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Thursday, March 31, 2011

César Chávez: 1927-1993

I designed these two newspaper ads several years ago. The Spanish translation needs work - it was just a quick plug and play into the google translator.

The English text reads:

Civil rights leader Cesar Chavez's legacy and struggle continues today. But where do values like justice and compassion come from? Are right and wrong really just a matter or personal opinion? Or are there absolutes that go beyond what popular culture or society might dictate? Do we really believe that all opinions are equally valid? That injustice and oppression are no different than compassion and mercy? That the values and legacy of someone like Cesar Chavez are no different than a Hitler or Stalin? Extreme? Perhaps, but if right and wrong are merely personal opinion, or the opinion of those in power, what right do any of us have to speak out against injustice? The message of the Bible is that values of right and wrong, justice and compassion come not from society or even ourselves, but from God. To learn who God is and what it's like to know him, read the section of the Bible called "John." Or go to There's a God. You should Know.

Here's a link to more about Cesar Chavez and his legacy.

© 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Attitude" in Pico Union

The Pico Union district of Los Angeles has the largest Salvadoran community outside of El Salvador. Several years ago my wife, two kids and I spent a summer living and working in Pico Union as part of a student leadership project. Inside a neighborhood restaurant, I came across this mural. In the mix of cultures that is often found in Los Angeles, while the restaurant was Salvadoran, the theme and look of the mural was definitely Mexican.

Working on the quote at the bottom, I kept thinking to myself "I know I've read this somewhere before."

I finally realized it's the "attitude" quote from Christian author and pastor Chuck Swindoll.

I just got back from San Salvador with yet another group of American university students - bringing this photo and quote back to mind. Here it is in it's entirety:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.

View Pico Union Los Angeles in a larger map

Here's a link to some additional information and photos on Pico Union, located north of USC and directly west of downtown.

© 2011


At the Edge of the Bay

A couple of years ago in early January, during some unusally warm weather (85 degrees in Los Angeles) and very low tides, my family and I spent a couple of hours exploring the local tidepools. Really impressive.

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. Here a link to a previous blog entry on these same tidepools.

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

Several of the tide pools were simply chock full of sea anemones. What was really amazing 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 to 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.

Driving by this same spot from LAX to San Luis Obispo yesterday afternoon, it's my hope that 200 years from now my great-great grandchildren can enjoy this - and an even cleaner and healthier Santa Monica Bay.

View Tidepools Los Angeles in a larger map

originally published January 24, 2009
© 2011


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Downtown with Kids: Bradbury Building & Grand Central Market

Last year I took a group of parents and kids on a tour of downtown Los Angeles.
We started at Olvera Street, and then took the Red Line subway (yes, Los Angeles really does have a subway) a couple of stops to the heart of downtown.

A couple blocks away, on the corner of Third & Broadway, we had a chance to enjoy two of Los Angeles' hidden treasures: The Bradbury Building (above) and the Grand Central Market.

The Bradbury Building, which opened in 1893, is the best example of non-residential Victorian architecture in Los Angeles, perhaps one of the best in the entire world. We took our kids here a few years back (with another group) but they were still amazed as we walked into the building. It is simply an incredible place - yet one that most Angelenos have never even heard of, let alone visited.

The Bradbury Building was built in 1893 and has an amazing
"backstory." The building is in remarkable condition and has been used in numerous movies, television shows, and commericals including most notably the 1982 film Blade Runner.

Heres' a link to a
previous blog post, with some additional historical information on the buidling and some thoughts and perspective. At least in 1893, the Bradbury Building was Los Angeles' Most Futuristic Building.

The Bradbury Building was a huge hit with the kids. They loved stepping into this "time machine," as it were, and this amazing window into the past.

Another shot. While it is a private office building, the lobby and first landing on the stairs is open to the public. Nice.

The 118 year old elevator. Sooo cool.

photo credit:

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the Bradbury is how non-descript the building looks from the exterior. How many thousands of people walk or drive by this corner every day and have no idea what's inside? If you're ever in downtown Los Angeles, put this on your list of things to see.

photo credit:

Across the street from the Bradbury Building is the Grand Central Market, another downtown treasure.

The Grand Central Market is a HUGE open market occupying the length of a city block, with large entrances at Broadway and at Hill Street.

The Grand Central Market opened in 1917 and features some 40 stalls and food stands. Yes - it really is a market and - yes - you really can get something to eat there.

It really reminds me of the kind of place my grandmother (born in Warsaw, Poland) would have felt comfortable with. Definitely "old school" - with a vibe and feel reminscent of New York City or Europe.

I ended up trying a pupusa at the Sorita's Salvadorian Food. Mmm, yummy.

On an related note, next week I'll actually be in El Salvador with a group of students and professors. As a Christian, I like to think that the years my family and I spent living in Los Angeles gave us all a bit of a "heads up" in terms of interacting and working with other people and cultures.

Even with a group of ten kids, we were pretty much able to find something for everyone (sorry, no McDonalds - which was a good thing). There is also an ice cream stand near the Hill Street entrance, which - of course - was a huge hit with everyone.

Looking out to Hill Street (yes, there really is a hill) with the office towers of Bunker Hill clearly visible. If you look carefully, you'll also notice one of the bright orange cars from Angels Flight.

Grand Central Market: my wife and kids and I.

Heading out the Hill Street entrance - next stop on our tour, the world-famous Angels Flight funicular, another downtown treasure. Here's a link to a previous blog post on it.

© 2011


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Downtown with Kids: Union Station & the Red Line

Last May I took a group of homeschool families on a walking tour of downtown Los Angeles. Our first stop was
Olvera Street, the oldest street in Los Angeles, which I described in an earlier post last year. Across the street from Olvera Street is Union Station.

Union Station, opened in 1939, is considered "the last great railway station" built in the United States. By the 1970's, it had become a virtual ghost town. I remember going down there as a kid - kind of depressing.

The past two decades have seen a resurgance in activity by commuters coming by trains from the suburbs and the terminus of the Red Line/Purple Line subways and Gold Line light rail.

We decided to take a very quick subway ride - just two stops - to see a bit more of downtown AND to give the kids the experience of a ride.

A tour of downtown = always more interesting with ten kids in tow.

Lining up to buy tickets.

Waiting for the subway.
The Red Line subway goes through downtown, along Wilshire, north through Hollywood, terminating in the eastern edge of the San Fernando Valley in North Hollywood.

The Purple Line (grey in this map) follows the same direction, but continues west for another mile along Wilshire - ending in Koreatown.

Plans are in the works for the Purple Line to continue another eight miles under Wilshire through Koreatown, Hancock Park, the Miracle Mile District, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood Village & UCLA.
Here's our subway - do we have all ten kids? Let's go!

Front row seats (minus the seats) for my daughter and her cousin.

All the kids wanted to watch out the front window, which was actually pretty fun. In five minutes, we were at the Pershing Square Station, in the heart of downtown.

Getting off at the Pershing Square Station we walked a block southeast on Fourth Street to Broadway. Destination: the Bradbury Building and Grand Central Market.

Broadway is a major commercial center, with most stores catering primarily to the city's huge Latino population.

Heineken Light: is it a mural or a billboard? You decide.

photo credit:

Through the 1920's-1940's Broadway was THE commercial center for Los Angeles. It was what Beverly Hills, or perhaps Santa Monica, is today - you get the idea. The city's largest hotels, movie theaters, and department stores were all located on or adjacent to Broadway.

While you won't find the usual suspects from a suburban mall, businesses along Broadway seem to be thriving.

Meanwhile, over 50,000 people (mostly young, urban singles) have moved into downtown Los Angeles over the past ten years. I'm curious to see what Broadway will look ten years in the future.

According to a 1932 documentary, made to highlight the city as it prepared to host the Summer Olympics the
first time, in the early 1930's the corner of Broadway & Third had more foot traffic than any other intersection in the world.

While Broadway is certainly not the business and commercial center of Los Angeles, there were a couple of very cool things at
the corner of Broadway and Third: here's a link to taking kids to the Bradbury Building and the Grand Central Market.

View Downtown Los Angeles in a larger map

© 2011