July 27, 2021

Photo Essay: Orange County's Oldest Private Cemetery (And All That's Left of the Yorba Rancho)

Since I often get overwhelmed by huge, sprawling cemeteries, sometimes the most interesting ones for me are those created for just families and friends. At least then, all those buried there are somehow connected.

And it can be a nice break from the star-studded nature of "Hollywood"-style cemeteries like Hollywood Forever and Forest Lawn, where tourists make pilgrimages to the headstones of their favorite celebrities like they would the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

At the historic Yorba Cemetery in Yorba Linda, California, members of its founding family were of great renown—at least, in present-day Orange County (and, to a lesser extent, San Diego County). 

They were the family members and close associates of the pioneer Yorba family—eponymous founders of the town of Yorba Linda and the cemetery therein. 

July 24, 2021

Photo Essay: Paying Tribute Aboard A Restored Navy Swift Boat, the Only Vietnam Memorial You Can Ride

With no plans with family or friends on Memorial Day Weekend this year, I jumped at the chance to drive down to San Diego and take the annual Swift Boat Naval History tour of the Bay with the Maritime Museum

July 20, 2021

Photo Essay: A Whale of a Time in Dana Point, the First Whale Heritage Site in the U.S.

When you live 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean, you might be expected to spend a lot of time at sea.

But me, I like to spend most of my time inland—where no tide will tear the sunglasses off my face or try to envelop me in a salty coffin made of sea foam and regret. 

Last weekend, though, I had the chance to join Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari—which departs out of Dana Point, named the first Whale Heritage Site in the U.S. earlier this year. It seemed like if I was going to try whale watching again, this was the place to do it. 

July 05, 2021

Photo Essay: World's Most Expensive Stadium Lands in Inglewood, City of Champions

During pandemic closures, it felt as though much of the world had stopped.

But it turned out to be a great time for construction projects—considered essential business, exempt from lockdowns—like the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.  

July 03, 2021

Photo Essay: Roycroft, the Utopian Colony of Philosophy and Decorative Arts

After I moved to LA and began exploring Southern California, I learned about the Arts and Crafts Movement by visiting The Gamble House, the Judson family's historic stained glass studio, and Ernest Batchelder's Pasadena home, adjacent to Bungalow Heaven. 

It never occurred to me that there'd be any Arts and Crafts activity anywhere in New York State, where I grew up. (I guess I forgot about Stickley.) 

But as I was traveling in and out of Buffalo on my way to make a hometown visit to Syracuse a couple of months ago, I arranged a visit to what I discovered is a federally recognized center of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. 

It's the national historic landmark (designated 1986) known as "The Roycroft Shops" (1895-1938)—located in the Buffalo suburb of East Aurora, in Western New York.

July 02, 2021

Photo Essay: Garden Grove's Time Capsule Town at the Stanley-Ware Ranch (Where You Can Find the 'Disney Garage')

The more that our historical town centers get gobbled up by high-rise hotels and other new developments, the more I really appreciate when historical societies save and relocate old buildings to create their own historical villages. 

Case in point: Garden Grove Historical Society's time capsule town, located on 2 acres of the former Stanley Ranch, where local pioneer Edward G. Ware settled in 1876 after relocating from Massachusetts. 

June 29, 2021

Photo Essay: Kayaking Across the Eastern Sierra 'Volcano Lake' That Baffled Scientists (Until 2015)

I've pretty much come to terms with the fact that there are some places on my Bucket List I'll never be able to cross off—maybe because I haven't got the means to get there, nor the will to keep trying. 

Or maybe some of those places will simply cease to exist before I get to them—from burning down, being torn down, or simply washing away. 

So, when a friend invited me on a trip up the 395 to visit the hard-to-reach and only seasonally visible Crowley Lake columns in Mono County, of course I said "yes"—and of course I prepared for abject failure. 

June 27, 2021

As Cerro Gordo Ghost Town Rises From the Ashes of a 2020 Fire, It Turns Away Visitors

I almost didn't write about this adventure because it felt like a failure. But I guess it was actually a partial success. 

And since I'm not exactly sure when I'll be able to ever complete the mission, I've decided not to wait—and share what I've got now, even though I found it a bit disappointing. 

But let me back up for a moment. 

In a constant boom-bust cycle that lasted nearly 100 years, the mining town of Cerro Gordo—in the Inyo Mountains of the northern Mojave Desert, near the 395 to the west of Death Valley—produced silver, lead (galena), and zinc ore at one time or another between 1866 and 1957.

I can't remember when I first heard of it. But I know I first tried to go sometime after 2013, after I'd begun working as a field agent for Atlas Obscura and thought that it would make for a great—albeit far-flung—excursion for our group.

June 25, 2021

Photo Essay: A World-Class Trout Farm In the Sierra Nevada, Closed by Mudslide

When it opened in 1917, the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery near the town of Independence was one of the first of its kind to raise trout (even the rare golden trout, California's state freshwater fish) to stock in California's lakes and streams (including those in the High Sierra backcountry) for fishermen to catch. 

The Eastern Sierra had begun "opening up" to visitors, as road improvements along old prospector trails—like El Camino Sierra, or what was to become the Sierra Highway—made "the Alps of California" more accessible than ever by car, from Los Angeles all the way north to Tahoe. 

There was a great and growing demand to not only attract but also keep tourists in the area by facilitating their thirst for the outdoors—and their appetite for angling.  


June 24, 2021

The Power of Quitting

Nobody likes a quitter. 

We're expected to stick with whatever life hands us, no matter how much it sucks.

People quote Winston Churchill saying, "If you're going through hell, keep going" like some kind of encouragement. 

Not me. I'll be a quitter till the day I die. 

June 12, 2021

A Midnight Mating Party for California's Most Exhibitionistic Fish

For 10 years since moving to LA, I'd wanted to go check out a coastal wildlife phenomenon known as the "grunion run."

And for 10 years, I'd put it off because I didn't like the idea of hauling my cookies to the beach late at night to witness a group of small, sardine-sized fish (the California grunion, Leuresthes tenuis) that may or may show up.  

But no matter how much of a crapshoot it may be, I knew I'd never see this summertime spawning event if I didn't at least show up and try.


June 09, 2021

Photo Essay: Secret Site of the 'Mystery Mine' Mill in the Verdugo Mountains—Revealed!

Back in 2016, I'd taken a hike up Hostetter Fire Road with the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley to view the remains of a former graphite mine operation up in the Verdugo Mountains of Los Angeles.  

But there wasn't actually that much left of the former Hostetter Mine to see up the hill. 

There was, however, a significant mill site that remained down the hill—only it was so hidden in the underbrush and the overgrowth, I couldn't get to it after lagging too far behind the group. 

Five years later, I had another chance to go see it, after some volunteers had bushwhacked their way through and tried to re-establish a trail to it. 

June 07, 2021

Photo Essay: The Manufacturing of Midway Magic at Herschell Carrousel Factory in Western New York

Over 3,000 hand-carved, wooden carousels were manufactured at the Herschell Carrousel Factory in North Tonawanda, New York. 

That was from 1915—when it moved into the former home of King Lumber Company—until 1953, when the company was sold and moved from the suburbs into the city of Buffalo proper. 


June 06, 2021

Photo Essay: The Ever-Evolving Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour, 2021 Edition

I'd been to Universal Studios Hollywood twice as a tourist since 2015—but they were both at night, which meant I felt like I was missing out on the daytime experience. 

Especially when it came to the actual studio tour. 

June 01, 2021

Photo Essay: The Stained Glass in Forest Lawn Glendale's Extensive Art Collection

One of the most remarkable aspects of Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Glendale, California location is its stunning collection of stained glass.

And not just the circa 1931 stained-glass replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s "The Last Supper," located in the Great Mausoleum's Memorial Court of Honor. 

May 31, 2021

May 26, 2021

What's the Fate of L.A.'s First Major Flower Market, Now Located in the Biggest Floral District in the U.S.?

Just over two blocks away from Downtown Los Angeles' Santee Alley in the Fashion District is a wholesale flower market known as the Southern California Flower Market—which takes up nearly 4 acres between Wall Street and Maple Avenue and East 7th and 8th Streets. 

As of October 2019, the plan was to rebuild a good chunk of it as part of a mixed-use complex right in the middle of the Los Angeles Flower District—the largest and most successful wholesale floral district in the country.

What's the plan for the independent wholesaler and retailers that are housed there—not only florists, but also floral suppliers, floral related retail shops, and small flower malls?

No one has made any public promises. 

But since 2020 happened, the developer has been silent about its plans for the historic market. 

May 23, 2021

Photo Essay: Twice Around the 105-Year-Old #1 Special at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum

Despite having grown up in Syracuse, New York, I hadn't been to the Buffalo area since I was 5 years old, when my family visited my uncle in the town of Lockport and crossed the border into Canada to visit Niagara Falls and Marineland. 

So, last week, after having flown in an airplane for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic to visit Syracuse for the first time in years, I decided to avoid a layover at JFK Airport and fly direct into Buffalo-Niagara Airport—conveniently located near a bucket-list attraction for me, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in the town of North Tonawanda. 

May 08, 2021

The Radiance of Judson Studios' Art Glass Lights Up Forest Lawn Museum

The coffee table book Judson: Innovation in Stained Glass was published on March 17, 2020—less than a week after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. 

Its release was supposed to coincide with "Judson Studios: Stained Glass from Gothic to Street Style," an exhibit at Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale, California that was scheduled to open on April 23, 2020. 

May 06, 2021

May 05, 2021

Photo Essay: Hollywood's Newest Historic Movie Theatre, at the American Legion (Updated)

[Last updated 6/12/21 9:40 PM PT—projection booth photos added at bottom]

The American Legion Hollywood Post 43 has been nicknamed the "Post of the Stars." 

That's not just because of its current Tinseltown location—but also because it was originally chartered in 1919 by Hollywood luminaries who'd returned from World War I. 

Past post members have included stars like Clark GableGene Autry, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, and more.

May 04, 2021

From Sunset Boulevard to Deepwell Estates: William Holden's Modernist Palm Springs Home

In the song "Tom's Diner," Suzanne Vega sings of reading a newspaper in which "There's a story/Of an actor/Who had died/While he was drinking/He was no one/I had heard of." 

Vega confirmed later she'd written those lines about actor William Holden—the Oscar-winning star of Sunset BoulevardStalag 17Network—who died in 1981 from bleeding to death after falling while drunk. 

He was living in Santa Monica then—but before that, he was a denizen of Palm Springs. 

And last month, Modernism Week opened up the former "William Holden Estate" for tours.*

*no photos were permitted inside   

May 03, 2021

Photo Essay: Dining and Drinking with Snow White on Hollywood Boulevard

In the middle of Hollywood Boulevard... the "center of it all" at Hollywood and Highland, next to the Hollywood Wax Museum...

...there's the unassuming storefront of the Snow White Cafe, "where your problems dwarf." 

April 27, 2021

Photo Essay: Two Modernists From Two Different Generations at Desert Palisades in Palm Springs

Palm Springs Modernism Week wasn't canceled this year for the pandemic—though it was moved from February to April, putting visitors like me in 95-degree heat in the low desert.

But otherwise, it didn't seem very different than prior years—at least not for me, since I don't do the lectures, movie screenings, bus tours, or cocktail parties anyway. 

I go to ogle the homes—and fortunately, this year's offerings included plenty of Modernist dwellings I hadn't seen yet, including the first Palm Springs construction of a home by LA architect Raymond Kappe. 

Kappe died in 2019, so the Kappe House at the Desert Palisades gated community (near the Albert Frey-designed Visitors Center) is one of his last designs to be realized. Ray's architectural partner and son, Finn Kappe, oversaw its completion. 

Kappe isn't as much of a household name in Palm Springs as Frey or Lautner—and even in LA, he's probably best known as the founder of SCI-Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture, which is headquartered in the DTLA Arts District at the adaptively reused Santa Fe Freight Depot. 

Until his recent death at age 92, he was a modern-day Modernist, a living one, in an industry where "modern" usually means "mid-century"—as in, 60 or 70 years ago. 

But even today, glass-and-steel construction is modern—and Kappe's design manages to integrate with the outdoor scenery, which is a boulder-strewn alluvial fan called Chino Canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains foothills. 

The Desert Palisades development sells itself as having the only remaining "view lots" left in Palm Springs. 

And oh, what a view. 

The sprawling outdoor spaces of the Kappe House evoke the architect's history with post and beam design—but they also employ "passive solar design" principles, with mechanisms of minimizing energy use to either cool or heat the inside.  

Another new construction at Desert Palisades is the Lockyer House, the work of Palm Springs architect Sean Lockyer of studio AR&D architects (also responsible for the Desert Palisades guardhouse, completed in 2016).    

The four-bedroom home is a showstopper from moment one, with eye-popping desert landscaping (by Leon's Landscaping and Tree Service) starting at the driveway...

...and scattered throughout. 

Lockyer is a contemporary architect in his mid-40s who operates under modernist principles...

...which of course involves the interaction of the inside with the outside, right down to the shower stalls. 

In fact, the most alluring and livable space throughout these (nearly) 4,300 square feet is the infinity pool and spa area...

...where boulder have sidled up on the deck as though to take a dip themselves. 

It wouldn't be enough to just view it from inside those picture windows and glass sliding doors. 

No matter how the heat is rising outside. 

What will we say about these homes in 20, 30, or 40 years? Will they start to seem unfeeling and detached—or impractical as the Coachella Valley gets even hotter than it is now?

They're definitely not homes for "regular" people today—and probably won't ever be. 

But sometimes it's nice to step into somebody's dream home, especially before anybody moves into it.

April 25, 2021

Photo Essay: Golfing In Miniature Along the Arroyo Seco

Los Angeles Magazine calls the Arroyo Seco miniature golf course "a living artifact that vibrates with the memories of a thousand bygone childhoods."

I couldn't have put it better myself. 

April 20, 2021

Photo Essay: A Remarkably Preserved 1950s Modernist Ranch House Welcomes Modernism Week Visitors

One of the Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods of Palm Springs—and one of the city's oldest—is north of E. Palm Canyon Drive, called Deepwell Estates. 

In 1952, it was subdivided as Deepwell Colony Estates—out of an apricot orchard where, in the mid-1920s, Henry Pearson had dug the deepest well in all of the Coachella Valley (630 feet deep, though he'd discovered water far closer to the surface than that).  
Over the years, Deepwell Estates has attracted such celebrity residents as Tippi Hedren, Jerry Lewis, and William Holden—but during my Modernism Week visit this year, I toured the former estate of a lesser-known Hollywood luminary.

April 19, 2021

Photo Essay: Baa-mastay with Baby Goats

I first attended baby goat yoga at Oats and Ivy Farm in 2017—back when I was trying to hit all the goat farms for all the baby goats.
circa 2017

April 18, 2021

Photo Essay: Soaring With Butterflies at South Coast Botanic Garden

I first encountered butterflies up close—really up close—in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Conservatory, maybe 20 years ago. 

I've spent the last couple of years chasing the annual monarch migration—just when the species has become so critically endangered, the millions of butterflies have dwindled down to thousands, hundreds, or even just dozens.