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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Experiencing Los Angeles: Hollywood Boulevard

This past June my wife, kids and I were in Southern California for a week on a family vacation. After dinner at Miceli's, I took some additional time to explore a bit of Hollywood Boulevard. Here's are links to Part I, Part II, Part III of this series. 

Above, the historic 1928 Hollywood First National Bank Building at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. 

This is looking towards the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and McCadden Place. 

The Pig 'N Whistle has been a Hollywood institution since 1927, and was brought back to it's former glory in 1999, when British restaurant operator Chris Breed remodeled the building. My family and I enjoyed dinner here back in 2013. 

Walking in front of the Scientology building, some members wanted me to one of their personality tests. Absolutely, no interest. Scientology is a controversial religious organization, considered by at least some former members to be a cult. It has a significance presence in Hollywood. More on that later. 

Across the street is the Museum of Broken Relationships. Yes, this is an actual thing. 

Coming up on the Hollywood First National Bank Building.

A small memorial was created at actor Adam West's star. West had passed away two days earlier: June 9, 2017. His star is located at 6792 Hollywood Boulevard. 

Adam West: 1928 - 2017

West was best known for his television role of Batman from 1966-1968. I'm old enough to have remembered the original show. 

Looking back up Hollywood Boulevard: Walk of Fame stars, pedestrians, panhandlers ... 

... and lots of street vendors. Do you need a permit? Can anyone just set something up? 

The Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex, located at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. 

The large church located at the end of Highland is the Hollywood United Methodist Church. It was prominently featured in the 1953 film War of the Worlds, the interior church gym and classroom used for scenes from Sister Act and Back to the Future.

This was early evening on a Sunday. What amazed me was the number of people out and about. 

Hollywood continues to draw millions of locals and tourists every year. This is just outside the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex, and the world famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre (now the "TCL Chinese Theatre"). This is also a subway stop for the Metro Red Line, connecting downtown Los Angeles with North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley.

There were dozens of street performers. 

A final view of the Hollywood First National Bank Building, with more street vendor and scores of people. 

More next time

© 2017

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Exploring Hollywood Boulevard and Dinner at Miceli's

Earlier this summer my wife, kids, and I spent a week in Southern California. First stop was the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, which was featuring a collection of Disneyland memorabilia. After driving down Ventura Boulevard and through the Cahuenga Pass we arrived in Hollywood.

We stayed at the Motel Six Hollywood, offering no frills lodging at a reasonable price in a great location. And swans. Can't forget the swans.

Parking costs extra at almost every hotel in a large urban area, including the Motel Six Hollywood. Make a reservation ahead of time, not just for your room, but for a parking space. 

The parking lot on the lower level. Limited space means stacked parking. They have a someone on duty 24/7 and did a good job getting us in and out (later that evening) quickly. 

View from the 5th floor, looking south towards Hollywood Boulevard. 

Across the street is the (1928) Fontenoy, a historic 13 story apartment building. According to a Google review, this is where Johnny Depp lived when he first moved to Los Angeles.

Across the street, the (1928) J.J. Newberry Building on the left. J.J. Newberry's was an American Five-and-Dime store chain in the 20th century originally founded in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The architects of the Hollywood J.J. Newberry's, now Hollywood Toys and Costumes, created this colorful example of Art Deco at its best. The "Zig Zag" patterns of chevrons and squares in colorful aqua and gold highlight the over-sized industrial windows of the upper stories.

On the right the (1935) Kress Building on the right. Designed and built as a part of the S. H. Kress retail chain. Beginning in 1949 this Art Deco structure housed the world headquarters of the internationally known Frederick's Of Hollywood lingerie chain for 59 years. In July 2008 The Kress Hollywood Night Club and Kress Restaurant opened for a few short years, closing in July 2011.

To the east, The Second City Hollywood, a comedy club housed in the historic (1927) Spanish Colonial Revival Building, featurinv flamboyant "Churrigueresque" ornamentation.

Looking west down Hollywood Boulevard. 

The Hollywood Walk of Fame highlights 5000 celebraties from film, TV, and music. Above, actress Kitty Carlisle. 

TV actor Art Carney. 

And legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix.

Dinner at Miceli's, a Hollywood institution. 

Dinner at Miceli's, a Hollywood institution. 

Home of singing waiters. 

Afterwards, my wife and kids headed back the hotel. I wanted to walk around for a few minutes and explore a bit more of Boulevard. 

Here's a link to the next post on that.  

© 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ventura Boulevard: Sherman Oaks and Studio City

Last month, my wife, kids and I were in Southern California for a week long family vacation. 

Our first stop wasin Sherman Oaks at the Van Eaton Galleries, which was featuring amazing collection of Disneyland memorabilia. Here's a link to the previous post with more information on their auction. 

The Van Eaton Galleries is located on Ventura Blvd. Rather than get back on the Freeway, we opted to drive on surface streets over to Hollywood, where we were spending the night. 

When we lived in Los Angeles, I posted photos of urban walks along Wilshire, Santa Monica, and Pico Boulevards (starting at the ocean, and heading inland) as well as part of Main Street in Santa Monica, Abbot Kinney in Venice, and Sunset Boulevard in Silverlake. 

Pictured above: we were only walking back to our car - and would then be driving along Ventura Boulevard. My son, now 17, wanted to drive. How about if I just snapped some photos along the way? That's what we did. 

Ventura Boulevard is 18 miles long. It begins to the west at Valley Circle Blvd in Woodland Hills, and ends at Lankershim in Studio City where it becomes Cahuenga Boulevard. It's a couple miles longer than it's more famous cousin on the other side of the hill, 16 mile Wilshire Boulevard (which runs from Downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica). 

Leaving Sherman Oaks and entering Studio City: the communities changed at Dixie Canyon. This is a block up, between Nagle and Fulton. 

Unlike Wilshire (which goes through different cities), Ventura Boulevard remains entirely within the L.A. City limits. Ventura Boulevard goes through five different communities - all part of the City of Los Angeles:

- Woodland Hills

- Tarzana
- Encino
- Sherman Oaks

- Studio City 

This is between Alcove and Goodland - the Sportsman's Lodge Hotel is immediately to the left. 

Here's something I didn't know: according the the Wikipedia article, Ventura Boulevard is the longest avenue of contiguous businesses in the world. It also feels very, very suburban. 

This is the intersection of Ventura Boulevard and Laurel Terrace Drive to the south, Whitsett Avenue to the north. While I'm no expert on the history Ventura Boulevard, the vast majority of the businesses along the way looked like one story mid-century era buildings. A huge plus is that most business face the street - rather that a large parking lot around back. 

A few feet up, past the intersection, the view is longer obscured by the traffic light. 

I love this view - with the long row of palm trees on both sides of the street. This really says Los Angeles. Businesses, palm trees, and cars.

On the other hand, this was a Sunday afternoon, with relatively very light traffic. If Ventura Boulevard is anything like other major arteries in Los Angles, my guess is that this is a tough slough during rush hour. 

In Los Angeles, "rush hour" is from 5am-10am, and then 3pm-7pm. However, L.A. rush hour can extend until 11am the morning and 2:30pm-9pm at night (meaning rush hour can last over 12 hours per day). 

As a Christian, I hope my faith influences everything in life, even on something as mundane as the infrastructure of a city. Obviously, urban planning is not my career choice, but it's something I'm still interested in. 

Christians speak of "human flourishing". This comes from the greek word eudaimonia, meaning happiness or welfare - an idea that originated from Greek philosophers. 

I like this quote from Yale University: "Concern for human flourishing is at the heart of Christian proclamation. Theologians have long proclaimed that the very heart of a Christian’s hoped-for future, which comes from God, is the flourishing of individuals, communities, and our whole globe." 

Above: Ventura Boulevard at Laurelgrove. 

Ventura Boulevard follows the original El Camino Real, the 1771 era road connecting the chain of California Missions from San Diego to Sonoma north of San Francisco. This would make Ventura Boulevard one of the oldest roads in Los Angeles. 

Most of this area was zoned, in this case for commercial, during the post World War II building boom of the 1950's and 1960's. "Human flourishing" at that time no doubt involved communities built around cars. The idea of a walkable city meant density - which, was seen as a throwback to the 19th century urban problems of places like New York or Chicago. Los Angeles' post World War II urban planning may have seemed forward thinking at the time, but there's certainly an sense of short sightedness as the city has continued to grow. 

Any thoughts "human flourishing"? 

This is between Lauralgrove and Vantage Avenues. 

Most of the San Fernando Valley, or "The Valley" as it's comonly referred to, is within the L.A. City limits. Like other parts of Los Angeles, the Valley is made of long east/west, north/south streets and avenues. In that sense, Studio City is similar to other communities in the Valley. 

Ventura Boulevard at Colfax. Surprisingly, the Los Angeles River is literally a few hundred feet from this spot - it parallels Ventura Boulevard for several blocks beginning at this spot.

In addition to it's proximity to the Los Angeles River, what makes Studio City different from other parts of the Valley is the combination of high end homes (especially in the hills to the south) as well as the number of residents connected to the entertainment industry. Current and former residents include George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Leonardo DiCaprio, Zac Efron, Neil Patrick Harris and William Shatner. 

Ventura Boulevard at Big Oak Drive. As a kid, most of my time in the Valley was in over Woodland Hills - also straddling Venture Boulevard, but on the western edge of the Valley. 

As a kid growing up in the 1970's, I have good memories of spending the night at my grandparents, and riding my bike in 100+ degree heat to Thrifty Drugs (now Rite Aid) on Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills for their 5 cent ice cream cones. 

You heard right: back in the early 1970's Thrifty actually sold a single scoop ice cream cone for 5 cents. This was a "loss leader" -they took a small "loss" on the ice cream as an incentive to lead people into the store. Worked for me! I LOVED going there. 

Got any "back in the day" memories from the Valley? 

Ventura Boulevard at Eureka. I like the way the road curves around the hugs the hills. 

Driving through the area, I was reminded of a friend and former co-worker (and his family) who moved to the area a few years back to develop a start a new church. I would add that starting a new church is extremely challening. "Anthology Church" is a non-denominational church meeting at the Studio City Rec Center (12621 Rye St) just a few blocks from here. Here's a link to their website. 

In the distance are two two office towers of Universal Studios.

Immediately adjacent to Studio City is "Universal Studios, Hollywood."

Except that Universal Studios Hollywood isn't located in Hollywood. It's located near Hollywood - in "Universal City" - an unincorporated area just outside of L.A. City limits in the Valley. Of course, in L.A. everything blends together. There's rarely any sense of leaving one city or community and entering another. 

Last January, my wife, kids and I were in Southern California and decided to visit Universal Studios for the first time. First time for them, I'd actually been before. It was honestly disappointing. You can read about it here. When we bought our tickets in January, we decided to spend a few dollars more an upgraded to "annual passes." 

That said, going a second time would be basically free, so - hey- why not? We planned to give Universal Studios another try the following day. 

With my son at the wheel, Ventura Boulevard turned to the right and became Cahuenga Boulevard at Lakershim - taking us through the Cahuenga Pass into Hollywood. 

Cahuenga, pronounced "Ka-wan-ga" is the short, low pass connecting Los Angeles Basin to the San Fernando Valley. It's really only two miles from the Valley over the hill and into Hollywood, really only a thirty minute walk (that is, if you can find a sidewalk). However, the topography and terrain really separates the two areas. 

We were making great time on Cahuenga Boulevard ... 

... until we hit complete gridlock just before the Hollywood Bowl. This being Los Angeles, we were suddenly stuck in traffic on a Sunday afternoon - with no explanation for why. 

After sitting in traffic for ten minutes and going no where, I had my son move over the left lane, make a slightly illegal U-turn and went over the overpass to the other side of the Hollywood Freeway. He's on his way to mastering L.A. traffic. 

For us, it was a ten minute inconvenience, but for a million or more Angelenos soul numbing traffic is a daily part of life. Los Angeles not only the distinction of having the worst traffic in the United States, but having the worst traffic in the world.

Thinking back to human flourishing, high sight is 20/20. It's amazing, in a very negative sense, how sixty years ago the city fathers tossed aside thousands of years of urban planning experience in favor of a car-centered transportation model for a major city. 

Still no idea why traffic was that bad, but we went around it and 10 minutes later, we were at our hotel in Hollywood. More on that, and a tour of Hollywood Boulevard - on foot, rather than through a windshield - next time

© 2017