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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Main Street, Santa Monica (Part II)

This past summer before a breakfast meeting I took some time to walk along Main Street in Santa Monica. As I shared last week in Part I, it's an enjoyable, and very easy, urban hike.

Above is near the intersection of Bicknell & Main - just some mixed use development: businesses down below, apartments up above. This configuration, very common in cities around the world, was virtually zoned out of existence here in metro Los Angeles, and is only now making a comeback as a viable city scape. I really liked the bright colors.

The intersection of Main & Bicknell looking towards the Pacific Ocean, two blocks away. Bicknell has a small hill overlooking the ocean and gained notoriety as a popular skateboard spot by the Zephyr Skateboard Team.

More mixed use with a variety of colors and styles. Great living arrangement if you're single or married without children - a lot trickier once kids are part of the mix.

Corner of Main and Pico - looking towards the Pacific Ocean. I took a long walk from Pico at the Pacific Ocean all the way up to Westwood Blvd a month or so earlier. Here's a link to that early morning hike.

The changing face of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was recently voted the "least friendly" city in the United States. by Travel & Leisure Magazine. I've been to Chicago several times and, this past March, finally made it to New York. I would agree with that assessment.

Two reason why might be:

1) the car culture: the use of individual automobiles to get around which keeps a majority of people - including yours truly - isolated from one another (Travel and Leisure also voted Los Angeles as the worst city in terms of public transportation and pedestrian-friendliness).

2) the inability to communicate with one another in a common language.

I was surprised to hear English much more widely spoken in both Chicago and New York.

I don't have any hard statistics (I'd appreciate any feedback here) but I can't think of many other cities where a large national chain like The Home Depot announces products for sale over their P.A. system in Spanish.

I like to think that I'm only expecting that immigrants today do what my immigrant grandparents (3 of 4 of whom were foreign born) did a couple of generations ago.

Main and Pico with Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, location of the Academy Awards ceremony from 1961-1967, in the background.

Crossing the street and back up Main Street. This is looking southeast down Main.

A dog waiting outside yet another coffee shop at 200 Main Street.

Our kids are really bugging us to get a dog. It's probably not going to happen, but if we do, I want a bulldog.

If you're looking for "raw, organic, vegan cuisine" - then brother Euphoria Loves Rawvolution is the place for you.

Their tag line is "Conscious Food for Conscious People."

Not sure what that implies if you like your food, um, cooked, but this probably isn't the place to go if you're looking for a nice, juicy steak (or even, heaven forbid, a cookie).

The Santa Monica Community Garden. There are 69 individual 10X10 or 10X20 plots that residents can rent to plant vegetables, flowers, or whatever. In that over half of Santa Monica residents live in apartments or condos, it's a great idea - in theory.

Unfortunately, there's up to a five year wait until a plot becomes available. The cost is only $60 a year - which is honestly ridiculously low. What does that work out to? $5 a month? Are they kidding? That's half of what it costs to park your car at the beach for a few hours. No wonder there's a five year wait.

More Vegan. Must be popular.

The Edgemar mixed use development, which opened in 1988. Despite being designed by Frank Gehry, a Santa Monica resident and perhaps the best know architect in the world, I think it's well . . . kind of ugly.

Mural at Ocean Park Blvd. & Main Street. Not sure if the lower half is a "work in progress" or simply trying to repair tagging and vandalism.

One of the greatest threats to the 1000+ plus murals throughout greater Los Angeles is, unfortunately, vandalism.

The California History Museum at the corner of Ocean Park & Main.

Last summer they featured a exhibit on the develpment of Skateboarding in California, which a particular focus on the Zephyr Team which developed in this immediate area (known by local surfers and skaters as Dogtown).

What can I say? I stopped by previously, but was too cheap to plop down the cash to walk through. I suppose I've gotten spoiled by the free admission to the Getty Center, Getty Villa, California Science Center, Griffith Observatory, and the once a month "free days" that the dozen or so other area museums have. I guess I was pretty pressed for time, too.

More on Main Street, Santa Monica in the third and final installment next week.

© 2011


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Main Street, Santa Monica (Part I)

Main Street in Santa Monica is a commercial district two blocks from (and paralleling) the Pacific Ocean.

With a variety of architectural styles (including the 1927 Parkhurst Building pictured above), large street trees, few stop lights to slow down your pace, numerous one-of-a-kind businesses, and a very temperate climate, it's an excellent - and very easy - urban hike.

This past summer I had a breakfast meeting at the Omelet Parlor on Main Street - and figured I could get a one hour walk in (even with camera in hand).

I parked some distance away, near the corner off Main Street & Marine Street, right on the Venice/Santa Monica Border, and headed northwest up Main.

Corner of Main & Marine. My sister use to live in this neighborhood, the beach is only two short blocks from here.

Contrasting building and architectural styles across the street.

Another view of the Parkhurst Building at Main & Pier. I've always loved this building. It was built in 1927 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It's also known as the Flea Market Building, the multi-sided tower is an excellent example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Just beautiful.

Street trees, storefronts right up to sidewalk, and cool morning temperatures made for a great walk.

T-shirt in the store window: "California . . . we're perfect"


I don't even think the majority of Californians would agree with that statement, especially in 2011.

The "Animal Wellness Center" - Main Street, Santa Monica's answer to the neighborhood pet store.

According to their
website: "
A veterinary hospital? A retail store? An education center for pet owners? Actually, we are all of these."

Wow, this place is nicer than most stores designed for children.

Maybe that's because some people treat their pets better than some people treat their kids.

Just wondering if this stuff is for pets? Or for their owners?

Guess that's why our family shopped at Petco over on Wilshire.

The Omelet Parlor in between Ashland and Hill. I wanted to get to Pico Blvd. and back for a breakfast appointment with my co-workers.

Buddhist-themed wall mural on Main Street. Reminds me a lot of blogger Christian Lander's witty and incredibly insightful
Stuff White People Like - especially, post #2 Religions That Their Parents Don't Belong To:

White people will often say they are “spiritual” but not religious. Which usually means that they will believe any religion that doesn’t involve Jesus.

Popular choices include Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah and, to a lesser extent, Scientology. A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.

Mostly they are into religion that fits really well into their homes or wardrobe and doesn’t require them to do very much.

In fact, this entire stretch of Main Street reminded me of the Stuff White People Like blog.

Really worth reading if you're not familiar with it.

Jadis, a prop rental store, is without question the
most unique business on Main Street (how many neighborhoods have "prop stores"?).

According to one reviewer on Yelp:

Jadis is stuffed full of original Bausch microscopes, Tesla coils, medical mirror arrays, and antiques of every imaginable sort. Jadis is rarely open to the public.

[True - I've NEVER seen it open].

The shop is by appointment only, often just for prop rentals. But on the days the door is open it's well worth the dollar contribution to step inside and look around.


Across the street is the California Heritage Museum, located on the corner of Main & Ocean Park Blvd. More on the Museum in Part II (next week).

Crossing Ocean Park Blvd, the businesses on Main Street change up a bit for a block or so - looking a little more typical to what you'd find in an average American city: a car wash, a liquor store, stuff like that.

Hollister Ave. - I had to take a picture.

I had assumed that the Hollister Clothing company took/borrowed/stole the name from the city of Holliser, California, but apparenty there are also cities named Hollister in Florida, Idaho, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and North Carolina (reminds me of the fictional town "Springfield" from the Simpsons).

I say took/borrowed/stole because according to a 2009 article in the Los Angeles Abercrombie & Fitch (parent company of the Hollister Clothing line) has threatened merchants and residents of Hollister, California who want to use the name "Hollister" on clothing made in the town of Hollister. A company spokeman said "If they try [to use our name] they would get a call and much more."

According to the article, "even students at Hollister's San Benito High School wonder if they are violating Abercrombie & Fitch's trademark by wearing shirts emblazed with the school nickname, the Hollister Haybalers."

I'm surprised that Abercrombie & Fitch hasn't sued the City fo Santa Monica for this flagrant violation of their brand name - and force them to change the name of this street.

Further up the street, Urth Cafe. I met someone here for coffee a couple years back. Really funky. If you want a Main Street, Santa Monica experience, stop by the Urth Cafe. Urth makes Starbucks feel like a Denny's.

Santa Monica Community Garden. Established in 1976, the community gardens has 69 garden plots available for rent to Santa Monica residents. More on this in Part II (next week).

Looking back down Main Street towards the southeast.

Another view looking the same direction southeast towards Venice, with the apartment towers of the Marina del Rey visible in the distance.

Street mural: "you are beautiful" - guess that's true, unless you're ugly (or - like most of us - average).

Yoga Works - the graffiti reminds you that you're still in Los Angeles

Yoga is yet another thing that example of stuff white people like from Christian Lander's blog (yoga is post #15):

Although its origins are from India, one can find more yoga studios in white neighbourhoods such as Kitsilano or Orange County than in Kolkata. Participation in this activity requires large amounts of money and time, both of which white people have a lot of. Like other stuff that white people like, yoga feels exotic and foreign (ties into post #2 about eastern religions) and deep down in some way, white people feel that participation makes up for years of colonial rule in India.

Friends in other parts of the country have described their communities as having "a church on every corner." In contrast, parts of Santa Monica feel like they have a yoga studio on every corner.

Here's a map of Part I:

More on Main Street, Santa Monica in Part II next week.

© 2011

Frostie Freeze Meets La Salsa

Here's a couple of quick "then & now" photos from Los Angeles:

Middle America "Frostie Freeze" tranformed into a Latin America "La Salsa".

Burgers tranformed to Tacos.

Joe transformed to José.

Loss An-je-les tranformed to Loce Ahng-hail-ais

Located at 22800 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, this stand was originally a Frostie Freeze. Built in 1949, it had a larger than life "road side attraction" Burger guy on the roof. This photo was taken by yours truly back in 1984.

In 1987 the restaurant was sold to the La Salsa chain, and the Burger guy was tranformed into the Taco guy. Here's a link to the changes that were made. Additional improvements were made by artist Gabriel Ortiz in 1998 (see comments below). 

While these road side attraction figures are not unique to Los Angeles, this is the only one I'm aware of that's received this kind of extreme make-over. Certainly symbolic in many ways of Los Angeles. That would be the real Los Angeles (not the L.A. everyone sees in the movies).

View La Salsa, Malibu in a larger map

.© 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Letting Justice Roll Down

E. Colden Ave. at S. Avalon Bl, Los Angeles - photo credit Camilo Jose Vergara

When Martin Luther King, Jr., confronted racism in the white church in the south, he did not call on Southern churches to become more secular. Read his sermons and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." and see how he argued. He invoked God's moral law and the Scripture. He called white Christians to be more true to their own beliefs and to realize what the Bible really teaches.

He did not say "Truth is relative and everyone is free to determine what is right and wrong for them."

If everything is relative, there would have been no incentive for white people in the South to give up their power.

Rather, Dr. King invoked the prophet Amos, who said, "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24).

The greatest champion of justice in our era knew the antidote to racism was not less Christianity, but a deeper and truer Christianity.

Tim Keller, The Reason for God (pp 64-65).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bungalow Heaven, Pasadena

Bungalow Heaven, a historic neighborhood in Pasadena, contains over 800 craftsman style homes built between 1900-1930. It's one of the largest concentrations of restored craftsman style bungalows in California.

The Bungalow Heaven Landmark District was established in 1989 by local residents who wanted to keep the original flavor and architectural style of the neighborhood.

It's bordered by Washington Blvd. on the north, Orange Grove Blvd. on the south, Holliston Ave. on the east, and Mentor Ave. on the west.

The "California Bungalow" style was developed here in California. As it gained popularity in other parts of the country it became known simply as a "Bungalow."

The California Bungalow represented a departure from the ornate Victorian Style and was an opportunity for the common man to own a simple, detached home.

Gone was the formal entry and parlor, and was replaced by an early twentieth century idea: the "living room."

According to the good folks at Wikipedia, The California Bungalow includes:

-Low-pitch roof lines, gabled or hipped roof
-Deeply overhanging eaves
-Exposed rafters or decorative brackets under eaves
-Front porch beneath extension of main roof
-Tapered, square columns supporting roof

My sister-in-law and her family recently made a short term move to Pasadena. As we drove into the neighborhood, I realized they're living in Bungalow Heaven, which I'd read about on another blog. With a smile, I asked my sister-in-law: "You guys moved to Bungalow Heaven? WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME??"

Of course, I had to get out and explore the neighborhood on foot, with camera in hand. It's a wonderful, simply amazing community to walk through.

There's a reason why Pasadena (as well as several other neighborhoods in metro Los Angeles) look like the midwest: it was settled primarily by midwesterners. In fact, Pasadena's first name was "The Indiana Colony" (nice, but I'm glad the city fathers went with Pasadena).

Trash day: this being Pasadena, even the can on the curb looked nice.

Here's a great example of a two story California Bungalow. The palm trees tucked in the background remind you we're not in Kansas (or Indiana, or Iowa) anymore.

And another even larger home. Compared to everything else in the neighborhood, I wonder if this was considered the equilivent of a "McMansion" back in the day?

Speaking of " McMansions" - you won't find any tear-downs here. Homes in Bungalow Heaven can be restored, like this one above, but not replaced. In that sense, walking through the community is really like stepping back in time.

In an age of disposable everything, it's wonderful to see not only individual homes but an entire neighborhood returned to it's former glory. I'm really curious what this area looked like in, say, 1970. Did it ever go through a "bad" period?

As a Christian, I try to engage my faith in every area of life, even something seemingly as trivial as a neighborhood. I don't think "what does God think of Bungalow Heaven?" - or any other neighborhood - is really a silly question.

But instead of focusing on a neighborhood in terms of the housing stock, maybe better perspective would be to think about the neighbors, that is, the people. Jesus concluded the Parable of The Good Samaritan with a question: "which of these three individuals was a neighbor to the man who needed help?"

Whether Bungalow Heaven in Pasadena, the 100+ communities of Los Angeles, or our current home in Central California, I tend to think of neighborhoods in terms of buildings - the brick and mortar (or, in the case of Los Angeles, the wood and stucco) that I can see.

Not a bad thing, per se, but I'd like to focus less on buildings, more on what really matters - the people in a community.

People in my neighborhood who are, by and large, similar to me, and people in other neighborhoods who are often very different than me.

Speaking of people, this final photo is the reason why we were in Bungalow Heaven in the first place: seeing my sister-in-law and her kids.

She and her husband will actually be moving with their kids overseas next month (sad for us, but exciting for them). They'll be missed - but fortunately, there's email and skype. We're already talking about visiting them sometime in 2012. No Bungalow Heaven, though.

That's OK.

© 2011