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)

May 15, 2023

Yet Another Island Gets Added to New York's Five Boroughs

NYC is full of weird experiences—from swimming in a shipping container to picnicking on a former landfill to squishing your toes in the sand of a pretend beach on the East River. 

So, having been away for a while, I was tickled to spend part of my return visit checking out one of the weirder new additions to Manhattan,

It's Little Island, a manmade park that opened at the former Piers 54 and 55 off of Hudson River Park in May 2021.

Pier 54 was once the Cunard-White Star pier, where the RMS Carpathia dropped off Titanic survivors in 1912 and where the British RMS Lusitania departed in 1915 before being torpedoed on its way to London. In 1918, in the final year of WWI, the German U-boat U-55 also sunk the Carpathia

May 12, 2023

Photo Essay: NYC's High Line and Its Closed Hudson Yards Vessel

I can trace my current spirit of adventure back to New York City circa 2005, when the weekend program Open House New York debuted and I had the chance to access special places that hadn't previously been on my radar—mostly because I'd been otherwise occupied with nightlife and not the NYC I could explore during the day. 

But the shift in my interests really ramped up in 2006, when I had the chance to walk upon the abandoned, elevated rail line that once delivered goods to the meatpackers on the far west side of the island.

May 08, 2023

Photo Essay: Chasing Down Elvis in Vegas

It didn't really occur to me when I visited the then-Las Vegas Hilton back in the late 1990s (for Star Trek: The Experience, which ran there 1998 to 2008) that I so close to the legacy left by Elvis Presley at the former International Hotel.


May 05, 2023

Photo Essay: The Bellagio's Italian Garden of Love Brings A Touch of Romance to Spring

The Bellagio Hotel & Casino was added to the Las Vegas Strip in 1998...

...built by hotelier Steve Wynn to evoke the Mediterranean area of Lake Como, Italy. 

While the Bellagio may be best known for its fountain show, I'm drawn to its 14,000-square-foot Conservatory, where immersive, botanical experiences are installed for each season.