Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hard Times In High Desert

Palmdale, CA -- A short, 90-minute drive north from Downtown Los Angeles will land you in a most rural part of LA County. This high desert area is affectionately call Antelope Valley.

I listened to Blue Grass while rolling down Pearblossom Highway through Littlerock (Littlerock, CA). The music acts as a movie soundtrack while passing quaint diners like Big Al's Burgers or Billy Boy's Cafe. Unfortunately, many of the small boutiques and cafes along this lonesome two-lane have recently been shut down. Most likely victims of our troubled economy.

Pictured above is a mini truck stop, Desert Lodge Market. The only trucks I saw were passing by at 55 miles per hour. A lone Honda Civic, parked on the dirt was holding down the fort.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Posing Against Steel

Downtown Los Angeles -- Despite the clouds and threat of rain, the two boys on the left spent more than 15 minutes posing for pictures against the reflective wall of the Disney Concert Hall (see my banner, top right photo). You have seen--and will see--more from my hour here. Look for the wall.

A photographer could spend hours at this fertile location. It’s twisted, steely walls and waves of light capture the attention of artists and casual observers alike. During hot sunny days, sunbeams reflect off the sides blinding motorists and reportedly causing neighboring buildings to experience higher energy bills. Oh well.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It Is Alive

I am still not sure what this is. Anyone know?

This building ominously rises over the Hollywood Freeway, pointing it's robotic-looking arm at the Cathedral of Our Lady of The Angels across the freeway.

Autumn In Winter

During a hike yesterday afternoon, I looked over the trail to see that there is still "change" in the air and in the trees of Pasadena. Just thought I would throw this in.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sister Cities

A column of world city names point to their locations in miles; they are the Sister Cities to Los Angeles (click photo to enlarge).

Fans of the 1960s TV show, Dragnet, will recognize Los Angeles City Hall in the distance. For many years, the 1928, iconic structure towered above all other buildings in the area. It still remains the tallest base isolated structure in the world.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mirror Image at MOCA

Some might consider my method of capturing photos a little weird. On this shot, like a sniper, I hid behind a trashcan in front of the Museum Of Contemporary Art (MOCA), waiting for innocent people to walk by. Then, I let my camera burst off a few shots. As soon as I felt I had a decent subject, I moved to my next point to pick off a few more people. I know, “get a life, John….”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Man in Black Coat

Creative is not what I think of when standing in the cold wind, waiting across the street for people to pass by a colossal steel wall; it’s more patients than anything else. The Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is one of those places where anyone with a camera can take great photos. Photography 201: It’s all about the background.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

After the Storm

Downtown Los Angeles -- A man looks out to the east as a cold, fast-moving storm heads for the sea.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Venice Beach -- “Loneliness is the first thing which God's eye named, not good” --John Milton

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Beaming on the Beach

Venice Beach -- "What kind of smile can you give me today," I asked with my camera in hand. To my surprise, the gregarious beach comber threw his head back and gave me an impressive, toothless smile.

"So, how was that?" he asked with vigor.

I grinned and while extending my right hand in a shake, I told him, "You just made my day!"

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Olvera Street, Los Angeles -- My initial intent was to make conversation with the three people pictured above. As I approached with my camera, the woman on the right scowled at me as if I was going to exploit them. She was right, that was my intent.

The photo I was looking for was for the theme, laughter. I saw that flowing from the women in the wheel chair. People around her saw it too and smiled with her.

Despite the woman's challenges and obvious daily struggles, she possesses something many don't have: Joy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

View From Inside a Mansion

San Marino -- A woman looks out the giant window of the former residence of Henry E. Huntington (1850 - 1927), a railroad magnet and art collector. The mansion became the Huntington Art Gallery one year after his death, and the first public art gallery in Southern California.

San Marino is directly south of Pasadena, CA--10 miles east of Los Angeles.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blue Bathroom Break

A runner uses one of the portable privies at the Rose Bowl Half Marathon on Saturday the 13th.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Speedee Spotting

I found another "Speedee" in Banning, 85 miles east of Los Angeles. Speedee was McDonald's icon from 1948 to 1960. Bozo The Clown, played by Willard Scott, replaced Speedee for three years until the first Ronald McDonald took over in 1966. The "Ronald" that we know today and are most familiar with made his debut in 1971 and has kept his job (and makeup) since.

For the record, I am not a fan of clowns; they freak me out. I'll stick with Speedee.

Big Score Downtown

Local kids walk toward their newly revived lofts in what was once an undesirable place to even drive through.

Downtown LA -- A few years ago, City planners and creative investors began a project in Downtown Los Angeles. Sections once ruled by drug-infested Skid Row, slowly turned into an attractive place to live. Now, more and more 19th and 20th century buildings are becoming upscale condos, studio apartments and artsy lofts. Trendy restaurants and chic boutiques are popping up like spring flowers. Visitors will find hip coffee houses and Gen-X hangouts lining the 120-plus year old streets. But urban hazards still lurk around corners--there is still more work to be had.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chefs in Training

If these students of the California School of Culinary Arts patronize The White Hut, it must pass the test. I pass by all the time but have yet to stop in.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Close to You--the advantage of apartment living

This is one of two apartments once owned by Richard Carpenter. Still looking for the next one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rose Bowl Half Marathon & 5k

Today was the inaugural Rose Bowl Half Marathon and 5k. It started and finish at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Runners, walkers and even a few stroller-pushers, got to pass through some of the city's most famous landmarks: The Colorado Bridge, the Arroyo Seco, JPL, and more.

The day was cool, cloudy with intermittent sprinkles, refreshing the contestants as they began sweeping past the finish line today at around 9:30 am.

Father of the Bride House

We all have our favorite streets. Whether we are under the tyranny of the urgent or void of a time constraint, it's nice to drive through a neighborhood that makes you proud of where you live.

For those familiar with Pasadena, the arching tree-lined street of El Molino provides a plethora of storybook homes. It's no wonder Hollywood makes this street their "American neighborhood" of choice for so many movies and commercials.

This particular home was made famous in the 1991 and 1995 films Father of the Bride; it has "family" built into the mortar.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pasadena Water and Power

Yesterday, while driving home, I couldn't ignore the last gloaming of the evening sun with the watchful moon above. The hazy light beautifully shone both on the industrial as well as the natural, as seen against the pastel blue foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another Section of Historic Route 66

I shot this while waiting for the Metro Gold Line to pass under me. I was standing on the Fair Oaks Blvd bridge near the South Pasadena and Pasadena border (yes, they are two separate cities).

The Route 66 section of Fair Oaks continues north towards the mountains shown above, and turns right heading east on Colorado Boulevard made famous for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade.

There is enough history and photo opportunities to fill a month of daily photos. Our prolific photographer and writer-friend, Laurie Allee at Glimpses of South Pasadena, has featured plenty about the history and charm of this part of town.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Now and Then

After reading an LA Times article about the possibility of Richard and Karen Carpenter's house being torn down, I had to pay a last visit. The house is near the oldest standing McDonald's in Downey, California (see yesterday's entry below).

For those who are not familiar, The Carpenter's were a 1970s sibling duo whose melodic songs pushed the Top 40 for a decade. I grew up listening to, and falling in love with Karen Carpenter. As a nine year-old, I used to dream of someday meeting her. The closest I ever got was in the mid 1970s from the 23rd row at the "Fabulous Forum" in LA. The Carpenter's house was made famous in their 1973 album, Now and Then (Inset on the photo).

As I drove up to the modest home, others were sadly driving by the tired and overgrown house. That was last winter. I paid another visit to learn the house is still there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Before There Was Ronald...

Rising more than 50-feet in the air is the original McDonald's mascot, "Speedee." With a wink and a smile, the cheery neon chef points to the third franchised McDonald's building, and what is now the oldest surviving McDonald's. On the same property is a small museum with nifty artifacts like cups, toys and original menus. The vintage arched building is located a few miles southeast of Los Angeles in the city of Downey.

Speaking of fast food, Downey is also home to the first global pseudo-Mexican junk food icon, Taco Bell. Spain, UK and India: Taco Bell is coming soon...

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Intentional Transient

Venice Beach, CA -- "Hi there," I called out as "Ben" pushed his shopping cart along the famous boardwalk. He stopped and engaged me in conversation.

I asked Ben where he lives. He winced, looked off to the horizon and told me, "I live where ever I can find a place." After asking for a buck, I came back asking for a more specific answer to where do you live.

Ben told me that he lives on the streets about two weeks out of each month. He said the city of Santa Monica (west end of Los Angeles), provides temporary housing and /or monthly checks to those wondering the streets. He explained that the money pays for about a week in a cheep motel, then he finds other places to sleep. Ben told me his story of how he got to this place with a sense of pride.

I asked him if he could wave a magic wand, what would he want to change in his live. Without hesitation, he looked me in my eyes and said he wouldn't change a thing.

Ben said that during the warmer months, he travels the US and Canada. When it starts getting cold, cities give transients free bus tickets to Santa Monica. He said that Santa Monica is the place to be in the winter months, "Who can resist free food and a check just for being homeless?"

I ended up giving Ben that dollar in return for allowing me to take a series of photos and asking him questions. He was very grateful.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shortest Railway in the World

There's been talk about LA's only funicular reopening, but there seems to be more important projects to spend money on. I've never been on Angels Flight but it seems to serve a purpose as a piece of history.

The "B.P.O.E." written on the arch stands for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
It was to commemorate the Elks' national convention held in Los Angeles in 1909. Wouldn't you had loved to be a fly on the wall at that convention?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Roof With a View

A good roof is underrated. Not enough homes today have easy access to their shingles. People used to use the tops of their dwellings much more in the past. Window's Walks along coast towns were popular during the Victorian era for wives waiting for their mariners to come home. Roofs make great diving boards for collage kids. Even a song was written about spending time Up On The Roof. But I would venture to bet that the law probably discourages roof-top practice. Too bad--it's like adding square footage to your at-home, outdoor experience.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Palms Behind the Wall

Desert Signs

What's behind a private road? Aren't you a little curious? I am.

When I was a kid, I deliberately crossed the line just to see what all the fuss was about. If Peter Rabbet can trespass Mr. McGregor's garden, why the heck can't I see what's on the other side of the "Do Not Enter" sign?

I wimped out and remained on my side of the sign. Instead I took a few photos while being watched by a maintenance worker.

I was working in Palm Springs yesterday (about 100 miles east of Los Angeles) and on my way home I made a quick detour on one of the service roads to explore. Just as we've seen in Hollywood films, those huge wind mills and lonesome highways really do exist. Although, lonesome can be subjective, most of the roads are fairly driven on, except for this one today.

There is something about driving in the California deserts; everything looks cool, even the road signs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Old Church

This photo has the look of pride--in a good way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Monday, December 1, 2008

"I Love LA"

Friday, November 28, 2008

Be Yourself

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Friend, Swami

A Thanksgiving Story -- For nearly two years, I visited Venice Beach every Saturday. I picked up my friend from Zimbabwe in L.A., as well as two Starbucks coffees. Along the famous Venice boardwalk, we gave people bagels donated from Noah's Bagels and offered to tell people all about God, but only who were interested. At first, many pushed us away and/or told us off; one man even spit on me. Over time, they began to learn that I was not forcing "religion" on them, instead, we offered them an alternative to their way of living--it was their choice. My job was to be an ambassador.

During this time, I made lots of friends, most of which were of religions other than my own. We respected each other and in turn, I ended up learning a lot about their beliefs.

Swami (as he liked to be called), became a friend and ally. Swami and I looked out for each other. We shared each others meals, stories and spent hours talking about life, values and ideas. Eventually, Swami left Los Angeles for India to be with his family.

The gentleman who spit on me later allowed me to take his portrait. I returned the next week with a 5 x 7 of himself. With a tear in his eye, he smiled and explained, "No one has taken my picture since I was a boy." We too became friends.

I have a lot to be thankful for on this day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ensenada: The Gringo Getaway

During the the past few days, I've put over 600 miles on my poor car. Three days in the mountains (Lake Arrowhead) with friends, then immediately down south to Mexico for business. At least the accommodations are decent. The morning view of the Hotel Coral & Marina was nice too.

The drive through Tijuana is tough: my customers warn me of the crime and suggest I get in and out as fast as possible. However, once on Highway 1 heading south, the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean distracts from the pockets of poverty that lines the toll road.

The shipping port town of Ensenada is about two hours south of San Diego, CA--about 4-1/2 hours south of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bart's Moment of Disappointment

"Bart" is not his real name, but that's what I called him. As I walked past the gate, he stuck his head through the bars, snorting and grunting. Bart accepted all the attention I had to give.

After a minute or two of a good ear rub and words of encouragement to the imprisoned bull dog, I took this parting shot. Words could not describe the disillusionment on his face.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Window Washing

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Walking in LA

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fire Wood

Who else is ready for cool weather and a warm fire?

Monday, November 17, 2008

St. Luke's Awaiting

St. Luke's Hospital used to be an East Pasadena icon. Its familiar copper-top dome and, now removed cross, once rose high above most other buildings. Doctors, visitors and patients all enjoyed a magnificent view from the 7-story building, both of the San Gabriel Mountains above and Eaton Canyon below.

Today, the designated Historical Landmark is just another hidden treasure, currently locked up, waiting to be rediscovered and appreciated by the community.

Built in 1933, the Art Deco structure provided a much needed service to the growing population of Pasadena. But after nearly 70 years of service, the failing medical center sold to Caltech in July of 2003. Caltech planned to use the property as a stand-alone, large-scale research program facility.

Last year, however, Caltech sold the 13.4-acre property to a Beverly Hills developer. Their plans are still vague but a spokesperson for the developer claims they are advocating for an “urgent care facility, open space, historic preservation and a use consistent with the neighborhood at the site.”

One of the reasons this hospital is important to me it that it was in those interior walls that I first felt the slap of a hand, took a breath and saw light.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Six Flags Over the 101

Anyone know what building this is? I took this photo through my sunroof while northbound on the 101, downtown Los Angeles.

All I know is I'd like to ride it, or walk it, or... I'm not sure.