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Friday, November 21, 2008

Our Beaches Best Kept Secret

One of the best known features of Los Angeles is the beach.

But one of the best kept secrets of our beaches are the tidepools.

I found this great on-line tide chart.

Here's a few photos from some of the local tide pools, taken in January 2007, almost two years ago. We are very blessed to live in a city with the ocean at our doorstep - that we can enjoy year round.

If you really want to enjoy tide pools, you'll want to go not only at low tide, but the lowest of the low tides. In the next couple of months (Jan & Feb 2009), I'd recommend:

Saturday January 10th (low tide at 3:09pm)
Sunday January 11th (low tide at 3:05pm)
Saturday February 7 (low tide at 2:11pm)
Sunday February 8 (low tide at 2:49pm)

Remember the saying "take only memories, leave on footprints?" With tide pools, in many cases you don't even want to leave even footprints. Better would be to "take only pictures, and be extra careful where you step." And, please please don't take any "souvenirs."

"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the LORD on high is mighty." Psalm 93:4

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Walk Up Wilshire (Santa Monica to Beverly Hills)

Earlier this year I took a long walk up Wilshire Blvd; mostly I was just curious how far I could get. I enjoy hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains (especially Topanga State Park). What would it be like to do an urban hike?

I started by walking about four miles from my home to where Wilshire Blvd begins in Santa Monica. Santa Monica is named after Saint Monica of Hippo (A.D. 333-387). Here's her statue. She's remembered for praying for the conversion of her non-Christian son, Augustine (who went to become Saint Augustine).

Across the street is this office tower. When I figure out the name, I'll come back and add it. It use to be called the "Lawrence Welk Plaza" (seriously!) but that was over 30 years ago. A friend of mine is a stock broker up on the 14th floor - nice view.

What in the world? Hundreds of people were lined up at Wilshire & 3rd Street (aka the 3rd Street Promenade) at 6:30am. The line started at the Apple Store and was at least a full city block long. Why? The new iPhones were being released that morning when the store opened.

A half a mile up Wilshire (Wilshire & Lincoln) another iPhone line, this time at the AT&T store. I feel so out of it.

Not all of Wilshire is high rises. I'm not a big fan of liquor stores, but there was something so "typical" So Cal about this place, I had to get a photo. Santa Monica and much of Los Angeles is in weird place of being too crowded to feel suburban, but spread out to feel urban (does that make sense?).

I don't know why I took this picture. Maybe just a normal guy waiting for his bus.

Santa Monica is a separate, unique city from Los Angeles. Once you hit 26th Street, you're actually back in the City of Los Angeles. North of Wilshire is Brentwood, south of Wilshire is West L.A. The zoning is noticeably different.

Big mess out side of the KFC in West L.A. At first I thought this was just a late night party gone bad, but more likely it was some transient digging through the trash looking for cans. Sad, really - and, of course, we have all live with this.

Wilshire & San Vincente looking back, with the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Brentwood to the right, West L.A. to the left. No, this was NOT a Sunday morning, traffic was just amazingly light. Chalk it up to being a late Friday morning in the middle of the summer .... with gas about $4.75 a gallon.

World Savings Tower, on the corner of Wilshire & San Vincente. Back around 1984 I actually climbed up inside and got on the roof just before it was completed. Note: I would NOT recommend doing that today!

I never really thought about what happens to old limos, guess they just get parked in Brentwood somewhere. I think someone is living out of it. Wonder if it even runs? I can't imagine trying to squeeze out of that parking space!

Finally, some traffic (I was getting worried there for a moment). Heading towards Westwood, home of UCLA. Despite the 20 story buildings, it's still called "Westwood Village". Not sure if the Mayor's "Subway to the Sea" down Wilshire will ever make it all the way to the ocean - but thanks to Measure R (1/2% sales tax increase) getting to Westwood & UCLA looks like a reality.

Metro Rapid. My son really wants me to take him on one of these buses, because they've got the accordion fold in the center. Behind the bus is the Avco Cinema, where I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" in 1980. Westwood Village has the largest concentration of single screen movie theaters in the world.

Transient sleeping at the Westwood United Methodist Church. See my previous blog about some thoughts about the homeless.

I've been to a couple of weddings at this church - beautiful, historic building.

Only 2% of people living on the westside of Los Angeles attend any sort of religious service on a weekly basis (this includes churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.). Because of the proximity and connection to the entertainment industry (and it's global influence) this is especially sobering.

Fortunately, several new churches have started here on the westside in the past few years:

  • Pacific Crossroads Church (meeting at University High School)
  • Mosaic Church (meeting at Beverly Hills High School)
  • Shoreline Church (meeting in at the Regent Theater in Westwood Village)
  • Shepherd of the Hills (meeting at the Wadsworth Theater)
These new, evangelical churches are seeking to impact the westside with the gospel of Jesus Christ (topic for a future blog entry).

Condo towers continue to be built along Wilshire. What's amazing is that right behind these towers are single family homes, with backyards and everything.

This is my favorite condominium building located at Wilshire & Westholme. A bit of Manhattan plunked down on the westside. Not like I could/would ever live there: like everything else on the westside, these are extremely expensive.

One of many synagogues found here on the westside. This is at the corner of Wilshire & Beverly Glen; there's another large synagogue a block away. Los Angeles has the largest American Jewish community outside of New York City.

Amazing how powerful artwork can be. Preserving and passing on the Torah to the next generation.

Welcome to Beverly Hills. Fountain at the corner of Wilshire & Santa Monica Blvd. There was some transient using the fountain to wash his feet, but decided not to include that.

I cut through a residential neighborhood (Canon Drive) and headed north. Not all of Beverly Hills are high end mansions. This home would be pretty typical in a of neighborhoods in the United States.

Same street, just a few houses up. This is what most people think of when they think of Beverly Hills. The style of these large, opulent homes are often referred to as "Persian Palaces" due to their popularity by the community's large, and influential, Persian (Iranian) community.

Picked up a MTA bus where Sunset Blvd intersects with Canon & Rodeo (next to the Beverly Hills Hotel).

Taking a bus back worked great. I was able to get a one way hike in (about 13 miles) and see and experience a lot of the city from street level.

I'd really like to walk the entire length eighteen mile length of Wilshire Blvd someday, but don't know if I want to try that alone. It'd want to time it right, too. Some neighborhoods (esp around MacArthur Park) are a little dicey.

The book of Jonah is the only book in the Bible that ends in a question. 2,400 years ago God asked Jonah - and the people of Israel - a question which is just as relevant for us today:

"Should I not be concerned about that great city?" Jonah 4:11

A Perspective on the Homeless

The poor you will always have among you." Jesus to his disciples

Living in Los Angeles, we see homeless men and women (but mostly men) every day. We see them downtown, on the bus, on the streets, in our community, at the park, at the beach, in front of the supermarket, panhandling at stop lights, going through the dumpsters at our condo complex, camped out on sidewalks, around our church. And by the way, we live in what everyone considers a “good part of town.”

What’s our response?

Really, to do nothing isn’t an option for someone who considers himself or herself a follower of Jesus Christ.

I’ve wanted this blog to be “photos and commentary about life in Los Angeles from a Christian world-view.” It’s been fun to post my own photos, sort of the “I get to live in a city where people from around the world want to visit.” I’ve also taken the liberty to use photos from other sites to tell a story.

It’s easy talking about the beach, the mountains, the weather, the attractions, the diversity, various neighborhoods, weird stuff like the Los Angeles River or Venice Beach … the fun stuff, the reason why people choose to visit or live in Los Angeles. Issues like traffic, graffiti, smog, trash – easy, too. Who is in favor of trash?

It’s a lot harder talking about crime, gangs, racism, immigration, poverty, loss of manufacturing jobs, “elephants in the room” like the fact that Los Angeles is the center of the porn film industry, or homelessness. Who wants to read a blog about the loss of manufacturing jobs in L.A.? Maybe someone. Who wants to write it? Not me.

Going back to the homeless. Whatever we’ve been doing for the past 30 years hasn’t been working. I’d really love a discussion on biblically based social policy to really tackle homelessness in our city. Our outgoing President tried some things, but “compassionate conservative” was mocked on both the left and right. Perhaps our next President can tackle this (giving new meaning to the expression “only Nixon can go to China”) but he has his hands full with other issues – the economy and a war or two.

Christian non-profits (the Salvation Army, the various skid row ministries, the hundreds of small urban churches) are awesome. Life in Los Angeles – really any city – would be hell without them. But what would it take to reduce the number of homeless in Los Angeles from 70,000 (current estimates) to 7,000?

There’s so many directions I could go, but I’d like to focus on an issue that Christians (I speak for myself) have been guilty of ignoring: the mentally ill. Over a third, possibly half of the homeless in Los Angeles are mentally ill. That’s 25,000-35,000 men and women walking around who should be in mental hospitals.

Remember “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”? Won Best Picture in 1975 and stared Jack Nicholson. Danny DiVito and Christopher Lloyd have small parts. My wife and I recently watched it. It’s not a family film, but it is worth viewing.

The film helped influence public opinion = mental hospitals bad. According to advocate E. Fuller Torrey, here in California while Ronald Reagan was Governor, a very odd coalition of politically left-leaning civil libertarians, who believed that nobody should ever be involuntarily hospitalized, and politically right-leaning fiscal conservatives who saw closing the hospitals as a way to reduce state expenditures and thus reduce taxes implemented the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act in 1969 which made it exceptionally difficult to involuntarily hospitalize psychiatric patients.

The Camarillo State Mental Hospital doesn’t exist anymore. It was closed in the 1990’s and is today of California State University campus (nice looking campus, by the way). So where are the mentally ill who use to be in hospitals like Camarillo? For the most part, on the street. Going back to homeless, I try to ask “why are they homeless”?

Is it a choice?
Believe it or not, some people (mostly men) enjoy a “carefree” life without responsibility. Kind of like being permanently on a bad vacation.

Are they an alcoholic or an addict?

Are they fleeing an abusive relationship?

Are they mentally ill?

I don’t advocate ever giving money to panhandlers. I become an "enabler" as the vast majority of the time the money goes to drugs or alcohol. The LAPD told us some homeless “who are good” and know how the work the system make $200 - $800 a day (and I don’t think these guys are filling out W-2s).

I want to continue to support the incredible work of places like the Union Rescue Mission and others.

But as I Christian living in L.A., I also want to re-think our society’s moral obligation to the mentally ill. Amazing how a Hollywood film critical of an institution makes we wish we still had it.

“It's been over a hundred years since this society was so cruel as not to try to take care of the true victims, people who are incapacitated by mental illness and really can't take care of themselves.” Myron Magnet, New York City – author & editor of the conservative “City Journal”


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

City of Angels

In October of 2000 four hundred painted fiberglass angels were displayed in public places throughout the city of Los Angeles. They were on display for about six months, and then auctioned off to benifit a couple of local charities. You may have seen or or two around the city - there's one at Farmer's Market at 3rd & Fairfax (next to "The Grove").

I found this great website (put together by Ruth Wallach) featuring dozens of these angels:

Here are my favorites pulled from the site:

Susan Manders "Angelica de Espero" - Sponsored by Anti-Defamation League

Gwen Cates "Angelscape" - Sponsored by William Morris Agency

Jonye Feldman "Fat Charlie" - Sponsored by Southern California Gas Co

Cindy Suriyani "The Garden" - Sponsored by Nonprofit Art Corporation

Barbara Ashton "Palisades Angel" - Sponsored by Sidley & Austin

Lura Schmiedeke "Guardian Angel of the Skies" - Sponsored by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton, LLP

Annmarie Socash: "Gladys Glass" - Sponsored by Kevin & Britta Shannon

It’s really too bad this project wasn’t a permanent thing. These fiberglass angels are bright, creative, engaging, and – in many cases – beautiful.

I wish I could say that about most public art. Much of it is either bland, weird, political, overly sensual, and sometimes just plain ugly.

The subject “angels” is a very familiar one to Christians (as well as Jews and Muslims).

Seeing a dozen or more angels around the entrance to an office tower downtown is a subtle (or not so subtle) reminder to both believers and non-believers that there is more, much more, than our 70 or 80 years here on earth. There is a spiritual dimension to life that is often ignored, or simply compartmentalized (i.e. "I don't let my faith influence my public life" - what's that about?).

I appreciate the fact that the many artists engaged in this project brought a timeless subject to the 21st century. Looking at the website, I certainly don’t like them all … that’s OK. It was overall a great display.

I heard someone say that Christians are better at criticizing art than producing it. As the Apostle Paul was fond of saying “brothers, this should not be.”

Art, music, film, theater.

They all influence culture. They leave a legacy.

But what kind of influence are they making? What kind of legacy are they leaving?

Perhaps better questions are: what kind of influence am I making? What kind of legacy am I leaving?

This town is known for making sequels.

I'd love to see "Community of Angels - Part II" sometime in the future.

It'd be very well received.