Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Hollywood sightseeing

Filed under: — stan @ 6:55 pm

A couple days ago, I got an email newsletter from Zillow that had a link to an article about mobsters’ houses. The Dearly Departed Tour has a stop at the house in Beverly Hills where Bugsy Siegel was murdered, but apparently, that was not his house. His house was up near the Hollywood Sign. We’ve been by it a hundred times, and I’d never even noticed that there was anything there. So today we set out to go see it. And on the way there, we could also see one of the locations used in the 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers“. There is a scene near the end of the movie where a mob of angry pod people are chasing Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter up a street and then up an outdoor staircase. And that street is Westshire Dr in Beachwood Canyon.

The weather was kind of threatening. The forecast called for a 30% chance of rain, but I figured that was all right, since we’d be riding near several Metro Rail stations, so we had a way to bail out if necessary.

We rode across Eagle Rock and into Hollywood. About that time, it started to rain. But fortunately, it only rained for a few minutes. By the time we turned up Beachwood Dr, it stopped, and that was the last of the rain for the day.

The filming location was just past the Hollywoodland gate on Beachwood Dr. We turned and rode up the hill to the stairway. There are more houses now, and the trees are bigger, but the stairway is the same.

Here’s a little video that shows some of the scenes in the movie that were filmed in Beachwood Canyon. The stairs appear about two minutes in:

After that, we rode back down and up the other side of the canyon. That’s the hill where I always tell people, “you probably won’t see anyone you recognize from TV, but by the time we get to the top, you’ll be seeing stars anyway”. But what do you know. Jeff and GT did see someone they recognized from TV. Cheryl Hines from “Curb Your Enthusiasm. She was outside on her driveway.

We stopped briefly under the Hollywood sign before heading back down Mulholland to see Bugsy Siegel’s house. The house is a bit off the road, and the driveway doesn’t stand out. That’s why we’ve been by there so many times and not noticed it. But it’s right across the street from the spot where all the tourists take pictures of the Hollywood sign. From there, we rode down the hill, past the reservoir, and then up and over the very steep hill to get into Burbank.

We stopped at Priscilla’s for snacks before heading home. Our route back was a new one that we’ve only done once before. We rode across Glendale and took a pedestrian bridge across the 2 freeway to get to Eagle Rock. From there it was the usual route home up the Colorado Hill.

In the end, it turned into a nice day. So it was a pleasant ride.

41 miles.


More stairs

Filed under: — stan @ 8:21 am

Tonight was the next-to-last practice climb before the CFF stair climb race on December 1st. Once again, I was looking to see if I could improve on my last year’s best practice time of 8:32.

I got to the building early for no particular reason. Just happened to make the train connections just right. So I sat around for a while before everyone else showed up. I’d made up a little card of split times and pinned it to my glove. And when it was time to go, I made a point of going first. I wanted to see how it would work out if I didn’t have to pass anyone. And it worked out well from the standpoint of being able to just concentrate on my stepping pattern and not having to go around anyone. But on the other hand, it’s terribly lonely being alone on an endless staircase with only my own thoughts for company.

I was a bit ahead of schedule at the two-minute mark. At four minutes, I was right on schedule. But at six minutes, I was about 10 seconds behind. I didn’t look at eight minutes, and I just tried to put on a burst of speed at the end. And when I got to 51, I had 8:50. That’s eight seconds faster than my last two practice climbs here, but it’s still 18 seconds slower than my best time from last year.

So that’s the story from the stairwell. There is one more practice in two weeks, and the race is two weeks from this coming Saturday. We will see if I can locate my missing stair-climbing-mojo between now and then.



Filed under: — stan @ 6:43 pm

A few weeks ago, we were on our way to the Wilshire Ebell Theater to see Aimee Mann, when we passed the Hayworth Theater and its marquee announcing “Silence! The Musical“. We were curious, so we looked it up, and it sounded like fun. It’s a musical based on “The Silence of the Lambs“, complete with singing Agent Starling, singing Hannibal Lecter, and a chorus of sheep singing and dancing on stage. So we got tickets, and tonight was the night.

The theater is just on the other side of MacArthur Park, not far from downtown Los Angeles, so it was pretty easy to get to. There’s a parking lot next to it, so that was very convenient. Our seats were on the side, on the third row, so we were up close for everything. And as we’d hoped, the show was hilarious.

Before we went over, we found the movie on Amazon streaming and started watching it. It had been many years since either of us had seen it, so we wanted to have it fresh before seeing the show. And almost all of the non-singing dialogue in the show is verbatim from the movie script. But then Agent Starling and Hannibal Lecter break into song and the sheep start dancing, and, well, it’s just hilarious.

This is easily as funny as “The Book of Mormon“, and also comparable to “Pulp Shakespeare“. I recommend it highly, but hurry. It’s only there for another week or so.

Here’s a little preview on youtube with the original New York cast:


Ridin’ on Romney

Filed under: — stan @ 9:20 pm

In honor of the just-passed election, we did a ride this week that we haven’t done in a long while. Just because the route goes on Romney Dr in Pasadena. It’s a bit of a stretch for a joke, but the route has some good hills on it, so it was all right.

We were riding a route that doesn’t go anywhere in particular, so the details aren’t important. But when we got to the first good hill, Michael beat us all to the top, and when we got there, he was doing pushups on the curb.

Soon after that, we came to Romney Dr. It’s a short street, with just a few houses on it. It’s on a hill, so the houses are pretty nice. And yes, one of them had an Obama sign on the front yard. That was the only campaign sign we saw on that street.

Continuing on, we rode up Patrician Way, and while we were doing that, we heard the distinctive drone of WWII airplanes overhead. It’s Veteran’s Day, so it’s not surprising that they’d have some old airplanes out and about.

Just before we rode up the last big hill, I found a little tube of sunscreen on the ground. It was Badger brand, and so for the rest of the ride up the hill, I had this stuck in my head:

After the last hill, we headed home across Altadena, where we saw a small murder of crows harassing a hawk in the air. I guess they don’t like the competition.

41 miles.


So here’s what else we did last weekend

Filed under: — stan @ 6:22 pm

Last weekend’s trip to Chicago was more than just stair-climbing agony. We played tourist and visited, too.

We got in on Friday evening. For some reason, JetBlue doesn’t fly to O’Hare any more from anywhere in southern California. So we ended up on United, which meant flying out of LAX. Yikes. And paying $50 to check our bags. Yikes again. But aside from that, it was all right. And on the way in, I got a good view of downtown and the Sears Willis Tower. Once more, yikes.

Friday night, we got on the train and went for dinner at the Blue Line Lounge again. We’d gone there last time and liked it.

Saturday morning, we had to go downtown to pick up my packet for Sunday’s race. While we were there, we saw some of our stair-climbing friends, and I got to contemplate once more what was in store for Sunday morning.

On Saturday afternoon, we had tickets for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tour of the Chicago River. Sure, it’s a bit chilly this time of year, but we were prepared. So we bundled up and took the tour.

I’d been reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and I just finished it before we left on Saturday morning. It’s the story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and the intertwined story of H.H. Holmes, who is regarded as one of the first American serial killers. A good bit of the book is about Daniel Burnham, who was the chief architect of the fair, and also is one of the pioneers of steel-framed skyscrapers. So there’s one tie-in with the weekend’s activities. At the end of the book, Larson said that Burnham died in 1912, and that he and his family are buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. So of course I checked the map and saw that we could go there after the boat tour.

We rode the Red Line north out of downtown, and then we walked over to Graceland. By this time, it was about 3:30. When we got there, there was a sign saying that the cemetery was closing at 4:15. So we didn’t have much time. As it turned out, the pond was all the way at the back of the cemetery, and I almost ended up having to run there to get there and back before closing. But I made it and got my photos.

After the cemetery visit, we took the Red Line back downtown to meet up with the West Coast Labels team for our night-before dinner at the Elephant and Castle.

Sunday morning was the stair climb. I wrote that up separately, so I won’t go over it again here. After that, we went back to our hotel and got packed up to leave. Then we took the Blue Line back downtown again. We had lunch at Giordano’s, which seems to be one of the few places downtown that’s open on weekends. Even McDonald’s was closed. We saw a crew filming something downtown. It was funny because they were spraying fake snow. We see film crews with fake snow here in L.A. all the time, but I think that fake snow in Chicago is funny. Sort of like how people there wonder why there are tanning salons in L.A.

After lunch, we walked over to Union Station to get the train to Libertyville to visit with Kathleen’s aunt and uncle. Once again, I chuckled about the railroad cars and their builder’s plate:

Engineered & Manufactured by
American Passenger
Rail Car Company
Chicago, Illinois

Nippon Sharyo, Ltd

Who says American industry is on the decli… oh.

Monday was some more playing tourist before it was time to go home. We took a walk with the neighbor’s dog for a bit, and then we went downtown to the Art Institute of Chicago. They have a very good collection there. From Seurat to Grant Wood to Cy Twombly. A full range of art and art-like things. We spent the afternoon there until it was time to go to the airport for our flight home.

All told, it was a fun trip.

Pictures are here:



Filed under: — stan @ 11:19 pm

It’s November, and that means it’s time to go to Chicago for the stair climb up the Sears Willis Tower. The beast hasn’t gotten any smaller. I’ve gotten a bit faster this year, though, so I thought that this might be the year I could break the 20-minute barrier.

On Saturday, we took an architecture tour on a boat on the Chicago River. This gave us a good view of the tower, and it gave me a chance to think about the insane thing I was going to be doing in the morning.

On Saturday evening, we met up with the West Coast Labels team for the pre-climb dinner at the Elephant and Castle. That was a nice time. Then we headed back to the hotel to try and get a good night’s sleep before the next morning’s ordeal.

In the morning, I got up and took the train downtown. I didn’t get up extra-early to make the 7:00AM start. I thought it was probably more important to get sleep, although in the end, perhaps that wasn’t the best idea. I ended up starting up the stairs at about 8:40, and the traffic in the stairwell was like the Harbor Freeway at 5:00 on a Friday. I had to push through many groups of people. Nobody passed me, but I can’t even begin to estimate how many people I passed. And I was going at a pace that I consider slow. I’d brought my metronome out of retirement for this climb. I was planning on doing 11.6 seconds per floor, which is a modest pace, but one I thought I could maintain all the way up to 103.

At the beginning, I felt like I was going very slow. That feeling lasted up to about 50. At that point, I was starting to get tired, so maintaining the pace was becoming a little bit of an effort. By 75, I was having to push to maintain the pace, and by 90, it was getting grim. I don’t remember much about the last 13 floors. I was in a bit of a fog. I remember seeing the light coming through the door at 103. I stumbled up onto the landing and over the finish line. The timing mat was right in the doorway, and I tripped on it, and I went down like a sack of potatoes. I guess that means I’d picked the right pace, since I had nothing left at that point. Fortunately, my left foot made it on to the mat, so my time was recorded properly. I could hear the finish line people talking to the climbers coming up behind me to watch out and not trip over me, since I was sort of lying on the finish line. I stayed there for about 10 seconds before summoning the energy to get up on all fours and crawl out of the way.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of this, probably my most-dramatic finish yet. So I had to simulate it. I hope the picture gives you an idea of what it must have looked like. And it wasn’t until much later that I even noticed the scrape on my knee and forehead bruise I’d gotten from doing the face-plant. At least this, of all the races I’ve done, is the only one that finishes in a carpeted room. That’s better for face-planting than the bare concrete or linoleum that is usually at the finish of these races.

After about five minutes lying on the floor, I managed to get up and make my way to the elevator for the trip back to the lobby. When I got there, I sat down leaning against the wall for a long time. This was the most wiped-out I’ve ever been after one of these climbs. I had originally planned on walking up slowly a second time to do a survey to make a chart of the stairs, but by then, I knew that just wasn’t in the cards.

My time was 20:57, which is a solid 20 seconds faster than last year. But it’s still not sub-20. I think if I’d not had to fight traffic, I might have gone about 30 seconds faster, so that’s my plan for next year. If I get up early for the early start, then I only have to shave off another 30 or so seconds to get under 20.

So I’ll be back next year. And I’ll get you yet, Willis. And your little dog, too!


Down for the Count 2012

Filed under: — stan @ 7:35 pm

It’s the Sunday before Halloween, so that means it’s time for our annual ride out to Culver City to visit Bela Lugosi’s grave. We’ve been doing this ride since 2007.

It was a perfect day for riding. A bit cool at the start, but it warmed up nicely. We rode down Huntington Drive into downtown Los Angeles. That morning, I’d seen that some of my stair climbing friends were running in the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon in downtown. I thought that might be a problem for us, since part of our route was on streets that were closed for the course, and we’d have to cross the course twice. But we figured we’d just deal with it when we got there. And when we got to the first crossing, at 3rd and Spring St, we’d just pulled up and stopped when I saw my friend Veronica running by. There were something like 15,000 people running in this race. What are the odds? Anyway, we were able to walk our bikes across the course there and continue on. We took Main St all the way down to Pico before taking a right to get over to Flower St. That brought us down to West Adams Blvd, where we had to cross the race course again. But by this time, runners were pretty sparse there, so it wasn’t a problem.

We rode out on Adams and later Rodeo Rd to get to Culver City. When we got to the cemetery, we rode up and over the hill to get to The Grotto, where Bela is buried. After that, I took a little side trip to see the Del Rubio Triplets. The last time we’d been there, Elena and Eadie were there, with a blank space between the, waiting for Millie. But Millie died last year, so now they’re together again.

On the way back, we passed Culver City City Hall. That reminded me of the “Get Smart” episode where KAOS wanted to steal the plans for the Anti-Anti-Anti-Missile-Missile. We stopped at Noah’s Bagels on Venice Blvd. While we were there, I had a close look at my bike to see why my front derailleur was not working. And it quickly became obvious that the cable housing had committed suicide in a very messy way. At least it all made sense.

The ride back took us through Hancock Park, Koreatown, and Silver Lake. It’s like a trip around the world, by bike. I have no idea what the vanity license plate “BAD PUN” means. But in any event, it was a fun ride.

54 miles.


Big Donut!

Filed under: — stan @ 4:14 pm

Today’s bike ride was the route out to La Puente to see the Donut Hole. That’s the donut place with the big drive-through donuts on each end of the building. One of the classic examples of programmatic architecture.

It was cool and cloudy, and sort of drizzling at the park. When I got there, I was the only one, probably because everyone thought it was going to rain. But looking to the south, away from the mountains, I could see clear skies. So I figured I just start out and see if I found anyone else along the way. And sure enough, when I got to the Rio Hondo bike path part of the ride, I found Michael and Allyson. They had gotten to the park late, and were trying to catch the group. But since the entire group consisted of me at that point, that was all right.

We stopped off for a photo-op at In-N-Out University in Baldwin Park. That’s the In-N-Out Burger headquarters building that they built across the freeway from their original location.

Continuing on, we go to the Donut Hole and took some pictures there. I tried to take a bite out of the donut, but it was just too big to fit in my mouth.

The ride back was pretty uneventful. We stopped for snacks at Merengue in Monrovia. Then, on the final ride home, it started to rain in earnest. I was dismayed, but not terribly surprised by this. But fortunately, it only lasted for about 3 blocks. So overall, it was a nice ride.

43 miles.



Filed under: — stan @ 6:15 pm

Today I went with Lucinda to go see the spiders at the Natural History Museum. We’d gone to see them two years ago, but we missed them last year.

We rode the train there this time. And now that the Expo light rail line* is running, it was an easy trip. There was even a USC football game today, and it was still no problem. Hooray for progress.

When we got there, we went in to see the spiders first. They were big and creepy-looking, as we’d hoped. A lot of people are afraid that the spiders will drop on them, but they really don’t move much. They just pick a spot to build a web, and then they just sit there. There was one spider that somehow had ended up standing on another spider’s web, and for a minute it looked like they might get in a fight, but the interloper backed off and moved away.

After the spiders, we went inside to see the new Dinosaur Hall. They’re redone the whole dinosaur exhibit there, and it’s pretty good. It’s nowhere near as big as the Hall of Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but it’s still way better than their old exhibit. And they did have one place where they had a painting of the current vision of a velociraptor with feathers. Sure, that kind of blows the whole ‘bloodthirsty killer dinosaurs’ idea from Jurassic Park, but that’s the Advance of Science for you. They’re still killers, but they’re much cuter and cuddly-looking with feathers.

We spent a little time looking around the rest of the museum before we had to go home. On the way out, we stopped to peek into the building where they stashed the space shuttle. Then we got on the train to go home. It was a nice afternoon outing.

* Also known as the ’slightly lighter shade of blue line’.


Another good article

Filed under: — stan @ 5:49 pm

There is an article in this week’s L.A. Weekly about stair climbing. They describe it as:

…the hardest sport no one’s ever heard of.

And a bit farther in, they say:

“…running as fast as you can up dozens of flights of stairs is an ungodly painful thing.

Yes. That’s about right.

Unlike the L.A. Times article last summer, I wasn’t in this one, but Mark was prominently featured. He’s the biggest cheerleader for this insane little sport, so there’s really no one else more qualified to talk about it. And he knows everyone who’s anyone in the field.

Read all about it here:

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