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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Two Worlds

Last October, Broxton Avenue in Westwood was closed for the day for yet another Hollywood Premiere at the Mann Village Theater.

The proximity to Bel Air, Beverly Hills and the rest of the L.A. "Westside," as well as the size of the theater and the ability to close down an entire city street makes the Mann Village Theater (originally, the Fox Village Theater) a top choice for Hollywood Premieres.

Here's a link to a previous post on the theater itself:

I'm always amazed by the amount of time and money that goes into something like this. This premiere was for the Universal film "Couples Retreat" (never heard of it).

Ah, the obligatory red carpet.

As I commented in previous post for the premiere of "Twilight Series: New Moon", I wonder, do the folks at Universal re-use this carpet? The cynical side of me thinks it, unfortunately, just ends up in a landfill somewhere . . .

This is looking north on Broxton, with UCLA located a block away at the end of the street. My office = half a block from here. Posters for "Couples Retreat" are along the right of the red carpet runway.

Los Angeles can often feel like two worlds. Just a few feet away from all this . . .

. . . one of the local transients was passed out. I'd see this same guy earlier in the day sitting on the sidewalk, pan handling.

Now he was passed out in the alley way twenty feet from all the activity on Broxton (notice the crowd control barriers in the street a few feet away). My concern was that this guy literally might get run over by a car.

I called the non-emergency police number, explaining that a transient was passed out in the alley. The dispatch operator asked if I'd try and wake the guy up. Umm . . . sorry, but I wasn't going to do that. I've had a homeless guy in Santa Monica - on two different occasions - threaten to kill me. Wasn't funny. My family and I were eating in a fast food restaurant and some homeless guy walked in and threatened to kill me "unless I stop bothering him." Kinda freaked me and everyone else in the restaurant out. Really freaked out my kids. Then it happened again a few months later. Same guy - different fast food restaurant.

Sorry, I told the dispatch operator, I wasn't about to try and wake this guy in the alley.

I went back and place a orange cone next to him - just so that anyone driving in the alley would at least see him.

The local police officer showed up a few minutes later and immediately knew who our friend in the alley was, calling him by his first name.

A minute or two later the a fire truck showed up.

You can see the red carpet of the premiere to the right of the photo above. A single police officer probably would have been fine. The fire truck was more than necessary.

And now here's the EMS - Emergency Medical Services.

One police officer, three fire fighters, two EMTs . . .

While I'm glad I called, I kept thing: what's this costing?

Maybe a better question is, what emergencies are these guys not able to respond to elsewhere in the city because they're here?

A minute or two later the they wake our friend up. He's been drinking (a lot) and just passed out. Unfortunately, there's no law against public intoxication. Or, if there is, it's not being enforced.

He got up, walked across the street, and passed out on the edge of the UCLA campus.

A couple weeks ago the Los Angeles Times ran a four part series,0,4610742.htmlstory on Project 50 - a plan to get, or try to get, the fifty most ask-risk homeless people off the streets of downtown's Skid Row. The article reminded me a lot of my (very brief) experience last Fall.

While Westwood Village is worlds away from Skid Row and our friend in the alley is no where near the fifty most at-risk people on L.A.'s streets, our city's public policy related towards the homeless really seems, well, broken.

In the case of our friend, the core issue isn't homelessness, it's substance abuse.

And that, unfortunately, is a much more challenging problem than just four walls and a bed.

I'm curious what cities in the U.S. have developed the most effective program for ending homelessness. Not sweeping it under the rug, not dumping alcoholics, druggies, or the mentally ill off in other places, but actually seeing peoples' lives changed.

And in those cities, I'm really curious what role faith-based programs play.

© 2010


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Endless Summer: Leo Carrillo State Beach

Earlier this year, we joined a group of westside homeschool families for a camping overnighter up the coast at Leo Carrillo State Beach.

Leo Carrillo has 1.5 miles beach front, as well as 135 campsights on the "inland" side of the Pacific Coast Highway. It's located on the western most edge of Los Angeles County, just past Malibu city limits.

We were there mid-week in April, with some great weather. I was up early (hard to "sleep in" while camping) and caught these sunrise photos. This is looking south towards Malibu with Pt. Dume in the background. Santa Monica is another twenty miles south.

Leo Carrillo has an abundance of wildlife and rugged rock formations, as well as sandy beaches to enjoy.

There's also an very unique and impressive mural under the bridge between the beach and the campsites, which I featured in a previous post:

I love how the Pacific Coast Highway curves along the coast here on it's way into Ventura County.

Los Angeles, as well as the rest of coastal Southern California, is blessed with a moderate Mediterranean climate: mild winters and dry summers.

"The Endless Summer" is the title to an old surf film. But - at least compared to the rest of the country - it's something we actually experience.

Where else can you see more people out surfing in January than in June?

Here's a link to the Leo Carrillo website:

© 2010


Sunday, August 15, 2010

L.A. Times columnist William Lobdell: the state of American Christianity (not well)

Anthony Russo, For The Times / Aug 8, 2010

Former Los Angeles Times staff writer wrote a thoughtful and challenging article on the state of American Christianity - very much worth reading. Here's the link:,0,3621871.story


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Something Old, Something New: Farmers Market & The Grove

The Grove is a relatively new outdoor shopping center located in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. It consists of a large outdoor plaza and a "two block" faux street, terminating at the much older Farmers Market complex (more on Farmers Market in a minute).

The central plaza features a small park and animated fountain, performing a choreographed musical show every 30 minutes, with a non-musical program in between shows. Definitely a crowd pleaser.

You'll find the usual suspects at The Grove: a large multiplex movie theater, the Cheesecake Factory, Banana Republic, Barnes and Noble, Crate and Barrel, Nordstrom . . . really, stuff you can find in almost any major U.S. city.

What's unique is the atmosphere: a completely outdoor setting, interesting storefronts, the plaza with it's park and entertaining fountain. There's even a free (yes, free) double decker electric trolley that runs up and down the street during the day.

The Grove is a nice enough shopping center, but despite all the bells and whistles, what I like best about it is how it's given new life to the adjacent, and much older, Farmers Market complex.

Farmers Market consists of a series of permanent food stands and restaurants. It opened in July of 1934 and recently celebrated their 75th anniversary.

There's pretty much something for everybody. Our family likes the French crepe place and they've got a great selection dried fruit. OK, that's pretty random. But I like dried fruit.

I've jokingly called Farmers Market "the Olvera Street for white people" (please don't take this in any way as a racist remark). There's actually some similarity between them, and they opened four years apart: Olvera Street, 1930 - Farmers Market, 1934.

As a kid, I remember my grandfather taking me to Farmers Market. For his generation, it was a big deal and still a draw. To me, I didn't get the appeal - I just liked driving over and spending time with my my grandfather.

In 1990 I stopped by Farmers Market with my now wife (we weren't married at the time). To be honest, Farmers was looking a little ragged around the edges. It was kind of sad.

Fast forward to 2002. We were back and town and decided to take our kids to see what The Grove was all about. Developer Rick Caruso had just opened it up that Spring and honestly did a great job tying the two complexes together. Retail and entertainment at The Grove, food next door at Farmers Market.

Did The Grove "save" Farmers Market? I have no idea . . . but based on what I had seen years earlier, I'd say yes.

I wonder if fifty or sixty years from now, old-timers will be talking about how great The Grove used to be . . . and community activists will be talking about what it'll take to "save" it . . .

Is it worth making a special trip to The Grove?

Maybe. Depends where you're coming from.

These pictures were all take a couple of summers ago. My wife and I had dinner a mile away in "Little Ethiopia" and so we were in the area.

To me, The Grove is fine, but the real treat is always Farmers Market.

"The new" is fine, but there's something special and unique about "the old." And, this being Los Angeles, 75+ years is considered ancient.

Here's their websites: and

© 2010


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mensch of the Month

Walking a block off of Wilshire Blvd several months ago, this bumper sticker caught my eye:

I like it. Obviously, a play on "my child was student of the month at such and such school."

So, the question was - for me at least - what is a

Once again, I'm indebted to the good people at wikipedia:

A mensch is a "a person of integrity and honor," and "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character." It's a Yiddish word - מענטש - meaning "a human being" literally a "son of Adam."

On his blog entrepreneur, author, and speaker Guy Kawasaki lists five characteristics of "How to Be A Mensch"

  • Help people who cannot help you.
  • Help without the expectation of return.
  • Help many people.
  • Do the right thing the right way.
  • Pay back society.
  • I'd recommend reading the entire post.

    While this is an excellent list, and a good follow up question might be why? Why be a mensch? Why bother being a good person?

    On the same blog post, Kawasaki implies that a mensch will have a much greater reward in heaven. I applaud his chutzpah for bringing not only morality, but an eternal perspective into a blog on business ethics. In our secular society, that's refreshing - amazing, really.

    As a Christian, I don't believe heaven - that is, eternal life - is something that can be earned. In that sense, perhaps just striving to be a good person can blind us to fact that we really aren't.

    On the other hand, while I can't speak for those of other faiths, for Christians, gratitude for God's gift of eternal life should effect every area of our lives, especially how we treat those who share different beliefs. Call it ignorance or youthful stupidity, but over the years I certainly have exhibited my share of un-mensch-like behavior - so it's much easier said than done.

    Mensch. It's a great word. And hopefully, for me at least, a bit less of a foreign one.

    © 2010