LOS ANGELES (September 10-12)
It begins with
"And God Created Great Whales," a piece by a artist/composer/performer Rinde Eckert. We've seen
most of Rinde's plays/operas over the last 25 years, and upon seeing a reprisal of his Moby Dick Opera
scheduled for John's birthday it seemed well worth a long weekend getaway to catch this one we missed.
Of course, once we planned to fly cross-country and rent a car and drive from California to Nevada the
trip took on a life of its own and grew to encompass a three week tour around the Southwest visiting
states of the Four Corners, the Navajo Nation, a world heritage site, and some dinosaur sites.
Everything goes smoothly as our SW vacation tour kicks off with a
flight to LAX. Our flight departs on time and even gets into Burbank a
little bit early. John gets the checked bag, while I get the rental
car, one of the quickest car rental checkouts in memory. We take our
rental and test out our new Garmin Nuvi gps on our way to the Bonaventure in
downtown LA. It's classic LA as we stop-and-go on the freeway in
rush-hour traffic. The device decides to re-route us on surface
streets and we head thru Chinatown behind a bus. It's not really as
bad as it sounds, but we do arrive at the hotel a bit frazzled and
tired. The GPS also directs us to the wrong side of the building and we had to
go around the block to find the parking entrance. Whether that is the fault of the
gps device's database or what info the hotel provided as its street address is unclear,
but this sort of thing happens several more times during our trip and we generally don't
like the Nuvi as well as our old Cobra GPS.
Aside: review of the Westin Bonaventure --
From the outside the building
looks great, at least from a distance. Close-up it's a rather
featureless block of concrete with little eye appeal for the
pedestrian at street level. We still get a thrill from the glass
elevator ride up to our room and later ride up and down in most of the
elevators to check out the various views. Our room is on floor 29
with a view down toward the attractive Central Library. As cool as
the elevators are, getting to them is a bit like shoots and ladders.
Come in from the street and you find yourself on level 4 and must go
up to 5 or down to 3 before being able to get an elevator up.
Other than the prime downtown location and cool elevators the Bonaventure
has little to recommend it. It wasn't a bad hotel, but there were a number
of nit-picky things wrong with the room from a burned out light bulb to the wireless Internet not
working that would keep us from choosing to stay there again. Plus all of its restaurants
close at 9:30pm!
On the other hand, it was great to stay in sight of the USBank building
which we saw prominently from our former house on Taos Road in
Altadena. And we were able to walk to dinner at the Cafe Pinot across the
street next to the Los Angeles Central Library. Yes, we walked to dinner instead of
driving, in LA!
For dinner, we chose the
3 course tasting menu which ended up with an outstanding appetizer, a
good entree, and dessert no to my liking. But that's what happens
with tasting menus. Sometimes the chef surprises you with something
you wouldn't otherwise have tried that is outstanding. Other times
your left thinking you should have ordered the rabbit and the risotto.
Friday, September 11 is John's birthday.
I woke really early and, before breakfast, decided to go
out and look for the Its All in Los Angeles puzzle cache container with John in
tow. It was an inauspicious beginning for the day, with the GPS having
as much trouble with the tall buildings in LA as it does in NYC.
After a bunch of futzing about without finding the container I gave up
and we returned to the hotel for breakfast. At $22 the breakfast buffet
seemed a bit pricey, but it was excellent. The orange juice was fresh
squeezed, the eggs to order came timely, coffee was replenished
regularly and we were very happy with breakfast.
From here our day went fairly smoothly. We got out early enough to
walk around downtown LA for a bit before the heat set in and drove us
indoors. We mostly toured some of the downtown art work and picked up
a few easy geocaches. John busily tested out his new digital camera
and we have some classic Salmon shots like the movie of the ground.
Geocaches found included
GC1JVQR hiding behind the AT&T sculpture on Hope and Grand. My
few walks around downtown LA back when during a 10 days stint of jury duty
never got down far enough to see this interesting piece. It features
a map of the world and a lot of technological bits from old telephone
switches and the like. It also has what I assume is a foreign
addition of a Toyota hubcap, that somehow seemed to belong.
We ambled along and found ourself at the top of Angel's Flight. It is still closed for renovation and has
a sign saying it will be done later in the year but that sign was dated in 2007.
Our walk continued past
the Sister Cities sign post near City Hall at 1st and Spring. Shortly thereafter we were
overcome with thirst and heat. We found water in the Hall of Records and then went to find a
cache at the Court of Flags on Hill. A number of cop cars were parked with engines running
right next to the cache, but no one was inside any of them. The cops appeared a few minutes later
with their K9 units who could return to air conditioned comfort.
Next stop the MOCA.
The MOCA was pleasantly empty inside. Empty of people. There's not really a lot to see when compared to
the MOMA, but having the Rothko room completely to ourselves was an enjoyable interlude. There was also
an excellent collection of photos from 1955 which reminded me tremendously of my mother's old photo album.
There was such a sense of familiarity with the photos that I kept searching for recognizable faces in them.
We really wanted a cafe about now, but unfortunately the cafe at the MOCA
was closed for renovation.
Feeling like New Yorkers we grabbed a cab and head to
Philippes. It was a smart plan but the
driver didn't know the place and asked if it was new.
Although the restaurant dates from 1908, it's only been at the current location since 1951 so
perhaps that could be considered new. We feared it may have closed, but
were pleased to find it just as we remembered. It was actually a lot less crowded than we
remembered. And we were there at lunch time today, but the huge lines were absent. There was still a
fair bit of business, and the French dip was great.
We walked from Philippes to union station and got the subway back to
near our hotel. Subway rider-ship was up compared to a few years ago, but still uncrowded.
Returning to the hotel, we walked passed the red sculpture outside the Drago
building on Figueroa.
We noticed this sculpture in the
season 1 finale of Heroes on TV. At the time we said, "Hey where is
that, I've never seen it in NY" and that's because it's in LA. We
didn't have much time to photograph or look for info sign-age on the
spot since a security goon decided to rudely run us off the property
claiming that the entire block, even the sidewalk was private property
and no cameras with BIG lenses were allowed. My point and shoot was
okay, but the real camera was strictly verboten.
We relaxed a bit before heading out to see Rinde and the operatic Moby Dick. The piece was
excellent. Perhaps Rinde's best, and we've seen how many now? Rinde also talked to the audience
after and I was sitting next to the lit professor who organized the show and has his own Melville inspired
work premiering April 1, 2010.
The next morning,
we had the buffet at the hotel again and then drove to the
Petersen Automotive Museum in Beverly Hills.
When we first began putting up web pages back in 1994 there weren't a
lot of other web sites out there, but the Petersen was one of the
early ones and I had a link to their web site for years. However, we never
visited the place in the 20+ years that we lived nearby.
It was a great place and our visit was greatly enhanced by tagging
along on the tour that was starting just as we arrived. The guide was
thoroughly knowledgeable about stuff and had a good clear LOUD
speaking voice that could be easily heard. He also pointed out a lot
of details that we probably would have overlooked if we had just
blundered through on our own. Like the bit about the guy who built
the early steam car/wagon and then went to Caltech and on to work at
Chrysler. Saw some cool and some weird stuff including the '57 Studebaker-Packard Astral.
The Astral was a full size mockup of an atomic-powered vehicle that would have been
able to hover at low altitudes over land or water. It would also have a "protective
curtain of energy" around the vehicle to prevent collisions. But since no small
nuclear reactors existed at the time, none were actually manufactured for sale.
Safety first was not on the minds of the French when making the Helicron in 1932.
This propeller driven auto had an unfortunate habit of slicing up pedestrians who
inadvertently came into contact with its spinning prop. It also generates so much
noise and draft that occupants must wear goggles and headgear for comfort. Of course,
it was built to last, and the car shown in the Petersen remains fully operational and
is frequently driven by the current owner.
The Hollywood section included one of the Bat mobiles along with General Lee of Dukes of Hazard
and one of the cars from the movie Gumball Rally. We'll have to add that to our Netflix queue.
After spending a couple hours at the Petersen we headed to Pasadena and lunched at one of our old regular
haunts, Saladang. It seemed unchanged after 5 years, and we ordered more or less what we used to always
get on our weekly lunch visits. Next it was up, up up we go to the top of Fair Oaks and our old
neighborhood on Taos Road. On the way, we stopped off in Oak Park for a quick geocache and got a good
look at the recent burn area in the mountains and the new fire breaks. The old house looks pretty similar.
They have painted it a slightly lighter shade, only surprising in that I had just had it painted
the month I left and wouldn't think
a new paint job a priority. But maybe they find beige preferable to light brown.
We also drove by our other previous property and almost didn't spot it behind the new pine tree in the middle
of the front yard. I guess it adds to the privacy of the large living room window, but
at the cost of what I regarded as the house's best feature -- the view out the front window to the mountains.
I had even arranged furniture to take advantage of the view.