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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday: Just Another Day at the Beach?

As we approach yet another Super Bowl Sunday, it's a reminder of something Los Angeles doesn't have: a professional football team.

I like what Steve Dilbeck, columnist with the Daily News wrote a few months back:

"The NFL hasn't played here since 1994, a staggering amount of time when you consider this is the second-largest market in the country.

Since then there have been stadium proposals to rebuild the Coliseum, to build new stadiums on land around Dodger Stadium, Carson, Hollywood Park, Anaheim, the Rose Bowl, near Staples Center, and, I'm pretty sure, on a barge outside L.A. Harbor.

Each had its glossy presentations. Each promised to be the one. Each went down in flames."

You can read the rest of Steve's article (and yet the latest attempt to bring a NFL team to Los Angeles) at

Here's a quick overview of some of the NFL stadiums that have been proposed over the years:

Here's an interesting re-do of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Another view of the same (or slightly different?) proposal at the Coliseum.

A 2003 proposal for a NFL stadium at the Rose Bowl (which never got off the ground).

Billionaire Ed Roski - who brought Los Angeles the Staples Center - is currently the biggest backer of a new stadium for Los Angeles. His most current proposal is on land he owns east of Los Angeles in the City of Industry (at the 60 & 57 frwys). He's not asking anything from taxpayers; this could actually go somewhere.

A couple of years ago my wife and I decided to take our kids to the beach on Super Bowl Sunday. It was a nice sunny day (ironically, the beach can be sunnier here in January than June) and we figured the beach and bike path would be empty as most people would be watching the game.

Wrong. The bike path and Venice Beach Boardwalk with packed with people doing everything except watching the "big game." I'm sure there were people watching the Super Bowl somewhere in Los Angeles - but you wouldn't know it if you went to the beach.

The water was chilly - but plenty of people were walking along the shore.

The Santa Monica Pier was packed - doesn't anyone watch the Super Bowl in this town?

Is it just me, or is Los Angeles just not a "football town"? I'm sure that could change, but at least here on the westside, I don't hear people asking "why don't we have a pro team?" (Maybe I would if I spent more time in sports bars.) Hard to believe, but greater Los Angeles use to have not one but two NFL teams at the same time: the Rams and the Raiders. The NFL just doesn't seem to be part of the DNA of Los Angeles like it is in other cities.

So, what comes first? A groundswell of public interest to have a team here - or the hope that a new stadium and team will draw fans?

A NFL franchise certainly doesn't need public money (in the form of a tax-payer subsidized stadium) to be here. As a Christian, I'm curious how God views what's described as "corporate welfare" - which is certainly not limited to professional football. Chuck Colson, who has developed an extensive ministry among prisoners here in the U.S. and abroad has spoken on this, including this commentary written several several years ago: I like to think this is something people from a wide spectrum of religious (or non-religious) backgrounds can actually agree on.

Here's hoping that a NFL team will make someday make Los Angeles their home - on their own dime.

Who knows, places like the beach might be a bit less crowded on Sundays.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

At the Edge of the Bay

Earlier this month, we had a wonderful combination of unusually warm weather - 85 degrees here in Los Angeles - and very low tides. So both Saturday and Sunday (January 10th & 11th) we spent some time enjoying the local tide pools. They did not disappoint.

We were amazed at the abundance of sea life: sea anemones, sea stars, a small sea turtle (stuck in the rocks, which fortunately everyone left alone), a colorful sea slug, and even a small octopus.

My son pointing out a tide pool to a younger boy on Saturday.

Several of the tide pools were simply chocked full of sea anemones. Especially impressive is that this is within the city limits of Los Angeles. Click on any of these photos for a larger image.

There were several other families there Saturday - which helped in finding things like this small and very colorful "Spanish Shawl" sea slug. I've never seen one of these before.

On Sunday we were back - and my daughter found this trove of star fish (technically, of course, they aren't "fish", just like technically the sun doesn't really "set").

Here's a close-up view. Wow, amazing variety - and abundance.

Sunday was also unusually crowded. Chalk it up to a weekend afternoon with some of the lowest tides of the year, and summer-like conditions in the middle of January. Unfortunately, a few individuals decided to take a "souvenirs" - including one family who filled a plastic grocery bag with half a dozen star fish. When I asked them to put them back, they looked at me like I was from another planet.

I made some follow up phone calls about this later that week. Someone finally got back to me from the California Department of Fish and Game. Yes, it is illegal to take star fish. I e-mailed the women I spoke to and, thanks to Google earth, gave her the exact location of the tide pools. I suggested a posted notice there at the beach, but didn't get any sort of response, so I have no idea if my e-mail just ended up in the electronic version of the "circular file."

Apparently, it is legal to harvest the mussels growing on the rocks, at least during winter months. They're plentiful (they grow everywhere, including the pilings of piers) and are edible. It was a little weird have some people carefully walking around the tide pools, while these guys were knocking mussels off the rocks with a shovel.
Of course, there is a balance. Almost anywhere can be picked over or over fished, especially in a large city like Los Angeles. On the other hand, care of the oceans has been entrusted to mankind. 3000 years ago, King David of Israel wrote "You [the LORD] made man ruler over the works of your hands; You put everything under his feet ... the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8:6,8). Sadly, the concept of "dominion over the earth" has been misunderstood or abused. The seas are not simply dumping grounds.

I appreciate the work of Heal the Bay here in Los Angeles and the Surfrider Foundation in terms of long term stewardship (although they might not use that word) of our oceans. Much needs to be done, and it's depressing knowing how much trash - especially plastic - ends up in the oceans every year. Stupid, really.

It's my hope that 200 years from now, my great-great grandchildren can stand at this same spot and enjoy an even cleaner and healthier Santa Monica Bay.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Coronado Butterfly Preserve

This past week my wife was invited by some friends from the westside to join them at the Coronado Butterfly Preserve, just north of Santa Barbara. We didn't even know what this was, but it sounded interesting and an opportunity to connect our kids with the local natural environment.

The Coronado Butterfly Preserve gets it's name from the street it's on: Coronado Street, a small residential street in Goleta (off the 101, just north of Santa Barbara). You just park on the street (free) and walk in. Directions and information and be found here:

It's hard to get lost, just follow the signs - or the people walking to and from the grove. According to another site "The 9.3-acre preserve is among the largest monarch butterfly wintering sites in southern California. Thousands of monarch butterflies hang from the eucalyptus trees in thick clusters and fly wildly around."

There were definitely other people there, including a large school group that was just leaving. The time to see it is November through February.

You can click on any of these photos to see larger views. It was amazing seeing hundreds, no - thousands, of butterflies. This is their winter home and they'll be gone by March.

Several of the trees were thick with butterflies. Really amazing. The trees with butterflies were roped off, allowing you to look but not touch (these photos were taken with a zoom lens).

As a Christian, I'm reminded of the places where God uses the natural world to illustrate a point. "Go to the ant ... and observe it's ways" said Solomon. "Consider the birds of the air" said Jesus.

The simple butterfly is never mentioned in Scripture, although Paul uses the Greek word "metamorpho" (where we get the word "metamorphosis") to describe the transformation that takes place, or should take place, in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.

Our desire as parents is to help our kids integrate their faith into their daily lives, and bring it into the world around them.

Was it worth the drive to see the monarchs? According to my wife, our kids (ages 9 and 6 1/2) liked but didn't necessarily love the experience. It's probably one of those things they'll appreciate more when they get older. There is also a beach immediately next to the preserve, and they really enjoyed exploring and playing with the other two families they were with. If you go, you'll want to make sure it's a sunny day (or at least not raining).

Here's a link with some additional information:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History - and a Prayer

(Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Tuesday, history was made with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, our nation's first African-American president.

I appreciate the opening prayer of Pastor Rick Warren:

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

The entire text of his prayer, which is worth reading (or re-reading) can be found here:

President Obama has a huge task before him. Like many, I am curious to see how he will actually lead, the policies he'll propose (and actually get through Congress). How he responds to a future crisis, and the legacy he leaves over the next four years. The campaign, election, transition, and inauguration have all passed into the history books ... now comes the hard part.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Walk Down Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Part I)

Last weekend I decided to take a walk down Abbot Kinney Blvd in nearby Venice. I've driven up and down this street hundreds of times ... and decided to see what it looks like from street level.

"Bohemian" is probably the best word to describe the atmosphere. Abbot Kinney - and much of the surround Venice neighborhood - continues to experience gentrification, but the community maintains it's funky edge.

There's an incredible mix of architectural styles: everything from converted homes to contemporary glass and steel boxes. This, of course, is all part of the appeal.

There were also a surprising number of pedestrians up and down the street. Granted, I was there on a Saturday afternoon, but Abbot Kinney is very walkable and pedestrian friendly.

I parked on Broadway, cross the street - walking east on Abbot Kinney on the south side of the street.

"Zingara" - have no idea what they sell/do - I just like the building. A quick search on the
internet mentioned a gypsy band, someone giving free psychic reading, and a wine and cheese event. Huh.

I've seen
antique shops, I've seen surf shops - but I've never seen an antique surf shop. If vintage surf clothing, artwear, or even old boards are your thing, they've got it on Abbot Kinney.

No, this is not a Hollywood set (at least I don't think it is). My guess is a new structure is going behind the old front. I've seen this elsewhere in Santa Monica: kind of the best of both worlds.

The street curves slightly and then crosses Venice Blvd. It curves again after crossing Venice - and from there is almost entirely residential.

The curve after crossing Venice Blvd. In the distance are the towers of Marina
del Rey.

This could be almost anywhere in Los Angeles: wide parkways, palm trees, and small apartments buildings.

One of the few single family homes on the street. A small house in between a couple of 4-6 unit apartment buildings.

Another single family home, this one significantly bigger, across the street. I just thought it was funny seeing homes mixed in with apartment buildings. Reminded me of "Monopoly" - little green houses and bigger red hotels.

I made it to Washington Blvd, and then crossed the street to walk on the north side back. At one time these lots were single family homes - each, of course, with it's own backyard. Unfortunately, the change in zoning did not include the addition of any sort of public space - even a basketball court or small playground would have been great.

I think what caught my eye was the wires coming off this telephone pole. How many lines can you count?

Normally, a roof deck would be desirable ...

Heading back to commercial/business section of Abbot Kinney. I like the mix of the old 1950's (what's now
referred to as "mid-century") one story stucco next to the three story office building. Of course, the people living right next to the three story office building probably don't like it so much. This is just before I crossed back over Venice Blvd.

No, this is not a movie or TV set - (remember "Sanford & Son"?). This is a real working garage. Got to love the atmosphere.

I liked the old advertisement on the side of the building. I have no idea what "The Stronghold" is - but it's been around Los Angeles for over 100 years.

Surfing Cowboys - from the other side of the street.

I took a lot of photos - Abbot Kinney is only 1.3 miles from Brooks Street to
Washington Blvd. (for a total distance of just 2.6 miles). More on Part II.

© 2009


A Walk Down Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Part II)

Abbot Kinney Blvd. is one of the most eclectic and unusual shopping districts in Los Angeles. "Bohemian" - not original with me - is the word I used in Part I (you'll want to read Part I first).

I'm still trying to figure out what Zingara (above) is. Here's their website: (their site features interesting background music). I think it's some sort of antique store, but I'm not sure. That pretty much sums up a lot of the businesses on Abbot Kinney.

The diversity of architecture - and businesses - is amazing. It makes for a great, pleasant walk.

I terms of businesses, this Pinkberry Yogurt was the only "chain" anything I found of Abbot Kinney. Everything else was definitely one of a kind. More on this later.

I thought this liquor store was interesting only because it was so different from the rest of the immediate community. Looks like it belongs someplace else in L.A. Definitely old-school Venice.

It's not just in the movies. People in California - both male and female really call each other "dude." The use is directly proportional to proximity to the ocean. It's also an expression: "Dude!" as in "Dude! I almost missed that exit!"

It's amazing what some color and patters do to any otherwise industrial looking building. Palm trees help, too.

Every wonder what happens to old playground equipment? Neptina turns it into artwork. Just another local store specializing in "mid century glass, lighting, tables, and art."

Mystic Journey Bookstore. A new-age bookstore. There were tarot cards and a crystal ball in the front window. As a Christian, I enjoy working to find common ground with individuals who consider themselves "spiritual, but not religious."

I love this color!

I like to think that everyone is in favor of peace and love, but maybe not.

A view looking backwards (east).

My favorite orange building - with a turquoise building next to it. Amazing was some bright paint will do to otherwise bland buildings.

I love this tile mural - I thought this was a Jewish cultural center, but now I'm not sure. If you have a clue, let me know.

This entire poster of President-Elect Obama was made from newspaper clippings. Creative, engaging artwork. Is it OK for me to still be impressed with the historical significance of our nation's first African-American President, even if I didn't vote for him?

Glencrest Bar-B-Que helps balance out the "Organic Vegan" place down the street. This, along with the liquor store down the street, looks old-school, pre-gentrification Venice.

Abbot Kinney's pedestrian traffic isn't limited to adults. I think this dad is taking his daughters to Pinkberry Yogurt, or ...

... to Tales & Toys. Nice to know that even that even in an funky, eclectic neighborhood like Venice, you can find a toyshop. Of course, it's not Toys R Us - which might be a good thing.

What looks like a former auto repair or garage is now a ... bookstore. Makes perfect sense.

Inside: artistic, open, with books (I'm guessing) won't find at Barnes & Nobel. I was running out of time, so I didn't go in.

Towards the end of Abbot Kinney is a small bi-lingual private school (French).

And a church. A web search didn't give too much information (unfortunately they don't have a website). From what I can surmise, Second Community Baptist Church is a historically black church serving Venice. I'm not familiar with them, but I appreciate seeing a church in the community.

Another block - and then I turned around (at Brooks) and headed back. A helpful overview of Abbot Kinney can be found at
(thanks to John for this link).

Across the street I noticed what is actually an small office building. See what you learn on foot? I've driven by this building over a hundred times, never knew what it was. My guess is that is a restored, historic home ... although it could be a new building designed to look old.

Having owned two VW bugs, I had to get a picture of this. I'm not sure where the paint stops and where the graffiti begins, but for some reason this car did not look out of place in the neighborhood.

Abbot Kinney ends at Brooks Ave (a few blocks from the beach). Time to head back.

Walking back to my car I noticed these old tracks running parallel to Abbot Kinney. My guess is they're a piece of the Red Car Line that use to run between downtown Los Angeles and Venice. The convenience of private automobiles doomed the Red Cars after WWII (subject for another blog). Ironically, the tracks are now covered by a narrow parking lot.

A view through my windshield - a final look heading home on Abbot Kinney.

What's the appeal of Abbot Kinney? Why is walking up and down the street more enjoyable than a trip to the (yuck) mall?

While many (but not all) of the stores are just too "funky" for my taste, I really enjoyed my time walking up and down this street. So what's the appeal?

Perhaps it's simply the variety of shapes, sizes, styles, colors, textures, and ages of the buildings and shops up and down the street. Yet no one building dominates - each one seems to work in concert with the others. This didn't happen by accident. There's a reason why (with the exception of Pinkberry Yogurt) there aren't any chain restaurants or stores: there's a culture, and both written and un-written rules, that make Abbot Kinney what it is today.

As a Christian, I wish more churches functioned like that (some actually do!). Each member exercising his or her God-given gifts and talents. Unique, but working together. Colorful, different, and a variety of ages and styles. Yet sharing a common faith and purpose. Working together in concert. Both unity and diversity. A strong sense of community.

Almost 2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote to churches in the cities of Ephesus and Corinth:

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:3

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kids of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." I Corinthians 12:4-7

Something, perhaps, to think about the next time you walk - or drive - down Abbot Kinney.


© 2009