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!

Related Post:
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.

The Rose Palace is basically a giant warehouse where all the decorating happens for floats representing non-profits, for-profit organizations, and local LA County municipalities.

It is full of volunteers, from children performing community service to the elderly.

In addition to the Rose Parade's theme "Dreams Come True," each float has its own individual theme...

...some built by commercial float-builders...

...and others built by self-built organizations.

They all rely on volunteers to do much of the decorating...

...from painting to glueing... inserting loads of flowers - not just roses - into the foam beds of the floats.

Unlike the Thanksgiving Day Parade floats and balloons...

...there were no commercial cartoon characters here...

...only scenic landscapes featuring non-anthropomorphized wildlife...

...and some pretty elaborate flora.

That doesn't mean they were any less fancy.

Even in the decorating phase, you feel a lot of pageantry here...

...and a lot of adorable faces...

...worth seeing up close.

The real draw for me was getting to see the Glendale float...

courtesy of City of Glendale, CA Community Services & Parks

...whose "Let's Be Neighbors" theme pays tribute to Glendale's natural open spaces.

Even in progress, this year's float (their 100th entry into the parade) is a wonderland of local inhabitants... deer and squirrel.

I always love visiting construction sites (and factory tours) to see how things are made.

And, in the case of Glendale's float, I got to witness Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver act as crew chief for the construction project.

But among the coyote and raccoon...

...and hawk and skunk...

...there is really one true celebrity of the Glendale Rose Parade float:

...Meatball, the California Black Bear that came down to visit Glendale from the Angeles National Forest, and just couldn't stay away.

I came all the way from Beverly Hills, just to see him. I hope to visit the real Meatball at the sanctuary he now calls home sometime in 2014.

And maybe one day I'll get to ride on one of those floats. (In the case of Glendale, you have to be a Glendale resident.)

Happy 2014!

Further Reading:
Why Glendale's float features Meatball, and where he is now (KPCC)

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Rose Bowl Stadium, Renovated Again, and Open for Tours!

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!