Thursday, August 21, 2014

I Love LA . . . Especially the Rubber Duck

Nothing says harbors and longshoremen and tattoo parlors like a 61-foot rubber duckie, right?

As its creator, Florentjin Hofman, says, “The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve the world’s tensions as well as define them.”

Today, I do not analyze, I do not editorialize. Today, I simply marvel at a giant rubber duck in the Port of Los Angeles. In a random world, such things happen.

The picture, btw is from Time Inc.

Fun Blog for Lovers of Los Angeles History

Well, someone's gotta write something interesting, and I have been slacking of late.

So for those missing a fix of local color, you can click here now. You'll get a 21-st birthday salute to the Viper Room, which was once the Melody Room, hangout of Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. Then it was Filthy McNasty's, then The Central, and finally the Viper--and each incarnation has A History. Alison Martino, proprietor of this blog, has thoughtfully added pictures of the joint through all its varied personas--and she's even included photos of matchbook covers and ashtrays.

I've been following Alison Martino's Vintage LA on Facebook for a couple of years, I didn't know about this website.

There's more, of course, and at the end of every post you'll hear me sigh, "I wish I'd written that!"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mosaic Monday, Vacation Edition

This week, we're going to Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, just 15 miles south of San Francisco.

Here's a closeup of  the above, so you can see the craftsmanship.

I can't pretend to know anything about the city of Half Moon Bay beyond what a one-day tourist would see. Half Moon Bay has a charming Main Street lined with galleries, bistros, and boutiques.

That's where I found this 10-foot tall mosaic, created by Sue Prichard, an artist from Montara.

She taught middle school in South San Francisco for years, but by 2001 Prichard had taken early retirement and was focusing on art.

And biography-wise, that's all I can say about her. Couldn't find a website or FB page.

Sue Prichard is also the artist who installed smaller mosaics about a block away, at Main and Kelly, in a small park named Mac Dutra, after a late civic leader. I think it's more accurately a plaza, but it is referred to as a park in most places.

According to a story in the local newspaper, Prichard organized the making and installing of dozens of mosaic tiles in 2001, using funds from grants, including a $4,000 grant from the Peninsula Community Foundation that got the work started.

As she worked, Prichard invited onlookers to help glue in pieces of the mosaic and then sign a guestbook. Eventually, local families and individuals were creating flowers, while Prichard concentrated on making the vines that would link them all together--a nice metaphor for a community art project. Folks branched out, making ladybugs and birds as well.

In the picture at left, you can see a giraffe and the cow that jumped over the moon on the right.

Here's a paragraph from a 2001 newspaper article written by Mark Simon for SF Gate:

Look closely and you'll find a rainbow, a kitten with a green stripe, butterflies, a Brazilian bird and a lizard with an orange tongue made by a young boy who was visiting Half Moon Bay for chemotherapy treatments. There's a bird made by a girl in a wheelchair, a Kachina doll, turtles, snakes, a dark blue octopus and a Wheaten terrier that Prichard named Merlin. There's a turtle with a dime and an abalone shell in its back, a shark, a huge green crocodile with a purple eye, ladybug marbles, a squirrel, two glass dragonflies, a caterpillar, another cat named Goldberry and a half moon.

I think some of those objects--the Goldberry cat. a shark, and a glass dragonfly--may be on the low curb behind the planter, on the right. There's a pony on the  left, next to a ladybug.

The effort took about two years to pull off. That's a picture of Prichard above, in the park, from the paper, and she feels the city has allowed the park to deteriorate.

Which must be true, since the city dissolved its Parks & Rec Dept. three years ago. Rusting picnic benches were pulled out last year. How could things not go downhill from there?

Plans to renovate Mac Dutra Park (which is very small) are worrying the artist. Art has gone missing before, and she is concerned that this may happen again. The article does not say where the $200,000 for renovations will come from.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A blog of the Abandoned, Macabre, and Strange

A year ago, I pointed interested readers to Allissa Walker's blog, A Walker in LA, and an article about Los Angeles' original subway system and Terminal Building. She posted some wonderful pictures from Ye Olde Days Underground, as well as new photos taken during a tour. The tunnels have now been condemned and deemed unsuitable for further tours, but .you can enjoy a new post on the underground that she wrote for Urban Ghost Media, here.

Urban Ghosts has other articles on Los Angeles, including this piece on the Hollywood Museum of Death. Did you know we had such a place? We do, since 2000. And besides relics of our own Black Dahlia and Manson killings, the museum also houses the mummified head of Bluebeard.

The Museum of Death even has an online gift shop, so you can sport a tee shirt or coffee mug with the logo, or even one with a drawing of your favorite serial killer. Real serial killer, mind you, not Dexter.

The Urban Ghost site has its macabre side, but mostly it likes to show abandoned spots, not always giving away the location but featuring intriguing photos. Like this post on vintage fire trucks in our foothills (withdrawn from service, but not abandoned, they say).

Another story presents pictures, links, and speculation about the Great Streetcar Scandal of the 1930s and 1940s.

The pictures are the main thing here; the text is downright sparse. But, oh, the pictures!

The posts cover the world, and they're pretty wild. Detroit's salt mines, decaying toy stores, bowling alleys, churches, theaters--no wonder they are cagey about the locations.

Although not all are secret. Here's the link to photos of the plane crash site at Universal Studios. And here--close to my heart if not close to me geographically--are images of a mosaic park in Pennsylvania. Braddock Park was an empty, abandoned lot before artist James Simon came along--the "abandoned" part is what rated it a place in Urban Ghosts.

There are plenty of posts on decaying motels and leftover jets (jetsam, I gues) out in our deserts, too. All in all, a great place to waste an hour or two.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mosaics at the Dalton, Pasadena

Today's mosaic--you can just see it, next to the parking entry driveway--is on the corner of Arroyo Parkway and Del Mar in Pasadena.

Had I known then what I know now (then meaning the moment on Sunday afternoon when I was stopped at a light, thankful that I had my camera with me even though my stomach was growling) I would have cut across traffic and flipped a U turn worthy of Vin Diesel to get back to that corner.

Why? Well, although the building is clearly a fancy apartment house, the street-level business is a shop called "Flour & Tea."

Flour & Tea, it turns out, makes some specialty bakery items. I was hungry and wondered where I could stop, park for free or cheap, and get something to eat. Had I known that the shop in this photo makes a Nutella Cake with "two slathers of Nutella between layers of chocolate cake," nothing could have stopped me from indulging.

Especially since I wound up with a rather nasty tuna sandwich from a Fresh & Easy instead, possibly the worst tuna sandwich I've ever had. (How can you ruin a tuna sandwich? I mean, seriously? Well, they did. I can only say that I was thankful the pickle overwhelmed the fish. . . and that I didn't get sick.)

You can see the Flour & Tea window in this closer view of the mosaic, which faces Del Mar. I hope that the planter box is temporary because it doesn't seem to belong there.

Oops--just saw a photo from 2009. The planter has always been there, apparently.

Facing Arroyo Parkway, there is another mosaic, this one in yellow (below left). Very 50s.

The mosaics are part of The Dalton, a condominium project erected in 2009. Bob Champion was the developer, and he hired Bob Zoell to design the mosaics.

One of the perks of these condos is that they were built with gallery walls, ready to receive private art collections. Floor to ceiling windows too. The Pasadena Star News wrote about the features here.

Bob Zoell has done mosaic tile pillars for the Wilshire/Vermont Station, Metro Red Line. Here is Zoell's Metro biography:

Bob Zoell’s artwork has been featured in the New Yorker magazine and he has authored and illustrated many children’s books. He has been included in exhibitions throughout the world including the Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona and the Center Georges Pompidou, Paris. His artwork is included in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. 

End quote

His a trip. He's done covers for the New Yorker magazine, and in the 80s did artwork on street and bridge underpasses in LA.. He's also done work for the San Francisco Airport and created the Bubble glass wall at the Castaic Sports Complex Aquatic Center. Most of his art is geometric, not mosaic. I learned there are three mosaic murals at the Dalton, so clearly I've missed one. And I do need to taste that Nutella Cake , , ,

One more thought:

In 2010, I mentioned some old mosaic panels in an old strip of shops off Western Avenue in San Pedro, including a very old barber shop. This is the picture from that post.

That strip of shops is now, technically, Rancho Palos Verdes, no longer San Pedro. Still, can you see the similarities between Zoell's work and this--which, for all I know, was his inspiration?

Maybe the unknown artist who designed the panels did the same for many other shops in suburbs and cities throughout the Southland.


Is it possible that little Bobby Zoell got his hair cut in San Pedroin the 1950s? Just wondering.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Update on Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park

The most noticeable feature at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park and Lake Machado these days are the fences. Fences everywhere! They may be breeding . . .

The park is technically still open, though, and you can drive into the parking lot, park and take your children to the play areas. You can also stroll around the perimeter.

I saw folks picnicing and gathered around a couple of barbecues, though the view was not so nice. Who wants to lay back and stare at fences, after all?

On the north end, trees have been cut--though not an outrageous amount--and it looks like the fences have pushed some of the homeless into encampments that are visible from Vermont Ave.

There are booms and boats on the lake:

But I have to add that if anything, the lake looks larger than it did before the work started. I'm guessing that has a lot to do with the filtering mechanisms in place and the way they're cleaning it. Not that I understand it at all, but there are Big Thingies at the south end, and hopefully the waterfowl are enjoying the same access--even though the fences keep most of the visitors at bay.

Took lots of pictures of this guy, who had to be one of the biggest ducks I've ever seen, not to mention having a face so strange it's actually beautiful.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Too Hot To Do Anything But Read--

So here are some reading suggestions:

  • Noiring L.A.: The Crimson Kimono and Asian American Sexuality in the Age of the Cold War. Well, it sounds academic, but it's mainly thought-provoking. The Crimson Kimono is a 1959 detective story based in Los Angeles. It stared James Shigeta as a handsome young detective in LA, working with a buddy from the Korean War and in love with a white woman. Ryan Reft wrote this piece, which examines all the politics, racism, paranoia of the time, putting the film story into context. (the poster is from Wikipedia)

  • Zocolo Public Square puts on incredible talks (like this one coming up on Sept. 3: "Is the Digital Age Killing Public Space?"). But Wait There's More! Pertinent articles--already an eye-witness account of the lightning strike at Venice Beach is posted, as well as this story of how the El Sereno Post Office became an art gallery.

  • Catch up on the Sunday Salons put on by LAVA (Los Angeles Visionaries Association) on this blog. There are posts and videos for your enjoyment.

  • If you don't already subscribe to Brain Pickings, consider it. It's a big ol' time suck that will actually enrich your cultural knowledge base and may make you smarter. Or are those the same thing? The newsletter brings long discussions about your favorite people and ideas (not all, not even many, are centered on Los Angeles) and some fun stuff as well, such as this graphic/discussion about the sleep habits of famous authors.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mosaic Monday: An Apartment House in Redondo Beach

Yikes! It's still Monday, barely--so here is a picture.

The mosaic facade is probably from the 1960s--I'm guessing--I suppose I could just say "Mid-Century." You can see the address, 389 Palos Verdes Blvd. It's in south Redondo Beach, just north of Calle Miramar. There's a tiki right in front, and I understand there are more in the courtyard inside.

Just one of those classic buildings you pass but often don't notice.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Adding Word Verification

Like all bloggers, I get a lot of spam.

Lately, a few particular posts--for no reason that I can see--are getting the same spam multiple times each day.

For that reason, I've enabled Word Verification. Now, when someone posts a comment, they'll be asked to type in a random set of letters.

Hope that works.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of the exterior of the Palace Theater on Broadway, shot on a sunny day last spring. I haven't had any excuse to post it before now and I hate to see it go to waste.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Animal Hospital of 1938--Classic Building in Danger

I could really get lost in Twitter. Now that I've figured out how to use groups to filter the  tweets from people I feel duty-bound to follow (mostly because they followed me) from folks I'm really really interested in (like Chris Nichols of LA Mag and Archaeology and Nat Geo and the Onion), I'm finding tons of interesting stuff.

Such as links to Chris Nichols' story about a 1938 Streamline Moderne building that was designed by the same team that built the Pan Pacific Auditorium. This structure, on Santa Monica Blvd., started out as a veterinary hospital and is now threatened with demolition.

The LA Conservancy has highlighted this building for a few weeks now, and the next step in deciding its fate will take place on August 18, at a City Council Meeting. Why is it threatened, when it's such an obviously neat old building? The Melrose Triangle Project will sit right on top of it. And what is being decided on August 18 is the certification of the Melrose Triangle Project.

"Sit right on top of it" is an exaggeration, of course. The original plan did call for its demolition, but once all parties became aware of the historic building, an alternative was proposed that will work around and preserve the old Dog and Cat Hospital.

The City Council could, technically, approve either plan. They could also delay or ask for more studies or whatever.

If you want to learn more about this curvy glass-bricked building, Los Angeles Magazine & Mr. Nichols have put up a story with:

  • Great pictures of the shiny-new building and its rooms in the late 1930s

  • Sad pictures of how it looks today

  • A bio of Dr. Eugene C. Jones, the veterinarian

  • As complete a story of the building as anyone could wish for

A Facebook page has more pictures and updates as well, and promises more photos from the Getty Research Archives. And LAWeekly has more in a story focused on two women who are heading up the drive to save the building.

Two Events: One Serious, One Silly

The city of Torrance is planning a big memorial to celebrate Louis Zamperini's life, on July 31 at Torance High School's Zamperini Stadium. The stadium is off Arlington at 2125 Lincoln, so Mapquest the site (it is not attached to the school).

Much more information is in this Daily Breeze article, which also answers a burning question (well, it's been burning on the "You Know You're From Torrance If..." Facebook page): In the new Unbroken  move, where were the scenes of Louis Zamperini's childhood shot? Turns out, Australia.

Who would've guessed?

The second event I'd like to mention is a big 6-hour school-bus-and-walking-tour of Los Angeles by Charles Phoenix, coming up on August 24. It begins and ends at Union Station and is billed as a Disneyland Tour because Phoenix sees Downtown LA as a giant theme park.

I think he's right, especially when you factor in all the waiting you have to do to get around there . . .

That first link was to the Facebook Event Page, but here is one to that describes the entire tour. Chinatown, Olvera Street, lunch at Phillipe's--sounds like a great afternoon!