Posts Tagged ‘photos’

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class="post-8771 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-los-angeles tag-museums tag-photos tag-travel">

LACMA and the La Brae Tar Pits

October 27th, 2019
LACMA

 

I left the Hollywood History tour a little tired, but decided to soldier on via an LA Metro bus to see LACMA and the La Brae Tar Pits next door. I should point out in advance I didn’t pay to enter either museum; LACMA’s main gallery is currently being rebuilt, and the La Brae Tar Pits museum is largely aimed at kids from what I understand.

The first exhibit I encountered at LACMA’s grounds is an outdoor piece called Levitated Mass. It’s an enormous boulder held in place with bolts over a subterranean concrete ramp. Seems simple enough, but due to a mishap with the original boulder the artist had selected, it took several decades to complete.

 

LACMA

 

The other big installation outdoors at LACMA is Urban Light, a series of outdoor light posts you might find lining a street, except all bunched up in close-knit grid.

It is kind of a headtrip to wander through this and see standard urban street furniture intentionally misused, though the main attraction seems to be getting one’s photo taken among the light posts.

 

LACMA

 

A more traditional sculpture garden off to the side features various sculptures, currently focusing on “The Invisible Man and the Masque of Blackness” by Zak OvĂ© .

This series of statues feature a semi-faceless series of nearly identical statues that look abstract yet somehow of African descent. I was surprised to see it again as this particular work was recently exhibited at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco.

Unlike the San Francisco version of the exhibit, LACMA’s is enclosed on three sides by a fence with a security guard out front. This changed the meaning completely for me — as a white man — particularly since the security guard was a black man. I don’t know what more to say here other than art can be powerful when the context is shifted.

 

LACMA

 

While trying to find the restrooms I wandered through a massive, two story tall geometric sculpture called “Smoke.” From ground level it felt intimidating, but when I wandered up the stairs and looked down upon it, it seemed much less interesting.

It’s amazing what perspective can do with large scale art installations.

 

La Brae Tar Pits

 

On the other side of the block there’s the La Brae Tar Pits, an excavation site where various fossil remains were dredged up back in the day.

Today the tar pits are known for their absurd recreations of… woolly mammoths, I guess? They look like some embarrassing 1950’s highway attraction like the “world’s largest ball of twine” or whatever.

The tar pits themselves smell like tar, similar to when a building is getting a new tar roof. It’s not very pleasant.

I’ll admit part of the reason I went over there was to see if I could spot LA puppeteer, actor, artist, and singer David Liebe Hart — an oddball local character who’s known for hanging out there. Unfortunately for me he was nowhere to be found.

 

The LA Metro Purple Line extension is being built a block down the street, and since it’s located so close to the tar pits the excavation is a slow process with paleontologists ensuring our natural heritage is preserved. As such I had to take a very crowded Metro Rapid bus back downtown instead of the yet to open subway.

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class="post-8765 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-hollywood tag-los-angeles tag-photos tag-travel tag-walk-of-fame tag-walking-tour">

Hollywood History walking tour

October 27th, 2019
Walk of Fame

 

This morning I took the LA Metro to Hollywood and Vine, the meeting place of another Downtown LA Walking Tour, Hollywood History. The name of the tour company is kind of a misfit here as Hollywood is not located downtown.

The first thing anyone should know about Hollywood Boulevard is — if the two wax museums and the Hard Rock Cafe weren’t a dead giveaway — it’s a tourist trap. Expect people to try to hand you pamphlets for bus tours, and unlicensed costume characters to pose for photos with you in exchange for tips. I counted at least two Spider Men, three Mickey Mouses, and one Edward Scissorhands.

The tour makes all of this a little more palatable by focusing largely on the history of the place rather than the current spectacle.

 

Capitol Records Building

 

The starting point of the tour is also kind of the starting point of Hollywood as it relates to the entertainment industry. Although these days Hollywood is almost synonymous with the film industry, the intersection of Hollywood and Vine is where both local and national radio broadcast studios were located, as well as record companies. The 1950’s era Capitol Records Building — shaped like a stack of records — is located half a block away.

On a related topic, the Hollywood Walk of Fame (see photo at the top of the post) is not just movie stars, but recognizes entertainment stars in various categories. Theater actors, singers, TV actors, etc. are also eligible in their respective categories. This also means a few people have more than one star for their multiple talents.

I wasn’t paying super close attention, but I spotted stars for everyone from W.C. Fields to Lucy Lui to the band Rush.

 

Egyptian Theater Chinese Theater

 

Heading east along Hollywood Boulevard, the sights of the tour started looking more familiar. The Egyptian Theater and the Chinese Theater are two of the more iconic cinemas in the area where new films are screened, though they’re not the only ones.

One weird quirk our tour guide pointed out about the Egyptian Theater is the Spanish tiles on the roof. Apparently the building was originally going to be built in the Mission Revival style, but just after construction kicked off, King Tut’s tomb was discovered. So the plans were shuffled to cash in on the newfound popularity of Egypt, but the owner was too cheap to redo the existing roof.

The newest theater on the street that I unfortunately didn’t get very good photos of is the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars now take place. It’s attached to a new strangely shaped mall with a series of viewing platforms where tourists can go to get a clear view of the Hollywood sign.

 

Jimmy Kimmel Live theater

 

The theater where late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! is filmed is also on Hollywood Boulevard. Filming notices are posted outside, but if you’ve ever seen Jimmy Kimmel’s show on TV you’re probably aware a film crew might pop out (possibly with a celebrity in tow) and strike up a conversation to use on the show. Our tour guide had a personal story about this.

 

The Hollywood Roosevelt

 

The tour ends just across from The Hollywood Roosevelt, a large hotel frequented by celebrities, politicians, and — according to legend — ghosts. I wandered into the lobby to snap some photos. Can’t say if it’s haunted or not though the interior is quite stunning.

 

My recommendation: Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this is a tour of a neighborhood that’s become a tourist trap. I’m of mixed feelings about this one, I think someone who’s more interested in Hollywood than myself would get more from learning details of the history of the area. That said it’s certainly much more enjoyable than trying to take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard on one’s own.

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class="post-8761 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-arts-district tag-los-angeles tag-photos tag-travel tag-walking-tour">

Arts District tour

October 26th, 2019
Arts District Arts District Arts District

 

Yesterday afternoon I took a tour of LA’s Arts District from Downtown LA Walking Tours. I had the same tour guide as I did when I took the Chinatown and Little Tokyo tour on my last visit, and as it turns out he’s intimately familiar with the local art scene through his other job as a photographer.

The general story of an art district anywhere in the world follows pretty much the same pattern: a bunch of old warehouses in a poor part of town become available on the cheap, artists show up and turn them into art studios, those same artists improve the neighborhood over time, and are then forced out when the rents increase. It’s a classic tale of self-gentrification.

LA’s Arts District is a little more complicated than that, as it turns out — these artists were more organized than most. First the city codified the status of artists living in former warehouses where they worked, even if the buildings weren’t up to code. Second, some of the artists were able to hold on to their apartments even as those buildings were changed to new uses. Lastly, there are still a number of galleries in the area.

Oh, and the chickens. I should explain the chickens.

The first stop on the tour is Hauser & Wirth, the LA outpost of a Swiss chain of high-end art galleries. It’s actually several galleries in a building that was constructed as a flour mill.

In the patio of the building there’s a restaurant called Manuela, which is pricey but also apparently well liked, and is often frequented by celebrities. They grow some of their own spices and such on the patio outside, and have a fenced in area with chickens to provide fresh eggs. The chickens even have their own Instagram.

Like the former flour mill, other buildings in the area were either warehouses, or production sites for companies like Challenge Butter and Coca Cola. These businesses all left the area when the shipping economy shifted from railroads to trucks.

 

Arts District Arts District Arts District

 

Though the tour stopped at three very different galleries, there’s also a focus on the outdoor art, from enormous murals to sculptures, which includes the oversized mailbox seen above.

There’s so much street art in the neighborhood that the same tour company has a tour devoted just to that topic. Unfortunately it wasn’t available during my trip this time or I would have booked that as well.

The last place we visited, Art Share LA, is more than just an art gallery. It also includes classrooms, studios for resident local artists, and even an event space that’s used for everything from ballet classes to church groups to weddings. The whole place has a welcoming atmosphere and features some of the most quirky art in the area.

 

Arts District

 

One of the last spots on the tour is Wings by Colette Miller. What started as a simple pair of angel wings painted on a corrugated metal wall right here in the Arts District, designed to attract selfie-takers, is now an oft-imitated global phenomenon. Miller herself has been commissioned to paint many of these all over the world.

Even if you haven’t seen the original, you’ve almost certainly seen someone’s photo on Instagram standing against a wall with wings painted on it.

 

My recommendation: If you don’t know much at all about LA’s Arts District this is a solid tour. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what you’ll see on it, so if it sounds interesting I’d recommend it.

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Grand Central Market

October 26th, 2019

On my last visit to LA I kept kicking myself for not taking any photos of Grand Central Market, the big local food hall downtown. It’s also one of the best food halls I’ve ever been to and I have some recommendations. So here we go.

 

Grand Central Market Grand Central Market Grand Central Market

 

Opening at 8 AM, a handful of vendors serve coffee and breakfast. Although I’m not much of a morning person myself the weirdly named Eggslut chain has a popular outpost here with their various egg-based sandwiches, and long lines to show for it.

Lunch is the main attraction at Grand Central Market when everything is open. Aside from made to order lunches from pasta to tacos to salads, you can also buy ingredients from tiny grocery stores to cook your own food.

Snack foods and beverages are also available. I’d recommend trying La Fruteria, a Mexican street food joint with spiced fruit cups and aguas frescas.

 

Grand Central Market Grand Central Market Grand Central Market

 

Grand Central Market closes around 10 PM, but many of the vendor stalls close after the lunch rush and the crowds thin out.

One solid place for dinner — also open for lunch, but is usually slammed — is Olio, an Italian place. Though they offer salads as well, the real focus is on small thin crust pizza. It’s a better bet for dinner just because there will be open seats and you won’t have to wait as long, though if you’re willing to take it to go lunch works too. The dough is a little chewy for my taste, but the perfect tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings more than make up for it.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “foodie” Grand Central Market is located between two Los Angeles landmarks: Angel’s Flight and the Bradbury Building.

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class="post-8747 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-los-angeles tag-pershing-square tag-photos tag-travel">

Pershing Square

October 26th, 2019
Pershing Square Pershing Square Pershing Square

 

Just like my last visit to Los Angeles I’m staying near Pershing Square, a public plaza spanning an entire city block. I’ve also found it’s a convenient orientation point when I’m not quite sure where something is located in downtown LA.

The square is named after American WWI general John J. Pershing. Though he was a famous general in his day, as far as I can tell he has no direct connection to Los Angeles.

In its current incarnation the square features a mix of boxy and curvy concrete structures, mostly painted in pastel purple and orange. It should come as no surprise this design is the work of the late Ricardo Legorreta, whose designs are notorious for this style and color scheme.

But what surprises me most about Pershing Square is just how similar it is to Union Square back home in San Francisco. Aside from being public squares in California, consider these similarities:

  • Both are named to honor wars that have very little to do with their respective locations, let alone the west coast.
  • Both are in historic neighborhoods, surrounded by hotels, shops, and restaurants.
  • Both were rebuilt on top of underground parking garages in the mid 20th century.
  • Both are located downtown on one city block and are about the same size.
  • Both have a subway station located located nearby.

Obviously there are many, many differences between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but I think anyone who spends time in both California cities would be surprised by the similarities in their respective downtown squares.

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class="post-8740 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-los-angeles tag-photos tag-the-last-bookstore tag-travel tag-videos">

The Last Bookstore’s upstairs labyrinth

October 25th, 2019

The Last Bookstore: Upstairs

 

On my last trip to LA I just sort of stumbled across The Last Bookstore, a large bookstore selling new, used, antique, and rare books and comic books as well as vinyl records.

Both times I wandered in I was a little distracted by well-attended events they were holding in the store with authors and poets. Not a bad problem to have for The Last Bookstore by any means, but it meant I couldn’t explore the space as freely as I would have liked.

As it turns out I’d missed two key aspects to the store. One I knew about: the upstairs. The other took me by surprise: the bank vaults. Yes, the building was once a bank, and the open bank vault doors now reveal small rooms lined with books.

So what’s upstairs? Balconies on each of the four sides of the building are roughly half devoted to art gallery spaces, and half to a quirky “labyrinth” of oddball book decor and oddly arranged shelving.

On those shelves you’ll find a strange blend of genres from science fiction to identity politics. A few bookshelves are devoted to single topics — Sherlock Holmes, for example.

Here’s a short video I put together of the crazy upstairs labyrinth at The Last Bookstore. I had to remove the ambient audio due to copyrights.

 

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class="post-8732 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-misc tag-history tag-los-angeles tag-photos tag-trains tag-travel">

LA’s Union Station

October 25th, 2019
LA Union Station

 

It’s been almost two years since my last visit to Los Angeles, a trip I accidentally over-planned to the point where I had three times as much stuff to do as I did time to do it. So today I’ve returned for a few nights in an attempt to cross a few more of those items off the list.

But my first stop was actually a new item for me: Union Station. I’d become interested in the grand train stations of yesteryear during my Ameritrip2019 excursion on Amtrak. Many of these classic stations are named “Union Station” since they served a group — or union — of different passenger train services, like the one in LA still does today.

As it happens Union Station was the closest stop to my Airbnb on the LAX Flyaway “express” bus — which in reality has to share the same clogged freeways with everyone else.

The bus stops at a bus area behind the station. A short walk down a ramp leads into the newer half of the station, with the LA Metro’s subway downstairs, and both the regional Metrolink as well as Amtrak and Amtrak California on the outdoor upstairs level.

 

LA Union Station LA Union Station LA Union Station

 

The main passageway continues straight into the old part of Union Station. Unsurprisingly it’s the most interesting part of the complex, the uniquely beautiful interior in particular.

The building was completed in 1939, combining the Mission Revival style with Art Deco — a combination that sounds objectively terrible on paper, but the designers somehow fit it together perfectly. It’s worth noting the LA City Hall was designed by the same team.

Today the old half of the station is mostly waiting areas with shops, cafes, and a pair of outdoor courtyards. Still, my favorite feature in today’s 98F weather was a little more modern — the air conditioning.

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class="post-8692 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-coit-tower tag-goldengate tag-photos tag-salesforce-tower tag-san-francisco tag-transamerica">

Salesforce Tower Tour

September 30th, 2019

Salesforce Tower Tour
 

I got to see the city from a new perspective yesterday thanks to the free Salesforce Tower Tour. Tickets for this are rarely available and are snapped up quickly — somehow I was able to snag one back in June.

The line to enter the tour is on the small plaza at Mission and Fremont, which is also an entrance to the Salesforce Transit Center next door and the location of the gondola ride to Salesforce Park.

I should point out that despite the names, neither of these two buildings — nor the park — are owned by Salesforce; they just paid for the naming rights.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour Salesforce Tower Tour
 

There’s a dedicated lobby area for the tour where Salesforce’s “National Park” aesthetic begins complete with astroturf throw rugs, curved LED screens, a plastic bear, and “trees” disguising the building’s outer columns. This theme contrasts strangely when placed in the almost comically bland Salesforce Tower. Oh and there’s also a completely deserted gift shop for some unknown reason. As Yoda might say, “Disneyland, this is not.”

After checking in with my ID I got a plastic wristband disguised to look like a blade of grass, as well as a Salesforce sticker I put on my hoodie. I was also handed a map and a pamphlet and was told this was a self-guided tour, or to put it another way not really a “tour” at all. But that’s fine, it’s really all about the view.

From there we went through metal detectors and a bag check. I had to place my keys and phone in a bowl, but kept my belt on without setting off the metal detector. I was also allowed to bring the small water bottle I’d brought with me, although this turned out to be unnecessary as complimentary water was available.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

From there we were directed by staff over to a row of elevators in the center of the building. The photo above is looking toward Mission Street at a roped-off bank of elevators. Presumably those were for workers if they had to come in on the weekend.

The elevators for the tour were preprogrammed to whisk us to the top of the building, the Ohana Floor. It’s a pretty quick ride and while my ears popped going up, it’s worth pointing out that the building isn’t really as tall as it looks. Not including the building’s “hat,” it’s only 61 stories tall. While that’s tall by San Francisco standards, it’s nowhere near the height of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
Salesforce Tower Tour Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Before getting into the views, I should point out what’s on the Ohana Floor. It’s intended to be a space for nonprofits to use as part of Salesforce’s philanthropy efforts. As such there’s plenty of seating, living plants all over the place, a conference room, restrooms, and even a full service restaurant.

Unfortunately the restaurant was not open, which seemed like a missed opportunity. People will pay a lot of money for cocktails or a weekend brunch with a nice view. You don’t have to take my word for it, that’s been the business model of Top of the Mark since the late 1930’s.

I don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth here, I’m glad there’s an opportunity to see the space for free. All I’m saying is this seems like an untapped source of revenue — some of which could be used to benefit the nonprofits hosted by Salesforce.

The last feature I want to point out here are the skylights. These round windows peer up into the building’s “hat” known for displaying videos at night. During the day these provide natural light, but also raise the question of what it looks like on the Ohana Floor after dark.

All that aside let’s get into some of the views.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Looking south, we see the city split by a freeway that unfortunately runs through it. Near the bottom center is the gray windowless AT&T building that serves as a giant internet hub, where a whistle-blower reported mass surveillance by the NSA years before it was confirmed by Edward Snowden.

I briefly worked at the building across the street, 303 2nd Street, which features a grassy terrace and series of fountains that make for a hotspot for outdoor lunches. Moving diagonally up 2nd Street you can see the Clocktower Building as well as the ballpark.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Looking south-ish we can see the bay in the distance with numerous cargo ships in the background. The tall building in the back center is One Rincon Hill, which for many years stood as the tallest tower in SOMA.

Recently a number of other towers have popped up, which mostly either mimic the circular tower of One Rincon Hill, have taken on a reflective mirror coating to blend in, or have some combination of the two.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Looking east we have a nice view of the Bay Bridge leading to Alameda County in the background. Sailboats dot the bay with Yerba Buena Island and its man-made neighbor Treasure Island in the center.

The three piers jutting out into the bay from left to right are two SF Bay Ferry terminals at the Ferry Building, followed by the public Pier 14.

If you noticed the shadow at the bottom left that was cast by Salesforce Tower itself.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Going north we can see some of the most iconic elements of the San Francisco skyline. From left to right there’s the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bank of America Building, the extremely pointy Transamerica Pyramid, and Coit Tower and Alcatraz.

Next to the Bank of America Building the creepy Corporate Goddesses are visible. That’s the building where the Jejune Institute was located.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Turning further to the west it looks like chaos in the foreground, with buildings built along different street grids rather than facing each other.

Although outside city planners came up with complete redesigns of the street grid after San Francisco was leveled in 1906, those plans were rejected and the city was rebuilt along the same awkward street layout.

 
Salesforce Tower Tour
 

Lastly here’s a view to the west with Sutro Tower in the distance. Mission Street is prominently visible running down the center.

This seems like a good as point as any to point out that the windows of Salesforce Tower were a little grimy during my visit, not that I’m volunteering to go outside and clean them. But the dirt is visible in some of these photos, particularly on the west side where the sun was shining toward the windows.
 

My recommendation: Definitely try to sign up for a ticket if you’re interested, this is a one-of-a-kind way to view the city. Your ID is essentially your ticket, so they are non-transferable (in other words, don’t try buying them from scalpers.) Do be aware the tower is tall enough it’s often engulfed in fog, and there’s no way to predict if that will be the case months in advance.

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The Tony Bennett statue

September 23rd, 2019

Tony Bennett statue
Tony Bennett way Tony Bennett statue
 

Today I came across the statue of Tony Bennett just outside the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. It’s been there since 2016 though I don’t think I’d ever gotten around to seeing it until now. The statue is in the front lawn of the hotel on Mason Street — a block also now known as Tony Bennett Way.

Though many would rightfully associate Tony Bennett with his home in New York City, he debuted the song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at the Fairmont Hotel in 1961. The song wasn’t originally written for Bennett, yet he released the first recording of the song a year later.

The following two lines of the song stick out to me:

To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care

Decades later those same foggy weather patterns persist, and thanks to an almost insurmountable effort those little cable cars are still climbing halfway to the stars.

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class="post-8669 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-local tag-emperornorton tag-photos tag-salesforce tag-san-francisco">

The Emperor Norton plaque is back

September 13th, 2019

Emperor Norton plaque
 

Those who visited the old Transbay Terminal before it was demolished may remember the plaque dedicated to Emperor Norton next to the front door.

The plaque reads:

Pause traveler
and be grateful to
Norton 1st,
 

Emperor of the United States
Protector of Mexico, 1859-80,
whose prophetic wisdom
conceived and decreed the
bridging of San Francisco Bay
August 18 1869
 

Dedicated by E Clampus Vitus, Feb 25th, 1939

Recently the plaque was restored and installed at the new Salesforce Transit Center, the replacement for the Transbay Terminal. The plaque was restored by the de Young museum, naturally by a current member of E Clampus Vitus.

All the rust was carefully removed and it now looks nearly as good as new. It’s located next to bus bay 7 inside the transit center, where it won’t have to weather the elements nearly as much as before.

A plaque next to it recalls the history of the Norton plaque when it was relocated from the Cliff House to the Transbay Terminal.

 
Emperor Norton plaque
 

This second plaque reads:

This plaque re-located and re-dedicated on the 50th anniversary of the bridge envisioned by Emperor Norton
 

And so recorded by E Clampus Vitus Nov. 11, 5991 (1986)
 

Yerba Buena Chapter 1
Joaquin Murrieta Chapter 13

For many more details on the history of this plaque, see this blog post from The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign.