Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Broad

Today started by taking the Metrolink from Burbank to Union Station. 

Once downtown, i skipped Olivera Street this time to grab some sushi in Little Tokyo. I then had a cigar at the 2nd Street cigar lounge where i had a lovely chat with a boxing manager/promoter about our shared love of international travel. After that i headed to The Broad.
The Broad is a new (opened last month) modern art museum downtown showcasing the private collection of a local billionaire/art collector who is now sharing his amazing collection of post-war modern art in an incredible building. (Take note, billionaires who are inexplicably reading this blog: this is a worthwhile use of your otherwise unjustifiable wealth.) 

It is like a pared down NY MOCA, sans the Pollacks. A fantastic collection of Beuys, Twombly, Cindy Sherman, Jasper Johns, Koons (not my favourite, but fun to look at), Murakami, Wharhol, Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst, and more. And terrific customer service. The staff are more than happy to talk with you about the art.

It delights me not only to see the art, but to overhear the reactions of people. A lot of "i could paint this" and "i don't get it". But at least they're there. 
As i write this i am post gallery at the 7 Grand, a cozy bar with a cigar nook, downtown, enjoying some cigar time before training it back to Burbank.

Disney at Halloween

What would a trip to Los Angeles be without a trip to Disneyland? D and i made the trip there yesterday. We've both been to Disneyland and Disneyworld multiple times but i had never been in October when the park gets a Halloween makeover. 
Mainstreet USA (the america that never was outside of film and nostalgia) is decorated with jack-o-lanterns and the Haunted Mansion gets a Tim Burton theme. It was wonderful. It amazes me how attractions and rides that are 60 years old still delight and awe. I still love the Jungle Cruise, even though the replicated sights are now things i have seen in real life in my travels. The Pirates Of The Caribbean is still cool with its obvious animatronics (i do believe though that they have taken out some rapey bits). (Allegedly this is this ride that terrified me as a toddler due to a fear of men with facial hair.) it's A Small World is a kitschy delight. And tomorrow land feels more retro than anything, but it still great. 

I love it. All of it....well, except for one thing. There are just too many children. I know, it is a family theme park and i don't begrudge people taking their kids, but there are just so many strollers and babies screaming and kids that are just way too young to enjoy or remember any of it. We thought/hoped that by nighttime they would leave, but they didn't. If anything, they multiplied and got exponentially louder and more unpleasant as the day waned. 

In the end they beat us. Families with their strollers (including fat kids who should not have been in strollers but lacked the ability of sustained walking) stayed and camped out, awaiting the fireworks display as they cried and bickered. At that point, we had had enough and left.

It was great though. Always magical.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Day in LA (on foot)

Los Angeles has a reputation for being a city you cannot see or navigate without a car, and, true, in terms of transit, New York or London it is not, but i know from previous trips that there are people that live here who don't drive at all, so i figured i could spend a day on foot and train seeing the things i needed to see. I have taken the subway here before, but only a few stops. I've never covered much ground without my sister driving me. Yesterday though she had to work all day and so i headed out solo and on foot.

I started in downtown Los Angeles, which is absolutely my favourite area. It feels like LA but it doesn't. The buildings are tall and gloriously old (on a west coast US scale) and the area is sprinkled with cafes, restaurants, galleries, and shops but the area still retains a lot of the character from its recent, seedy past. It is just a bit grimy and has old bodegas, pawn shops, and less than reputable looking taco eateries by the roadside. More and more though the area is becoming gentrified, so soon much of the grittier bits will be polished away, and then it will all just be...too lovely. But right now it is good.

I started at the Grand Central Market for a perfectly pulled espresso and then walked up and down the tree lined streets as the neighbourhood was waking up with dog walkers and street sweepers leading the parade. With all day ahead of me i looked for a place to have a morning cigar and read my book. A bench perhaps? But then i found a little cigar/hookah lounge on Spring street that was open (at 7am). The cigar selection wasn't great, but i grabbed the best of what was on display and made myself at home on their front patio with a book, a churchill, and a coffee. All was well.

After that i paid a visit to The Last Bookstore. Between its rambling aisles, random book architecture, awesome selection, nooks, crannies, slopes, corners, and hideaways ( not to mention the artists' studios and vinyl section) this may be my new favourite bookstore (sorry, Powell's).

After a sufficient browse i walked to the 2nd Street Cigar Lounge: a comfortable neighbourhood tobacconist with ample leather chairs for cigar No. 2. After that i wandered downtown a bit more, photographing the swell and often disused theatres.

From there i walked to Olivera Street - the historic and touristy Mexican area, crammed with stalls of colourful souvenirs and fragrant open air eateries.

I've been there a couple of times previously so i didn't linger but took a turn around the square before entering the grand Union Station to catch a subway to Hollywood.
A word about the LA Metro: while it doesn't cover every area, it is fairly far reaching, well mapped, efficient, and cheap (and air-conditioned).
I disembarked into the hustle of Hollywood and Vine and made my way down the strip, past the souvenir shops, the cheezy looking bars, and sleezy looking stores, dodging the guys touting tours of Hollywood homes and the scrawny Spiderman and buxom Marilyns posing for pictures with tourists. I smiled and was careful not to trod upon the stars of certain celebrities, namely Frank Sinatra and Bela Lugosi. There's not much on Hollywood worth stopping for if it isn't your first time, but it makes for an entertaining stroll.

walked all the way down to La Brea and then from there down to Melrose - not so interesting a stretch. I turned right onto Melrose and walked to and past Fairfax. Melrose is great if you are inclined towards shopping or eating, neither of which i was, but it was great for looking around and the long walk passed quickly.

I finally reached my destination: the well appointed and well stocked V-Cut cigar lounge where i whiled away an hour and a half with two cigars and the chatter of a decent crew of locals.

From there, as it was getting dark and i was not inclined to walk back to Hollywood for the Metro, i took a bus to the nearest Metro station, then back to Union Station where i caught the Metrolink (a long distance commuter train) back to Burbank.

A wonderful day. And car free.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fulfilling Childhood Dreams in Los Angeles

I don't usually blog about places in North America. I live here, so it doesn't seem very exotic, but this time i thought: Los Angeles is blog worthy. It's not Ethiopia, but it still has much to see. So i cranked up a few choice songs from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack and set out to explore.

I am here visiting my sister, D, who moved here from Miami Beach a few years ago. This is not the first time i have come here to visit, but it is the first time i have been here for more than a long weekend and the first time i have had days entirely on my own - on foot - to wander without aim, as is my preference.

As much as Los Angeles doesn't seem exciting it was the first and only proper vacation (as in: air travel required) we took as a family. I was 11 and we went to Disneyland and Hollywood and it was the highlight of my young life. There is still the memory of that childhood delight in seeing the landmarks, even if i no longer have a desire to stand in celebrity cement footprints and shop for plastic souvenirs.

More recent trips have involved drives down the coast, walks down Venice Beach, and cocktails at the Formosa. 

This trip does have something of a purpose. D and i, both horror and Halloween fans, are centring many of activities around that theme. So far there has been horror movies and browsing in the sort of amazing year-round halloween stores that could only exist in Los Angeles (or more particularly, Burbank.)

One of the highlights of this trip happened yesterday when we attended a screening of one of our favourite child movies: The Monster Squad. This was ordinary screening, mind you. This was an event. A screening at the stunning United Artists theatre, which feels like a cross between a gothic cathedral and a haunted castle. 

We shelled out for the vip tickets which gave us access to a pre-show reception with many members of the cast and crew. You just don't get to do this sort of thing in Vancouver. It was very cool to talk to people that had been in and created the movie we love so much. Everyone was so nice and generous with their time. Following the reception there was a Q&A and then the movie. It was a great experience. I also tried my first and last Twinkie (a snack featured in the movie). It was disgusting, but another once in a lifetime experience.

After that, still giddy, we had a cigar and coffee at a cafe on broadway in the glorious 100 degree heat before driving to Pasadena for dinner.

It was a great day that satisfied both childhood and adult me.