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Thursday, September 24, 2009

From the Hills of Westwood

I was at UCLA last night and caught this view from up near the dorms: Royce Hall (left) and Powell Library (right) with downtown Los Angeles, some twelve miles away, visible in the distance.
In terms of work, I'll be much more focused at UCLA this year. It was thirty years ago when I started as a student there. The campus has changed dramatically since then.
Fall Quarter began today, Thursday September 24th. The campus was packed - amazing place. I feel very fortunate to be there.
More soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Randy's Donuts

No blog on Los Angeles would be complete without a post on Randy's Donuts, located on the northwest corner of Manchester and La Cienega in Inglewood.

You'll have to go elsewhere if you're looking for something healthy or "California cuisine." Randy's serves one thing: donuts.

OK, technically, they also sell coffee and lottery tickets. Stick with the donuts: they are yummy.
How many donut shops have their own website

On the other hand, how many donut shops are this famous? This being Los Angeles, Randy's Donuts has appeared in dozens of films, TV shows, commercials, and videos.
I've been here a few times, including a quick stop with my wife and kids coming back from Home Depot in Inglewood this afternoon. In addition to a picture we, of course, had to get a couple of donuts.

Apparently, there are a couple other similar donut shops in the area (one in Compton and another in Long Beach) but Randy's is blessed by being very visible from the 405 Freeway, making it the most well known and successful.

What's the appeal of Randy's?

It's been around since 1953, and unlike the Century Plaza Hotel, there's no talk of putting in something "better." I mean, how can you improve on Randy's?

Second, it's one of Los Angeles' best examples of mid-century "programmatic architecture." Yes, that's actually a category of architecture, where the where the shape of the building represents the product sold within.

Here's a list of a few others found in the area:
I'll try and come up with something profound to write later. Meanwhile, stop by and enjoy a donut the next time you're in the area.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunrise Over Los Angeles

Yesterday morning involved an early morning hike in the Santa Monica Mountains with a couple other guys from church. We try to get together once a week to hike, as well as to pray for each other, our families, and the larger community.

The the low coastal fog yesterday morning made for an especially spectacular sunrise.

Equally as impressive was the fog up against the Santa Monica Mountains. In the distance is the faint outline of the San Gabriel Mountains.

A lone palm tree peaking up through otherwise shrouded hillside homes here in Los Angeles.

A view out towards the ocean. By mid-morning this fog burned off, but we were able to enjoy it as it hugged the mountains.
"In the morning, O LORD, You hear my voice; the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation."
..Psalm 5:3

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Little Ethiopia

One of the more unique ethnic neighborhoods here in Los Angeles is Little Ethiopia. It's a small cluster of businesses and restaurants on Fairfax south of Wilshire Blvd, in between Olympic and Whitworth.

Like much of Los Angeles, Little Ethiopia is strip of low rise commercial development, surrounded by a neighborhood of older single family homes, and small apartment buildings.

A friend from grad school who grew up in Ethiopia (his parents served as missionaries there) introduced me to this area - and Ethiopian food - some twenty years ago.

Little Ethiopia is actually a mixture of newer Ethiopian and older Jewish owned businesses. It's wild to see Amharic (Ethiopian) script on one store next to Hebrew on the next. It's not so much a clash of cultures as simply existing side by side.

There are half a dozen Ethiopian restaurants up and down Fairfax. Take your pick.

We ended up at Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine. We parked on the street, but they've also got free parking around back.

We got their just when it opened. Most restaurants in Los Angeles start really picking up between 7-8pm.

Nyala has a interesting display of traditional Ethiopian wares. I forgot to check and see if these were for sale, or just to add ambiance. Maybe both.

My wife and I went without the kids. That was a good call. They're not big fans of Ethiopian food (yet). We ordered the vegetarian combo and meet combo. A little something of everything.

So what is Ethiopian food? It's spicy vegetable and meat dishes, usually in the form of a thick stew, called "wot," served atop a large spongy sourdough flatbread, called "injera."

You don't use utensils, instead you just break off a small piece of injura, and then use it to grab some of the food. I'm not sure if Ethiopian food will ever gain the popularity of something like pizza (which was at one time considered "ethnic"), but we found unique and very delicious.

As a Christian living in Los Angeles, I appreciate the opportunity to not only sample different cuisine, but also to interact with people from all over the world. Will I ever travel to Ethiopia? Probably not. Do I have opportunities to interact with people from places like Ethiopia? Yes.(Although I'm the first to admit I don't always take them.)

There are times when I'm rushed, communication is too difficult, or I'm just lazy. The New Testament reminds me that Philip, one of the early followers of Christ, wasn't deterred by interacting with a someone from another culture - and a the destiny of an entire country was changed (Acts 8:26-40).

Christians of all people should be the most welcoming to men and women from other cultures. Easier said than done, I know.

A final look north up Fairfax towards Wilshire Blvd.

Here's the website to Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine:



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Santa Monica Pier: The First 100 Years

Wednesday, September 9th, marked the 100 year anniversary of the Santa Monica Pier. The day was filled with various celebrations, culminating with a fireworks show off the pier - the first one since 1991.

Even though we homeschool, Wednesday night was a "school night" for our kids, so we decided to avoid the crowds and traffic at the pier, and watch the fireworks from Palisades Park, overlooking the pier and ocean below. We found a good spot just south of Montana Avenue, with a nice, unobstructed view (above).

From where we were at, the fireworks show was "good, but not great." There was zero wind coming off the ocean, and as a result, much of the fireworks got lost in the large, smoky cloud that formed out over the ocean. Oops. I don't think that was part of the plan.

In many ways, the best part about the night wasn't the fireworks, but the crowd that came out to watch. There were families, kids, parents, grandparents, and (this being in Santa Monica) tons of single adults.

The pier means a lot of different things to different people: a place to fish, people watch, or enjoy the view of the coast and mountains. A place to ride the (relatively tame) roller coaster, impressive Ferris wheel, or historic carousel. Time in the arcade or one of the restaurants. A summer concert or winter sunset.

My guess was Wednesday's crowd wasn't there just for the fireworks, but to celebrate these kinds of memories and the fact that a 100 year old structure is still going strong. In other parts of the country, 100 year old buildings or structures are fairly common. In Los Angeles, they're historic.

As a Christian, I'm reminded of the times God commanded those who look to Him to remember the past. Joshua, the successor to Moses, is perhaps the most obvious example, but there are many others. Not to live in the past, but not to ignore it either. To learn from it, to "remember."

There is a time and a place to celebrate milestones, achievements, and what earlier generations accomplished. For us, the one hundred year anniversary of the Santa Monica Pier was a good reminder of that.

Spencer Weiner Los Angeles Times

Here's a really nice shot from the Los Angeles Times of both the pier and fireworks. Additional photos can be found at:,0,1419253.photogallery

More info on the pier can be found at:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

Ernie Marjoram "Lonely Vigil"

Our local paper recently featured this painting by artist Ernie Marjoram. His work really captures the feel and vibe of the westside of Los Angeles:
I especially like this painting of the beach and lifeguard station in Ocean Park (south Santa Monica).
My wife and kids and I, along with her sister and kids, were at this same beach Saturday. Great place for kids and families. Even parking was easy (wow).
I though this was an appropriate post on a day when so many fellow Angelenos will be at the beach, sort of that "last day of summer."
Happy Labor Day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Station Fire

Wally Skalij - Los Angeles Times

As of this morning, Saturday September 5th, the Station Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains, which claimed the lives of two firefighters, is 49% contained. The fire has burned over 154,000 acres.

That's over 240 square miles.

In terms of area, it is the largest fire in the recorded history Los Angeles County.

Don Bartletti - Los Angeles Times

The huge thunderheads (pictured above) are more than smoke. The intensity of the heat from the fire creates its own micro-climate which causes these clouds to form above the fire. They actually have their own name: pyrocumulus.

The communities affected by the fire (La Cresenta, La Canada, Flintridge, Pasadena, Altadena, San Marino, Monrovia) are a full thirty-five miles away from where I live. Aside from smokey skies and the large plums of smoke, my information about the fire has been limited to the Los Angeles Times.

Luis Sinco - Los Angeles Times

The San Gabriels stretch seventy miles from east to west, and twenty five miles from north to south. Most peaks are between 6,000-8,000 feet high, and are the picturesque snow capped mountains behind L.A. during winter months. The mountainsides are very steep, making fighting the fire extremely difficult.

These three photos from the Times caught my eye. Many more can be found at:,0,2039975.photogallery

Sobering. More thoughts later.