Hollywood and Vine

This is the fourth of seven Los Angeles posts, so we’re halfway done!  This is also the most touristy of all the posts, because everything in Hollywood is geared toward tourism.

Even the Metro station at Hollywood and Vine is kind of glitzy, with movie reels lining the ceiling, and old projectors and cameras on display.

Here’s a close-up of the movie reel ceiling.

During our walk around Hollywood, we ducked into a place for lunch and a cool drink.  I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant, but this amazing photograph was just hanging out casually near the bathroom.

Before this trip, I always thought that the Walk of Fame with all the stars was in one concentrated section of Hollywood.  Now that I’ve been there, I realize that it’s much bigger than that.   The Walk of Fame stars are spread out over fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and a few blocks of Vine.  There are more than 2,600 stars, and I took more than a hundred photos of individual stars.  I’m only going to post two, though, because a few dozen of these would get old real fast.

Mickey was the first animated character to get a star, in 1978.

This was just a few days after the passing of Adam West, and people were stopping by his star to leave playing cards and flowers.  ::sniff::  His star is a relatively recent addition, only being placed there in 2012.  I was pleased to see that it was right next to Bob Kane‘s star, though.

We also saw this on our walk.  The place is enormous.  And terrifying.

The only thing better than this guy’s leggings are Wendy’s reaction to him.

This is when we started to get close to the major touristy stuff.  You can see the peak of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre here.  More on that further down this post.

I quite liked the Metro in LA.  It went to most of the places we wanted to be.  (Not La Brea, though.  Alas.)

More tourism to scope out.

I was underneath the archway of the Dolby Theatre before I even knew it. The Dolby (formerly known as the Kodak Theatre) is where they host the Academy Awards, among other things.  In the daytime in the middle of June, though, it’s just another big sign.

When you get a little closer to the Chinese Theatre, you can see the construction is actually very beautiful.

This is where the concrete hand and footprints are so famously imprinted.  One of the first tiles we saw was this one, with the entire original Star Trek cast present.

I didn’t take pictures of too many of these, but I liked seeing Jimmy Stewart.

Mel Brooks, Christopher Nolan, Christopher Plummer, and Tim Burton, who I mistakenly read at first as “Tim Butt.”

The three leads of the Harry Potter film franchise, hanging out right near Clooney.   And there was a giant panel off to the side with the cast of Twilight.

The staff of the Chinese Theatre sells a map to where each celebrity has made their mark, but if you ask nicely they will help you find a single tile.  I was specifically looking for the Droids, and they kindly pointed me toward the front, where they made their mark along with a certain Sith-lord.

The last picture in this post was not from the same day as the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre.  This picture was taken on the same day as our visit to La Brea.  On our way back, we had the Lyft driver pull over so that I could get a picture of the gates to the Jim Henson Company Lot.

This was originally built in 1917 by Charlie Chaplin.  It was Charlie Chaplin Studios first, which is why the twelve-foot Kermit statue on the gate is dressed as The Tramp.  The property was sold by Charlie in 1953, and it went through some other identities, including the filming location for The Adventures of Superman in the late 1950s and the headquarters of A&M Records in the 1990s.  It was acquired by Jim Henson’s children in 2000 to be their new headquarters, and was even seen as the abandoned Muppet Studios in the 2011 Muppets movie.

You can’t really just visit the Jim Henson Company as a tourist, but I couldn’t resist taking a minute to stop and look at the front gate.

Who’s your favorite Muppet?

La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

On the Saturday of our LA trip, Amelie and I headed from downtown Los Angeles over to La Brea, because we wanted to see the Tar Pits.  This was one of the few places in our plans that public transportation wouldn’t easily reach, but a Lyft got us there easily.  On the way in, we passed this amazing looking coffee shop-  we never got the chance to check it out, but I researched it when I got back, and here’s what I learned:

This is Johnie’s Coffee Shop.  It’s usually vacant, but it was named a historical landmark in November of 2013 by the LA City Council because it’s a perfect example of Googie style architecture from the 1950s.  The current decorations are because the place served as a Bernie Sanders campaign headquarters for much of the 2016 election, and the Bernie themed decor was simply left in place. (I’m happy to see this, by the way, because I really dig Googie styled stuff.)

When we arrived at La Brea, our Lyft driver didn’t really know where the best place to drop us off was, so we wound up on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art side.

LACMA wasn’t our intended destination, but that didn’t stop us from goofing off near “Urban Light,” the lightpole column installation at the front.

A short walk past the LACMA doors got us to one of the entrances of the Tar Pits.  The La Brea Tar Pits are a large open-air park with many different dig sites and individual pits visible.  You can actually walk around much of the park without paying an admission fee-  the fee is just for the indoor portions of the museum.

The structure in the previous photograph is the building surrounding the very first and oldest tarpit dig site.   It has been reset to show what a typical pit might contain, and there are four or five distinct species of critter represented in the pile at the center.

Some of the pits are active sites, where they are setting up a grid to track where each fossil comes from.  In this photo, there are about six species visible, with a tiny colored flag on each one.  If you click to expand this photo, you can see a few of them.

Most of the pits at La Brea are fenced off and look more or less like a tarry swamp.   In a labeling error that amuses me terribly, the black gooey substance in the La Brea tar pits isn’t actually tar-  it’s natural asphalt.

Here’s a fun fact that I learned from Wikipedia:  Since la brea can be translated from Spanish as the tar, the modern name  “the La Brea Tar Pits” literally means “the the tar tar pits.”

In other news, I cannot resist hugging giant fiberglass sloths.

One of the most interesting things about the tar pits is that you can watch the tar bubbling up from beneath.  It’s a constant process.  In this photo, a bubble just came up and separated the tar into that round patch you see in the bottom third of the frame.  There’s still tar underneath the bubble, though.  I can see why so many animals got stuck in what would mostly look like a regular watering hole.

A recreation in the largest tar pit lake of a family of mammoth saying goodbye to one another.  It’s historically fascinating, but it’s also really terribly sad.

After a walk through the park on a fairly hot day, we were both happy to see the museum portion of La Brea, because air conditioning.

The paleontologists inside are doing finely detailed work, sifting for bones and micro-fossils.    During this part of the day, I could not stop myself from humming the Indiana Jones theme music, even though these are paleontologists, not archaeologists.

Zed’s Left Tusk is my new favorite name for my hypothetical 70s funk band.

A favorite interaction from the visit to La Brea was overheard as we were approaching this display of Dire Wolf skulls from the tar pits.   A Game of Thrones fan, talking to her friend, was heard saying, “I didn’t know Dire Wolves were real!”

I’m pretty sure that this skeleton is what comes to mind when most people think of La Brea.

This guy is the giant sloth again.  They look dangerous from the skeleton, but they were herbivorous and mostly wanted to have some food and a nap.

There’s a display in the museum with metal rods dipped in asphalt from the tar pits, to demonstrate how viscous the stuff really is.

It is not at all easy to move the rods up or down.  Scary stuff.

Have you ever been to the La Brea Tar Pits?

Los Angeles 2: Electric Boogaloo

While my first Los Angeles post was about Saturday night, most of what I’m including in this post took place on Friday.  We had arrived on Thursday night, and after a bit of sleep, we were ready to go see Los Angeles like proper tourists.

This awesome little Starbucks had just opened next to the hotel, and after briefly caffeinating, we were ready to go see the city.  (We sat on that deck once or twice, later in the weekend.  It’s really very nice.)

We started out a little before lunch, and Amelie’s friend Wendy met us at the metro station closest to the hotel.  We had a short list of things we wanted to see, so we set out on foot.  Halfway to our first destination, I realized that we were in front of the Webhosting company I’ve been using since about 2003.   Hi, Dreamhost!

We also walked right past The Bradbury Building, a lovely old built in 1893.

If this looks familiar to you, it’s probably because it’s used often in television, movies, literature, and even comics.  The Bradbury is where Sebastian’s apartment was located in Blade Runner, and there’s a Blade Runner sign posted near the stairwell detailing the movie’s production at the Bradbury Building.

Later in the day, we went to City Hall to take advantage of the free observation deck on the 27th floor.  I wish we had known that the night before this, they were shining the Bat Signal on City Hall in memory of the recently departed Adam West.  I would have liked to have seen that. Our visit was mid-afternoon on Friday, so no Bat Signal.

Across the street from City Hall is a signpost showing all of the sister cities of Los Angeles.

Once we went inside the Main Street entrance to City Hall, we went through metal detectors and checked in with the security desk.  First we took an express elevator to the 22nd floor, followed by another elevator to go up to 26.  On our way up, we saw the Mayor’s office, which in no way tempted us to knock.

After the elevator to floor 26,there’s one flight of stairs up to the observation level.  Inside, there’s a lectern set up, which leads to mugging for the camera, of course.  The first two are Amelie and her friend Wendy, and the third is me doing my best Shatner.  I’m not sure why podiums make me go full-Shat, but there it is.

Once we were done playing with the lectern, we went out to the observation part of the observation deck.  While City Hall isn’t the tallest building in LA, the observation deck goes all the way around the building for 360 degree views of Los Angeles.  You can even see all the wonderful LA traffic!

City Hall is just a block or two away from the Los Angeles Times, which gave us a pretty great view of that building.

This is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a Frank Gehry building with a pretty interesting face.

Union Station is the main train station for Los Angeles.  We walked through it when we first reached LA the night before, and it’s a very pretty station.  It’s also much larger than I realized-  the red roof here is all part of the station, along with the many tracks behind it.

Here’s part of the Los Angeles skyline, as seen from City Hall.

The Hollywood sign and Griffith Park observatory are both visible from City Hall, but it was kind of hazy so this was the best shot I got on Friday.

I took a few dozen photos from the observation deck, but mostly it just looks like rambling cityscape.  Here’s a nice picture of tall LA buildings from sidewalk level.

During our walk on Friday, we also walked right past  the Angel’s Flight funicular.  It was originally opened in 1901 about a block away, and was moved to its current location in the mid-1990s. It’s been closed since 2013, but is currently being restored with some safety enhancements and should re-open later this year.  I’m sad it wasn’t open- I love a good funicular.

This next picture was not taken on the same day- this was a different part of our visit, where we were at a Hollywood metro station which was closer to the Griffith Observatory.  There’s a Dash bus line which runs between this metro station and the Observatory on a regular schedule.   You can actually see the very top of the Dash bus in the bottom edge of this photo.  Not pictured:  A tiny Rocketeer taking off from the Observatory to fight a Nazi zeppelin.

You can always tell where you are in LA by the decorations in the Metro.   Not sure you’re in the station closest to the Griffith Observatory?  Just look for starfields in the station’s rafters.

The last picture in this post is not related to anything else in the photo- it’s just a Korean restaurant where we had dinner on Sunday night.  We all thought the name of the place was pretty entertaining.  The food was delicious, if a bit zippy for my tastes.  I had Kimchi pancakes, and tried Soju, a clear Korean liquor that was similar to vodka.  Tasty stuff.

Have you been to Los Angeles City Hall? 

Bob’s Burgers Live, and the Los Angeles Intro.

Up until the middle of this month, I’d never set foot in Los Angeles, not counting layovers.   When I found out a few months back that Bob’s Burgers was doing a live show, I could not resist.  I bought tickets right away.  The first night sold out and they added a second night, but we didn’t need to go twice even though I’m sure it was just as awesome on the second night.

The show was on Saturday evening.  We flew in Thursday night and out Monday morning, so that gave us a full three days to explore sunny California.  We covered Hollywood, Long Beach, and various points in between.  I took 810 photographs in three days, and distilled them down to 121 for the blog.   102 of the photos were from the Walk of Fame, but those stars are really all kind of the same, so I’m only going to post one of ’em.  There were 118 photos at Madame Tussaud’s, because that place is just fun, but that’ll be one whole post with about seventeen selected pictures.   Nobody needs to see every photo I take.

I’m not going to put all 121 of the finally chosen photos in one post though, that’s just nuts.  I’ll break it up a bit.  This is the first of many California posts.  I’m gonna start with the show that initiated our trip to California, Bob’s Burgers Live at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

The Orpheum is a lovely old theater 2000 seat theater.  It was originally opened February 15, 1926, and was reuilt in 1989.  It has a “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ installed, one of the last three pipe organs in Southern California venues.  I wish I’d heard it while we were there. I bet that thing sounds cool.  I also just learned that Taylor Swift filmed her video for “Mean” at the Orpheum.  Neat!

We were there for Bob’s Burgers, and that’s what we saw!  Each of the primary cast members is a comedian on their own, so the first half of the show was a series of comedy routines from the cast members.  The second half of the show was where it got really good though-  they did music from the show, along with Matt Berninger and the National. (Bonus!  Now I’ve seen the National in concert!)

All of the primary cast members were present for this gig.  The next picture is Eugene Mirman (Gene), Kristen Schaal (Louise), and Dan Mintz (Tina) singing “The Fart Song!”

Eugene did Gene’s masterpiece, “The Snake Song.”  I’m so happy they did this one.  In the left part of the photo, you can see the giant puppet snake that wound its way through the theater during this song.

Here’s the short version of The Snake Song, for your enjoyment:

On this next photo, sisters Louise (Kristen Schaal) and Tina (Dan Mintz) sang “Bad Girls.”  I love the keyboardist from the National to their left.  He was having a great time for the entire night.

Near the end of the show, there was a giant puppet Tina and a giant puppet for “Electric Love.”  Alas, no Kevin Kline or Megan Mulally were present to do their parts.  That would have been quite nifty!

This was the finale, though, with the entire cast on stage.  From left to right:  H. Jon Benjamin (Bob Belcher) in the yellow and blue shirt to the left, Larry Murphy (Teddy) in the suit, Dan Mintz (Tina), Eugene Mirman (Gene), Kristen Schaal (Louise), John Roberts (Linda Belcher) in the white t-shirt, and Matt Berninger from the National in the red suit.  Not visible in the photo, but sitting in with the National, was Loren Bouchard, the creator of the show.

The merchandise line at this show was run by a bunch of people who severely underestimated demand for their wares, and it took a long time to get out of the theater.  By the time we left, I had a new t-shirt or two, and Amelie had some official Louise ears.   Success!

Who’s your favorite Bob’s Burgers character?

Love is love is love is love.

Since the last time I posted on the blog, I moved from South Florida up to Orlando.  I meant to do a whole post about the transition up here, but this is not that post.

This post is about the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.  It happened one year ago today, June 12, 2016, and 49 people lost their lives, not counting the shooter.  Another 58 were injured during the shooting.   I didn’t live in Orlando at the time, but this city has always had a special place in my heart.

There have been vigils and remembrance events all over Orlando for the last few days, but today was the biggest set of events.   Amelie and I were out running errands in the afternoon, and our route took us directly past Pulse during their afternoon ceremony.  The traffic was our first clue that something was going on, followed immediately by the presence of a fleet of news vans.

There have been people standing in front of Pulse every time we’ve driven past-  the entire site is a memorial now, with a constant flow of mourners and people leaving things behind like flowers or a small token of their memory.  Today it was jammed, of course.

Later in the day, the crowds started to gather for the big Orlando United event at Lake Eola.  I didn’t realize it until this afternoon, but the city shut down many of the streets around the Lake for the event.   A little past 4:30 in the afternoon, this is what the traffic pattern looked like downtown:

On top of that, there was rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Once most of the rain leveled off, I grabbed my old MIX 105.1 umbrella and walked over to the Orlando Public Library to catch the last few minutes of Drag Queen Storytime.  My timing was off; this picture was just a few moments after a spectacularly photogenic twirl by our storyteller.

After Drag Queen Storyteller wrapped up, I walked the remaining block or so to Lake Eola, and wandered around the event.   This mural by Yuriy Karabash and Michael Pilato was put up earlier today- I’m not sure where the mural will ultimately reside after today.

People continued to gather for the Orlando United event- it was supposed to start at 7pm, but weather delayed it somewhat.  Still, more and more people arrived. I’m somewhere in the upper left part of this photo from the Orlando Sentinel, wearing a bright red shirt:

You can see the top of the bandshell in this next photo-  that’s as close as I was really able to get to the bandshell.  It was broadcast throughout the park over speakers all the way around the Lake, though, and Disney had put up a pair of large overflow screens so that people could watch from the larger part of Lake Eola Park on the Eastern bank.

Once the event started, I could hear what was going on, but I couldn’t see it- until someone near me mentioned that some of the local news media were streaming it live, and everyone has a cell phone…  I caught the video of a drum and bagpipe corps, and some other musical acts.

During the show, I walked around the lake so that I could get out of the thicker part of the crowd for a bit, and I was treated to some pretty spectacular views from the Northern side of the lake. The band-shell was dressed properly for the occasion…

Lake Eola’s iconic fountain was also beautifully lit in rainbow colors for the occasion.

It’s difficult to express exactly how something like this makes me feel-  I don’t know anyone who was directly affected by the Pulse shooting, but I have such strong ties to Orlando through friends and friends of friends that I see the ripples outward.

It hits especially hard because it could easily have been someone close to me.  When I was twenty-five, I lived in Orlando.  I was attending UCF for my degree, but in my down time, I went dancing.  Some weeks, I would be out five nights out of seven-  Two of those nights were Club Zen, Wednesdays were at the Embassy Music Hall, one night was at Barbarella or at Cairo, an Egyptian-themed club a few blocks over, or the Blue Room.

Most of those clubs are gone now, but this was my circle.  Except for a few cherished friends from the university, my entire social scene was based around where we could find good music.    If I had lived in Orlando one year ago today, it’s possible I would have been out, dancing.

I’m happy to see that one year later, Orlando is still strong, still loving, and still dancing.