Monday, May 3, 2010

104. When You Think of Melrose,,,

...you probably don't think of bookstores, especially one that specializes in health, wellness, religion, spirituality and metaphysics.  Yet, smack dab across the street from a place which seems synonymous with Melrose, Kitson, is the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, 8585 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood.

The good news is this bookstore has the feel and look of an old-time bookstore.  It is clean and well organized with that intoxicating smell of seemingly a hundred different scents emanating from candles, incense and other such items.  The selection of books, recorded material, spiritual accessories and gift items is impressive.

The bad news is the founders have decided to retire and Bodhi Tree Bookstore will be closing in the fall of 2011.  So you have only a little over a year to enjoy this bookstore which has graced this Melrose Avenue location since July, 1970.

Unlike the mega bookstores of today like Borders and Barnes and Noble, Bodhi Tree Bookstore has no coffee bar.  No worries.  On the other end of the block is Urth Cafe to help fill that gap.

Bodhi Tree Bookstore also hosts many lectures and workshops...book signings too.

Bookstore hours are daily from 10 am to 11 pm.  In the building directly behind the Melrose building, which houses new items, is where their used bookstore is located.  The used bookstore hours are daily from 10 am to 7 pm.

And what about the Bodhi Tree?  In metaphysical lore, the Bodhi Tree is the "tree of enlightenment" under which Gautama sat in meditation before he achieved the state of grace that made him the Buddha.  In the photo above, the wood adornment is a stylized bodhi tree.  When the bookstore was first opened, the founders planted a bodhi tree and stuck it in the window.  Over the years the tree grew so large that it has now been replanted behind the store.  Considering what occurred for Gautama, who knows what may happen if you sit under the Bodhi Tree behind the bookstore.

Friday, April 23, 2010

103. Hollywood and Vine. Hip, Happenin' Corner or...?

Numero cuatro in our get to know Hollywood series is about the other famous intersection in Hollywood (after Hollywood and Highland), Hollywood and Vine.  BTW, why does Hollywood Boulevard get top billing?  Just a guess, maybe Vine's agent was not as effective as Hollywood's?  A good agent is worth their weight in gold, as Vinnie Chase can testify to.

Any whoo...as luck (or most likely good planning) would have it, Hollywood and Vine (although the actual station is located a block east at Hollywood and Argyle) is also a stop on the Metro Red Line.  As you may recall, the Metro Red Line is Los Angeles' subway line.  BTW, it is your SoCal Gal's opinion, one of the best names for a movie character, Argyle.  And a virtual gold star to those who know what movie she is referring to.

If you don't mind walking the .98 miles from Hollywood/Highland to Hollywood/Vine you can skip the subway ride and enjoy seeing the stars along Hollywood Boulevard's famous Walk of Fame.  Despite other telltale signs you've reached Hollywood and Vine, this intersection has special memorials for the 1968 Moon Landing.

As you will note from the photo, almost a block up from the intersection is the famed, round in shape, Capitol Records Building.  About a block down (or vice-versa depending on your point of view) is Vine and Sunset.  In the last few years a small mall has emerged, including a Borders Book Store (what can I say? most writers also love to read).  At the time this is being written, in the same vicinity a new Trader Joe is in the process of emerging at 1600 N. Vine.  But, I digress.

This expanded corner of Hollywood and Highland includes Pantages Theatre and the Taft Building, 1680 N. Vine Street, the corner's first high rise at 12 stories, built in 1923 by the architects, Walker & Eisen.

You may temporarily live at this corner if you stay at the fairly new and gorgeous W Hotel.  Or you may choose to live at this corner for a longer time by buying a loft in the building with the big bottle of Patron on top (see the photo).

This corner also includes, among other eating establishments, two celebrity eating hang outs: Katsuya Hollywood and Beso, Eva Longoria Parker's entre into the restaurant biz.

Now do you want to go to this once was old, now is new again, hip, happenin' corner?  Is it wrong to use "hip and happenin'"?

Is it wrong that your SoCal Gal is more psyched about the opening of the Trader Joe?  What can she say?  They have great stuff at great prices.  And no...they don't pay her to say that.

And the virtual gold star answer: the original Die Hard (1988)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

102. How Well Do You Know Hollywood? Part 3

Part 1 asks of all the places in L.A. where do the majority of tourists wish to visit?  That's right!  Hollywood.  There is only one Hollywood.  And it's in L.A. baby!

Part 2 schools you about hopping onto the Metro Red Line from the Hollywood/Highland (#1 tourist spot in Hollywood) station to Vermont/Sunset station for Barnsdall Art Park and all it has to offer including Hollyhock House.

Part 3's spot light's on hopping the Metro Red Line from Hollywood/Highland station to the final red line stop, North Hollywood (NOHO Arts District), Lankershim/Chandler Boulevards.

Why?

Well if you think of Hollywood/Highland as the place dedicated to movie magic, what you will find a block and a half south of the final Metro Red Line stop at 5220 Lankershim Boulevard is a place dedicated to TV magic.

Since the early 90's, 5220 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood has been host to the building which houses The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS).  The property includes what one may consider a free outdoor museum also known as Hall of Fame Plaza.

The plaza features bronze sculptures, base reliefs and wall sculptures depicting television pioneers who have been inducted into TV's Hall of Fame.

The sculptures include incredible detail and were created with the intent of capturing personality all while being magnificent from any angle, as you will note the example in the photo of James Garner from behind.  The piece de resistance of the Plaza is a water fountain topped with a 27-foot Emmy Award statue.  Also in the photo are the Desi Arnaz/Lucy Ball full size bronze sculptures.  Desi joined Lucy in August, 2009.  Wonder if someone has some "'splainin to do" for their tardy union.

When your SoCal Gal visited the Hall of Fame Plaza, she was a little surprised to find a pedestal for Bea Arthur, but no bronze sculpture.  Maybe someone confused the bronze with Bea's association with the Golden Girls and was hoping to really score big with a cash for gold submission.  Who knows?

Any whoo...I have a feeling what the Hall of Fame Plaza intends is for us to admire the art...not take it with us.  There is plenty to admire.  And no doubt you are sure to find a depiction of one of your TV favorites at the Hall of Fame Plaza.

Monday, April 19, 2010

101. Does This Old House Have the Wright Stuff?

Your SoCal Gal is referring to Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard in East Hollywood.

Of any sight your SoCal Gal has seen in the last month or two, this one has stayed with her the most.  She can't put her finger on it.  Maybe she is simply impressed by Aline Barnsdall who in the late 1910's was so ahead of her time.

Before Hollywood was Hollywood or the sign existed, Ms. Barnsdall had the vision of building a theatre complex which would be set up so the artists simply need only worry about being creative.

Think of anyone today being able to swoop into Los Angeles and buy 36 acres or 4 square blocks of prime land simply for this type of vision.

Then to have met the very forward thinking architect, Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW), who was more than willing to not only help her create her vision but do so in a way that was the epitome of artistic.

Think of the patience involved in waiting for your home and vision to be realized.  At the time FLW was also working on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.  It took 2 - 1/2 weeks to travel to Japan at that time.  Think of it.  No jets yet.  No Home Depot or Lowe's either.  No Wall Street crash.  No income tax.  No cell phones.  You get the picture?

With FLW's commitment to the Imperial Hotel, much of the day-to-day went to his son, best known as Lloyd Wright, and Rudolph Schindler.  Two Wrights certainly can't make a wrong or maybe they can?

This U.S. National Historic Landmark is truly a house and was never a home.  Ms. Barnsdall locked horns with Mr. Wright during the majority of the design and construction.  Mostly FLW ignored Ms. Barnsdall's suggestions, which resulted in FLW eventually being fired from the project.  Imagine firing Frank Lloyd Wright.

The windows in the above photo have the illusion of being at ground level but flank Aline's bedroom on the upper level of the house.  A bedroom she never slept in because FLW hadn't designed the room in a way that left her a good place to put a bed.  Also, in total she and her daughter lived in Hollyhock House less than two years.  They were the only residents to ever live in this house.

The formal living area alone, which now includes a facsimile of the furniture FLW designed for the room, and the fireplace mantel, truly a work of art, is worthy of the $7 fee ($3 for seniors, $2 for 17 or under unless with an adult and then they are free) to take the Hollyhock House tour in your SoCal Gal's opinion.

Photos do not do this property justice.  Photography is not allowed of the interior of the house.  More reason to visit.  And as amazing and forward thinking for its time as this property is...there are flaws.  This was FLW's first attempt at designing for the SoCal area.

Despite all of that, what moved your SoCal Gal the most and has her wishing everyone would take the tour is that due to what it costs for upkeep to FLW's SoCal area houses, Hollyhock House is now the only SoCal area FLW designed house open for the public to view the interior.

Currently this property brings in enough money to keep the property open but not enough to continue to do much to restore this property and keep it in pristine condition.  Seems like such a shame.

The solution:  seems to your SoCal Gal that the more people who put this on their list of must sees when visiting Hollywood...the more revenue available to ensure the Hollyhock House (easily accessible from Hollywood/Highland area via the Metro Red Line Subway Vermont/Sunset stop with a two block walk to the park or you may drive, of course) remains available for public viewing for generations to come.

Tours are Wednesday through Sunday: 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 & 3:30 PM

Saturday, April 17, 2010

100. Where is the Most Desired Destination for Tourists Visiting L.A.?

Was your answer, "Hollywood"?  Then go to the head of the class.  Tourists can visit beaches and even Disneyland-type experiences other places.  But there is only ONE Hollywood.  And it's in L.A. baby!

When you think Hollywood, what enters your mind?  For most, the Hollywood/Highland area.  Makes sense.  This is where the Academy Awards holds their event.  This is where Grauman's Chinese Theatre is located.  And so on.

Yet, Hollywood is so much more.

Did you know that technically Hollywood is not its own city?  It is a neighborhood or district within the city of Los Angeles.  Did you know that technically, Hollywood, similar to Manhattan in New York City, has neighborhoods within its neighborhood, such as North Hollywood and East Hollywood?  While West Hollywood is actually an incorporated city in Los Angeles County?

Did you know that much of Hollywood is easily accessed by a true underground subway known as the Metro Red Line?  Do you care?

Maybe you don't care now.  However, if you are going to visit Hollywood, hopefully these words will somehow register in your brain for they may truly enhance your Hollywood experience beyond the Hollywood/Highland visit.

So what's today's Hollywood destination?  East Hollywood.  Specifically, Barnsdall Art Park.  Easily accessible from Hollywood and Highland by jumping on the red line to the Vermont/Sunset terminal.  Walk a block north on Vermont to East Barnsdall Avenue.  Turn left (going east) and follow the signs to walk into the south portion of the park.  You, of course, may drive there as well.  Free parking is available, although there is only one vehicle entrance into the park.  It is on Hollywood Boulevard just east of North Edgemont Street.

Barnsdall Art Park is rich with a history that goes back before there was a Hollywoodland Sign or the Griffith Park Observatory.  This lush, beautifully landscaped parcel of terra firma with one of the most magnificent views of Los Angeles (after Griffith Park in your SoCal Gal's opinion) was once known as Olive Hill.

Almost 100 years ago, a forward thinking, wealthy heiress named Aline Barnsdall had a vision for Olive Hill.  Her vision was to build a theatre complex, which included a theatre, a home for herself, a residence for a director and on-site apartments for actors and crew.  And she teamed up with the then not as well-revered, yet also forward thinker, Frank Lloyd Wright, to help bring her vision to physical manifestation.

Aline's vision was never realized as initially intended.  Due to her donation of this property to the City of Los Angeles with the priviso it be kept as an arts park; the general art vibe of Barnsdall Art Park was realized and still alive.

Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard, includes the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, Junior Arts Center, a lushly landscaped inner grounds peppered with sculpture and Hollyhock House (which I will write about in my next blog post).

Best days to go to Barnsdall Art Park are Thursday through Sunday, which are the days the art gallery and Hollyhock House are open to the public.  The art gallery is free.  Hollyhock House does charge a fee.  It is the opinion of your SoCal Gal that this is definitely a sight you will wish to see.

On another personal note:  Whoo hoo!  This is my 100th blog post for CaliforniVacation.  Your SoCal Gal is thrilled and very appreciative to this area she loves, those who read what I've written and are hopefully inspired to visit some of the amazing sights the greater Los Angeles area has to offer.  Thank you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

99. Bangin' at the Beach

At noon every third Sunday of the month (April 18, 2010, for example) by the pier in Hermosa (the "H" is silent, the word means beautiful en espanol) Beach, California; you will find Sabina Drums ready to lead another Free To Be Me Drum Circle.  

For over seven years now, Sabina has driven her VW bus full of drums and other percussion instruments to Hermosa Beach to lead this open to the public, free event.  Although, donations are encouraged and appreciated.  Donations go toward buying drums for children with a drum desire and financial challenge.

Sabina, along with three to four key musicians, plays along with whoever shows up and wishes to participate.  Many people also watch.  Participation is encouraged.

Grab any one of the number of the percussion instruments Sabina has provided.  Let your self get lost in the beat and allow it to flow through you.  There's no mental involved really.  Let your worries go.  Let your cares melt away.  Bang the drum fast.  Bang the drum slow. There is no right.  There is no wrong.  There is simply playing what you feel and comes through to play.  Let the rhythm move you.

Before you know it, it will be almost 3 pm.  Time for this drum circle's drumming to end.  As your SoCal Gal found out, Sabina and the drum circle are true to their word.  Drumming did last from noon to 3.  Although, you do not have to arrive right at noon and stay until 3 to participate.  No worries.  Bang for a short time.  Bang for a long time.  Play like a child.  And let your self enjoy bangin' at the beach.

Click here for a Google map of the Hermosa Pier.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

98. Cisco Burger: Old School Hamburger - New School Energy Joint

Cisco Burger.  How can one talk about this joint without mentioning the name, Jesse James?  And with the name, Jesse James, perhaps it is inevitable you would have some outlaw in you.  Although, your SoCal Gal would be willing to argue that each of us has a little outlaw in us, even if it is currently dormant.

Anywhoo...this venue is not one for commenting on people's personal lives.  And with full disclosure, your SoCal Gal wishes to let you know that she intended to check out Cisco Burger (620 W Anaheim Street in Long Beach, California and owned by Jesse James), since the day after Sandra Bullock won her Academy Award.  Why?

It was on that day when your SoCal Gal, me, Lori Bjork, was watching her guilty pleasure TV show aka TMZ.  TMZ did a piece showing Jesse and Sandra walking hand-in-hand either to or from Cisco Burger.  I don't remember which.  Doesn't matter, really.  It was at that moment the "I didn't know they owned a restaurant.  I should check it out.  Then I can write about it." wheels went a whirring in my mind.

Okay...to be candidly frank, I would have never given this old school hamburger joint a second glance had it not been for the TMZ info.  Wow!  Who'd a thunk it?  TMZ unwittingly providing public service since November 8, 2005.

Despite the celebrity ownership of Cisco Burger, which might have been enough to keep the business flourishing since its 2006 opening, or the fact it is located next to West Coast Choppers, which most likely provided a built-in client base from the get-go; this joint has thrived because of the food and its commitment to and example of being eco-friendly.

After I found out about the eco-friendly flavor, which includes a large percentage of the burger joints electricity being provided by solar energy among other things; I thought it would make a better eco-friendly story to visit Cisco Burger having ridden the Metro Blue Line down to North Long Beach Boulevard and East Anaheim Street to then walk the remaining distance to 620 West Anaheim Street.

Then before I could get my Metro Blue Line ride on, all the Jesse allegations hit the fan.  Suddenly, the idea to write about Cisco Burger didn't seem so awesome any more.

Luckily, I am more of a "when your glass starts to empty something will come along and fill it up" kind of gal.  Needing to go to Long Beach the other day for another reason, I hopped in my trusty vehicle and headed to Long Beach.  It wasn't the original plan to go by vehicle, but perhaps fortuitous none-the-less.  For while it wouldn't be as eco-friendly to drive to Cisco Burger, it brought to my awareness how nicely located just off the 710 Freeway Cisco Burger is.  And while for many the .61 miles to the Metro Blue Line station isn't that far (and would provide for a great way to build up an appetite and then walk off some of those fries on the way back), for some it may be a bit prohibitive, especially if you are in a hurry.

Speaking of being in a hurry, Cisco Burger is not a fast food hamburger joint.  The food is not prepared until after you order it.  While it wasn't that busy when I was there, it did take a good ten minutes or so before my food was ready for pickup.

While I was waiting for my food, I noticed the expansive array of condiments, including some spicy options (which is not the norm for most food establishments), available on the tables.  I thought to myself that I should make a mental note to mention this to my Nicaraguan man.  He is my significant other and lover of spicy things.  TMI?  I mean, personally as someone who feels that ketchup is almost too spicy, it has been interesting to find out that for others even something like Tobasco is simply vinegar water colored red.  So, stop fooling around and bring on the really hot stuff.

As this was my first visit, I decided to simply go for the Cisco Burger Combo with cheese.  Seriously, me encanta el queso.  I appreciated being offered the choice of white or wheat bun for my burger, along with 1/4 lb. or 1/3 lb. of meat.  I wish I would have known I had a raw or fried onions option for my burger.  While the burger impressed me, I'm thinking that burger with fried onions would have impressed me even more.  The fries...not so much.

The menu is much more than just burgers.  The Cisco Burger website includes a copy of the menu, if you are interested.  I can't personally comment on breakfast (Cisco opens at 7 am Monday through Friday, 8 am Saturday and Sunday) having not experienced it.  I understand if it isn't so much good, it certainly is popular.  Most Saturday mornings you can expect so many hungry people jonesin' for some Cisco Burger breakfast that they are willing to wait in a line which extends outside this hamburger joint's door.

Lest you too think you may soon jonse for the Cisco Burger experience after 4 PM (after 2 PM on Sunday), think again.  Hard to get good food or any food for that matter from an old school hamburger--new school energy joint when it is closed.

BTW.  As I write this, the Long Beach Grand Prix started today and runs through Sunday, April 18, 2010.  Are you in Long Beach for the Grand Prix?  Yes.  Then, if burgers are your thing, you may wish to head over to Cisco Burger and give it a try.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

97. Retro Ride

Over 100 years before "Meet Me at Third and Fairfax" became a part of the Los Angeles consciousness and culture in 1934, the first generation of trolley cars began its service of public transportation in New York City.

Today while it is rare to see a trolley car on public streets, in the very sleek, upscale, clean with great energy shopping mecca that is The Grove at Farmers Market, Third and Fairfax, Los Angeles, visitors have the opportunity to hear the "clang, clang" of a pristinely maintained, vintage trolley car, #1759, as it rides the rails of the main walkway inside The Grove complex.

But wait!  That's not all.  If you act now...  What?  This isn't an infomercial?  Okay.  That's not all.  Visitors may also wait at any of the trolley stopping points to board and ride this retro attraction for FREE.

The trolley travels the length of the Grove complex and some of the Farmers Market, as well.  Your SoCal gal's favorite part of this Grove gift to its visitors: the looks on kids' faces enjoying this retro ride.

The Grove is open Monday through Thursday 10 to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 10 to 10, and Sunday 11 am to 8 pm.  There is a large adjacent parking structure.  First two to four hours may be free depending on if you buy something and have your parking ticket validated.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

96. Where to Find the Secret to Writing

Beautifully tucked away in Bergamot Station, Southern California's largest art gallery complex and cultural center, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica; is the twenty years young, founded by Jeffrey Gordon, Writers Boot Camp.

Jeffrey Gordon has come a long way since the early days of boot camp, which he was inspired to create because at the time there were no writing classes that got writers to write, held in his living room.

Today the boot camp boasts plenty of A-list Alum like Matt Nix, Burn Notice tv series creator, and Darnell Martin, Cadillac Records.

Your SoCal gal has an idea for a movie but didn't know what to do next.  That's how Writers Boot Camp (WBC) and Robert Morgan Fisher (rmf) entered her consciousness.   RMF gave her the 411 on the boot camp.  There is a program which takes you through writing a script to help you decide if this is for you or not.  And then there is Think Tank, which is a more intensive 24 month program.  Think Tank is like the Harvard for screen writing.  RMF told me to write that down.

Or maybe you simply have an interest in the inner workings of the entertainment biz.  Just about every other Wednesday, Writers Boot Camp hosts a breakfast they call, Business Breakfast at Bergamot.  Recent speakers include Nancey Silvers, Screenwriter, TV and Cable Movies and Judy Cairo, Producer of the movie Crazy Heart.  Both of these amazing professional women are also WBC alum.

As your SoCal gal writes this, the next Business Breakfast at Bergamot is April 14, 2010.  For ticket information call 310.998.1199.  Scheduled guest speaker is producer, Robert Katz.  Among his many credits in an over twenty year career is his most recent release, Law Abiding Citizen.

The WBC Bergamot facility is also available for evening event rental.

BTW: The secret to writing?  Writing.

Boots at this boot camp?  Completely and personal preference optional.

FYI.  Have a movie idea, don't know what to do next and don't live in L.A. or New York City?  No worries.  Writers Boot Camp has on-line courses available.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

95. Meet Me at Third and Fairfax

Ahhh!  If your SoCal gal had a nickel for every time those words have been uttered...well, she doesn't even really want to ponder the implications.

Why, you may ask?  In an average year, at least three million visitors find their way to L.A.'s Farmers Market.

Since July, 1934 when the first farmers began displaying their wares in the back of their vehicles at what once was the empty land of 3rd & Fairfax in Los Angeles, California, this Farmers Market (which considers itself the original) has grown to become more like a farmers market on steroids.

Having received a face lift in 2002, there are currently over 85 different shops and restaurants, including a Starbucks.  Your SoCal gal understands.  Starbucks is everywhere.  Hear her out.  Are you going to buy coffee at a Starbucks anyway?  Then buy it.  Get your parking ticket validated for two hours.  Then look around. 

Farmers Market official hours are 9 to 9 Monday through Friday, 9 to 8 on Saturday and 10 to 7 on Sunday.

Each year, the market stages a popular auto show (Gilbert Heritage Auto Show the first Saturday in June), a fall festival, a Mardi Gras celebration and special celebrations for St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo.

In 1934 "Meet Me at Third & Fairfax" became one of the most well received invites one Angelino might offer another.  Over 75 years later, it still is.

Oh yeah, bring your appetite.  Bon appetit!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

94. Magic at the Museum

Two short blog posts ago, your SoCal gal posed the question, "How do you spell art?"

Nestled in the Bergamot Station complex (2525 Michigan Avenue), which was the subject of blog post #92, is the Santa Monica Museum of Art.  Visit this forward thinking venue and you just may find yourself posing the question, "How do you define art?"

At least that is the question your SoCal gal, me, Lori Bjork, found my self pondering.

Why?

On some level, I feel I could argue that everything is art if you define art with the most broad definition as any creative expression.  On another level, I tend to think of art so narrowly as to define it as paintings on a wall.

One thing is for sure, the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMoA) is not a "paintings on the wall" museum.  Currently, the interior of the museum includes three project rooms and a small gift shop named GRACIE.  Outside the museum is an interesting piece involving a Mercedes and some plants.  Suggested donation per visitor per visit is five dollars (three for children and seniors).

Current exhibitions include: Jeffrey Wells: Seeing While Seeing in Project Room 1, Nira Pereg: Sabbath 2008 in Project Room 2 and Diana Thater: Between Science and Magic in Project Room 3.

As I write this blog post, there is two more weeks to view these exhibitions.  April 17, 2010 is the last day.  SMMoA is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm.

SMMoA closes on April 18th to ready for their annual benefit, Incognito.  This year will be their sixth celebration.  The benefit exhibition and art sale is Saturday, May 1, 2010 from 7 to 10 pm.

Tickets for the event are available through SMMoA's website, www.smmoa.org, calling 310.586.6488 X116 or emailling anna.bliss@smmoa.org.

The element of surprise that underlies INCOGNITO reflects the spirit of discovery that inspires SMMoA's programming.

SMMoA fosters diversity, innovation and discovery in contemporary art--local, national and international.  The Museum celebrates: expanding boundaries; exploring individual differences; enhancing public knowledge of art; and broadening the art experience.

In my opinion, SMMoA most certainly helped me expand my idea of what to expect at a museum.  They just may do the same for you.

P.S.  To my new friend, Rocky, with our Massachusetts connection, for being such an engaging and gracious host during my visit, I extend a heart-felt "Thank you".

Thursday, April 1, 2010

93. Gettin' Busy at the Beach

You know that infamous scene in From Here to Eternity?  The one at/on the beach?  (If you don't and wish to view it, click here.)  Well, your SoCal gal, me, Lori Bjork, had a little gettin' busy enounter of her own at the beach a couple of days ago.  And that condom, well...

APRIL FOOLS!!!

Truth is the day I was walking the beach and came upon the crabs in the video, there was a couple going at it pretty hot and heavy.  I refrained from digitally capturing their PDA.

It got me to thinking how now that I write these blog posts, I find I don't need to seek stories much any more.  They seem to find me.  I didn't really plan on writing about "getting busy" at the beach.  While it wouldn't be my choice (not a fan of sand in my crack, if you get what I'm sayin'), I don't feel it is my place to be the morality police.  Although, who knows gettin' busy at the beach may actually be illegal.

What made me decide to write about it was the litter, the used condoms I found floating at the water's edge and the used condom wrapper next to a crab.

It's no secret I love the beach.  While I could care less whether someone gets busy at the beach, it just seems plain rude to use the beach as your own personal garbage can.

I understand things can get a little heated and your brain gets in a euphoric state, so you may not be thinking too clearly after.  Still...

You know what?  There is so much more I could say.  Children play at the beach.  We already have a plastic problem at the beach and the Pacific Ocean, we don't need a latex one, as well.  Kudos for at least having safe sex.  There are plenty of trash receptacles on the beach, etc.  I'll stop here and simply ask nicely, "if you are going to the beach to please be respectful and clean up after yourself.  Thank you."  Now I will put my soapbox back in the closet.

I hope everyone has a magnificent and fun April Fools Day!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

92. How Do You Spell Art?

Chances are you do not spell art B - E - R - G - A - M - O - T.  That is unless you are in Santa Monica.  And then you just might.

While Bergamot Station (2525 Michigan Avenue) may sound more like someplace a railroad or trolley might stop (at one time this was a stop for the Red Line trolley), since 1994, Bergamot Station, revitalized by acclaimed architecture firm, Pugh & Scarpa, has become a popular art gallery complex while retaining its industrial look and feel.

Bergamot Station is the largest art gallery complex and cultural center in Southern California.  Click here to view a Bergamot Station calendar. 

The facility is open Tuesday through Saturday.  Hours vary depending on the venue.  Parking is free.

In case all of the art viewing and/or buying has you yearning for a bit of something tasty, the complex includes the Bergamot Station Gallery Cafe.

Now, how do you spell art?

Monday, March 29, 2010

91. Magnificent Medium

When you think of Hollywood, what's the first thought that comes to mind?  Chances are it is not the artistic medium known as theatre (or theater).

In the area of Hollywood known as NOHO (north Hollywood), a scant two blocks from the last stop on Los Angeles' subway, the Metro red line, is the NOHO Arts District, home to many theatres.  Not the type of theater you go to for viewing movies, but the sort you visit for live performances.

One of these theatres, Secret Rose (11246 Magnolia Boulevard), has its name inspired from the poem of the same name by William Butler Yeats.  The poems ending words are:  "...surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows, far-off, most secret, and inviolate rose".

This 60 seat, intimate theatre is a place to see live theater practiced for the pure love of the craft.  Bagels, a nosh above other romances, is the name of the current production playing at Secret Rose Theatre.  With a ticket investment of $22, barely more than the price of a movie ticket, you may enjoy Bagels in a venue where there is not a bad seat in the house (and the seats are comfy, too).

Even though your SoCal gal wasn't lured to the theatre to enjoy Bagels, she was happily lured to Secret Rose by a seminar for releasing excuses with facilitator, Brad Yates, champion and tapper for being magnificent.  That's one of the other services Mike Rademaekers, Secret Rose Theatre's proprietor offers: theatre rental.  Secret Rose Theatre, which opened its doors in 1999, is a fully equipped professional theatre.  Acting classes are also available.

Like any good theatre district, there are some great eating establishments in the NOHO Arts District.  So, is it wrong that your SoCal gal made a bee line for the Starbucks a mere block from the Secret Rose?  After all in her mind the iced grande caramel macchiato is like a divine gift.  Fresh off the awesome seminar with Brad Yates, she makes no excuses for loving what she loves.

To the NOHO Arts District, venues like the Secret Rose Theatre and to everyone and everything being divinely magnificent: Cheers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

90. Sensational Soul Food

Your SoCal gal has been living close enough to literally crawl to South Bay Celebration Church (not that she would crawl when she is able to walk) for over a tenth of her life now.  Yet, she always would just walk on by.

Why would she give it a second glance?  In her mind with her spiritual beliefs, she is above organized religion except maybe for venue's like Agape International Spiritual Center.

In your SoCal gal's mind, me, Lori Bjork, I am also well beyond being a challenged teen nor do I currently know any.  So, no need to have it register that this church multitasks as the home of Teen Challenge Los Angeles.

It was Ray Charles' daughter's, Sheila Raye Charles, testimonial at the church Wednesday, March 24; which finally had me heading to this almost literally in my own backyard venue.  Let's just say I'll never look at my "backyard" quite the same way again.

Now before I go any further; I understand this blog is not a venue to preach religion or in any way imply I am seeking to push any thing on any one or convert any one or anything like that.  I truly feel every person's relationship (or lack of relationship) with divinity (whatever name you give it) is sacred not to mention an American first amendment constitutional right, freedom of religion.  I wish to make it clear this blog post is meant more for entertaining and informing than anything else.

Whew!  That's out of the way.

South Bay Celebration Church, 3841 West 130th Street, has been a part of Hawthorne's community for over fifty years.  I found their Wednesday's service (which included Sheila Raye Charles) more welcoming than I ever expected.

One of the church's pastors, Phil Cookes, is a Hawthorne native.  He was arrested for drugs, a gang member and the like before he became clean and sober over twenty-five years ago.  He is a champion for the church, the city of Hawthorne and Teen Challenge Los Angeles.  Like this church, Phil multitasks as the Director for Teen Challenge Los Angeles.

Teen Challenge, a faith based residential recovery program for substance abusers, is celebrating 50 years.  Teen Challenge founded in New York is now an international organization. How can one not laud or applaud what this organization accomplishes?  Kudos.

Teen Challenge Los Angeles also offers other community services.  For instance, if you are seventeen to twenty-four years of age, show up on Tuesday at 10 am to find out more about their program to help you find employment.

As for Sheila Raye Charles, wooooow-wweeee, this Soul Sister has got some set of pipes.  She dishes her personal story straight from her heart to your ears and God's (who she lovingly refers to as "Big Daddy" and don't go stealing her nickname for the Divine one, get your own, she shared).  And there ain't no sugar coating on these sensational soul food dishes.  Her delivery is so full of enthusiastic energy, no sugar is needed.  For dessert, she sings a medley of some of her father's, Ray Charles, hit songs.

I personally found her message tasty.  As I mentioned earlier, since this isn't the venue to share Ms. Charles' message, I am going to blog about it in my mind cuisine blog.  If you wish to read it, click here.

Also, at the end of this blog is a short snippet of Ms. Charles' singing at South Bay Celebration Church.  Her booming pipes were a bit too much for the mic on my camera.  So the sound is not good.  If you wish to watch a video that gives you a better sense of her awesome singing voice, click here.  While that video's audio quality is a marked improvement from my video, it still does not do her singing voice justice in my opinion.  I would recommend seeing Ms. Charles in person if you get the chance to.  I am in the process of seeking a link listing her speaking engagements.  If and when I find one, I will update this blog to include the link.

Ms. Charles has a book about her life, Behind the Shades, and a CD of the same name.

Bon appetit!



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

89. Where Do You Park "Your" Blimp?

What?  You don't have a blimp.  Neither does your SoCal gal.

Over the years she's not too sure she's really wondered too hard about where Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company kept their blimps when they weren't flying the blue skies of America.  That is until she moved back to California.  Then it isn't so much that she wondered as one can't help but notice the parking for one, parking lot for the particular blimp in Goodyear's fleet known as Spirit of America.

Why?  Perhaps you have heard of a freeway (some might convincingly argue is a freeway disguised as a parking lot or maybe it is a parking lot disguised as a freeway?) in Southern California, the 405 (aka Interstate 405)?  About ten miles south of LAX on the 405 as you drive through the city of Carson, you can't miss the blimp parking lot from your moving vehicle.  Okay, unless of course, if your eyes are shut.  And if you are driving with your eyes shut...well, your SoCal gal certainly hopes that is not the case.

In case you are wondering if Goodyear blimp rides for the general public are a possibility, they are not.  This has been Goodyear's policy for over fifty years.

Goodyear blimps have been a part of our culture's collective consciousness since 1925 and providing live aerial shots of sporting events since the very first time at the 1960 Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.

In a place like the greater Los Angeles area where parking is usually at a premium for being the scarce commodity it usually is; it almost seems unfair that one blimp should have so much room to park.  Maybe we give it a pass.  After all, it is a Goodyear blimp.

FYI, the address for the Carson blimp base is 19200 Main Street, Carson, California.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

88. Legal Skimming

It's no secret your SoCal gal loves the ocean beaches and loves to watch surfing...almost as if there is nothing else to do or watch at the beach.

So it would appear it is time for something completely different, skimboarding.  Okay, maybe not completely different.  There is a board involved.

A little over eighty years ago and approximately fifty miles from Manhattan Beach where the skimboarding showcased in this blog post took place, Laguna Beach lifeguards used to skimboard on pieces of wood.

Even though a piece of wood sounds about as high tech as a rock, the skimboards used today are built using technology adapted from aerospace to attain maximum lightness, buoyancy and rocker.

Unlike surfers, skimboarders stay close to shore running and throwing the board in front of them before jumping on and going for a ride.

The skimboarders in the video look like they are having lots of fun.  So much fun as to almost be criminal, which would then make this form of skimming illegal too.

Monday, March 22, 2010

87. Beach's Bully Birds

Gulls, what most of us refer to as seagulls, are a familiar sight on the beaches of SoCal.

In the opinion of your SoCal gal, one gull with their full adult plumage is actually majestic looking.

The majority of the time, though, you see many gulls in noisy colonies.  These birds are said to be carnivores.  Yet, are they smart or dumb (they do have bird brains after all), as they appear to be game enough to scavenge anything they perceive may be food?

The accompanying video shows a small plastic container full of tartar sauce, which had fallen off the Manhattan Beach Pier railing above to the beach sand below.  A couple of adult gulls claimed this "find" immediately.  It wasn't long before other gulls joined in.  The accompanying video shows what went down.

While your SoCal gal has never been bothered or harassed personally by these bully birds, she did witness them harassing another bird who had just caught a fish at the Venice canals.  There have also been reports of gulls swooping in and stealing food from people.  You know what they say?  Praemonitus Praemunitus.

BTW, when your SoCal gal was in Hawai'i, one of her O'ahu tour guides mentioned there are no seagulls in Hawaii.  I know!  Hard to believe.  Is it true?  Click here to find out.

86. Another Winter's Withered

With another winter withered into the past, I say, "Welcome Spring!"

It seems like only yesterday when winter had barely begun, that your SoCal gal headed to Point Dume (pronounced doo-may) in Malibu with the hope of spying gray whales migrating to Baja.  Point Dume (7103 Westward Beach Road*) is lauded as a place for this very activity.

Since, she had been another three times.  Each time denied even a scant glance of one of those large, magnificent mammals of the ocean known as gray whales.  Thus, Point Dume seemed the perfect place to head to on the last day of winter, 2010.  The hope:  maybe this time a gray whale sighting awaited.

If nothing else, she went feeling if she times it just right with low tide maybe this time she'd round the point.  Then she'd score a successful rematch alluded to in a previous blog post.

No whales.  No way.  The water level was higher than it had been at low tide last time.

Perhaps it was for the best.  She hadn't allowed herself much time to make that trek anyway.

As long as she was there, though, she thought she may as well traverse that stairway to surf heaven to see what was down at the beach.

Many of the rocks that had been at the foot of the stairs were now gone.  What looked to be the remains of an old boat motor that she noticed washed ashore last time...still there.  And instead of going right, she decided to "go left" at the bottom of the stairs.  If you are a NASCAR fan, you know what she's talking about.

Going left actually means heading away from Point Dume and heading toward another "secret" surfing spot in Malibu known as Misto.

While her camera work seems to prove she is not too skilled at walking, talking and filming without having it look like an attempt to purposely copy the Blair Witch style of filming; she knows the video provides a much better idea of the beauty that is Misto than her words ever would.

Happy First Day of Spring.

*7103 Westward Beach Road.  If you click on the link, you see where Westward Beach Road is on the map.  This is the area where you park for Point Dume.  To get to what your SoCal gal refers to as the "Stairway to Surf Heaven", you need to walk from the parking area to the trail that leads you up to Birdview/Cliffside Drive.  From here you will see about 100 yards in front of you a little parking area and some signage for Point Dume.  This is where a trail begins that if you follow it brings you to the top of the stairs.  Unless you jump, which I am in no way, shape or form suggesting; the stairs are about your ONLY way down to the beach.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

85. Blarney by the Beach

It's 7:11 pm on St. Patrick's Day.  Do you know where your leprechaun is?  (Sorry, it had to be done.)

Okay.  Seriously, it's 7:11 pm on St. Patrick's Day in Hermosa Beach on the beach block of Pier Avenue.  With venues like Hennessey's and Patrick Malloys you know there's celebrating to be had.

Your SoCal gal hopes you also brought a little something else with you, the Luck O'the Irish.  You needed this luck in spades to get into the happening venues.  As you can see from the photo, at 7:11 pm a line was already forming.

There was a time when your SoCal gal didn't mind standing in line.  Heck!  Anyone with the perfect personality is able to have fun anywhere, right?

It's just that your SoCal gal had just experienced a bunch of blarney by the beach.  Not to be confused with Blarney, the town in County Cork, Ireland nor with Barney, the child entertaining, purple Tyrannosaurus rex or Barney, my cousin the BMX trick biker.

As standing in line is something she would rather not do if she can help it (in this case she could), she was ready to make like a baby and head out.  That was before someone stopped her advising she stay to watch the sunset.  Why?  This night was said to be one of the rare evenings when you can see a green flash in the sky the second the sun goes down.  So she stopped.

Your SoCal gal only had one beer and that was with dinner.  Can't blame it on that.

About now you are probably thinking, "Wow!  That SoCal gal will believe anything."

In her defense she was lured by the promise it must be real 'cuz it is on the internet (are you laughin?)...not just some blarney a leprechaun disguised as a real life couple was trying to feed her.  Not only did she stop, she filmed it too.

Turns out it is true.  Click here to be directed to the Green flash Wikipedia page, if you wish to learn more about it.  AND, it would have been awesome had the optical phenomenon known as the green flash been visible on this particular day when green rules.

P.S.  I know!  Your SoCal gal was thinking it too.  "Green Flash" would be a great name for a superhero. Maybe a long, lost cousin to the Green Hornet?  Perhaps the official superhero of St. Patrick's Day?  Let's check the internet.  'Cuz, you know.  If it is on the internet, it must be real and/or true, right?

Friday, March 19, 2010

84. Insider Information

Imagine if you will that you don't live in Southern California (SoCal).  You love ocean beaches and decide to take a trip to L.A.  Even though it is March, compared to your local weather, L.A.'s weather is a welcome respite.

Whoo hoo!  You buy your ticket.  Pack your bag.  Get a ride to the airport.  Land at LAX.  Snag a taxi to any one of the many fine lodging establishments in the South Bay area.  Check in to your room.  Put on your warm weather clothes and with joyful anticipation head for the beach.

Your feet are sporting your most comfortable flip-flops (which your SoCal gal feels should be voted in as California's official footwear).   As soon as you reach the sweet spot where the sand is wet and you may play chicken with the waves washing ashore, you remove your flip-flops and continue walking, walking, walking.  It feels so good even when you notice what must be "locals" in long pants and jackets (for them it is cold) giving you a look like you must be crazy in your shorts and t-shirt.

You are having so much fun enjoying yourself, it takes you a while to realize you need to walk back.  You stop, turn around and on your trip back take much more notice of all the amazing homes that line the beach front property.  Yes, if you had to admit it, you are a little jealous even if these homes appear to be at least a football field's length from the shore.

That's when you notice one of the homes with what looks to be a tent covering it.  You've never seen anything like this before.  What do you think is going on with that house?

Well, if you are your SoCal gal, you deduce "isn't that clever.  The people who own that home have found a great way to close up their home for the winter."

Only later to LMAO (laughing my a** off) because you are wrong...couldn't be wronger...not to mention not really thinking it through.  It that was how you closed up your home for winter, why not just simultaneously launch a publicity campaign for would-be thieves that you aren't home saying, "Welcome!  C'mon in.  Take what you like.  We aren't here."?

Later, if you walk the Strand (the walking/biking cement path that separates the beach front home from the sand), you would note the tent is because the home is being fumigated for termites.  Now you know.

What's the saying for those public service announcements?  "The more you know (TMYK)."  Well, consider yourself served.

P.S.  I dedicate this article to my mommy and Bob.  They were good sports about photographing the tented home in this blog when I forgot my camera.  Mahalo!  I love you.