December 31, 2023

In Case You Missed It: 2023 Edition

Happy New Year! (Almost.)

This year, a lot of my creative efforts shifted towards producing videos for KCET's "SoCal Wanderer" show instead of writing articles for the SoCal Wanderer blog, which meant I was doing a lot of retreading of old ground instead of exploring new places. 

December 26, 2023

Photo Essay: A Trek Around the Naples Island Christmas Decorations, Along Rivo Alto Canal

"But Sandi, you've done everything in LA!" my friends tell me. Not true, I say. I still have so much more to do. 
Take the Naples Canals in Long Beach, for instance. Although I'd ridden a gondola and even kayaked through them, I'd always wanted to check out the Christmas lights there or even attend the annual holiday boat parade—but until this year, I hadn't actually made it there yet.

December 25, 2023

Photo Essay: The Magical Holiday Parade, Upon the Centennial of Toluca Lake

Christmas Eve has always been more important to me than Christmas. I guess I've always just liked the anticipation better than the reality of things. 

So, in years that I'm not able to go back East for the holidays, the challenge is finding something to do when 'tis the night before Christmas and so many places are closed (or, sadly, extra-expensive). 

Historically, that's meant going over to a friend's house, attending church services, or even just hitting the neighborhood bars a little harder than usual.

But this year, I made a plan two months in advance: to volunteer as a caroler for the Toluca Lake Magical Holiday Parade in the village of Toluca Lake, California (technically part of the City of Los Angeles). 

December 23, 2023

Photo Essay: SoCal's Other Christmas Tree Lane, In Oxnard (ft. the F Street Railroad)

I'd already been to Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, just northeast of the city of Los Angeles—but it's not the only Christmas Tree Lane around in Southern California. 

There's another one in the city of Oxnard in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles in the other direction—and this year I finally got to go (once again for a shoot for work).

December 19, 2023

Photo Essay: The Retlaw1 Disneyland Railroad Rules the Rails at Santa Margarita Ranch

I knew that there were original RETLAW1 Disneyland train cars running on a railroad on the privately-owned Santa Margarita Ranch in the town of Santa Margarita, California. But I just hadn't been able to get to them yet. 


December 13, 2023

Upon the Monarch Migration

I've been chasing monarch butterflies in California for a few years now. But I've largely failed.

I've never seen the hoards of migrators that used to fill the skies—and trees—of Central and Southern California on their way down to Mexico. I've only heard the stories.

Honestly, by the time I started really looking for them, their population had dipped so much, I'd be happy to see just a single monarch.

December 08, 2023

Photo Essay: Pasadena's Christmas Neighborhood, Lighting Up For 71 Years and Counting

I don't remember how long ago it was that I drove through the Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood of Pasadena, California looking for Christmas lights—and finding none.
But it's been years and years—and I've kept thinking I need to go back to figure out where they are.

Turns out, I think I was just too early in the season—because at least this year, the official start of the neighborhood Light Up is on Saturday, December 9. 

Although fortunately for me (and my plans to produce a video of it for work), a few houses were ready early this year—

November 30, 2023

Photo Essay: The Future Becomes Retro at Howard Johnson Anaheim

I've often thought about spending the night in Anaheim, California so I can take advantage of one of those three-day ticket deals at Disneyland. Since my annual pass expired in 2016, I think I've only gotten to go twice.

So far, I've taken a tour of the Grand Californian, and I've skulked around the Disneyland Hotel. I've gawked at the Alpine Inn and the Camelot Inn as I've driven past them.

But I had no idea Anaheim had such a mid-century masterpiece as the William L. Pereira-designed Howard Johnson's, just steps away from Disneyland.

And now there's something even more spectacular about it: They created a suite that's somewhat of a recreation (more of a transcreation) of the short-lived Monsanto House of the Future walk-through attraction from Disneyland's Tomorrowland, circa 1957 to 1967. 

November 26, 2023

Photo Essay: The Egyptian Theatre Rises From Its Restoration Tomb

In May 2020, a deal was finalized to transfer ownership of the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood (a.k.a. Grauman's Egyptian) from the non-profit American Cinematheque to the very much for-profit streaming service (and now film studio) Netflix. 

And it caused quite an uproar.

Because when the City of LA's Community Redevelopment Agency sold the Egyptian to American Cinematheque in 1996—for just $1, a symbolic transaction—it was so that the historic property could be made accessible for the public good. 

To complicate matters, one of the American Cinematheque board members at the time worked for Netflix. 

Now, I don't know what American Cinemetheque's bylaws state in reference to potential conflicts of interest. It may be that the board reviewed the situation and decided that the possible interested person didn't stand to gain anything financially by the transaction, and so it wasn't an actual conflict of interest.

But it seems as though A.C. may not have even had the right to sell the property at all—much less transfer it to a corporation that would use it for private gain. 

Sure, the streamer will still allow the non-profit to occasionally screen repertory cinema and festivals; but it will primarily use the theatre as a screening room for its original productions. 

How did Netflix get around the Supreme Court decision of 1948 (known as the "Paramount Act," the "Paramount Decision," and the "Paramount Decree") that forbade movie studios from owning their own movie theatres and booking their own films there, as a violation of anti-trust laws? 

The same year that Netflix bought the Egyptian, the U.S. Department of Justice motioned to lift the ban—and a judge granted the motion

The anti-trust regulation of movie theatres was terminated—which means studios can once again legally own their own movie houses and monopolize the market, potentially edging out smaller chains and independent-run cinemas. 

It's a funny thing, a digital-first platform turning to brick-and-mortar—much like opening real-life grocery stores. (Or Amazon Studios taking over the Pacific Culver City multiplex for Prime screenings last December.)

They've both already cannibalized mom-and-pop retail by shifting consumer behavioral patterns online—so moving to physical locations feels a little like they're turning the knife. 

I appreciate that Netflix wanted to take over and preserve an existing, historic theatre rather than building something anew (or, gasp, tearing something down in the process). So, I had to put all this drama aside for myself—because in the end, no matter who owns it, the Egyptian is a 101-year-old Hollywood landmark. I want to support it; I want to help it stay open and active; I want to experience it. 

November 19, 2023

Photo Essay: The 44th Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, Back in Old Town

Pasadena is known for its annual Tournament of Roses—which occurs on New Year's Day, but never on a Sunday—as well as for the "twisted sister" of the Rose Parade, the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, which occasionally, not necessarily every year, takes place on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. 


November 18, 2023

Photo Essay: Tracing the Remains of the "Gateway to Southern California" at Cajon Pass

"I'm going to take a tour of the former Camp Cajon," I told my friends, when they asked why I had plans in the Inland Empire. 

"What was it?" they asked. 

"I'm not sure, so I guess I'll find out!" 

November 08, 2023

Photo Essay: Stepping Foot on America's First Freeway, the 110 (a.k.a. Arroyo Seco Parkway) — Updated for 2024

[Last updated 4/6/24 7:38 PM PT—Added two photos of the Avenue 60 exit.]

Why do I do this to myself

That's what I was thinking as I sat waiting for the Gold Line (a.k.a. "A Line") Metro train at the Heritage Square station, numbered bib safety-clipped to my tank top. 

I'd parked just three stops away from the starting point of the "Run the 110" race I'd signed up for—a 10K, though I'd never done a 10K before, and although I had no intention of actually running it. 

But it was a special way of experiencing the 110 Freeway when it was closed to traffic—and for the first time in 20 years. 

Sure, I could've just walked on the 110 at my leisure, not gotten up at 5 a.m. and not hightailed it to South Pasadena for a 7 a.m. starting time. I could've just joined everybody else during the event known as "ArroyoFest," part of the 626 Golden Streets open street event. 

But I wanted to be held accountable to do the whole thing. I wanted to make sure I would go at all—knowing my habit of bailing on myself when I haven't gotten enough sleep or when I'm in a flare-up. 

And that meant paying good money to get a T-shirt, be assigned a number, and receive a medal for finishing. Even though I wasn't sure if I could finish the whole thing. 

November 04, 2023

Photo Essay: A 'Haunted' Underground Tour of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Circa 1912

I've toured the 111-year-old Los Angeles Athletic Club in Downtown Los Angeles twice now, including once in 2012 upon its centennial, but there's one spot I hadn't gotten to yet: the basement. 
So, we took the opportunity to attend LAAC's Roaring Twenties Masquerade right before Halloween, which offered a "haunted underground tour" in addition to the masked revelry upstairs.

November 01, 2023

Photo Essay: The Return of the Once-Dead WeHo Halloween Carnaval

I haven't been to the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval every single Halloween night since I moved into the neighborhood—but I always liked knowing it was there as an option.

When I walked Santa Monica Boulevard back in October 2019, I had no idea that the street festival wouldn't return the next year—or the next, and next.

By Halloween 2022, the City of West Hollywood had declared that after the pandemic pause of the event, nobody in charge was very interested in bringing it back. 

And there was a community uproar. 

After all, the event brings a lot of business into the neighborhood—and it's a tremendous resource for those that want to go out and do something on Halloween night that's not necessarily drinking in a bar or a club, and doesn't necessarily require any driving. 

I know I love leaving my car at home and being able to just walk right over, and then walk home whenever I'm done.

So it was pretty exciting to witness the return of the WeHo Carnaval this year, four years since all those costumed revelers had been able to take over the boulevard.

October 18, 2023

October 15, 2023

Photo Essay: Covina Bowl, Partially Preserved, Awaits Its Second Chance

It was New Year's Day. I was hung over but I'd managed to go on an adventure with the guy I was dating at the time, the same guy who'd wimped out on our New Year's Eve plans the night before. 

We were headed back to LA from Pomona, and he was driving. 

"Can we please drive by Covina Bowl?" I asked. 

"I don't want to go bowling..." he said, probably flatly, though I heard it as a whine. 

"I just want to see it."

And so we drove up to the mid-century bowling palace and walked in the front door. My date was sighing. 

I took a quick look around and said, "OK, I've seen it."

We turned around, walked away, and went back home. 

I didn't know back then that Covina Bowl would close for good in 2017. And that I would never get more than a passing glance at it in all its glory, never get the chance to roll a ball down its lanes. 

But life is full of strikes and gutters, ups and downs. 

 circa 2022

And fortunately, part of Covina Bowl still remains. And part of it will one day reopen to the public to enjoy once again. 

October 06, 2023

Photo Essay: Pumpkin Rock, Under the Cloak of Fog

Not all my adventures are winners. But sometimes that makes for great content to fall under the umbrella of "Avoiding Regret."

Take my recent hike to Pumpkin Rock in Norco, for instance. 

September 30, 2023

Photo Essay: Boney Island Gets Reanimated at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Back around the new millennium, Emmy-winning animation producer for The Simpsons Rick Polizzi created a super-sized yard haunt in his San Fernando Valley neighborhood

But it became too popular for its own good—with traffic congesting the residential area and an unwieldy crowd size arriving nightly to check out the array of skeletons and the fountain show. 

So it closed in 2016 and took a year off, reopening in Griffith Park in 2018.

I saw the original version in person in 2014 but missed out on its redux, which closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fortunately, it reopened once again for the 2023 Halloween season—this time in yet another new location. 

September 26, 2023

The Crest Has Transformed Into UCLA's New Nimoy Theater, With 1980s Art Deco Elements Preserved

I don't remember why I never saw a movie at the Crest Theatre in Westwood, Los Angeles before it closed for good in 2016. To be honest, I don't really remember it being open or having heard about it hosting any screenings.

 circa 2022

I only really took notice of it when it was closed, and then upon the announcement that UCLA was converting it into the "Nimoy Theater" (named after Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy) for live shows presented by the Center for the Art of Performance. At which point, I became desperate to get in. 

September 19, 2023

Photo Essay: Pasadena Heritage Throws Open the Doors to the Historic Blinn House

[Last updated 9/22/23 12:21 AM PT—Fixed inaccuracies about Blinn House Foundation and Frank Lloyd Wright]

When the Women's City Club of Pasadena dissolved in May 2020, it meant their clubhouse—the Blinn House—needed to go to a good caretaker.

The ladies gifted it to the preservation-oriented non-profit Pasadena Heritage—and now they've moved in, this historic home is once again bustling with events. 

Fortunately, it was also open for tours during California Preservation Foundation's Doors Open California 2023. 

September 17, 2023

Taking In the View of 'Smoke Spotters' at Keller Peak Fire Lookout Tower, San Bernardino National Forest

Two years ago, I ascended to the Ancient and Honorable Order of Squirrels at the Strawberry Peak Fire Lookout Tower in the San Bernardino Mountains, near Lake Arrowhead.

It was such a fun experience, I wanted to return to shoot one of the videos I've been producing for our local PBS station, KCET, and its digital series "SoCal Wanderer."

But my contact at the Southern California Mountains Foundation, the non-profit organization that oversees the fire lookout tower program in the San Bernardino Mountains, suggested I visit a different lookout tower this time: Keller Peak, near the town of Running Springs.  

September 11, 2023

Photo Essay: The Reunion House, in Silver Lake's Neutra Colony

I'd been booked for a tour of the Neutra-designed Reunion House back in 2018—but things happened, as they do, and I wasn't able to make it. 

That was the year before Dion Neutra, who was living there at the time, passed away.  

September 10, 2023

Photo Essay: The Nirvana Apartments, A Vivid Hollywood Version of the 'East'

I can't tell you how many times I've passed by The Nirvana on Orange Drive in Hollywood, either on my way to the parking structure at Hollywood & Highland (now Ovation) or heading home from The Magic Castle

But I never noticed its pagoda roofline—or any of the strange, eclectic decorative details that adorned the four-story, brick-clad apartment building.

September 05, 2023

Photo Essay: Hanging Out In 'Hangtown,' Or Maybe Getting Sick in Placerville

Now that I've got some distance from it, I've been thinking a bit about what happened in the days before I came down with COVID-19 last year. 

I'm still not sure where I caught it, or how—but since I was traveling and bopping around to a lot of different spots, I may never know.

It was 4th of July weekend, and I was headed up to the Great Western Steam-Up in Carson City, Nevada. But first, I made a pit stop at the tiki bar in Sacramento (a.k.a. The Jungle Bird) and spent the night in the "Gold Rush" town of Placerville, California.

September 03, 2023

A Nightmare Come True

Image by Marcela Bolívar from Pixabay  

Over the last couple of years, maybe a few years, I've had this recurring dream. Well, actually, it's two recurring dreams. 

In one, I've got a mouthful of glass shards that I'm trying to spit out. I haven't been chewing on the glass, so I don't know how the broken pieces got in there—but I'm desperate to get them out. I'm opening my mouth to let them fall out; I'm wriggling around my tongue and stretching out my lips to dislodge them; I'm reaching in with my fingers to pull them out. 

But with every bit of glass that's removed, more arrives in its place. 

September 02, 2023

Taken By the River

The last time I kayaked the Elysian Valley section of the Los Angeles River, I celebrated a certain victory—not falling in, despite some rocky patches and rough waters.

But at the time, I noted that the river might change its mind and have other plans for me the next time. 

And that ended up ringing true, when I returned a couple of weeks ago to shoot a video for KCET's SoCal Wanderer YouTube series

August 27, 2023

Looking for Gold at Hot Creek Geologic Site, the Eastern Sierra's Volcanic Hot Spring Gorge (Updated)

Update 9/2/23 12:44 AM PT—According to a press release from Friends of the Inyo, a federal appeals court reversed a prior decision from a lower district court and overturned the U.S. Forest Service’s 2021 approval that allowed gold-mining exploration Inyo National Forest’s Long Valley area. This may not be the end—but it's a victory for now.

In Mono County's Hot Creek Gorge in the Eastern Sierra, a colorful display of bright blue, green, and turquoise indicates where boiling water bubbles up—after percolating deep underground in a thermal aquifer near hot, subterranean magma located about 3 miles beneath the surface.

At the geological wonder known as Hot Creek Geologic Site, water heats up and is pressurized far beneath the earth in a literal hotbed of geothermal activity.

August 26, 2023

August 12, 2023

Photo Essay: Streamline Modernity in Silver Lake, Los Angeles

I'm a looky-loo, but I don't always like to be in people's homes while they're still living there. I'll make an occasional exception for a rare public tour—or if the house is listed for sale and lots of people are wandering through anyway. 

The "Silver Ridge" estate recently fit the bill on both marks—at the time, listed for $3.5 MM for five bedrooms, three baths, and a two-car garage below on a 13,900-square-foot lot. 

August 05, 2023

Photo Essay: Hollywood Post 43, A World War I Memorial Built By the Movies and Boxing Matches

It's been nicknamed the "Post of the Stars." 

Originally chartered in 1919 by Hollywood luminaries who'd returned from World War I, American Legion Hollywood Post 43 can count such luminaries as Clark Gable, Gene Autry, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, and Charlton Heston as its past members.

July 30, 2023

Photo Essay: Before the Guggenheim, There Was Frank Lloyd Wright's Anderton Court Shops in Beverly Hills

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright notoriously didn't see eye to eye with some of his clients, especially his female clients—perhaps most famously Aline Barnsdall, whose Hollyhock House is now a globally-renowned FLW design (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Lesser known is the spat he had with Nina Anderton, a Bel Air socialite and philanthropist who commissioned him to build a shopping complex on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills—which was to be the architect's only commercial structure in Southern California, and his last design in all of LA.

July 23, 2023

Getting It Over With

I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! - "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Image by Claudia from Pixabay

I've lived with both physical and emotional pain for most if not all of my life. So I don't shy away from things that might hurt me—maybe to a fault.

I've just always assumed that life is pain and that if I want to live fully, it's gonna hurt. 

But there is an exception: I have an unreasonable fear of getting stung by a bee

I've chronicled here some instances where I've literally turned around and aborted mission when I've encountered a swarm of bees, or when I was trapped and did the heebie-jeebie dance just to get away from bees trying to drink droplets of sweat off my shirt in the desert.

And I made it nearly 48 years without getting stung by anything—until yesterday. 

July 16, 2023

Photo Essay: Take the Red Elevator Through Space and Time at the Bonaventure Hotel

There are some buildings in LA I feel compelled to respect for their sheer audacity. 

The Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles is one of those.

July 04, 2023

Photo Essay: A Clubhouse of Benevolence Becomes the Hotel San Buena

The former Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Ventura Lodge No. 1403 in Ventura, California is currently being converted into the Hotel San Buena (a truncated version of "San Buenaventura," the town's namesake)...

...and I recently got the chance to tour the nearly-finished boutique hotel facilities. 

July 02, 2023

Photo Essay: The 'Resurrection Church' of San Gabriel Mission, Reopened Three Years After the Fire

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel—known as the "Mother Church" of Los Angeles, founded by Spanish missionaries—just reopened to the public for the first time since an arson fire burned down the roof of its chapel nearly three years ago, in July 2020. 

I'd actually never been inside the church, the museum, or anywhere else on the grounds except the cemetery—so this seemed like a good occasion to finally take a tour with the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley. 

July 01, 2023

Photo Essay: Getting Baptized In Colored Light at St. Francis Episcopal Church, Palos Verdes Estates

Architect Walter Davis, of the venerated La Venta Inn in Southern California's Palos Verdes Estates, also designed the 1952 chapel at St. Francis Episcopal Church in PVE. That's the chapel that was advertised as part of Doors Open Peninsula a couple weekends ago. 

But when I got to the grounds, I was far more fascinated by a much more modern-looking, almost Googie-style chapel next door. 

June 27, 2023

Photo Essay: La Venta, The 100-Year-Old Inn That Once Helped Sell the Palos Verdes Peninsula

"Temperate climate, fertile black soil, and... sea air that contains just the right amount of moisture."

That's how a 1930 issue of the Palos Verdes Homes Association's Palos Verdes Bulletin described the conditions on the hilltop where La Venta Inn now stands, overlooking Malaga Cove, in present-day Palos Verdes Estates, California.


June 24, 2023

Photo Essay: LA Gets Three New Subway Stations (And An Alphabet Soup of Train Lines)

Yes, Los Angeles has a subway. And it's growing.

The above-ground Expo Line—much of which was built along an old Pacific Electric right-of-way—became the "Subway to the Sea" when it fully opened between Culver City and Santa Monica in 2016. (It's now, however, called the E line.)

The Purple Line Extension will put a subway station about a mile and a half away from where I live sometime in the next three or four years. (The Purple Line has also been renamed the D Line but I haven't fully committed to calling the lines by their letters instead of their colors yet.)

Until then, if I want to ride the subway, I've got to make a special trip.

Last weekend, I trekked downtown just to check out three just-opened subway stations that comprise  the Metro Regional Connector project—which allows seamless transit from Long Beach to Azusa and Santa Monica to East Los Angeles along the A and E lines. 

June 21, 2023

Photo Essay: A Stone Tower Gateway to the 'Riviera of America,' Palos Verdes

Palos Verdes Estates is one of four cities that comprise the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the South Bay region of Los Angeles, California. 

And at the entrance to the city on Vía Valmonte (formerly known as Vía Mirlo), there's a tower that marks its eastern border shared with the City of Torrance: the Mirlo Gate Tower, or the "Tower House."


June 20, 2023

Photo Essay: A Department Store Founder's Cliffside Summer Estate, Now The Neighborhood Church

One hundred years ago—on June 17, 1923—a real estate rally helped form what became known as the development of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which is now comprised of four cities (Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, and Rolling Hills Estates). 

To celebrate, a bunch of cultural institutions, landmarks, historic sites, and other local attractions threw open their doors to visitors this past weekend, as part of "Doors Open Peninsula." 

My second stop of the day turned out to be one of the best: The Neighborhood Church, located in the former Haggarty House on Paseo del Mar in PVE. 

June 19, 2023

Photo Essay: A Wellness Check on the Old Trapper's Lodge Statues, Slated for Removal from Pierce College

In 2013, I reported on a collection of statues at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California that had been handmade by amateur sculptor John Ehn. 

A descendent of pioneers, he'd dubbed himself "The Old Trapper" (or "O.T.") and built a motel (or "lodge") in the Sun Valley neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley in 1941.

Ehn had no training besides briefly shadowing Claude Bell (of Knott's Berry Farm/Cabazon Dinosaurs fame)—but he took it upon himself to tell stories of the Old West through his art, using his family members as models to portray scenes from pioneer family life. 

"O.T." died in 1981—and his heirs sold the motel property (or, more accurately, were forced to sell it) to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority for the expansion of the airport runways. 

The statues were relocated to Pierce College in 1988. 

They were always a little bit hard to find—but now they're almost entirely hidden from view. 

June 05, 2023

Photo Essay: May Gray at UCR Botanic Garden, Riverside

May Gray has been the bane of my existence since I first discovered it on a business trip to LA in 2006, while I was still living in New York City and still thought that California was all sunshine and palm trees.
It was hard adjusting to the gloomy months of late spring and early summer when I first moved to LA in 2011—but now, after more than 12 years, I'm not just getting used to it. 

I'm embracing it. 

June 03, 2023

Photo Essay: Another LA River Bridge Tries to Unify Two Sides of the Same City

In early 2020, I was working on an article for KCET's SoCal Wanderer that brought me to Rio de Los Angeles State Park—one of three California state parks along the Los Angeles River, this one located in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Cypress Park. 

It’s a project first initiated nearly 30 years ago—and, having opened in 2007, it's now become part of the Los Angeles River Revitalization plan to restore 11 miles of the LA River between Griffith Park and Downtown Los Angeles.

But three years ago, there was no easy way to get from the park, formerly part of the Taylor Yard railyard, to the other side of the river (an area known as Elysian Valley/Frogtown).

That changed last year, when the Taylor Yard car-free bridge opened up in the Glendale Narrows section of the Los Angeles River. 

May 29, 2023

The Wrigleys' Timeless Gift of Timekeeping on Catalina Island: The Chimes Tower

In my last couple of visits to Catalina Island—the only developed tourist attraction in the Channel Islands archipelago off the coast of California—I've been trying to trace some of the remnants of the Wrigleys' time there.

But for all the looking I've done, there's been another clue to the Wrigley history on the island—and that can be found simply by listening

Every 15 minutes, you can hear the Westminster chimes of the Catalina Chimes Tower—a set of "cathedral chimes" (like those found at Westminster Abbey) ringing out from atop a hill. (They originally sounded four times an hour from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. — but now they're only between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.)

circa 2021, with some Photoshop magic

May 28, 2023

Photo Essay: Catalina Island's Miniature Hollywood Bowl, Abandoned

I first discovered that there were some ruins ripe for exploring on Catalina Island thanks to a KCET video on the former Island Mountain Railway, built by the Banning brothers who owned Catalina Island at the time. (You can watch the video at the bottom of this post.)

The funicular connected the town of Avalon to Pebbly Beach—which was necessary because Pebbly Beach Road hadn't been built yet. 

circa 1914 (Photo: California Historical Society, via USC Digital Libraries

I still haven't made it Buena Vista Point—where a Swiss chalet-style power house for the incline railway attracted tourists to Mount Buena Vista Park, at what was also known then as Avalon Summit.

Google Satellite view

There's apparently a concrete foundation and maybe some other rusty ruins left up there. But there's something else that can be seen, farther down the hill, right next to where one of two funicular cars used to run along the west side of the hill: the old Greek-style amphitheater. 

May 20, 2023

Photo Essay: Sleeping In NYC's Former Home For Shipwrecked Sailors

For my first trip back to NYC in five years, staying with a friend wasn't really an option—so I took the opportunity to stay in the weirdest and most historic hotel I could think of.

It's now a boutique hotel called The Jane, located in the westernmost environs of Greenwich Village, just steps from the East Bank of the Hudson River.

I remember its big reopening in 2008, with much fanfare. It then became a huge nightlife destination, though I don't recall ever drinking or dancing in its Victorian-style "ballroom." 

But my return visit would be very different—sleeping in a hotel room I vaguely knew had been built for sailors and that one of the Titanic survivors might've occupied in 1912.

Of course, it turned out I was actually going in a little blind—because there was so much I didn't know about The Jane. 

You see, it began its life at 507 West Street in 1908 as the American Seamans Friend Society Institute Building—built by the non-sectarian although decidedly religious (and even evangelical) Seamens Institute. 

circa 1909 (The Acts of the Apostles of the Sea, page 69) via Internet Archive Book Images (Public Domain)

According to the 1909 book The Acts of the Apostles of the Sea, the institute—whose president at the time was the Reverend Dr. Charles A. Stoddard—stood as "the largest distributor of the Word of God on the waters." Not only that, the book continues, the society "aided shipwrecked and destitute seamen of every race and nation, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, [and] buried the dead." 

circa July 2022 (Google Street View)