July 14, 2024

A Foodie's Farewell Tour

I have this little ritual of going for a "last supper" before having some kind of medical procedure done that might restrict my eating in some way. 

I think it goes back to when I used to go on a "detox" back in my NYC days, which was basically my way of trying to lose weight by quitting alcohol and fast food for short spurts of time. I'd always binge right before it, like an addict on one last bender before being hauled off to rehab.

Before my oral surgery last November, which would put me on a diet of soft foods for weeks on end, I ordered all the crunchy things during my final meal—chips and guac, Caesar salad with croutons, taquitos, and the like. 

I had similar "last hurrahs" the nights before my colonoscopy in February, another oral surgery in March, and my upper endoscopy in June (both the one that didn't happen, and the one that did). 

But now, it's the results of that endoscopy that's got me on my latest eating spree. 

Because they found what they were looking for: signs of celiac disease. It's not definite, but I already scored practically off the charts on the blood test. Both of these test results strongly indicate the presence of the disease, but they don't prove it.

To do that, I'll need to eliminate gluten.

If I feel different—or, hopefully, better—after that, it'll confirm the diagnosis. And it'll change the course of how I eat for the rest of my life.

Smoked salmon sandwich at Gjusta in Venice, CA

July 11, 2024

Photo Essay: Touring Halter Ranch Vineyard Estate on a Railroad of Replica Swiss Rolling Stock

Since I was already heading up to California's Central Coast on Memorial Day weekend to ride the original Disneyland passenger cars at Santa Margarita Ranch..
...I decided to make it a full-blown traincation by booking a train tour of the vineyard at Halter Ranch in Paso Robles. 

July 08, 2024

Photo Essay: The Huntington, Where Billiards and Bowling Gave Way to the Rose Garden Tea Room

The Huntington is one of those places where I just keep discovering new things, every time I visit. 

Towards the end of last year, I'd wanted to go back because I knew I'd missed some historic faux bois (fake wood made of steel-reinforced concrete)... my quest to see that in person led us to the rose garden on Black Friday. 

July 07, 2024

Photo Essay: The California Mission Ruins Hiding Inside a Humble Hay Barn

If you know where to look, you can find remnants of California's Mission Period throughout the state—whether it's old dams and aqueducts, or even a former winery for communion wine.

And sometimes, you find an actual mission in the most unexpected of places—like the former Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia (founded 1787-90), which is hiding in plain sight in the now-privately-owned Santa Margarita Ranch in California's Central Coast. 

July 05, 2024

Photo Essay: Immanuel Presbyterian, the French Gothic Cathedral in L.A.'s Koreatown

On a busy stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, right in the middle of the diverse community of Koreatown...

...stands a church whose design was inspired by 15th-century gothic cathedrals in France. 

July 03, 2024

Photo Essay: Celebrating a Diamond Jubilee Year Backstage at Bob Baker Marionette Theater

The renowned Bob Baker Marionette Theater is celebrating its 60th anniversary...

...and upon this momentous occasion, it's currently putting together its first brand-new show in 40 years, Choo Choo Revue.

June 30, 2024

A Dream Job... Deferred?

My professional life has experienced a lot of upheaval since I was forced to quit my job back in 2009. And I still haven't gotten back on my feet again.

It really feels like the guy that made it impossible for me to stay in that job back then didn't just destroy my career. He also ruined my life. 

But that's another story for another day. 

Photo by matthiasboeckel on Pixabay

I'd been so proud of myself when I got a full-time editorial job back in 2015 after being destitute in the wake of two layoffs and some poor career choices that led me astray. I was even more thrilled in 2018 to be able to say I was finally a full-time writer.

Then I got laid off from that job in July 2022—that's a whole 'nother story, too—and, lucky for me, the freelance writing I'd been doing for our local public TV station KCET for over seven years turned into an inhouse gig just two weeks later. 

June 22, 2024

Photo Essay: A Triple Train Tour Through Santa Margarita Ranch, via Pacific Coast Railroad

Last Christmas, I finally got the chance to ride in one of the original Disneyland Railroad cars that are now running on a private railway, the Pacific Coast Railroad, in Santa Margarita, California. 

But because it was a nighttime holiday lights ride, I felt like I hadn't gotten the full experience. 

So I immediately committed myself to coming back and riding the rails on Santa Margarita Ranch during the day. 

Only problem? There's once a year the public can do that: Memorial Day weekend, during the Best of the West Antique Equipment Show. (Otherwise some lucky few get to ride the trains during private events like weddings and such.) 
So, this year I finally hauled my cookies up to the Central Coast to ride the trains—all the trains they offered that weekend, which was three. 

June 16, 2024

Photo Essay: The Museum Preserving Showgirl History in Post-Jubilee Las Vegas

What is Las Vegas without its showgirls?
Well, that's Vegas right now—because since the "Jubilee!" show at Bally's closed in 2016, there's no longer a showgirl show.

Just the girls wearing feathered headpieces standing outside the Flamingo or the Venetian, or on Fremont Street, trying to get cash for photos. 

Well, except the 50-foot ones that were installed on the North Strip section of Las Vegas Boulevard. 

Since October 2023, the closest thing the city has had to a good old fashioned showgirl spectacular is Dita Von Teese's DITA LAS VEGAS: A Jubilant Revue in the Jubilee Theater at Bally's (which was rebranded as Horseshoe Las Vegas in December 2022). Unfortunately, that closed this weekend—but the good news is, I made it back to Vegas in time to see a performance of it on its second-to-last weekend.  

But this post isn't about Dita—and, as I learned at the Las Vegas Showgirl Museum, neither Dita nor her production qualifies as a showgirl show, even though it used some of the Jubilee sets and original costumes designed by Bob Mackie.

May 29, 2024

Photo Essay: Finding Out How a Luffa Becomes a Loofah

File under: I was already in the area, so why not?

I'm endlessly curious about the world around me, the way things work, and the odd origins of familiar things—so naturally, I made a trip to The Luffa Farm while visiting California's Central Coast last weekend.