Total Pageviews

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Aerial Los Angeles, Santa Monica and the Bay

photo credit:

Aerial Los Angeles: flying out to LAX a few months back, I grabbed a couple photos out the window via my phone.

Lower left is Pacific Palisades. Following the coast south, where it starts to become urban, is Santa Monica. The buildings along Wilshire Blvd can be seen as they snake their way up through Brentwood, Westwood Village, around Century City, through Beverly Hills, Hancock Park, Koreatown, and into downtown Los Angeles.

photo credit:
From this angle, Hollywood is directly north of Pacific Palisades, about two thirds up the photo. The little white dot in the hills is the Hollywood Sign. Malibu begins at the very lower left. In the distance are the San Gabriel Mountains. As an aside, 40 years ago smog would have made this photograph virtually impossible. Today, of greater concern is traffic congestion.

Malibu, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and downtown Los Angeles. Thanks to the entertainment industry, the influence that this swath of land has on the rest of the planet is incredible.

I like this quote from urban planning expert Dan Rosenfeld from this weekend's Los Angeles Times:

"We live in the greatest concentration of human talent in the history of the world. We spawn popular culture — film, fashion, food, even finance — for the entire planet. Further, we are the urban laboratory for the future world. Solutions to megacity challenges such as water scarcity, recycling, mobility, diversity and income inequality — those solutions will be invented and tested here. L.A. can be messy, crowded and hard to manage, but it's a good place to be relevant."

© 2015


Saturday, March 7, 2015

McClure Tunnel, Santa Monica: End of One World, Beginning of Another

image: Susan Haskell
I recently came across Los Angeles area artist Susan Haskell's painting of the McClure Tunnel.

Beautiful work that captures the awe of coming out of the tunnel at the end of the Santa Monica Freeway and out onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

There are many stunning views in Los Angeles, but in terms of views that can only be experienced while driving, the view at the end of the McClure Tunnel ranks at the very top.

image: McClure Tunnel Santa Monica (
The Santa Monica Freeway, which starts 2500 miles (4000 km) away in Jacksonville, Florida - ends at the tunnel, which curves and opens up of the Pacific Ocean. The tunnel was actually built in 1935 and is only 400 feet long. The curve, keeping the ocean from view until you emerge from it, is what makes it so unique.

I remember the first time coming through the tunnel at age 7, when my family moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Seeing the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains for the first time was stunning then. And it's still stunning.

Sort of. I would NEVER recommend trying to take a photo coming out of the tunnel while trying to navigate a dark curving tunnel with traffic - very dangerous. Google street view is the next best thing.

What was once one of the most stunning views in Los Angeles is marred by Cal Trans decision to place a work yard, complete with large metal storage bins, right at the mouth of the tunnel. Really? Los Angeles is a huge place. They couldn't find another place for this?

Here's an ariel shot. Gives a better idea of what seems like an incredibly stupid decision. Like other major cities Los Angeles faces a list of challenging problems. I'm sure "marring the view coming out of the McClure Tunnel" is not on the top of the list. On the other hand, it's the hundreds of little things like this that can make living anywhere delightful or loathsome. Kind of like graffiti or trash along the road.

image: Susan Haskell 

Susan Haskell obviously knows a beautiful subject when she sees it. Here's the same shot, only a sunset. And here's hoping that the Cal Trans storage yard will find another home. And this one small part of experiencing Los Angeles will be restored to how it was originally envisioned. 

© 2015


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Frank Gehry House, Venice Beach

The Frank Gehry House is located at 2509 Ocean Front Walk in Venice.

The scaffolding on the right is NOT part of the house. Everything else is.

A little (OK, very) strange, odd. But it honestly fits in with the rest of Venice Beach.

The Obama 2008 posters is a reminder that this was taken back in late 2008, early 2009.

Short post - lots of things going on this weekend.

Here's a link with more info.

© 2015


Saturday, January 10, 2015

January in Los Angeles: Walk Along the Coast and Palisades Park

January 2010, our last year living in Los Angeles, I took a six mile walk from Sunset Blvd & the PCH to Pico & 14th Street, Santa Monica.

Looking south along the coast towards Santa Monica. A beautiful, sunny winter day in Los Angeles. As I've shared previously, ironically winters are usually sunnier than late spring/early summer. 

Zoom lens from the same spot. Three stand up paddle boarders enjoying a Saturday in January.

Santa Monica Canyon two miles away: gym with huge open window. Great anytime, awesome in January.

Up a flight of stairs from the coast to the bluffs (technically, "palisades") of Santa Monica.

Incredible, amazing succulent plants. These are Agave Attenuata, also called Lion’s Tail, Fox Tail, or Swan’s Neck Agave.

When my family first moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in the late 1960's, plants like this looked like something from Mars. In a sense, they still do.

Looking south from the bluffs of Santa Monica, across the bay towards the Palos Verdes Peninsula and (barely visible in the distance) Catalina Island.

Two condo towers at the corner of San Vincente Blvd and Ocean Avenue. This part of Santa Monica is beautiful, but living here ain't cheap. A 900 square foot 1 bedroom, 1 bath condo goes for $1.5 million. That's not for a house, but for a condo. Yikes.

Another view from the bluffs looking south towards the Santa Monica Pier.

A closer view of the Santa Monica Pier. Here's a link to previous post highlighting the Pier. If you look closely the 18 mile coastal bike path is visible.

This is Santa Monica's Palisades Park, which allows for incredible views along the bluffs for two miles.

More fantastic specimens of Agave Attenuata. Amazing.

Enjoying Palisades Park. This was the first weekend in January and on this "chamber of commerce" day I saw dozens of tourists in town for the Rose Bowl.

Looking north from the bluffs towards the communities of Pacific Palisades and Malibu.

Tons of people out and about enjoying a beautiful day.

Dog walkers, old people, young people, families, lots of singles. Good times.

At 14 stories, this is "100 Wilshire Blvd" - Santa Monica's tallest office tower located on the corner of Wilshire Blvd and Ocean Avenue. The statue is Santa Monica (Saint Monica) looking towards the city.

Another view of Santa Monica, or Saint Monica. Monica was the mother of 5th Ftheologian Saint Augustine.

More succulents. Coastal Los Angeles is the capital of succulent plants. This is Crassula Ovata, commonly known as Jade Plant, Friendship Tree, Lucky Plant or Money Plant.

Another view of 100 Wilshire. Love the palm trees.

Built in 1933, The Georgian is a beautiful, historic hotel on Ocean Avenue. Like pretty much everything in Santa Monica, lodging is NOT cheap. Rooms off season (if there's such a thing in Santa Monica) start at $300 a night. 

Fantastic "Bird of Paradise" flower - native to South African - with The Georgian Hotel in the background. Heres' a link to a previous post with some additional photos and info. 

Moomat Ahiko is the name of very short street next to the Santa Monica Pier, providing access from Ocean Avenue to the Pacific Coast Highway. It means "Breath of the Ocean" in the native Tongva language.  

Walking up Pico Blvd (to be explained later) I passed the Bay Shore Lanes. This place has been here for ever! I remember learning to bowl here as a kid, back in the early 1970's. Based on the cool googie architecture, I'm assuming this place has been around since the early 1960's. 

Another view of the sign and retro architecture. This reminds me of the earliest incarnation of the Disneyland Hotel down in Anaheim. 

Tommy's Burgers: what I refer to as "blue collar In and Out." Not necessarily healthy, but delicious. Here's a link a previous post at their original location - "The Shack" - at Beverly and Rampart in Los Angeles. 

LOVE the napkins dispenser. - a small local chain with free delivery. This was taken five years ago, apparently they're still in business. Good for them. More retro architecture. 

The Palm Motel - at Pico and 14th Street. Every summer, the college campus ministry I work with hosts a student leadership development program, housed here. Students live here, have regular 9-5 summer jobs in the community, and on evenings and days off are involved in community service and outreach. 

During the rest of the year, the Palm is an youth hostel. The students live here during the summer (the adult leadership lives off site a couple miles away). 

It's a great place for students. A bit rustic, but it works - and is within our price point. The owner and management is great - working with us year after year. 

View along Pico walking back toward the beach. Santa Monica describes itself as an urban beach town. Very true. 

Artwork at the Pico Youth and Family Center

Anther view. As I've commented before, I've driven by this location dozens, perhaps hundreds of times. It is was only when I got out of my car and drove around that I ever noticed it. I have friends who will run a half marathon or full marathon - both of which I find incredible. Yet these same people  find it incredible that I walk five or six miles thought the city. 

Speaking of which, here's some link to some previous blog posts on walks along Pico Blvd, Main Street (in Santa Monica), Abbot Kinney Blvd (in Venice), Santa Monica Blvd, Wilshire Blvd (in Beverly Hills), Hollywood, Silverlake and Downtown Los Angeles

Peace, Unity and Social Justice. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I'm absolutely committed to these same things. My guess is that I might have different opinions of how to obtain these three things. But - hopefully - there's also some common ground. 

Santa Monica High School at Pico and 6th Street. Notable alumni of "Samo High" include Glen Ford,  Sean Penn, Robert, Downey Jr, Emilo Estevez, and Charlie Sheen. 

Which, is not lost on the private tour buses driving along Pico - to the Beach. Really? This stretch of Pico Blvd is NOT Hollywood, not Malibu, not Beverly Hills. But I guess the folks at the Starline "hop on, hop off" bus tour must think otherwise. The distinct double decker buses look fun. At $39 a day, I've never tried this. I'm assuming you're NOT paying for transportation as much as the on-going speel about Los Angeles.

Instead, for one dollar I took a Santa Monica "Big Blue Bus" back to Sunset and the PCH ... and called it a day. 

Long walk. Good times experiencing Los Angeles. 

That'd be true anytime of the year, but especially true on a Sunday afternoon in January. 

© 2015


Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Louis Zamperini: A Race Well Run" float at the 2015 Rose Parade

photo credit: Los Angeles Times

Picture above is the "Louis Zamperini: A Race Well Run" float at the 2015 Rose Parade this morning, sponsored by the City of Torrance - Zamperini's home town.  

The title of the float signifies both Zamperini's achievement as an Olympic athlete and a passage in the New Testament Scriptures: " ... I have finished the race, I have kept the faith ..." 2 Timothy 4:7.

The float also acknowledged what the recent film "Unbroken" left out; what Zamperini said was the most significant event in his life. On the left of the montage of photos is Zamperini with evangelist Billy Graham at the 1949 Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade, where Zamperini committed his life to Jesus Christ. Zamperini went on to say that this experience, and subsequent life change, enabled him to forgive his former Japanese captors. Incredible story. Zamperini was chosen as the Grand Marshall of this year's parade. He passed away this past July. The Rose Parade choose to honor him posthumously with a riderless horse. 

Here's a five minute video describing his life as an Olympic athlete, WW2 pilot, POW survivor, returning veteran, and follower of Christ. 

Hats off to the City of Torrance to sponsoring this float, and for including what Zamperini would say was the most important decision of his life. 

Happy 2015 everyone. 

© 2015

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Back to Bethlehem: Devonshire & Winnetka in Chatsworth

This Christmas season a group of Los Angeles churches in the San Fernando Valley are once again sponsoring a "Back to Bethlehem" Christmas event. 

Located at 20121 Devonshire Street in Chatsworth, Back to Bethlehem is a re-creation of the sights and sounds of ancient Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas.

It's not too late to go! The event will continue tonight, Sunday and Monday nights! 

Here's a link with more information

I took a few photos when when my family and I attended a few years back. 

It's a very impressive re-enactment of what life might have been like in Bethlehem as Mary and Joseph would have experienced it, entirely staffed by volunteers. Whether you're single, married, or have kids - this is a great event to experience! 

Hundreds of volunteers do an amazing job bringing this event to life.

There was "no room at the inn" ... but a donkey outside of the simple stable nearby gave a hint of what might be inside.

Waiting to visit Mary and Joseph, and their newborn son.

This is a fantastic event for families to help explain the Christmas story to their children - and for adults to imagine what the first Christmas was like. 

Mary and Joseph inside the stable, sharing the story of the first Christmas with the thousands of visitors every night. Each year this event attracts 18,000 people over six separate nights.

Outside the stable, sheep and goats. A reminder of the environment Jesus was born into. A volunteer lets kids touch a goat.

At the edge of Bethlehem is the rabbi school. Children and adults gather around to hear the village rabbi share the prophecies about Messiah from Old Testament prophet Isaiah. 

Every visitor receives free shekels at the entrance. Spices were just one of the many items you could buy. 

The Roman soldiers walking around were a reminder that Bethlehem in the first century was a conquered, occupied territory (I have no idea how these guys - again, all volunteers - stayed warm in togas and sandals.)

Pomegranates. This vendor was smart and was prepared for a chilly evening. 

Warm bread: another popular item. 

The shops and stalls were in a circle around a large field the year we attended. While the event has since moved to St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church at Devonshire & Winnetka - which is 
a more central location - I'm assuming the set up is similar and  continues to be held entirely outdoors. 

Our kids loved the freedom of being able to go from booth to booth, running around buying little things, having the small samples of food. It really helped bring the Bible to life: Jesus was born in a real place at a real time.

A shepherd recounting his experience of the angelic visitation announcing Jesus' birth. What was impressive was that this particular volunteer playing the role of a shepherd was also bi-lingual.

It was neat seeing the diversity of visitors that night, as well as many of the volunteers. A reminder that the gospel is for "all the people."

At the edge of Bethlehem, a group of Magi were encamped, looking for "Him was was born King of the Jews."

The night we went, the event seemed well attended, but never felt overly crowded. Definitely something we'd like to see and do again. 

On behalf of our family and the thousands of kids and adults who experience this every year, a huge THANK YOU to the hundreds of volunteers that make this outreach to the community happen.

While the concept of a "walk through Bethlehem" is not unique to Los Angeles, it is the largest American city where an event like this can be held entirely outdoors. Hard to image this in a place like Chicago or New York. Come to think of it, our climate (Mediterranean) is also the most similar to what Jesus and those around him would have experienced. 

In what can unfortunately be a very busy and stressful time of the year, this final photo sums up both this event, and Christmas itself:


"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2: 10-12

© 2014 - originally posted 12/24/08