An Uprising in Watts We Can All Appreciate.

Watts, a neighborhood in LA, has a reputation among some as a dangerous place. So much so that when we looked up directions and reviews of the Watts towers we were told there is no parking, the neighborhood is dangerous and you should only go there with a paid tour. Don’t believe that.

I’m not exactly sure what Watts was like in 1921 when Sabato Rodia moved in, but it appears Rodia wasn’t satisfied with the place. Maybe he was bored, or just had a vision, I couldn’t say. But I do know what he did; he built something inspirational.

It was,or rather is, inspirational in that this guy, and really he was just some guy, a construction worker, took it upon himself to do something. If those towers that he built out of scraps and broken things was the result of boredom, awesome. He conquered his boredom.


If the towers grew out of some aspiration for greatness or achievement, wonderful. He achieved it (the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks). He didn’t contract someone to build him some towers, he didn’t move to somewhere towers already existed, he didn’t sit and pine for towers, he didn’t sit and wallow in boredom, he built towers.


Not everyone was cool with his towers. Well, mostly the neighborhood was cool with it but the establishment wasn’t. He didn’t have a permit. It would have been hard to apply for a permit especially since he had no plans before or during the building. He just kind of built it. He built over a span of 33 years. 33 years to build a complex system of concrete and re-bar towers standing 99 feet in the air.

The City of Los Angeles ordered the towers torn down.


But he didn’t do it. He persisted in not tearing down the towers till he was too old to argue and he simply “quit” the property and moved away. In 1959 a couple of actors bought the place with the intent of preserving it. LA is a town that respects its actors and by the late 50’s the whole world knew about these things, they were already icons.

They still stand.

They are there and they are worth going to see. Ignore the online whimpering from people who think there are parts of town that simply can’t be visited. The towers have survived there this whole time, you can survive an hour.


Filed under places

Mid Mod: Palm Springs and unmet expectations

I love design and style. I love the clean lines and angles of mid century modernism, but I now have a greater appreciation of how hard mid mod is to pull off without looking like an outdated gas station.IMG_6739

I think maybe it is because this particular aesthetic only works if the clean lines are accentuating other stuff that is equally cool. You have to go all in. Otherwise those clean lines just look like half baked, half finished, cheap construction.

I learned all of this while growing up in 1980’s suburbia but I realized it in Palm Springs.


So the above is the Edris house built in 1954. I like it. Well done Mr. Architect. I drove past it but did not go inside as someone lives there and they don’t know how awesome I am and consequentially did not invite me into their living room. A loss on both our parts.IMG_6704

I have no idea who owns this house, when it was built, or anything other than that the triangular roof stretching down to the ground, coupled with the straight horizontal wings works for me. It also makes me dislike the standard mailbox standing at the curb. Come on mailbox, your address is THAT and all you got is this? Disappointing.IMG_6686

Now this place is nice but maybe not all that remarkable till you realize it was built in 1936. Back then people drove big giant Buicks, wore fedoras sans-irony, and George Jetson hadn’t been born yet. Still, someone I’ve never met lives there now so we kept on driving.

And right about here, about the time we just drive past another place that is probably cool, I realized mid century modern isn’t all that hot when the later half of said century was spent recreating the mid part with no attention to style but solely because of speed and cost. That stuff is everywhere. There is a word for it I won’t use, but I will say it is done half-way and that ruins everything.

That is how I felt about Palm Springs when I didn’t get to go inside anything.IMG_6682

For instance Elvis used to live in this house. Him and Priscilla spent their honeymoon here. But they don’t live here now and since those days the 1970’s happened and consequentially this place feels kind of “meh”.IMG_6679

This place looks great. The orange chairs are a perfect place to sit while wearing white linen pants and a fitted pink button down. But maybe not a great place to have a sink full of dirty dishes or an overstuffed sofa.

I didn’t get to sit in the chairs and my own apartment has a sink filled with dishes and driving around in the heat I didn’t really feel anything. I was never immersed and this style doesn’t work if you only skim the surface.IMG_6703

Not sure I’ll head back out there without a real good reason… like maybe a dinner party with a dress code. at the end of the day, the below was the most interesting thing in town. Sadly, everyone there thought kava was a word for coffee.


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La Michoacana: Culinary benefits of being bilingual; which I am not

Politicians can argue all they want about who needs to speak what language where, all I know, is that I need to learn Spanish. I recently found myself in a palace of frozen treats, all of which looked delicious, and I had no idea what most of them were as I am bound by my American monolingual shortcomings and couldn’t read the menu. I have a tongue that is linguistically one note but spread with adventurous buds.IMG_6658

While in Riverside I just typed “ice-cream” into my map app, and it gave me Cold Stone, Wendy’s, and La Michoacana. I yelped the one I had never heard of and thanks to a five star review I hit “navigate”. There was no such navigate button once I arrived and my senses were overloaded with new sights and new words.IMG_6672

Some things I could read, like chile, queso, and pepino. All of these were written above tubs of ice cream. Chile, cheese, and cucumber flavored ice cream? Cheese ice cream is surprisingly good. Cucumber ice cream is fantastic.IMG_6675

Standing over a counter transfixed by new ideas with what little words I could figure, I saw the family next to me receive a take out tray piled high with… I have no idea what it was. The worker drizzled something over the top of it, handed the woman a fork, and with a smile, said woman went and sat down. Experiencing an unusual moment of bashfulness, I could not muster the courage to ask either the family or the employee, what that pile of whatever it was, was. Instead I pointed into the case and asked, “is that a mango chili popsicle?” The worker said it was and I said “por favor,” handing her my MasterCard.IMG_6669


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Just a Little Bit More: reluctantly

Seeing is believing. Television producers know this. So do newspapers, this is why they print photographs. I am not, nor was I before last weekend, one of those conspiracy theorists who think the moon landing was staged; I am one of the reasonable folks, a believer if you will. But I learned something all over again last weekend when I got to see firsthand something I already believed in. I learned it against my will. I had other plans. Recreational ones.IMG_6347

I had already done my part, I was done. A sign-up sheet had been passed around in Sunday School and I could see that there were plenty of people in the room to fill the available slots. I signed my name on an open space and passed the clipboard on to the person next to me. I silently nodded my head up and down showing approval of the great work to which I had just committed myself. Yes, I am a good man and I had just signed up to do my part.

My part was to drop off empty grocery bags on people’s porches for a community food drive. I was given a route of approximately 200 homes and a stack of bags to deliver over one weekend. The home owners were informed that if they wished to participate in the food drive to simply fill the bag with non-perishable food items and leave it on their curb the following Saturday. There was another group of people, who signed their names on a different space on the sign-up sheet, who would then drive around the neighborhoods picking up filled bags of food to then go drop off at the municipal food pantry. This food would then be given out to those in need, homeless, unemployed, or just plain hungry.

I loved the idea. This was, and shall I say is, a great example of religious congregations working together with municipalities, to involve the general community in helping the needy. Sold! I’m a believer. I read the flier and was all in, no printed picture or images needed. Done.IMG_5968

Done, just like I was after dropping off 189 paper grocery bags. I didn’t do it all alone; I made my two young daughters help. They were fairly willing participants. We all drove to the assigned neighborhood, I gave them each a stack of bags, and told them the first one to finish their side of the street was the winner. The prize was only a round of applause but they weren’t disappointed. The feelings felt from participating in something good were reward enough. Good kids, good dad, all done. Nice job.

The next Friday I found myself carrying a rolled up blanket to a neighborhood outdoor movie. I had been looking forward to this Friday, not for the movie, but because it meant it was almost Saturday. I was especially happy for this Saturday because I had no plans and a green light from the powers that be to spend my plan-less time doing only what I pleased. I was beholden to no one and I meant to capitalize in some unplanned fashion even if it meant doing nothing. I worked hard that week and I had earned it. I wandered around the grassy area till I found an open spot next to my good friend Gary and his family. I spread out the blanket, gave my small people permission to go eat some unhealthy things, and got a fabulous idea.

“Gary! What are you doing tomorrow morning!”

I blurted out the question the moment inspiration hit me. Hiking. We should go hiking. Gary is always looking for something to do, I needed some recreation, he’s a cool guy, perfect scenario.

Gary looked up from his blanket and gaggle of kids and replied, “I’m finishing up that food drive. Why? You wanna come help?”

My inspired idea popped and fizzled like “get well” balloon at a funeral.

“Um-Uh-Oh yeah. Ha, ha, no. Ya see we dropped off bags last weekend. We already helped. No, uh, I was gonna see if you wanted to go hiking in the morning.”IMG_6372

I had forgotten that Gary was the guy who had been asked to coordinate this whole food drive project. He didn’t really volunteer for it but didn’t bat an eye when they asked him to do it. He didn’t frown or fret at my stammering, he just smiled and declined the hiking and repeated his invitation for me to help.

My mind quickly retorted “Dude. Didn’t you just hear me? I said we already did our part. We are done man!” While this was in my mind, something, perhaps the memory of my mother’s advice to be nice, it didn’t come out of my mouth. Nothing came out, I just sort stood with an empty stare. He took opportunity of the pause to cheerfully explain that there was still plenty of work to be done, he had dropped off bags too but wasn’t sure there would be enough people at the food pantry to handle the response so he planned to show up there just in case. He said it the same way you recount math; matter of factly, no guile. It caught me off guard. He didn’t make me feel bad, or even guilty, though I did feel a little bit of that as I stared at my deflated hiking idea on the ground, but it didn’t come from him. It came from me.

I said yes.

He said he would pick me up at 10.

The next morning at 10:15 I saw it. I saw it and I believed.IMG_6371

Cars started showing up with bags full of groceries and drivers full of smiles. Some cars came with two bags, a couple came with twenty. I pitched in carrying bags and cans inside where the food was separated, organized and shelved. People would drive up, others would scurry about carrying and sorting, and the stack of food grew and grew. Gary was counting the bags as they came in, comparing that number to the number of empty bags distributed. Five percent. Five percent is the ratio of how many people donated compared to the number of bags left on porches. Gary had hoped for ten. By the time we wrapped up that percentage had grown to seven. In that seven percent I saw something I would have missed had I gone up the mountainside as planned.IMG_6369

I saw potential for the greatness of humanity.IMG_6374

I saw it in the smiles of the drivers delivering donated food. I saw it in the stack of food that filled the racks inside the pantry. I saw it in Gary and his clipboard. I got to see that if you drop off empty bags on the porches of strangers, they will in fact fill it with food to give to the homeless. That is amazing. I did not consider seven percent is a huge return, until I considered the amount of food that percentage produced. It was a lot of food. For and from strangers! It was wonderful. It was wonderful and I almost missed it. I almost missed it because I considered myself to already be a believer. I didn’t need to see. I wasn’t Thomas and I had already done my part. Oh, but how glad am I that I got to see. How glad am I that Gary gave me that little push to do a little more.

Before he pushed me, by just inviting, I think I was experiencing a seven percent return of goodness on that food drive. My kids had participated, we got the bags onto doorsteps, it was good. That seven percent of good didn’t compare to the good I felt and saw Saturday morning. All because Gary gave me a chance to do just a little more than I signed up for, just a little more than just my part. I saw it and my belief went to a new place.IMG_6373

Imagine if all those neighborhoods had done just a little bit more. Or maybe if they could just see what I saw. Imagine what the whole city could do with just one more little invitation. Imagine the country or the world if we were all asked to go just a little bit past that seven percent, if everyone could see that good that could be done. It would almost be enough to make me think we would never need to do such a project ever again.

If just a little. A little bit.



Filed under events

Trapped in a Room, on Purpose, to See if you Can Escape: its for fun

So you and your friends have battled it out on the Monopoly board, Life, RISK, maybe even Balderdash. You have conquered the world, settled Catan, and need something a little more… something a bit more.  You want something a little more… real?IMG_6106

You watched Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Laura Croft then afterwards found yourself unsatisfied with your suburban Southern California life?

I have found a solution for you.IMG_6115

So there is this place where you can go get locked in a jail cell with 5-10 of your closest friends and then as you watch a TV screen count down 59 minutes, use your wits and some very well hidden clues to bust outta’ the slammer.

Turns out this is a “thing”.IMG_6120

I didn’t know it was a thing till a friend of ours invited us along to go get locked in a jail cell with them. Why would we ask questions to such an invitation? When someone invites you to a jail break you say yes first and then ask questions later. Turns out this jail cell is located in an office park near Rancho Cucamonga and is run by a guy named Rich.IMG_6117

For a very reasonable price Rich will lock you in a cell, or if you are more of the comic book sort, lock you in room full of riddles ala Batman and the Riddler, and then watch you on his security screen as you test your wits trying to escape.IMG_6105

Escape is surprisingly fun. And not as easy as you might expect. There were hidden clues, red herrings, moments of triumph, and a whole lot of moments where you find yourself praying you are never trapped by a villain in a giant room of riddles with your life on the line. Cuz this junk is hard.IMG_6107


We made it out with a little less than 8 minutes left on the clock. I am told it is the record. Consider the gauntlet thrown down.

I’m also considering bringing my whole office there as a team building exercise without telling them I’ve already done it. They will be mesmerized with  my clue deciphering abilities and in order to capitalize on my genius I will quickly be promoted to emperor.

What could possibly go wrong?IMG_6103 600 N. Mountain Ave, Upland, CA 909-360-9806



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Donut Friend: your new BFF

The first thing you should know about Donut Friend, is when they are open. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday; 7am-10pm. Friday and Saturday they are open 7am to midnight. You need to know this because no matter where you live, you need to go to Donut Friend and it would be a shame to get there and find the doors locked.

Not that I know anyone who has ever done that, I’m just sayin’.IMG_3210

Once you are there, and they are open, you order just about anything you could ever want. They may even have things you didn’t know you wanted, but once you see it, now you want it.

For instance, we all know that we want a traditional donut filled with lime cream, topped with vanilla glaze and graham cracker crumbs. What I didn’t know I wanted was cream cheese, strawberry jam, and fresh basil inside a traditional donut, topped with vanilla glaze and balsamic reduction.

I’m a sucker for balsamic reduction.IMG_3137

Should you want to create your own concoction, you can. Not only can you, but the staff, at lest the ones who were there when I went, every time I have “went”, has been the sort of helpful folks who appear to like what they are doing when they are serving you sugary cakes topped with maple glaze and bacon.

Who wouldn’t be happy serving that?




I know, I know, vegetarians wouldn’t be happy serving that. But not to fear, if one is not only vegetarian but vegan, they got options for you too.

I do say “you” because I am not one. But some of my best friends are. Like Donut Friend. Donut Friend is one of my best vegan friends.


These plants are not donuts, they are decor. They have decor because they are located in Highland Park, which is newly cool, and to fit in you must have decor.





But you come for the donuts.





Filed under food

Dog Haus: They can spell it however they like because the food is great

So this place is kind of a chain and I am normally not a fan of such things but contrary to what I admit to most people, I am sometimes wrong.IMG_8885

All right, it isn’t kind of a chain, it is a full on chain with something like 73 locations in the works. Not all of them are open yet, including one announced for my neck of the woods, but I anticipate its opening with bated, salivating, breath.Yes, I actually want this chain to exist.

Because those dogs are hot!

I think the key is the bun, because they aren’t buns, they are King’s Hawaiian rolls. Place on top of said “bun” a skinless all-beef dog, followed by all sorts of variations including fried eggs and bacon. Or maybe Thai sauce and peanuts. Or simply top the dog with glowing beams of sunshine from heaven. Because that is what they serve.

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