May 31, 2022

Photo Essay: The Historic Railroad Attraction Along the Tracks That Helped Build the Hoover Dam

One thing I'd wanted to do in Boulder City, Nevada since I first visited there in 2011 was to ride the Nevada Southern Railway at the southern outpost of the Nevada State Railroad Museum (its main outpost being in the state capital of Carson City, and the Nevada Northern Railway being in Ely). 

May 24, 2022

Photo Essay: Glendale's Stone Barn, Once Burned and Flooded, Reopens As a Nature Center

Georges Le Mesnager was an immigrant French winemaker who arrived in Southern California in 1885-6 and purchased land in the Dunsmore Canyon area of La Crescenta—formerly known as Las Flores Canyon, now known as Deukmejian Wilderness Park.

At the time, the canyon was wild and steep—but nevertheless, Mesnager tried to develop the land, planting vines and growing wine grapes there. 

In 1905, his son Louis began building a stone barn primarily to be used as a stable and a storage facility—not only for vineyard equipment but also to store the grapes that would be shipped off to the family's winery at Main and Mesnager Streets in Downtown Los Angeles, a couple of hundred feet away from the west bank of the LA River. 
And now, over 100 years later, the stone barn is the site of grape-growing once again—and is home to the newly opened Stone Barn Nature Center. 

May 22, 2022

Photo Essay: The Resurrection of Verdugo Hills Cemetery, Upon Its Centennial Celebration

The Hills of Peace Cemetery (later renamed Verdugo Hills) was dedicated in 1922 to serve the areas of Sunland and Tujunga, California—in the Crescenta Valley region of Los Angeles. 

The most recent headstones you see are from, say, 1972. There's one crypt in the mausoleum dating back to 1977. 

That was before the torrential rains of February 1978 washed away many of the hillside graves.

And until recently, the only thing almost anyone ever remembered about it was its grisly history—not only natural disasters, but also vandalism and remains that were improperly disposed. It was so bad, some families actually moved their loved ones from their crypts.  

The cemetery finally closed to the public in 2002—after which family members of those interred could visit by appointment only (despite it being declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009). The only other time it was open was for occasional historical tours. 

But thanks to the efforts of Friends of Verdugo Hills Cemetery (led by the "undertaker," Craig Durst)—which held monthly and then weekly volunteer cleanup days—the cemetery was prepped and beautified for its centennial celebration on April 23, 2022. 

May 19, 2022

Photo Essay: A Wartime Recreational Facility and Dormitory in San Diego, Reborn As The Guild Hotel

With the Navy Bridge Run starting at 8 a.m.—and me having to come down to San Diego from LA—I needed to book a local hotel room for the night before. Ideally, one that would be either walking distance or a trolley ride from the starting line (as parking there would either be impossible or just grossly expensive). 

I also needed to make sure I'd get a good night's sleep the night before. I was worried enough about completing the race (even just walking it) and didn't need any extra factors working against me. 

In the past in San Diego, I've stayed everywhere from the budget-friendly Dolphin Motel on Point Loma (literally a fisherman's motel) and Motel 6 to the historic Sofia Hotel and Hotel Palomar and the luxury U.S. Grant. 

And then in my search, I came across one hotel in Downtown San Diego I hadn't heard of before: The Guild Hotel, which opened in 2019. (From 2003 to 2014, the property was home to a hostel called the 500 West Hotel.)

Owned by Marriott and operated as a luxury boutique hotel, it's located in a former YMCA building for the Army and Navy—which made it just seem perfect for a stay on a Navy-related trip

May 17, 2022

Crossing Over to Coronado On Foot (Or, Bridging the San Diego Bay)

On January 25, 2020, I registered to walk the Navy's 34th annual Bay Bridge Run in May. 

 circa 2021

On April 1, 2020, I received the cancellation notice. And it would be another two years before I could get onto that bridge. 

May 13, 2022

Photo Essay: Meow Wolf's Omega Mart in Las Vegas Claws at Modern Consumerism

One of the new arrivals to Vegas since my last visit in 2019 was Area 15...

...with its outdoor event space and sculpture garden and multiple immersive, interactive attractions indoors.

Its centerpiece is the Las Vegas installment of Meow Wolf—an expansion of the Santa Fe immersive art collective founded by Emily Montoya and Benji Geary.

May 12, 2022

Pandemic Reflections: My Body Is My Own

The last two years have been so crazy, we're still making sense of them. They probably won't make much sense to any of us for decades to come. 

But very early on, it became clear that one of the silver linings of mandated "social distancing" was the fact that I got my personal space back. 

May 11, 2022

Photo Essay: A Special Makeup Effects Creator's Own Museum of Monsters

Most of the times I've been to Boulder City, Nevada, it's been for ziplining or something related to the Hoover Dam

But this time around, I managed an early morning visit to the railroad museum (photo essay forthcoming)—with just enough time to visit Tom Devlin's Monster Museum before returning to Vegas. 

May 08, 2022

Photo Essay: Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' "Flights of Fancy" for Spring

While other casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip may be focused on recreating the opulence of ancient Greece, Rome, or Venice, approximating stereotypical Paris or New York City....

...or meeting the ever-changing expectations of "luxury"... 

...the Bellagio creates immersive, botanical experiences for each season in its 14,000-square-foot Conservatory.

May 07, 2022

Photo Essay: Tracking Down Del Taco's High Desert History in the Mojave

Driving east down Main Street in Barstow, California—taking a short detour on my way to Vegas last week—I spotted a sign advertising "The Original Del Taco Barstow," since 1964.