On February 16, 2014, my friend Lori and I went on an urban hike with the Los Angeles Hiking Group. Thanks to our decision to take an earlier train, we had time to walk around and look at the lovely old buildings on Route 66 (Figueroa) in Highland Park before meeting up with the group at Antigua Bread. Had we known about Antigua’s amazing-looking pastries we would’ve come even earlier to have breakfast, but this time we had to settle for iced Cafe Americanos to go.
This hike from Downtown Highland Park to Downtown Pasadena was approximately 8 miles and, as my photos show, the route was accurately described by leader, Tuck, as being “via obscure neighborhoods, unusual points of interest, and multiple public stairways.”
Johnston Lake aka Beaudry Lake aka Mirror Lake
In the 1950′s, this lake of many names disappeared from view into a gated community to be enjoyed by 18 lucky homeowners. On the day we visited, a guy opened the gates and some of us made a mad dash past him to take pictures of the lake. As the gates started to close, the rest of our group screamed frantically for us to “Get out! Get out!”
I made it out just before the gates locked behind me. Since the guy was in the process of pulling the trash cans in and needed to reopen the gates I’m sure he was wondering what the heck everyone was yelling about.
Take my advice and go on the holiday tour!!!!
Abbey San Encino
It is not an abbey. It’s a private residence. That’s just it’s name. Jackson Browne’s grandfather, Clyde, a printer & typographer, built the house. You can see Jackson sitting in a chair in the inner courtyard on the cover of his album “For Everyman.” If you’re too young to know who Jackson Browne is, yet the house looks vaguely familiar to you, it plays the abandoned church in episodes of Dexter where Professor Gellar and Travis Marshall commit their crimes.
That means dry stream, which it is right now, thanks to the drought. But it’s still lovely to hike along beside it.
Church of the Angels
This church is really cool! Looks like something you’d expect to see in England. It was built by Mrs. Alexander Robert Campbell Johnston in 1889 as a memorial to her husband, a British Colonial official. He also has a road named after him on a Hong Kong island.
They have been designing and installing stained, leaded, and other architectural glass for over a century!
Pisgah Historic Home District
Interesting place. You should click on that link I provided and read about the history of this place, which is now a senior housing facility.
Our final destination before catching the Gold Line back to Highland Park was lunch at Lucky Baldwins Pub, which was celebrating their 15th Annual Belgian Beer Festival. The dark, foamy #13 & #18 were getting a lot of ooos & ahhhs, but ice cold lemonade sounded more refreshing with my Pub Burger.
Even though it wasn’t our stop, Lori & I got off at Highland Park station on the way back with two goals in mind: Get one of those pastries to take home & find the Victorian house on a hill that we could see from the train.
Unfortunately, all the pastries were long gone, but Lori got a Guatemalan cookie and we did find the Victorian house!
This hike gets 5 stars because it was a good distance for me, personally, and the hills & stairs got my heart rate up. Additionally, hike leader, Tuck, goes at a pace that is not the death march some leaders like to take us on. Even when I stopped to take a picture of something it was just a fast walk or short jog to catch back up with the group. And I like that Tuck made periodic head counts and checked on our various tables at the end of lunch.
Nike+ Fuelband stats:
Hours Won: 7
On January 4, 2014, my friends and I went on an urban walk with Bob Inman.
This was Walk #9 from Bob’s new book, Finding Los Angeles By Foot, Stairstreet, Bridge, Pathway, and Lane. [Shameless plug: Bob used my photo of the Marathon Stairs on page 64 of his book so I am now a published photographer! Thanks, Bob!]
Bob is a really good leader. His pace won’t kill you and he stops along the way to “talk about this or that,” such as:
Water Tower House
Architect: Frederick Roehrig, built in 1891 to match Grace Mansion, which has was converted into apartments in the 1920s. The mansion was the home of William Stanton– cousin of Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War!–and his wife, Ellen. The water tower was converted to a residence in 1924. Read more here and see pictures of the interior here.
American Red Cross Building (fka the Cravens Mansion)
We were lucky enough to have a Red Cross employee on the walk with us and he just happened to have a key to the gates! Read more about the mansion here.
After the walk, my friends and I stopped for Howie Burgers at La Grande Orange Cafe inside what used to be the old Del Mar train depot.
My friend Karen’s photos and blog about this walk.
Finding Los Angeles By Foot, Stairstreet, Bridge, Pathway, and Lane by Bob Inman.
Nike+ Fuelband Stats
Hours Won: 4
I saw three more movies at AFI Fest on Sunday.
Documenteur. France. The Director, Agnes Varda was there to talk about her film. She’s also this year’s guest director for the entire festival. She had been all over L.A. that morning introducing films in various locations for different events.
I’m sorry I don’t remember what exactly she said about Documenteur or the actors. Something about liking the look of the lead actress–she had the best smile of anyone I’ve ever seen, especially when she smiled at the little boy who played her son–and the boy being the real-life son of someone–and something about the murals around L.A.–and something about L.A. being the desire of everyone wanting to go out West to chase their dreams and Venice being as far west as you can go so that’s why she had the story take place in Venice.
My friend didn’t like the movie. “Not enough action and nothing really happened”, I think she said.
I like books & movies where nothing really happens and we just sit back and observe people and their strange lives. In this one we observe a mother & her son in the 1970s, I think, searching for an apartment & trying to make a life together. Strange but sweet.
The Strange Little Cat. Germany.
My friend didn’t like this one either, LOL. It was the one I had looked forward to the most. I was really curious to see the cat and wondered what was strange about him.
Well, there wasn’t anything strange about him! Turned out to be a metaphor for the strangeness of the scenes playing out in front of us. The whole thing took place, for the most part, in a tiny little kitchen with different family members & friends coming & going. It was a bit too artsy for me, but I did love the adorable little girl and the big dog that liked to watch the cat sleep & would bark as soon as the cat started purring.
The Date. Finland. This was a short they decided to show us before The Strange Little Cat. It was about a prize-winning, male Siamese on one of his “dates.” Ahem. We hear the cats but all we see is the two families waiting for them to finish. At one point the two nervous teenagers are smoking out on the patio. Funny.
The Lunchbox. India. Oh my God I loved this movie so much!!!!! Best one so far. Oscars for everybody!!!!!!!
Who knew that in India they have a lunchbox delivery service? Guys on bikes go from house to house picking up the lunchboxes. They’re loaded onto trains and delivered to office buildings where someone else delivers them to workers at their desks.
I checked with my co-worker and it’s totally real. They deliver them to schools, too. She remembers the hot cooked meals from home arriving every day. She said the cost is inexpensive.
In the film, a woman who is being ignored by her husband cooks a special meal for him to get his attention. It’s delivered by mistake to a man who recently lost his wife. Notes go back & forth and a relationship develops.
I won’t tell you how it ends. You have to see it. It is sooooooo funny. Our audience loved it. The older man from Life of Pi is in it. There’s something about him I love. His reactions, facial expressions, etc.
There’s an old “Auntie” that steals the show even though we never see her.
A great film! It had better win EVERYTHING!!!!!
Yeah…after a day of sitting in front row aisle seats and my neck becoming permanently craned to the right, there I was, sitting in a great center seat in the back row watching smugly as others resigned themselves to the front seats. And then the AFI Fest volunteer welcomed us and said he hoped we would like The Selfish Giant.
Um…what?????? Not My Afghanistan????? Oh crap.
My Afghanistan was the hardest ticket to get. I had tried online for days before finally getting that ticket!
Oh well. Nothing I could do about it now. It was already starting in whatever theater it was in so there wouldn’t be even a front row seat left. I would just have to stay and see The Selfish Giant. All the movies at this festival are good so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. My friend, Lori, will see My Afghanistan on Monday afternoon so I’ll experience it through her.
If only I had bothered to put my reading glasses on to look at the ticket last night. Looking at the stub now, the theater number is clearly 6, not 4. Interesting that the ticket taker didn’t notice that I was in the wrong movie either.
Never mind. The Selfish Giant was really good. It was a UK film about two boys expelled from school who make money stealing copper wire. Illegal, dangerous, and horses are involved so you know something tragic happens. I was glad I had a Kleenex Pocket Pack in my purse.
I saw three other movies yesterday:
Little Black Spiders. Belgium. Based on real life, it takes place in 1978. Pregnant teens hidden away in the attic of a hospital. What happens to them and their babies? All the girls were great and the story was good. Thankfully, the Director, who was there and spoke to us in her cute Belgian accent, Patrice Toye, didn’t stray into any horror-type plot lines. These real-life events were horrific enough on their own that she didn’t need to do that.
In Bloom. Georgia. Not that Georgia. The country, Georgia. Look at an atlas. An atlas. Google “atlas”. Oh fuck it. It’s next to Turkey, Russia, & Armenia. Read up on it and then come back.
The main character is a 14-yo girl and one of the directors was 14 in 1992, which is when the movie takes place. The Soviet Union has just collapsed and there are bread lines, thugs & guns, one of which the girl and her best friend find themselves in possession of. Very tense moments with that gun throughout the movie. It had one of those great endings that leaves you wondering what happened next.
We Are The Best. Sweden. Based on a graphic novel. Three 13-yo girls (why is every movie about kids this year?) in Stockholm form a punk band in 1982. Very good. Funny, but also lots of awwww moments for the one girl who always gets let down. Reminded me of that one movie about kids learning to play instruments. Wasn’t it a Jack Black movie?
Looking forward to the next round of movies!!!! I love you, AFI Fest!
I don’t know how many years AFI has been running this FREE movie festival, but I didn’t discover it until last year during my 10 month vacation. It’s the greatest thing EVER and I couldn’t wait for November to roll back around so I could go again.
Last night my friends and I saw August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep & Julia Roberts.
My review? OSCARS FOR EVERYBODY!!!!!!
Ok, maybe not for Abigail Breslin or the woman who played the housekeeper. They were fine, but their parts were small… but everyone else gets a statue!!!!
The description said it was a dramatic comedy. Yeah. That fits. The always brilliant Meryl Streep plays a hard, mean, cancer-stricken mother of three daughters: Julia Roberts, no need to say anything about her equal brilliance is there? Juliette Lewis, thanks for just sticking with your natural quirkiness. And the captivating Julianne Nicholson was new to me, but her character was my favorite in the film and that’s why it was a happy surprise to find her in the Grauman’s Chinese forecourt after the movie. [Sidebar: Yes, I know the new owners are TCL. That's a stupid name. It will always be Grauman's to me.]
I decided I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a picture with Julianne so I asked her and she was happy to oblige. Since neither of my friends is familiar with phone cameras I didn’t even consider asking them to take the picture. Instead I tapped the arm of the guy Julianne had been talking to and asked him to take it. It was only as we were walking away that Lori told me I had just asked the guy who wrote the f-ing thing to take my picture! Thanks, Tracy Letts!
Sometimes having crappy seats is a good thing. Most of the seats were reserved and we had general admission so we ended up 3rd row, which SUCKS for seeing a movie at Grauman’s, but ROCKS for seeing Celebs on a stage for the Q & A!
George Clooney, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney , Chris Cooper, Director George Wells, and my photographer, Tracy Letts, answered questions from a really good Hollywood Reporter interviewer.
And yes folks, I’m pleased tell you that George Clooney IS that cute, adorable & charming in real life. And no, he’s not IN the movie, he’s a producer.
Thanks, AFI, for a great night! See you in a few!
Hansen Dam was our second Found LA adventure of the day, the first being Historic Stonehurst Neighborhood.
First, some background. The Hansen Dam Flood Control Basin was completed in 1940 to control the flow of the Big Tujunga Wash and Little Tujunga Wash. Today, it is a recreational facility consisting of a 9-acre lake for boating and fishing, a 1.5-acre swimming lake, equestrian center, trails, soccer fields, a golf course and a basin ecosystem that includes many endangered species.
Some specs for those who are into that sort of stuff:
Built: 1938-1940; at the time was the largest earth-fill structure in the world.
Size: Over 2 miles long, 1139′ wide, 102′ tall
Original holding capacity: 16 million gallons
All my friend Lori and I wanted to know was WHERE IS THE WATER?
Aren’t dams built to hold back large bodies of water?
Did Lori not take her canoe certification test for the Red Cross in a large body of water behind that dam?
Where in the world did it go?
As we walked across the 2+ mile dam craning our necks and straining our eyes trying to find the lake, we decided we’d better take the 3pm tour to find out!
Apparently flooding in 1969 and 1980 carried in enough sand to fill in most of the lake.
Oh. Well…such is life, right? It’s still really cool that you can ride your bike, skateboard or rollerblade across the top of the damn or rent a horse and ride the trails.
After lunch at Rigo’s Taco we had a good hour to kill before the tour so we walked around the recreation center and checked out the massive swim lake (capacity 2,800!!!!) and fishing/boating lake, which was really weird because it was sooooo manufactured.
It’s a good thing we explored on our own because the tour only took us to see the new ranger station and back out onto the dam. I think the Ranger said it’s the first new Ranger Station built in L.A. in like 30 years! It’s designed to break loose and float away in a flood. I was so unimpressed by it I refused to take a picture. Ranger Stations should look like something out of Yogi Bear cartoons, not space age origami.
By the time the tour ended, Lori and I had been walking for 7 or 8 hours and all I could think about on those last two miles to the car was iced coffee. We were desperate enough that we were willing to go to Starbucks, but there was not a Starbucks to be found in that area. My GPS said the closest one was nearly 4 miles away, in the wrong direction.
By the time we found The Back Door Bakery & Cafe in Sunland it was dark and cold so we ended up with a mocha and cappuccino. We were just happy that we didn’t have to settle for Starbucks.
Eden by Design by Greg Hise and William Deverell (If only people had listened to Olmstead and Bartholomew in the 1930s, what a different place the SFV would be today!)
San Fernando Valley; America’s Suburb by Kevin Roderick
Click individual photos to enlarge/read captions.
Don’t forget to read about our first Found LA adventure of the day, Historic Stonehurst Neighborhood.
Sunday, October 20, 2013 was LA Commons third annual Found LA: Festival of Neighborhoods. This year’s theme was “The River of Your Imagination” so each adventure was connected to the L.A. River in one way or another. There were 18 different adventures to choose from and my friend Lori and I went on two of them: Historic Stonehurst Neighborhood and Hansen Dam.
Stonehurst is a neighborhood in Sun Valley, which is in the Northeastern part of San Fernando Valley. It’s generally bounded by Sunland Boulevard, Wentworth Avenue and Chivers Avenue. Our tour guide, Mary Benson, grew up in the area. The cute little stone houses were built between 1923 and 1925 using boulders from Tujunga Wash. Unfortunately, Stonehurst only got their Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) designation a few years ago, so a lot of the history is gone or severely altered. However, don’t let that deter you from checking them out. There are still a few cute little gems to see and lots of horses! Horses everywhere you look!
As an added bonus, one homeowner, Suzanna Wood, invited us inside to see the work she’s done so far. My favorite room, of course, was the kitchen with its original cabinets, pine floor and tile counter tops. We couldn’t thank her enough for sharing her wonderful home with us, but she said it is equally satisfying for her to have people see and appreciate the effort she’s put into restoring her home.
After the tour, Lori and I decided to walk across Hansen Dam and have lunch. You can read about that here.
Stone Mason: Dan Montelongo
Developer: Pep Rempp
Famous Resident: Actor Adolphe Menjou
Stonehurst: A 1920s Era Stone House Neighborhood by Albert Knight (If you find it for sale, let me know!)
It Took Nine Tailors: An Autobiography by Adolphe Menjou
Click on individual photos to enlarge/read captions.