Category Archives: places

Lake Arrowhead

 

It struck me as the sort of place where on would say “out-of-doors”. The weather didn’t really let us spend much time outside but it did feel out of doors. Maybe “outdoorsy”, but anyone who reads Outside Magazine, or climbs mountains, or kayaks great distances, or wears Gore-Tex, would probably not call it outdoors.

There was little to no dirt involved. In this instance I was happy about that.

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Lake Arrowhead is tucked up in the mountains near Big Bear and also near about a bazillion people down in L.A. It is also at the top of some incredibly winding roads that are propped up against cliffs by stilts which encourages most of those bazillion people to stay home.

Their loss.

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We only stayed a couple nights. It was cold outside. It rained. It was wonderful.

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The wood paneled boats of yesteryear’s luxury movie shoots were all tucked somewhere else waiting for the summer. The tourists were doing the same. But the chef, the filet, and the stuffed portabello mushrooms with balsamic glaze were there. Until I got there and now those things are happily gone.

Happy for me at least.

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The surrounding shops smack of 1950′s kitsch, complete with cartoon bears wearing suspenders. I’m not sure why, but here, I didn’t mind. It worked. I hate that stuff, but, it worked. Weird.

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Its called the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa. It is also called gorgeous.

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Walking in L.A.: nobody walks in L.A.

My oldest requested a day of shopping in L.A. for her birthday. Last year she asked for the same thing in New York.photo (3)

She stated matter-of-factly at dinner that her and Mom were going to visit all the major metropolitan centers. I asked, “What about you and me?”

She replied, “Come on Dad, we went to Wyoming.

And so, I present, the people of L.A. :

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Well, really… it was Santa Monica.IMG_3148

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The Mission Inn

Often times there are little bits of remarkable or fantastical things all around us and we pay them no mind. Sometimes it is because we aren’t paying attention. Other times we are simply unaware. We can look at things, walk right past them, and have no idea what they are. It isn’t always that we don’t stop to smell roses but more there is no one standing on the sidewalk saying, “excuse me, but were you aware that these plants right here are roses?”archesandstairs

That happened to me back in December.

I had a meeting to attend, a rather low key function, and I was emailed an address. Giving it no mind I punched it into the iphone/gps and hit the road. This is where it took me:

redumbrellasThis was not the office park I was expecting and I spent enough time wandering around in awe that despite arriving 30 minutes early, I was ten minutes late to the meeting.

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The Mission Inn was built, or rather begun, back in 1902. That was back in the day when people growing oranges starting making money in the venture and wanted nice stuff, or nice places, nearby. This place qualifies as nice.

fountainandonetreeThe place is a decadent maze of arches and corridors. It changes styles and directions without warning but never fails to be interesting. It contains a cathedral, a collection of bells from across the world, and has a small museum of artifacts and items collected through the years. It has also collected quite the guest list; Booker T. Washington, Cary Grant, Einstein, Houdini, Barbra Streisand, W.C. Fields, Helen Keller, Joseph Pulitzer, Carnegie, Susan B. Anthony, Bancroft, and me of course.floweredarches

Richard and Pat Nixon were married at the Mission Inn. Ronald Reagan honeymooned there. Presidents Taft, Roosevelt, Harrison, McKinley, Kennedy, Hoover, Ford and W. Bush have all visited. So did the Governator.

presidentialsealI had no idea the place existed. Not a clue. Well, mostly not a clue. I had heard about it, people had told me to go there before. I didn’t realize people had told me about it because no one told me to go see the hotel.

They all told me to go see the Christmas lights. “Hey did you go to that place in Riverside with all the lights?”IMG_1275

I went back later to look at the lights. They were impressive, maybe a little gaudy.

But if all you go for is to look at the lights, I would argue you only sniffed the stem.

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UCLA: its the UC located in LA

California’s system of public higher education can be a bit tough for an outsider to understand. UC vs. CU, vs. IDK. It doesn’t help that there are 23 different CU schools and 10 different UC schools.  Most outside the system don’t even know it’s a system.

But they all know about UCLA.UCLAarches

The University if California at Los Angeles. I had a couple Bruins in my cohort in grad school and they were almost insufferable in their love for their alma mater. I’m a generally jaded guy so this sort of vigor intrigues me. It bears investigation. (did you see what I did there?)

In said investigation a couple things have drawn my attention, the newly formed Lowell Milken Institute and the not so newly formed, but unique nonetheless, Critical Race Studies program, also in the school of law. No, I am not a lawyer… but I have friends who are. I am also obviously not a comedian… nor am I a friends with any.570_UCLA_School_of_Law

The Lowell Milken Institute studies entrepreneurism and law. I have no real desire to work for myself but I love the idea of chasing one’s own dreams. I’m a fan of that. I’m a fan of the idea of lawyers chasing dreams rather than ambulances. I get the impression the folks over at UCLA agree with me on that.

Critical Race Studies (CRT) was birthed in the practice of law but most schools do not have dedicated programs. UCLA claims it has the only one. I like the idea of the program not because this is all I care about, though many may make that argument, but I like that such things are studied in a practical way. Law is at its core practical. You go argue a theoretical idea, that then becomes, or strikes down, a law, and then people’s lives become structured by it.

Things that touch our lives, especially things like race, should absolutely be studied not just pontificated or legislated independent of ideas and research. Which I guess is why the law school isn’t just one blanket program. But I’m only guessing.

But all this being said, most everyone knows as much about the CRT or Lowell Milken centers as they do the California CU/UC system.

That’s okay, just remember, UCLA. (say that part out loud).

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the Barbershop

I have learned that the two places where I most naturally feel at home are the high mountain desert or Philadelphia. I’m not really in either of those places too regularly these days. I doubt my geography will change any time soon, or maybe ever, so I am open to adjustment.

I recently discovered a place that may help me do just that.

This discovery came right after I discovered, or realized, that my hair was slipping well past hip and right on into hippie. Time to hit the barber’s.

For the past eight or so years when in need of a trim I would walk down to the corner of the block and take a seat next to a grumpy old man at Ricco & Son’s Barbershop. Ricco was long since retired but son was still there.  Sitting in their chair getting a straight razor drug down my neck is where I learned my picture was in the local paper. It was that kind of place. They knew everyone by name, they read the local paper, and they would trim your eyebrows without warning you first.barbershop Riccos

It’s a little too far to walk there now.

I know of another place nearby that is trying to be what Ricco & Son’s naturally is, but it is expensive. Men’s cuts should not be expensive.

Men’s cuts should also not be at Great Clips, or similar places. But in a land of strip malls and Olive Garden’s what choice is there?

I stumbled upon the Barbershop.

That’s the name of the place, the Barbershop.IMG_2809

I find it amazing that a place that has only been open a year or so could be the first to claim that simple name. Perhaps it speaks to the newness of the whole neighborhood.

It is in a poorly located strip mall, mostly big box distribution centers for neighbors and the front door faces the parking lot and not the street. I drive past the place every day and look over at the lawn sign that reads “barbershop. Now open.” So I gave them a shot.

I’m glad I did.

The place is new so what it lacks in generational patina it makes up for in cleanliness. It had no real artwork on the walls, I have ideas for that, but the angled mirrors stretching both sides of the shop work quite well. When I sat to wait my turn I realized Handel’s Water Music was playing on the sound system. I know it was Handel because that is about the only classical piece I recognize. It was maybe amateur hour playing choosing that for the background music, but it was exactly what I needed that day. I relaxed a little bit. It told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about that one barber who approaches you with a “Yo I can do you up with the flyest cut on the streets!”

I have nothing against fly street cuts, they just don’t match my normal work wear.

They shined my shoes. For free. They insisted.IMG_2807

When it was my turn they listened to what I wanted. Not the head nodding that proceeds whatever cut the barber intended to give all along, but the kind of listening that included restating my request. I have learned the hard way that this isn’t universal at barbershops.

They did a good job. Better than passable. There was no eyebrow trim but there was a straight razor.

And there were beards.

You should go. I did and I will.IMG_2808

www.thebarbershoprancho.com

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The Plaza of Angels

While driving into the heart of L.A.  I imagined aspiring plastic actors, hipsters, and the Hollywood sign. What I got instead was this:two dancers

It made sense once I saw it, but I didn’t expect it.  There in LA’s historic plaza, in the open space flanked by statues of Catholic missionaries and Spanish conquistadors, were Aztec dancers. This was not the land of William Penn.

smoke and dancersLA’s history is normally thought of as marked off by stars on sidewalks and fourth grader’s building mission models. I prefer Olvera St.market

It has sandals made from tire treads, redundant booths filled with baja pullovers, and plenty of painted skulls.skulls

If you look close enough at the photo you will see that I did not look very close before I snapped the picture. I mostly just kept strolling. The place had atmosphere. It smells heavily of roasted chili, there was loud mariachi music, and most of all, there were luchador masks.masks

I have never claimed to be classy. I have also never sat through a pro wrestling match; televised or otherwise. I do not speak Spanish past a Sesame Street level, mi casa es su casa, but I stood in front of that wall transfixed by the idea of owning a Nacho Libre red and powder blue mask. I think I would look very much like Jack Black were I wearing a cape and jumping around in stretchy pants. I’m not sure this is a good thing, but at that moment it was what I wanted. I wanted it for about $5 but the guy at the cart wanted it for $10.

There will be no photos of me dancing in a cape, mask, and stretchy pants.

At least for now.

In the mean time I present something much tastier:flamesNo it is not DiBruno Bros., but anyone who turns up their nose at carne asada is much more insane than Hector Jimenez ever pretended to be.conquistador

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Cal Poly Pomona: don’t eat your Wheaties

Cal Poly Pomona has more than 22,000 students. More than 1,000 are international. I’m not sure how many people from Pomona they have, but I do know they have about 85 purebred Arabian horses.

front doorI’ll get to the horse in a minute.

The school was officially founded in 1938, but the ball had been rolling for some years before that.  The Voorhis school for boys started in 1928. It had some hard times during the depression, almost made it out the other end, but come 1938 the place was broke and gave control over to The California Polytechnic School in San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly Pomona was born.palmtreesandpointythingToday the school offers 94 different bachelor’s degrees, and boasts the largest civil engineering program in the United States. The University is part of the California State University system, claims Forest Whitaker as an alumni, and has a strange connection to breakfast.libraryIn a strange twist regarding Mr. Whitaker, Cal Poly Pomona almost gave Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe’s dictator) an honorary doctorate back in 1998. Students protested and the honor was never awarded. Skip ahead to 2006 and alum Forest Whitaker portrays that same Mugabe in a movie and won the academy award for best actor. Not sure all of that connection is something they boast about over there but “Go Broncos!”

kellogsThe breakfast connection goes back to 1925 when founder of the Kellogg company (the ones who make Cornflakes) started a horse ranch in Pomona. In 1949 Mr. Kellogg donated the ranch, along with its herd of Arabian horses, to the state of California. The State of California gave the ranch to Cal Poly Pomona. The old stables, and the horses are still there. Strangely enough the horses now have new stables and the old ones now house the offices of the student clubs. When I was there I strolled past the open stable door of the Greek Life organization and chuckled at an “Animal House” joke I thankfully never said out loud.

IMG_2461The school, like most California public schools today, is officially “impacted”. This means it is full. No room for any more students. No Mas! But they still accept applicants. You can get accepted but then you have to wait your turn for classes. This is what happens when your yearly tuition is $6,350. So while waiting to get your class, you will have both the time and money to go shopping.usedclothes

 

 

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Mount Rubidoux: the beginnings of repentance

Children have a way of naturally highlighting the deficiencies in their parents. Quite often these adult shortcomings are obvious to everyone except the specific parent in question. We parents get caught up in minutia, lunches, pick-ups, drop-offs, lost homework, lost shoes, bed time, sugar intake, oil changes, lessons, stop hitting, say thank you, and on, and on. It’s like running with your head down.nicetrail

Then your six year old, the one who spends no time thinking about any of these things, asks, “Dad, have you ever been on top of a mountain?”

“Uhhhh, yes. Of course I have. On top of a mountain is in fact my favorite place to be. I would rather be on top of a mountain than anywhere else.”

My answer was a little indignant. Of course I’d been on a mountain. I grew up on a mountain. If I were to divide up my identity like a pie perhaps two of the six slices would be labeled “mountain man”. It was not till that moment, sitting in a car in the suburbs, that I realized my child had never been on a mountain. She had never seen me on a mountain. Never sat on the summit and felt the joy of looking out over the world. The simultaneous peace and excitement felt when the ground drops away in all directions.balancing

I have never given that little girl that experience.

Or a pony.

Or a marshmallow the size of a house.

She is deprived.

“Are we on a mountain now?”

“No, we are in a Target parking lot.”

“I want to go on top of a mountain. Can I go on top of that mountain?”

She was pointing up at Mt. Baldy.

“Maybe once you get bigger you can go up there.”

“Have you been up there?”

“No… No I have not.”climbing

Not only have I not been on top of Mt. Baldy but I haven’t been anywhere for far too long. No, strike that. I haven’t been nowhere for a very long time. I had spent so long, and my children have spent their entire lives, living in a place that is so much somewhere that getting to nowhere is quite hard.

I had never taken the six year old to nowhere.

I do not live nowhere now. Nor do I live somewhere. We live in between.jumping

Repentance doesn’t happen overnight but you must start right away. My supplication for outdoor forgiveness began in small steps; steps about the size of six year old legs.

Mount Rubidoux in nearby Riverside has a summit of only 1,329 feet. It has a paved trail. It has a tower, a cross, a large American flag, and on one Saturday morning, a very proud little girl.IMG_1460

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“Your Mom Goes to College” ~Kip

Last year I visited 105 college campuses.

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Having reviewed the data I may have a bit of a geographical gap in my area of expertise.

I need to fix that.

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Sam Maloof Does Not Own a Basketball Team

I am not a woodworker but I know a grizzly bear who is.

sunburstHad I been a woodworker I might have known that I have recently relocated to the town where once lived one of the greatest woodworkers of all time. Now that last descriptor is all mine, neither the woodworker nor the grizzly made that claim, but I am sticking with it. The man won a MacArthur Fellowship for heaven’s sake. Most of us call the MacArthur Fellowship the “Genius Awards”. I saw hanging on a wall in his house, a legit certificate certifying that this woodworker was in fact a genius.

This woodworker, the famous one not the grizzly, was Sam Maloof.

Sam_Maloof_rocker_1994“No, this guy didn’t own the Kings. He made a rocking chair. Yes a rocking chair. So do you wanna go with me to his house or what? No, its a cool rocking chair. Shut up. Do you wanna go or not?”

I think that’s pretty much how the conversation went. While generally an idiot I am occasionally smart enough to listen to Kaleo Kala and we drove down the street to visit the house Sam Maloof. Good heavens am I glad I did because this guy, this carpenter from Chino, if judged by his house, was the coolest man to ever live.

Okay that may be an overstatement, but his house is almost exactly what I wish for when I drift off to my happy place.porch

Its not just the house, its everything about the house. Its everything in the house. It is a house that became a museum the day the inhabitant passed away. This means that this guy created a space and place to live, and did it so well, that everyone else wanted to come and see it. And so we did.

When I say created I mean he built the house. He designed it bit by bit, adding on to it with time and when funds became available. It isn’t a box to live in, because it grew with time, grew out of his mind, it became this organic living thing. It became… interesting. I crave interesting.

Interesting was everywhere in that place.bell tower

The furniture was all custom, the art on the walls was all original, and every item had a story behind it. It looked good. It was comfortable. It was interesting and t was real.

Real. Real like the Navajo rugs were obtained from a Navajo down on the reservation. The bell up on that bell tower was salvaged from an old church down in New Mexico. The kachina dolls were from a Hopi not a factory. Well, except one kachina that he made himself. But the idea that he made one adds to the interest of the item. There was pottery from Egypt, that he got in Egypt, African masks that he got in Africa, and the most beautiful wood canoe I have ever seen hanging from a vaulted ceiling. It was a real canoe, hand made by some guy but I don’t think it ever made it into a body of water. It was a useful item made so beautifully that it became art.

There were books everywhere. Family photos. Dishes and silverware that had never seen the inside of a big box store. There was stained glass, old things, new things. Straight lines and curved lines. Al of this stuff that spoke and told stories despite the man having passed.

Mr. Maloof and I never met. I know little of how he treated people, but I think I want to be him. Or at least I want to be the kind of guy who can create the sort of things he created, either directly or by assembly. Man did he do it right.

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Have you ever been to a candy store, when you don’t really like candy, but there was a kid there and it was fun to watch? I haven’t, but I’m guessing it would be much the same as seeing Kaleo at Sam Maloof’s house. Its like I, and most all of us, are ducks, then we go to Mr. Maloof’s house and I look over next to me and doggone it if Kaleo isn’t really a swan. Its fun to watch a swan in its element.

He was the only one in our tour group that was more excited to see the wood shed than the actual house.touch the wood

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