Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March in L.A.

 
Librarians gathering outside the central library
 
Although I've been to many political rallies, I've never participated in a protest march, even though I lived through the Vietnam War, Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush. This time, however, I've been so distressed over the presidential election results that as soon as I heard local librarians were participating in today's Women's March in downtown L.A., I signed up. Happily, Tim and Karen decided to join me, too.

Despite pouring rain yesterday and another storm predicted tomorrow, the skies were crystal clear today—surely a sign that the heavens approved of our actions. The librarian group debated what types of signs to bring and decided we wanted to promote a positive message. So early this morning I hand-wrote my sign: LIBRARIANS FOR DEMOCRACY. Certainly not as eye-catching as many of the others at the march, but well-received nonetheless, especially by librarians and their fans.

We arrived at the Culver City lightrail station at 7:30AM. And lucky, too! Not only did we get a good parking spot, we were also able to squeeze into the first train. (We heard afterward that hundreds of riders had to wait forever to board later trains.)

 
Waiting on the platform to board
 
I had arranged to meet the librarian group on the garden side of the downtown central library at 8:30AM. Lots friends, colleagues and former students. At 9AM, we started to walk en masse to Pershing Square, two blocks away. After a short rally, we would march from from there to City Hall. We found what we thought was a good spot to stand and staked our claim as hundreds—thousands?—of people walked by. Apparently there were rousing speeches, but we never heard any of them for all the movement and commotion on our end of the plaza. 

 
 More librarians ready to march

General sentiment of the crowd

 
 More signs

 
A crowd favorite

 
 Tim

 
Even more signs

 
Channeling Obama's mantra: "Fired up! Ready to go!"
 
We stood and cheered and stood some more, until finally, at around 10:45AM, word spread that the streets were completely blocked with marchers. Not easily defeated, everyone spontaneously turned around and headed for Olive St. (behind us), which we all then took toward City Hall. People sang, chanted, and posed for photos. It was joyous and absolutely wonderful! A half-hour later, we arrived at City Hall.

 
 Back to Olive St.!

The crowd behind marching up Olive

video
"Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Misogyny has got to go!" (Tim with 
library poster) 

 Nearing City Hall

 
Thousands there ahead of us
 
Festivities continued till 4PM, but we left at noon, after seeing for ourselves just how crowded the streets were. The L.A. Times reported attendance at about half-a-million. And yet not one arrest was made. Just goes to show that protests can indeed be peaceful.

 
 Riding the train home

As soon as we got home, we put on the news to see how protests around the country—and the world—had gone. More than an estimated one million people marched today. Do the White House and Republicans even care? It seems unlikely. At around 3:30PM (our time), press secretary Sean Spicer held a brief press conference and berated the media for misrepresenting yesterday's inauguration. He then stormed out of the room without saying one word about the protests worldwide.

But that's OK. We and a million others know what happened today, because we were there. The majority will be silent no longer . . .


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Star Wars 5K

 
 Nearing the finish line

Disney race events occur rain or shine. So, despite predicted inclement weather, we headed to the parks, Thursday afternoon, spent the night at the Disneyland Hotel, and got up, Friday morning, at 4AM to participate in the Star Wars 5K. It was damp and a tad colder and darker than our last 5K, but we had fun nonetheless. As I always say: any excuse to go to Disneyland!

Thursday: nothing like a little drizzle to keep the crowds away from Disneyland!

 
With Dumbo, our family favorite

 
Friday: 5AM selfie while waiting for the 5K to begin

 
Giving the ol' Vulcan salute—Live Long and Prosper
but wait, this is Star Wars not Star Trek!

 
 My favorite Disneyland sight: Tomorrowland's rocket

Running the teacups before the park opens

 
Sleeping Beauty's castle at dawn: magnificent!

 
Close to the finish line

 
Right before crossing

 
Our reward: a 5K medal (pretty cool!)

But wait, there's more! What's becoming a post-5K tradition, we treated ourselves to a buffet at the PCH Grill, the "character breakfast" at Disney's Paradise Pier hotel.

 
Daisy Duck and me

  
Stitch and Tim

 
Me and Pluto

 
Pluto and Tim

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weekend Getaway in Riverside

 
Mission Inn
 
I had a big meeting in Riverside, Monday morning. Torrential rains were predicted, so Tim and I decided to take the train out the day before and spend the night at the historic Mission Inn, which we had only ever viewed from the outside.

Dressed in shorts, we took the lightrail to Union Station in downtown L.A., before hopping on Amtrak. There is no direct train to Riverside on Sundays. Instead, we got off in Fullerton and rode a bus the rest of the way. The weather was perfect—high 70s—but we could see snow-capped mountains in the distance. Ah, Southern California . . .

 
Union Station

 
Tim on the platform, ready to board
 
Downtown Riverside is charmingly old and highly walkable. Once we arrived at the depot—calling it a train station would have been a huge exaggeration!—we rolled our bags a half-mile to the hotel. We checked in and then went exploring. First stop, the Mission Inn itself.

What started in 1876 as a twelve-room adobe guest house, designed to look like a mission, is now a renowned California landmark, where even presidents have stayed. There's a chapel and glorious courtyard and apparently every inch of public space is famously covered in lights and Christmas decorations during the holidays. We missed the light show by a day, but did see remnants, including a lovely tree in the lobby and human-sized angels standing on the interior balconies. 

 
Interior balconies with angels

 
Looking down on the courtyard

 
Tower

 
Mission Inn chapel

 
Lobby Christmas tree (detail)
 
The Inn is beautiful and very "old world." Our room was large and airy, but in desperate need of updated furniture. Walking above the courtyard, I felt like we were in Spain or Italy—a million miles from Los Angeles.

We next went in search of lunch. Coincidentally, I had just read about Tio's Tacos, #69 on Los Angeles Magazine's list of 100 "hidden gems," located just a few blocks from the hotel. What a find! Not only was the food amazing—and inexpensive, too—but the entire place was festooned in fascinating outsider art created by the owner. Mostly enormous figures, the art is made from recycled items (e.g., cans, bottles, small electronic devices, etc.) and reminded me of a more primitive Watts Towers.

 
Tio's logo

 
Fabulous food: carnitas taco and rice for me,
pork torta for Tim

 
Palm-tree-sized woman

 
And another

 
Even the walkways are decorated in discarded bottle bottoms

 
Tim as angel
 
Eating at and seeing Tio's was a uniquely wonderful experience. In fact, our whole stay in Riverside was wonderful and highly recommended for a much-needed weekend getaway.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Back to Vegas

 
Entrance to Fremont St. Experience
 
As I've said many times before on this blog, I may not be a big fan of today's Las Vegas, but I do have a soft nostalgic spot for the Vegas of yore, when the tourists and entertainers were a lot more glamorous than the buildings. Luckily, our good friends Suzanne and Mike feel the same, so we were happy to meet them in "Sin City," earlier this week, to help celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

An hour after arriving, we found ourselves eating at Siegel's 1941, an old-school restaurant in the El Cortez, the longest continuously-running hotel and casino in Las Vegas and a favorite of 1940s mobster Bugsy Siegel, who, along with Meyer Lansky and others, bought the place in 1945. Following dinner, we walked over to the Fremont St. Experience, dedicated to preserving the neon heyday of mid-century Vegas. Situated in the heart of the old downtown area, the two-block Experience is covered by a protective ceiling that projects films above pedestrians, casinos and shops. Though I'm glad my parents' favorite casinos (from the old days) have been saved, the whole thing smacked of the worst elements of Times Square and Hollywood Blvd., so we did not stay long. (But we do love neon, so more about that part of Vegas in my blog entry below.)


 Tim (lower righthand corner) looking at all the neon and
ceiling projections

Mike in front of the Four Queens casino

Binion's casino
 
The next day, we spent a couple of hours touring the Nevada State Museum, an unassumingly hidden gem located in Springs Preserve, far from the hub-bub and gaudiness of The Strip. In addition to a permanent collection of artifacts tracing the history of Nevada, from dinosaurs to present day, the Museum is currently featuring two small but fascinating exhibits:"Les Folies Bergère: Entertaining Las Vegas One Rhinestone at a Time," about the Tropicana hotel's now-gone cabaret show, and "Branding Las Vegas, 1941-1958," highlighting hotel memorabilia collected by Richard and Nancy Greeno. Both are wonderful reminders of Vegas' true glory days.

 
Typical "pouf" headdress worn by 

 
1960s costume (front)

 
 And back

 
 Men, as well as women, danced in the Folies

 
Greeno collection: memorabilia from the now-gone New Frontier hotel

 
Tiki items from the once fabulous Stardust hotel

 
Frontier hotel poster

 
 When smoking was sexy: Tropicana hotel ashtrays

Desert Inn roulette wheel ashtray

Flamingo hotel: paper ephemera

 
Museum's permanent collection: old one-armed bandit slot machines

BTW, we stayed at the Signature at MGM Grand, a completely smoke- and game-free condo property, a couple of blocks off The Strip, that was relatively cheap, too. Highly recommended if, like us, you don't smoke or gamble.

 
Saw this double rainbow as we were leaving Vegas

 
Good luck followed us back into California