IN THE HOOD

Rainy Day LA

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After such a long dry spell, rain is absolutely luxurious.

Soak it up, Los Angeles!

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A Walk With The Mayor

My Boulder-based friends Anne Shutan and Scott MacInnis were in Bev Hills over the weekend visiting mama Jan and step-papa David – and celebrating David’s 75th. Because they live in Colorado, they do things like mountain biking and I suppose other mountainy things. So rising early on Monday morning for A Walk With The Mayor didn’t faze them one bit.

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Lili Bosse

I had never done a walk with any mayor. When Annie invited me along, I thought it couldn’t hurt to start my mayoral meanderings in Beverly Hills. I secretly hoped they would do the walk in limos. Alas no…

The mayor of Beverly Hills is Lili Bosse. And that is pronounced exactly as you hope it would be. Bossy. Isn’t that perfect? The late, great Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle used to feature Namephreaks in his daily column – people who are particularly or delightfully or ironically well-monikered for their careers (and/or crimes). Were we fortunate enough to live in a world that still counted Herb Caen among its columnists, I would already have submitted Mayor Bosse for his consideration.

Beverly_Hills_City_HallThe WWTM started, as one does, at city hall. Beverly Hills City Hall is a gorgeous Spanish Revival exclamation point of a tower, topped with a cupola and lots of gold leaf, that anchors a civic center complex of administrative offices, the BHPD, library and a new performing arts center. Here’s a fun fact I just unearthed over at Wikipedia:

For the Beverly Hills centennial in 2014, a 15,000-slice cake in the shape of the Beverly Hills City Hall was designed by chef Donald Wressell of the Guittard Chocolate Company and decorated by Rosselle and Marina Sousa. It cost US$200,000 to make.

So, you can see why it wasn’t entirely ridiculous for me to hope for a walk-by-limo.

BH.Walk.4ofusAs I approached the entrance plaza, I saw a crowd of people in identical bright orange t-shirts and hats. Hmmm. I didn’t get that memo. I went smart-casual with dark plaid shorts and a raw silk black Hawaiian shirt. I soon found Annie & Scott and was relieved to see that they were not in orange. They were in pink. I felt like a truffle in a big bowl of sorbet. Annie’s friend Valerie was also in black, but only because she is a serious filmmaker who had only stopped by to say hello. There was a hashtag printed on the orange-wear: #BHHEALTHYCITY and I found myself chatting with one of the citrus-hued enthusiasts. The Healthy City initiative is Mayor Bosse’s push to get her constituents in shape! Think Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program – but with better shopping.

From what I witnessed on Monday morning, Mayor Bosse is everything you’d want your (crime-free, flush-with-cash) city’s mayor to be: 1/2 cheerleader, 1/2 civic booster, 1/2 high-fiver, 1/2 drill sergeant, 1/2 life coach. Yes, that is five halves, and you’d understand the equation if you met her. The name of the event is a little misleading, though, as it’s a bit more energetic than a mere walk. I would suggest calling it Power Walk With Da Mayor. And on an unseasonably hot morning such as yesterday… Death March With That Woman! would be truth-in-advertising.

WWTM.LittleSamoIt was blazing hot, even at 8:30am – with the added insult of unusual humidity due to the infernal monsoonal moisture churning up from Mexico. Remember what I was wearing? A black silk shirt. The only thing better than black at trapping body heat is… silk. I was screwed. Oh, and I left my water bottle in the car. Strike 3! If I had another kidney stone by the end of this walk, it would be my own damn fault.

After a brief aerobic warm-up (what?) and some very nice remarks where the Mayor introduced some local heroes (including my friend Anne Shutan the artist, and a little girl named Abby Spencer who is trying to raise $1 million for cancer via her Facebook page: Abby’s Million Dollar Dream), we were off! Fortunately someone was handing out notices about I-don’t-know-what-meeting printed on laminated, heavy card stock which came in handy as a fan. We marched down Little Santa Monica Blvd with a bike-cop escort stopping traffic at the intersections. When you Walk With The Mayor, you jaywalk with impunity! Though it would have been nice to have a little respite every few blocks… and I could feel the pure hatred radiating out from the stoppered commuters in waves of rage. That was kind of fun.

The roundtrip City Hall > Bev Hills High > City Hall is about 3 miles. When we got to BHHS, there was a table full of bottled water. At first, I thought it was a mirage. A few people grumbled about the environmental catastrophe of plastic bottles. I was too busy chugging down the life-restoring fluid to care WWTM.080414.BHHSabout ecological disaster at that point. Then, 200 people tried to get under the shade of an old magnolia tree while the Mayor introduced the BH Board of Ed. I had almost rehydrated by the time we were herded onto the wide steps of the high school for a ‘class picture’. (Did I mention that my dear friend Anne was Athlete of the Year in 1976 at BH High? She is overly talented, that one.) Scott and I hung in the back row, like street urchins, possibly making snarky comments about this person or that. It was hot. We were tired. He still wasn’t convinced that pink shorts were in keeping with his sense of masculinity. We took a selfie with the ‘twin towers’ of Century Plaza rising behind the school.

And then – though I didn’t hear the starting gun – we were back sur la route! Through the lovely, leafy residential streets south of Wilshire, and then up Beverly Drive through the heart of the retail zone that the world knows as “Rodeo Drive”. I found myself a new walk buddy, Tish (from the realm of Annie’s childhood) who turned out to be my prized human “beach rock” for the day, and is now my newest FB pal.

When we crossed Wilshire into America’s Most Posh retail nirvana, the weather suddenly changed. The temperature WWTM.Scott+Stevedropped about 20 degrees, which was fabulous but confusing. Then I understood: every shop along Beverly had its air-conditioning cranked up to meat-locker freezing, with their doors wide open to the sidewalk. People started peeling off from the parade to get lost in the extravagantly cool spaces. Annie, Scott and I found ourselves in a cavernous Pottery Barn. It felt like the lobby of one of those ice hotels in Finland. I admired the pillows and candles and leather arm chairs while my core temperature dipped back into double digits.

And then I bid adieu to my friends so they could do lunch and I could swim. It was a fun departure from my usual Monday morning routine, which rarely involves elected officials or hyperthermia. Thank you, Lili Bosse for a grand tour! I think I’ll be joining you again in October when Annie & Scott are back in town and you’re leading a walk to the Beverly Hilton where Annie’s sculpture Heart of Palm is on display as part of Beverly Hills’ centennial public art program. Until then, stay cool.

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Observe

As dusk fell yesterday, I set out for Griffith Observatory. Which is at the top of Griffith Park. Which was given to the city of Los Angeles by – who else? – Col. Griffith J. Griffith. And the appropriate response is Thank you! because this park and everything in it is spectacular.

The 4,300 acre park sits at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains – better known as the Hollywood Hills – which run forty miles west and into the ocean past Malibu. This is a vast wilderness – more than 250 square miles – bisecting the city: LA to the south, “the Valley” to the north. Mulholland Drive twists and turns along the crest of the hills, all the way to ocean. Much of it is protected terrain, wild and rugged, especially west of Topanga with deep canyons accessible only on foot. The eastern portion is a bit more manicured, home to the “We don’t hike, dear” denizens of Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills. It’s not the Upper West Side, though. There are mountain lions and rattlesnakes, bears and coyotes. And as the environment becomes more stressed by the drought, trash cans and swimming pools increasingly look like convenience stores for the four-on-the-floor set.

The Observatory is only about five miles from home, so it took me more than an hour to get there. Sunset Blvd through Hollywood on a Saturday evening is not a speedway. And the turnoff on Vermont that leads up the slopes of the park also takes you past the fabled Greek Theater. There was a concert last night, which meant rather legendary traffic. Even when the Greek is dark, the one-lane road snaking up to the Observatory can be a slow crawl (as my friend Brian & I found on last weekend’s aborted attempt to get up there). Last night, though, I lucked out with a parking space just a 10-minute walk from the top.

Photo by hdwallpaperpc.com

Photo by hdwallpaperpc.com

While it’s a great place to go any time of day, any time of year, the Observatory is at full power as a tourist magnet on summer weekend nights. It is an awesome destination for kids and adults alike. The Observatory itself, all its exhibits and tours, are open until 10pm. It’s free! And as the sun sets, the city begins to glow, spreading out to the horizon.

Photo: usapics.net

Photo: usapics.net

Griffith Observatory is an Art Deco masterpiece. Built in 1935 (because we used to build things like this during economic downturns) and completely renovated in 2006. While it was designed and still functions as an astronomical observatory, most folks come up here for the views of Los Angeles and the surrounding mountains. The building sits on the edge of a promontory and obliges the looky-loos with multiple levels of wide terraces, and curving stairways leading up and up all the way to the flat roofs and the dome parapets.

There were hundreds of people at the Observatory last night, tourists and locals, including plenty of children. Not my usual scene. But what you notice is that there is a sort of hush, a reverence, the same as in a cathedral or museum. People talk in whispers – when they talk at all. No one has to say, “Look at that view!” because everyone is looking at that view. In every direction. From every location. It is spellbinding. And I spend as much time looking back at this magnificent edifice as I do at the surrounding world. (The next few pix are mine.)

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And even a crappy quality photograph can take on a painterly aspect with the help of a filter or two. This is the sunset sky behind Griffith Park’s Mt Lee and its famous Hollywood sign.

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And here’s a shot I took on a wintry day a few years ago, from a trail below the Observatory. You can see this gleaming white structure from all over Los Angeles, and the closer you get to it, the better it gets.

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To learn more about this remarkable place, visit their website http://griffithobs.org

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World Domination!

OK, the title of this post may be a little bit over the top. So sue me. (Just kidding, John Boehner!) Like all? many? some? of you, I keep an eye on my blog’s daily stats. I mean, the folks at WordPress are good enough to put all those analytics at our fingertips… the least we can do is glance at them every now and then. Right?

politial globe 2Sure, I like to see my Visitors and Views and Comments numbers trending generally upward. It’s some basic affirmation that my posts go out into the world and attract some interest, collect a few likes, perhaps elicit a response, sometimes connect me to a new blogger. But I must confess, my favorite stat is the Views by Country. I’m a map fiend. Always have been. My earliest memory of a prized possession – aside from my red-and-white-gingham stuffed spaniel – was a globe. It spun on its axis and had a raised relief surface that I could run my fingers over and feel the bumpiness of the great mountain ranges: the Alps, the Himalayas, the Rockies and the undersea ridges. Every country was a different pastel color; I remember wondering if it was color coded. Were all the yellow countries part of some club? Or all the pinks or greens? I abandoned that notion when it seemed like just a good way to show where one country ended and another began. A star pinpointed each capital city. I could trace the paths of the great rivers, see how vast the oceans were compared to the land masses. Follow the equator as it circled the earth like a belt. The white snowcaps at the poles seemed otherworldly (as they are) and eternal (as we are learning they are not).

I didn’t have the words for it back then, but I was fascinated with the three-dimensionality of the globe, the Earth as a sphere, as a planet, in space. This was the 1960s and at the end of that decade I was a 7-year-old watching Apollo 11 land on the moon. And watching the Starship Enterprise explore the galaxy in its original television voyages. earth from moonThe magic of the globe for me was its realistic representation of what little I understood of the real world, and its place in the real universe. When I saw the famous photograph of the Earth seen from the Moon, it made sense to me. There was my globe. It was a symbol that had power because I knew it was true. (It wasn’t very many years later that religious symbolism fell apart because I knew instinctively that it was a fiction. But that’s another blog post.)

Globes, of course, are notoriously difficult to carry around, so I learned to also love the flatland version of maps and atlases. I’ve studied them so obsessively over the years that I routinely trounced everyone in the Geography category of Trivial Pursuit (a board game from the 1980s)… and I still love shouting the questions to geography answers on Jeopardy! What is the Suez Canal?! Where is Tasmania?! What is the Marianas Trench?! Who was Magellan?! What is the Tropic of Capricorn?! The app that is most likely to drain the battery on my smartphone? Google Maps.

So I love WordPress’ Views by Country statistical graphic. It shows how many visitors each day and from what countries, with little flag icons – and a political map of the world color coded from dark red to pale yellow, indicating the relative numbers of visitors to the blog. Other summaries show how many visitors from which countries for the most recent 7 days, 30 days, the Quarter and All Time.

I noticed something unusual this evening, which is what sparked this post. Here is today’s map-o-the-world. I’m pretty sure it’s the first day that I’ve had visitors from all six* continents! North America (US, Canada); South America (Brazil); Europe (UK, Germany, Hungary); Africa (South Africa); Asia (Japan, Singapore) and Australia. How ’bout that? I’m lovin’ it. (*WP doesn’t track Antarctica. Yet.)

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^ Views by Country – 18 July 2014

As a representation of the real world, maps are ever changing. Borders move. New countries emerge. Some countries disappear. And statistical maps tell a story. When I look at my blog’s “all time” map, it shows every country from which at least one person has viewed my blog. And after more than 300 posts in the last nine months, that map is getting pretty well filled in. But the blanks, the remaining countries and regions from which I’ve had zero visitors, that is becoming the more interesting story to me. Here’s the map of visits since the beginning of The End:

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^ Views by Country – All Time

The Americas are well represented, except for a few countries in South America. It’s telling to note the lack of traffic from the troubled nations of Central America – from which the current exodus of children across the US southern border is creating a humanitarian crisis and a political flashpoint with the oh-so inhumane and racist Republicans. (Why save that for another post? It’s the plain and hideous truth.) Europe is solid, except for some weakness in the Baltic states, the Balkans and Belarus. What the B is up with that? Africa is strongest up on its Mediterranean coast, with South Africa as the only sub-Saharan country (hello Mon & Merv!). In the Middle East, the Arabian peninsula, Israel and Turkey have checked in. But (as in Central America) political upheaval and war – or censorship – may be the main reasons for the no shows of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. No interest yet from any of “the -stans”, Mongolia or China (which I think blocks access to WP). Crickets. Though Pakistan and India have tuned in, along with much of Southeast Asia, Singapore (hi Halim), Taiwan and Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan (what’s cooking, Steven?). Shout out to M-R and my blog-mates in the ANZAC: Australia and New Zealand. Oz may be down under, but it’s tip top in my book.

[Update: On 19 Jan 2015, I scaled the Great Wall of China!]

Unlike the pastel shadings on my childhood globe, the WP map is color coded to indicate volume of traffic. And it’s unsurprising that the high-traffic red and deep gold colors mostly reflect the English-speaking world – the remnants of the once vast British Empire. Her Majesty’s realm may be down to the Home Island and the Falklands (las Malvinas para mis amigos argentinos)… but I’m happy to say that the sun never sets on this blog! 🙂

It’s a little bit of an ego trip, to be sure. But every trip requires a good map.

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Remember

I was born 17 years after the end of the Second World War. By the time I was cracking open history textbooks, WWII had already taken its place as one of the defining events in American history, alongside the Revolution and the Civil War. The war was portrayed as a great military victory of the Allies over the Axis – but also as a great moral victory of good triumphing over evil. Young Americans were taught that our country had done a great good thing by joining the war in Europe and by defending ourselves after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There was not much nuance used in descriptions of the Germans or the Japanese. We beat the Nazis and the Japs, and in the process America saved the world.

LANC panorama

I was enormously proud of my country. How could you not be proud watching newsreel footage of American soldiers liberating Jews from the camps? We had sacrificed much as a nation and many of our soldiers had died in battle. We were the good guys. And when I was 7, I watched American astronauts plant the flag on the moon. That served to confirm that I lived in the best country on earth.

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Hindsight is 20/20. I learned long ago that the world is far more complex than a cartoonish battle between Good and Evil. In war, the victors get to write the history books. But I was right to be proud of my country when I was a kid. I am still proud of this country, for many reasons. But not for its propensity toward war. Since our founding (in war) 238 years ago, the United States of America has enjoyed only a handful of years when we did not have troops deployed in battle somewhere in the world. This detailed timeline of American military operations is startling in its documentation of our near-continuous involvement in warfare. And not all of our conflicts have been as noble as the Revolution or WWII. Not all wars are just; some are just war.

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Though I came to know the complex history of our involvement in Vietnam, and to understand the central role of domestic politics in America’s international adventures… I only have one memory of my experience of that war as a young child in the 60s: the body counts on the nightly newscast. “Today in Vietnam, 236 American troops were killed… 177 Americans troops were killed… 341 American troops were killed… 232 American troops were killed…” and so on, every night. It is said that Walter Cronkite started these body counts on his nightly news broadcast as a way to put pressure on the government to end the war. It also may have had the effect of dehumanizing the horrendous costs of war, reducing people to numbers.

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In any event, my experience of war has been as a distant bystander. I realize how fortunate that makes me. No one in my family has fought in war or died in battle. That is true of most Americans. In a nation of more than 300 million people, less than 1% of us have been directly involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And while we all felt attacked on September 11, that was an act of terror. Terrorism is not war, which is why war is never going to be the answer to terrorism. But that’s another post for another day.

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Today is Memorial Day, the day America remembers her war dead. It is also the unofficial start of summer, a three-day weekend marked mostly by barbecues and get-togethers of family and friends. There have always been parades, though not so much anymore. Maybe mostly in small-town America. I went to a barbecue last night, and that was fun. But earlier in the day, I did something I’ve never done before. I visited a military cemetery.

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Where Wilshire Blvd crosses the 405 freeway is one of the busiest intersections – and one of the quietest corners – in Southern California. That’s where you’ll find the Los Angeles National Cemetery, sandwiched between the freeway and the UCLA campus in Westwood. And that’s where I found myself yesterday afternoon, almost by accident. A shortcut earlier in the week had taken me down Veteran Avenue, which – I discovered – is the eastern border of the cemetery between Sunset and Wilshire. So, yesterday after I left the pool at the Westwood Rec Center, I found the entrance to the cemetery and drove in.

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Why? Well, I know that some might find this disappointing, but I wanted to take some photographs. As I drove down Veteran last week, I couldn’t help but notice what beautiful parkland held this cemetery. Gentle hills, magnificent old trees undisturbed by development – and the mesmerizing patterns of crisp white markers on green lawns, stretching in every direction as far as I could see. 100+ acres of peace and quiet in the middle of this sprawling, frenetic city.

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As an atheist, I do not experience cemeteries as places of supernatural significance. But of course, I understand this is hallowed ground to many, and why. For me, a place like this has enormous historical importance, and can teach so much to future generations. The endless repetition of small white, identical grave markers becomes a symbolic representation of a nation’s loss and sacrifice.

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But all one has to do is focus on any single marker for it to become very personal. There’s not much room on these stones. The story each one tells is limited to a name, date of birth, date of death, theatre of war. It’s enough, though, to conjure a sense of a single human being… among thousands buried here… among millions who have died in war… among billions who have ever lived. I saw markers on the graves of men who had died in Iraq and in Afghanistan, in Vietnam and Korea, in WWII’s battles in Europe and the Pacific, and going back all the way to “the Great War” (WWI) and the Spanish American War – which is abbreviated “Sp.Am. War” on the markers. That’s an immense sweep of our history, all in the tiny portion of the cemetery that I walked through yesterday. Wars of great moral purpose. Wars of proxy between ‘superpowers’. And wars waged by criminals who have brought immense dishonor on America.

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Whether a soldier or sailor died defending America’s honor, or in the service of cowardly politicians’ egos, it is easy to believe, in the midst of thousands of white markers, that those Americans who died in our wars were fighting for the country they loved – the same one we love. And for that, they deserve to be honored and remembered. Not only in military cemeteries, and not only on national holidays. But all the time. If more of us remembered the sacrifices required by past wars, it might make future wars less easy to begin. Because the only thing harder than dying in war should be starting the next one. True patriots understand that.

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Happy Birthday Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills turned 100 years old in January. And yes, she’s had some work done. The fabled city is celebrating its centennial with a year-long public art installation. “Arts of Palm” is curated by Kate Stern (of The Frostig Collection at Bergamot Station).

One of the pieces chosen for this artistic salute to BH is a spetacular wood beam sculpture by my friend and colleague, Anne Shutan – a native of Beverly Hills who now lives near Boulder, Colorado. Annie’s “Heart of Palm” is one of the few works selected for indoor display – fortuitously situated at the entrance to Circa 55 at the Beverly Hilton – and convenient to Trader Vic’s poolside lounge. Click on the photo below for a link to Anne’s site.

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With temps soaring near the century mark this week, that was not a terrible place to catch up with Annie, her husband Scott and Kate Stern on Monday afternoon. In fact, that pool terrace is perfect for just about anything, anytime. I promised the artist I would stop by regularly to sip a mai tai check on her sculpture. If you’re in the neighborhood, you should too.

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^ Poolside at the Beverly Hilton

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^ Shadow Palm @ The Beverly Hilton
4:00pm Monday 12 May 2014

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Batman

The path from the pool to the parking structure takes me past West Hollywood Park’s picnic area and tot lot, then leads alongside a wide lawn. As the days lengthen, more and more folks gather there in the early evening. They romp around with their dogs. Or spread a blanket and watch the sky change. It’s a popular spot for personal trainers to bring their one-on-one clients: there’s an entire gym in a park bench. City parks are important, because in our over-programmed lives they provide completely freeform spaces. Just strolling along a path… or sitting on a bench… or lying in the grass = mission accomplished.

But yesterday, I had the rare opportunity to meet a bonafide superhero.

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I cut across the lawn to where the pint-sized Caped Crusader battled (played) with his archnemesis (friend).

Is that… Batman?! I asked the older girl who was with them.

He snapped to attention and turned to confront the intruder (me).

Gosh! I never thought I’d get to meet Batman! Is it OK if I take your picture?

“WAIT!” came the command. Seems Batman was having a bit of a wardrobe malfunction. He whispered to his sister to fix his cape before greeting his public…

And then, Gotham’s sworn protector was ready for his close-up. Deep down, this kid knew he wasn’t really Batman. But when some stranger came along and believed in him – it put a little more starch in that cape.

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What an amazing effect we can have on each other.

It’s fun when you get to ride along

for a few minutes

on someone else’s magic.

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Art Stroll

PDC.Escalate2I was meeting Thom after work yesterday. His showroom (Witford) is in the “blue whale” – the Blue building at Pacific Design Center. This massive structure contains six floors of home furnishings showrooms, most of which only sell to the trade (i.e., you need to be, or be with, an architect or interior designer to buy) – but the public is welcomed throughout the building. If you’re interested in furniture and interior design, this is part mall, part school, part playground! (It’s not the most appropriate place to bring kids, I should add.)

PDC.ChairThe building itself is a monumental sculpture designed by Cesar Pelli and built in 1975. (The Green and Red buildings followed in 1988 and 2011.) It dominates the streetscape along Melrose Avenue, like a big blue castle looming over the village. But the unconventional shape clad in cobalt blue glass gives this monster a playful personality. On the southwestern corner of the property by San Vicente stands a 20-foot tall aluminum chair; on the east side of the building is an equally oversized lamp. Message: This is a design center, not a condo for Smurfs.

What many people may not know is that in addition to the design showrooms, the Blue building is also home to a number of art galleries. (There is even an outpost of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) located in the fountain courtyard of PDC – but that’s another post.) I had about an hour to kill, so I wandered around the 2nd floor to visit some galleries. They don’t all keep regular hours, so it can be hit or miss. But there were a half dozen open on a Thursday afternoon.

So I meandered, rarely bumping into another person. In one gallery, there were tables and chairs and entire walls covered with circuit boards and other computer innards. Not really my cup of tea. But then I came upon the most fantastic sculpture at the CMay gallery. Korean artist Bahk Seon Ghi creates the most amazing installations composed of small bits of black charcoal suspended by almost invisible nylon filaments.

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The nearly weightless piece has visual mass. This is the only piece here by Bahk Seon Ghi. A Google search delivers a treasure trove of his other works. He specializes in creating architectural forms – columns, staircases, arches – using suspended charcoal, which lets him play visual tricks by tweaking the structures. I’m tempted to include a dozen images, but you can start with the link, below.

I also found artmergelab with an exhibition curated by Jae Yang featuring four artists, all of whom incorporate photographic imagery into their work. I was particularly drawn to several pieces by Bryan Bankston. He creates composites using hundreds of images of human faces found on Google. The resulting “portraits” are mesmerizing.

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There is so much more awaiting you at PDC. More galleries, artists, and the showrooms, of course. There’s also a decent restaurant upstairs, and a ‘sidewalk’ cafe by the main entrance on Melrose. And that’s my contribution to your cultural enrichment for today!

Credits:

http://www.cmaygallery.com

http://www.artmergelab.com

http://bryanbankston.tumblr.com

http://www.beyarch.com/2014/01/seon-ghi-bahk.html


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[097] Eschscholzia californica

pdc.redbldg.loomingI had a plan for this post. The Pacific Design Center complex borders a residential neighborhood on its eastern flank. PDC’s Red Building resembles a ship with its curved “hull” and soaring “prow”. As you walk down Huntley Drive toward Melrose, the massive building looms above the neat little houses and small apartment buildings as if it has slipped its mooring. It’s quite something – unless you’re trying to shoot photos directly into the afternoon sun. Which I was. And that’s never a good idea. So here’s one pic to give you an idea of what I was after. To be continued…

poppiesFortunately, my walking route to that ill-fated photo shoot took me through the terraced parking lot below Sunset Plaza. There is an upper and a lower parking lot built into a fairly steep hillside which is planted out with wild grasses and an amazing variety of flowering vines and shrubs and trees. I think many other places would be quite happy to have this as a botanical garden. (You know who you are.)

So I was snapping away – if you think I bombard you with floral fotos, gentle reader, then you should feel especially sorry for my Instagram followers – when suddenly I spied the elusive flora: Eschscholzia californica! The official state flower of the Golden State: The California poppy. “Copa de oro” as the early Spanish settlers dubbed it: “cup of gold”.

I call it “elusive” only because I just read an article lamenting the devastating effect the drought is having on our beloved poppies. But the cups of gold bursting forth in the Sunset Plaza parking lot don’t seem to be inhibited in the least. So, enjoy these snapshots of poppies and more. (And I’ll bring you that other story one of these days.)

hillside.poppies poppies galore

And there were these huge bushes covered in pink flowers…

masses of pink flowering shrub

And Orange Morning Glory – which is strange,
because 99% of the time it is those thousand shades of blue…

orange morning glory

And all these purple daisies, which I googled, so now I can
call them by their proper name: purple daisies.

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Poppies & Company

Day 097 #100happydays

 


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[096] Olympic Swim

ScarletSistersMy friend Myra MacPherson has a new book out, and it looks like the perfect summer read:

The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in the Gilded Age

A fresh look at the life and times of Victoria Woodhull and Tennie Claflin, two sisters whose radical views on sex, love, politics, and business threatened the white male power structure of the nineteenth century and shocked the world. Here award-winning author Myra MacPherson deconstructs and lays bare the manners and mores of Victorian America, remarkably illuminating the struggle for equality that women are still fighting today.

Myra is in town this weekend for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the USC campus, and I was looking forward to catching up with her. When I looked at the FoB schedule this morning, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it to USC for her panel discussion. Rats. (Sorry to miss you, Myra… but I hope I sold a few books with this post!)

1932LAOlympics.pool+coliseum

While in scheduling mode, I was wondering when to get in my swim today. Saturdays in my usual pool tend to get a little crowded with people I generously call “floaters”. Then, the part of my brain that was still at the Book Fest remembered that USC is next to Expo Park – which includes the Coliseum and the Los Angeles Swimming Stadium.

These were built for the 1932 Olympics, and called up for duty again in 1984 for LA’s second bite at the Olympic apple. In the ’90s, the whole thing got mothballed. But ten years ago, the Swimming Stadium was given a $30 million renovation. I’ve heard it’s a great venue for lap swimming, so I’ve been wanting to give it a spin.

Today was the day.

LASwim.frontview

The two rounds of renovation tread very lightly on the original 1932 architecture and design of the Swimming Stadium, permitting this state of the art facility to keep its Art Deco bones. That’s a laudable achievement anywhere, but especially in LA – which hasn’t always put a premium on historic preservation.

LA Plunge

The Coliseum is decked out in USC’s red&gold as the home field of the Trojans.

swim stadium + coliseum

In the most recent redo a massive recreational pool was added (background); this is a godsend to us lap swimmers, as it siphons off the floaters. The 50-meter pool has a moveable divider (visible at left) creating a 25-yard pool at the far end (for diving, water polo and synchronized swimming) and the 8-lane lap pool in the foreground. 50 meters minus 25 yards = about 27 yards: 2 yards longer than the standard 25. So, the configuration of this pool makes you work a little harder for your lap count. But I took comfort in knowing I’d recess.icecream.truckget an 8% bonus at the end of my swim. Before I finish this love letter, let me just say that a six-foot-deep shallow end is a beautiful thing. All that for two bucks, and free parking! I’d swim there everygreentea.cone day if it weren’t a 20-mile roundtrip. But maybe it’s my new Saturday plunge.

Afterwards, I wandered through Expo Park, past the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center (now home to Shuttle Endevour) and over to the USC campus – which was still humming with book lovers. I stumbled upon a quad filled with food trucks, and suddenly felt famished. Funny how that works, eh? I scoped out the shortest line, and was happy to find myself at the very festive Recess Ice Cream truck asking for two scoops of green tea ice cream in a waffle cone.

As I walked slurpily away, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had an ice cream cone. Am I alone in this? Or have we all been denying ourselves one of life’s simplest pleasures for far too long??

USC.jacaranda

Lots of collegiate red brick and blue sky provide a great backdrop for this flowering jacaranda, my view while I waited for my ice cream cone. As I made my way off campus, I bumped into this guy:

USC.NeilArmstrong

And I have to say, if there’s a competition among life-size bronze statues for Best Plaque… this one just might win:

armstrong.plaque

Except for missing my friend at the book fest, today was not a bad day at all.
Olympic qualifying, in fact.

Day 096 #100happydays

Photo credit at top: Ryan Lochte by Martin Schoeller

 


The End (so far)

[095] Jacaranda!

Kim+Me.Robertson.041014I reconnected a couple of years ago with a friend from our high school days who now lives in Northern California’s Silicon Valley with her husband and two sons. Last August, Kim was shuttling her older son back down to USC for his sophomore year; she suggested we get together for lunch, which was really lovely. How do you catch up after so many years? Wine.

A few weeks ago, Kim telegraphed that she’d be down LA way again – this time with her younger son, who has a decision to make about his own collegiate future. So we had another chance to lunch and catch up and spend an unhurried afternoon together. From what I hear, it looks like they are going to be an All-SC family… which guarantees me a few more lunch dates with Kim. That makes me happy. The dogs too. Especially Bernardo – who is quite smitten with this girl! After our lunch (at Lemonade on Beverly), we wandered around, visiting and window-shopping. Some kid was taking snapshots of his supermodel girlfriend near the Ivy on Robertson, and he was kind enough to take ours. We tried to be adult and respectable, we really did. (We failed.)

jac and pineAnother wonderful thing happened yesterday. As we were driving to lunch, I spotted my first blooming jacaranda tree of the season. Spring is really here when the jacarandas burst into blue-lavender-purple fireworks. It starts slowly, with the telltale purple haze here and there. And then, ka-BOOM! They seem to be everywhere. But especially in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. They are native to South America and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, but were brought to Los Angeles a century ago by Katherine Olivia Sessions, the landscape architect for Balboa Park in San Diego. Thank you, Ms Sessions! jac.telephonepole

These aren’t terribly good photographs of the jacarandas in my neighborhood, where they mingle with palms and pines. The sun was too high and the colors are washed out. But I’ll get better at it. As long as we don’t have a freak rainstorm, these blooms last for a couple of months. (They bloom again in the fall, but the big show tends to be in spring.)

And here are a few more snaps of local flora from my travels today. Enjoy!

yellow whatsit

I don’t know the proper name for this gorgeous yellow flower,
so I’ll just call it gorgeous yellow flower.

bougainvillea.rubyred

The ruby-reddest bougainvillea I’ve ever seen.

olive.reaching

I love the way the new growth on this silvery-green olive tree reaches for the sky.

in the tall grass

They’re just clumps of tall grasses planted at the edge of a park…
but there’s such exuberance – even without all the flower power.

To old friends and new seasons.

Day 095 #100happydays

 

 
The End (so far)

 

 

[090] Twins

I’ve logged nearly 150 miles in the pool since November, which is the good news. The bad news? My favorite swim trunks have been degraded to the point of scandal. So, today I found myself in the shopping nirvana that is the Century City mall, in pursuit of a swimsuit. I had done my homework and headed directly to H&M, which had what I was looking for. Sadly, I tried on three different styles in size MEDIUM before succumbing to the harsh reality: I still require the LARGE. You know, I’ve heard that they take liberties with women’s size labels. Why don’t men get this courtesy? What about size labels such as POTENT or BRILLIANT or PROSPEROUS?

[Sidebar] A thousand years ago, I had my first big-city job in New York and bought my first big-city winter overcoat. It was a brown tweed number, trench coat style with wide lapels. I felt very cool while keeping warm that winter. One cold night, I stopped to see my friend Kip at his parents’ house. His father opened the door and gave me a hearty welcome. “Steve! Well, you’re looking prosperous!” Now, I knew I had overpaid for that coat, but in that moment I felt entirely vindicated. I suddenly hoped summer would never come. It was some time before I learned the crushing truth: “prosperous” is a polite synonym for “fat” – as in “well fed” – used by very nice-if-somewhat-snarky New England WASPs. (I lived.)

Anyhoo, success. I found my swimwear for the next several hundred miles. But then it took longer to get to the cash register than it had taken me to get to the mall. And I was nearly asphyxiated when the charming little girls behind me smashed a vile vial of glitter nail polish on the floor. Their mother pretended not to know them while the employee (who would otherwise have been ringing up my purchase, thankyouverymuch) discovered the near impossibility of wiping up glitter-infused nail lacquer from a white marble floor.

And no, I will not model my new swimming costume for you. Maybe next time… when I’m sufficiently less prosperous. Hey – this post is not even about swimwear, or overcoats, or child terrorists. Hello! Focus people, focus!

aerial-centuryplazaThat mall has an immense underground parking structure, and I’m always a little relieved to find my way to any exit. Today’s roulette put me on Constellation Blvd and I found myself looking up at the crisply striped twin towers of Century Plaza against an endlessly blue sky. (Sometimes, the blog post just writes itself.) Here’s an aerial shot to show you how these 500-foot tall wedges stand in relation to each other. The six angles produce ever changing communication between these two giant sculptures.

Once a New Yorker always a New Yorker (no matter how much ankle-deep slush I no longer have to step in) – so the first time I heard someone refer to Century Plaza as “the twin towers”… my reaction could be summed up as fuhgeddaboudit!

My stance on this has softened somewhat since learning that these twinned towers in LA share something rather significant with the iconic Twin Towers of the original World Trade Center in NYC: their parentage. The same architect, Minoru Yamasaki, designed these buildings. What’s more, they were built around the same time. WTC was finished in 1973; Century Plaza Towers opened two years later. And the family resemblance is striking. Yamasaki favored aluminum cladding and narrow dark windows. These two side-by-side shots show the similar design elements:

SIDE BY SIDE 1

Of course, New York’s Twin Towers were far more massive and 2-1/2 times taller than Century Plaza Towers. But as I stood looking up at the interplay of the twins here in LA, I couldn’t help recalling the same strained neck while standing between the North and South Towers of WTC, once upon a time. There was a time when this would have made me sad… but today I found myself happy to visit the California cousins of those noble old New Yorkers.

centuryplaza.landscape

WTC-twin towers

Towering Twins

Day 090 #100happydays

P.S. I have just traveled here from the future! Well, little more than a week after the original date of this post. Because I found another shot in the album from that day. I didn’t use it in this post, as the trees interfered with the clean lines of the architecture. But I like the juxtaposition of the natural and built environments. So I’ll just sneak it in here, and return to my proper place in the timeline.

centuryplaza.trees

 

The End (so far)