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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Back to Bethlehem: Devonshire & Winnetka in Chatsworth

This Christmas season a group of Los Angeles churches in the San Fernando Valley are once again sponsoring a "Back to Bethlehem" Christmas event. 

Located at 20121 Devonshire Street in Chatsworth, Back to Bethlehem is a re-creation of the sights and sounds of ancient Bethlehem on the night of the first Christmas.

It's not too late to go! The event will continue tonight, Sunday and Monday nights! 

Here's a link with more information

I took a few photos when when my family and I attended a few years back. 

It's a very impressive re-enactment of what life might have been like in Bethlehem as Mary and Joseph would have experienced it, entirely staffed by volunteers. Whether you're single, married, or have kids - this is a great event to experience! 

Hundreds of volunteers do an amazing job bringing this event to life.

There was "no room at the inn" ... but a donkey outside of the simple stable nearby gave a hint of what might be inside.

Waiting to visit Mary and Joseph, and their newborn son.

This is a fantastic event for families to help explain the Christmas story to their children - and for adults to imagine what the first Christmas was like. 

Mary and Joseph inside the stable, sharing the story of the first Christmas with the thousands of visitors every night. Each year this event attracts 18,000 people over six separate nights.

Outside the stable, sheep and goats. A reminder of the environment Jesus was born into. A volunteer lets kids touch a goat.

At the edge of Bethlehem is the rabbi school. Children and adults gather around to hear the village rabbi share the prophecies about Messiah from Old Testament prophet Isaiah. 

Every visitor receives free shekels at the entrance. Spices were just one of the many items you could buy. 

The Roman soldiers walking around were a reminder that Bethlehem in the first century was a conquered, occupied territory (I have no idea how these guys - again, all volunteers - stayed warm in togas and sandals.)

Pomegranates. This vendor was smart and was prepared for a chilly evening. 

Warm bread: another popular item. 

The shops and stalls were in a circle around a large field the year we attended. While the event has since moved to St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church at Devonshire & Winnetka - which is 
a more central location - I'm assuming the set up is similar and  continues to be held entirely outdoors. 

Our kids loved the freedom of being able to go from booth to booth, running around buying little things, having the small samples of food. It really helped bring the Bible to life: Jesus was born in a real place at a real time.

A shepherd recounting his experience of the angelic visitation announcing Jesus' birth. What was impressive was that this particular volunteer playing the role of a shepherd was also bi-lingual.

It was neat seeing the diversity of visitors that night, as well as many of the volunteers. A reminder that the gospel is for "all the people."

At the edge of Bethlehem, a group of Magi were encamped, looking for "Him was was born King of the Jews."

The night we went, the event seemed well attended, but never felt overly crowded. Definitely something we'd like to see and do again. 

On behalf of our family and the thousands of kids and adults who experience this every year, a huge THANK YOU to the hundreds of volunteers that make this outreach to the community happen.

While the concept of a "walk through Bethlehem" is not unique to Los Angeles, it is the largest American city where an event like this can be held entirely outdoors. Hard to image this in a place like Chicago or New York. Come to think of it, our climate (Mediterranean) is also the most similar to what Jesus and those around him would have experienced. 

In what can unfortunately be a very busy and stressful time of the year, this final photo sums up both this event, and Christmas itself:


"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2: 10-12

© 2014 - originally posted 12/24/08


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Re-imagining the Bay Theater: Caruso Development in Pacific Palisades

This past week, Los Angeles based developer Rick Caruso unveiled a plan to update and re-vitalize the business district in the Pacific Palisades, an upscale coastal community on the western-most edge of the city of Los Angeles.

With a vision to bring a re-imagined version of the long defunct Bay Theater as part of the plan, local residents seem excited to see this move forward. Of course, there are detractors who are concerned about traffic (what else is new), parking, or that it looks too much like Caruso's "The Grove" complex. 

Considering the cost of putting together a project like this, I'm surprised how low density it actually is. Everything is limited to one or two stories, and the plan even includes a small park to replace a current parking lot.

Having grown up in the Palisades - back in the 1970's, when the community was much more "middle income" - it looks pretty stellar. 

Here's a link to a story in Curbed Los Angeles, with more photos and a ten minute promotional video. 

© 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sunrise, Los Angeles

Another incredible image from Los Angeles based photographer Andy.C Photography. This is looking towards downtown Los Angeles at sunrise, taken from the Hollywood Bowl outlook in the Hollywood Hills.

Many more outstanding photographs on his Facebook page.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Wall Along Wilshire: 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

image credit:
TODAY, November 9, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

To commerate, I decided to repost photos of the largest section of the Berlin Wall found outside of Germany - found along Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles. 

These side-by-side portraits of Presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were painted by Los Angeles based muralist Kent Twitchell. The ten panel section of the Berlin Wall is located in the Miracle Mile District - at 5900 Wilshire Blvd. 

The Wall Along Wilshire was assembled five years ago as a component of The Wall Project, the Museum’s public art initiative commemorating the (at the time) 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. 

The Wall Along Wilshire is located across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). I literally stumbled across it last month after taking a few minutes to see Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass a few hundred yards away.

Levitated Mass at the LACMA is a unusual piece of modern art; the Wall Along Wilshire is a piece of modern history. Levitated Mass got national media coverage. The Wall Along Wilshire: not so much. Initally, I was not a fan of Levitate Mass (although I warmed up a bit when I visited a second time with my kids). Like other pieces of history, there is a sense of soberness to the Wall Along Wilshire

And in a sense, ten million dollar modern art projects like Levitated Mass exist because the Berlin Wall does not. 

"We Are All Berliners" ("Ich Bin Ein Berliner") - President Kennedy's immortal words in June 1963. Here's a link to a video of the speech. 

"Tear Down This Wall" - Ronald Reagan's moving challenge to Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1987. And here's a link to a video of President Reagan's speech. 

By the Fall of 1989, just 2 1/2 years after Reagan's speech, the Wall was opened - siginaling the end of the Cold War, and - ultimately - the Berlin Wall. 

love muralist Kent Twitchell's portraits of Cold War Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. Democrat and Republican: two generations, two eras, two Cold Warriors who both challenged the Soviet Union regarding the Wall - one when it was first completed, the other before it finally came down. 

Here's what the text says: 

"The Wall Along Wilshire features ten sections of the original Berlin Wall. Measuring nearly forty feet wide, it is the world longest stretch of the Wall outside of Germany. The Wall Along Wilshire was assembled in 2009 as a component of The Wall Project, the Museum’s public art initiative commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Wend Museum invited L.A. based artists Kent Twitchell, Farrah Karapetian and Marie Astrid Gonzalez to participate in the project and paired them with French-born, Berlin based muralist Thierry Noir who was one of the first artists to paint the Berlin Wall in 1984. Through their participation, the installation recalls the outdoor “Eastside Gallery” in Berlin, made famous by the international artists whose collective intervention transformed the Berlin Wall into a canvas reflecting real and imagined divisions. The last four segments contain original graffiti from Cold War era Berlin, including an iconic image of Bimer’s green bear. The Wall Along Wilshire is part of The Wende Museum’s permanent collection."

Here's what the text says on the other side of the wall: 

"Behind the Wall"

"As part of The Wende Museum’s SURVEILLANCE PROJECT, Behind the Wall brings together street artist from Los Angeles, London, and Berlin to interpret the roll of surveillance in our lives from the Cold War until today. From left to right, the murals by Herakut, Retna, and D*Face, cover nine segments belonging to the ‘east side’ of the original Berlin Wall- the side that face the East German death strip and was never painted."

"In order to preserve the segments and prevent moisture from rusting the Wall’s inner skeleton, a special water-resistant primer has been applied and the artist’s paints provide and additional layer of protective coating."

"With continued care, The Wende Museum’s Berlin Wall segments will remain a historical and vibrant outdoor canvas that connects contemporary issues with significant historical events that impacted the globe – the East German peaceful revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War."

Many many thanks to the Wende Museum for this OUTSTANDING display. 

It is incredible that Los Angeles is home to the largest section of the Berlin War outside of Germany. It is a piece of history. 

Here's another link to when I took my kids to see it back in March of 2013. Yes, it's worth visiting.

And I'm definitely looking forward to visiting The Wende Museum (located six miles south in Culver City) sometime in the near future. 

© 2014 - originally posted 11/3/12

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Experiencing L.A. on Halloween: "Light Up The Night"

Just a month after moving to Los Angeles, we took our kids trick-or-treating.

I'm not sure if it was living in a big city, or trick-or-treating in neighborhoods with too much money, or just the Hollywood influence ... but it was unlike anything we had experienced.

Friends of ours recommended a "popular" neighborhood here on the westside. That was an understatement: there were so many kids and parents at times it was hard to walk on the sidewalks - it was that crowded.

Was it just being a dad of young kids (my kids were 3 and 5 at the time) or are costumes creepier than in the past?

Some houses looked like professionally designed sets from horror films; neighbors seemed to compete with each other on who has most terrifying and realistic house. I thought trick or treating was for kids - does anyone else have a problem with young children being shown images of death, torture and the occult? What's really scary is when we as adults start to get used to this - and it no longer shocks.

I mentioned this to a friend, who shared how busy his street was as well. I asked him if he'd like to work together to create an "alternative" Halloween celebration. Thus was born "Light Up the Night." I'm sure the name isn't original with us - but we liked it. 

A brightly lit home, upbeat music, a large puppet theater in the driveway, helium balloons, and lots of candy are all part of the mix. We were OK with the candy - it was the celebration of everything "dark" that we tried to avoid. 

No, this is not Disneyland - just the driveway of our friends' home. At the busiest time there were sixty kids and parents hanging out.

Helium balloons that said "Light Up the Night" were a huge hit - we ran out.

We could have not have done this without friends from our church in Los Angeles. One year, a couple of guys involved in the entertainment industry set up live video feed this year - so kids could "be on TV." Fun. It's also something our kids and others could be involved with: handing out balloons, candy, or running the puppet theater. I heard some teenagers running by who refer to it as the "Jesus house." Sure, why not.

We created a little card for kids and parents that said "Light Up the Night" in multiple languages and explaning why we were doing what we were doing. 

One parent told me "people all over the westside are talking about this house ... I'm here because a friend at work said 'you gotta see this one house.'" 
We can't verify if that's true, but the four years we did it, we got great feedback from appreciative parents who were looking for an alternative from everything else up and down the street.

We lived in Arizona for four years before moving to Los Angeles. Our church there had a HUGE annual Halloween event at the church, attracting thousands of people every year. The year we moved the church canceled the event. Why? Because it was attracting thousands of Christians. The church challenged small groups to work to impact individual communities and neighborhoods. Something, I like to think, like "Light Up the Night."

It was a blast turning my least favorite holiday into one of my most favorite events. 

All part of our family experiencing Los Angeles.

© 2014 - originally posted 11/1/2008


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Other Side of the Bay: Experiencing Los Angeles in Palos Verdes

If you've followed this blog, you know that most of the posts are about life on the "westside" of Los Angeles: Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Westwood, Venice - the last two posts have featured early morning hikes on the Paseo Miramar trail in Pacific Palisades. I've tried to include places like Hollywood, Silverlake, downtown Los Angeles. But the majority focused on the "westside." It's where we lived for those five years in L.A., so that makes sense, right?

But what about the other side of the Bay (that is, the Santa Monica Bay)? What about the Palos Verdes Peninsula?

photo credit: wikipedia
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is located 15 miles south of LAX, at the southern edge of the Santa Monica Bay, in between Redondo Beach and San Pedro. It's made up of a series of beautiful (and yes, expensive) coastal communites.

These photos were taken a few years back when I was at a one day conference in Palos Verdes. 

In the distance, Catalina Island. Catalina is located 20 or so miles off the coast. These photos were taken in late February, after a rain storm. The views were quite spectacular.

Growing up in Pacific Palisades, I can not tell you the number of times Southern Californians have confused the Palisades with Palos Verdes. Come on, people! While they're both coastal communities up against hills, the similarity ends there. Palos Verdes is relatively isolated - on a pensisula. Pacific Palisades is a community within the city of Los Angeles. They're 25 miles apart. I've just started saying I grew up "near Santa Monica" or "in Pacific Palisades - in between Santa Monica and Malibu."

While it may seem hard to believe, at one time both Palos Verdes and Pacific Palisades had what could be consider "middle class" housing stock. I remember my grandmother, herself an immigrant from Poland, looking at a home in Pacific Palisades in 1972 for $26,000 (adjusted for inflation, that would be around $148,000 today). Today, that same home would sell for around $1.4 million.

My guess is the same would be true of Palos Verdes.

Reminds me of what a friend working as a campus minister at UCLA once said, "L.A. is great - if you've got money." True, that. According to this recent Los Angeles Times article, Los Angeles/Orange County metro area has the distinction of having the least affordable housing the the U.S.

Obviously, places like Palos Verdes are no longer an option for the average Joe (or, this being Los Angeles, the average José). I'm not sure that there is a "solution" to this. Meanwhile, the casual visitor or out-of-town guest can still enjoy some amazing vistas. Unlike, say, Venice Beach or Santa Monica, Palos Verdes is not a major tourist destination. But there are a few things to see and do - here's a link to some suggestions.

A drive through Palos Verdes: all part of experiencing Los Angeles.

© 2014


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Experiencing L.A. - Costal Fog & Paseo Miramar Trail at Sunrise, Pacific Palisades (Part 2)

Looking for a workout? A chance to experience L.A. in perhaps a totally different way? Then perhaps the Paseo Miramar trail over in Pacific Palisades is for you!

Hard to believe, but the Paseo Miramar trail is all within Los Angeles city limits. Located in the Pacific Palisades district of L.A. this hike offers views of the mountains, hillside homes, the city, and the ocean. And in the spring and early summer, while the rest of the city is blanketed under June Gloom, coastal fog. 

Time in right and you'll catch the sunrise. 

There's no "bad" time of the year to go,  but experiencing the fog up against the Santa Monica mountains can be pretty spectacular. 

The same view, more of a wide angle shot. Los Angeles experiences a weather phenominon referred to as "June Gloom" in the spring and early summer. As a result, at the beach it can be sunnier - and even warmer - in January than June. In the distance, barely visible, is the outline of the San Garbriel Mountains. 

Same view, wider view. 

Fog, hillsides, palm tree, sunrise. 

On a clear day, this would be looking towards the Santa Monica Bay and Pacific Ocean. Instead, simply an amazing sea of fog. 

The Paseo Miramar trailhead is located at the top of Paseo Miramar, off of Sunset Blvd, 1/2 mile north of Sunset Blvd and the PCH. Thanks to being listed in numerous websites, including the Los Angeles Times "10 Essential Hikes" - this is a very popular hike. Parking is on the street. As stated last week, please keep the noise down and respect the quiet of the neighborhood (no one wants to be woken up by a group of friends meeeting at the trailhead early Saturday morning). 

© 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Experiencing L.A. - Costal Fog & Paseo Miramar Trail at Sunrise, Pacific Palisades

What does Los Angeles look like just before sunrise? What does it look like when shrouded in coastal fog? 

A couple weeks ago I posted a single image of the bluffs along the PCH in the Pacific Palisades district of Los Angeles. When we lived in Los Angeles, I made dozens of early morning hikes in that same area, most notably on the upper Temescal Ridge trail and the Paseo Miramar trail. Here's a link to a previous post on what I consider the best hike in L.A. This week, I'll focus a bit on the Paseo Miramar trail.

There photos are from 2010, our last Spring living in L.A. This is looking east from the Paseo Miramar trail (technically a fire road) towards the office towers of Westwood, Century City, and Downtown Los Angeles..The San Gabriel Mountains are visible in the distance to the left.

The hike is very steep - a great workout. The coastal communities of Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica were completely shrouded in low coastal fog. Because this is so common in the Spring and early summer, this is often referred to as "June Gloom" or "May Gray."

Looking out over the Pacific Ocean - and the vast sea of coastal fog. This is only at about 1200 foot elevation. 

The fog hugging the coast. Most days, it burns off by noon, and then rolls back in the evening.

Another view of the fireroad - and the fog. 

Coming back down, we spotted another hiker along the the trail.

Another view of the same guy. 

This is a reminder of the unique topography and climate of Los Angeles. How, in many ways, it's unlike any other city in the world. 

A final view looking east with the hillside homes of Pacific Palisades and the coastal fog in the distance. 

The Paseo Miramar trailhead is located at the top of Paseo Miramar, off of Sunset Blvd, 1/2 mile north of Sunset Blvd and the PCH. Thanks to being listed in numerous websites, including the Los Angeles Times "10 Essential Hikes" - this is a very popular hike. Parking is on the street. Please keep the noise down and respect the quiet of the neighborhood (no one wants to be woken up by a group of friends meeeting at the trailhead early Saturday morning). 

© 2014