July 25, 2011

Photo Essay: The Coca-Cola Ship

When I moved into my art deco apartment, my interest in art deco architecture got reignited, or perhaps, kick-started. I Googled "Art Deco" "Los Angeles" and found the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, a motley crew of Angelenos who like to drink, dance, and dress in period costume.

I haven't been sure whether I really fit in with them, but I've enjoyed a walking tour of the Miracle Mile and one of their Cocktails in Historic Places events. Enough anyway.

But when I saw that they were giving access to the inside of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company's remarkable streamline moderne cruise ship facility in Downtown LA for members only, I had to join.

I forgot to wear my sailor outfit, or my red and white polka dot dress. Everyone else wore theirs.

Unfortunately the day of our visit, there was no actual bottling to be seen, but it was a kick to discover that the portholes and rivets didn't stop just with the wrapped outside of the building.

It was about as cola-y as I could imagine, everything decked out in red and white, replete with Coca-Cola branded gift bags featuring Coca-Cola branded gifts, washed down with bottles of Coca-Cola (though, unfortunately, no Diet Coke).

Who would know such an architectural historical monument would be in Los Angeles, and not, say, the Midwest? Who would even know what it was when they drove by? What is this building doing in the middle of the 'hood?

You have to see it to believe it.

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July 24, 2011

California Conversations: Table for One, Part Two

I took myself out for brunch today because 1) I was hungry and 2) I didn't feel like cooking and 3) I did not invite anyone, nor did anyone invite me.

The hostess sat me at a table next to an acquaintance who was finishing his own brunch, and who decided to join me after his friend left and watch me eat.

He was being flirtatious and inquisitive, though generally harmless, and I was trying to be patient and charming and social, though I really just wanted to eat unobserved and flirt with the waiter.

"What do men like about you?" my brunch companion asked, resting his chin in his hand, elbow on table.

"You mean besides the physical?" I asked, honestly, without sarcasm.

"Well, yes, what do they like about you?"

I paused. "I don't know, I can't think of anything." I looked up to see his reaction, but he was stonefaced. "I don't think there's anything they really like about me or my personality."

And I couldn't think of anything. I couldn't think of one trait that any guy has liked about me enough to stay.

If there had been anything beyond the physical, wouldn't they have stayed?

In my adult years, not being beautiful enough has never been the problem. Lack of prowess has never been the problem.

I think that guys must just me very much. At least, they don't like me enough me.

"You're meeting the wrong guys," my brunch date said, expression softening, sympathizing, pitying.

"You're telling me," I said.

Related Reading:
California Conversations: Table for One

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Becoming Californian

I can't help it.

I'm a suburban girl.

I didn't even really grow up in the suburbs, having been raised in a relatively white middle class residential neighborhood of a small city, but having attended decidedly city schools and having ridden the city bus to work in the city's decidedly rundown downtown.

But I also worked at the mall in the 'burbs, ate special occasion meals at fast food joints and other casual dining chain restaurants, and stole lawn ornaments for summer entertainment.

Living in London, New York, and now LA has not taken the suburban girl out of me.

Fortunately, LA is the perfect combination of cosmopolitan city life and suburban sprawl.

I find myself drawn out here to strip malls - not just because that's where you can find the best Thai and sushi restaurants - and the nether reaches of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, those towns whose zip codes technically place them outside of the city of Los Angeles (though technically even my neighborhoods, straddling the West Hollywood / Beverly Hills border, aren't even in LA either).

This weekend, I returned to Glendale.

I returned to Glendale to do what you cannot do in the nearest suburbs of my hometown of Syracuse: I returned to Glendale to climb a mountain.

A small mountain, but a mountain nevertheless.

The trailhead to the Beaudry fire road in the Verdugo Mountains is in a nice residential neighborhood of Glendale, near the country club.

It's not well-marked, until you get up a bit further and reach a juncture of the North and South motorways.

I went north.

There weren't many wildflowers left, and most of the lush green of the rainy spring has begun to turn its annual summery brown.

Hiking up the wide, dirt fire road, I realized that this six mile hike would not be easy, as one might expect in the suburbs. I was not in the San Gabriel Mountains. I was practically in Burbank. How hard could it be?

But the climb was unrelenting, and although the North motorway provided much more shade than the South motorway (which I took on my way down the loop), and although the breeze was cool when I turned around to face the landscape below, chest heaving, head aching, eyes burning, I almost didn't make it.

I missed the turn to the South motorway, and took myself about a mile out of my way. At nearly six miles, this hike did not need an extra mile tacked onto it.

But I finally made it to the summit, a locked, gated, fenced in area of radio control towers, despite being chased for miles by a bumble bee, and dodging the buzzings of various dragonflies and hummingbirds above.

And gazing on the city below - the much smaller city adjacent to the behemoth city of Los Angeles - I didn't consider the boundaries of where I live and where I do not live, what this place is versus that place. My life is not just about Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, LA, its suburbs... This city girl takes in the suburbs, dwells in the desert, climbs mountains and sinks into valleys. Is LA any more home to me than Joshua Tree? Palm Springs? Warner Springs? Temecula? Julian? Anza-Borrego? San Diego? As much as I am not a New Yorker, nor am I an Angeleno.

Am I not a citizen of Southern California?

Am I not, now, Californian?

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July 19, 2011

Photo Essay: Happy Hour Hiking: Runyon Canyon

I roll my eyes every time someone in LA hears that I'm a hiker and responds with, "Oh, so you do the Runyon thing?"

It's such a common question that I've pored over my map of LA to find hikes that aren't in Runyon Canyon. Just to be contrary. I guess.

I did hike the less popular upper portion of Runyon once, and was appalled at how crowded and eroded it was. I didn't have much reason to go back. Except the fact that its lower portion remained unhiked kept nagging at me.

Since I've been looking for ways to squeeze hikes in after some temporary office work I've been doing, I could no longer ignore Runyon - perhaps the closest, fastest, and most accessible hike I could do before the sun goes down.

Vehicular traffic up to the trailhead was a nightmare.

Foot traffic on the trail was a nightmare. I hiked past strollers. Bare-chested trailrunners huffed past me. Bosoms heaved at me. Dogs literally ran between my legs.

But as I climbed the loop trail (clockwise, the easy way) past ruins of old estates, up to a scenic overlook to glimpse the Hollywood Sign and bask in the late-day glow, overlooking the black-and-white city grid below, and back down the hard way past the abandoned tennis court, I understood Runyon's charm, why it's so damn popular.

I just wish I could've had a little time alone with it.

Related Reading:
Photo Essay: Trebek Open Space

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July 18, 2011

Life Goes On

Sometimes I find it surprising to see that New York City, and all my friends I left behind there, have gone on without me.

It's not that I thought that the city itself would cease to exist after I moved to LA, but being away from the place that I called home for 14 years, I wonder whether I ever had any impact on it at all.

Parties still go on, whether or not I'm invited to them anymore.

Bars open and close.

Restaurants come and go.

My friends still chug along with their lives, making new friends, hanging out with people I've never heard of at places I've never heard of.

I haven't missed much of New York since I've been gone, besides my friends. Everything else has been more of the food and drink variety. I wish I had a good local bar to frequent in LA. I wish I could find a good frozen margarita. I wish I could find a (non-obnoxious, non-table service, non-Valley and OC-frequented) place to dance. I wish it were easier to find someone to make out with. Otherwise, I'm kind of all set.

But I can't shake the sense of rejection I feel when I realize that New York is kind of all set without me there too. As much as I don't need New York anymore, I wish it needed me.

Since it doesn't, I've pulled back even more. I've unsubscribed from email lists. I've hidden Facebook posts from my newsfeed, unliked pages and unfollowed Twitter accounts.

When people ask me where I'm from, I say "L.A." When they persist, "But you're not from L.A..." I smile and say, "Well, I moved here from New York in January."

"New York City?"

"I grew up in Syracuse, and lived in New York City for 14 years."

I am not from New York City. I lived there for 14 years.

I didn't go back to NYC for Edith's birthday. I didn't go back for the 4th of July. I didn't go back for Bastille Day. I'm not going back for Labor Day, my birthday, business trips, or any other reason. I have no plans to return to New York until October, over nine months after moving to LA, and even then only for purely selfish and touristic reasons: Open House New York, the architectural tour weekend that only happens once a year.

My imminent NYC return is still three months away, but I'm already wondering what I'll do there, who I'll see, where I'll go.... Do I revisit my favorite places, or try someplace new? Will my favorite places still be there? Who shall I invite to join me? Who will want to see me?

Am I allowed to still pine for those I left behind, no matter how brief our time together in NYC was?

Does anyone pine for me?

Most certainly, the City of New York does not pine for me. It's doing just fine without me.

Related Reading:
Since I've Been Gone
Life for Rent
Wanting the Want

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July 16, 2011

This Rugged Life

"Ideas for adventure today?" I'd barely even opened my eyes this morning by the time I sent this text message out to a friend.

I'd taken last weekend more or less off to recover from my camping trip two weeks ago, but I'd been gearing up for some LA exploration this weekend - despite Carmageddon - in honor of an East Coast friend's visit.

So when my East Coast friend had to cancel at the last minute, and all the city advisories warned me to stay home, I felt an even more urgent need to brave the LA highways which were promised to be backed up, gridlocked, insufferable because of the temporary closure of the 405 Freeway. I had to get out.

It was the kind of day that - five years ago - I would've gone to the mall.

It was the kind of day that - two years ago - I would've gone to Coney Island.

I can't just stay inside on the weekends anymore. Even when I want to, I can't usually sleep in past 10 a.m. I can't just go to brunch, get drunk, lie around, eat/drink/sleep, and watch movies. It's no longer in my DNA.

Once you've survived Attack of the Killer Bees and lived to tell about it, you just can't settle for channel surfing (hence my lack of a TV now six months into living in LA).

In fact, I've become downright rugged in my older years, preferring to sun myself out in the hot wild rather than shelter myself inside a dark, air conditioned cave.

It's quite a remarkable transformation for me, having grown up in a sterile, antiseptic household run by an agoraphobic, OCD mother who overstocked on cleaning supplies as though preparing to survive her own armageddon. She wouldn't allow me to go to bed without a bath, and she wouldn't allow herself to go to bed with any dirty dishes in the sink, or a stitch of dirty laundry in the house.

I've gotten over that. And then some.

I'm supposed to sit on this plastic chair with a hole cut in the seat to pee in a hole in the ground?


But when my in-town friend suggested we spend the day at Hurricane Harbor, the Six Flags water park in Santa Clarita, just a short drive up the 5, my outdoorswoman sensibilities suddenly retreated.

"I just got my hair done yesterday and I don't want to get it wet," I replied, with a laugh. "I'm allowed to be a girl sometimes."

Unthwarted, we compromised on Magic Mountain, the the much drier neighboring amusement park, where I could wrap my hair in a headscarf to protect it from getting coaster-blown and over-misted.

I guess I haven't given myself over fully to the rugged life.


Related reading:
What Have I Become?
Exposing Myself
Feet to the Fire
How (Un)Civilized!

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July 15, 2011

Photo Essay: Eagle Mining Company's Underground Tunnels

I'd been to the quaint, mountain town of Julian - best known for its apple harvest, and resulting apple pies - once before in the fall, and previously charmed by it, I decided to drive through it again on my way out of Anza-Borrego.

There's not much to do or see in Julian, besides some underdog wine country tasting (which I love), but there was one bit of sightseeing that I hadn't done, that's right up my alley: underground tunnels.

Julian once was a hotbed of goldmining activity. Although nothing is really mined anymore - and it was never as active a goldmining area as its more northern counterparts - there are still plenty of old tunnels to go exploring through.

Poorly lit and ill-footed, the tunnels are ripe for disaster, which makes them delicious to navigate.

Eagle Mining Company - whose headquarters requires a drive up a steep dirt road that made me a little more than nervous - provides access to the multiple levels of Eagle Mine and High Peak Mine (both 1870).

It's pretty creeptastic.

Related reading:
I've Outdone Myself Again (Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tour)

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July 12, 2011

Photo Essay: Trebek Open Space

I've been stuck in an office all day for the last month and a half, shades drawn, air conditioning cranked up beyond my internal thermostat's desire.

I've been dying to get outside.

Today I decided to try to get a quick hike in as soon as I could flee the office and call it a day. Most of my favorite hiking sites and unhiked trails are too far to maximize daylight. At 6:00, or worse yet 6:45 p.m., I'm in a race against time before the sun goes down.

As though I'm not already in enough of a race against time, in general.

Trebek Open Space is a slice of a canyon butted up against the more popular, severely more eroded, and seriously overplayed Runyon Canyon. After crawling up a narrow, winding canyon road that borders it to the west, dusk setting in, I finally found its northernmost trailhead, having mistaken one high voltage area for it, and having passed the southernmost one, unrecognized.

Sometimes, you just want to soak up some sun. See the city you live in from above. Let dogs run up to you and sniff you. Crunch along a trail, leaving your mark amongst the tracks of sneaker, bike and paw.

It wasn't long; it wasn't far; it wasn't strenuous. But I skipped along a solitary path under the rising moon and the setting sun, and it was just what I needed.

This was my happy hour.

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