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Saturday, December 31, 2016

La La Land

My wife, teenage kids, and I had a chance to see "La La Land" earlier this week. 

Set in modern day Los Angeles, it's a musical with a retro 1940's vibe and feel. 

Fun, especially, for my kids to see places they remember from our time living in L.A.

Very enjoyable film - we'd certainly recommend it. 

Happy New Year. 

© 2016


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas from Los Angeles: Journey of Faith Church "Flashmob" at South Bay Galleria

Seemed appropriate to repost the Journey of Faith "Flash Mob" at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach, located in metro Los Angeles. This originally took place six years, and six million views, ago. 

The words and message were true then --- and true today.

Merry Christmas from Experiencing LA.

© 2016


Saturday, December 10, 2016

UCLA: University of California, Los Angeles

Last June my wife, kids and I were back in Southern California for a few of days. We took some time to drive around Los Angeles, seeing a few places my wife, kids and I remember from the five years we lived there. 

A bit random, but we stopped off in Pacific Palisades a couple of weeks before the big Caruso Project began transforming the community business district. I grew up in this neighborhood in L.A. - I appreciated seeing it, walking up and down Swarthmore Avenue, and taking some photos. Here's the link from a post from last month. 

Afterwards, we drove over to UCLA. I graduated from UCLA way back in 1984 - and my wife and I both worked at different times. Above, a view of Wilshire Blvd (looking through my windshield) a few blocks from campus. 

Obligatory stop at Diddy Riese, located next to UCLA in Westwood Village. Diddy Riese is famous for their outstanding  - and very affordable - ice cream sandwiches. On Friday and Saturday nights the line out the door can snake out the entire block. 

Above, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. This was built in the 1960's and was the original UCLA hospital. Love the architecture, palm trees and even the flowers.

Across the street is the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Where's the landscaping? This is the best UCLA could come up with? In contrast to to the original orange brick medical center, this looks, well, awful. More like a factory than a hospital. Sorry. 

My son and I in front of the UCLA student union building (Ackerman Union) and "The Bruin" mascot statute. The statue has been on campus since 1984 - the year I graduated. 

According to our friends at Wikipedia, the UCLA the Bruins "have won 126 national championships, including 113 NCAA team championships, more than any other university. UCLA student-athletes, coaches and staff have won 251 Olympic medals: 126 gold, 65 silver and 60 bronze. UCLA student-athletes have competed in every Olympics since 1920 with one exception (1924), and have won a gold medal in every Olympics that the United States has participated in since 1932.

We took about 40 minutes to walk around the campus. Above is Kerckhoff Hall, the original student union. If Kerckhoff Hall looks familiar, perhaps it's because UCLA have been featured in dozens of movies, TV shows and commercials, including:
• Gotcha! (1985) 

• Higher Learning (1995)
• Legally Blonde (2001)
• Old School (2003)
• The Nutty Professor (1995)
• Erin Brockovich (2000)
• How High (2001)
• National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002)
• American Pie 2 (2001)
• Bring It On Again (2004)

I'm not recommending any of these films. The only one I've actually seen is Legally Blond.  

Above is UCLA's signature building, Royce Hall. Royce Hall was one of the four original buildings when the campus opened in 1929 and is modeled after the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, Italy. 

In front of the Humanities Building, another one of the four original buildings (the others are Powell Library and Haines Hall). The inscription above the door is from the Hebrew Scriptures, Psalm 119  - verse 18: "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law." 

Walking a bit farther is the inverted fountain, which opened in 1968. 

Just off the Court of the Sciences in the south end of campus is the California NanoSystems Institute. Yes, it really was purposely designed this way. It's affectionally known as the Harry Potter Building, for obvious reasons. 

Why try to visit Hogwarts at Universal - when you can can enjoy UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute? OK, Hogwarts is great. But the NanoSystems building is free. 

While the building itself is closed to the public, you're free to walk around and enjoy the architecture. In my opinion, this is the least appreciated building in Los Angeles. 

This being Los Angeles, the area underneath is a .... the top level of a multi-level parking garage. Really? A parking lot? They couldn't have build some sort of garden, or patio, or food court? Missed opportunity, in my opinion. 

If you're anywhere near UCLA, this building is worth seeing.

Next stop, Levitated Mass and the La Brea Tar Pits. I'll post a few photos next month. 

© 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saying Good-Bye to Swarthmore Avenue, Pacific Palisades

Swarthmore Avenue, Pacific Palisades. Last June my wife and kids and I were in the area and took a few minutes to walk up and down Swarthmore.

This entire block of mid-century era stores had been bought up by Caruso Affiliated - and was slated for a major redevelopment. I wanted to see this all before it was gone. 

When my parents moved to Pacific Palisades in 1968, the community felt very middle class. Back in 1972, I remember my grandmother (born in Poland) looking at modest homes just a few blocks from here for $26,000. Today, those same homes would sell for $1.8 million. Yeah, crazy. 

Here's a walkway between Swarthmore and the parking lot out back. To the left was the entrance to the old Baskin Robbins - that many of my friends worked at. To the right, a women's clothing store that my other grandmother worked at for several years. 

The nondescript parking lot out back. Redevelopment plans call for this being turned into additional retail and small park. Remember the lyrics to the old Joni Mitchell song: "take paradise and put in a parking lot"? This might be one of the few cases where the opposite happens. While not paradise, I'll take a park over a parking lot any day. 

So, this being Los Angeles, where do the cars go? Plans call for a three story underground parking structure.

The women's clothing store my grandmother worked at back in the mid-1970's. It was called La Femme, today it's called Boca. 

I LOVE this photo, taken from the edge of the parking lot, looking back towards Swarthmore Avenue. Boca on the left, what was Baskin Robbins on the right. Yes, the woodwork up top needs paint - but I really like the planter on the right, the mid-century architecture, the simple walkway, and most of all the MEMORIES of growing up here, and walking through here hundreds of times. 

Back out on Swarthmore, outdoor dining along the street. Pacific Palisades is located along the coast in between Malibu and Santa Monica, and up against the Santa Monica Mountains. 

The vast majority of people I went to High School here do not live in this area. Even back 35 years ago, the community had become too expensive to consider moving back after college. There's a small handful of people from my High School graduating class who figured out a way to live in the community. Most everyone else is living in another part of California - or out of state.  

The Caruso Affiliated redevelopment plans call for a re-imagined "Bay Theater" across the street - on the footprint of what was at one time a popular local restaurant, Mort's Delicatessen.

The original Bay Theater (1948-1978) was located a few blocks away on Sunset Blvd, and still holds a special place for anyone who lived in the community during that era. The new Bay Theater will be much smaller, and a multiplex. With theaters closing left and right around the country, here's hoping this new Bay will be able to pencil out financially. 

These one story buildings will be replaced with a mixture of one and two story Cape Cod style buildings. While most residents are excited about the new project, some are concerned that the street will look less like a real place and more like an outdoor mall - or Hollywood movie set. Caruso Affiliates other projects include The Grove in the Fairfax District and Americana at Brand in Glendale. 

This is looking down Swarthmore towards Sunset Blvd. This section of Swarthmore will also be narrowed slightly, with wider sidewalks and one way traffic. 

The pink building on the corner of Swarthmore and Sunset is the original "business block" - the 1924 Spanish Colonial Revival. In the distance is the bell tower of Palisades Elementary School. 

For me, lots of nostalgia and lots of memories on this street. I'm so very glad we took time and snapped up these photos. Just two weeks after we were here, the entire area was fenced off and - yes - the buildings were bulldozed. All that exists now are photographs and memories. 

My wife and kids walking towards Sunset Blvd. 

Final view the alley running adjacent to Sunset Blvd. The building on the left is a bank - I worked as a bank teller there for a summer - before moving out of the area. 

Like most alleys, this is fairly unattractive - although, the palm trees are nice. 

Here's an aerial view of Swarthmore that I pulled from the "Palisades Village" Facebook group. Gone, but not forgotten. 

The Mobil Gas Station on the corner of Sunset Blvd and Swarthmore Avenue. This is part of the re-development plans and is slated to be replaced with a two story retail building. Even people who weren't enthusiastic about the overall project seemed to be OK with that. 

In addition to most (but not all) of the buildings on Swarthmore, Caruso Affiliates also bought several of the adjacent buildings along Sunset Blvd. Part of the gray building was a toy store  - "The Toy Shack" - when I was a kid, with a speciality in magic tricks. 

So, what will this section of Swarthmore and Sunset Blvd. this be replaced with? Here's one of several images released by Caruso Affiliates - featuring the highly anticipated re-imagined Bay Theater - and a link to the project on their website. 

The project is called Palisades Village, scheduled to open Summer 2018. 

© 2016


Saturday, November 12, 2016

World's Oldest McDonald's, Downey California

This past April, my wife, kids, and I were in Southern California for a conference and had a few minutes to stop off in Downey - a suburban city located 15 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. Downey has the distinction of being home to the world's oldest McDonald's.

Technically, it's the world's oldest surviving McDonald's. The first McDonald's, opened in 1937, was located adjacent to the Monrovia Airport. The tiny octagonal building was later moved to 1398 North E Street in San Bernardino, California in 1940. As second McDonald's opened in Phoenix, Arizona in 1953. Neither of these first two McDonald's survive. 

This third McDonald's opened in August 1953, and is the world oldest surviving McDonald's. It's located at the intersection of Lakewood Blvd. and Florence Ave in Downey. 

My wife and kids waiting after ordering our food. While maybe not worth a special trip, if you're anywhere in the area, I'd say it's worth stopping by. 

They do a good job playing up the history and nostalgia, including lots of information on this particular location. 

Long before Ronald McDonald, McDonald's had "Speedee" as their corporate mascot. 

My son referred to this as "the birthplace of diabetes." Well, sort of. The original hamburgers, french flies, and soda sizes were TINY by today's Super Size portions. Not sure if a 1953 meal was healthier or not, but it was definitely smaller. 

Adjusted for inflation, McDonald's today is actually cheaper than in 1953. One reason why fast food is so popular is that, well, it's so cheap. 

Inside, was an old school cash register - just for show. 

Immediately adjacent to the walk up McDonald's was a very small museum.

The museum had some seating, and displays. 

The history of their logos. 

Information on the Downey location. 

A display of their milkshake mixers, which were apparently pretty revolutionary for the time. 

Obligatory family selfie. 

And a final photo of the 1959 era Golden Arch. 

Here's a link to a wikipedia article with additional information. 

© 2016


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vintage Los Angeles Travel Posters

I thought I'd take a break from personal photos and post a few Vintage Los Angeles Travel Posters. Above David Klein's Fly TWA Los Angeles c.1959 - a stylized view of Mission San Gabriel Arc├íngel's bell tower. The actual tower has six bells; the sun looks like something out of the It's A Small World attraction. 

The earliest travel posters I found (thanks to google images) focus on California, rather than just Los Angeles. California Calls You c. 1900. Union Pacific Railroad pamphlet, University of California-San Diego Special Collections.

California This Summer c. Chad Hyde 1934. 

Perhaps the most famous travel poster of all time is California Cornucopia of the World c.1885, The Granger Collection

The city of Los Angeles (population 4 million) is located in the much larger county of Los Angeles (population 10 million). This 1920's era poster is highlighting Los Angeles County. This view reminds me a lot of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (where possible, I'm including some links to previous blogposts). 

Los Angeles by Clipper  by Kerne Erickson. Date unknown. 

This is the Basilica at Mission San Juan Capistrano - not in Los Angeles, but rather 55 miles (88 kilometers) south in Orange County.

I tried to find the artist and date for these images. Not always easy - I came up blank on this one. Any suggestions, please leave a comment. 

The above poster reminds me of the view from the Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles via Western Airlines with autograph book and camera in hand, at the corner of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. c.1961, artist unknown.

Sorry, Continental Airlines - but this doesn't look anything like Los Angeles. The white sand beaches and curved palm trees, makes this version of Los Angeles looks more like Hawaii, or even Florida, than Southern California. 

American Airlines Los Angeles c.1970 artist unknown.

Los Angeles, American Airlines date and artist unknown . 

Apparently, this poster is located in the Smithsonian - even they don't have a date or artist, calling it an "orphan" poster. 

The bottom half looks like the city of Avalon on Catalina Island

Los Angeles, date and artist unknown. This is my personal favorite. Just houses and swimming pools. This could be almost anwhere in the eastern half of the Santa Monica Mountains, including the view from the Paseo Miramar trail in Pacific Palisades.  

Los Angeles - American Airlines - Hollywood California Movie Set, c. 1960 Van Kaufman. Looks a whole lot like either Universal Studios or the Warner Brothers Studios tour. 

Fly TWA Los Angeles, Hollywood Bowl, c.1958 David Klein. Hollywood Bowl, where else?

Los Angeles, California - Los Angeles at Night, date and artist unknown. 

Visit Los Angeles, c. Michael Murphy, date unknown. This is the downtown Department of Water and Power Building

Visit Los Angeles by Henry Rivers, date unknown. The Hollywood Sign.  

© 2016