August 19, 2021

Photo Essay: A Southern Sea Otter Safari in Monterey Bay

I don't remember how long ago it was when someone first told me about Elkhorn Slough as a destination for sea otters—only that it was sometime before I made it to the otter viewing spot in Morro Bay in 2019. 

Leave it to me to make smalltalk about otters with strangers. 

But when I was mapping out my trip to San Jose last weekend, I noticed that if I took the long way—hugging the coast instead of staying on an inland freeway—I could convince myself that this otter destination in Monterey Bay was on the way home.

August 18, 2021

Photo Essay: Dormant, Ignored San Jose Carousel Waits Patiently For Riders to Return

I've visited a handful of ill-fated carousels in my day—ones that are in disrepair or threatened with demolition and have survived fire and years in storage. 


August 17, 2021

Photo Essay: S.S. Palo Alto, the Concrete Oil Tanker-Turned-Party Ship That's Being Overtaken by the Pacific Ocean

"The Cement Ship"—formerly known simply as "The Ship"—has become a symbol of the unincorporated town of Aptos, California (in Santa Cruz County) and its Seacliff State Beach in the 90+ years since it first arrived. 

It's actually a misnomer, because the ship isn't made of cement—but steel-reinforced concrete (a.k.a. ferroconcrete), which the WWI-era Emergency Fleet Corporation deemed necessary for a small handful of ships built for the war effort during a shortage of both steel and lumber circa 1917. 
      circa 1920, Oakland (Photo: Naval History and Heritage CommandCatalog No. NH 799, Public Domain)

Only problem was that the 420-foot oil tanker, built by the San Francisco Shipbuilding Company at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Oakland, wasn't finished and ready to launch until 1919—and by then, the war was already over.

And now, 102 years later, that ship—the S.S. Palo Alto—is falling apart before our very eyes. 

August 16, 2021

Photo Essay: Where Robots Tell the Story of Old California and Steinbeck's Cannery Row

Honestly, I hadn't thought much about John Steinbeck since I read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath and saw East of Eden as a teenager. 

I didn't know anything about the time he spent in Monterey, California at Cannery Row, yet I still felt drawn to the "Spirit of Monterey" wax museum that's often referred to by his name.   

August 11, 2021

Photo Essay: L.A.'s Beaux Arts Library, Built of Bricks and Funded By a Copper Fortune

The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles was one of those places I didn't know I wanted to go to until it was closed and I couldn't go. 

I think I first heard about it when it was undergoing a restoration (and earthquake retrofitting), sometime between 2015 and 2017. I kept my eye on it—and finally managed to take a tour in 2018. 

L-R Observatory, library (Photo: Security Pacific National Bank Collection, via LAPL)

August 08, 2021

Photo Essay: A Public Tour & Tasting at SoCal's Only Oyster Farm (Shuck Yeah!)

Carlsbad Aquafarm has been growing various types of sea life in the outer Agua Hedionda Lagoon—a tidal wetland that shares water with the Pacific Ocean—since it first arose out of a 1960s-era San Diego State University aquaculture research facility in 1990. 

But it was only five months ago that it first started conducting public tours—and only last week that those tours came on my radar. 

August 07, 2021

Photo Essay: A Rogue Rock Garden That's Full of Whimsy and Heart

It wasn't until today that I began to realize how truly quirky Encinitas, California is. And I think I've only just begun to let it charm me.   

A good example is on B Street, just four blocks from Moonlight Beach—a guerrilla art project and community park called Dave's Rock Garden. 

August 03, 2021

75 Years Ago: The Navy Commandeered A Former Decorating Studio to Conduct Top-Secret Weapons Research

What appears to be a simple restaurant and tea room in Pasadena, California has a much richer history than meets the eye—one that involves the "foremost designer of residential interiors in Southern California in the 1920s" (according to late architectural historian Robert Winter), military secrets, and maybe even Albert Einstein. 

Located in what's now known as the Green Street Village Landmark District, it's currently known as Madeline Garden—but it was designed in 1927 in the Georgian architectural style by Louis du Puget Millar as a studio/office/workshop for renowned interior decorator Edgar James "E.J." Cheesewright and his staff of craftspeople and artisans (including woodcarvers), decorators, and furnishers.