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Saturday, November 26, 2011

California Adventure

A couple years ago I snapped this shot of a guy in Southern California reading a Chinese newspaper.

Location? Chinatown? Nope.

Monterey Park? Nice try.

Another part of L.A.'s San Gabriel Valley? Sorry.

This photo was taken at the "Disney California Adventure" park, located adjacent to Disneyland.

Was this guy bored (not enough to do)? Or just checking the sport page?

Was he a local, or international visitor?

With huge and very influential Chinese, Koran, Vietnamese, and Japanese populations, California is much more than the "Beach Boys" surfing image that's portayed in the media. The Asian-American experience is part of the "Calfornia Adventure" - but you'll have a hard time finding it anywhere in "Disney's Calfornia Adventure."

Fortunately, there's the real California adventure - just outside the gates.

© 2011


Saturday, November 19, 2011

One Man's Vision: Exposition Park Rose Garden

The Exposition Park Rose Garden is a seven acre sunken garden located next to the California Science Center, and across the street from the University of Southern California.

Last January I took my kids and their cousins to the California Science Center.

The rose garden was actually closed for it's annual maintenance (January - March) so these photos were taken from around the perimeter with a zoom lens.

Walking along Exposition Blvd, the northern edge of the park, I came across this informational kiosk (is that the right word?). The City of Los Angeles has set up dozen of these around the city. While - like most people - I normally just walk by, I had a few minutes and read what this had to say about Exposition Park. As Mr. Spock from the old Star Trek series used to say: "fascinating."

I look photos of the text, which is transcribed below:

From Sin to Science, A Park For The People

For decades into the 20th century, Los Angeles not only fed the world’s imagination with films and television – it fed the world’s bellies, too.

Los Angeles County prided itself on its farming abundance, and beginning in 1872, the place to show off its rich and varied crops was at the 160-acre Agricultural Park.

Here, beneath a pair of pyramid-like towers bearing the name “Agricultural Park,” growers brought produce, from asparagus to zucchini to vivid displays to citrus. And here, the crowds came to browse the exhibits and to watch the races – horses, camels, dogs, bicycles and eventually automobiles.

After cheering itself dry at the races, the sporting set could get a drink at a vast bar set up below the four-story brink grandstand. Daring gentlemen could repair from there to one of the city’s more stylish brothels-a white clapboard house in the middle of Agricultural Park, intended as a hotel for visiting racing fans and big gamblers.

In time, the enticements of sex, speed, and cold beer began to crowd out the agricultural attractions. A young reformer who took a particularly dim view of sin and corruption decided that the twin pyramids that bore the name “Agricultural Park” might more accurately bear the labels “Sodom” and “Gomorrah.”

One afternoon in 1898, that man – a stern, sharp-eyed 37-year old attorney, USC law professor and devout Methodist named William Miller Bowen – ended his boys Sunday School class at the nearby University Methodist Church, then quietly followed his students to see where they were going.

They headed for Agricultural Park. Pushing his way though a jostling crowd, Bowen saw the horse-racing track and a separate course where greyhounds chased rabbits. According to another website: “At times rabbits were torn apart by the dogs as delighted spectators looked on. Between the races and dismemberments, Bowen saw open drinking, gambling and prostitution.”

It became clear in a very short time,” Bowen said in a speech, “that the vicious influences here were more than undoing the work we were trying to do in our Sunday School class.” Thus began Bowen’s decade-long campaign to clean up Agricultural Park.

In 1901, Bowen was elected to the City Council, where he prevailed on his colleagues to end gambling and racing altogether at the park.

But for thrill-crazy Angelenos, it remained a speed haven - on four wheels, not four legs. In 1903, the nations most famous race car driver, Barney Oldfield, stormed his Winston Bullet around a mile-long dirt oval at the park in a world-record 55 seconds, before a delirious crowd of thousands.

Anything on wheels was good enough for the park. For weeks before the event, advertisements had enticed spectators. Two hundred policemen were hired for crowd control. And on September 10, 1906, some 25,000 people watched a real demolition derby: two steam locomotives, huffed and puffed on a mile of track before a shattering head-one collision at a rocketing 50 miles per hour.

In 1909, under pressure from Bowen, the California 6th District Agricultural Association and the City and County of Los Angeles all agreed to redevelop Agricultural Park.

By 1910, the saloons and brothels had been torn down. Plans were laid out for a trio of impressive buildings: the State Exhibition Building – now the California Science Center; the State Armory Building – now a science school; and the Natural History Museum, whose domed center made it the most beautiful of the three. By 1913, because of those three buildings, the park became known as Exposition Park.

Originally a “sunken garden” with a few trees and a walkway that met in a central circle, the Exposition Park Rose Garden opened in 1928 and had 15,793 bushes, all donated by local nurseries. Operated by the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks every since, it’s the second largest garden of its kinds in California and is listed on the National Registers of Historic Places.

From a place where farmers displayed their produce, to a thrill-seeker’s paradise, the park has become a center of culture and education – and a spot where Angelenos can now literally stop and smell the roses.

A few observations:

- life in American cities (including Los Angeles) 100 years ago wasn't some sort of Disney-fied fantasy "Main Street USA."

- William Bowen was an attorney, a university professor, and a Sunday School teacher. As a Christian, he also didn't fall into the trap of compartmentalizing his faith to Sunday mornings or simply keeping it "private."

- Bowen worked within the system to enact change, which took over ten years. Rather than simply bemoan the public vice in his community, or move from the area, he envisioned something better.

- 80 years later, even the city of Los Angeles, often know for celebrating outrageous behavior or lifestyles, saluted Bowen and his transformation of an area from vice to virtue.

- Bowen's public vision and legacy is still around for Angelenos to enjoy.

In the 1980's, the city actually considered tearing the rose garden out - and turning it into an underground parking garage. The Raiders professional football team (remember them?) also wanted to turn this public park into a practice field for the team. Huh?

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and in 1991 the Rose Garden was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Looking through some older photos, I found this one that I took inside the Rose Garden in December of 2004 (the year before we moved to L.A.). Love the rose bushes with the palm trees in the background.

Meanwhile, I continued back to the California Science Center. If you've never been, this is a MUST SEE - especially if you have kids (or nieces/nephews).

The architects did an outstanding job preserving the original facade, and building a much larger building behind it.

Admission is free, although there is a suggestion donation $5 at the entrance. Here's a link to a previous post when I took my kids and their cousins there.

The Exposition Park Rose Garden opened in 1928 thanks to the work one man's vision.

Here's a link to a previous post celebrating the work of one woman's vision: Christine Sterling and the 1930 restoration of Olvera Street just two years later.

Both part of experiencing Los Angeles.

© 2011


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Back Side of Malibu

Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu you'll find some amazing rockwork in a small canyon along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Same spot, but just a wider angle. I have no idea whose car that is. Another creative Malibu parking spot?

Here's a close up.

Another angle. Calling it a canyon is probably too generous. So what's a little canyon like this called? A wash?

Standing at the same spot, but looking up the Coast Highway.

I walked across the street. This is looking down the PCH the other direction back towards the city of Los Angeles.

This section of Malibu has dozens of small "mid-century" apartment buildings along the narrow strip between the PCH and the ocean. If you want to find the big fat daddy mansions, you'll have to go a little farther north.

Here's a little peak between two apartment buildings. The entire California coastline is technically open to public access below the mean high tide line.

photo credit: © 1998 Gary Wayne

Obviously, there are much easier spots to enjoy the beach in Malibu - like Surfrider Beach (above) just a few more miles up the coast.

Here's a link to some of Malibu's best hidden beaches.

A final look. An amazing little spot - very cool rockwork. But as the beach is the real draw here, this feels more like the back side of Malibu.

Nice back side.

The location is 20656 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu.

Here's a link to the city of Malibu's website.

© 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 2019: Blade Runner, Eight Years Out

photo credit:

Blade Runner is arguably the single most influential film in terms of how Angelenos (that is, people from Los Angeles) think about themselves and their future of the city.

When it was originally released in theaters in 1982, "November, 2019" seemed like the distant future. Now it's just eight years out.

photo credit:

From the opening scenes of massive explosions around the city (above) to the soundtrack by Vangelis, director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster) painted a dark and haunting vision of a future Los Angeles. "Foreboding" is a word that comes to mind.

photo credit:

Based on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the film follows Rick Deckert (Harrison Ford), a retired police officer as he hunts down a group of off-world androids that have infiltrated a Los Angeles of the future. It's a graphic and violent film - really deserving it's "R" rating.

What impressed me, and so many viewers, was the "world" that Ridley Scott was able to create. The film was made without the use of CGI. The massive skyline (above) and other scenes were all models or mattes. They still continue to amaze.

photo credit:

Blade Runner is constantly invoked by residents as a clear representation of what they don't want their city to become. Over the years, I've heard of the expression "the Blade Runnerization of Los Angeles" multiple times. A quick search on google of "Blade Runnerization" brought up 153 results.

Los Angeles is eight years out from November, 2019. Air pollution (aka smog) is significantly less of problem than it was in 1982. The city's population has grown, but by hundreds of thousands, not tens of millions. Despite a growing density (especially on the Westside), L.A.'s sky-line still pales in comparison to New York, Chicago, or cities of the Pacific Rim. Violent crime is actually down. And, no, there's no flying cars, nuclear fall-out, off-world colonies, or roving gangs of androids.

Meanwhile, eight years out, Los Angeles does have mind-numbing traffic, a huge loss of manufacturing jobs, hundreds of urban street gangs, a growing disparity between the rich and poor, and tens of thousands of mentally-ill and/or chemically dependent people living on the streets. Well-meaning "multi-culturalism" has generally had the oppostive effect, leading to a greater balkanization of the city. Oh, and compared to 1982, there's more trash, more graffiti, more barb-wire, more urban blight.

And by way of perspective, cities - even big cities - don't have to be crappy. New York and Chicago may have their problems, but they are significantly better places to live in than they were in 1982.

photo credit:

As a Christian, watching the film I wondered, "what would it look like to be a follower of Jesus Christ in the insane world of Blade Runner?" Silly question? Maybe - maybe not.

Perhaps a better question would be, "what does it look like to be a follower of Jesus Christ eight years out?"

.© 2011