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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Echo Park Lake (Part I)

Last November I was back in Southern California for a conference and had some time before hand to experience Los Angeles. After a morning hike and breakfast with a couple of friends, I wanted to explore Echo Park Lake. 

Echo Park lake was one of several waterworks projects completed in the late 1800's to accommodate Los Angeles' rapid growth. The lake is actually a reservoir, completed in 1870, and was given the very creative name: Reservoir Number 4. In a growing city's need for more public spaces, the reservoir became a park - Echo Park Lake - in 1892. 

The large fountain was installed in 1984 when Los Angeles played host to the Summer Olympic Games. These photos were taken in November - the famous lotus plants in the foreground were going dormant. 

Across the street from the park is Angelus Temple, often referred to as America's first mega church. The building opened in 1923 and is considered the flagship of the Four Square Church, a large growing pentecostal denomination.

Another view of Angelus Temple. Beyond their Sunday church services, Angelus Temple continues to serve the poor and disenfranchised in the community. The Dream Center (located in the historic Queen of Angeles hospital building) is the community outreach of the church, working to help men, women, and children escape from poverty, homelessness, addictions, and human trafficking. Here's a link to the Dream Center's website. 

Across the street from Angelus Temple, another view of Echo Park Lake. The lake itself was closed for a couple of years for a massive $45 million renovation, re-opening in 2013. The lake and surrounding park look great. Here's a link to another blog with some additional history. 

A small wooden bridge (which, unfortunately, was closed). Echo Park Lake was originally modeled after Shipley Park in Derbyshire, England. Derbyshire was home of Joseph Tomlinson, an English immigrant and Los Angeles first supervisor of the Department of Parks. 

The playground, fortunately, was not closed - with lots of kids and families taking advantage of the play equipment. 

Pretty iddlic setting. These photos were taken the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Say what you will about Los Angeles - it's got absolutely incredible weather. And the Echo Park neighborhood is certainly safer and more family friendly than it was 20 or so years ago. 

The park also serves as a meet up location for a local bike club. Not wanting to be accused of being a stalker or paparazzi, I though it best of give everyone a bit of space. 

Large group of road bikers eventually showed up. A small but growing group of Angelenos (residents of Los Angeles) are working to make the city a much more bicycle friendly town, the largest being the regular CicLAvia (think of the word "cycle") events. Here's a link to more info. 

And, of course, weddings - or, at least, wedding photos. 

Most of these rules seem like common sense, right? 

A final view of the boats available for rent, and the fountain. More next time in Park II. 

© 2016


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Good Morning Los Angeles

Last November I was back in Los Angeles for a conference. It didn't start until late afternoon so I had a good chunk of the day to experience the city. 

I convinced a good friend to join me on a sunrise hike along the Temescal Canyon Ridge in Pacific Palisades. 

The is a panorama - featuring incredible views of downtown Los Angeles all the way out to Catalina Island.

Just before sunrise, we had an incredibly clear shot of Century City, the Wilshire Blvd Miracle Mile district ... all the way to to downtown Los Angeles. In the distance were the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto (120 miles away - above Palm Springs!) mountain ranges. 

This is a larger view of the same short, only with a different lighting setting. Thanks to a crisp November morning, the buildings all the way to downtown were remarkably visible. 

Los Angeles recently made Forbes Magazine's list of top ten most influential cities in the world (tied with San Francisco and Toronto). As a Christian and a college campus minister, I'm both amazed and sobered by the influence that "world cities" like Los Angeles have. Like London, New York or Paris - what happens in Los Angeles influences the rest of the planet. 

Walking back, a view of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Bay, with the sunlight streaming down into Temescal Canyon. 

That's the Palos Verdes Peninsula visible in the distance. 

Even thought it was a Saturday morning - around 7am when we got back - we were the ONLY people on the trail. 

Forget Runyon Canyon! Seriously. If you want an incredible, absolutely amazing hike - what I consider the BEST hike in Los Angeles - try the upper Temescal Canyon ridge trail in the Palisades. Here's a link with more info, photos, and a map. 

Enjoyed connecting with another friend in Santa Monica over breakfast. Solid Christian guy. After twenty years of living here, trying to make a go of it in the entertainment industry, he and his family have decided to relocate to Austin, Texas. Los Angeles is more than one of the most influential cities in the world. It's - unfortunately - also one of the most  addition to being one of the most expensive. Probably a great decision - but he'll be missed. 

After breakfast, I drove east along Pico Blvd. Pictured above on the left, the Twentieth Fox studios. While the studio is closed to the general public, years ago a friend who worked there gave me a tour. Highlights included lunch in the studio commissary and seeing comic legend Mel Brooks walking around the backlot. Yet another reminder that what happens in Los Angeles influences the rest of the world. 

Wilshire Blvd and Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. This was in mid November; a flying Santa was making it's way across the intersection of Wilshire and Beverly Drive. 

The iconic gates to the Paramount Pictures lot on Melrose Avenue. Paramount is the only movie studio that's technically in Hollywood. It you look closely, you can see the Hollywood sign under the left arch. This is at the corner of Melrose and Windsor Blvds. 

If you're planning on visiting Los Angeles, I'd suggest 1) renting a car to get around and 2) finding someone who lives (or has lived there) to show you around. Los Angeles is an amazing city, but can be a bit intimidating. If you don't know anyone who lives (or has lived) in Los Angeles, that's OK. Just be sure and do a bit of research on what you want to see and do. 

If you're planning on living in Los Angeles, make sure you have a plan. I cannot emphasize that enough. The days of just "showing up" in L.A. are over - about 40 years ago. 

If you live in Los Angeles, you might (or might not) be interested in this multi-part audio series called How to Live In and Love Los Angeles by Rankin Wilbourne. Rankin is the senior pastor of Pacific Crossroads Church, connected with Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Pacific Crossroads is unique in it's embrace of both the historic Christian faith and it's unique role in a city like Los Angeles. Regardless of your religious or faith background, this series is both engaging and thought provoking. 

I had heard a lot about the renovation work on Echo Park Lake, and wanted to see if for myself. Echo Park is located three miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, the office towers are visible in the background just left of the fountain. It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and - honestly - a pretty stellar day to explore this part of the city. 

More on Echo Park next time

© 2016


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Christos Anesti - Christ is Risen - Happy Easter 2016

photo credit: Zola Clearwater Collection

Outdoor Easter Service in Pacific Palisades, circa 1922.

Pacific Palisades is a community within the City of Los Angeles located in between Santa Monica and Malibu. This photograph is looking down Via de la Paz towards the Pacific Ocean. My family moved to Los Angeles in 1968, and I had the privilege of living and growing up in the Palisades back when it - like much of the westside of L.A. - felt muchmore middle class.

Obviously, like the rest of Los Angeles,  a lot has changed over the years.

Los Angeles County in the 1920's had a population of about one million people. Today, the population is ten time that size. And, unlike when this photo was taken, Los Angeles has become one of the most ethnically diverse cities on earth. As a result, Easter services tomorrow will be held in dozens of languages including Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Korean, Armenian, Vietnamese, Farsi, Japanese, Russian, and - of course - English.

If you're in the area and looking for a church service (an English speaking church service) tomorrow for Easter, I'd recommend the 6am sunrise service at Will Rogers State Beach, sponsored by a group of 13 West Los Angeles area churches. 

Christos Anesti - Christ is Risen. Wishing everyone a Happy Easter.

© 2016


Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Afternoon at Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks is a natural outcropping of rocks located in Northern Los Angeles. Thanks to it's proximity Hollywood, it is arguably the most filmed rock formation in the world. 

Vasquez Rocks is a 932 acre (377 hectares) Los Angeles County park, open to the public. Admission is free. 

Last Fall I was in Northern Los Angeles County, visiting friends while my now 16 year old was at Six Flags Magic Mountain. In the afternoon, a couple of buddies wanted to visit Vasquez Rocks. I lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, had seen Vasquez Rocks in numerous movies, but had never actually been there. I jumped at the opportunity. 

Parking is free, the park is open from sunrise to sunset. 

Yours truly with my friend Kevin (in the orange), who works as a minister in Guam. 

Kevin with our mutual friend's 7 year old. Kids love exploring Vasquez Rocks. 

Another view. Not much shade or vegetation. I'd avoid hiking around in the middle of the day, especially in the hot summer months. 

Photo credit:
I can not think of another rock formation any where else in the world that's been in more movies, films, and television shows that Vasquez Rocks. Perhaps one of the most memorable was the original Star Trek series, when Captain Kirk (played by no other than William Shatner) fought the Gorn. THAT was awesome. 
In that same episode, Captain Kirk found some bamboo (which normally only grows in the tropics) to finish off the Gorn. Federation: 1, Gorn: 0. 

Here's a link to an incredible list of the 150+ movies, TV shows, and music videos that have been filmed at Vasquez Rocks. 

Vasquez Rocks falls within what's known as the 30 Mile Studio Zone, which is used by film industry unions to determine per diem rates and driving distances for crew members.

The center of the studio zone is located at the southeast corner of Beverly and La Cienega in Los Angeles, California. More than 90 cities and parts of three counties including Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties fall within the 30-Mile Studio Zone. 

Kids - including big kids - enjoy exploring Vasquez Rocks. Really true. Pastor Kevin having a fun time. 

My friends, Kevin & Kevin, and I - enjoying the last hour of day light before the park closed. 

Good times. I definitely recommend a visit. 

A final view heading out at sunset. Here's a link to the park's website. 

© 2016


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Re-Experiencing Los Angeles: Historic Downtown Core (Part VI)

A couple years back I was in downtown Los Angeles and had some time to walk around the Historic Core. Here's a link to Part IPart IIPart III, Part IVand Part V of this multiple part series of my little stroll around the area back in November of 2013.

On the corner of Main and 6th Street, the Pacific Electric Lofts

Ourdoor dining. According google maps, this section of Main Street is the northern most border of Los Angeles' Skid Row. The change is this area is incredible. 

Pacific Electric Lofts is located in the former headquarters of the Pacific Electric. The Pacific Electric - also known as the Red Car system - was a massive interurban and streetcar system. During the 1920's, it was the largest electric railroad system in the world. With over 1000 miles of track, it served all of metro Los Angeles - amazing when you remember that L.A's population in the 1920's was 1/10th of what it is today. The 1905 ten story building's large footprint made it the largest building west of the Mississippi until the 1950's. It was converted into loft apartments in 2005 with 314 units. 

Across the street, the backside of City Lofts, the original Mortgage Guarantee Building built in 1912 and reopened in 2004 a a live/work residence. The entrance is on Spring Street. 

Another view of the "back" of Spring Street. My guess is that this surface parking lot is in the cross hairs of development - which, honestly, is a good thing. 

The Cecil Hotel. Constructed in 1924, the hotel has apparently recently renamed and rebranded it's as "Stay on Main" - a 600 room budget hotel. Rooms go for about $125 a night. For downtown Los Angeles, that's budget. Not everyone can afford $300 a night. 

Looking north on Main Street. A security guard asked if I was a location scout (for a studio). No, just a blogger who enjoys taking photos of Los Angeles. 

Through the historic buildings on Spring Street, a view of the US Bank Tower. At 73 stories, it is the tallest building west of Chicago. It opened in 1989 and has been featured in numerous films, including "Independence Day." Current plans call for an observation deck on the top floors, to be opened in later this year (2016) and open to the general public. 

Entrance to "Stay on Main" - unfortunately, the reviews are not very kind. Some people loved it, some hated (really hated) it. It's really a budget hotel/hostel. Yes, you can get rooms really cheap with shared baths. If you're the backpacking through Europe type, "Stay on Main" might work out. But either way, I'd suggest reading the reviews - and the history of the building - first!

Around the corner on 6th Street, located in the Pacific Electric Lofts Building, is Cole's French Dip Sandwiches

Cole's claim to fame is that they invented the French Dipped Sandwiches. Which is exactly what Philippe's - located a couple miles north on the other side of Downtown Los Angeles - claims. 

You can decide for yourself. 

Back on Main Street, located in the Santa Fe Building on the corner of Main and 6th, is Pussy and Pooch, a really high end pet store.

One of the last stops before I made it back to my car was an "on location" movie shoot. This is actually very common in Los Angeles. 

Lots of big trailers. I asked the security officer what was being film, but he didn't know. Seriously, movies are often filmed using a pseudonym - a fake name - to avoid publicity (and paparazzi). 

A final look back down Main Street. The 1914 Rossyln Hotel - now the Rosslyn Lofts. As a hotel, the Rossyln, and it's annex across the street, was at one time the largest hotel on the west coast, featuring 1100 rooms.

Back at my car (the white Honda). You can see the orange Raw Materials art store sign. 

Here's a map of my "little walk" - which I accomplished in less than an hour. 

The meter was ticking - and I did not want to get a ticket. 

This part of downtown Los Angeles - the Historic Core - is amazing. My one hour (really, not even that) does not do justice to everything there is to see and experience.

Growing up in Los Angeles in the late 1960's and 1970's, and attending UCLA in the early 1980's, I avoided this part of downtown. Sure, I walked down Broadway a couple of times for the Latino vibe and feel. But never down Spring or Main. Back in the day, that was a no-go zone. 

If I did go downtown (most of my friends from the westside did not) it was to walk around the Bonaventure, or some of the shinny new buildings on Bunker Hill

While Bunker Hill is slowly filling in (it's only taken fifty years), I'd honestly rather spend time in the Historic Core. Much more interesting, more history, more people, more life. 

© 2016