cranberries is outstanding; and, the bread? – It’s a quality seeded baguette that is really delicious. The size is cost effective too. For someone who’s watching calories, you can easily make two meals out of it.

For breakfast, I favor either the breakfast soup or their Mexican scrambled eggs, once again without sour cream, for $4.75.This dish is eggs or egg whites, tortilla strips, cheese, diced tomatoes, a little red onion, and their original salsa, with sour cream and avocado garnish. A meal for under $5 is always a plus.

The other item that’s really outstanding is the homemade soups that Black Dog dishes up every day. Every day is a different group of soups and they are all outstanding. Clam Chowder with Bacon, Barley Mushroom, Corn Cactus, Chicken Noodle – from the exotic to the familiar, from healthy to er, a bit less, they’ve got something for every palate. The soups are reasonably priced, coming in at $3.75/$4.50, depending on size.

Finally, you might guess from the name that Black Dog is pooch-friendly. You and your dog can sit outside at the sidewalk tables, no problemo. You can enjoy a leisurely meal prepared and served by the friendly staff while you read the paper or people-watch on Wilshire Boulevard. There’s always fresh water outside for your canine friend; and, inside, a big bowl of free doggie treats awaits. Nice to know your buddy can also get a little treat while you enjoy the tasty grub.


Black Dog Coffee   5657 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036  (map)

Phone: 323-933-1976

Hours: Mon-Fri 7a.m. – 6 p.m.    Sat-Sun 8 a.m. – 4 p.m

Metered parking and several 2 hour unmetered spots on nearby side streets such as Masselin.


These days, there are two reasons why it’s so difficult to buy clothes. First, when money is tight, a new dress or pair of pants ends up pretty far down on the priority list. Even though a person really could use a new outfit, other priorities take center stage and next thing you know, there’s none left for that look you want for your next audition, party, or event.

Second, you know how it is when you’ weigh a little more than you want to, so you don’t want to buy the bigger size than you’re used to because you know you’re gonna lose that extra; but, in the meantime, what do you do? Maybe you can’t even wear the stuff that’s already in your closet!

Well, all that describes the spot I was in when I discovered Karen’s Closet.

Everything in the store is $5.00, except for two things: accessories, which are $1.00, and shoes, which are $10.00. Got that! When I walked in, I wondered what the catch was.

I was greeted by the beautiful and friendly Shantal, and I fired all my questions at her. Why is everything so cheap? Are they irregulars? Shantal explained that the owners, who are plural, not female and not named Karen, are in the wholesale business downtown.

That’s how they can bring these great deals to their store at Pico and Mansfield. The inventory is overstock and could be anything from Arden B to Express to Lane Bryant to Charlotte Russe. You just never know what goodies are going to show up on the racks. A fresh batch of women’s apparel hits the store twice a week – Thursdays and Fridays.

Karen’s Closet gives no refunds and there are no exchanges. This naturally leads to the next question: Are there dressing rooms? Even though it’s only five bucks, I need for it to count. Shantal said, “No. There are no dressing rooms; but, you can try the clothes on.” Apparently, it was A-OK to find a spot in the store and go on ahead and try stuff on!  Whoa!

I looked around and saw that there were several ittle nooks and crannies…

There weren’t many people around…

I decided to go for it.

Lord knows, I’ve ended up changing in some crazy places, being in the entertainment biz, even though it’s supposed to be against union rules.

The thing for me was that I actually wanted to buy a dress, so this was going to be interesting. I tried the first one – so far so good. I was getting into my second option, when a couple came in. I backed up into the little alcove I was next to and struggled to get into some decent shape before they decided to head my way. The operation turned out to be a little dodgy, but I did manage to conceal the important bits without much attention.

The woman was busy singing passionately to the music that was wafting through the store and trying various articles over her own clothing to notice much. The mam was fixed on the racks of clothes as if on a mission to find something for his partner.

In light of all this, I would highly advise wearing clothes that you could try things on over when you shop here – maybe leggings and a camisole or something like that.

In the end, I came away with the perfect little day to night dress that could be made up or down for the unbelievable price of $5 – not irregular, nothing wrong with it – just a consolation prize for the scourge of overproduction.

Please note there are absolutely no refunds or exchanges. Plastic is accepted and there is no pesky minimum required to use it.

I have a feeling Karen’s Closet is going to be one of my top go-to places for fashion I can afford.


Karen’s Closet   5001 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, 90019  (map)

Phone: 323-930-1702

Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. every day