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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