Here is artist Julie Bender's latest group of works:
Mosaics in Siren's Java and Tea in San Pedro.
And at right is a photo of the mosaic in context, so you can see how it's positioned on the wall.
This mosaic is a tribute to our first responders, and plays off the double meanings of the word "sirens." They can be either ear-piercing alarms alerting us to danger, or femme fatales who sing and lure sailors to their deaths on the rocks. In some legends, mermaids are sirens.
I learned from this story in The Daily Breeze (excuse me, I should have said the Pulitzer Prize-winning Daily Breeze) that Julie Bender is a former fire fighter herself, and the owners of Siren's Java and Tea have strong family ties to fire fighters. One of the owners, Yolanda Regalado, is retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department and had three brothers who were fire fighters.
Here is a link to a photo of Michael and Benjamin Pinel back in the early 80s: two of Yolanda's brothers. Benjamin, on the left, was killed shortly after this picture was taken, while fighting the arson fire at the Proud Bird Restaurant near LAX. The link has an account of that fire that most of us old folks remember well.
Julie Bender also worked that fire, so there is a deeply-felt connection that led to this mosaic tribute.
The building, at 356 W. 7th Street, is big. In fact, it used to be the home of the San Pedro News Pilot, a daily newspaper that published from 1906 to 1998. (The dates are sketchy because the paper changed its name--it was the San Pedro Daily Pilot from 1913 to 1928, and I'm not so sure it was a daily for the last few decades of its existence.)
Here's another one o' those sirens. To round out the double meaning of sirens, Yolanda Regalado's father was a fishing boat captain. So there you go.
According to the Breeze again, before the Regalados took over a hundred cats were sharing the abandoned place with squatters.
Now, besides all the accouterments of a busy coffee and smoothie bar and restaurant, there are artifacts from the newspaper days, like framed front pages of important events. There are also tributes to the police and fire fighters on the walls: framed photos, old helmets, models of old paddy wagons and the like.
It's a great place to sit, with lots of light and a high ceiling. I think it was once the lobby, with a mezzanine so folks could look down. And they host live music some nights!
Finally, here is the gorgeous mosaic logo and name that you see when you first walk in, with a bit of the mezzanine on the right. Pretty impressive, right?