After such a long dry spell, rain is absolutely luxurious.
Soak it up, Los Angeles!
After such a long dry spell, rain is absolutely luxurious.
Soak it up, Los Angeles!
As the 20th century was drawing to a close, Time magazine set to work preparing its mother-of-all-lists: The Time 100 Persons of the Century. Quite an undertaking, especially when you consider how many tens of billions of people lived and died during that momentous century. How to whittle the list down to a mere one hundred? Imagine the screaming matches in the editorial meetings as that deadline neared! “How can you not include [blank]?!” “Are you out of your mind? [Blank] is worth fifty of [blank]!” “OK, you can have [blank] or [blank] – but not both.” I’m sure it wasn’t as polite as all that.
In the end, The 100 were chosen. This was not a list of the most popular or most beautiful or most loved (although many were one or more of those). The filter used to sift the 20th century was influence. These folks were named for the impact they had on the human race in the past hundred years – “for better or worse”. Given the explosive growth of mass media in that century, many of the names on the list enjoy a renown without borders. Some inhabit the mono-moniker realm: Mandela. Churchill. Gandhi. Hitler. Freud. Ali. Diana. Lindbergh. Pele. Sakharov. Che. MLK. FDR. A few founded companies that became global brands, giving them a more dynamic form of immortality: Ford. Disney. Chanel. Albert Einstein landed on the cover, first among equals – and you don’t have to be Einstein to understand… oh, never mind.
Maybe you’re surprised to learn that little more than half of the list is comprised of Americans. That may seem too high or too low, depending on where you stand. The “made in America” label was sewn into far less than 5% of the planetary population during the timeframe. But this country did have an outsized impact on the condition of the human race in the 1900s, in almost every way. For better and worse.
The list was released not all at once, but in flights across five issues of Time in 1998 and 1999. Each issue offered a different group of The 100 including “Artists & Entertainers”, “Builders & Titans”, “Scientists & Thinkers”. (There’s a link at the end of this post to the entire list.) The final portion of The 100 appeared in the Time issue dated June 14, 1999. “Heroes & Icons” includes some of the most inspiring and courageous people our species has yet produced. Anne Frank. Rosa Parks. Helen Keller. Jackie Robinson. Harvey Milk. Mother Ter––
Seems a safe bet that most earthlings, and (sadly) most Americans would see that name on the list and have no idea who Harvey Milk was. Of course, most Americans can’t name the current Vice President (Joe Biden) or the inventor of the internet (Al Gore)… but that’s cold comfort. Harvey Milk is a hero of the gay rights movement (and of the larger struggle for civil rights) in America and around the world. He is in the upper echelon of prominence in the lgbt pantheon. In 1977 Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official in California, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (city council). In 1978 he was assassinated in City Hall alongside Mayor George Moscone by a deranged ex-Supervisor with a gun. But Harvey (he is one of those ‘one-namers’ to the gay community) had made his mark long before reaching SF City Hall. Here is an excellent bio from The Milk Foundation, if you’d like to know more about this man and his life so powerfully lived. I can also recommend the excellent biography by Randy Shilts, The Mayor of Castro Street (which was made into the Academy Awarded film, Milk with Sean Penn).
Today – May 22nd – is Harvey Milk Day celebrating the man and his life on his birthday. This was established by the California Legislature in 2009 as a ‘day of special significance’ for public schools, with appropriate focus in the curriculum to insure that kids learn about this important man and his place in their own history. As you can imagine, this sets certain folks’ hair on fire… but that’s all the ink I’ll waste on them here. Harvey would be 84 years old today.
In a special acknowledgment of Harvey Milk’s place in our history, the United States Post Office has issued a commemorative stamp – to be officially dedicated in a ceremony at the White House today. It’s a very proud moment for all of us, gay and straight, who know what a powerful and positive role model this man was for his generation, and all those who followed. I was a 16-year-old kid in the closet in Connecticut in 1978. If I was even aware of the events unfolding in faraway San Francisco, I don’t recall any reaction I may have had.
Looking back now, it’s so easy to forget the context of those times. Harvey Milk was killed just ten years after MLK and RFK were gunned down. That’s less time than has passed for us since 9/11. The Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the gay pride movement were then even more recent. And it is haunting to realize that Harvey lived, and died, in a time just a few years before the onslaught of AIDS… It’s impossible not to indulge the What if? daydreams. What if Harvey had not been murdered? How would he have continued to change the world? It’s impossible not to hear the fury of his voice cracking the marble foundations in Washington – demanding the action and the funding and the leadership that Reagan’s government withheld. Others rose to take up that mantle, courageously and nobly. But there is no doubt that the bullets fired in 1978 condemned more than two good people to death. Keep that in mind the next time you see or hear some imbecile talking about “2nd Amendment solutions”. This nation has paid a hideously high price for our unwillingness to separate dangerously unstable people from their guns.
As President Obama remarked last summer at the 50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington and the civil rights struggle: “The arc of the universe may bend toward justice – but it doesn’t bend on its own.” Harvey Milk, as have others before him and since, reached up and grabbed hold of the arc of the universe – and pulled on it with all his might to bend it a little further toward justice. He succeeded. And as we celebrate that success we should stop looking around to see who the next leader will be, and look within. That was Harvey’s real message. And that is why those who would put us all back in the closet may win a battle here and there – but they have already lost the war. Thank you, Harvey.
And how cool is this? The White House made a birthday cake for Harvey today. He would have loved that!
The End (so far)
I 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…
Fortunately, 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.)
And there were these huge bushes covered in pink flowers…
And Orange Morning Glory – which is strange,
because 99% of the time it is those thousand shades of blue…
And all these purple daisies, which I googled, so now I can
call them by their proper name: purple daisies.
Poppies & Company
Day 097 #100happydays
The End (so far)
I 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.)
Another 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!
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!
I don’t know the proper name for this gorgeous yellow flower,
so I’ll just call it gorgeous yellow flower.
The ruby-reddest bougainvillea I’ve ever seen.
I love the way the new growth on this silvery-green olive tree reaches for the sky.
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)
When I was a kid, I was fascinated with planes, airports and everything to do with aviation. Along with most other little boys of my generation, and undoubtedly quite a few of the little girls. A big jet launching into the air presents a heady mix of science, engineering, magic and romance. How does it fly?! Where is it going? Who’s on it?
Fast forward, decades. Wide-eyed little boys and girls become bleary-eyed passengers. Science and engineering are now in the service of shoehorning ever more butts into ever-shrinking seats. Magic is required to jam giant carry-ons into overhead bins. As for the romance of air travel… that phrase just reads like a punchline.
But there’s one place that even the most jaded traveler can summon his inner kid: at the end of a runway.
I dropped Eileen at LAX this afternoon, reluctantly sending her back to the last vestiges of Boston’s never-ending winter. Instead of hopping back on the freeway, I decided to take a quick detour down the Imperial Highway, which runs along the southern edge of LAX. It parallels the runways, and like all westbound routes, it ends at the big blue Pacific.
Dockweiler State Beach sits under the bluffs at the end of the airport’s runways. You’d never know there is a massive intercontinental transportation hub behind that hillside covered with ice plants, because you can’t hear or see the jets until they have launched themselves right above your head, out over the ocean. Doesn’t matter the destination: north, south, east or west. Transcon or transpacific. All flights jump off headed west, into the wind. Some will turn left or right. Some will just keep going, into the wild blue yonder. Next stop: Hawaii. Tokyo. Sydney. Hong Kong. Singapore…
So the little kid in me got to relive some long-forgotten thrills today, watching big planes climb up into the bigger sky. How does it fly? Where is it going? Who’s on it? And between launches, I was drawn – as I always am – to that zone between land and sea. Where the relentless blue-green surf throws itself upon indifferent sands. It is somehow violent and peaceful all at once. An unending war, fought to an inevitable draw, over and over and over again. The sound of it is comforting, like a lullaby. The sea breeze is constant. There goes another jet. Down the beach, a few kites take to the sky. And the great flocks of gulls gathered on the beach to breed are a little more skittish than usual. They take wing en masse if someone approaches too close, settling again just 50 feet down the beach.
That was a busy stretch of sand there at the end of the LAX runways this afternoon.
And one very happy little boy.
Day 084 #100happydays (And here’s a few more pics from today.)
Santa Monica’s gleaming white skyline follows the sweep of the coast just north of LAX.
Hillsides covered in fire-resistant succulents called ice plants explode with vibrant colors in the Southern California spring.
If you squint you can just make out a jet headed west over the ocean. The smudge along the horizon is the marine layer – dense fog banks a thousand feet high or more – that is California’s natural air conditioning. As the inland areas heat up, the marine layer is drawn closer in, giving us a nice cool hug. In June, it might not burn off until early afternoon, earning the meteorological moniker “the June gloom”. Some folks find it depressing. But as a veteran of many a sweaty summer in New York, Boston and Washington DC – not to mention six consecutive summers in the skillet of the Palm Springs desert – I’m a big fan of the marine layer. It’s cool.
The last full day of pal Eileen’s LA visit began with a casual and delish breakfast at Bossy Wife + Co on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood. French toast. Corned beef hash (= crazy good). Omelette. Sourdough toast. Coffee. Mmmmmmmm.
Then we strolled back to the Chamberlain and popped up to the rooftop pool for some R+R in the sun. A crystal clear day. The sky blue sky. The pool blue pool.
Gorgeous views up at the Hollywood Hills, to downtown L.A., to Griffith Park and the San Gabriel mountains beyond.
Later in the day, after a couple of hours hanging out with Thom and the dogs, Eileen and I ambled on over to Cafe Med in Sunset Plaza. I was craving their pizza della fotomodella… supermodel pizza.
Because I love eating it: thin crust pizza, no red sauce, arugula and prosciutto: perfecto! And I love saying it: pizza della fotomodella!
It is impossible not to sound like a native Italiano when these words strut down the catwalk of your tongue:
Vorrei la pizza della fotomodella, per favore. Ciao! Grazie! Bene!
It’s how Raoul Bova (Diane Lane’s love interest in Under The Tuscan Sun) would say it.
Damn near perfect.
Day 083 #100happydays
Today I watched three refugees from winter begin to thaw. It was beautiful.
Mario, Jim & Eileen on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
Los hermosos… patrolling the sand.
Just as we’ve long suspected:
She walks on water.
Mario & Eileen, deep in reflection.
Jim… footloose and fancy-free.
Sun, sand, water + friends.
Day 081 #100happydays
Spring may have sprung, but the Northeast is looking down the barrel of another nor’easter this week. So, let’s face it: a couple of days of clouds with zero chance of snow? That makes me happy.
Day 076 #100happydays
I celebrated my 52nd birthday today under a big, blue sky in Santa Monica with my very dear friend, Lisë… who reminded me that the last time we were together on my birthday, I was 19. And it’s like we’re stuck in a timewarp. Haven’t aged an hour. Weird.
A day of firsts! including my very own henna tattoo, courtesy of Rozine at the Mindful Nest booth. I wanted to keep it simple on this initial foray into body art, so I chose a peace sign on my inner wrist. And why not? We’re both from the 60s. Photo on left is of the design with the henna paste still drying… Photo on right is next day, with all the henna flaked off and just the stained design on my wrist.
Henna tattoos are cool. You should get one.
And my first “personal” poetry slam… While Lisë was having her henna tattoo done (an intricate design of the Hebrew letters for her three kids’ names), I went back to the car to drop off some market finds (fruits & cheeses) and feed the meter. On my way back into the market, I bumped into Seamas (“Make sure you spell it with -as”) Navarro (“That’s with two Rs”), who introduced himself as a Beat poet. He asked me if I like poetry (yes) and did I want him to perform a 30-second poem (please) and he let me know that we was working his way from LA to Crestline, Colorado. It was a very soft sell. I told him I had $7 in my wallet and it was his – if I liked his poem, and could video him for my blog. Done deal. Et voilà:
Then Lisë steered me to my first raw food encounter at the extraordinary RAWVOLUTION…
I wish I had taken food porn pix of the dishes we ordered before we tore into them. The two of us shared the California Crunch rolls (think large maki rolls), pad thai and a ‘burger’. Remember, this is totally vegan and totally raw. No meat, no dairy, nothing with a face, and no cooking. I’m a total noob, and couldn’t even pretend to understand what I was eating or how it was made. Lisë was a good guide, as she is (a) a foodie / food writer, and (b) a fan of veggie/vegan/raw. And Rawvolution knocked her hemp socks off! (She didn’t really have on hemp socks. I don’t think…)
But can I just tell you? It was amazingly delicious! And so inventive. The raw version of bacon is coconut jerky. Yum. Coconut water and milk and meat are used in many dishes, many ways to provide sweetness and/or texture. Whatever was (or wasn’t) in the ‘burger’ patty was awesome. The pad thai dish was so creatively done. But I could eat a thousand of the California Crunch rolls and never tire of them. They’re big, and messy to eat and soooooo goood! As with many other cuisines, god lives in the sauces. And let me just wrap this up by saying the peach cake/pie which is made with (I think) frozen coconut-milk yogurt and a graham cracker (ish) crust and fresh peaches… Sell my soul, I’ve gone to heaven! On a 1-10 scale, it was a 437. I can’t wait to go back, with either a vegan friend or another uninitiated type like me. Rawvolution is such a nice surprise, all around. If you’re in a hurry, wait till you’re not. This is not fast food, and the whole vibe in the room says sit and savor.
These five or six blocks centered on Main Street and Ocean Park is Santa Monica’s version of Abbott Kinney (which is just next door in Venice). It’s funky and fab and edging toward upscale with bars and restaurants, an Urth Cafe and some great shops and galleries… but it’s fighting to ‘keep it real’ in all the right ways.
Here are some other snaps I shot along the way on this beautiful day.
adorns a CVS on Lincoln (or was it Main?)
and it somehow escapes being creepy.
I’m lying. It’s the king of creepy.
I have a hard time not photographing flowers and trees and skies.
Because it’s all just so ugly.
It was a good day to grow a tiny bit older. Thank you, Lisë!
Here are a few more recommendations I can happily make to you:
CoolHenna.com – Rozine does parties and weddings!
Garcia Organic Farm – You have got to find Leticia Garcia and her organic treasures at the Sunday farmers market in Ocean Park. They offer fruits you have never seen or tasted, all grown in North County (San Diego).
Mindful Nest – Contemporary Artisan Gallery on Main Street (mindfulnest.com)
Stansbury Collection – custom furniture store with extraordinary art on display… or is it an amazing art gallery with beautiful furniture?? Yes. They have a large framed grainy black-and-white photo of Malibu Pier from 1962 that I covet. And you can’t believe the images from Devil’s Churn on the Oregon coast, where the surf looks like heavy cream whipped to a frothy delight. I wish I could remember the name of the photographer… (stansburycollection.com)
Day 069 #100happydays
Snapped these shots along the way today…
As I started down the hill this afternoon, I turned around and caught this view of the facade of our condo building. No filters on this photograph. The light and the colors were fantastic! Had me humming The Star-Spangled Banner (true story)…
This mural was painted on the side of the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip about six months ago. I’ve always thought it was Humphrey Bogart. But I did a Google image search just now and discovered that it is a tribute to Johnny Cash – created by the amazing David Flores Art…
When I first came to Los Angeles more than 20 years ago, the thing that really popped out of the landscape was the ubiquitous bougainvillea – say that three times fast! They really are everywhere, covering walls, crawling across flat roofs, flowing down hillsides. This fuscia (again, sans filter) seems to be the dominant color, but you’ll see every shade along the spectrum from reds to pinks to oranges to yellows to purples. And here’s a fun fact: the color is not the flower. It’s specialized leaves surrounding the small, white flowers. Didn’t see that coming, did you?
If you’ve ever wondered Just how gay is West Hollywood, California? – consider this: we have rainbow crosswalks! Why? Because we can…
Ah, the benefits of moving through the world at 1 mph: you get to go into new places instead of just driving by them. One of the quirky things about LA is that it is splattered with old-fashioned donut shops. They are everywhere. Burger joints, too. But I’ve never really figured out why so many (many, many) donut shops? And who keeps them in business in this pilates-doing-grass-juice-swilling-hot-yoga-sweating-spanx-wearing-liposucked town??? A new one just opened on Santa Monica Blvd in Weho, in the middle of a several-blocks-long stretch of bars. And believe me: the gay bar crowd isn’t tossing back donuts with their happy hour vodkas – not even shrouded in disguise à la Anastasia Beaverhausen at Taco Time. But this is not your daddy’s donut shoppe. No, this is Glazed: Donuts For GrownUps. I zoomed in, snapped this pic, and got out of there before I drowned in my own saliva. (I saw a donut… with bacon on it.) I have friends coming to town soon, and we are gonna get Glazed!
Finally – and I don’t know why – here’s a selfie I took in the elevator upon my return. I wasn’t trying to look so fierce. Just wanted to get the damn thing snapped before the doors opened and I got busted taking a selfie in the elevator – or I was daydreaming about donuts…
Bougainvillea, rainbow crosswalks and new donuts make me happy.
Day 061 #100happydays
A wet, gray winter’s day in LA is a great time for a mini-survey of David Hockney’s California paintings. The openly queer British artist found his way to Los Angeles in 1964 – part of the cultural Invasion more famously associated with the Beatles – and lived here on and off for thirty years. His houses in Nichols Canyon and Malibu became the settings for some of his best-known works (including above, “Mulholland Drive – The Road to the Studio, 1980”). Hockney’s vibrant colors celebrate the landscapes and lifestyles of Southern California. Enjoy!
David Hockney makes me happy. (If my use of these images makes Mr Hockney or his representatives unhappy, I will take them down, unhappily.) Day 053 #100happydays
Update: Here’s a wonderful interview with David Hockney, by Martin Gayford in The Spectator.
When I was a kid in Connecticut, our next-door neighbors moved away. The people who bought their house were from Los Angeles, and on the day they moved in, the skies opened. Torrential rain.
My mother went over to welcome our new neighbors, who asked her, “When does the rainy season end?”
Now, that is a perfectly reasonable question in California, which really does have a rainy season: typically from November through February. It doesn’t guarantee rain during the winter months, but it does pretty much mean that you can plan your garden party from March through October without having to worry about an alternate ‘rain date’.
But to my mother, whose weather experience was limited to the New York metropolitan area, there was no such thing as a ‘rainy season’. Precipitation was just as likely on July 18th as it was on January 27th – the only variable was rain or snow. I remember Mom coming home and reporting that the new people were “a little strange”. (And they were a little strange, but it wasn’t weather-related.)
Turns out, it wasn’t such a bad question after all. That rainy move-in day for the neighbors was the start of a record-breaking streak of rainy days in the New York area, something on the order of 20 days in a row with rainfall. I may not be remembering the numbers accurately. But a LOT of rain fell for MANY MANY consecutive days. We learned later from the neighbors that they thought my mother was “a little strange” for having lied to them about Connecticut’s summer rainy season.
The local LA media is sounding the drumbeat today: EPIC RAINFALL EVENT ON THE WAY!! They are evacuating people from hillsides in recently burned areas. The rain may start tonight and continue, in waves, right up until the EPIC OSCARS EVENT!! on Sunday afternoon. Total rainfall in Los Angeles could be anywhere from 1-to-4 inches. You get used to the hyperbole in Southern California – the least challenging place in the country to be a meteorologist. “Sunshine today, sunshine tomorrow, sunshine continuing throughout the Zzzzzzz…” Imagine the excitement when they get to dust off the rainy day graphics. Click here to download your DIY Ark Instructions.
We need the rain. I’ve learned to be skeptical… but I hope we get it. Because when a little rain hits the dry pavement in LA, a lot of snow piles up in the Sierra. And that’s where most of our water comes from for the next year. Rain is good. As long as it doesn’t wreak havoc with hairdos and red carpet star-gazing at the Academy Awards!
Photo credit: “LA Rain” by Nic Adler (click here for Flickr link)
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