Sunday, December 24, 2017

Modernica Props

With Charles Phoenix and his latest book,
Addicted to Americana
It's no secret that we love pop historian Charles Phoenix and so were thrilled to go to his most recent book launch at Modernica Props, a veritable museum of mid-century furnishings. I loved seeing Charles, but loved seeing all these wonderful artifacts even more!

Plastic tables—flower power, baby!

Walls of old tube TVs 

And colorful radios



What every office needs


My kind of kitchen

70s glasses

Formica tabletop design—can I please have a dress
in this pattern?

So many wonderful kitchen clocks, so little room

Just one of many showrooms

Wicker furniture

Spinning vinyl

Glorious lamps galore

Monday, December 18, 2017

El Pueblo de Los Angeles

As native Angelenos, we've been to Olvera Street and the surrounding El Pueblo many times. But we had never taken a formal tour and so were thrilled when the L.A. Historical Society offered a free member tour on a Thursday morning, two weeks ago. Oh, the joys of retirement!

Although officially developed by European settlers in 1781, the city of Los Angeles didn't truly take root until the the first decades of the 19th century. The oldest building in El Pueblo—and the oldest church in the city—is the Plaza Church. Constructed in 1818, it remains one of the most active Catholic parish churches in the western U.S.

Plaza Church

Other important buildings in El Pueblo include: the 1869 Pico House, the first modern hotel built in Southern California; the Old Plaza Firehouse, now a museum; the 1883 Plaza House; and the five-story Brunswig Building, which was the tallest retail/residential space in L.A. when it was built in 1888.

Pico House

Old Plaza Firehouse

Brunswig Building (left) and Plaza House (right)

Perhaps the most notable—and certainly most well-used—part of El Pueblo is the Plaza itself, which served for many years as the center of Los Angeles. Quite lively, especially on weekends, residents as well as tourists gather there for events year-round.

Plaza bandstand

One of four Morton fig trees that ring the Plaza

The Plaza is located a few blocks north of City Hall and directly south of Olvera Street, a block-long Mexican marketplace that was created in the 1920s as a tourist attraction. Olvera Street is also home to L.A.'s oldest residence, the Avila Adobe, built in 1818 for one of the area's first mayors. 

City Hall looming a few blocks away

A beautiful mural by children's book illustrator Leo Politi,
who lived close to El Pueblo

 Colorful wares on Olvera Street

Avila Adobe: dining room

Avila Adobe: the study

We had taken the train from Culver City and so ended our day back at the glorious Union Station, one of our favorite buildings in downtown L.A. Built in 1939, it is still the hub of all local transportation and a true architectural icon of Los Angeles.

Union Station, dressed up for the holidays

The grand waiting room

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Last Disneyland 5K

In front of King Arthur's Carousel
Once again, we braved the pre-dawn darkness to participate in the Disneyland 5K earlier this month. And, lucky, too, because we learned afterward that this was the final race weekend being held at the resort. Citing complications related to the new Star Wars land construction, Disney decided to end the Disneyland walk/run and focus just on Walt Disney World instead. We are not happy about this, but at least we got one last behind-the-scenes walk in. So long, Disney 5K!

Waiting for the race to begin

Still dark when we walked through Cars Land

Happy, happy!

The Moonliner at dawn—always my favorite 5K sight

Finishing in daylight

Sunday, November 19, 2017

War of the Worlds Opera

War of the Worlds opera logo
I am freakishly obsessed with the 1940s air raid sirens that still dot L.A.’s urban landscape. Erected during WWII and active through most of the Cold War, they were a major part of my childhood, when we had to practice ducking-and-covering under our school desks every time the sirens were tested (at 10AM the last Friday of the month). 

Although decommissioned many decades ago, a majority of the sirens continue to quietly stand guard today. Most people don’t even notice them, but I think they’re marvelous: rusting artifacts of a time when America knew exactly who its enemies were. 

No wonder, then, that I was thrilled to hear that three air raid sirens were being reactivated as part of a new public performance based on War of the Worlds, Orson Welles’ infamous radio play. Staged as an opera at Disney Hall, in downtown Los Angeles, the concert was interrupted by live radio interviews, detailing a Martian invasion around the city. The interviews were being remotely broadcasted from sirens located within one mile of Disney Hall. I immediately reserved tickets for one of the sites.


 Site 1: Olive and 1st

Site 2: Main St. between 3rd and 4th

Site 3: Hill St. between 7th and 8th
Anxious to see how the sirens had been retrofitted for the performance, we scoped-out the three remote sites last weekend. Sure enough, the sirens got a fresh coat of paint and new up-to-date black speakers. We also got to see puppeteers rehearsing with one of the Martian aliens—very exciting! This looked to be a fun event and indeed it was.


 Puppeteers rehearsing with mechanical Martian

Tim, Karen and I were greeted by three soldiers when we arrived at our assigned site yesterday afternoon. They told us to remain calm, even though they themselves were visibly nervous about something. The “stage” was setup in an empty parking lot on Hill St. About 200 white folding chairs faced the small platform as well as, of course, the air raid siren, which ended up being the centerpiece of the production.


 Soldiers, General Lansing (one of the opera singers),
and air raid siren in the background
After a short while, we heard an orchestra warming up through speakers placed behind us. The narrator, actress Sigourney Weaver, was introduced and the opera began. The music was suitably eerie as we listened and waited.


 Soldier taking aim at the menacing air raid siren (no!)
About five minutes into the concert, Sigourney politely interrupted with news that “incandescent gas” from Mars was hurtling toward L.A. at “an enormous velocity.” She advised that there was nothing to worry about, but reminded the audience to take note of the nearest exit in case we had to suddenly flee. Soon there were reports of “cylindrical objects on poles in the sidewalk” doing strange things as our siren started emitting high-pitched noises. Turns out L.A.’s innocent-looking air raid sirens had been hiding dormant Martians for 70 years and now they were coming to life! Sure enough, we were soon joined by a large mechanical creature, crawling along the sidewalk and threatening our space.


 Under attack!
Not only was it fun hearing our siren “speak” again after all these years, but the actors’ dialog was very L.A.-centric. Lines like “a loud, metallic bang was heard as far north as Tarzana” and “enemy tripod machines over the Cahuenga Pass” had us howling with laughter. In the end, music—and the controversial “titanium” skin covering Disney Hall—saved the day. But we were warned that “our world [is] being watched closely/With envious eyes/By a great intelligence.”


 Disney Hall and its titanium skin

So. Much. Fun.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Disneyland at Halloween

 Disney California Adventure (DCA) decorated for Halloween

It's been four years since we did Mickey's Halloween party at Disneyland, so we decided to go again this year. Fireworks. A special Halloween-themed parade. Plus Disneyland after dark. Who can resist? 

The Halloween party is one of the only times adults are allowed to wear costumes into the parks. Great to see entire families dressed as the Incredibles or favorite Disney villains. We don't cosplay, but we did dress in matching Halloween outfits and got rave reviews. So. Much. Fun! 


Long lines for photo opps with various Disney characters. But because attendance is limited, we practically walked right onto our favorite rides. Well worth the extra fee to get into the party.

Happy Halloween, y'all!

Scary Cozy Cones at DCA

Even the most benign buildings are suddenly creepy
at Halloween

Ofrenda for beloved Cars character Doc Hudson
(voiced by late actor Paul Newman) 

Día de los Muertos in Cars Land

Sleeping Beauty's Castle awash in scary images

Haunted Mansion

Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws

Magnificent Maleficent

it's a small world