February 25, 2024

Photo Essay: A Celebrity Estate for the Ages, the Kirk Douglas Residence in Palm Springs

Late actor Kirk Douglas hadn't lived in his Palm Springs estate at 515 Via Lola since 1999...

Poster courtesy of SenseiAlan via Flickr (CC by 2.0 DEED)

...but after he spent 40 years' worth of vacations there, it will forever be known as the "Kirk Douglas Residence." 

February 22, 2024

Photo Essay: A Modernism Week Shimmy Through the Shag House, Palm Springs

I wasn't sure I needed to see the so-called "Shag House," having already visited artist Josh Agle's own abode (which he decorated) as well as that of a superfan neighbor of his

Turns out, this circa 1958 Modernist home—designed by the architecture duo Palmer & Krisel for the Alexander Construction Company—was the Modernism Week tour I just didn't know I needed to take. 

February 18, 2024

Photo Essay: Luna Luna, A Forgotten Fairground Fantasy That Spins Once Again

I love amusement parks. They absolutely fascinate me. 

Blame annual trips to the Great New York State Fair with my dad, the one trip to Marineland of Canada I barely remember, and school trips to Darien Lake (now Six Flags) in Buffalo, New York. 

But what I find absolutely irresistible is an amusement park that was locked away in storage for nearly 40 years (first in Vienna, then Texas)—and then later rediscovered and reassembled. 

February 11, 2024

Photo Essay: A Covered Wagon Caravan Through Coachella Valley Preserve

"Oh, we're closed for the summer. It's going to be too hot out."

That's what they told me when I called to book a covered wagon tour of the San Andreas Fault near Palm Springs for myself back in 2009, when I'd just arrived for a month in Joshua Tree.

It was unseasonably cool that June. But temps in the High Desert can easily be 20 degrees lower than in the low desert.

And they were right—because within a week of my arrival, the thermometer hit three digits. And it just kept going up over the course of my four-week stay.

Somehow, I never managed to get around to calling Covered Wagon Tours again, despite having returned to the area many times—and in much friendlier temperatures, usually in the winter and spring. 

That changed last month, when my friend John was in town for a work conference and mentioned that one of their optional off-site activities was a covered wagon tour. I burst out with an "Oooh!"

February 07, 2024

Photo Essay: Fueled By Jet Fumes and Fear of Missing Out at Ontario Airport

Many years ago, back when I was living in NYC, I got up at the crack of dawn one morning to go spectate as Edith ran a race on the runways of JFK Airport.
decommissioned Boeing 727

I wasn't a runner back then—and I'm still not—but I thought to myself, if I were to ever do a race, I think I'd like to do one on an airport runway. 

Well, my time came this past weekend, as I arrived to the National Guard Hangar at Ontario International Airport (ONT) in Southern California's Inland Empire for its "5K the Runway" event. 

February 04, 2024

A Four-Year Wait For Llama Love

I should know by now that reality rarely lives up to my expectations. 

And when I spend years building up anticipation for something—especially something I may have missed out on and have the chance to make up for lost time—I'm most certainly bound to be disappointed.

I think if I were able to travel back in time and actually go to my proms, I'd probably have a horrible time and be horribly disappointed.

But here I am, in 2024, trying to make up for the things I missed out on in 2020 with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Because I'd rather come to the rude awakening that, in reality, they're less than—as opposed to feeling like I missed out on something that could've been really great. 

I waited almost four years to stay at a particular llama ranch in the Joshua Tree area that I'd booked for March 2020 and had to cancel at the last minute.

February 03, 2024

Photo Essay: Combing Through Hairstory at a Roadside Beauty Parlor Museum

I tried to learn my lesson when I realized I'd wasted so many years not going to the Crochet Museum in Joshua Tree—so upon my return to the area last weekend, I made sure I checked another place at the Art Queen complex off my list.

The Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum, which opened in this location along the 29 Palms Highway in 2016.

January 30, 2024

The Most Fun I've Had in California

I've just passed my "lucky" 13-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles in January 2011—and when people hear where I'm from, they most commonly ask two questions:

  1. Do I miss New York?
  2. Which do I like better, New York City or LA?
Truth is, the two cities are so different, they're hard to compare. But in terms of where I'm at in my life right now, I find LA much better to live in.

But still, I had a lot of fun during my 14 years of 5 a.m. nights and boozy brunches in New York City. It was a different kind of fun than Southern California typically has to offer. 

When I have a good time nowadays, it feels more like the kind of fun I missed out on having as a little kid—before adult beverages would've come into play. 

So maybe my time in NYC was more about making up for a crazy adolescence I never had; and my time in Los Angeles is more about making up for a childhood I was never given, one that was bereft of playdates and playgrounds and playing in the mud. 

You'll see what I mean when you see my Top 13 list of the most fun I've had in California so far (in no particular order):
  1. Swimming with otters
  2. Riding a Jeepney
  3. Riding the Warner-Carrillo Ranch Stagecoach
  4. Riding the Ghost Train of Griffith Park
  5. Going to Disneyland
  6. Going to Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights
  7. Goat yoga (especially with baby goats in Halloween costumes)
  8. Climbing onto the Wienermobile
  9. Attending Bob Baker Marionette Theatre puppet shows (especially Halloween)
  10. Attending Rose Parade-related events
  11. Singing with the Magical Holiday Parade in Toluca Lake
  12. Touring Garner Holt Productions' animatronic factory
  13. Anything having to do with Krampus.
Honorable mention goes to paragliding at Torrey Pines, which I did in 2009—almost a couple of years before I moved here. 

And this doesn't, of course, include any trips I've taken out of state (like to Vegas, which is pretty fun for me).

So happy anniversary to me, no matter how long I may stay in this city, or in this state. I have no plans to leave—but life can change pretty quickly. 

After all, after 10 years in NYC I thought I'd be there the rest of my life. By the 12th year, I couldn't wait to leave. And by the 14th year, I ran screaming... all the way to LA.

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January 28, 2024

Photo Essay: Good Fortune at the Cookie Factory, San Francisco

The first time I visited San Francisco, back in 2006, the internet just wasn't what it is today. And so although we figured out some fun things to do—take a nighttime tour of Alcatraz, for instance—there just wasn't that much I was familiar with, beyond cable cars and restaurants.

That was totally different this time around, when I've had nearly 20 years to add places to my map and learn more about the city by the Bay from afar. And when I visited a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to go to Chinatown.

Because who wouldn't want to go see how fortune cookies are made?!

January 25, 2024

Photo Essay: The Tonga Room, A Tiki Bar Survivor of Some Near Misses

I hadn't been to San Francisco for any proper amount of time since 2006—and back then, the only tiki bar in the area I knew about was the now-closed Trader Vic's. 

I didn't find out about the other Bay Area tiki bars until well after I'd returned home. 

And since then, the Tonga Room has been on my bucket list. 

Oh, I did make it to SF for a couple of hours in 2022. My friends and I even made it to Forbidden Island in Alameda on that trip. 

But I had much more tiki-ing to do. 

Google Street View circa Feb. 2023

So when I finally got back to the city by the bay earlier this month, I made sure to cross some more off my list—Pagan Idol, Zombie Village, Smugglers Cove, and, of course Tonga Room.