Monday, April 30, 2012

Photo Essay: Rubio Canyon, In the Wild



As much as I enjoy the solitude of the trail...



...more and more lately I've been taking guided hikes or joining MeetUp groups to explore areas that I'm not quite adventurous enough to tackle on my own.



All the hiking guides I'd read had warned me not to attempt Rubio Canyon - the original start of the Mt. Lowe Railway - on my own. I'd already taken one guided hike of the main trail, which didn't seem so bad, but I knew there were lots of other trails that dated back several decades, and other new trails being built.



On our guided hike on Saturday, we were walking in the wild, in parcels of land owned by the Arroyo Foothills Conservancy, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just outside the boundary of the Angeles National Forest, with some old barbed wire and fencing indicating property lines.



As we climbed up towards the power lines, I kept thinking, "There's no way I could've done this on my own," even though we weren't going that far or that high.





My ankles and shins are still scratched from tearing through the thickets and brush which, at most times, obscured the trail.















The trail was loosely marked by orange flags, periodically hung to indicate the general direction in which to head...



...but mostly, it was just a mass of green...



...until we started to head back down towards the debris basin and Camp Huntington, along an old dirt road...





...all the way down to the vestiges of the old boy scout camp, including a cabin built entirely out of telephone poles.





The hike was supposed to be an easy one, a mile in and out, but once we got there, our hike leader asked how much time we had and how much we wanted to do. And once you're there, once you've got a couple of hours to spare, it's hard not to just keep walking, and see everything there is to see, up and over the ridge.

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Photo Essay: Tile House, Hollywood Hills



In the Hollywood Hills stands a sprawling house built in the 1920s which has spent the last 40 years being covered in tile, inside and out.

Former pro wrestler and expert mosaicist George Ehling lives inside his masterwork with his Brazilian second wife, his musician son, and a couple of tenants. Touring the Tile House gives  rare opportunity to actually speak to a folk artist in his own habitat - one that, unlike a lot of other folk art whose hodge-podge aesthetic draws outcries from the neighboring community, is actually quite lovely.



From the pillars outside the garage doors at street level...



...to the entry stairway...







...to the outdoor fountain, which features one of George's first works, a bird...









...the house features tile drawn from a variety of sources - purchased from dealers, received as a donation (particularly from his compadres in the movie business), and scavenged from the garbage.



George, a self-proclaimed madman, at 85 years old, is still building scaffolding and climbing up the walls, not quite his former 10 hours a day, but still diligent in his work (though no longer aided by the carpentry skills of Harrison Ford, who used to live across the street).



Like many other folk artists, George's work is never done. His masterpiece is unfinished, a perpetual work-in-progress...



...which is probably what I can relate to the most.













George's Tile House is not to be mistaken for a different tile house in Venice, or any number of the other mosaic works of art in Southern California like Watts Towers or Bottle Village. It is still a private residence so special thanks to deLaB, Atlas Obscura, and Ford+Ching for access.

Further Reading:
California Home Took 40 Years and a Lot of Patience (CA Home + Design)

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Refuse to Worry

A couple weeks ago, I was having a pow-wow with my boss, and I said to her, "Do you realize almost every sentence you've said over the past few days has started with, 'I'm worried that...'?"

"I know..." she admitted. "But I am worried!"

And I said, "I refuse to worry."

At work, you can't worry that someone might make a mistake. They most certainly will.

You can't worry that you might forget something. You always do. Hopefully someone else will remember and remind you.

You can't worry that a product might not sell, a deal might have been negotiated poorly, or that someone won't do what you ask them to. It will or it won't. It wasn't or it wasn't. They will or they won't.

There's only so much you can do about it.

If you do the best job you can, institute a system of checks and balances, take notes and exploit technology to its fullest potential, the only thing left is to give yourself over to the Universe. Sometimes it rains. Your employees fail and lie to you to cover it up. Your vendors misunderstand your instructions. Your clients misconstrue your promises. Your agencies overpromise and underdeliver.

Worrying that they will doesn't soften the blow when they do.

And when they don't, you've worried for nothing.

So in the absence of worry, under the refusal of worry, you have plenty of time to learn, teach, communicate, double-check, appreciate, forgive, and thank those around you for a job well-done, despite a few imperfections along the way.

Related Reading:
Avoiding Worry

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Elevation: Sea Level



When I was in therapy in New York, my therapist thought my biggest problem was something she identified as "poisonous thoughts."

This generated out of a conversation in which I stated that the status quo in my life was unhappiness - misery, depression, disappointment - and that anything happy, pleasurable, joyful, satisfying was merely a fleeting experience, an exception to the rule.

In her opinion, my life wasn't bad (though some bad things had happened to me), I wasn't bad, but the way I thought about things was the worst of all.

At the time, I was the polar opposite of my father, who posited that happiness provided the baseline measurement, and that it could be defined by an absence of sadness. For him (a man I never knew to be depressed though I could've never faulted him for it given his job and marriage to my mother), life's slings and arrows were merely aberrations, interruptions in a pleasant, placid existence of same ol' same ol', in which no news is good news.

I never admired my father's complacency with mediocrity. I pitied it. It took a lot more to make me happy, and even then, I could only achieve happiness in the moment - eating, drinking, kissing, sleeping - and never become happy as a person.


Now that I've moved to California, out in the open air, I'm still unhappy - but I'm unhappy about things, I wouldn't say I'm an unhappy person. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perched atop a mountain of happiness, but I'm not deep down in the lowlands of Badwater either.

Instead, I've found some middle ground between the peaks and valleys of life, along an undulating path whose general trend is stable, consistent, persistent, moving forward. I might gain 500 feet in elevation; I might dip down 500 feet.

But overall, somehow, I've managed to attain a sense of - and a comfort with - Sea Level.

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Photo Essay: Fish Canyon & Creek, Limited Access

Fish Creek is known as one of the most beautiful trails in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Too bad its trailhead is open to the public only eight times a year.

And the only other way to get to the creek's three-tiered waterfall is a roundabout, grueling climb up and over a ridge.

Why? Because access is through the privately-owned and sinister-sounding Vulcan Materials, a quarry.

But as a public relations measure, the Azusa Rock Project opens its gates and shuttles eager hikers up through its property...



...to witness the splendor of the canyon...



...lush with wildflowers...







...littered with fallen rocks...



...and trampled by the masses.







Though narrow at points, the path is mostly clear despite its infrequent use...



...except for some fallen trees...



...which require some creative ducking and crawling.



There is also one brief and relatively easy creek crossing with a rock hop...



...and a boulder scramble...



...that lead you to one of the biggest waterfalls in the area.



The way up to it was crowded, but once hikers get to the waterfall and the cliff diving, they don't want to leave, and since shuttles stop running early in the day, the way back to the trailhead clears of foot traffic a bit...



...and you can pretend it's just you, the canyon, and the rocks.



Related Reading:
Twice Fallen, Twice Shy

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