Sunday, November 27, 2011

What do we really think of America?

I recently had the opportunity to speak at length to a physician who was a native of Pakistan but had been in this country for the last 15 years. It was a really interesting conversation. Especially with the sticky situation we have had with Pakistan as a country.
I asked him if he would ever go back "home" to live. He said no, that this is home. His wife is also from Pakistan, but their children have all been born here. He loves Pakistan, but is very passionate about the United States and all the reasons it's a great country. And his reasons are ones that I think we take for granted. At least I know I do.
He said we have so much opportunity here. That truly people can get an education her, if they are motivated. And with that education can really change their lives. He said that where he is from, people are so incredibly hungry for an education that they go to any lengths to obtain one. He said he did some of his training in Newark, N.J. and was shocked to find people seemingly content to stay in reduced circumstances and not really striving to change. He said that we are so used to opportunity here, that we take it for granted.
He said it was also amazing to him how diverse our cultures were within the country and yet we were all still united as Americans. He has worked with the Amish, people in inner cities, Indian reservations and in spite of all of our differences, we can all be united. I like that a lot. Unity can do almost anything.

Another point that he made,was that a child can show up in an emergency room and have injuries. This child has no voice and cannot speak up and protect themselves. He said the fact that there is an agency in the government that will step in, investigate and protect this individual with no voice is really amazing. When he tells people back in his home country of this, they are amazed. Again, it never occured to me to think of CPS or Adult Protective Services as truly unique.

I was very moved by our conversation and felt very grateful for my country. And as I am trying to pay special attention to gratitude this month, I thought it fitting to say something about it. What are you grateful for in our country or your country?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

LA County Coroner's Office

So...One night when Cindy and I were driving back and forth to our hotel, I saw a sign that said LA County Coroner's Office. I said "Hey, I remember reading once that the Coroner's office has a gift shop!" Cindy called her girl's and Roxanne looked it up on line for us. Sure enough in a Wild and Wacky LA post, she found that it was true. She gave us their info.
So the next morning we went to check it out. It was a complete hoot. First of all we passed some other people going in. We thought, they can't be here for anything good, so we better not make eye contact, smile or say good morning. The offices and area where the gift shop is, is in the old LA County General Hospital. It 's a kind of cool old building. Inside the receptionist dude wasn't quite sure about the gift shop and if it was open. The door wasn't 10 feet from where he was sitting. Hmmm
In one corner of the lobby was the "Notification Room". Cindy saw a sign that said something like be sure and be respectful of people who were here for notifications. Yeek.
Then we got inside the gift shop. What a hoot. Dark humor, trading off of the popularity of the whole CSI genre. Tshirts, aprons, door mats, etc. Saying things like," we are dying for your business" or "we have spare hands, spare hearts and spare ribs" . Shirts with body outlines on them. There was a sign that said Shoplifters Kin will be notified. HAH! I got a tshirt from the coroner's sport team. It has a running skeleton on it and it says Play hard or die Trying. Cute.

It was really a fun stop. Who knew?

Griffith Park Observatory

On Sunday last week, Cindy and I went to Church.In the afternoon, we went to the Griffith Park Observatory. It was on my list of notable places in LA that I should visit and hadn't. It is a very well known landmark and has been in several movies, especially a James Dean movie. When reading about it, parking was said to be very limited. So we decided to take one of the hiking trails up and hike there. This is what the lower part of the park looks like. Very shady, green and lots of trees. Quite pleasant. The trail was very definate, but there wasn't any signs and so we asked someone to make sure we were on our way to the Observatory. The lady said, yes you CAN get there this way, but it's far and very steep. Cindy and I looked at each other. Like how far? Cindy asked. The lady said a couple of miles. Ah, we thought, no problemo.

After the first short bit of trail in the trees, it opens up to a more natural vegetation in the area. It was a cool day, in the afternoon, so we were good. This is what it looks like from our approach. It WAS steep, but within our capabilities. I stopped a few times to catch my breath. There were amazing views as we went. It was a clear day, no smog and you could see clear to the ocean in one direction and to the San Gabriel mountains and Palm Springs to the other.

The Hollywood sign was not as close as it looks. I was using a bit of my zoom lens. But we were in the vicinity.

Almost to the top!

The San Gabriels with a dusting of snow.

Once there, you could climb up to several different levels. This is the roof.

There is the ocean, past downtown.

Looking South and slightly east.

It was free to go inside and there were several exhibits. The only thing you have to pay for is if you go to one of the planetarium shows.

There were some beautiful murals and ceiling paintings.

A memorial to James Dean.

View across the front lawn.

This guy was just a photo op waiting to happen. He and his buddies got a laugh out of my wanting to take his picture.

The trail starting back down.

This was our dinner stop for the night. I had been wanting to try one of the many food trucks we saw.

The front of the planetarium. It was a fun afternoon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Wierd Al Concert

The whole impetus for the trip to LA was the Wierd Al Concert at the Pantages Theatre. I had gotten an email advertising tickets back in August. I thought, that just sounds like a good time. I bought a single ticket for myself and planne to go, but started talking about it to see if anyone else was up for it. My friend Cindy jumped on the bandwagon. She bought a ticket up in the balcony and I was on the end seat of the second row.
The Pantages is an awesome theatre. It is really over the top Art Deco and old Hollywood. The Oscars used to be held there. I was afraid that cameras wouldn't be allowed and left mine at home. I wish I had brought it, because it was ok as long as you didn't use a flash or take video. I had to use my cell phone and it takes lousy pictures.
I have to say that the show really exceeded my expectations. He was very funny. He had a wardrobe change for every song. There were video clips and interviews. He did a whole segment just on food songs, La-la-lasagna, and my bologna. Very Funny.

Here he is dressed like a tour guide at the jungle cruise ride in Disneyland.

Party in the CIA.

There were flames all over this suit.

Perform this Way. Parody of Lady Gaga.

He did an encore of his Star Wars song to the tune of American Pie. It is hilarious.

And at the end of the show, the star wars guys were out front and you could get your photo taken with them.

I think I am taller than this star war guy.

Cindy took this photo at the beach earlier in the day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Saturday in LA and the Fabric District

On Saturday morning of our LA trip, Cindy and I started out the morning at Huckleberries in Santa Monica. I had read about this restuarant in an article and thought it would be a fun place to go have a nice breakfast. At first it didn't look like there was a line and I thought we had lucked out. But the line just went out the backdoor instead of the front. They had an interesting system. It was a small place, but you ordered at the counter and they gave you a number. You weren't allowed to snag a table until you had ordered and had a number. It somehow seemed to work and everyone ended up with a table. They had a really interesting menu. Not really your typical breakfast foods. This is a photo of my order, two poached eggs on oven roasted vegetables with pesto. It was brussel sprout leaves, mushrooms, onions and garlic. It was really very tasty and pretty good for you.

This was Cindy's. Two fried eggs on quinoa with kale and butternut squash. All superfoods! Of course they had an amazing bakery case too. We probably undid any good we did, by having some fabulous baked good too.

We planned to then have a nice walk on the beach. We did make it to the beach, but the weather wasn't being very cooperative. It was windy and the surf was booming in, which was kind of fun. But then it started raining pretty good. We decided discretion was the better part of valor and gave up on the beach.

We then went to our first time ever at the fabric district! LA has these amazing shopping districts in the downtown area. This was my first foray into them and definately not my last! It is mainly for wholesalers and manufacturers, but they sell retail too. It looks like a combination of an indoor mexican swap meet and the Mood fabric store in New York. There are bolts of fabric, trim, buttons, lace, beads, jewelry supply, notions, ribbons, craft name it, everywhere. Some places are really clean and organized, others not so much. It was overwhelming to the senses. I didn't have any plan for anything I needed, but found a few things I decided I could use for different projects. Cindy got fabric to reupholster her patio furniture. And did I mention the prices? They are super loooow and in a lot of places you can bargain down even further.
I did buy some really nice designer fabric in Michael Levine (the cadillac shop) that wasn't exactly cheap. I am assuming it was less than somewhere else, but I'm not enitrely sure.

After a while it was hard to absorb it all.

Some places only took cash.

It is a busy, busy scene with all kinds of things happening up and down the street. The different districts spill into each other, fabric, garment, flower, toy, accessories, jewelry, etc. We went back on Monday morning and got some amazing deal on accessories (hairbands, watches, jewelry, ties, suspenders, purse).

We went a little bit into the flower district and got some really beautiful flowers for our hotel room. We also got a few great houseplants. Very healthy and inexpensive.

Our flowers!
We are very excited to back another time. Especially with a plan of specific things we want to buy for! I have never seen anything quite like it. Go go go!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

Cindy and I went on a long weekend trip over to the Los Angeles area. We got there on Friday and had scheduled a tour at the Warner Brother's studio. Before starting the tour we had lunch at the oldest surviving Big Boy Resturant. They even had some limited Car Hop Service. Here is Cindy with the Big Boy himself. It was a popular spot. We had to wait for a table.

Then we took our 2 and a half hour tour of Warner Brothers Studios. I learned a lot! First off, this huge studio has been the home of countless movies and television shows. Did you know Friends is the most popular show ever? It is showing somewhere in the world 24 hours a day. Did you know I've never watched a complete Friends episode? Did you know Friends was never filmed in New York? It was all filmed right here except for segment in England.

Here are two well known Warner Brothers stars taking their hats off to greet us.

This is called an undressed set. It doesn't have all the details that make it look real, including door knobs,etc. But this little alley is the very spot where Spiderman kissed his girlfriend when he was hanging upside down. The fire escapes behind is where the big number with the the orphans from Annie took place. They can make these sets look like anywhere in anytime period. It's pretty amazing how little there really is to them. All kinds of folks rent the spaces at the studio to film.

This is lagoon where fantasy island was filmed. It's right next to "Walton's Mountain" and the Mountain from the opening scenes of MASH. It was also the jungle from Juraissaic Park.

The costume shop.

Part of the Star Waggons they use for makeup, dressing etc.

This is a dressed set. The town square was set up for one series on one side of the street and a completely different place and time on the opposite side of the street.

All the Sound stages had plaques on them commerating the movies and series that had been filmed in them. This is the set where friends was filmed, along with many others. Friends makes the stars like 23 million a year in residuals.

This is the largest sound stage in the world. It was used for A Perfect Storm. They put the water and ship and everything in there. It was used for Inception. They built the whole Asian Palace inside. It costs 10,000 $ a day to rent. Steven Speilberg puts it on hold whenever he wants it.

This is a close up of the mattress like padding inside the walls. The sound is just kind of dead inside.

ONe of the digitized backdrops they use to simulate a skyline. They stretch it out like a shower curtain and have lights showing through some of it.

Part of the huge shop where they make sets and props.

This was the car museum and Scooby Doo's van. We were able to take photos in here, but later went to the museum and we weren't allowed to take photos in there. All the Harry Potter movies were done here and the whole second floor of the museum is devoted to Harry Potter. It's pretty cool to see some of the costume's props and monsters. I even got sorted by the orginal sorting hat.

Harry Potter and the car from the movie.

Duke's of Hazzard car, car from Arthur, car from Matrix. Austin Power's car is just barely visible. They had a set saved from Friends and we were able to get our photo taken on the couch!

The huge prop building is really amazing. It really helps you realize why it takes so many people to plan and organize a movie. Again, people come from all over to use the things at Warner Brothers. They determine the rental value as a percentage of the monetary value. The Warner Brother's wives went all over the world to buy things to use in the movies. They also used them freely in their homes. They have the largest collection of thrones in the world here.

Some of the lights.
It was really fun. And they even took our photo in front of a green screen that turned  out to be the Hogwart's Express and then gave it to us!