west hollywood

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.

batman3

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.

POW

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.

The End (so far)

Advertisements

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.

BahkSeonGhi.2010plantpot

seonghibahkanaggregate2

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.

bryanbankston.composites

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


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)

 

 

[083] Supermodel Pizza

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.

chamberlain.roofThen 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.

chamberlain.towel

Gorgeous views up at the Hollywood Hills, to downtown L.A., to Griffith Park and the San Gabriel mountains beyond.

 

losangeles.30mar14

griffith.sangabriels

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.

CafeMed_Now

Because I love eating it: thin crust pizza, no red sauce, arugula and prosciutto: perfecto! And I love saying it: pizza della fotomodella!

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!

raoul-bova-480150l-pozaIt’s how Raoul Bova (Diane Lane’s love interest in Under The Tuscan Sun) would say it.

Damn near perfect.

Day 083 #100happydays

 

 

 

 

 

[079] Relentlessly Awesome

jim.awesome

 

Old friends in town for a few days…

starts with terrific Vietnamese at Phonomenal in West Hollywood…

post-dinner stroll along Santa Monica Blvd…

finding the t-shirt that captures the moment – and Jim.

(– and Mario, not pictured.)

 

 

 

 

What are friends pho? (sorry)

Day 079 #100happydays

 

[076] Cloudy, No Chance of Snow

clouds.32314

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

[061] Ubiquitous Bougainvillea + Donuts

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)…

1230Horn

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

JohnnyCash.DavidFlores

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?

weho.bougainvillea

If you’ve ever wondered Just how gay is West Hollywood, California? – consider this: we have rainbow crosswalks! Why? Because we can…

weho.crosswalk

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!

weho.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…

selfie.elevator

Bougainvillea, rainbow crosswalks and new donuts make me happy.

Day 061  #100happydays

[047] The World at 1 mph

Steve Martin’s 1991 film “L.A. Story” takes the piss out of Los Angeles and the curious ways of its inhabitants. There is a scene where the people in a typical neighborhood get in their cars and drive 25 feet to their mailboxes at the end of their driveways. We know this is a spoof because it is choreographed and set to music. Otherwise, there is a sad degree of truth to it. I have a friend who lived six blocks from his office in Santa Monica. He drove to work every day. Why? There is no why. If you’re going somewhere in LA, you drive. The phrase “walking distance” would elicit blank stares.

I swim every day in a pool that is about 1 mile from home. I drive there. They validate parking. I drive home. I’ve decided to throw in a little walking to augment the swimming regimen, and today was a beautiful day to stretch the legs. You know it’s been a warm, dry winter in Southern California, and spring started springing here weeks ago. My walk took me down some side streets that would be out-of-the-way in a car but are shortcuts on foot. And I noticed flowers blooming everywhere. So I started snapping away. Not always in focus, but what the hell. It’s better than shoveling snow, eh?

IMG_20140222_135505

IMG_20140222_135743

After my swim, I decided to take a more leisurely, circuitous route home – and went on a real meander. I’ve lived in some great walking cities: New York, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco. After more than three years living in West Hollywood, I finally went on an extended stroll through my neighborhood. And I discovered some of the things I miss when I drive past them at 40 mph. Here’s what my world looks like at 1 mph. Enjoy!

IMG_20140222_170216 IMG_20140222_165921 IMG_20140222_170452 IMG_20140222_170852

IMG_20140222_171408 IMG_20140222_171738 IMG_20140222_172202 IMG_20140222_172430 IMG_20140222_172745 IMG_20140222_174607 IMG_20140222_175138

Day 047. Slow-walking my neighborhood. #100happydays

Century City from the Hollywood Hills

Photo by Steve Rosenberger using Paper Camera app

Photo by Steve Rosenberger using Paper Camera app

[028] Public Art

love your bean.sculpture

“Love Your Bean” sculptures by Cosimo Cavallaro

Last September, three giant jelly beans landed on the edge of West Hollywood Park. They are the work of artist Cosimo Cavallaro, who titled the installation Love Your Bean.

Art wears many hats. It can educate, inform, titillate, challenge (or support) the status quo. Public art installations tend to shy away from controversy. Woe to the public servant who puts something outrageous in the middle of the morning commute! West Hollywood takes its public art seriously, though. Its very active Art on the Outside program selects and commissions works by artists for placement in parks, along median strips, on billboards and murals.

The goal of much of the public art I’ve surveyed around Weho seems to be to make you smile as you walk past or drive by. That can be a tall order – getting noticed – in an urban environment that is already an insistent kaleidoscope of neon and natural light, colors, sounds, and movement. Add to that the fact that 90% of us experience 90% of everything going 40 mph in our cars listening to music, chattering and trying not to spill our lattes in our laps.

Even so, it’s hard to miss those massive black, lime and orange jelly beans that seem to have rolled to the edge of the grass along San Vicente Blvd – and then, it’s hard not to smile. In a way, the beans humorously echo the superjumbo children’s toys of the Pacific Design Center, just across the street.

PacificDesignCenter.09NOV13

Public art makes me happy.
Day 028 #100happydays

[027] WINTER – FINALLY!

If you don’t live in Southern California, you’ll never understand the agony… If you live in a place where “wind chill” is a thing, you should just skip this post because you might find it very upsetting.

A few weeks ago, I lamented the fact that I Bought A Scarf in December – but it had been too warm to wear it.

To give this whinge a little meteorological heft, I refer you to the following charts showing the Actual Temps in Los Angeles for the months of December 2013 and January 2014. I’ll meet you on the other side.

December2013.ActualTemps.LA

In December, there were 11 days in the 70s; 8 days in the 80s.

January2014.ActualTemps.LA

In January, there were 16 days in the 70s, 12 days in the 80s, and 1 day it hit 90. Taken together, 48 of the 62 days in Dec/Jan were pink bloomsin the 70s or 80s. Do you know what that means? Well, if you live in the Plant Kingdom, that means… SPRING! The calendar may have said January, but this is what some trees in my neighborhood were doing the other day:

Today is Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow to forecast six more weeks of winter in places that actually have winter. But I’m thinking that maybe good ol’ Phil has sent a little sumpin-sumpin my way, too. This is the fourth day in a row with temps in the 60s. The low 60s, even. Plus – super double bonus! – yesterday it drizzled, and today we even had a rain worthy of the windshield wipers!!

I won’t thank any gods, because they must be exhausted from listening to the prayers of fans of sport (as Mitt would say). (Theological Sidebar: Does God Hate The Broncos Because Colorado Legalized Pot? -Or- Does God Love The Seahawks Because Washington State Legalized Pot?)

Cool weather and a bit of rain is a real tonic for those of us in sun-drenched, drought-stricken, early-bloomin’ Los Angeles. Here’s the forecast for the coming week:

Weather90069.020214

More rain tomorrow! Highs struggling to hit 60 until next weekend! And overnight lows – don’t toy with me! – dipping into the UPPER 30s by Friday!?

I’m glad I have that new scarf to protect me from these arctic blasts. I am even wearing socks right now. Heavy socks. Could this be – are we trapped in a polar vortex?!! I mean, if the Washington Monument can be knocked down (OK, cracked) by an earthquake, then why can’t LA have a polar vortex? It seems only fair.

IMAG2441

Wintry weather (à la californien) makes me happy.
Day 027 #100happydays

[013] The Photo You Don’t Take

The last call of the day for lap swims on Sundays is 4:30–6:00pm, and for once I was early. It’s nice to be able to do a marathon instead of a sprint; it’s just a different kind of workout.

The West Hollywood Swimming Pool is located in the newly redone West Hollywood Park, with parking at the adjacent West Hollywood Library. (And now you know why we shorten it to Weho.) Well, there was bit of a traffic jam at the 5-story parking structure, with a car just sitting in the entrance. I walked over to see if the driver was having an issue with the “Press This Button for Ticket” dispenser. Turns out, the maximum number of cars had entered the structure, and the smarty-pants automated dispenser was waiting for a car to leave before permitting another to enter. Makes sense. I’ve just never known a parking structure in LA to fill up! A sort of vertical gridlock. We all just patiently waited another minute or two for another car or two to leave, and our god-given right to park was restored.

I guess that’s all by way of saying what a gorgeous day it was to be in the park. The sport courts were full of people playing, uh, sports. The lawns were full of sunbathers and frisbee throwers and dogs a-fetching. The playground and picnic areas were packed with kids and their parents. Have you ever watched a bunch of kids in a playground? They’ve never met before, but one or two bossypants get everyone organized and they make up games and rules and play and have fun. And someone ends up crying. Just like real life. It’s similar to a dog park, where dogs of all shapes and sizes just… get along. Adult humans seem to lose this cooperative instinct somewhere along the way. (But that’s another post.)

As I walked from the parking structure into the park, I saw more than a few people pointing their smartphone cameras upward, and my eyes tracked along that trajectory. All those photos that were sunday cloudssnapped at that moment will never do justice to the skyscape that caught everyone’s attention – but here’s one anyway. (Little did I know that this was the before shot.)

Fast-forward an hour, as I’m slicing my way through the water. (I may actually be plodding through the water, but it feels like slicing. Let’s go with slicing.) The pool lies on a north-south axis, so every odd-numbered lap (on my way to 90 today; just sayin’) gave me an eyeful of western sky. And on one of those southbound slices – Holy Vesuvius, Batman! – the sky had burst into flame! It was breathtaking, luminous, blood red. So intense that for a few long moments I considered that Something Very Bad had happened to produce this effect. Like a meteor strike… or the Hawaiian Islands had gone off like volcanic Roman candles… or maybe Google had found a way to turn the sky into a high-def screen.

Then, for another long moment, I contemplated getting out of the water and drying off sufficiently to reach into my gym bag, pull out my phone and snap a pic of these artistic atmospherics. But I just kept swimming. With every other lap, more color had drained out of the sky until it had cooled to a dark ember of a cloud. The whole passion play couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes. But what a show!

I don’t have a snapshot to share with you. But I can close my eyes now and experience what the setting sun did to those high, white clouds. It’s more than a visual; memory can function this way as a sixth sense. Or a sense in all five dimensions. Instead of looking at a static photo, my mind is reconstructing the entire experience, including the view through my goggles… the sound of the water splashing around me… the smell of chlorine… and tagging this memory with the thought I had that, sometimes, it’s the photo we don’t take that stays with us.

The photo I didn’t take today makes me happy.
Day 013 #100happydays