Monday, December 16, 2013

Tuning Out Tokyo

Surprisingly large, The Japanese Garden next to the Tillman Water Treatment Plant in Van Nuys is a a delightful respite from the hurly-burly of city life.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Built Forever?

The story of the Southwest Museum is a sad one.

Opened in 1913, it's the oldest museum in Los Angeles.

Built on a hillside, it has commanding views over Highland Park from Downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena.

It owns one of the finest collections of Native American artifacts in the world.

Yet today the museum is only open one day a week (Saturday) and most of its priceless collection is hidden from view.

One hundred years old, the building is completely outmoded.  It was built BEFORE cars were in the mainstream and is oriented towards a commuter line running up the Arroyo Secco.  A century ago, after arriving by rail, visitors were expected to hike up a rugged path clinging to a steep hillside.  After the museum's director died of a heart attack climbing up to the front door a tunnel connecting to an elevator was installed to ease access.

The museum is laid out on several terraced levels making it completely inaccessible to those with mobility issues.

Out of money, the Southwest Museum was taken over by the Autry Museum which pledged to curate and maintain the collection -- a considerable financial commitment.

But the hillside gem of a museum remains nearly vacant, a White Elephant from another era.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Under the Sea

I really enjoyed myself at the Long Beach Aquarium.  It's a very impressive facility with excellent displays.

But the most interesting exhibit had nothing to do with oceans -- it was the bird aviary filled with the most colorful parrots.  You can buy little cups of sugar water and the birds will land on your hand and drink from it.  This means the birds swoop real low over the head of everyone who enters to see if they're offering snacks.  Great people watching as newcomers get bird-bombed as they first come in.

Afterwards I took a terrific short cruise around the Long Beach Harbor and got to see everything from Sea Lions to Cargo Terminals.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tell Me a Story

The Fowler Museum on the UCLA campus has a terrific collection of art from around the world focusing on how art is used to tell stories, record history and express power and wealth.

Their collection of silver, including object smithed by Paul Revere is quite impressive.

The free admission is a nice bonus too!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perfect Recipe

Chili John's in Burbank seems like a well-preserved roadhouse from the 20s.  The menu is simple but terrific.

Had a nice chat with one of the owners about his family's efforts to keep up with changing tastes in food while respecting the traditions of the restaurants origins.

They've found the right balance and I hope they keep going for a long time.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coast to Coast

Love him or hate him, a visit to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda is a worthwhile look back at history.

There is so much more to the man than just his resignation from the Presidency.  And it all started right here in Southern California.  What an amazing journey.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The House at the End of the Street

I recently took a great tour of the Banning Mansion in Wilmington.  I grew up a half a block away on Cary Avenue, and used to play in Banning Park surrounding the house, but until September I'd never been inside.

What a treat to see all the eclectic treasures of the Banning family including their fascinating "Hair Art," made from real human hair.  Nothing went to waste in that family!

Phineas T. Banning was known as the Father of the Port of Los Angeles and he named Wilmington after his hometown in Delaware.

So great to find something so beautiful hiding in plain sight.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Behind the Orange Curtain

I recently drove down to Santa Ana to check out the Bowers Museum.  I was completely surprised not only by how beautiful the facility is but by the diversity of their art collections and exhibitions.

The early California art was as expected and beautifully displayed.  But the Pacific Islander and Asian art was a surprising delight.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

Took a nostalgic trip in August to visit Will Rogers former home in Pacific Palisades -- now a State Park.  Famous for its polo fields, I took horse riding lessons here as a lad.

But I'd never been inside the house which is now open for tours.  So fun to see its sparse western interior filled with memorabilia.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Sure Bet

The Gamble House in Pasadena is an exquisite example of the Greene Brothers' Craftsmen-style architecture and it's open to the public for tours.

I visited last month and as gorgeous as the house is on the outside, it's even more beautiful on the inside -- but, unfortunately, interior photography isn't allowed.

Monday, September 30, 2013

California Dreamin'

The Petersen Automotive Museum opened in 1994 on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax.  I visited shortly after it opened and went back for a second visit last month.

The museum originally opened with an exhibit focusing on how the automobile influenced the development of Southern California and how, in turn, the Southern California Car Culture influenced the automobile.

Recently the Museum's Board of Directors announced their focus was changing to the beauty of automobiles internationally.  They are selling-off a significant portion of their collection in order to refinance a re-do of their building (opened as an Ohrbach's Department Store).

Their goal is to boast attendance and attract repeat visitors.  Since I went nearly 20 years between visits I suppose I shouldn't criticize -- but why stop now?

It's a horrible idea!  Locals and visitors alike are interested in the history of Southern California and the automobile.  Modernize, yes!  But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater and then run it over with some car from France.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Are We Here?

The Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History has an interesting new exhibit exploring how Los Angeles became the improbable metropolis that it is today.

Apparently it all comes down to cow poop and exotic animal farms.  OK, there's more to it than that (Spanish missions, climate, land development promotion, etc.)

In many ways the exhibit is geared towards fourth grade students which is perfect because it left me thinking I REALLY grasped it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stop and Smell the Roses -- Really!

The Exposition Park Rose Garden was in full bloom last month and I finally took the time to look at and admire the flowers.

I've rushed by the Rose Garden on the way into and out of the Coliseum for USC football games for years -- but until last month I don't think I'd ever actually gone into the Rose Garden and looked at it.

Such a serene and beautiful space right in the middle of the city.

Rose Gardens always remind me of Grandmother Green.  She was so proud of the roses the grew in her backyard.  Looking back at old photos of her it's amazing to see how the roses are almost always present.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

She Sells Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

William Randolph Hearst combined several lots to amass a huge piece of property along the beach in Santa Monica and built a mansion for Marion Davies.

All that remains today are photos of the original house and the actual guest "cottage" and the swimming pool.

After decades as a private club the property was recently opened to the public by the City of Santa Monica with the financial support of the Annenberg Foundation as the Annenberg Community Beach House.

The Guest Cottage is periodically open to the public and I was fortunate enough to take a one on one tour with one of the volunteer Docents.  A glorious visit to California's Gilded Age.