Category Archives: places

Hollywoodland: Because no one calls it that anymore

The sign used to say Hollywoodland and one of the major reasons movie companies moved there back in the day was to avoid being sued by Thomas Edison. Neither of those little details really matter to anyone today, which makes them just like all of Hollywood in the mind of this author. IMG_7083That isn’t really true, the part about me not thinking Hollywood matters. I love movies. I also hate movies. It all depends on the movie. But for the most part, movies are imaginary, and by extension most of the reasons to admire actors are equally fictitious. Except for maybe Indiana Jones. Dr. Jones, who was also Han Solo, is just a little too admirable in my imagination to be squashed by reality. I refuse to think that Indiana Jones does not in some place or in some time, exist.IMG_7089

What surely exists is the industry that has grown up around moving pictures and the very real dollars produced thereby. Lots of dollars. Billions of dollars. Lots of billions.

But Hollywood has also created art. Art and money each wield influence inn the world. Together they can move the societal needle, forward or back, left or right, true influence.IMG_7085

Moved to tears, moved to the streets, moved to the penthouse, or maybe movements in the outhouse. Hollywood has done all of those things. No matter how you feel about the place or what it produces, it is above all else, a spectacle.IMG_7088

Spectacle is what it is. It isn’t necessarily good or bad. It can be either. It just is. I have opinions… but really, I’m fine just spectating.IMG_7084

 

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Where Your Fortune is Created:Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

It wasn’t till after we left that it occurred to me that for a couple bucks they probably would have let me write my own fortune to have stuffed inside a cookie. Tip to anyone considering a proposal of marriage; visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory located in a tiny alley in San Francisco’s Chinatown.IMG_5998

In Ross alley is a little shop about the size of my living room, where dreams are created. Well, maybe not dreams, but rather the little cookies you get with your sweet and sour chicken. I had never considered how these little treats are made, just as I have never really considered how my iPhone or a kazoo are constructed, but when confronted with an opportunity, why not?IMG_5991

There ya go. That’s pretty much it. A circular conveyor belt with a hundred Forman Grill like hot plates spins around spitting out hot pancakes that are peeled off the press and the folded around a slip of pre printed paper  into the shape of a croissant. You walk in, go “huh.” Then buy a bulk bag of cookies and go on your way. That is my style of learning.IMG_5736Going there is worth the trip and being there is even better. I find it incredibly American. American in that it is very much IN America, but in a place where a large number of people have come from somewhere else in hope of a better life. That is American.IMG_5990

What is also very American is gawking at the the culture of others without any real back story or true cultural understanding. That was my part in the whole visit. I played my part well and I am through and through American. Below I present exhibit A:IMG_5993

I appreciate drying your laundry the cheapest way possible and I don’t mind dried fish, but combining the two displeases me. I would guess that were it otherwise I would displease most of the people who might sit next to me on a bus.

But that is my opinion and this is America where we are each entitled to our own opinions… and smells.IMG_5997

 

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How Can You Look at Stars When the Building is So Cool? Griffith Observatory

Just a note, don’t go when it is even close to convenient, you are in a hurry, don’t want to walk a million miles, or don’t want to be with other people, because this place is popular. It is also worth it.IMG_6869

The observatory is built on Mt. Hollywood, the same one that has the big Hollywood sign, in 1935. From its inception it was open to the public for free. It was meant to make astronomy approachable and accessible to the masses and the masses show up en masse.IMG_6873

The copper domes really do house legit telescopes that aid real-life science (see what I did there?). Smart people doing smart things that I don’t understand, work there. I didn’t work there, I just looked there.IMG_6878The city, the sky, and the building. The art deco scalloped smooth lined solid colored building, the pastel fading multicolored shapeless sky, and the staccato jumbled lit up city.

You can only go there when you have some time.IMG_6870

Only go there when all those crowds and lack of parking and walking don’t matter. Because despite all that, you have to go.IMG_6875

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MILK: and Macarons…. Oooooooh Macarons

I’ve been to MILK twice, once on a weekday, the other a weekend, and on both occasions the line stretched out the door. I haven’t been to Disneyland but I hear they have the same problem over there. I also hear that just as at MILK, the waiting is worth it.IMG_7076

They make Nutella ice cream. How can you argue with that? They make and sell all sorts of baked goods, sandwiches, cupcakes, and pretty much whatever it is that you hadn’t thought existed but once you do know- you need it.IMG_7074

For instance, macarons. I have heard of macarons. What I had not considered was making ice cream sandwiches out of macarons. what I had also not considered was a lime hibiscus and  clove soda. I now love both of those things.IMG_7062

Going to MILK every day is not an option for me, and not recommended for anyone. Not recommended in the same way that gluttony, overindulgence, and food abstinence are not recommended.

Of course taking recommendations is not recommended… unless it involves macaron ice cream sandwiches and lime, hibiscus, and clove soda.IMG_7079

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That Place Looks Crazy: Walt Disney Concert Hall

Imagine a soda can with no label, no colors, just metallic silver. Now imagine you took this chromey can and smashed it, bent and twisted it all up. Then… imagine that metal mess was about five stories tall. If you cannot imagine such a think don’t worry, I know where you can see one; and it is awesome.IMG_7255

The place opened in 2003, was designed by a famous guy (Frank Gehry), and is the home of the LA Philharmonic. all of those things are true, and perhaps relevant, but what is important, is that it is a wonder to look at.IMG_7248

I want to write about it, tell you stuff, but its all blah, blah, blah, when what is important, is what you see.IMG_7252

 

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Credit Where Credit is Due: Pop ‘n Sweets

I have not been know to look for nice things to say about Provo Utah. Not wanting to be a generally negative person I have often kept my mouth shout when wanting to say bad things about the place. I find myself now in a position where I have no choice… I must praise the place. Or at least I must praise one place that is in that place.

Pop ‘n Sweets.IMG_6344

They have nice story about how they came to be and who owns the place but that doesn’t mater much in this case. This candy and soda shop could have been founded by the devil and it would still be worth the visit (incidentally the devil has been outlawed in Provo so it couldn’t have been founded by him).IMG_6304

Long story short, they have soda. All kinds of soda. Soda on tap, Soda from Austria, Soda that’s funny, soda that is sophisticated, a lot of soda. I like that. They have candy too but I’m not so much into wasting calories on that when there is a red capped Blenheim ginger ale to be had.IMG_6339

Or perhaps a mate mojito? A birch beer maybe? Whatever your flavor grab one and have a seat at the counter or in a booth.IMG_6318

This place was good enough that I wanted to hang around… in Provo. I want to go again… to Provo. I can’t believe I ‘m typing this. I’m being forced to shift my fundamental belief system. My foundation is crumbling.

Crumbling into a sweet, fizzy, bubbly, wonderful pool of soda.IMG_6320

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My Imagined Mediterranean: Sausalito

The buildings, stacked one upon another, clinging to the sides of hills that drop directly into the sea, were just as I had imagined them. The winding road at the bottom of the hill, just above the waters edge, was faced with small cafes and clothiers. Everything was exactly as I would have hoped for in any romantic Mediterranean town.

I have of course, never been to the Mediterranean. IMG_6003

Sausalito is just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. It is small. Small enough that Google chrome, which recognizes the need to capitalize the words “Golden Gate”, insists that the word is a misspelling of an unknown word. I insist it is a wonderful place that I should visit more often.IMG_5999

I’m not sure exactly why I should visit, it is mostly full of people waiting in line to catch the ferry and weekend cyclists in unsafe numbers, but I liked it. Probably I liked the idea of it.

Such is the case with most things; I like the idea of them.IMG_5981

Sausalito has lots of yachts and I like the idea of sailing yachts. It has an expansive and expensive men’s clothier in which I found nothing I could afford. Or at least I found nothing I was willing to afford.IMG_6049

But I liked the idea of buying something there and boarding my sailboat for a leisurely cruise across the bay with my well dressed friends who all tell wonderfully intelligent stories while snacking charcuterie.IMG_5946

 

But reality is that I don’t own a boat, most of my friends prefer hamburgers, and my clothing normally qualifies as acceptable rather than fine. I’m okay with reality. Reality is my favorite.IMG_5979

But… How great would it be if my reality included: a sailboat, the time and ability to sail, a respectable clothing budget, a good tailor, a good cafe on every corner, more aged gouda, a trip to the Mediterranean, a restored 1967 Ford Bronco, a publisher, a pilot’s license…

and another trip to Sausalito.

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Pigs and Cheese in San Francisco

The Ferry building in San Francisco is in some ways, exactly what it sounds like. You can ketch the Ferry to Sausalito there, or if you are like me, you can catch lunch.

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Crowded, yet surprisingly sterile, the hungry masses are provided a wealth of options. Tacos, burgers, and bears Oh my. I did see tacos and burgers, I got carried away with the bears bit, ya know, alliteration and all. With so many choices one can pretty much do as they please, and what pleased me, pleased me in a big way.

First, How can anyone pass up a sign with the tagline “Tasty Salted Pig Parts”?IMG_5705

I did not know that other word but it did not matter. It may just be a stall in a glorified food court, but in the case of Boccalone, the glory was well deserved. I have not been to any other food court vendor that had a locker in which it was aging its own meat. Besides, any place that can stay in business only doing one simple thing (salting pig parts), is likely doing it rather well. They are doing it well.IMG_6022

Having obtained a pile of prosciutto carried like a snow cone I walked around the corner for part two of lunch. Cheese. Good cheese.

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Faux western kitsch normally repels me like a cattle prod, but this bucking bronco logo-ed shop had aged Gouda in the isles. Aged Gouda fixes everything. So does brie, Gruyere, and Stilton. The Cowgirl Creamery is better than their logo shtick implies. IMG_6020

There was a line full of the lunch crowd standing at their window and I joined them. The chalk board told me I had my choice of brie and apple, ham and Swiss, or any variation of cheese and bread. I went with a grilled cheese and fig jam.

I chose correctly.IMG_6024

 

 

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Vegas

Doctors and scientists agree that an elevated body temperature is particularly dangerous in that it can cause permanent neurological damage. If a human body reaches 100.4 degrees the person officially has a fever and should report to the nearest hospital for treatment. It was 106 degrees yesterday in Las Vegas.IMG_5563

At nine in the morning I step through the plaster facade of Paris onto the sidewalk but have to stop short to avoid colliding with a shirtless man drinking something red from a fishbowl.

IMG_5567He was walking by himself but he was in no way alone. There were plenty of strange objects, all of them large, filled with colorful liquids being carried and sipped from, by all sorts of partially clothed people. The people came in all sorts and all ages and in large numbers. They were speaking German, Spanish, and drunken gibberish.

IMG_5565“Yeeeeeeeeah! Duuuuuude. Check em out broh!” “Heeeeey, whoooooooie! Yeah watch me drop it!” “Whoo-o whoo-o! Whoo-o, whoo-o!” Such poetry being shouted by middle aged divorcee’s or twenty somethings from Ohio State sounds pretty much the same. No matter how it looks or sounds, the prevailing impression is that those saying it are sweaty.IMG_5555Nine in the morning or nine at night it doesn’t matter. At both times it is 106 degrees outside and everyone is either drunk or trying to get there. Inside it isn’t quite as hot.

IMG_5564I was there to have dinner with the Teamster’s. When I arrived I was shown to a table with two six foot tall blonde women who said they were sisters, a Jewish lawyer whose father was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, and an Ex-Mormon who worked in the dairy industry. No one thought our grouping remarkable in any way.IMG_5566After dinner I walked back through the maze of lights and bells towards my room. Groups wearing sashes and tiaras, or red hats and teddy bear sweaters, or suits with black shirts all gathered around various tables and machines shouting.IMG_5569One grey haired man sat at a machine holding a lit cigarette down at his waist. He was staring off toward nothing doing nothing and saying nothing, but everything around him was lit up and making noise.IMG_5570

Everyone there is trying to have a good time. I know this because the shouting, the billboards, and the gauntlet of salespeople are telling me so. They offer me free drinks, free admission to a striptease, a chance at winning $100,000. IMG_5572After the fifth encounter I simply stop responding. I just want to watch the fountains dance in front of the Bellagio or listen to some live music with something more than just a bass line.IMG_5571

A bunch of guys wearing bespoke suits are pausing to take pictures with women wearing sequined g-strings. I wave my hand aside as one of the ladies moves to step in front of me. I smile at her and shake my head no.IMG_5574

I’m in Vegas and everyone is here to have a good time. I’m ready to have a good time. Business is done so now its time to play. I’m not against fun. I’ve never thought of myself as boring or a prude but by ten o’clock I was headed for my room. I didn’t feel bad about it. I was ready for fun.

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The Size of the Nightmare: Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University was founded in 1899 as the West Coast’s first bible college. It started offering degrees in 1939.

Today the school, located a half hour East of Los Angeles, still has evangelical ties and all students take religion courses. Azusa has a student body of over 10,000 people making it the second largest evangelical student body in the country (next to Liberty University in VA).IMG_3899

Azusa Pacific also boasts the second best NFL running back to ever be a character in Nintendo’s Super Techmo Bowl (next to Bo Jackson).

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While mingling at a business event I saw a black man standing alone at a table. He wasn’t talking to passers by and those who passed did not appear to notice him. I knew no one there so I walked over to say hello. As I approached I recognized his face, but didn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t believe my eyes because the face I recognized belonged on the body of a giant, and this man was exactly my size. I do not consider myself giant.

IMG_3199I got close enough to read his name tag, we all wore gigantic name tags, and there it was, written in Times New Roman, “Christian Okoye”.

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Christian Okoye came to AzusaPacific directly from Nigeria. He went there on a track scholarship with hopes of making the 1984 Olympic team. When team selections id not go his way he looked around for something else to do and he landed on football. He did not know the game, but he knew how to run and he was a giant. This giant got drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and quickly earned the nickname the “Nigerian Nightmare”. It was disconcerting to meet a giant from your childhood and not only find him incredibly friendly, but also not so much a giant. Maybe he just looked bigger because I was 8 years old at the time.

I think he is the only nightmare to ever be associated with Azusa.IMG_3905

What is associated with the school is community service and teachers. The magazine Diverse Issues in Higher Education recognized APU as one of the nation’s top school’s in awarding degrees to racial minorities, particularly Latinos.

IMG_3904So apparently they aren’t only good at creating Nintendo legends but they do the whole college thing as well.IMG_3887

 

 

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