Posts Tagged ‘ Downtown L.A. ’

The 84th Annual Academy Awards

Yesterday afternoon, I ran some errands in Hollywood.  As I drove north along the 101 from DTLA, I noticed that my car was running on fumes so I exited the freeway and headed toward the closest gas station, a Chevron on N Highland Avenue.  When I saw that traffic was at a standstill near the gas station, I realized that I’d driven straight into Oscar madness!

The former Kodak Theatre, now known as the Hollywood and Highland Center Theatre since Kodak filed for bankruptcy recently, is where the 84th Annual Academy Awards will be held this evening.  The Theatre is 0.3 miles (0.5 km) away from the Chevron station.  Since I had my camera with me, I decided to fill ‘er up, park my car on a side street, and walk towards the Theatre to see what was happening on the red carpet.

Hollywood Avenue was shut down and a chain link fence kept the curious at bay.  Having shepherded many visitors through the Hollywood and Highland Center to take photos of the Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and Kodak Theatre, I’m familiar with the nooks and crannies that afford a good view of the street below.  I took this photo of the red carpet while standing in front of Sun Taco on the third floor of the Center.  If you watch the ceremony tonight on TV, Sun Taco’s signage will be hidden from view by a glamorous gold curtain, which is hung each year to hide storefronts.

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Mike’s Cafe

This week, we enjoyed a brief visit from my Australian friend Penny and her younger brother Ian.  Ian had backpacked his way around the world for several months before he visited Penny and her “registered partner NOT husband” Chris in the Bay AreaLos Angeles was Ian’s final pit stop before he flew back to Australia on Wednesday night.

Penny had chauffeured Ian from the Bay Area to Las Vegas for two days of gambling before they arrived on our doorstep Tuesday evening, bearing gifts of 99 Ranch Chinese roast duck, Sun Tropics mango passionfruit juice, and a Cuisinart immersion blender!  Penny and I used to shop at the 99 Ranch in Mountain View on Thursdays after volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Silicon Valley.  Chinese roast duck was and remains a treat, but cartons of Sun Tropics juice were staples in our fridge back then!  We inherited the blender from our German friends Julia and Eberhard, who are moving from Menlo Park to Hamburg next month.  To repay Julia and Eberhard’s kindness, I sent Penny home with a small framed print of Death Valley Desert Gold for them, as they had visited Death Valley over Christmas.  To repay Penny’s kindness, we enjoyed comfort food together at the Nickel Diner in downtown L.A. and Tender Greens in Santa Monica.

Penny’s kindness manifests itself in countless ways.  She pours love into the meals she cooks for her friends and family.  She makes my long commute bearable by Skyping with me once a week as I inch along the freeway.  And despite her occasional tantrums when I’ve taken “too many” photos during a hike or party, she encourages my photography.  She arranged for Ellen and Mike, the proprietors of Mike’s Cafes, to display my work at their Palo Alto restaurant for three months this past summer.  This is a photo of my prints on display at the restaurant.  Scott hung the frames; he did an excellent job.  If you scan the mirrored wall closely, you will see the reflection of Penny chatting with Mike.

Bookmarc

Today, I decided to treat myself to a new book from Bookmarc.  Bookmarc is the Marc Jacobs brand extension / bookstore on Melrose Place in West Hollywood.  I bought On Paris, a selection of articles written by Ernest Hemingway between 1920 and 1924 for The Toronto StarI had no idea that Ernest Hemingway was once a foreign correspondent for The Toronto Star!  This is the magic of Bookmarc:  it’s small and well-curated.  Usually, I enjoy the serendipity and thrift of discovering old favourites and new treasures among stacks of haphazardly catalogued used books at Know Knew Books in Palo Alto, Bart’s Books in Ojai, or The Last Bookstore in DTLA.  However, I also enjoy the luxury of being the first person to thumb through the heavy pages of an art book or the deckle-edge pages of a novel.

I took this photo of Bookmarc in March 2011, when it was warm and sunny outside.  That day, I bought The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.  Books I own tend to languish on the shelf for months until I’m ready to read them.  I finished reading The Dud Avocado recently.  Similar to On ParisThe Dud Avocado offers an American perspective about living in post-war Paris.  Different from On Paris (which is non-fiction and written after the First World War), The Dud Avocado is juicy, thinly-veiled fiction set after the Second World War – I highly recommend it for the title alone!

On a whim, I bought presents for Scott and my Canadian friend Dave.  (Dave, thank you for asking me about my birthday when we spoke on the phone today.  I’m sorry I forgot to ask you about yours; please enjoy the book I’m sending to you, Debbie, and Mika in Toronto!)  Mark, the clerk, offered to check the storage area for pristine copies of the books I chose and then wrapped them so beautifully I was afraid to leave the store with them as it was raining outside.  While I waited for the rain to stop, I flipped through a copy of Ron Galella:  Exclusive Diary.  Ron Galella takes old-school paparazzi photographs of glamorous people.  Many of the photos in the book were taken in Hollywood, just a couple miles east of Bookmarc.

The Jewelry District

Last week, I had commented on Facebook that I’ve lost all perspective since moving to downtown L.A. My Thursday night commute was rainy, so I was worried about driving 40 miles along a wet and slippery 101. Once I exited the freeway, I dreaded the nightly obstacle course of hipsters and homeless who jay-walk across the street that leads to our loft. But the street was empty – in place of pedestrians, I found police barricades blocking access to our street. I detoured around several one-way streets before pulling into our parking lot. Too tired after a long day to muster up any concern or curiosity, all I felt was mild annoyance when Lino, our parking attendant, grimly informed me that a manhunt was underway after a robbery, stabbing, and shooting down the block in the Jewelry District. Lino chided me for living in such a dangerous neighbourhood (he lives in Burbank) as he gallantly escorted me into my building.

On Saturday afternoon, I shopped in the Jewelry District with Maria, my Swedish friend who lives in Pasadena. She and her Peruvian fiancé Orison are traveling to Sweden in a couple of weeks to visit her family so she wanted to buy some presents for her mother. In St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center, I introduced Maria to the proprietors of Easigo Gem and Jewelry Exporters; they sell $5 strands of gemstone beads which are fun to string into necklaces. Maria bought herself a lovely string of garnets.

Last May, I took this photo of Easigo’s counter piled high with necklaces-to-be as my Austrian friends Eleonore and Monika weighed down their purses with bags of the colourful stones. That day, I bought myself some garnets. They’re red and juicy-looking, like the pomergranate seeds which garnish the hummus and tabbouleh served in cafés outside St. Vincent’s Jewelry Center.

Angels Flight

On the final night of Mama Chow’s Christmas visit, we walked to dinner at L.A. Prime atop The Westin Bonaventure where we admired the Los Angeles skyline, had a nice meal, and then fought over the bill as good Asian families do (Mama Chow won).  On our way to the restaurant I took this photo of the Angels Flight railway, which we rode up Bunker Hill from Hill Street to California Plaza.  

This photo was a happy accident.  I had set the shutter speed at 15 seconds as it was dark outside, but then I forgot to turn off the camera’s flash.  The camera captured the train in motion.  The illuminated tower that hovers over the train is Los Angeles City Hall.  City Hall, which was completed in 1928, wasn’t even around when Angels Flight was built.  A plaque mounted onto a boulder next to the train station reads: 

Built in 1901 by Colonel J.W. Eddy, lawyer, engineer, and friend of President Abraham Lincoln, Angels Flight is said to be the world’s shortest incorporated railway.  The counterbalanced cars, controlled by cables, travel a 33 percent grade for 315 feet [96 meters].  It is estimated that Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile [1.6 km] than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first fifty years.  This incline railway is a public utility operating under a franchise granted by the City of Los Angeles.

Between 1901 and 1969, the railway ran along tracks which connected Hill Street and Olive Street at Third Street.  The railway was dismantled in 1969 to make way for redevelopment and was finally re-constructed in 1996 to operate at its current location until 2001, when its gear train failed.  The railcar at the top of the hill, Sinai, hurtled down the hill and crashed into the other railcar, Olivet.  One man died and seven people were injured in this accident.  Angels Flight re-opened in March 2010 and a one-way ticket to ride now costs 25 cents.   

In the film “500 Days of Summer” (2009), the main character Tom takes his girlfriend Summer to Angels Knoll Park.  The park is his favorite spot in Los Angeles as he can look out over a number of buildings he likes, although the view is spoiled by parking lots.  Seven dots of white light shine from these parking lots in my photo.  The Angels Flight railway runs through Angels Knoll Park.

“Where The Streets Have No Name”

Bono wrote the lyrics to “Where The Streets Have No Name” after hearing a story about how a person’s address in Belfast is indicative of his or her religion and income.  In 1987, U2 filmed their guerilla video for “Where The Streets Have No Name” on the roof of the Republic Liquor Store at 7th and Main, a block from where we now live in downtown L.A.  The intersection marks the southwestern border of Skid Row, an urban wasteland where the streets have names but not much else going for them.  In 1999, the Los Angeles City Council passed an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance which enables developers to convert vacant office and commercial buildings into renovated live-work spaces.  This shift in urban policy spurred gentrification in the city’s Historic Core.  These days, transient hotels and loft conversions share the same zip codes in our neighbourhood.  A graph of gentrification vs. time for downtown L.A. would show an inflection point at x = 2010.  For the time being, the area supports the demographic diversity which Belfast lacked in Bono’s mind.

The Republic Liquor Store has given way to a 24-hour Mexican greasy spoon called Margarita’s Place.  By staging their video on a rooftop, U2 paid homage to The Beatles.  In 1969, the Beatles played atop the Savile Row roof of Apple Records.  No. 3 Savile Row in London is much more posh than 103 E. 7th St. in L.A.  At the entrance to Margarita’s Place, a sign states “No Drugs, No Drug Dealers, No Loitering, No Weapons, The Los Angeles Police Department Makes Regular and Frecuent [sic] Patrols of These Premises”.  Consider yourself warned.

During U2’s video shoot, fans lined the street in front of Dearden’s.  Dearden’s is a furniture store which recently celebrated its centenary.

The Beaux Arts-style Board of Trade Building which Bono serenaded in the video is now SB Main, a loft conversion.

Two blocks away, developers have converted the old Rosslyn Hotel into Rosslyn Lofts.  A refurbished rooftop neon sign glows with pride over the building’s original “1100 – NEW MILLION DOLLAR – HOTEL ROSSLYN – FIRE PROOF ROOMS – POPULAR PRICES”.  Bono’s fascination with the “Million Dollar Hotel” likely inspired the large replica sign that served as a backdrop for the video.  The replica was mispelled; it read “1100 – NEW MILLION DOLLAR – HOTEL ROSLYN”.

In the video, a big blue sign advertised The Cecil Hotel’s “LOW – MONTHLY – WEEKLY – RATES – 700 ROOMS” as Bono sang “I want to reach out / And touch the flame / Where the streets have no name”.  The sign is now red, and it’s been modified to promote the hotel’s “LOW – DAILY – WEEKLY – RATES – 700 ROOMS”.  Several floors of this flop house have been renovated and re-branded as Stay, a cheap and chic hotel which shares an elevator with its gritty parent Cecil.  We stayed at Stay while we were loft-hunting in downtown L.A. less than two years ago.  It was an eye-opener to ride the lift with guests who had checked out long before they checked into the Cecil.

Theme Building @ LAX

A couple of weeks ago, Scott met my flight at LAX after I flew “home” from Canada. “Home” has become an abstraction for us and many of our friends. “Home” is not necessarily a house, it’s not where we keep our stuff, and it’s somewhat exclusive of where we pay tax. In the kitchen of our loft in downtown L.A., I’ve hung two photos of the little house we own in Canada. When we first moved to America, I worried about our tenants painting our old bedroom pink. Now, I’m satisfied when our tenants send us a cheque each month. My Canadian brothers-in-law are saints: their basement in Toronto is filled with our belongings. Back in the day, American colonists cried, “No taxation without representation!” to express their resentment over being taxed by the British parliament. We happen to pay tax both in Canada and in America. Although it’s frustrating to pay tax to the Canada Revenue Agency, at least we can vote in Canadian elections. We pay state and federal tax in the U.S., but we don’t have a say in how this money is spent as we aren’t able to vote in American elections. But I digress…

We go “home” to visit family and old friends in the country that issues our passports. And then we go “home” to our spouses or partners in the country where we work and live. If we’re lucky, our spouse will meet our flight and, broken elevator be damned, carry our heavy suitcase up six flights of stairs to the car. I set up my tripod and camera on the roof of the LAX parkade to take this photo of the Theme Building.

The flying saucer-shaped Theme Building at LAX was designed by architects James Langenheim of Pereira & Luckman, Paul R. Williams, Welton Becket, and Robert Herrick Carter. Construction of this mid-century design icon in 1961 cost $2.2 million. The spidery legs of the 135 ft (41 m) high parabolic arches are made out of steel-reinforced concrete, and the crossed arches are a hollow stucco-covered steel truss. The building is now home to the Encounter Restaurant and its observation deck now offers free admission to the public on weekends.

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