Sunday, September 9, 2018

TriWeekly Report of September 8, 2018

Love history? Me too.
Every three weeks I send out a newsletter with the top three history stories I've come across. The most recent newsletter went out Saturday (yesterday). You can take a look at it here.
What were the three top stories?

  1. News about a long-lost city sitting UNDER Arkansas City, KS. Etzanoa was once home to over 20,000 people, and disappeared in the early 17th century. 
  2. Your Grandma's couch. Throughout the 60s, 70s, and beyond, a patterned, incredibly durable sofa in autumn tones could be found in the dens and living rooms of grannies and aunties throughout the nation. You've seen it; now learn why it seemed to be everywhere.
  3. The horrible fire at the National Museum of Brazil: it's losses and impacts.
So go ahead and subscribe--the form is in the right right column. Every three weeks, and I always include one story (like the couch) on pop culture--stories I think anyone who reads this blog would enjoy.

Martin Turnbull's blog and website

For those who love Hollywood history, a swan dive into Martin Turnbull's incredible collection of early Hollywood photos and ephemera could easily take up a few hours, or several days.
Turnbull is the author of the Garden of Allah novels that cover the famed Sunset Blvd.hotel from 1927 to 1959. Eight novels so far, with a ninth scheduled for publication this November. The first novel (right) starts in 1927 as fictional characters arrive at the Garden of Allah--characters that populate all the books.
Even if you're not looking for books to read, though, you might want to visit the website--just to look at the pictures.

Here's what you can find on Turnbull'ss website:
  • Timelines of each decade. What songs were playing on the radio? What was the news out of the big Hollywood studios? What world events affected people?
  • A photo blog of the area over the years, where I found the picture above of a Red Car on Hollywood Blvd in the 1950s. Or the one at left of Cathay Circle Theatre in 1931, all decked out for a movie premier. 
  • A bibliography, listing all the books about Old Hollywood that you might want to read.
  • An alphabetical list of Hollywood places -- restaurants, studios, hotels, theatres, and all sorts of hangouts, some with pictures or menus 
Seriously, there is everything here that you'd need to sink into a wild fantasy of life in Hollywood during its most exciting times. All you need is a glass of scotch and a sofa to stretch out on, and you're set. Go enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Mosaic in Wilmington

Yup. Driving down Anaheim Street and right at Avalon, I see this on the Southwest corner.

So of course I turn into the small plaza of shops on the corner. I avoided the pit bull and its owner (he seemed a lot meaner than the dog), and heard a bunch of cussing as a restaurant owner threw someone out for not buying anything. Cars were cutting people off. At the Chase ATM, young guys were cutting women with children off to get to the machines.

This was not an area filled with brotherly love and kindness.

I took some pictures, but have been unable to learn anything about this mosaic. It has an under-the-sea theme, but is not on any public art website that I've seen.

Here's a close up of sea critters in the kelp.  I thought there was a signature in the bottom right, but it was not anything I could read.

I would love it if someone could enlighten me. Who created this mosaic, and why is it there?

Here is the biggest photo, for your edification and enjoyment:

Monday, July 30, 2018

New, Huge Mosaic Project Ongoing in San Pedro!

Can I get this posted in the next 27 minutes for Mosaic Monday?
Julie Bender is at it again. She's San Pedro's favorite mosaicist

and that's not even a complete list.

But now ... along 25th Street, she's covering 2,000 square feet with a mosaic. Once again, she has the whole community involved!

Here are pictures I took last Wednesday or Thursday.  Bear in mind that it is a work in progress, not even half done:

Of course there is a mermaid--along with police officer, baker, student ...

As well as dancing whales and an angel

And a few local landmarks, like the Korean Friendship Bell (with soccer players at lower left)

And it's 11:56. Happy Mosaic Monday!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Have you been to the Bowl this year?

Here's what you're missing if you haven't been:

This was Tuesday night (July 24, 2018) around 8:15 or so. Moon rising behind us, still plenty of light out. A program of Sibelius followed by Ravel's Bolero. Beautiful evening, and the Park & Ride makes it so easy.
I blogged about the Hollywood Bowl Museum once,
The Bowl has it's own history up on its website, from its days as Bolton Canyon/Daisy Dell to the days of the sonotubes, then big balls on top, the Jazz Festivals, jumbotrons, and all up to the current 21st century singalongs. Lots of pictures.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Kayaking and Dragon Boats at Cabrillo Beach

At the northern end of Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, there are private, fenced areas reserved for scouting camps, kids' kayaking lessons, and a Dragon Boat club (the long, white boat on the right).
Sunday morning was the perfect day for everyone.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The LA River and the city's hopes ....

The LAist just published a piece about what the Los Angeles River might look like in 20 years, and the story was also on KPCC, if you'd rather listen than read. The author is KPCC's Susanne Whatley. And this beautiful picture (also on LAist) is by Steve Lyon and was on Flickr Creative Commons.

AND, there's a 7-minute video of a drone flyover of the Taylor Yard (used to be Union Pacific property), which is along the east river bank where the river travels between the Silver Lake & Mt. Washington neighborhoods. Huge area, needs clean up, but it could be developed as a riverside park.

Thanks, Flo Selfman, (@floselfman) for tweeting this out to your followers! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Palm Trees in Los Angeles

Last week I blogged about jacarandas (again).

And in the past, I've blogged about eucalyptus trees in Los Angeles, and the trees of 1891. So today, I refer you to an excellent article about the history of palm trees in our city, by Dan Nosowitz in Atlas Obscura.

Nosowitz goes into a lot of detail about the palm trees, pointing out that they aren't even trees, really. They don't even have wood.

I've heard before that hundreds of palms were planted in advance of the 1932 Olympics here, and I just verified that on one of the history pages that Nathan Masters does for PBS, called "A Brief History of Palm Trees in Southern California." 25,000 trees planted in 1931! But according to Masters, beautifying the city for Olympics might have been a secondary reason. The program to plant palms back then was part of a larger program to put men to work. A $5 million bond helped pay for 40,000 palms in total.

The PBS story gets the prize for best pictures, though. Go see. The image at right is from the Los Angeles Library, and is not dated. Nor does it note a location.

Garden Collage Magazine also chronicled the arrival of palm trees, back to Mission days, up through the '32 Olympics, and into the present. That's the one to read if you want a quicker overview.

Another palm tree story ran twelve years ago in the LAist and it claimed that 100 years ago, Los Angeles was full of pepper trees. Palm trees replaced them. Are pepper trees native? Because in Palos Verdes, which is still richly populated with pepper trees, folks call them invasive.

Well, I just learned (from another PBS/Nathan Masters piece) that our pepper trees are South American. From Peru, specifically, and they are ornamental. Hmmm ... they smell awfully peppery for ornamental purposes. But that'll be a story for another day.

Finally, a few months ago the Los Angeles Times reported on the mass die-off of our palm trees, with a great graphic that you should really go see: iconic movie scenes with disappearing palm trees.  The article lists the pests that endanger and kill our palms.

And many of these pieces interview one Jared Farmer, who wrote the book Trees in Paradise.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

It's Shakespeare Season!

Yes, it's time for the Bard.

And last night, after the temperature soared to 108 degrees in Los Angeles, the best place to be was at Pt. Fermin Park in San Pedro, overlooking the ocean, watching Shakespeare by the Sea.

Where, by 8:30, I actually had to put on the sweater I brought.

Heaven! To be cold!

And the play wasn't bad either.

Actually, it was wonderful. The Merry Wives of Windsor, done in period costumes.

A few years ago, I saw a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Merry Wives, and it was done in a 1950s theme, with the two wives channeling Lucy and Ethel. Very funny,very effective--but last night's version was easier to understand, just based on the chosen lines.

Here, Falstaff cowers in the lower right as Mistress Quigly rouses the faux fairies to attack.

My trusty camera has died, and I'm relying on my phone camera, which isn't quite up to the job. Maybe I should start a gofundme page for a new camera?

There are always two plays presented, and this year's second is A Winter's Tale. Also carefully edited and completely comprehensible (if you can get over a woman giving up her child to hide in the woods for 16 years ... but that's Shakespeare's fault).

This picture is from the website Tales of Travel and Tech, taken by host Deb who went with me to see Winter's Tale and blogged about it. Stage at left, lots of benches. In fact, Deb went to the trouble of putting up Shakespeare by the Sea's 2018 schedule.

If you travel, want to travel, or like to read about travel, or if you're into travel tech, the best and most lightweight bags, the useful, most dependable gadgets, etc., check out Deb's website.

At right is the fearsome bear from Winter's Tale. Don't be fooled: the beast can roar!

Shakespeare by the Sea is celebrating 21 years, and will tour as far north as Encino and south to Laguna Niguel. Here's their calendar. Chances are they'll come to a venue close to you, and the play is free (but your donations are so appreciated!)

Below is Leah Dalrymple as Mistress Quigley. She also played Hermione in Winter's Tale. She was wonderful in both roles, and lovely to talk to afterward (the players assemble in front of the stage for a bit of a gabfest after the show.)

I miss Shakespeare Festival LA, which used to stage plays around the downtown area. Julius Caesar on the steps of City Hall (1999); As You Like it in the old ticketing area of Union Station,  and the last few plays, from 2005 on, at the Los Angeles Cathedral's courtyard.

A quick search (OK, not so quick since it took me a bit to figure out the proper title to search for: Shakespeare Festival/LA) tells me that the first production (Twelfth Night) was in Pershing Square in 1986. The current website ( describes how the homeless of Pershing Square got involved and even collected trashbags full of cans that could be recycled, in lieu of a cash donation.

Ben Donenberg founded the company, which changed its name to Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles in 2011. And there was no play in that year. But Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles thrives; it is the group who brought us Tom Hanks as Falstaff this year. Huzzah!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

All Hail the Shedding Jacarandas!

 Just don't park your car under them.

I love jacarandas. Nothing matches the color. Few suburban vistas are as lovely as a street lined with these trees in bloom, like giant puffs of periwinkle bordering the skies and homes.

But those pretty flowers fall, and each one has a base of sticky goo that adheres to shoes, cars, and everything it touches.

I blogged about jacarandas once (omg, it was 10 years ago!). A19th century landscaper named Kate Sessions was largely responsible for bringing them in to California. Sessions was based in San Diego and had a nursery in what is now Balboa Park.

Here's another, much more detailed piece about jacarandas from the LAist, from about 2 years ago.

Huell Howser did a show on jacarandas, and you can watch it at Chapman University's site.

If that doesn't cover everything you wanted to know about jacarandas ... which are originally from South America ... then I don't know what will.

As for when they bloom and shed, it's different each year, depending on warm and cold spells in spring. Often there's a fall blooming as well, but those are less frequent, I'm told.

And if you are a gardener or homeowner that has to rake up the purple plague, you have my sympathy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

San Pedro Community Gardens

Off the 110 in San Pedro, along one of the many slopes that are left to grow wild in San Pedro and the Peninsula -- which is riddled with little canyons, crevices, and hills -- gardens bloom with fruit from all over the world. Filipinos started gardening here over fifty years ago, and the plots grew to cover six acres. Retirees and urban farmers from many cultures grow tropical fruits, bean trees, vegetables, potted vines of tomatoes, and more.

The picture at right is from a 2011 post on LA Eastside.

The problem that confronts this maze-like collection of gardens and makes it newsworthy? Water is becoming scarce, and so some of the gardens have been abandoned. But not many.

The gardens have a website:, and it has a laser focus: the status of water. There I learned that few years ago a pipe broke, with devastating consequences. Now, the issue is that the landlords are just cutting off the water for most of the day.

Over a month ago, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about the San Pedro Community Gardens, and they have a video posted on their site as well. So you can see, in their own plots, Frank Mitrano, Carol Christian, and David Vigueras, who says: "It's not a garden. This is a universe."

At left is one of the photos that accompanied the Times article, which was packed with information.

The land belongs to Los Angeles City's Dept. of Sanitation, according to the Times. During the drought, they cut down on the water when they realized that hundreds of thousands of gallons a day was being poured into the gardens.

No bad guys here: there was a drought. There is still reason to conserve water. It's driven some of the gardeners out, but others are making do. The water flows only during select hours of the day, and pipes are old. Gardeners are doing what they can to collect the water their plants and trees need.

At right is a year-old picture from the Garden's website, showing the results of no water on some of the plots.

I applaud these gardeners and think we should have more of them. I will shorten my showers for them. I have no talent for gardening and am amazed at what men and women do to grow and nurture plants from the dirt.

If you'd like to know more about community gardens in our area, there's not only a website for the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, but Yelp has a list (of course) of the top community gardens, and CurbedLA has a 2014 list of the best.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Mosaic Monday Goes South

I've been vacationing, and drove south. While I was not on a quest to find mosaics, I could not help spotting them. So here is work of art I stumbled across.

The picture was taken at a garden shop in the touristy area of San Clemente. Of course. Because if you say "San Clemente" there are only two reactions possible: Baby Boomers will remember the Western White House of Richard Nixon (which is for sale, btw) (for $63 million, since you know you wanted to ask) or they'll know the town as a major surfing destination.

The sign at the base says "Sustainable Functional Art" This shower is just one example of their work, so if you're interested, go to the website.

At the WillandJane site, you'll see a charming picture of some children enjoying a working shower/mosaic/surfboard like this. Their Gallery page shows other designs, using recycled surfboards, starfish and shells, and glass mosaic pieces.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Lassie House in Pomona

This historic, rebuilt and restored home will be dedicated in the afternoon of July 1, 2018, so you still have time to rework your schedule. The address is 1195 Washington Blvd in Pomona.

It IS a lovely house -- all that river rock and the craftsman touches. 7000 square feet, 8 bathrooms and 8 bedrooms (huge, huh?) and built in 1900.
It's owned by Ray Adamyk, who heads Spectra Company and owns the YMCA of Pomona, which he's also restoring. 
Why is this called the Lassie House? 
It's because of Timmy. If you remember the Lassie TV series, Timmy was played by Jon Provost from 1957 1950s to 1964. As the Facebook page spells out, this was Jon Provost's home once.
At the right is the house in 2008; clearly, lots of work has been done. In fact, older online MLS listings say it had five bathrooms and six bedrooms, and much less square footage. 
When Timmy joined the Lassie cast in 1957, the Provosts had to go to a neighbor's to watch it -- they didn't own a TV yet. (Although Lassie had debuted in 1954, different actors played Lassie's family. In 1954, the cast changed and Lassie became Timmy's dog.

According to Provost's own website, the checked shirt and bluejeans he always wore in the TV show (one set of them, anyway) is in the Smithsonian, next to Archie Bunker's chair.
Back in the 1950s,Provost's father was an aerospace engineer at the Convair Division of General Dynamics. The family moved into this home when Jon was four, and moved out to Beverly Hills when he was nine -- after only two years on the TV show. . (People Magazine says Jon and his Mom moved; Dad and siblings stayed in Pomona.)
By then Jon Provost was Timmy Martin to everyone in American ... Let's face it, he's still Timmy Martin to all of us. His role ended in 1964, but the Lassie show continued, with different stars and scenarios, until 1973, nearly 20 years. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Dude in Pixelated Mosaic Glory

The artist is called Invader, and you can read his Wiki bio here. Where is this? Near as I can tell, 356 South Vermont. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pelicans in Trouble in the South Bay

These pictures were taken at the Redondo Beach Pier last Sunday. You can see the old library, now a Veterans Park Center, in the background.
Last week, a flurry of news stories appeared about sick brown pelicans. Here's the article in The Daily Breeze, pointing out that the International Bird Rescue of San Pedro had 32 pelicans in their care.
Local radio stations also talked about the pelicans; speculating that the fish population ain't where it should be, and the birds are starving. Older, more experienced birds are suffering.  They are cold and emaciated when rescuers get to them. The birds should be eating up to six pounds of fish a day.
Disoriented birds have stumbled in to back yards as well. Here's the phone number of the International Bird Rescue:
There's even a story in the NY Post about our pelicans. Apparently, a couple of the birds dive-bombed a graduation ceremony at Pepperdine University last month, and that got a lot of attention and tweets.

What does one call a bevy of pelicans? I just looked it up. They can be called a brief, a pod, a pouch, a scoop, or a squadron.
I think squadron has the most gravitas.
A similar pelican sick-in happened a few years ago, with even worse numbers. Ill, listless pelicans settled along the eaves of the restaurant at the end of the pier, dozens of them. Rescuers were taking only the weakest, because they were so overwhelmed and did not have room to care for all of the pelicans.
They hang around the pier looking for handouts from fishermen. While I wouldn't recommend that anyone try to get too close, you can tell by these photos that the birds were not shy or worried about people.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dare I say ... Mosaic Monday?

It's almost Monday, and I came across two mosaics this weekend, both on the same block in Redondo Beach. The street is The Esplanade, so directly across from these mosaics is the beach itself.

No information on the mosaics, how old they are or who created them. They are on private property, but outside, not at all hidden.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Falconry in Los Angeles

There are around 650 licensed falconers in California, mostly members of the California Hawking Club. They take their birds of prey out to hunt, and have to purchase hunting licenses for anything that they birds might possibly catch. If the falcon grabs a kangaroo rat or other endangered species, the falconer must step in and distract his or her bird with a chunk of meat and get it away from the prey--even if it's already dead.
The term falconry covers the care of owls - like this great horned owls - and hawks, as well as merlins and falcons..
Having seen great horned owls in the eucalyptus trees at twilight --and did you know they bob forward when they hoot? -- I was truly surprised that this guy looked half the size of the ones in the trees. I was told that the females are much larger, so it's probably females that I've seen.
Another thing about hawking in general: the birds' habitats are subject to inspection and have to meet many regulations. If a falconer wants to go on vacation ... well, he or she had better have some really good friends willing to weigh, feed, and care for the birds every day.
I had no idea that falconry was such a demanding hobby - a life-style, really.
I learned all this from Frank Hoffman, an officer of the California Hawking Club, who brought a Harris Falcon to Deane Dana Friendship Park in San Pedro He comes out there every few months and probably goes to other parks as well.
These raptors are stunning up close. We see red-tailed hawks circling over canyons and occasionally striking a pose at the tops of trees. Once in a while I'll see a falcon perched on a street lamp or freeway sign, or a Coopers Hawk diving at another bird. But unless a pair of high-powered binoculars is at hand, most of us rarely get a chance to study their beaks and eyes and very intimidating talons.
They weigh around two pounds or less, as big as they are.
So that's all I've got. If you see a flyer at your local library about a talk on Falconry, you really should take the opportunity to see these birds and talk to their handlers. It's a look into another world.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

2018 Festival of Books from the Los Angeles Times

Real quick--so that I can reach one or two people who might attend tomorrow:
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is going on now on the USC Campus.
The weather is beautiful over downtown Los Angeles, which means that by 2 pm the Festival walkways are thick with attendees. Go early! It's so worth it.
Today I caught a 10:30 am program: The Environment on the Precipice, moderated by UCLA History professor Teofilo Ruiz.
Dr. Lucy Jones was on the panel. You know her if you've ever watched the news after an earthquake in Los Angeles. She was the one who calmed us all down while telling us that, yes, the big one is coming. Dr. Jones has a new book out: The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (And What We Can Do About Them).
Dan Egan was another panelist, and just last night his book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes was awarded an LA Times Book Prize in History.
Lastly, Edward Struzik, author of Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future, rounded out a panel that, as Dr. Teo pointed out, hit fire, water, earth, and air (since Lucy Jones's book deals with tornadoes and all manner of disasters).
Dr. Jones stated that we are all terrified of the random, so we force patterns on natural events and convince ourselves that they can be predicted and avoided. We've been doing that for millennia. But we're deceiving ourselves. This was echoed by other panelists, especially Struzik, who reported that fires of a certain size can't be stopped, and they will become more frequent.
A change in attitude is needed. We cannot keep rebuilding in the same place after every disaster. One audience member lost her home in the Thomas fire and is trying to wade through the complexity of the new building codes she now must conform to.
But should we be rebuilding, especially on fault lines, in flood zones? That's a shift in thinking that we have to get through. Hazards, Lucy Jones said, are inevitable. Disasters are not.
In the afternoon, Steve Lopez hosted a panel on homelessness, discussing the reasons for in (evictions, most recently, but also dumping from prisons, hospitals, rising prices, job loss, and much more), and what can be done.
Two fascinating panels among many, and there's a whole 'nother day of it tomorrow.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Two Churches in Pasadena

I've always been curious about the Throop church building in Pasadena because it reminded me of the Wicked Witch’s hereditary title in Wicked: The Life and Times of the WIckedWitch of the West: The Eminent Thropp.
But of course the Throop Church, double o, has nothing to do with the Wicked Witch’s family title, double p.
I did not realize that the Universalist Church in America went back to the 18th century, but it does.
The Throop Memorial Church has always been a Universalist church. Like most Universalist churches, in the early 1960s it became a Unitarian-Universalist Church.
The Throop Memorial Church we see today at 300 S. Los Robles actually started out a few blocks away, as the First Universalist Church. It was built at Raymond and Chestnut in 1890 so it could serve the small community of Universalists that had been meeting for four years in various locations. 
Even though that first church was lovely (as you can see below left), the congregation decided to build a new church. In 1923 the Throop Memorial Church--the one we see today--was built on the corner of Los Robles and Del Mar.
Why call it Throop?
One of the community, Amos G. Throop, was a businessman from Chicago and he apparently led the efforts to build a church, contributing money for the land and building. Throop also founded Polytechnic University a year later, which became CalTech (in fact, before 1920 the school was called Throop Polytechnic or Throop University). The year after that he became Mayor of Pasadena. He died shortly after that, in 1894.
Below right is the Throop Memorial Church today--the building that opened in 1923.
The original Universalist church at Raymond and Chestnut? Gone. 
But there is a church on one of the corners there: St. Andrews Catholic Church, with its tall, campanile bell tower. The original St. Andrew's was built in 1886, so it was already there when the First Universalist Church went up in 1890 ... but that original church is also gone.
St. Andrews was rebuilt in its original location, though, even though the name isn’t so cute. (Don’t you think Throop is a cute name?) The Catholic church was completely rebuilt in 1927-1928 at a cost of ONE MILLION DOLLARS. In 1927-pre-Depression money.

The interior design of the new St. Andrew's was inspired by a Byzantine Church, Santa Sabina’s Basilica in Rome--and that church goes back to the 5th century. The pillars in Pasadena are of scagliola, which I believe is an imitation, colored stone/stucco, and they imitate the real marble columns of Santa Sabina in placement and number. 
If you look up Santa Sabina, you’ll see that the columns there are fluted. Before the 5th century church was built, those columns were part of a temple to Juno, and they were reused for the Basilica.
The Pasadena columns are much more colorful. Imitation, shimitation. You can see them well above. Scagliola is used in Buckingham Palace, so it’s not like it’s a low-cost knockoff or anything.
The exterior of the new church copied another Roman church, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, built in 1123. There are minor differences--the original bell tower has six levels of arches holding bells, for instance--but you'd recognize that tower.
I’m still a nut about mosaics, and  this church has a mosaic floor design repeated on the aisles (left). On the walls are other works of art: murals. Carlo Wostry was the artist, an Italian who seemed to move everywhere in Europe in then to America, creating sacred-themed art.
The murals inside St. Andrew's took eight years to complete. In spite of the Depression, parishioners were willing to keep paying and expanding the artist's commission from just painting murals above the altar to adding saints' portraits and Stations of the Cross to decorate the church. Some of the Stations were completed in the artist's home of Trieste and exhibited there, before being boxed up and shipped to Pasadena and installed in St. Andrew's.