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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Free Day at Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History

This past Spring, my wife, teenage kids, and I were in Los Angeles for a three day get-away. It was a chance to enjoy memories from when we lived in L.A. - and experience a few new things. 

First stop, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. 

L.A. County Museum of Natural History originally opened in 1913, and is the largest natural history museum in the Western United States. Above, two dinosaurs battling in out in the front entrance. 

My wife, kids, and I visited many times when we lived in L.A. Here's a link to a family visit from back in 2010. 

The museum offers a "free day" the first Tuesday of the month. That worked with our schedule, so - yeah - we made a visit. First stop: the North America/Africa dioramas just off the entrance. 

These dioramas date back to the 1930's and are in excellent condition. 

I realize that today's audiences are spoiled with amazing video like the BBC Planet Earth series. Folks 80 years ago were limited to black and white photos, and - maybe - some rough nature films. Getting up closed like this and seeing animals in what really look like their native habitats had to have been amazing. They still hold up well, in my opinion. 

The American Bison scene - which was also featured in the 2006 film "A Night at the Museum". 

My kids enjoyed a trip down memory lane - seeing the museum they had grown up with ten years earlier. 

More dinosaurs. These displays are new. At least I don't remember them from ten years ago. 

Obligatory family photo. 

We were able to step outside of the original entrance, which was just off of the Rose Garden on the east side of the building. 

View of the historic Rose Garden, which is free of charge and worth a visit. The 90 year old Rose Garden was the vision of USC law professor (and a devout Methodist) William Miller Bowen. 

Here's a link to a previous post on how Bowen single handedly worked to close down and remove the saloons and brothels that were here with three museums.

Inside the original entrance to the 1913 building, recently restored to it's original grandeur. 

My wife and kids taking photos of the statue and the ceiling above. 

The ceiling above, with a beautiful 100+ year old tiffany style stained glass window. Really impressive. 

My wife outside, enjoying the beautiful pink flowers on the tree outside the Rose Garden. Springtime is one of the best times to visit Los Angeles, in my opinion. 

There was a new exhibit - "Becoming Los Angeles" - which open in 2013 and I was excited to finally see in person. More on that next time. 

© 2019



Sunday, June 30, 2019

Experiencing Los Angeles: Revisiting Calle Olvera

Olvera Street, or "Calle Olvera," is a one block historic street in downtown Los Angeles. It's listed as one of the "Top Five" in the "Great Streets of America" journal.

Never been? There's no really "bad" time to visit Olvera Street. Except, maybe, if it's raining. Which rarely happens between May - October (this past May being an exception). 

Thanks to a Mediterranean climate, which - within the United State - is unique to Southern California, Los Angeles will go a full six months no rain. Zero. Nada. Warm summer days and cool evenings is one of the reasons why people choose to live here. 

Sunny skies were certainly the case when I was visiting Olvera Street in late November 2017. I was over at Chinatown, and decided to walk the few extra blocks and stop by. 

These photos were taken the Saturday before Thanksgiving, hence the long shadows. 

Olvera Street is often called the oldest street in the City of Los Angeles. The truth is a little more complex. It is home to the oldest existing building, the Avila Adobe - built in 1818. 

Apparently, Los Angeles' original streets were located about a mile or so south. Near today's Pershing Square. Flooding from the nearby Los Angeles River forced the little settlement to move - twice. 

The 1818 Avila Adobe is the oldest surviving structure, built almost 40 years after the city's founding in 1781.

As an aside, the Avila Adobe is not the oldest building in Los Angeles County. That honor goes to the Gage Mansion, built in 1795 and located in the nearby City of Bell Gardens. 

Up until 1930, Olvera Street wasn't a street at all. It was a small, dingy alley. When the city considered demolishing the Avila Adobe 1920's, Christina Serling - a transplant from Northern California - stepped in, not only to save it, but transform the alley into an idealized Mexican marketplace. Here's a link to an excellent article from LA Weekly on the history of Olvera Street.

In that sense, the street is historic. It's what people - certainly, Anglos, 90 or so years ago - imagined early Los Angeles to look like.

Like many Angelenos, I have fond memories of school field trips to Olvera Street - especially in 4th grade, when kids in California focus on "California History." 

I also have good memories of taking my kids here several times when our family lived in L.A. Here's a link to some photos from a previous post with photos from 10 years ago. 

Meanwhile, these photos were all taken in late November. Great time to visit, in my opinion. 

In addition to traditional handcraft souvenirs, you'll find more contemporary touristy shirts, like this nod to L.A. Felix Chevrolet, located across the street from USC. 

Or "Los Doyers" - a play on a Spanish pronunciation of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Spanish doesn't have a "g" sound, and instead was pronounced as a "y" - hence "Doyers." What was originally a racist insult is now a point of pride. 

And, of course, handcraft goods, which haven been part of Olvera Street since it opened in 1930. 

In addition, there's several places to eat, including Casa La Golondrina, which my family and I have enjoyed. 

Love the cross. 

© 2019


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Here to Stay: Mosaic Church in the Heart of Hollywood

Mosaic is an non-denominational church located at several sites throughout metro Los Angeles. The Hollywood congregation's meeting location at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and La Brea. It is very much in the heart of the city. 

The church has been meeting at this location in Hollywood since 2011 in a rented facility.

Recently, the site has come up for sale. Mosaic has the opportunity to buy this property. If they are unable to purchase this spot, the land will be sold to someone else, and they'll need to find a new location. 

The church is working to raise the initial $5 million to buy this property. Here's a link to their go fund me site. The funding deadline is June 30, 2019. 

Here's a promotional video the church put together. Whatever your background, even if you're never even visited Hollywood - perhaps you'd like to help support an active, growing church that's committed to serving their immediate community. Certainly, that's Mosaic. 

Here's a link to the church's website (where I pulled these photos and video from). 

© 2019


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Experiencing Los Angeles: Mercado La Paloma

Last month I had lunch in Los Angeles with a co-worked at Mercado La Paloma. 

Mercado La Paloma is located in a small industrial building, on the east side of the 110 Freeway, a couple of block from USC. 

Mercado La Paloma opened in 2004 as a urban foodcourt, plus a mix of small stores. 

There are eight different restaurant choices featuring either food from the US, Mexico, Central America, Thailand, and (above) Ethiopia. 

It really felt like an smaller, and more local version, of downtown Los Angeles' historic Grand Central Market. I'm a big fan of the Grand Central Market, but but Mercado La Paloma was certainly not as difficult to get to or move around. 

My coworker Brian, working as a campus minister at USC, opted for Chichen Itza and their yummy pork dish. Great food and great value. 

We hit the lunchtime rush, but it was still pretty easy to find a seat. 

Many thanks to Brian for introducing me to new corners of Los Angeles. Previous highlights have included dinner with his family in the Arts District, and Ignatius Cafe, located a mile west of USC. 

One of the walls in the dining area featured a display of posters focusing on Health Activism and Social Justice. 

Similar in many ways to the "Prison Nation" exhibition at Pierce College in Valley from earlier this year. 

Social conservatives railed against the evils of tobacco for decades, but it was alongside Democrat Bill Clinton twenty years ago that real progress was made in curtailing cigarette usage in the US.  

Statistics regarding health care in the US. While this blog tends to steer clear of politics, perhaps a more foundational question - regardless of one's political affiliation - should be "why is health care in the US so incredibly expensive?"

In addition to the eight restaurants, Mercado La Paloma has a handful of small shops, featuring hand crafted items. 

Some information on Mercado La Paloma in both English and Spanish. A list of the shops, restaurants, and other information be found on their website

© 2019

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Experiencing LA: Third Street Promenade

The Third Street Promenade is a three block pedestrian mall located in the Los Angeles adjacent city of Santa Monica. I was in the area last February, decided to stop by  and walk around a bit. 

Free parking is never a given anywhere in the Los Angeles area. There are several large parking garages, with first 90 minutes being free - which was great. 

This is walking along Wilshire Blvd, between 4th and 3rd Streets, from the parking structure to the Promenade. If you wonder why in the world people put up with traffic, crazy high rent, and the other inconveniences of living in Los Angeles - this is it. 

This is what a February afternoon in Los Angeles is like. The Pacific Ocean is in the distance. 

The former JC Penny's, on the corner of Wilshire Blvd and 3rd Street. It's now a Banana Republic. 

Across the Banana Republic is a former Barnes & Noble bookstore. The bookstore opened in the late 1990's ... but - unfortunately was unable to compete with Amazon. 

People hanging outside chairs - and checking their phones. 

Footlocker on the corner of 3rd and Arizona. 

Across Arizona Avenue, the 1923 Criterion Building. The building housed various movie theaters (both single screens, and then multiplexes) until 2013, when the ground floor retail became a Victoria Secrets. The 2nd and 3rd floor apartments start at $2145 - for a tiny 326 square foot studio apartment. 

Third Street was originally a regular city street open to automobiles. In 1965, the city of Santa Monica closed three blocks to vehicular traffic, and created the "Santa Monica Mall." By the late 1970's, the mall was in desperate need of an update, which finally occurred in 1989 with the opening of the now iconic Third Street Promenade. 

The updates in the late 1980's included creating curbs, to bring it back to feeling like a classic city street. In addition, whimsical fountains and sculptures were installed. Perhaps most important, a change in city codes finally allowed for outdoor dining. Located in the distance is the 1930 Clock Tower Building. 

Plenty of people were out and about the Sunday afternoon I was there. While enclosed malls around the country are struggling (and closing) Third Street Promenade attracts 11 million visitors a year. 

Why do people live in cities? It's pretty simple. Because they want to be around other people. People were created to be around other people. It's a God-given trait, and despite despite the explosion of online shopping, I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. 

This is the corner of Third and Santa Monica Blvd. Unlike enclosed malls, Third Street Promenade has a mix of architectural styles, with buildings dating back to the 1920's. This four story building currently houses The Gap. 

If there's a criticism of Third Street, it's that it feels like a clone of other successful shopping districts around the country. While it has it's own unique vibe and flair, much of it - like this massive Apple Store - can be found elsewhere. 

But there are unique restaurants as well. 

Chili Beans is found in just two other locations in Southern California. And I like the the look of the exterior of the building. It features higher end sunglasses. 

Why else do people live in cities? Perhaps it's stumbling across individuals like violinist Karolina Protsenko. 

Karolina is a 10 year old superstar violinist. On weekends, you'll often find her playing for tips on Third Street. 

Or, performing on shows like, say, Ellen

Apparently, Karolina Protsenko's YouTube videos's have received over 250 million hits. 

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon her performing on a Sunday afternoon. Even if you're not into shopping, if you're in the area, it might be worth to stopping by just to experience hearing her play. Perhaps you can tell your grandkids "I remember hearing Karolina Protsenko when she was just playing for tips on Third Street!" 

At the end of the three block public Third Street Promenade is the private outdoor shopping mall, the "Santa Monica Place". The Santa Monica Place originally opened as an enclosed mall in 1980. With an overall declining interest in enclosed malls, Santa Monica Place underwent a massive $250 million dollar transformation, literally taking off the roof and re-opening as an outdoor shopping center in August 2010. I was short on time, so a visit to the Santa Monica Place will have to wait for another day. 

Back on Third Street Promenade, heading back to Wilshire & 3rd Street, and my car. 

Third Street Promenade is located in between Wilshire and Broadway, just three blocks from the Pacific Ocean, in Santa Monica. 

Parking garages, offering 90 minutes of free parking, can be found along 2nd and 4th Streets. Third Street Promenade also located ajacent to the terminus of the Expo Line Light Rail (originating in Downtown Los Angeles). 

© 2019