Category Archives: places

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.


1 Comment

Filed under places

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



Filed under events, places

Balboa Pier: Newport

I do not live in a beach town but as Californians we are required to visit the beach regularly. When others in our environs learn we are headed to the beach they unfailingly ask, “Which beach do you go to?” This is not worded, or meant, as an inquiry to this instance, but rather a broader declaration.

I refuse to declare a beach affiliation.

But we did recently visit Balboa Pier in Newport. It was nice.IMG_4723

“It was nice” is no sort of manifesto. It isn’t even a resounding endorsement. But the place was in fact “nice” and if you please I will now walk backwards into a more meaningful review.

You can park all day for $10.IMG_5719

California doesn’t mess around with those silly beach tags like New Jersey. The beaches are quite literally a “free for all”. Whats not to like about that. Nice, right?IMG_5648

The Pier itself houses the original Ruby’s Diner. Not a culinary powerhouse by any means but an Orange County staple none-the-less. You can eat your burger while sitting on the rooftop deck watching the sun set over the beach. That would make anything taste great no matter who cooked it.IMG_5727

If cold water and waves that break right on the sand aren’t your favorite you can always head for the boardwalk.  There you are treated to arcades, shaved ice, and carnival style rides like a bucking shark. Who doesn’t want to ride a bucking shark?IMG_5591

None of us wanted to ride the bucking shark but we did ride what was marketed as “possibly” the longest Ferris wheel ride in the world. It was indeed lengthy.IMG_5647


With full bellies we were ready to test the scientifically proven tale that one must wait an hour after eating before swimming to avoid certain drowning. We thought it a safe place to test this tale since there were at least 7 million junior lifeguards on the beach for summer camp. I found myself wondering how many 9 year olds it would take to save me if I were to go under for the third time.IMG_5721

Turns out I am too naturally buoyant to find out. No loss. I’m satisfied stating that Balboa Pier in  Newport is Nice.


Filed under places

Gettin’ Greek at the Getty

I dislike Vegas for its imitative quality. Venice is not in Nevada. With this in mind we skeptically headed to Malibu to visit an Italian villa. Let me state openly now, that the Getty Villa, while patterned after something else, is its own thing. That place is legit.IMG_5113

Free is indeed my favorite price and I’ve been told you get what you pay for but in this case, the public gets what Oil tycoon J. Paul Getty paid for. IMG_5345

I will not run down a list of everything in the collection, including a ceremonial shield left in the Alps by Hannibal, you can find more informed lists in plenty of other places, but I will say that by the end of the day the kids said, “Well Dad, its okay and all but I’m just tired of looking at nekkid booties.”


There were naked bodies in marble, clay, and also silver. I had not considered silver. There was a mummy, some frescoes, and gardens. There was also a restaurant, an amphitheater, and a view of the Pacific. It is a place dedicated to beauty in multiple forms.

And the place nails it.IMG_5340

Frida Khalo jokes aside, there were examples of Greek comedy. There were no current corollaries.IMG_5355

History in marble, history in bronze, the present in fountains and grape vines, an afternoon well spent.
IMG_5165And then some more:IMG_5117



1 Comment

Filed under places

Where the Streets Have No Names: Joshua Tree

A good friend of mine took a trip down to our neck of the woods to visit two Disneylands; the one in Anaheim for his kids, and the one in Joshua Tree for him.


He climbs both cliffs and mountains. He climbs so much he built a climbing wall in his house. I also climb the walls of my home but only in a figurative suburban stagnation sort of way.IMG_0755

I do well when right in the middle of everything, or the middle of nowhere. It is those in between places that cause me trouble. Maybe it is because my mind and heart spend so much time in the middle ground that my body wants to be in a place my ideology refuses to go.

Joshua Tree National Park is beautifully nowhere.IMG_0719
Being nowhere doesn’t mean you do nothing. You always have to do something.

Maybe that is why the in between spaces give me trouble. Nothing there feels like you are really doing anything. It is all relative. When in New York, there is so much going on everywhere that you can just coast right along. Everything everywhere is something. The first time I saw Paris I unexpectedly fell in love because everywhere I looked was something. Not just something but something recognizable, something fantastic, something other places (Vegas) try to imitate. Something to see and do is everywhere.IMG_0796

When you are nowhere, doing anything, even just walking, becomes something in relation to your surroundings. The Bonneville Salt Flats, a giant stretch of flat nothingness, makes even the most insignificant person feel like a focal point; because while there, you are the focal point. There is nothing else.

In between, where strip malls live, nothing feels like anything. You have to get in your car and drive to go anywhere, and when you get there, you don’t feel like you have really travelled. If you don’t drive anywhere and decide to stay at home, or just in one place, there will be things all around you and still, nothing will happen.


Hence volition.

When in between one must do what none of us, at least not I, want to do. We must summon our own motivation, an inner compulsion. Like a rocket. A boat in a river doesn’t need someone to paddle; it will easily go with the current. A Rose in the desert doesn’t need to outshine anyone. It is the only thing shinning. A Rocket must have some inner propulsion to launch itself from a sedentary position into space and that is hard to do. Rocket scientists are a cliché for a reason.IMG_0716

While in Joshua Tree I did not launch into orbit but I did climb up a rock. I didn’t climb very far, but climbing at all was more than I had done the week before. I think my friend was the key. In fact maybe friends, or at least other people, are the key to volition. He called and invited me. I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. Even if I had gone I wouldn’t have climbed. You see I don’t have the equipment or the know-how.  Thanks to him calling I was able to do.

I wonder how many other things work that way?IMG_0707



Filed under places

Mission San Jose’

In 1797 George Washington turned the Presidency of the United States over to John Adams who had just defeated Thomas Jefferson in the election. At the other side of the continent, which wouldn’t be duly “explored” by Lewis and Clark for another nine years, a bunch of Spanish folks were building stuff. The stuff they were building were churches and buildings called missions. Also, by “they” I should note the Spaniards weren’t the one’s doing the building. Indians were doing the work and in Fremont California the Ohlone people were hard at work building Mission San Jose’.IMG_6046

The Ohlone weren’t Catholic, but they were less hostile than the folks living over in the San Ramon Valley, so building began.


By the time Andrew Jackson was president Mission San Jose’ was wealthy. It was also no longer Spanish but Mexican. Not longer after California became Mexico, the mission became state property.


It remained state property till it became American, and Abraham Lincoln gave the mission back to the Catholic Church. So the place was first Ohlone, then Spanish Catholic, then Mexican, then American, then Catholic, and now… it belongs to tourists.



Leave a comment

Filed under places