Pocket Parks: Culver West-Alexander in Culver City

If you look at a map of Culver City, you’ll see there is an arm that reaches to the Pacific Ocean. This is “Culver West” and it’s nestled between Mar Vista and Marina Del Rey.

There is a sweet gem in that arm called Culver West-Alexander Park and if you are in the neighborhood and looking for a great spot to spend an afternoon, you will love this one.

I remember this park from the very early 90’s as I used to work in the Marina. The big field seen here used to have a baseball diamond and one year I spent many an early morning practicing softball with our company team. (Go Hurlers!) Even without a baseball diamond, you can NOT get bored at this park. I dare you!

There are basketball and tennis courts, BBQ pits and picnic tables, tons of jungle gyms and swings and even a community center. If you are a Westsider, check this spot out, bring the kids and grandparents and a big picnic. You never know what you’ll see here.

How to get there (click on the image to go to the Google Map):

You want sports? We got sports!  One tennis and two paddle tennis courts (this is where my honey and I play a lot.)

Here’s a close up of the mural at the end of the tennis court. It’s like being inside Wii Tennis!

In case you were wondering:

And also:

This happy mural greets  you when you park on Moore street. Handball courts (three) are here on the backside of the tennis court.

Wider shot of Basketball and handball courts with informal running path in front.

Close on the Mural at the Basketball court:

Plenty of stuff for the kids to clamber over and around:

And when it’s time to eat, there are plenty of shady spots to spread out and grill up some yummy picnic food.

There is plenty of parking on Moore Street and also in a small lot near the jungle gym/tennis court side of the park.

Alas, Fido will need to stay on the designated path. But it’s a sweet path!

And if you need to just chill in a grassy, shady spot, there is plenty of that too.

Read more about Richard Alexander, after whom the park was named. (Click picture for bigger version.)

Stop by some time! It’s a gorgeous little park and it’s all yours.

This Weekend, Food & Wine Presents Food and Wine

You’re already thinking about this weekend, I know, because it’s Labor Day weekend, and Labor Day weekend means nothing if not food.  But, why labor over the grill when you could be relaxing under the stars eating the best the city has to offer?  Coincidentally (or not), both the LA Times and Food & Wine are hosting food and wine festivals this weekend, with the Food & Wine festival being the more overtly epic.  The culinary magazine is hosting “The Taste of Beverly Hills,” a four day affair featuring over 100 restaurants and wineries, categorized neatly by theme.  Friday night gathers all the great cocktail mixologists in town (excluding Tom Cruise); Saturday night is Date Night, matching LA’s best restaurants with the proper wine to dine; and Sunday is a lesson on brunching and – appropriately – on BBQ’ing.  There will be cooking demos and (yeah!) the chance to sample as much as your AYCE heart desires.  Ticket prices are steep, but if you can afford it, it looks like a great chance to sample plates from the likes of Angelini Osteria, Church & State, and Craft.  In addition, awesome Goldstar is offering tickets to the Sunday brunch for half-price ($62.50 instead of $125).  And, for those looking to crash the party, Evan Kleinman and KCRW also will host a pie contest that is free to everyone on Sunday morning.

The LA Times takes a more modest approach and has a one day food and wine festival on Sunday at the Paramount Studios in Hollywood.  Our local national paper fills the food truck void – food trucks are conspicuously absent from The Taste of Beverly Hills – and gathers a bunch for their festival, including Border Grill’s and The Buttermilk Truck.  There also will be cooking demos (including one on cocktail mixology (which also will not include Tom Cruise)), and, depending on your tolerance for Zooey Deschanel and her love for cotton, you will love or hate She & Him’s bonus concert at the end of the night.  Tickets are cheaper than The Taste of Beverly Hills but, then again, so are the restaurants featured (which is not a bad thing, just a point of difference between the two fests).  Goldstar pulls through for this one too – get half-price tickets here.

It’s Tuesday.  Just a few more days, and you can take the time to eat.  And eat again.

One Hundred Mornings — See This Movie

Exclusive OHM stills courtesy of Conor Horgan. Click to enlarge.

On the face of it, the world of One Hundred Mornings is about as far from the daily life of an average Angeleno as you can get. Set in the lush Irish countryside, OHM looks in on two couples sharing a mountain cabin after an unidentified disaster or chain of events leads to a total infrastructure collapse. It’s like an apocalypse only quieter. Todd Konrad of Independent Film Quarterly describes it this way:

If Harold Pinter did a rewrite of The Road, it could easily resemble One Hundred Mornings; eschewing multi-million dollar CGI special-effects and giant fireballs for an emphasis on actual story and character, Irish filmmaker Conor Horgan and cast craft an intimate look at the emotional and spiritual toll the apocalypse could bring to one’s life.

Having read an earlier version of the script (full disclosure: I’m lucky enough to call director Conor Horgan a dear friend), I’d elaborate that the film dramatizes, not just the toll of a societal breakdown, but by extension, the function of “society” itself to distract and distance us from ourselves. The word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek word for “to uncover” or “reveal,” and Conor Horgan’s One Hundred Mornings, in some respects, simply lifts the lid off our petroleum-based, strung-out-on-technology culture to show us what’s left when we strip away the lights and the cars and the iGadgets.

What I know is this, the film is beautifully shot and well written and acted, and it’s playing at the Downtown Independent Theatre for a week beginning September 16, thanks to the WorkBook Project’s Discovery and Distribution Award. (It will also be screening September 24 in San Francisco as part of the SF Irish Film Festival.)

You should buy a ticket. Not only will the film be great, but when Conor is world famous, you’ll be able to say “Oh yeah, I saw his first feature in downtown L.A. before it had U.S. distribution.” Because, you know, the world hasn’t yet collapsed, and in the interim between now and the apocalypse, there’s little that beats being able to say you knew about something really cool before most other people did.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRDiqinG8Ow[/youtube]

Collaborative Art at the final Art Walk for the summer in Monrovia

Blank Canvas at 7 PM.

Imagine two blank canvases on a sidewalk.  Each started by just one artist then letting the brushes loose on whomever happened to stop by who expressed an interest in what we were up to.  We, as in yours truly and artist Heather Shaw started the ball rolling with the blank canvases by painting in the under color blocks and letting it rip from there.  Then we switched and started the collaborative painting portion of the live demo at the Monrovia Association of Fine Art’s last Art Walk of the summer.

We had no plan on what to do, it was all predetermined to let it be spontaneous explorations of color, line and contrast.  As each passer by stopped to gawk we invited them to take a brush and join us.  We had random people and some accomplished artists join in adding bits and pieces sometimes radically changing the direction a painting was going.  Kids even stopped in and they saw through what the grown ups had done and started their own direction with faces in the chaos of one of the paintings.

Artist Tyger Jimmy adds in floating martini glasses.
Hyperactive artist Rousanna Berberian attacks the canvas with bold reds and blacks to alter the composition.
Nate takes a stab at adding details to another set of martini glasses.
Passerby Louis decides a pond needs to be added to the painting.
Couple of random kids see through the vibrant chaos created by Rousanna and make smiley faces.

The final paintings once dried will be auctioned off at a MAFA event with the proceeds going to fund the various art or art education events in the local communities.

Finally, for those of you who missed the Summer Art Walks you can get a feel for what transpires in this documentary shot at the July Art Walk. It was done by Gloria Locke for a project she was working on for SCVTV CHANNEL 20, from SCV-Arts & Entertainment, an art organization in the Santa Clarita Valley.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7_MEJti1bw[/youtube]

All pics by me, do embiggen a little, forgive the quality as they were done with my trusty old cell phone.

My Alibi isn’t all that’s Shaky

First of all, this isn’t a duplicate of Travis’s post about Shaky Alibi on Beverly at Martel.

As Tenacious D would say it, “This is just a tribute.”

And tribute-worthy they both are: Shaky Alibi for what is arguably the best waffle I’ve ever had (and let’s be honest – Friends, I’ve had some waffles), and Travis – well, for just being Travis, goddammit.

… Yes, It’s been a long time between posts for me. Let’s just say I’ve been busy and move forward.

Fitting my return post is about food, and about how just when you think you already know everything great about the Wonderful Town of Ours, somebody turns you on to another way to eat a waffle.

At Shaky Alibi you can have them sweet OR savory, and both are pretty freaking orgasmic. And those globules of sugar nestled in the waffle ensure that syrup need not apply. Which for my mind makes this Health Food.

The place was packed today at 11am, but by the time Travis and I were on our second double espresso it was completely empty. Suddenly.

WTF? I had a shower – turns out they RAN OUT OF DOUGH. But they still have the shots of Drinking Chocolate – yeah I said it.

The bad news is there will be no waffles til tomorrow (the dough takes a day and a half to make; I know because I offered them my kitchen), but the good news is the chick is driving in a fresh load of sea salt caramel ice cream from Santa Barbara as of noon today….

Oh those sugar nodules....

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: It’s a Wrap! (For Now)

We’re coming to a close on our L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series and having covered only twenty-three, we’ve just scratched the surface. There are many more such things that are unique to Los Angeles and help define the city.

You might be wondering how we chose the landmarks for the posts. In true blogging.la style, any author who wanted to participate could pick any they wanted to write about. A small group of us came up with a list during a brainstorm session, but those were simply suggestions. I definitely see a subsequent series or two in the future since there is so much more to explore. Stayed tuned for that.

We hope you’ve had as much fun reading our collection as we did writing it. We’re curious to know what you consider to be a great L.A. landmarks. Click on your favorites here and I’ll post the results sometime next week. You can also let us know what you think we missed on this round.

L.A’s Greatest Landmarks: The Hollywood Sign

Photo by Vlasta Juricek, 2005

Perhaps the most recognizable string of letters in the world. A Real Estate Advertising gimmick turned into a Monument and saved by Hugh Hefner, not once but twice. What more fitting tribute to Tinseltown could you ask for? I love The Hollywood Sign.

On Friday the Thirteenth, July 1923, they dedicated The Sign. Thomas Fisk Goff, owner of the Crescent Sign Company, designed it at the behest of real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults. The whole crackpot scheme was the brainchild of H.J Whitley and Harry Chandler, owner of the L.A. Times.

I can almost picture Chandler, with a wild gleam in his eye, exclaiming, “Why, that’s just crazy enough to work!”

The original letters originally read “Hollywoodland,” were five feet taller than the current structure, and festooned with around 4000 light bulbs, plus a giant blinking dot below, 35 foot in diameter, to  “catch the eye.” Because thirteen, fifty foot tall, white, blinking letters are far too subtle on their own.

They put it there to sell land in the hills. And when they were done, they just left it. Bastards! That’s so “ungreen.” Just leaving your garbage on the hill! What are you thinking!

I kid, of course, I love the thing, but that’s kinda what happened. It was never meant to be permanent, at all, let alone to stand up to decades of weather. And I’m sure many, many people felt that way about it as it started to deteriorate over the years. In the early Forties, the signs official caretaker got drunk, drove into the “H” and destroyed it. By 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the City of L.A. parks Department had come to a deal to repair the sign. The eliminated the last four letters and removed the lightbulbs. The Chamber of Commerce would have had to foot the bill for lighting the thing, so, yeah; no.

But it was still the original letters and they continued to deteriorate into a complete eyesore. By the 1970’s it was determined that it needed a complete overhaul, costing a quarter of a million dollars. To raise the money, the band Fleetwood Mac pledged to do a charity concert on the hill in 1977, but local residents put a stop to it. So, the following year, Hugh Hefner stepped in and held a charity auction at the Playboy Mansion, auctioning off individual letters at $27,777 each.

Thus, in August of 1978 they tore down the old sign and put up the one that stands today, this time on purpose. The letters are 45 foot tall and from 31 to 39 feet wide. No light bulbs. Hugh Hefner owns the “Y,” Andy Williams spotted for the “W,” and Alice Cooper bought the third “O” in honor of Groucho Marx. Warner Brothers owns the second “O,” and I suspect they currently keep The Warner Kids trapped in there, instead of in their old water tower.

Recently, a proposal to develop the surrounding land prompted the “Save the Peak” campaign. $12.5 Million dollars was needed to keep 138 acres adjacent to the sign. Donations came from all over, but at the eleventh hour, the Hollywood Sign’s Number One Fan, Hugh Hefner stepped in again, this time donating the final $900,000 dollars to save it.

Thanks, Hef. I really, really appreciate it.

I would respectfully like to dedicate this post to the Memory of Peg Entwistle. Rest in Peace, Star.

This post is part of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series – click here for the rest of the series!

Peg Entwistle

Some Blog Posts Write Themselves

Vilhelm Pedersen's "Emperor's New Clothes" is in the public domain

One of the things that interests me is the border between “art” and pop culture or art and commerce. I love graffiti art and DIY music and I think House on the Rock is far more impressive than Taliesin (yes, I’ve done some time in Wisconsin). I’m no canon-defender; I’ve read my Bourdieu, and I understand the social construction of taste and how that reinforces economic class. But sometimes I think L.A. goes too far in our efforts to appear avante garde or iconoclastic and we just end up looking silly. I submit to you this description of an upcoming screening at the Hammer Museum:

Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World documents the amazing life journey of California artist Don Ed Hardy (b. 1945), who decided at age 10 to be a tattoo artist. After receiving a classical art education with Asian influences, he went on to initiate tattooing’s unprecedented global popularity. Hardy combined sophisticated work on skin with painting, printmaking, writing, publishing, and curatorial work. The film puts this in context with the Ed Hardy lifestyle brand that has saturated the world. (2009, 75 min. Dir: Emiko Omori)

And here is the description of the Hammer Museum’s mission from their website:

The Hammer Museum explores the capacity of art to impact and illuminate our lives. Through its collections, exhibitions and programs, the Hammer examines the depth and diversity of artistic expression through the centuries with a special emphasis on art of our time. At the core of the Hammer’s mission is the recognition that artists play a crucial role in all aspects of human experience. The Hammer advances UCLA’s mission by contributing to the intellectual life of the University and the world beyond.

Discuss.

L.A.’S Greatest Landmarks: Chateau Marmont

No doubt, the Chateau Marmont looks, smells and feels like Hollywood.  You enter and are immediately swept up in a sort of old world, yet infinitely hip glamor. Every time I’ve gone there, whether it was for a languid drink, writing an interview, meeting a friend staying there for some pool action, or doing some sort of casting session, I’ve felt like I was in a movie myself. It definitely has it’s own mysterious magic.

Built in 1927, and modeled after a castle in the Loire Valley of France, it exudes a combination of mystery, naughtiness and serene beauty. It’s a famous hideaway for celebrities and bon vivants, shysters and artists. From the lobby, with it’s sweeping ceilings and intimate, nice living room areas, to it’s pool dappled with light, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and tawdry at the same time.
My first encounter there, years and years ago, was at a wild Friday night party, hosted by a gangsterish pretty boy from New Jersey. He had dreams of moving to California and financing movies….. starring himself. He rented the penthouse overlooking Sunset Boulevard and proceeded to throw one of the most debaucherous parties I have ever attended (before or since!). It involved many magnums of champagne, various illegal substances and before the night was over, at least two aspiring starlets had whipped off their tops to compare boob jobs. There was a vote. The winner took all. Later, as the sun was rising, the party ended with skinny dipping at the pool. Croissants never tasted so good.

More recently, I went there for dinner out in the garden with my honey Dan. It was dreamily sensual, amazing food, sun setting into candle-lit darkness. Quite stunning. Still delivered mightily in the glamor department.
The place definitely has Hollywood history. Greta Garbo holed up there, not leaving her room for days at a time, Helmut Newton hit the wall of the entrance and tragically died there. John Belushi kicked the bucket in one of the bungalows. Britney Spears is reportedly banned from the place for bad behavior… the list is endless. From the time it opened to today, it’s been a star magnet.  Some say the Eagles, “Hotel California” is actually the Chateau Marmont.  And like the perfect movie star, it never seems to age, always living up to it’s legend!

Win Tickets To Rare Screening Of ‘Rottweiler’ in 3-D

08/28/10 EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

We’re giving away tickets to an ultra-rare 3-D screening of the 80s indie horror film Rottweiler: Dogs of Hell. The event is being presented by the LA3DClub this coming Sunday, August 29 at 7:30 pm at the Downtown Independent. Lenny Lipton and Chris Condon, the two legendary 3-D experts behind this production, will appear for a Q&A following the movie. This one-time only screening is a unique opportunity to see one of the few indie feature films from the wave of stereoscopic movies in the 1980s.

I strongly encourage anyone who has not been to the Downtown Independent, L.A.’s only indie-friendly 3-D cinema, to do so. They host a wide variety of interesting programming and and events.

If you would like to win a pair of tickets to the Rottweiler screening, leave a comment telling me why you want to see the movie, or, tell me what your favorite 80s 3-D movie is. I’ll notify one lucky winner by email this Saturday morning.

Click here for more information on this Sunday’s events, which, in addition to the feature film, include a free 3-D short film showcase and potluck barbecue at the theater’s rooftop bar.

ICME: Thunderheads over The Valley

click to embiggen

Today was the official celebration of the end of summer vacation at my house and time for our annual trek to just screw around at Venice Beach.  Glorious day for it I tell you, barely 70’s and a nice stiff breeze off the ocean made for a break from the heat.

If the heat today seems worse than yesterday it should.  Those thunderheads over The Valley came about with the arrival of monsoonal moisture over the basin.   I just makes the heat a little more unbearable for those stuck inland.

Pic by me with the trusty cell cam.