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Saturday, August 24, 2019

La Brea Tar Pits

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. Here are link to Part I (Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History), Part II ("Becoming Los Angeles" exhibit there) and Part III (The Wilshire Grand, downtown Los Angeles). 

While my teenage kids took naps (it was a vacation after all), I walked from where we were startng a mile down Wilshire Blvd to the La Brea Tar Pits. The La Brea Tar Pits has the distinction of being the largest collection of Ice Age Mammal Fossils in the world. And - incredibly - it's located in the heart of Los Angeles. 

As the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits is part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural, it was a also a "free day" there as well. Both museums offer a free day the first Tuesday every month (except in July and August). 

Inside, a massive "American Mastodon" skeleton. 

More Ice Age animal skeletons.

A collection of Dire Wolf skulls. 

A highlight is the museums Fossil Lab. 

An on duty researcher working on the skull of a sabertooth cat. 

This gives an idea of densely packed each of the tar pits are will bones. The tar serves to protect these bones from normal decay. 

Life size model of an Ice Age era Sabertooth Cat (often incorrectly called a Sabertooth Tiger). 

The outdoor atrium of the museum. 

Photo credit: Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism
Apparently, museum officials have just announced plans to a complete makeover of the museum and area surrounding it. Here's a link with more information on three possible plans. I actually added this a couple of days after the initial post. At any rate, I don't have a strong opinion either way ... 

... except that to keep some version of the iconic 1966 fiberglass mammoths at the edge - and in - the main Tar Pit visible from Wilshire Blvd. I mean, what would Los Angeles be without them? 

The La Brea Tar Pits are located at 5801 Wilshire Blvd in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles.

Across the street was the "Wall on Wilshire" - the largest section of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany. Some construction was going on around them, hard to get a good photo. Here's a link from a previous visit. 

Back on the north side of Wilshire was Chris Burden's Urban Light. LOVE this beautiful collection of historic street lights. Here's a link to a previous post from 2009, which apparently is the more popular posts on this blog. 

Walking back, I stopped by Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass. My initial impression wasn't great. For whatever reason, this 340 ton boulder has grown on me over the years. The best view is looking east in the afternoon, when the light helps hide the metal support structure. At least on the left side, the 340 ton boulder does seem to levitate - at least, a bit. 

Construction of the massive Academy Awards Museum scheduled to open sometime in 2020. The museum will occupy the historic art deco Wilshire and Fairfax 1939 May Company Department Store. Under construction is a massive dome, with views looking out toward Hollywood. 

Immediately across the street, on the northwest corner of Wilshire and Fairfax is Johnie's Coffee Shop Restaurant. This being Los Angeles, this iconic "Googie" style coffee shop is used for TV and movie shoots (rather than operating as an actual coffee shop). 

Walking back, it was sobering to see several tents along Wilshire, just a couple of blocks from Beverly Hills. It was reminder that the homeless situation in Los Angeles is very real. Mental illness, drugs, alcohol, the inability hold down a a job, the list goes on for the reasons. Here's a link to a previous post on some additional thoughts.

Solutions are much harder to come by. Solutions that are compassionate, that exercise "tough love," are economically viable, and that incentivize getting off (and staying off) the streets. The Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, and The Dream Center in Echo Park are a couple of examples of non-profits that are working hard to not simply house men, women, and families - but to work with the much harder root causes ... and give people the ability to get into long term housing. 

It was a bit jarring to go from tents along to Wilshire to the glitz of the the sign welcoming you into Beverly Hills. 

I worked at this office building, located on the corner of Wilshire and San Vincente, for one summer while a student at UCLA. Fun walking by. 

On the left across the street was the Dolly Saken School of the Arts. Our kids took a class, and were involved with one of the productions (along with other home school families) when we lived in Los Angeles. 

As mentioned, we stayed at an AirBnB rather than a hotel. 

It felt like staying in a friends apartment. While it had it's qwirks, it certainly had more space, at about the same price, as a single hotel room. Worked for us. 

Dinner at DuPar's at Original Farmer's Market, at 6th and Fairfax, about a mile away. 

Orignal Farmer's Market is a series of open air stalls and small shops. It's been around since 1934. 

Outdoor seating. 

I had hope to eat outside, but my kids voted for indoors (DuPars) which was fine.

Next time: an early morning hike to the top of the Hollywood Sign

© 2019

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Wilshire Grand, Los Angeles

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.

Here's links to Part I and Part II - starting our time at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Above, the historic Felix Chevrolet dealership, on the corner of South Figueroa and West Jefferson, a block or two from the museum. The neon Felix the Cat sign has been around since 1957.

St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, on the corner of South Figueroa and West Adams.The funding for the construction of the 1925 church gave primary from oilman Edward J. Doheny, whose estate - now Mt Saint Mary's College - was just a few blocks away. The church, built in 1925, is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (No. 90).

The Wilshire Grand, located on the corner of Wilshire and Figueroa. Here's a link to a previous visit back in January 2018. The hotel's lobby is located on the 70th floor, and is open to the public.

 We parked nearby and walked over, passing by the 1976 Westin Bonaventure. I have great memories of walking around and visiting (but never staying at) the Bonaventure with my kids. But at "just" 35 stories, it's feels much smaller than compared to the Wilshire Grand a few blocks away.

View from the 70th story lobby, looking towards the Hollywood Sign. The view was good, but there was a bit of haze. Again, here's a link to my January 2018 visit, when the visibility was excellent.

Looking down at the Harbor Freeway. The Wilshire Grand is outstanding place to enjoy a view of the city. And I'm reminded of the words of Jeremiah:

וְדִרְשׁוּ אֶת-שְׁלוֹם הָעִיר, אֲשֶׁר הִגְלֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה, וְהִתְפַּלְלוּ בַעֲדָהּ, אֶל-יְהוָה:  כִּי בִשְׁלוֹמָהּ,יִהְיֶה לָכֶם שָׁלוֹם

"Seek the peace and prosperity of the city ... pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." 29:7

Looking northeast towards the US Bank Tower. With all due respect to the Wilshire Grand, the US Bank Tower is - and remains - the tallest building in Los Angeles. In assessing it's total height, the Wilshire Grand decided to it's large spire as part of the building, rather than just number of floors. Which is kind of a cheat. Spires don't count, at least in my opinion.

 My son, who just finished up his first year at San Diego State, and I enjoying the view.

Our family hung out for about 10 minutes, and then headed back to the car.

We cut through Koreatown to the apartment where we were staying. In some ways this building really feels like typical LA. Here's a link to a previous post on Koreatown from back in 2012.

We opted for an AirBnB, located in Beverly Hills, located about a block from Wilshire & San Vincente. A two bedroom, two bath apartment was the same price as a moderate hotel room - so why not?

While everyone else wanted naps (this was a vacation, after all) I decided to explore the area a bit. 

This is a block from our apartment, on the corner Wilshire Blvd and San Vincente, walking east towards the Miracle Mile district. 

Los Angeles is in the process of extending the Purple Line subway from Koreatown to Beverly Hills, and on to Westwood (here's a link to a map). The first segment from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/La Cienega - directly underneath where I was walking - is scheduled to open in four years.

The Petersen Automotive Museum, on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. With over 300 exotic and historic automobiles, the Petersen is one of the world's largest collections of automobiles.

The exterior of the museum got an extreme makeover a in 2015. Here's a link to some photos from a previous visit (and it's original exterior).

The La Brea Tar Pits, located on the corner of Wilshire and Curson. Similar to the Natural History Museum, the La Brea Tar Pits Museum was also offering a free day (the first Tuesday of the month). More next time.

© 2019