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Friday, September 30, 2011


Several years ago a friend and I went snorkeling in La Jolla, south of Los Angeles in San Diego. La Jolla has some of the best snorkeling and diving conditions in California. It was - well - amazing.

These bright orange fish are called Garibaldi. They are the official marine fish of California (meaning they are protected) and were there in abundance. Of course, it helped that we brought a bag of frozen peas, which Garibaldi love. The photo above was taken with a cheap-o underwater film camera 15+ years ago.

If there are Garibaldi off the coast of Los Angeles, I've never seen any. That's not to say they aren't there - I've just never seen them. 

As an aside, I really tried to get my kids to embrace a Garibaldi as the mascot for their school. We homeschooled when we were in Los Angeles - so why not? Let's just say the idea got shot down. Oh well, I tried. Above: "Deepo" mascot of the Georgia Aquarium (2100 miles from Los Angeles). 

Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu last year, I noticed some large kelp beds about five miles from the city limits of Los Angeles. You can see the skyline of Santa Monica to the left, and the kelp beds to the right.

Here's a close-up. I'm no expert on the Santa Monica Bay, but I as a kid I don't remember seeing kelp beds this close into the city. 

When we lived in Los Angeles, I had a chance to hear a professor at Cal State Northridge speak on Christian stewardship of the environment, including the idea that the ability to see and enjoy the creation helps point individuals to the Creator. 

I'm wondering if kelp forests - and the abundance of sea life they allow - will eventually get re-established off the coast of Los Angeles. With a mask and snorkel, it'd give certainly give new meaning to the concept of experiencing Los Angeles. And enjoying the Creator's handiwork. Including the Garibaldi. 


© 2011 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Discovering the Hollywood Sign - Again

Earlier this year, my wife and I were back in Los Angeles. On our way to a walk around Lake Hollywood (the Hollywood Reservoir) we decided to go through the Hollywood Hills below the Hollywood Sign. We got on Beachwood and headed north. 

These streets were originally planned out in the 1920's and are extremely narrow. The Hollywood Sign was originally designed to promote the development of these hillside lots and homes. 

Interesting views of the sign behind some of the hillside homes.  Got to love the 1970's-era geodestic dome to the left . . .

. . . the upgrades on this "mid-century" home . . . 

. . . or the Spanish style roof and palm tree. Each one of these homes say "Hollywood" in it's own unique way. 

It's hard to describe how incredibly narrow and and curvy these residential streets really are: Los Angeles' version of "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." There are numerous blind curves and places where only one car can pass: if you find yourself in this neighborhood, please be respectful of the community, turn down - or off - any music, and obey all posted speed limits. 

Here's an image from google earth, just to give an idea of how curvy these neighborhood streets really are. 

If you want the best view of the Hollywood Sign, I'd suggest avoiding the Beachwood neighborhood completely . . . 

. . . and heading over to Lake Hollywood Park at 3000 Canyon Lake Drive. Here's a link to "The Best Place to See The Hollywood Sign" with directions. 

A few yards up the street is another place to enjoy the view, or views

of the Hollywood Sign . . .

. . . Lake Hollywood . . .

. . . and because there are usually a few other tourists at this spot, it's easy to ask a visitor from Europe, Asia, or Iowa, to get you and your group with the sign in the background. Above, my wife and me. 

The neighborhood around Lake Hollywood Park has significantly wider streets. Still, these are residential streets, so if you drive through, please obey the speed limit, keep the noise down, and be respectful of the neighborhood. 

Last week there was an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about the HUGE increase in traffic these neighborhoods are experiencing thanks to google maps, GPS, websites dedicated on how to get to the sign, and - yes - blogs like this. Here's a link to the article. 

On one hand, these streets are public, as is Lake Hollywood Park. People come from around the world to see the Hollywood Sign up close (pumping millions of dollars into the local economy). The Hollywood Sign has been around since 1923 - it's hard to believe these residents didn't know what they were getting into. 

On the other hand, the city could install speed bumps along these residential streets and limit parking to daylight hours. As the sign is NOT lit at night - there's no reason for non-residents to be driving around these neighborhoods after dark. 

And - unlike what some websites might say - it's impossible to hike to the Hollywood Sign. Here's a link to  LAPD's zero tolerance for anyone trying, so don't even think about it. 

If you want to get "up close" - your best bet is Lake Hollywood Park. 

View viewing the Hollywood Sign up close in a larger map

The Hollywood Sign is one of Los Angeles' greatest assets, in terms of tourism. Seems like the city should be doing all it can to fully take advantage of this. There's once again talk of an aerial tram from Travel Town to Mt Lee, location of the Hollywood Sign. Up the backside as it were. THAT would be a great idea. Instead of trying to keeping tourists from residential neighborhoods, how about offering something even better? Get them up there for a real show. Isn't that what Hollywood does best?

Here's a link to the official website: the Hollywood Sign Trust. 

© 2011 


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer in the Rearview Mirror

Driving up the 101 - the Pacific Coast Highway - earlier this year, I spotted an old surf wagon in the rearview mirror. Had to take a pic. 

Anyone out there know the year and model? Looks like something from the 1940's. LOVE the surfboard on the roof. That's what caught my attention.

As this is the last weekend of the summer, figured this was an appropriate photo. Actually, these photos were taken last January. That's OK. Thanks to wetsuits and a Mediterranean climate, people surf year round in Southern California. 

You get extra points if you know where along the 101 this was taken.

As an aside, there's reason why Angelenos (and Southern Californians) refer to freeways as "the 405" or "the 10" or "the 101". These freeways all have names. Beautiful names. The San Diego Freeway, the Santa Monica Freeway, the Ventura Freeway. 

Originally, people talked about taking the Pasadena Freeway north . . . or the Santa Ana Freeway south. Eventually, the Interstate (or state highway) numbers were substituted for the names. The Pasadena Freeway became the 110, the Santa Ana Freeway became the 5. Generally, I prefer the names. 

Enjoy the last weekend of the summer. Hopefully not stuck on a freeway. 

© 2011  


Philippe's: The Original

One of downtown Los Angeles' treasures celebrated it's 100 year anniversary a couple years ago: "Philippe's: Home of The Original French Dipped Sandwiches."

When we visited a couple years back, the place was packed. During the week you'll see CEO's from downtown office towers standing in line next to construction workers; young hipsters next to eighty year olds. Weekends bring in families who want to share the Philippe's experience with their kids or grandkids.

Molly and I waiting in line. It moved fairly fast considering how crowded it was.

Philippe's is the kind of place my grandfather would have taken me to: a throwback to the 1940's or 50's. It's not one of those cheesy places that's themed
 to look old. Philippe's is the real deal. There's a small display of model trains, including those that came in and out of Los Angeles, towards the back (Philippe's is located across the street from Union Station).

Cash only and, like the sign says, coffee still only 9 cents a cup.

The dining room is basic - and very large. Get your food, grab a seat. Order the French Dip - it was invented here in 1918 (seriously!).

My son and his cousin thought the whole idea of "phone booths" were cool.

Philippe's offers free parking (in the back) while you eat. One of very few places downtown that does.

Here's their website:

What's the appeal of Philippe's?

The food?

The history?

Perhaps it's what MacDonald Harris of the New York Times ("Real Food in L.A., March 1990): wrote: "There is a camaraderie among the customers, a kind of unspoken friendliness and consideration that's rare in a big city ... The customers are people of all kinds: shoppers, residents of nearby Chinatown, businessmen, Amtrack workers from the station, people who have been coming here for years and are now bringing their children. More than any other place I can think of, Philippe's typifies the democratic spirit of Los Angeles ..."

Remember the old TV show "Cheers"? The place "where everyone knows your name"? As a Christian, I wonder what it would take for more more churches to be like that, a place where everyone knows your name, a place of "unspoken friendliness and consideration"? Of course, there are churches like that - and the church is called to be much, much more than that. But it's also

Here's to treating others with "unspoken friendliness and consideration." Amazing how lunch at one the city's oldest restaurants is a reminder of that - with a French Dip sandwich thrown in to boot.


© 2011  
(originally published 3/21/09)


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lake Hollywood: Hollywood Reservoir

Lake Hollywood, formally known at the Hollywood Reservoir, is located as the base of the Hollywood sign, just a few hundred yards away from the busy Hollywood Freeway. 

I've lived in Los Angeles off and on for almost 30 years - and yet until this past Spring had never been to Lake Hollywood.

My wife and I were back in Los Angeles this past Spring - and had a free afternoon. Decided to see what it was all about.
We parked on Tahoe Drive and then walked south along Montlake Drive, which is blocked off to vehicular traffic. 

It was about a mile to the actual dam. For all you "non-hikers" out there, it was an easy, pleasant walk. 

The dam is very accessible, with great views of both the city to the south, and Lake Hollywood itself. 

The dam was built by William Mulholland, for whom it's named, and was completed in 1924. 

A view from Mulholland Dam, looking north across the reservoir with the Hollywood Sign in the distance. At one time, the Hollywood Reservoir supplied Los Angeles with most of it's drinking water. 

To the south, the Hollywood skyline. 

And homes clinging to the hillsides. No yard, but killer views. 

Turning around - for another view of Lake Hollywood and the Hollywood Sign.

In the late 1920's, the city built up the area underneath the dam, with massive trees now shielding the dam from view. I suppose that's why no one knows it's even here. 

Love the California Bear built into the architecture. As a UCLA alumni, I think it's a great choice!

Another of the dam - barely visible through the trees. 

The reservoir is part of Los Angeles' drinking water, so - for better or worse - it is NOT accessible to the public. There's a large fence around it, which obviously detracted from a "scenic hike." It was still a nice walk, especially in such an urban area. 

Close up of the Hollywood Sign. More on that in a future blogpost. 

Apparently, this is the former home of popstar Madonna. Yes, celebrities do live in the Hollywood Hills. 

A final view before heading to our car. 

View Untitled in a larger map

Great experience. I'll have to come back (to the blog, not the lake) and try and include something profound.  

© 2011