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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Experiencing L.A. at the Tournament of Roses

I'm always amazed to meet people who live in Los Angeles who have never attended the Rose Parade in person. Huh? Sort of like living in L.A. - but only having seen the beach on T.V.

I came across some photos I took nine years ago at the 2003 Rose Parade - I decided to post them for old times sake. We were living in Arizona at the time, but our work took us to San Diego between Dec 27-Jan 1. We literally drove up at 6am New Years' Day from San Diego to Pasadena, enjoyed the Parade, had lunch with friends, and then drove back to Arizona.

The five years we lived in L.A., it was just an easy, traffic-free drive over to Pasadena.

Now that we're no longer living in L.A., it's been a lot harder to get to Pasadena. This will be the second year in a row that we won't be able to see it in person. Watching it on T.V. is "just OK" . . . it's one of those things that's just so much better live.

My first experience going to the parade wasn't very good - and I said I'd never go back. Then a friend suggested we show up towards the end of the parade around 9:30am. We found good spots just as the parade turns off of Colorado Blvd onto Sierra Madre Blvd.

Sierra Madre Blvd. is a great - in my opinion the best - place to view the Parade. There's plenty of free parking in the neighborhoods (but be prepared to walk several blocks). You can show up around 8:30am and still find a good spot to view it.

Another tip: bring chairs. 2003, the year I took these photos, was the only year we forgot to bring something to sit or stand on. Every other year we brought a couple of light-weight plastic chairs. We made sure we wouldn't block anyone else's view - and this allowed us to stand up now and then to grab an unobstructed view.

One of the distinctions of the Rose Parade is that every single surface on every float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials. It's really incredible what the float designers can accomplish.

As I shared previously in a similar post, with everything going on in the world (war, famine, natural disasters, civil conflicts, etc.) is it trivial for me to even wonder what God thinks about the Rose Parade? Or, perhaps, better, what does God think about flowers? What does He think of His creation?

I remember a friend who's a professor at California State University, Northridge stating: "a clearer view of the creation gives us a clearer view of the Creator." Theologians call this natural revelation.

There are many reasons why I like taking my family to the Rose Parade, but one reason is to enjoy the magnificance, variety, and splendor of God's creation. Not to disengage with the serious problems of the world, but to put them in perspective, at least for a few hours.

I honestly find the Rose Parade as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, or the Redwoods.

It's something we hope to see again in person, that's for sure.

View Viewing the Rose Parade in a larger map

Here's a map of the end of the parade as it works it's way up Sierra Madre, with the two spots where we've viewed it.

Remember, the Parade is never held on a Sunday, so this year's Parade will be held on Monday January 2nd. The weather forecast is 82° under sunny skies. Wow, nice.

Here's a link to the Tournament of Roses website.

© 2011


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Experiencing L.A. at Christmas (Part II)

Journey of Faith performed a Christmas "Flash Mob" at a Los Angeles area mall (South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach) December 18th of last year. I watched this several times in the past 24 hours - very moving! Enjoy.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Experiencing L.A. at Christmas

Just a few photos (with links) on how we as a family celebrated Christmas the five years we lived in Los Angeles:

Above is one of the outdoor public Nativity Scenes in Santa Monica. Unfortunately the fourteen displays are now down to just two thanks to a small but determined group of non-residents who want to rain on others' parades. Talk about "the Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Curious to see what 2012 looks like ... and how churches in Santa Monica respond.

The Salvation Army, Compton. Our extended family made it a point to take a Saturday before Christmas an help out and serve in the community. The Salvation Army does a fantastic job meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of men, women, and children. Here's a link to their website, with an opportunity to give financially.

Downtown on Ice. Every year we went ice skating on December 23rd in downtown Los Angeles at Pershing Square with extended family. If you're in Los Angeles, or just visiting, it's a fun experience.

For our family, and millions of others around the world, Jesus Christ remains the central focus of Christmas. We so appreciated the annual "Back to Bethlehem" event sponsored by The Church at Rocky Peak in Chatsworth. It was simply amazing. It's a free event that attracts 18,000 people every year - and we can not recommend it enough. Here's a link to their website.

Speaking of Christmas, which is tomorrow, here's a sneak peak of the US Postal Service's religiously themed Christmas stamp for 2012.

Wow, nice. Really like it. Thanks, US Postal.

And Merry Christmas.

© 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah in Los Angeles

In December 2009 I was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and did a double take on what looked like highway road signs. I actually circled back around to get a photo of the green "Happy Chanukah" sign, and the yellow "lighten up," "celebrate freedom" and dancing rabbi signs. Hey, it got me to stop ...

Outside of New York City, Los Angeles has the largest Jewish community in the world. I'm continually impressed by the impact that Jews - who make up less than 2% of U.S. population - continue to have in American society. As I've shared before, I'm convinced that I - and other Christians - can learn from the Jewish community in the sense of impacting the larger society from a minority religious position.

Unknown to many Christians, Hanukkah is clearly mentioned in the New Testament (see John 10:22,23). Here's a fascinating link.

I'm not a big fan of the generic "Happy Holidays" greeting or, even worse, "Happy Holiday" - and what holiday would that be?

I really prefer how my son's Scout leader in L.A. finished out the year: "I hope you all have the best Hanukkah .... and a very Merry Christmas."

© 2011 - originally posted 12/19/2009

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Experiencing L.A. at the Pantages

In June of 2010 some friends treated my wife and I to join them in seeing the Broadway Musical "In the Heights" at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. Sure, OK!

This being Los Angeles, the drive over was almost as interesting as the show itself. Above: traveling up La Cienega Blvd just north of San Vincente Blvd.

Another view. To the left is the massive Beverly Center shopping center (which, of course, is not located in Beverly Hills). More on the Beverly Center in a future post.

We turned right on Sunset Blvd and headed east into Hollywood. People from out of the area are surprised by how "un-glamorous" sections of Hollywood really are. You probably won't see any celebrities walking around this part of town.

"Cross Roads of the World" at Sunset and Las Palmas in Hollywood, considered to be America's first outdoor shopping center, and personally, one of my favorite spots in all of Los Angeles (which is saying a lot!). Here's a link to a previous blog post.

First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, located on Gower Street, just one block north of Hollywood Blvd. Of note, two of the church's senior pastors have gone on to serve as the chaplain of the U.S. Senate. My family and I have attended a couple of times with friends who are members. It's an excellent church, although if you're looking for a more contemporary style in the area, I'd recommend the non-denominational "Reality Church" meeting a few blocks away at Hellen Bernstein High School.

Hollywood and Hollywood (Hollywood Sign and Hollywood Blvd). This is out of the window of my car waiting for the light at Hollywood and Vine. Here's a link to a previous post if you're trying to get up close to the sign.

Looking up Vine Street towards the Capital Records Building. The building opened in 1956 and is designed to look like a stack of records on a turntable (remember records? remember turntables?)

The Pantages Theater is located just a few feet away from the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

Another view.

We parked the car across the street in the lot and headed over.

The newly opened "W" Hotel across the street.

Turns out we were going opening night, which I didn't know until we showed up.

Huge crowd, with photographers and cameras: something going on . . .

Hey, looks like actor Edward James Olmos.

Hey, it is! Turns out he showed up, along with a few of his Hollywood buddies, opening night. Definitely an "experiencing L.A." moment . . .

The inside lobby. I had been to the Pantages once before, when my son and I went and saw the "Wizard of Oz" themed musical Wicked back in October 2008 (here's a link to what that was like).

Inside, waiting for the show to start. The Pantages was built in 1930 and is an amazing theater. They have a very strict "no photography" policy during their shows, so this is the only photo inside the theater I got.

photo credit:

In the Heights reminded me a lot of West Side Story - focusing on the lives of New York City immigrants in the Washington Heights neighborhood. It was enjoyable, although - unlike when we saw Wicked - I didn't walk out thinking "I gotta buy the soundtrack."

The Pantages at night. According to Wikipedia:

"The original plans for the Pantages were for a 12-story building: 2 floors dedicated to theater and 10 floors of office space. Completion of the 10 upper floors was halted due to the 1929 stock market crash which occurred during construction. In December 2007, plans were revealed to complete the original design and floors, much due to the rejuvenation of the Hollywood area and the demand for office space."

Looks like the "Great Recession" are putting those plans on hold once again. Someday, maybe.

View Pantages Theater, Hollywood in a larger map

The Pantages is located half a block east of the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Here's a link to their website.

© 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chistopher Hitchens in Santa Monica

Last night I learned that Christopher Hitchens, the British-American author and public intellectual, died of cancer. He was 62. Below are some thoughts when he was scheduled to speak at our local Barnes & Noble in June of 2010:

. . . I noticed that Christopher Hitchens would be speaking on Tuesday night June 29th at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Santa Monica.

Christopher Hitchens is one of most outspoken atheists in the world. He's the author of several books, including God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The Portable Atheist: Essential Reading for the Nonbeliever.

Believe it or not, as a Christian, I was looking forward to hearing him speak. I'm convinced that a faith that's never tested intellectually isn't much of a faith. Besides, I survived 4+ years at UCLA. What's another 30 minute lecture?

Decided to read up and prep a bit before hand.

The Rage Against God is by Christopher Hitchens' brother, Peter.

Like his brother, he rejected Christianity at a young age and embraced atheism. But unlike his brother, Peter eventually returned back to a dynamic, vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. His book,The Rage Against God, chronicles his journey from atheism to faith.

A friend and colleague of mine recommended the DVD
Collision. Wow. Excellent. This film chronicles a series of informal debates between Christopher Hitchens and author, pastor, and Christian intellectual Douglas Wilson. At Washington State University, a Christian fellowshipand an atheist/agnostic group both "endorsed" the film before a screening. How often does that happen? It's very balanced and - in my opinion - intellectually challenging to both believers and skeptics.

Tuesday afternoon June 29th I walked by Barnes & Noble and saw this:

What? Cancelled!

When I asked a sales clerk why, she said "because of personal issues."

I jokingly told a friend "it's because he heard we'd be showing up." Ha! Sure. As if.

I was sobered to later learn that he canceled this (and several other west coast engagements) because he's recently been diagnosed with cancer. I'm sorry and saddened to hear that.

Despite his virile rejection - hatred might be a more appropriate word - of God, let alone Christianity, I'll be praying for him.

Perhaps I'm being very naive, but I figure, if God could change my life, He could certainly change his.

With his passing, I appreciate these two comments from this morning's (12/16/11) on-line version of the Los Angeles Times:

"I am a Christian who is deeply saddened by the passing of Christopher Hitchens. He was a brilliant man and ramped up the level of discourse whenever and wherever he spoke. Though we were in opposite camps when it came to faith, I appreciated his intellect and how his challenges to my faith helped me analyze and define what I believe. As I do believe in the hereafter I sincerely hope he has found favor with God."

"Now he will definitively know without a doubt whether God exists or not."

Sobering. And sad.

© 2011 - originally posted 6/29/2010

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's a Bird, It's A Plane: Motorized Parachute over L.A.

Motorized Parachutes - more commonly known as Powered Parachutes - are not unique to Los Angeles. In fact, because they're much more commonly found in rural settings than urban ones, what is unique is seeing one buzzing around the edge of the city.

I say "buzzing" because at this point the pilot was no more than fifteen feet off the ground. In our five years in Los Angeles, this was the one and only time I saw something like this. Really cool.

I would LOVE to try something like this!

On the other hand, I'm not sure if this was even legal. Maybe that's why this was the one and only time I saw this. If you happen to know the laws for flying a Powered Parachute in urban areas - or have seen these in or around Los Angeles - please leave a comment!

The pilot initally came in from the south along the beach from Santa Monica, did a tight turn near where we were standing (at the Los Angeles city limit: PCH & Coastline Drive), and then headed back to Santa Monica. Looks really fun. My brother-in-law, who loves flying, would especially dig something like this.

Actually, so would I. Making it another "experiencing L.A." moment.

© 2011

Travel Town: The Effects of Time (Part I)

Back in 2009 I took my kids and some visiting family members over to Travel Town in Griffith Park. Here's a link to their website. Admission is free.

Travel Town began in the late 1940's when steam trains were being decommissioned and replaced by diesel engines. Charley Atkins, a Parks and Recreation employee, and some friends wanted to create a playground of sorts, a "petting zoo for trains," where children could climb on top and play on these old train engines.

Over the next few years, Los Angeles Parks and Recreation was able to obtain a couple dozen engines, as well as freight and passenger cars. According to their website, the engines pictured above were built in 1899 and 1904 - and donated in 1953 and 1952 respectively.

Travel Town also has a unique collection of Pacific Electric rolling stock andpassenger cars. The Pacific Electric was a huge electric rail system that at it's height included over 1,000 miles of track stretching from the Inland Empire to the Pacific Ocean.

Here's a great example of a Pacific Electric "Red Car". These cars carried millions of passengers throughout metro Los Angeles from the early 1900's up until the early 1960's. Los Angeles, which now has the nation's worst traffic congestion, can only dream of a system like that today.

At closer inspection, it's obvious that the effects of time and elements have taken their toll on the old PE "Red Car" - as well as everything else at Travel Town.

By the 1980's Travel Town had evolved from a playground into a museum. A large covered shed was eventually built at the southern end of the park, protecting a few of the engines and rolling stock from the effects of time and damage from the elements.

Perhaps more importantly, it allowed a space for volunteers to begin the restoration work on the individual cars and engines.

I have fond memories of visiting Travel Town in the 1970's. As kids, we were able to not only climb into the cab of these engines, but literally climb on top of and explore them. They were like giant jungle gyms.

Dangerous? Sure, a little. But that's what made it fun. There were a few railings and handholds, but for the most part we kids just had to use common sense.

Today, there are large "KEEP OFF" signs preventing anyone from climbing on top of anything. Why?

First, the threat of lawsuits. Los Angeles, like every other city and corporation in America, is afraid of being sued by someone getting hurt.

Second, the effects of time: a few of the engines have deteriorated so much that it would be dangerous not just to climb on top of them, but literally walk around in the cabs.

Third, what were considered unique climbing toys in the 1940's today are now considered museum pieces. Most of these engines are now over 100 years old, and Travel Town is working to restore them for future generations. If not to climb on top of like a jungle gym, at least to at least to step inside and look at.

The effects of time: a San Francisco Cable Car (above) awaits restoration.

I heard that there was some sort of operating trolley car just a few miles away at a new outdoor shopping center called "Americana at Brand" in Glendale. Having never been there, we decided to check it out, see what it was all about. You can read about it in Part 2.

© 2011 - originally posted 12/5/2009