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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Experiencing L.A. on Halloween: "Light Up The Night"

Just a month after moving to Los Angeles, we took our kids trick-or-treating.

I'm not sure if it was living in a big city, or trick-or-treating in neighborhoods with too much money, or just the Hollywood influence ... but it was unlike anything we had experienced.

Friends of ours recommended a "popular" neighborhood here on the westside. That was an understatement: there were so many kids and parents at times it was hard to walk on the sidewalks - it was that crowded.

Was it just being a dad of young kids (my kids were 3 and 5 at the time) or are costumes creepier than in the past?

Some houses looked like professionally designed sets from horror films; neighbors seemed to compete with each other on who has most terrifying and realistic house. I thought trick or treating was for kids - does anyone else have a problem with young children being shown images of death, torture and the occult? What's really scary is when we as adults start to get used to this - and it no longer shocks.

I mentioned this to a friend, who shared how busy his street was as well. I asked him if he'd like to work together to create an "alternative" Halloween celebration. Thus was born "Light Up the Night." I'm sure the name isn't original with us - but we liked it. 

A brightly lit home, upbeat music, a large puppet theater in the driveway, helium balloons, and lots of candy are all part of the mix. We were OK with the candy - it was the celebration of everything "dark" that we tried to avoid. Here are a few photos: 

No, this is not Disneyland - just the driveway of our friends' home. At the busiest time there were sixty kids and parents hanging out.

Another view when things mellowed out a bit. Helium balloons that said "Light Up the Night" were a huge hit - we ran out.

We could have not have done this without friends from our church in Los Angeles. One year, a couple of guys involved in the entertainment industry set up live video feed this year - so kids could "be on TV." Fun. It's also something our kids and others could be involved with: handing out balloons, candy, or running the puppet theater. I heard some teenagers running by who refer to it as the "Jesus house." Sure, why not.

We created a little card for kids and parents that said "Light Up the Night" in multiple languages and explaning why we were doing what we were doing. 

One parent told me "people all over the westside are talking about this house ... I'm here because a friend at work said 'you gotta see this one house.'" 
We can't verify if that's true, but the four years we did it, we got great feedback from appreciative parents who were looking for an alternative from everything else up and down the street.

We lived in Arizona for four years before moving to Los Angeles. Our church there had a HUGE annual Halloween event at the church, attracting thousands of people every year. The year we moved the church canceled the event. Why? Because it was attracting thousands of Christians. The church challenged small groups to work to impact individual communities and neighborhoods. Something, I like to think, like "Light Up the Night."

It was a blast turning my least favorite holiday into one of my most favorite events. 

All part of our family experiencing Los Angeles.

© 2014 - originally posted 11/1/2008


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Other Side of the Bay: Experiencing Los Angeles in Palos Verdes

If you've followed this blog, you know that most of the posts are about life on the "westside" of Los Angeles: Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Westwood, Venice - the last two posts have featured early morning hikes on the Paseo Miramar trail in Pacific Palisades. I've tried to include places like Hollywood, Silverlake, downtown Los Angeles. But the majority focused on the "westside." It's where we lived for those five years in L.A., so that makes sense, right?

But what about the other side of the Bay (that is, the Santa Monica Bay)? What about the Palos Verdes Peninsula?

photo credit: wikipedia
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is located 15 miles south of LAX, at the southern edge of the Santa Monica Bay, in between Redondo Beach and San Pedro. It's made up of a series of beautiful (and yes, expensive) coastal communites.

These photos were taken a few years back when I was at a one day conference in Palos Verdes. 

In the distance, Catalina Island. Catalina is located 20 or so miles off the coast. These photos were taken in late February, after a rain storm. The views were quite spectacular.

Growing up in Pacific Palisades, I can not tell you the number of times Southern Californians have confused the Palisades with Palos Verdes. Come on, people! While they're both coastal communities up against hills, the similarity ends there. Palos Verdes is relatively isolated - on a pensisula. Pacific Palisades is a community within the city of Los Angeles. They're 25 miles apart. I've just started saying I grew up "near Santa Monica" or "in Pacific Palisades - in between Santa Monica and Malibu."

While it may seem hard to believe, at one time both Palos Verdes and Pacific Palisades had what could be consider "middle class" housing stock. I remember my grandmother, herself an immigrant from Poland, looking at a home in Pacific Palisades in 1972 for $26,000 (adjusted for inflation, that would be around $148,000 today). Today, that same home would sell for around $1.4 million.

My guess is the same would be true of Palos Verdes.

Reminds me of what a friend working as a campus minister at UCLA once said, "L.A. is great - if you've got money." True, that. According to this recent Los Angeles Times article, Los Angeles/Orange County metro area has the distinction of having the least affordable housing the the U.S.

Obviously, places like Palos Verdes are no longer an option for the average Joe (or, this being Los Angeles, the average José). I'm not sure that there is a "solution" to this. Meanwhile, the casual visitor or out-of-town guest can still enjoy some amazing vistas. Unlike, say, Venice Beach or Santa Monica, Palos Verdes is not a major tourist destination. But there are a few things to see and do - here's a link to some suggestions.

A drive through Palos Verdes: all part of experiencing Los Angeles.

© 2014


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Experiencing L.A. - Costal Fog & Paseo Miramar Trail at Sunrise, Pacific Palisades (Part 2)

Looking for a workout? A chance to experience L.A. in perhaps a totally different way? Then perhaps the Paseo Miramar trail over in Pacific Palisades is for you!

Hard to believe, but the Paseo Miramar trail is all within Los Angeles city limits. Located in the Pacific Palisades district of L.A. this hike offers views of the mountains, hillside homes, the city, and the ocean. And in the spring and early summer, while the rest of the city is blanketed under June Gloom, coastal fog. 

Time in right and you'll catch the sunrise. 

There's no "bad" time of the year to go,  but experiencing the fog up against the Santa Monica mountains can be pretty spectacular. 

The same view, more of a wide angle shot. Los Angeles experiences a weather phenominon referred to as "June Gloom" in the spring and early summer. As a result, at the beach it can be sunnier - and even warmer - in January than June. In the distance, barely visible, is the outline of the San Garbriel Mountains. 

Same view, wider view. 

Fog, hillsides, palm tree, sunrise. 

On a clear day, this would be looking towards the Santa Monica Bay and Pacific Ocean. Instead, simply an amazing sea of fog. 

The Paseo Miramar trailhead is located at the top of Paseo Miramar, off of Sunset Blvd, 1/2 mile north of Sunset Blvd and the PCH. Thanks to being listed in numerous websites, including the Los Angeles Times "10 Essential Hikes" - this is a very popular hike. Parking is on the street. As stated last week, please keep the noise down and respect the quiet of the neighborhood (no one wants to be woken up by a group of friends meeeting at the trailhead early Saturday morning). 

© 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Experiencing L.A. - Costal Fog & Paseo Miramar Trail at Sunrise, Pacific Palisades

What does Los Angeles look like just before sunrise? What does it look like when shrouded in coastal fog? 

A couple weeks ago I posted a single image of the bluffs along the PCH in the Pacific Palisades district of Los Angeles. When we lived in Los Angeles, I made dozens of early morning hikes in that same area, most notably on the upper Temescal Ridge trail and the Paseo Miramar trail. Here's a link to a previous post on what I consider the best hike in L.A. This week, I'll focus a bit on the Paseo Miramar trail.

There photos are from 2010, our last Spring living in L.A. This is looking east from the Paseo Miramar trail (technically a fire road) towards the office towers of Westwood, Century City, and Downtown Los Angeles..The San Gabriel Mountains are visible in the distance to the left.

The hike is very steep - a great workout. The coastal communities of Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica were completely shrouded in low coastal fog. Because this is so common in the Spring and early summer, this is often referred to as "June Gloom" or "May Gray."

Looking out over the Pacific Ocean - and the vast sea of coastal fog. This is only at about 1200 foot elevation. 

The fog hugging the coast. Most days, it burns off by noon, and then rolls back in the evening.

Another view of the fireroad - and the fog. 

Coming back down, we spotted another hiker along the the trail.

Another view of the same guy. 

This is a reminder of the unique topography and climate of Los Angeles. How, in many ways, it's unlike any other city in the world. 

A final view looking east with the hillside homes of Pacific Palisades and the coastal fog in the distance. 

The Paseo Miramar trailhead is located at the top of Paseo Miramar, off of Sunset Blvd, 1/2 mile north of Sunset Blvd and the PCH. Thanks to being listed in numerous websites, including the Los Angeles Times "10 Essential Hikes" - this is a very popular hike. Parking is on the street. Please keep the noise down and respect the quiet of the neighborhood (no one wants to be woken up by a group of friends meeeting at the trailhead early Saturday morning). 

© 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

View from the Jetty: Pacific Palisades

image credit: Katie O'Neill

I recently came across this outstanding image: "View from the Jetty" by Los Angeles based artist Katie O'Neill. I love how she captured the bluffs and coast at sunset. This is looking north in the Pacific Palisades district of Los Angeles, located in between Santa Monica and Malibu. Seemed most appropriate for this last weekend of summer.

Here's a link to her website, with additional images and more information.

Happy Labor Day.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Aerial photography of Los Angeles

photo © Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography
This past week via the Facebook group "Photos of Los Angeles" I discovered the amazing work of Los Angeles based photographer Andy Cisneros. Featured this week are some of his aerial photography.

This is Wilshire Blvd and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, looking east towards Los Angeles. As noted previously on this blog, I've walked up Wishire (as well as Santa Monica Blvd and Pico Blvd) but never seen it from this perspective.

photo © Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography

The Hollywood sign at sunset.
photo © Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography
The US Bank Building in downtown Los Angeles. This is the tallest building in the Western United States. Great perspective.

photo © Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography

Capital Records building in Hollywood. Hollywood is approximately seven miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and is technically a community within the city of Los Angeles.

photo © Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography

Back in downtown Los Angeles. The building in the lower right is City Hall, featured in countless movies and TV shows.

photo © Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography

Closeup of the US Bank Building.

photo © Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography

A final view back in Santa Monica, at the Santa Monica Pier.

"When people ask what equipment I use, I tell them my eyes." Andy Cisneros

Great quote. Although it helps to have a professional camera (rather than my iPhone 4s) and to be able to hitch a ride on a helicopter.

All photographs ©Andy Cisneros, Andy.C Photography. Check out his facebook page if you'd like to see more.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Experiencing L.A. at Rae's Movie Shoot, Santa Monica

An army of large vans.

Keg lights.

A couple of dozen people standing around.

Welcome to a Los Angeles movie shoot; just another day experiencing Los Angeles.

Back in 2010, our last summer living in Los Angeles, I was driving up Santa Monica Blvd in Santa Monica - and came across a movie shoot at Rae's in Santa Monica. If I had time, I would have stopped. In this case, I was on my way to an appointment: only had time to slow down a bit and click off a few photos.

Rae's is a classic "time machine" '50's style diner. I've eaten there before. The food is good, the atmosphere is great. Here's another view on a walk up Santa Monica Blvd that same summer.

Rae's has been in countless movies, TV shows, commercials and videos.

One of the results of living, or in my case, having lived, in Los Angeles is seeing familar places on the big or small screen. Here's some links to previous posts on this blog when I across the filming for It's Complicated,  Drillbit Taylor and Dinner for Smucks. No, I haven't seen any of these films, so I really can't comment on them.

image credit:

In the case of Rae's, I immediately recognized the interior while watching the 2005 film Lords of Dogtown, a biographical drama film focusing on the 1970's Santa Monica/Venice Zephyr skateboarding crew.

As an aside, during that same era (and just a few miles away), someone passed along Gordon & Smith's Skateboard Tale and/or Something More. Loved the style, vibe and (eventually) the message of this little comic book style religious tract. One of those many things God used as a stepping stone in my own conversion experience. Here's a link to a previous blog post if you want to read the whole thing.

Diners of the 1950's, skateboarding in the 1970's, movie shoots in the 21st Century ... and driving on. Just another sunny day experiencing Los Angeles. 

© 2014


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sunrise Over Los Angeles, Temescal Ridge Trail

I consider the Temescal Ridge Trail one of the very best hikes in Los Angeles. This photo was taken back on an early Saturday morning back in April 2007, just a few minutes before sunrise.

Completely hidden in a thick blanket of fog, Temescal Canyon - as well as the surrounding ridges - are all within the city limits of Los Angeles. Here's a link with additional photographs and information.

This photograph remains one of my very favorite from our five years living in Los Angeles.

All part of the Creator's handiwork; all part of experiencing Los Angeles.

.יְהוָה--בֹּקֶר, תִּשְׁמַע קוֹלִי;    בֹּקֶר אֶעֱרָךְ-לְךָ, וַאֲצַפֶּה

"In the morning, O LORD, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3

© 2014


Saturday, July 26, 2014

The World's Second Most Popular Sport: Experiencing L.A. in Pasadena

What's the world's second most popular sport?
This year's World Cup, held in Brazil, is a reminder that the world's most popular sport is football, which we in the USA call soccer. Easy, right?

OK, but what's the world's second most popular sport?
Based on the popularity of the NBA around the world, I had assumed basketball, right? 


Basketball is the third most popular sport in the world. 

So what's the second? 

After trip to Pasadena a while back - and a fascinating conversation with a professor at Cal State Fullerton - I learned that cricket is the 2nd most popular game in the world. 

Yes, cricket. 

I know. I was really surprised, too. 

Back in 2011, I was Pasadena saying good-bye to my in-laws who were moving to work in Shanghai, China. I snapped up a few photos of some locals enjoying a game (or is a "match"?) of cricket. Locals meaning Indian Americans (not to be confused, of course, with American Indians). 

I watched for a couple of minutes and snapped a  few photos. Aside from being slightly similar to baseball, I have NO idea how this game is played, or what's involved. And, yes, it's the second most popular sport in the world. Who knew, right?

While cricket would normally mean someplace in the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, or Australia ...  the palm trees, apartment buildings, and mountains in the background all say someplace in metro Los Angeles. In this case, Pasadena. 

With about 120,000 Indian Americans, metro Los Angeles has the fourth largest Indian-American community in the US. 18 million people call greater Los Angeles home - making it the 13th largest metro area in the world. Los Angeles simply has a lot of everything - and everyone

Indian Americans make up about 1% of the US population. They are also one of the eight groups that authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfed constitute the "triple package" to make them some of the most successful ethnic group in the US (the other groups are Iranian, Lebanese, Nigerian, Cuban, Chinese, Mormons, and Jews). I heard about - but haven't yet read - their recent bookThe Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. Interesting thesis. As a campus minister working with college students, I'm looking forward to picking it up. 

Here's a wikipedia article on cricket. Enjoy the game. 

© 2014