December 31, 2013

Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2013

I didn't work out of an office this year.

I didn't spend the summer in Joshua Tree.

I didn't wreck my car.

I didn't have much money.

But I had lots of time and more than enough gumption.

I'm never lacking in enthusiasm or curiosity, that's for sure.

So here's a recap of the year passed, in case you missed any adventures. I couldn't do everything, but I crammed a lot into (mostly) day trips on a tight budget.

These weren't necessarily my favorite excursions of 2013, but they were the most popular (or, at least, most-read) ones:

Rancho Los Amigos, Downey

The Garden of Oz

George Air Force Base, Victorville

Valley Relics

Linda Vista Community Hospital, Exterior

Linda Vista Community Hospital, Interior

Tejon Ranch Wildflowers

Joshua Tree's Barker Dam

My Time Has Passed

Abandoned Naval Housing, Western Avenue

It should be noted that there are actually a lot of older posts from 2011 and 2012 that people were still reading this year.

Thanks for all your views and comments and messages and emails and replies, both public and private. They mean a lot and I read them all!

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Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2012

Photo Essay: Rose Parade 2014 Floats, In Progress

The Rose Parade is to LA what the Thanksgiving Day Parade is to New York City.

It's kind of a big deal.

The Thanksgiving Day Parade - like New Year's Eve in Times Square - is just one of those touristy things I never did while living in New York. And although I'm nearing my three year anniversary in LA, I still haven't seen the Rose Parade. I'm not sure I can handle the hassle or the crowds - the same factors that kept me away from the New York parade route and Times Square.

But this year, I'd become particularly curious about the Rose Parade, perhaps after having toured the Rose Bowl Stadium and spent a bit more time in Pasadena.

I knew that the floats would be parked for public viewing in Pasadena after the parade, but I'd heard that they'd be a bit haggard by that point. So, reticent to commit to joining the throngs at the parade itself, but eager to get a look, I visited the Rose Palace, one of three float decorating places in Pasadena open to the public while the floats are in progress.

December 24, 2013

Photo Essay: A Hidden Theater in the Heart of Times Square (Closed to Public As of 2014)

[Update: This location permanently closed in 2014.]

"I can't believe I didn't know this place was here," said my friend Michelle - who, having moved to New York City a year after I did, has now been an NYC resident longer than I ever was.

And even though The Embassy Theater reopened as the Times Square Museum & Visitors Center in 1998 (the year after my arrival), I'd never heard of it either.

That is, until I was planning my trip back to NYC for the holidays.

I'd been looking for some new places that had opened since I'd moved, and I'd been remembering some places I never made it (despite my best intentions). I didn't expect to find a place like this: not new in New York, only new to me.

Wedged into a small lot on Broadway's east side - alongside Times Square's northern triangle known as Duffy Square, across from the TKTS booth and next to McDonald's - hangs an LED marquee for the Times Square Visitor's Center.

It's an attraction seemingly only for tourists, avoided at all costs by locals.

But when you walk under the marquee through the outer lobby / entry corridor, past blaring and flickering purple LED curtains... begin to experience the glory and opulence of what was once The Embassy Theater from 1925: an exclusive, high society movie theater owned by MGM and designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb. Four years later, it became the first newsreel theater in the U.S., and was designated an interior landmark in 1987.

In 1997, it closed its doors as a theater and to undergo renovations for the visitors center.

 The interior lobby brings you past many original decorative elements, including marble trim, carved wooden doors and panels with mirrored accents...

...and brass doors with stained glass exit signs.

Inside... see more chandeliers...

...hanging from an embellished ceiling.

Similar plasterwork flanks the small stage.

The auditorium is quite small - the theater itself being somewhat of a miniature - but its dimensions are pretty much preserved from its original configuration (despite nearly 600 seats being removed).

In side alcoves, there are various interpretive displays about the history of Times Square, including the original Peep O-Rama sign...

...a history of Broadway...

...and a Wishing Wall, where people post their hopes and dreams...

...written on slips of confetti...

...that will be dropped with the ball in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

The museum also displays one of those such balls:

...the "Centennial Ball" from 2007, made of Waterford Crystal triangles lit by 9576 Philips Luxeon LEDs... commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the ball-dropping ceremony. The following year, it was replaced by the ball that currently descends at midnight, which is housed permanently atop One Times Square.

I've never done Times Square on New Year's. Fighting the drunken crowd on the street never seemed like very much fun to me. But this year, I wrote a wish on a piece of confetti that will drop down upon Times Square as the ball is lowered, even though I myself won't be there. 

Maybe someone will see my one little piece in the ton of confetti that will be released. Maybe someone will read it. Maybe someone will keep it.

Maybe my wish will come true...

Thanks to ScoutingNY for the tip!

Photo Essay: Modern Pinball NYC

When I returned to New York City after a year's absence, after having moved away nearly three years ago, I was less inclined to visit all of my old, familiar haunts and more to try something new.

That meant not only visiting places that I'd somehow missed in my 14 years of residency there, but also trying to catch up with newly-opened places, in the forever-evolving, perpetually new Gotham.

One such new establishment is Modern Pinball, a pinball machine retail showroom around the corner from my old apartment in Midtown Manhattan.

For a mere $10, you can play unlimited pinball machines as many times as you want for an hour, the money you spend being put towards the cost of a machine, if you choose to buy.

It's an interesting collection because, in comparison to museum-type experiences like the Pinball Hall of Fame or private collections like Pinball Forever or Thumperdome, it's decidedly modern. They're primarily new machines, themed for contemporary films and TV series, and seem like they'd be widely available in your local watering hole or arcade.

There are, however, exceptions.

If you start in the back of the showroom, you'll find Punchy the Clown, a rare release from the 1990s which is simple and fun...

...with gorgeous backlit graphics...

...and a play feel of a machine from decades before.

Also from the '90s is one of the many licensed character pinball machines, Scared Stiff, starring everyone's favorite mistress of the dark, Elvira.

It's a Halloween horror-themed experience...

...with lots of double entendres.

The Simpsons, too, are represented here...

...with both Homer and Bart rising out of the playfield.

Players can rock out to Metallica...

...and AC/DC while they flip their flippers on the limited "Let There Be Rock" edition.

They can also visit the OK Corral... way of Cactus Canyon...

...a gunslinging, mine-filled showdown whose production was also relatively limited.

There is also Fish Tales...

...and White Water...

...and the 75th Anniversary edition of The Wizard of Oz...

...where you can traverse the haunted forest...

...go over the rainbow...

...and take a balloon ride home with a little help from a great and powerful wizard.

My pinball habit has grown since I moved to the West Coast, so it was interesting to return to New York with it, and find new ways of enabling it.

Has the city changed? Or have I changed?

I think perhaps both.

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