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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

High on Life

Sunday Drives are the best!

And the trip to the Mt. Wilson Observatory is fantastic. 

Less than 45 minutes from the city and you are high in the mountains overlooking the San Gabriel Valley.

I took a tour led by a CalTech Professor.  I didn't understand all of it -- but the parts I got were most interesting.

The Mt. Wilson Observatory was responsible for some of the most important astrological discoveries in the first half of the 20th Century.  Even Albert Einstein visited there and they have the picture to prove it.

Relatively speaking, it makes for a perfect Sunday outing.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Higher On My List

Foxy's in Glendale was recently on a list of the best coffee shop restaurants in the Los Angeles area and it was one of only two that I hadn't been to already.  I took care of that a few weeks ago.

What an interesting place!  It has a unique, compact interior jam-packed with cute little knick-knacks.

It was crowded on the Sunday morning I visited but they move folks through pretty efficiently.  The tables along the walls have their own toaster (which reminds me of many fun meals at Ship's).

The menu is huge and the food is quite tasty.  The meals being delivered to neighboring tables looked very tempting.

I'm not going to be a Lazy Dog -- I'm going back soon.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Still On Track

It's ironic that the only way to visit the Orange Empire Railway Museum is to drive all the way out to Perris, California -- but it's worth the effort.

This volunteer-run museum has a huge collection of California streets cars, some of which are over 100 years old.

And even more impressive: Many still operate and you can ride on them. 

The days of Los Angeles' impressive Red Car system are long gone -- but it's terrific to see what remains even if for just a few hours.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Barn Door's Open

I've driven by the forlorn barn at the far end of the Hollywood Bowl parking lot on Highland for years but last month was the first time I visited the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

What a delight!  It's the actual horse barn where the first movie was filmed in Hollywood 100 years ago.  At the time the Lasky Barn, as it became known, was located near Vine and Fountain.  It was moved to the Paramount Studios Lot and ultimately relocated to a parking lot owned by Los Angeles County.

Inside there's a surprising array of memorabilia from the very early days of silent and sound pictures.  The staff on hand the day I visited was very friendly and happy to talk and answer questions.

It's fascinating to see how Hollywood as a place and Hollywood as a concept grew up together.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No Turtle Soup on the Menu?

I'd heard about a new sandwich shop in Hollywood, Fat Sal's, and was intrigued by the name.

It goes on the list of places I'm glad I visited once but will never go there again.  I didn't hate it, I just wasn't impressed.

For a place called "Fat Sal's" I thought the sandwich was kind of skimpy.  Maybe they should call it "Husky Sal's."

At least the sandwich was tasty -- the chili-cheese fries were horrible.  Even though my order was "for here" everything was wrapped up "to go."  The fries came in a covered tinfoil container and had congealed into something of a casserole by the time I sat down (on a stool at one of their counters).

The place is going for "high energy" -- TVs on, music blaring.  I just want a sandwich not a rager.

Josh Stone, one of the owners, was there and I had a pleasant chat with him.  Of course, Fat Sal's has gotten most of its publicity because Jerry Ferrara (Turtle from Entourage) is also a partner.

I wish them well.  But I doubt they'll see me again.

Friday, September 06, 2013

They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Question Mark

The A + D Museum (Architecture and Design) on Wilshire Boulevard is currently running an intriguing exhibition: Never Built Los Angeles.

Utilizing plans, drawing and models the exhibit looks at some of the audacious, outrageous, ludicrous and brilliant development proposals made in Los Angeles over the last century.

Some of the ideas are curious, such as the hanging monorail that appears to run past the mansions of Hancock Park.

Some leave you thinking, "wouldn't that have been great?" such as the proposal for a grand central terminal at LAX.

And some seem downright laughable, such as the proposed freeway from the McClure Tunnel to Topanga Canyon IN the Santa Monica Bay.

They are also showing an interesting collection of proposals for the land that ultimately was used to build Dodger Stadium.

We're so used to what "is" it's fun to ponder what could have been.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Gimme My Milk

Sometimes things seem to happen for a reason.

Recently a light fixture in my kitchen was broken and needed to be replaced.  I went to my Go To Hardware Store, Koontz Hardware, but the salesperson told me they didn't carry what I needed and kindly referred me to Westside Wholesale Electric on Beverly

Westside Wholesale Electric is a cluttered warehouse sort of a store that had exactly what I needed and offered a fair price.  But more importantly, it is located directly above Susina Bakery -- one of the very best french bakeries in Los Angeles.  The first two times I visited Westside Wholesale Electric I made a second stop downstairs at Susina.  Two stops -- one parking space: perfect.

On my third and final trip to Westside Wholesale Electric to pick up my new purchase I decided to visit Milk -- an excellent ice cream shop and bakery two blocks west on Beverly.

I'd been there once before, many years ago, and loved it.  They have excellent ice cream which you can buy by the scoop, in a sundae or in an outstanding ice cream sandwich or bar.

They also have tasty baked goods.

How long until my next light fixture breaks?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Summer Must Never Die!

One Tuesday evening in early August JeezBob invited me to the Hollywood Bowl to see Gustavo Dudamel conduct Verdi's Requiem featuring the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

I'm no Opera buff and really had no idea what to expect.  I didn't learn until that evening that a requiem is the musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass.  So an Up With People Concert it is not.

But I found it to be quite lovely and in parts very thrilling.  The requiem builds to thunderous descriptions of hellfire and tribulation.  Loud drums, opera singers belting to the back rows.  I loved those parts.

The quiet parts not so much.  But it was very relaxing to be outdoors at the Hollywood Bowl, which is simply one of the most beautiful, spectacular spots on earth.  (Or am I getting carried away Verdi-style?)

I agree with the Los Angeles Times critic -- especially his criticism of the shoddy big-screen camera work.,0,2595837.story

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Sing Us a Song, You're the Piano Man

One Thursday evening early in August I attended a session at the Ojai Playwrights Conference.  This is the second year I've attended and both events have been both fascinating and charming.  (Last summer I attended a staged reading of Terrence McNally's "And Away We Go.")

The conference mainly focuses on the development of new plays but this year they offered an interesting twist: "Breathing Life into Musical Theatre: An Evening of Performance and Exploration."

How could I not go?

Moderated by Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music, the evening featured several different musical theater composers performing some of their music (including numbers that had been cut from their intended show or movie) followed by a discussion of their process and the challenges of musical theater.

The composers -- in different stages of their careers -- included the veteran Dean Pitchford (who won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for the song Fame), Laurence O'Keefe who wrote the music and lyrics for Legally Blonde and Brendan Milburn who is responsible for music for the Tinker Bell movies.

As someone without an ounce of musical talent but an appreciation of musical theater, it was a lovely evening.

And, of course, any excuse to go to Ojai is welcome.  Such a lovely town.

And no trip to Ojai would be complete without a stop at the Ojai Ice Cream Company.