Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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10/8/2013

On top of Old Baldy

Filed under: — stan @ 8:22 pm

Well, I’m still on furlough-cation this week. I’ve recovered from last Thursday’s hike, so it’s time for another. I wanted to go and climb Mt San Antonio, colloquially known as Baldy, since I haven’t been up there since 1996. I’d only been up there three times ever, so I figured it was time. So I made plans to do this with Karina from my office.

We got an early start, and hit the trail from Manker Flat up to San Antonio Falls at 8AM. After a short walk up the fire road, we turned off onto the trail up the Bowl on the south slope of Baldy. The sign at the bottom mentioned that there were Jeffrey Pines in the forest above, and those are the ones with the bark that smells like vanilla. So I had to stop and smell the trees on the way up. We stopped for a break at the Sierra Club Ski Hut.

From the hut, the trail turned and went across the slope for a bit before it started a very steep climb up to the top of the ridge that comes off the summit on the south side. When we got to the top of the ridge, we had to take a rest. I checked my GPS, and it said we were close to 9,000 feet, so that meant the summit wasn’t too far away.

The final climb up to the summit was hard. It was steep, and there wasn’t enough air to breathe. When the GPS said 9,800 feet, I knew it wasn’t far, and that and the magnificent scenery were the only things between me and the crushing wave of “What the HELL are you trying to prove here?!?” that I always get while doing stair-climbing races. So this wasn’t so bad. And of course, we made it to the summit all right.

We had lunch on the summit, while trying to get away from all the bees. (Why are there bees living on top of a 10,000 foot mountain, anyway?) Then we headed down by way of the Devil’s Backbone Trail. This trail is famous for the section where it’s on a knife-edge ridge, with steep drops on both sides of the trail. And yes, that kind of gave me the willies. But we made it down all right, walking down into the ski area, and then down the very long fire road from the ski area back to where we started. That fire road was a long walk, but at least it was something where we could pretty much walk normally, rather than having to climb over boulders or anything like that. So it was pleasant enough. In the end, we made it back to the start in just a bit more than 8 hours. Not bad for 11 miles and about 4,000 feet of climbing. So yes, this was a fun day.


10/3/2013

Furlough-cation

Filed under: — stan @ 5:42 pm

Today, I’d made plans to go hiking with my friend Karina from work. Since our office has turned into a pumpkin, we don’t have anything to do. She hikes a fair amount, but I haven’t been up in the mountains since 4th of July last year. So we arranged to meet up a the trailhead a the top of Lake Ave. We figured we’d start out by going up Echo Mountain, and then just see what we had time for after that.

The trail up to Echo Mountain is about 2 1/2 miles, and it’s not hard. At the top, we turned left and headed up the old Mt. Lowe Railway roadbed. Most of it is still passable. The bridges have all been taken out, and there are signs along the way, indicating points of interest, and with photos showing how it looked when it was still operating. We ended up walking the entire length of the former railroad, all the way to the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, which is at the location for the former Alpine Tavern that was at the end of the line. We stopped there for lunch, since they have some picnic tables there.

After lunch, we continued on up the trail to Inspiration Point, which is on top of the ridge behind Echo Mountain. There is a little shelter built up there, along with a sign telling the story of the One Man and a Mule Railroad, which used to bring people up to Inspiration Point from the Alpine Tavern. After that, we headed back by way of the Upper Sam Merrill Trail, which took us back to Echo Mountain. Then we headed back down the way we’d started. All together, it was about 12 1/2 miles, which is easily the longest hike I’ve done in many years. But it was a good time, and a good thing to do on a day when we have nothing else useful to do.

10/2/2013

Furlough adventures

Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

For the first full day of government furlough, Kathleen and I had planned on going to Disneyland. But first, I’d gotten a call last night from Rebecca, the organizer of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s charity stair-climb. She said that we had a chance to change the race this year and run it all the way to the helipad on the roof of the building, and she wanted to see if I could meet with her at the building in the morning to survey the final few floors up to the roof. And since I’m on indefinite furlough, of course I could do that.

I rode the train downtown with all the morning commuters, and when I got to the building, I went up to the main office so we could meet with the guy in charge of building security. I’d brought along a batch of my award-winning blueberry muffins. I asked them to give them to the evening shift guards, since they were very nice to us the last two months when we were training on the staircase there for the YMCA stair climb.

We took the freight elevator up to 51, which is where the race traditionally ended. After climbing that staircase 68 times over the last two months, there was no need to survey anything below 51. Then I got out my camera and notepad and we checked out the stairs up to the roof. The final count came to 1,245 steps from the ground-level door on 6th St up to the roof. That’s the equivalent of a bit over 54 normal floors in that building.

After surveying the stairs, I got back on the train, and I took Metro Rail to the Norwalk station on the Green Line. That’s right off the 605 freeway, which is how we get to Disneyland, so I met up with Kathleen there, and we headed on to Disneyland.

We did all the usual things there. We even rode the new Radiator Springs Racers ride for the first time. The line for that thing has been insanely long ever since it opened. But today, the line was only a bit over an hour, and the single-rider line was very short. So we went in as two single riders, and we were on it in under 10 minutes. It was entertaining, but I’m not sure it’s an-hour-in-line entertaining.

On the way over to Disneyland, I saw that there’s a commemorative paving stone with my name on it. Even spelled the ‘right’ way. I wonder who it is, since I’ve never met anyone with my same name, spelled the same way.

Disneyland was decorated for Halloween. And the Haunted Mansion was decorated for Christmas. Saves them a lot of work that way. I was able to pretty much forget about the government shutdown. And we ended with the traditional dinner at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. We had a nice day.

10/1/2013

Here we go again

Filed under: — stan @ 3:50 pm

Back in 1995, the first year I was at my job, we had two government shutdowns that lasted a total of almost four weeks. And now, here we go again. So I’m at home, sitting on the back porch, reading. While I was sitting there, I noticed the hummingbirds coming and going around the feeder, so I got my camera and set it up on a tripod with the remote shutter release. I held the control while I was reading, and whenever I heard a hummingbird come by, I snapped a few pictures. And 118 pictures later, I got a good one.

9/30/2013

Off Vine

Filed under: — stan @ 9:44 pm

I recently rediscovered my old favorite restaurant from the late ’80s in Hollywood. Off Vine is in a little house on Leland Way, just – wait for it – off Vine St. When I saw that they have regular half-off special on Mondays, we made plans to go.

This was my first time there since 1996 or so. And it was every bit as good as it ever was. So now that we’re well-fed and had a nice evening out, I’m ready for the government and my job to turn into a pumpkin.

9/27/2013

Battling my inner demons

Filed under: — stan @ 10:23 pm

So it’s the end of September, and time to climb the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles again. And oddly enough, it never gets any easier. After all the practice sessions, climbing the Wilshire-Figueroa building 68 times, I was as ready as I was going to ever be. I’d worked out split times based on a pace of 5 1/2 floors per minute, which felt reasonable in practice. I thought I had a chance of being able to maintain that pace all the way up the 75 floors.

I got a phone call in the afternoon from George. He had run early, with the elite group, and he’d turned in a very respectable 13:49. That’s about seven seconds faster than my best time in that building. He also told me that I’d made a couple of errors in my stair chart. George has a great eye for detail. So based on what he told me, I went back and adjusted my split times.

I rode the train downtown just like every other time, and I walked over the YMCA to get changed and ready to climb. And when 4:00 rolled around, I was in line and ready to go.

The first 30 or so floors were fine. I kept to my pace, and I didn’t have trouble passing people. For the most part, the message is finally getting out to allow faster climbers to pass on the inside. But the hardest part was still to come. About the 55th floor or so, I was suddenly overcome by a crippling wave of “What the HELL am I trying to prove here?!?!?” And that’s something that makes it very hard to go on. I managed to keep moving, but I must have slowed down quite a bit. My schedule was to get to the top in about 13:45, and it ended up being 14:47. That’s my second-slowest time ever for this building. Still, I can’t complain too much. I’m still quite a bit faster than the Average Bear. I was something like 120th out of about 2,900 people. But I know that if I could just maintain focus, I’m sure I could go a lot faster.

After hanging around the bottom, visiting with everyone and handing out samples of my award-winning blueberry muffins, I saw Morgan from my office. I’d told her I’d walk up with her when she got there, so we went down and got in line. I told the people at the starting line that I was going to walk up with her, since I felt sort of responsible for the fact that she got talked into doing this crazy sport in the first place. So we walked up, making it to the top in just under 18 minutes. That was a new best time for her, and I thought it was reasonably leisurely. I stopped for water a few times, and I talked a lot. She later told me that telling her, “This is the floor where I lost the will to live” wasn’t particularly motivating. Oh well. Still, it was a good time, and it was interesting to see the stairway at a moderate pace.

So all told, it wasn’t one of my better outings on the stairs, but it was still a fun evening.

Full results are here: http://www.hallucinationsports.com/event/show/39511880#/results::1380915635626

9/15/2013

Field Trip

Filed under: — stan @ 9:34 pm

A few weeks ago, I went to an event put on by Atlas Obscura where we went to a pinball museum in Orange County. While we were there, they mentioned that they were doing a ‘Field Trip Day’ excursion in Pasadena soon. This was put on in conjunction with Google, which has created a ‘Field Trip‘ smartphone app. So today was the day, and we headed over to Old Town to do some exploring on foot and seeing some of the history and culture around there.

We all met up in an alley behind Lucky Baldwin’s, where everybody got a little packet to start off with. It listed about 25 locations that were within reasonable walking distance. At each place, there was a flag and a small sign telling a bit about the place and its history and significance. One of the things in the packet was a list of questions to try and answer about some of the locations. This made it sort of a scavenger hunt, which added some entertainment value. And at some of the locations, they had actors dressed up as characters who had something to do with the history of the place. So it was an interactive scavenger hunt.

At the start, we headed out to the first few stops in the order they were listed on the sheet. One of the oddities was Gold Bug. I’d been by there, but never stopped to look in the windows. They have a lot of weird stuff in there. At Kendall Alley, we read the sign and talked to the officer to get the answer to the puzzle question for that location. Then we went across the street to the Blind Donkey to sample some beer.

We saw the Raymond Theater, which has been converted to condominiums. This was where the concert scenes from “This is Spinal Tap” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” were filmed. The Holly Street Livery Stable is a very old building that I’ve been by countless times, but never really noticed. But it’s a piece of history that it still standing.

At the old YWCA building, we met the architect, Julia Morgan, who designed many buildings for the YWCA in California. She told us the story of the building. Then we walked over to Pasadena City Hall and saw the Jackie Robinson memorial there. We also learned that his brother Mack was a runner, and that he’d competed in the 1936 Olympics, coming in second behind Jesse Owens in the 200 meter race.

From there, we went off the route, and we went to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The bit of history here was that this was where the 1983 “Motown 25″ TV show was filmed, and it was the first place where Michael Jackson performed the moonwalk. So of course, they had Michael Jackson there to teach everyone how to do it.

After that, we headed east, out of Old Town, where we stopped at the Pasadena Playhouse, where Tennessee Williams was holding auditions for their production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Again, this was an interactive adventure. And because we’d gone off the route, we got there ahead of the main group of people doing the tour. They started to arrive just as we finished there.

We stopped in the little coffee shop in Vroman’s Books to get some cold drinks. Then we started back, going by the Scottish Rite building, and the Pacific Asia Museum. Then we went to the Luggage Room, which is a restaurant in what was part of the old Santa Fe railway station in Pasadena. They were holding a little cocktail tasting on the patio, so we got to sample some odd cocktail flavors.

The last stop on the tour was at Rocket Fizz, which has a lot of decidedly strange and funny sodas. Not really historical, but interesting in an odd way. Then we headed over to the after party at Castle Green. And after the party, we walked over and had dinner at Cafe Bizou before going home. All told, it was an interesting and amusing afternoon adventure.

9/2/2013

Time to make some more room on the kitchen wall

Filed under: — stan @ 7:25 pm

My blueberry muffins won second prize in the Los Angeles County Fair. Woo Hoo! I’ll be getting another ribbon to go up alongside the ones from 2012 and 2010.

The recipe is here, if you want to try making them: http://www.1134.org/recipes/blueberrymuffins-fair-2013.pdf

8/31/2013

A gallery afternoon

Filed under: — stan @ 6:33 pm

This Saturday was a gallery day for us. We went to A+D to see the “Never Built: Los Angeles” exhibit. This is a show of models, drawing, and other materials from projects that were proposed, but were never built. The projects on display covered a full range from things that might have been pretty useful to things that were clearly absurd. For instance, the model showing proposed development behind Union Station was perhaps a bit grandiose, but it really wasn’t absurd. By comparison, the proposal for an offshore causeway freeway from Santa Monica to Malibu was perhaps the most absurd idea floated there. Most of the others fell somewhere in between. There was a map of the original plan for the freeway system, of which about one-half has been built. There was also a drawing showing Disney’s original plan for Disneyland in Burbank. They said it never made if off the drawing board because the city of Burbank thought it would have too much of a ‘carnival atmosphere’ and not be a good thing for the city. So Disneyland ended up in Anaheim. All told, this was an interesting exhibit.

After “Never Built”, we headed west to the Annenbery Space for Photography in Century City. The exhibit there is “Helmut Newton: White Women – Sleepless Nights – Big Nudes”, which presented a selection of his photography over the years, along with a short documentary film about his life. His style was very distinctive, and has influenced a whole generation of photographers.

This all made for a fun afternoon.

8/18/2013

Johnny Ramone and John Waters

Filed under: — stan @ 11:35 pm

This evening was the 9th Annual Johnny Ramone Tribute at Hollywood Forever cemetery. This year, the event included a screening of “Cry Baby“, and a personal appearance by John Waters to introduce the film. Add to that that Johnny Depp, Traci Lords, and others from the movie were going to be there, Being a big fan of both the Ramones and John Waters, this was an event not to be missed.

Since Kathleen was laid up at home recovering from her surgery last Thursday, Lucinda and I made plans to go to this, along with my friend Lisa from the West Coast Labels stair-climbing team. I made us a too-big picnic to bring along, and dug out our Tommy Bahama chairs, and we were ready to go.

We set up camp on the lawn, and Lisa got in line to get autographs from John Waters. I didn’t bring anything for him to sign, largely because everything I have by him is already signed. And as it turned out, that was a good thing. She waited in line for a long time, and then they cut the line off just before she got to the front.

Lucinda spent some time sightseeing in the cemetery and taking pictures. They had Johnny Ramone’s statue decorated for the occasion, and they turned on the lights as darkness fell.

Before the film, they held question and answer session with John Waters and the others from the film on the stage. Lucinda was excited when she found out that the panel would be introduced by none other than Dita. They took some questions from the crowd and talked about making the movie. Then John Waters took the stage by himself to introduce the film. As always, he was very funny to listen to. After he finished, we watched the movie, and as always, it was very entertaining. It had been years since I saw “Cry Baby”, so all around, this was a very fun evening.

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