Archive for July, 2010

Big Sur: Overcast

 

It was cloudy last weekend when we camped in a Sibley Tent at Treebones Resort in Big Sur, a resort known for its oceanside yurts, off-grid power system, and delicious lamb tajines

I had forgotten how grey the sky can be in Northern California during the summer.  On our previous trips to Big Sur, the blue of the sky was rivaled only by the blue of the ocean.  At first, I was disappointed that the sun was smothered under a thick pillow of clouds and that there was nearly no horizon to separate sea from sky.  But then I realized that not everything was greyscale:  the hills were green and lush in a way they never are in Southern California, where the chaparral seems withered year round.  The overcast sky and cool weather were a welcome respite from the heat that can spoil afternoon hikes.  In Big Sur, it’s pretty easy to find silver linings in grey clouds.

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Me and “Mad Men”

This afternoon, I met Jon Hamm!  He plays the debonair yet damaged Don Draper on AMC’sMad Men“, my favourite TV show.  “Mad Men” is about the professional and personal lives of advertising grunts and gurus working on Madison Avenue in Manhattan during the 1960s.  The series is much more compelling than my summary suggests, so watch new episodes on Sunday nights and old episodes on iTunes

Scott and I have been huge fans of “Mad Men” since 2007, when Rogers on Demand aired Season 1 in Canada.  When we moved to L.A. last fall, we didn’t subscribe to cable as we don’t watch a lot of television.  Thanks to iTunes, we haven’t missed a single episode of “Mad Men”.  Season 4 debuted on Sunday, but we were camping in Big Sur so we didn’t watch the episode until last night:  it was excellent.

As Scott walked to work this morning, he noticed a film crew setting up in our neighbourhood.  When we spoke on the phone at lunchtime, he mentioned that a crew might have been filming an episode of “Mad Men” at the Broadway Bar.  I decided to walk past the bar on my way to the grocery store and ended up lurking on the sidewalk near the set.  Billy, a crew member, asked me if I was a paparazzo.  I showed him my camera, some shots of me and Scott camping in Big Sur, and a couple photos of “Mad Men” stars Jon Hamm and Jared Harris.  Once he knew I wasn’t a tabloid “photojournalist”, Billy invited me to stay and meet Jon Hamm.  Wow.  When he offered, I exclaimed that I was on my way to the grocery store and that I hadn’t combed my hair.  He laughed and asked if I was turning Jon Hamm down.  I smartened up and told him I’d love to meet Jon Hamm.  Nevermind that I looked like a crazy stalker with my hair still all messy from camping.  I was wearing a mushroom hoodie and Birkenstocks:  what was I thinking when I walked out the door?!

While I waited, several crew members came over to talk with me:  Robert the security guard brought me a bottle of water and asked me what I thought of the U.S. healthcare system; Michael the truck driver asked me about real estate prices in downtown L.A., Toronto, and Vancouver; and Tristan, who scouts locations, told me about his job.  They asked me about my life in L.A., in the Bay Area, and in Canada.  Their curiosity was endearing.     

Jon Hamm is lovely.  When we finally met, we shook hands and introduced ourselves to each other.  He asked me where I was from.  I answered, “Canada”.  He asked me if I was from Eastern or Western Canada.  I answered, “Central”.  He then nodded, “Oh, Manitobes!”  I giggled.  He put his arm around me and Billy took a photo of us.  He then shook my hand again and thanked me for watching the show before walking away.  I thanked Billy and then went grocery shopping, sunburnt and giddy from my brush with fame.

Santa Catalina Island: “The Vanishing Canadian”

“I found my love in Avalon beside the bay / I left my love in Avalon and sailed away…”  Unlike Nat King Cole, I lost my love near Avalon this past weekend. 

On Sunday, I took a wrong turn near the end of our hike on Catalina Island.  That morning, we had taken a bus from Avalon up to the Airport in the Sky which is located 1,602 ft (488 m) above sea level.  After a delicious picnic with our French friends Aude and Adrien, we hiked five miles before hopping on a bus headed towards Avalon.  Along the way, we saw several bison.  Bison aren’t endemic to the area:  fourteen bison were brought to Catalina in 1924 during the filming of Zane Grey’s “The Vanishing American” (1925).  After shooting wrapped, the bison were set free to roam and propagate on the island.  Before the Catalina Island Conservancy thinned the herd to its current count of 150 to 200 animals, there were as many as 600 big brown beasts dotting the island’s grassy hills.  

Two miles from Avalon, we got off the bus so that we could walk under the eucalyptus trees which line Stagecoach Road.  We were on the outskirts of town when I lagged behind (again) to take photos.  Scott, Aude and Adrien kept walking as they assumed that I would eventually catch up with them.  This had been our routine all afternoon.  Unfortunately, I assumed that Scott had taken a staircase carved into the hill between two houses, which was a more adventurous path than sticking to the main road.  After I descended the staircase and walked for a bit, I realized that my party was nowhere in sight.  By then, I couldn’t find the staircase again, so the best thing I could do was walk through Avalon back to our campsite at Hermit Gulch.  Fortunately, Scott and our friends returned to our campsite as well once they realized I had taken a wrong turn and wandered away.  I’m sorry my stupidity caused them to worry and I’m happy we weren’t apart for long.  We cleaned up and went for a satisfying dinner at The Lobster Trap in Avalon:  the cioppino is excellent. 

Ironically, I was in a similar situation two years ago when I hiked the Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walkway near Sydney, Australia with Mama Chow.  During that hike, I was the one who had walked ahead on the trail and she was the one who had lagged behind to take photos.  Neither of us realized that there was a fork in the trail (it wasn’t on the map).  We took different paths and because hers turned out to be a shortcut, she ended up a mile ahead of me:  hikers I met on the trail told me that they had seen a small Asian woman with a big hat and that I needed to run if I was to catch up to her!  We were very relieved to find each other.  We finished the hike, took a taxi back to Sydney, and celebrated our final night in Australia by going out for sushi.

Bronson Caves a.k.a. The Bat Cave

The Bronson Caves in Griffith Park are best known as the Bat Cave where Batman and Robin parked the Batmobile in the 1960s when they weren’t busy saving the day in Gotham City.  The Caves were once part of a quarry which produced crushed rock used to pave streets in nearby Hollywood a century ago.  If you drive north on N. Bronson Avenue into Griffith Park, the road will lead you to a parking lot near the Caves.  If you drive south on N. Bronson Avenue to Melrose Avenue, it will lead you to the Bronson Gate of Paramount Pictures.  In 1954, an actor named Charles Buchinsky took his stage name from this Gate.  You might know and love him as “classic tough guy” Charles Bronson, star of “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Great Escape” (1963), and “The Dirty Dozen” (1967).      

Last weekend, we explored the Bronson Caves with our Austrian friends Eleonore and Florian.  We found ourselves in the middle of an indie Sci-Fi Fantasy film set.  Cars parked on the dirt road leading up to the Caves displayed dashboard permits with the word “Hirokin” on them, so watch out for “Hirokin“:  it’s coming soon to a theatre near you.  We walked into a cave and found a giant plaster obelisk, fake boulders, and a member of the crew moving lights and cables around in the dark.  Beyond this cave, there was a tent village.  Actors dressed in linen tunics walked past a green screen to buy lunch at a snack truck parked in a makeshift lot.  On Mt. Lee a mile (1.6 km) away, the Hollywood Sign shone like a beacon over the set, a silent reminder to those toiling in the heat of what dreams may come:  fame, fortune, a percentage of the box-office…

I.M. Pei and the 34th Tallest Building in the World

We have a great view of downtown L.A.’s Financial District from our rooftop in the Historic Core.  The tallest building in the Financial District is the U.S. Bank Tower.  At 1,018 ft (310 m), it is the tallest building in California and the 34th tallest building in the world.  The U.S. Bank Tower used to be known as the Library Tower because the city sold the air rights above the Los Angeles Central Library to the developers of the skyscraper, thus enabling the tower’s construction next to the library and the library’s renovation.  I borrow many books from that library as my books remain in storage back home in Canada.  The U.S. Bank Tower was designed by I.M. Pei, the architect who is most famous for designing the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and the Pyramide du Louvre in Paris.  I’ve never been to the JFK Presidential Library.  The last time I saw the Pyramide du Louvre was on the morning before our wedding.  We couldn’t sleep so we went for a walk at 5 am through the 1er arrondissement.  Paris in July is so quiet and cool at sunrise.  We had the courtyard of the Louvre and its crystal pyramids all to ourselves. 

Fun Facts: 

  • I.M. Pei first conceived of a glass and steel pyramid for the JFK Library in the 1960s, but stakeholders in Amherst, MA protested it would clash with the colonial Georgian architecture of Harvard Square.  The library was later built in Boston without the pyramid. 
  • I.M. Pei designed the glass and steel pyramids which now stand in the courtyard above the main lobby of the Louvre.  Critics panned the Pyramide du Louvre for clashing with the surrounding architecture when it was first constructed, but the design has aged well. 
  • I.M. Pei designed both the Pyramide du Louvre and the U.S. Bank Tower; both structures were completed in 1989.

Independence Day Fireworks

Last night, we celebrated America’s 234th birthday by watching the Independence Day fireworks over the Rose Bowl from Ethan and Zarene’s roof in Pasadena.  Our Canadian friends had made us an excellent dinner:  homemade chicken burgers dressed with the tastiest guacamole I’ve had in a long time, and seafood pasta salad.  Dessert (brownies, strawberries, and champagne mangoes) was just minutes away when I took this photo.  Most of my photos were blurry, but the last one I took turned out really nicely.

Canada Day

Today, Canada celebrates its 143rd birthday.  Tonight, we will offer a toast to our homeland with Eleonore and Florian, friends from Austria via Stanford!

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