Stan’s Obligatory Blog


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.

This Old House

Filed under: — stan @ 2:00 pm

This week, I saw an article on Curbed LA about some very old houses for sale in the Los Angeles area. And it turned out that a few of them were not far from here, so that was the theme for this Sunday’s bike club ride. I made a route to go by and see three of the old houses.

The route was basically a big loop around the San Gabriel Valley. We started out heading up to Altadena, where we saw the first house. This one didn’t have a name. The article said it was built in 1891, which made it the newest of the three we were going to see. After that, we continued on up into La Cañada, where we rode up St Katherine Drive to the top of the big hill. We didn’t really need to ride up and over that hill. It was purely gratuitous. But it did give us a chance to see the half-built house at the top that has been sitting half-built for several years. This time, it looks like it has some new wood, so maybe somebody’s going to finish building it.

Heading back down the hill, we rode down Orange Grove to the mansion district below Colorado. That was where we saw the Hood-Cox House, which was the oldest of the three, having been built in 1886. It had a little plaque about it on one of the trees in the front yard.

After that, we rode down into South Pasadena, where we stopped for snacks at Union Bakery. Then we headed east, out to Monrovia. This was also purely gratuitous. It was just extra distance to make the route come out to 40 miles. At one point, we ran into a closed bit of road due to construction on the Metro Gold Line extension in Monrovia. But we found a little temporary sidewalk that they’d built for pedestrians to get around the closure, and that was good enough for us to ride through.

On the way home, we went through Sierra Madre. We went all the way up to Grandview Ave, since we were going to see the 1888 Pinney House, which was just off of Grandview. After riding up that hill, I remember why we go up there so rarely. Nobody wants to climb that hill at the end of a ride. But we did it today, just so we could stop and see the ornate house.

From there, it was all downhill to get home. Which was good. It was pretty hot, and we’d ridden up several large hills. But it was interesting to see the old houses. There aren’t many buildings that old around here. So it was a nice ride.

40 miles.


And I was suddenly overcome…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:12 pm

We’re coming down to the last set of practice climbs before the race at the end of the month. So tonight’s plan was the same as Monday’s. To see how fast I could climb the first time up, and then to do three more, just because.

It was a bit of an ordeal getting downtown this evening. I went to the Allen Metro station in time to get the 4:57 train to downtown. When I got to the platform, there was an outbound train sitting there. After a minute or so, I realized that the outbound train wasn’t moving. And in fact, it had both of its pantographs down, I went and asked the motorman, and he said that the power had failed from Allen to the end of the line at Sierra Madre Villa, and that trains were only running from downtown to Lake Avenue in Pasadena. Now, it seems that Metro could have put up a notice about that on the video monitor above the fare machines at the entrance to the station. But then again, they don’t seem to be known for doing things that seem blindingly obvious to the rest of us. So I went back down, got my bike, and rode over to the Lake station, and got on to go downtown. I made a leap of faith and assumed that they would fix the power by the time I came home, so I brought my bike along, since I didn’t want to have to get off at Lake to get it on the way back.

When I got to the building, I locked my bike up to the railing along the street above where we enter the stairs. Then the building guards came out and said I couldn’t put it there.

Oh. All. Right.

Well, at least they were nice about it. They let me in to the parking level of the building, and I locked my bike up on the rack they had down there.

After all that, it was almost 6:15 by the time I got into the stairwell. I started up, aiming to do 6 floors per minute, but that only lasted a short time. There was a lot of traffic on the stairs, and it was hard to pass people, so I lost some time there. But the worst was about the 35th floor, when I was suddenly overcome by a crushing wave of “Oh MY GOD! What the HELL am I trying to prove here?!?!?” That just took all the wind out of my proverbial sails, and I had to really push to not just stop right there. But I managed to keep going, and came out on 51 at 9:08. So I guess my crushing wave of self-doubt cost me about 20 seconds. Useful to know, I guess.

Oddly enough, just going 20 seconds slower on the first climb translated into being a whole lot perkier on the second. I managed to get up in 11:28, which is quite a bit faster than my second climb on Monday. And the third and fourth times up I was able to maintain a modest pace, which isn’t too bad for being tired.

After all that, I went and collected my bike from under the building, and I headed home. I asked, and the Metro people said that the power was fixed, so I was able to ride the train back to Allen and ride home from there, just like on a normal day. So I guess it wasn’t that bad.


Three weeks out

Filed under: — stan @ 9:14 pm

It’s a stair-practice evening again, and I took the Metro downtown to join in the ‘fun’. As usual, George was there, so we took a few minutes to talk about our goals for the evening. He was aiming to do a first climb for speed, and to try to get under 9 minutes. So that was my goal, as well. My best time for this building was 8:32 in practice two years ago. That works out to just about 10 seconds per floor, so that was my target pace for the evening.

George started out ahead of me by about 30 or 40 seconds. That was just as well, since he was using a metronome, and didn’t want to have the distraction of the sound. My plan was just to do 6 floors each minute for as long as I could. But as it turned out, I was losing about two steps each minute, so by the 37th floor I was about 1/2 floor off my pace. But that still meant I was headed for a sub-9 time. And when I got to about 40, I could hear George’s metronome just a little bit above me. So that gave me the push to keep going and even to speed up after I passed the ‘petting zoo’ on 49. I stumbled up onto the 51st floor landing at 8:51. That’s my fastest time so far in this set of practices, but it’s still a lot slower than my race times in this building, as well as my past practice times.

After doing the first climb for speed, I did it four more times, just to see if I could maintain a pace after the first climb. The second and third times up I was only able to maintain about 4 floors per minute, but at least I was still upright and moving. The fourth time up, I just walked up slowly. Didn’t bother timing it. At that point, it was remarkable enough that I was still able to go up at all.

This evening brings my total up to 53 climbs up the Wilshire-Figueroa building since this round of practice started in July. That’s at bit over 10km, or about 6 1/2 miles vertical. Fun times.


Nigerians and Chandeliers

Filed under: — stan @ 10:35 pm

On Sunday evening, we went to Hollywood to see Dean Cameron’s show, “The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam“. We’ve gone to see this show several times before, and it’s always tremendous fun. Each time, the show is a little different, and tonight was no exception. He was trying out a new ending for it, and as always it was tremendously funny. If you can, go see this show. As the web site says, “You’ll schnertz!”

On the way out of the theater, we passed a shop that sells set decorations for movies, and they had a display of chandeliers in the front window. And I thought we should go see the Chandelier Tree in Silver Lake on the way home. I’d been to see it with the Sunday morning bike club group, but this was a chance to see it at night.

So we had an evening of Nigerians and Chandeliers. Actually, that was a good combination.

The Neutra Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 3:15 pm

I recently got a new app called “Field Trip” on my phone. It keeps track of where I go, and it pops up notices of interesting things to see and do in the area. So yesterday, it popped up a notice about a piece of art on the wall outside the Los Angeles County Hall of Records in downtown Los Angeles. The piece is called “Topographical Map”, and it is a stylized depiction of Los Angeles County. In the process of reading about this, I found out that the Hall of Records is one of only a very few office buildings designed by Richard Neutra. For some time, I’ve wanted to go see the houses on Neutra Place in Silver Lake, so putting these two together to make a tour seemed like a perfect combination.

We rode into downtown by the usual route, down Huntington Drive. On the bridge over the L.A. River, we had to stop for a Metrolink train. That’s the first time we’ve ever seen a train going by on that particular crossing, which always seemed odd, since it’s right near Union Station.

When we got to downtown, we went to the Hall of Records. “Topographical Map” depicts the geology and geography of Los Angeles County, complete with channels carrying water to represent the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. We also took a few minutes to look at the Hall itself. It was built in 1961, and bears all the hallmarks of the modernist style of architecture that Neutra was known for.

Continuing through downtown, we passed Grand Park and “Exxopolis“, across from City Hall. We rode down almost to USC before heading west on Adams.

We made a loop, coming up in Hancock Park for snacks at Noah’s Bagels in Larchmont Village. From there, we headed back east to Silver Lake and Benton Way. A short detour off Silver Lake Blvd brought us to Neutra Place. There were several Neutra houses on that short street.

The final part of the ride was our usual route home by way of Eagle Rock. We were all glad that the heat wave from last week had ended, and it turned out to be a very nice day for riding.

41 miles.


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:


A ride to Downey

Filed under: — stan @ 12:57 pm

Today’s bike club ride was the route to Downey and the Columbia Memorial Space Center. It sits on a piece of land that used to be part of the old North American Aviation plant where they built the Command and Service Modules for the Apollo Program, as well as the second stage of the Saturn V moon rocket. Then, in the late ’70s, it was where the Space Shuttle was designed. Downey’s connection with the Apollo moon program can still be seen in things like the little strip mall called “Apollo Center”.

We stopped for drinks and snacks at 3rd Street Coffee in Downey. After that, we rode over to the Rio Hondo bike path for the ride home. The day got pretty hot, but not to the point of being unbearable.

41 miles.


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.


“Wanting to exceed your grasp is the nature of the human condition”

Filed under: — stan @ 9:09 pm

That’s a quote from Peter Athans, who is one of only a few climbers who have been to the summit of Mt. Everest seven times. He was quoted in an article in National Geographic about the importance of failure in any endeavor. I’d been reading that on the train to downtown, largely as a means of staving off the dread that comes from being on my way to an evening of climbing stairs.

So my goal for this evening was to do another five climbs for a vertical kilometer, and I wanted to try and flatten out my pace. That is, I wanted to try and have a smaller spread from the fastest to the slowest of the five. Also, I was hoping that if I could do that, my total might add up to less than the 53:57 I posted last Wednesday. And as usual, George was there, and had basically the same goal. So I had a goal, and some motivation.

The first time up, I held back a bit. I was aiming for a pace of 4 3/4 floors per minute, and I had to slow down a bit to not get too far ahead on the first time up. I was hoping that if I held back on the first climb, I’d have more energy for the later ones. And for the most part, the strategy worked. My first four climbs were very close in time, at 10:36. 10:39, 10:40, and 10:55. I was hoping to get the last climb in under 11, or at least not much over it.

I rested at the bottom for several minutes before starting the last climb. I’d remembered to bring some Gatorade, so I finished that before starting up. I managed to keep to the pace up to about the 20th floor, and then I faltered a bit. I had to dial the pace back to 4 1/2 floors per minute the rest of the way up. That’s the pace that works out to 11:22, but I was hoping that I’d go a bit faster, since I’d started out faster. And when I got to 49, I managed to eke out a bit of a sprint, just because I knew that I could stop as soon as I got to the top. And I managed to come out at the top at 11:18. That’s slightly faster than 11:22, but not by much. Still, I did manage to flatten out my times, with only 42 seconds difference from the slowest to the fastest. That’s better than the 61-second spread last week. But when I added up my times, they totaled to 54:08. So my average was about 2 seconds slower for each of the five climbs. Oh well, they can’t all be gems. As National Geographic had told me on the way downtown, there can be no success without failure. And no matter what, this one was still nothing to complain about.

Apropos of nothing at all, I just added it up, and so far in this round of practice, I’ve climbed the Wilshire-Figueroa building 49 times. One more time, and my total climbing will be 10,200 meters, which is just a hair over the height of Mauna Kea from the sea floor to peak.

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