Tagged: Los Angeles

Seventy Miles in December

LA Wheelmen Ride to Santa Anita Canyon

Aside from some basic commuting-by-bicycle, I have been off my road bike for three weeks since I rode to Philadelphia with the New York Cycle Club, and as I’m still visiting family in Southern California for another week, I felt the urgent need to get on a bike. On Sunday, I rode with the LA Wheelmen from Alhambra Park east to the city of Upland for a seventy-mile loop to burn off some of my “holiday excess.”

LA Wheelmen: Santa Anita Canyon ride

The name of the LA Wheelmen club was a bit of a misnomer: we didn’t ride at all within the LA city limits, and there was more than one woman who rode with us. (Please note that I’m being sarcastic here.) The ride, called Santa Anita Canyon, was also misnamed as I don’t remember us stopping to admire a canyon. We did however stop at a Carl’s Jr for lunch, halfway through the ride, although it did seem like a long way to ride for an All-Natural Burger.

Normally, I hate eating a heavy lunch on a ride because we usually have hills to climb shortly afterward. But this club did things right. After lunch, we rode more or less downhill for the entire second half of the ride.

Santa Anita Canyon: First half up, second half down

In order to ride out here, I rented a green, 1990s-era Cannondale touring bike with finger tip shifters from Spinlister that I’ve dubbed the “Green Monster.” This bike is considerably heavier than my road bike, but it rides well, as you would expect from a touring bike. As I’m accustomed to riding a road bike, I had a some trouble adjusting to the 48t chainring. While it happens to be the same sized chainring as my single-speed bike, I didn’t really appreciate the difference a 53t chainring makes when I want to go fast.

But this is December, and who cares if I can’t pedal a bike faster than 17 MPH. It was a treat to ride seventy miles on a balmy (for me) and chilly (for them) Sunday along the San Gabriel Mountains with temperatures in the lower 50s. There were some nice climbs and decent views but, sadly, no beer stops.

Another funny difference with this group was how obsessed this group was with riding centuries. Like one a week…even in December. (They save the double and triple centuries for the warmer months.) They were a nice pleasant group and invited me to ride their Kick Off Century on New Years Day, which I was tempted to ride but ultimately decided to skip.

Of course, as is my custom, after finishing my ride, I was in search of a burger and a beer. As I browsed Twitter, I saw that Grill Em All, a celebrated food truck serving heavy metal–themed burgers, was doing a chicken wing special.

But I learned that they no longer get around on four wheels. They have a permanent store in…of all places…Alhambra. That was a mile and a half from where the Wheelmen finished their ride. My brother and nephew, who picked me up in Alhambra, met me at Grill Em All for a post-ride meal.

Grill Em All

Getting back to my parents’ house the next day was via a familiar way: commuter train.


Metrolink offers a pretty nice bike storage setup, allowing you to not only roll your bikes on board without a reservation but also to secure your bike with Velcro straps.

Riding out here with the group was a great way to test out bike riding in Southern California, and I look forward to doing more and more rides throughout my stay here.

Save Me One of Those Last Remaining Seats

The Los Angeles Conservancy has just announced the lineup for this year’s Last Remaining Seats film series. This annual festival takes place in June with movie screenings at historically significant movie theaters throughout Los Angeles, mostly in downtown Los Angeles. This year, the entire festival will be downtown.

I’m a dues-paying member but have only attended once because, you know, I live 2,500 miles away. You can probably see these films on video at home, but that would be missing the whole point of seeing a film in a movie palace or midcentury music hall. Sure, you can rent these and watch your big TV at home, but I’ll bet you that their screens are bigger. And you’ll miss out and having a bunch of strangers laugh and cry with you.

The Lady Eve (1941)

Wednesday, June 11, 8 PM
Los Angeles Theatre (1931).

Although I’ve never seen this film, reading the description seems like it’s one of those 1940s films noir where some helpless schmuck (Henry Fonda) gets taken by a cunning and relentless femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck). Poor guy!

The Lady Eve has her clutches of Adam Henry Fonda. PARAMOUNT/The Kobal Collection.

The Lady Eve has her clutches on Adam Henry Fonda. PARAMOUNT/The Kobal Collection.

The front-of-house card depicts a leggy Stanwyck clutching and practically choking Fonda against a background of an apple with a bite taken from it. An apple? A bite? A lady named “Eve?” Oh, I get it.

Of all the venues in the series, the Los Angeles Theater is probably the hardest one to get into. Go!

West Side Story (1961)

Saturday, June 14, 8 PM
The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1964)

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, an icon of modern architecture and revitalization in downtown Los Angeles, is turning fifty this year. It will also host the Robert Wise-and-Jerome Robbins–directed version of the venerable stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein (yikes!). The film features a young Natalie Wood and launched the career of Rita Moreno, one of the few Latina actresses to play complex (i.e., non-maid) roles in Hollywood.

Footlight Parade (1933)

Wednesday, June 18, 8 PM
Orpheum Theatre (1926)

This musical (yes, another one) is emblematic of the Warner Brothers musicals choreographed by some guy named Busby Berkeley. Along with 42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933, it is part of the trilogy of film musicals about stage musicals.


Footlight Parade (1933). WARNER BROS/The Kobal Collection.

By the way, those films were all released in 1933 and feature dazzling dance numbers that boggle the mind in their uniform execution. It made for a great distraction during the depths of the Great Depression.

Back to the Future (1985)

Saturday June 21, 2 PM & 8 PM
The Theatre at Ace Hotel (former United Artists Theatre, 1927)

This theater has just been renovated as part of the new Ace Hotel. They will host the first film from this triology (yes, another one) about time travel and saving yourself family from being “erased from existence.” One could argue that the Ace Hotel saved the United Artist theater from the same fate facing the McFlys in this treasured film from my childhood.

El Gran Calavera (The Great Madcap) (1949)

Wednesday, June 25, 8 PM
Palace Theatre (1911), Co-presented with the Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles

This movie I haven’t seen (yes, another one) was Luis Buñuels first dramatic film since L’Age d’Or in 1930, a film that was banned for, among other things, comparing Jesus Christ to the Marquis de Sade. Buñuel came to Mexico at an opportune time as the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema was underway. Buñuel thrived there for the next three decades, making over a dozen films, before returning to Europe in the late 1960s.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Saturday, June 28 2 PM & 8 PM
Orpheum Theatre (1926)

The second greatest film ever made closes out the series at the Orpheum Theater. With the newly renovated Ace Hotel theater getting all the buzz, I’m going to call The Orpheum the second cleanest picture palace on Broadway. Kudos to the curators for pairing the two!

If you haven’t seen the film, or even if you have, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Why is this the second greatest film ever? I didn’t get it either because I thought the ending was unsatisfying. After a few viewings, though, you realize that the whole point of the film isn’t the great reveal of “Rosebud,” but the way you see a man’s life from the perspective of various people. Whenever one of us leaves this mortal coil, how do others speak of us? What would they say? Would that be who each of us really is? Get to know Charles Foster Kane those who loved and hated him, those who knew him best.

If you don’t appreciate that, then you won’t appreciate this: it’s a sled!

Citizen Kane Rosebud

Rosebud from Citizen Kane (1941). RKO/The Kobal Collection.

What Happened to… ?

Three things strike me as I look over the list:

  1. The Million Dollar Theater? This storied movie palace, which has served as the site for many Spanish-language films and Mexican vaudeville shows, is not participating in this year’s festival. In the past, it has hosted a Spanish-language film during past Last Remaining Seats. However, the programmers did schedule a Spanish film, El Gran Calavera at the Palace Theater.
  2. The Saban Theater? The recently renovated theater in Beverly Hills is also missing from the list. My parents saw The Wizard of Oz a couple of years ago as part of this series. Do the Beverly Hills types not appreciate the unwashed DTLA masses?
  3. Silent films? All of the films are talkies. Not too long ago, there was at least one silent film screened at Last Remaining Seats with live musical accompaniment.

Putting on a festival like this can be a lot of work, especially for a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization that has a lot on its plate. The logistical challenges of continuing to use the Million Dollar or scheduling a silent film with live accompaniment must have been difficult to overcome. But it looks like another worthwhile series. Hopefully, I can make it out there for a screening or two.

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Polar Express

My first and oldest piece of wearable technology is something I still have and use to this day. Since about 2003, I’ve been using a Polar S720i, a cycling-specific heart rate monitor, to track my feeble heart and body try to power my bicycle up a hill. State of the art for its time, it is still useful. It records your heart rate, speed, and cadence data for up to eight hours of cycling. Over the years, I never ran out of memory until last June on the 150-mile Ride to Montauk, which took me just under ten hours of pedaling to complete.

Polar 720i

I have had a Polar S720i since 2003, and it has required a few batteries replaced over that time.

Ahead of its time, it can upload your cycling and heart-rate data to your computer, provided you have a Windows PC. As a Mac user, I spent countless hours and about $100, buying USB-to-serial adapters and proprietary software, getting it to interface with my Mac. That setup, by the way, still works today.

Another “feature” of the S720i is that will repeatedly beep at you when you were outside of your target heart-rate zone. This was cool back when that whole zone-training was a thing. I used to “train” that way, but I have found it way more satisfying to just pedal to a brew pub or a train station, or better yet, a brew pub next to a train station.

Over the years, the battery on my Polar has needed replacing. Polar warns you not to have the battery replaced by another other than an Authorized Service Center. You can ship it to their main center in Lake Success, New York, which is only about 30 miles from Long Island City, or you can take it another authorized service center, the most distant of which is in Los Angeles. Guess where I went?
Time-Tec in Los Angeles is on Hill Street in the downtown Jewelry District. It occupies a very small space on the second floor of a building occupied by other watch-repair shops. I’ve gone here multiple times to repair my Polar, and they have questioned my sanity in coming all this way. I explain that I am visiting family in the region and that I appreciate their while-you-wait service. (It only takes about five minutes to do simple repairs.)

Also, Downtown LA is a bit more interesting these days than the former home of the United Nations. Incidentally, I can clearly see current UN from Long Island City, which makes for a lovely view.
They moved for a reason, right?

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Coffee Everywhere

One of my favorite coffee places in the whole world is Cafe Dulce in LA’s Little Tokyo district. In true Southern California fashion, this gem is in a mall, specifically the Japanese Village Plaza around 1st Street and Central Avenue. They not only serve the best pour over coffee I’ve ever had, so much so that I ultimately became a Chemex loyalist, but they also bake some of the most creative donuts south of the Pearl District.

Tanabata Festival - Nisei Week 2012

On my recent trip over the holidays, I noticed Cafe Dulce was selling a five-pack of single-serve, portable pour-over packs. These are made by an Arcadia, California–outfit called The Humble Cup. Each single-serve pack consists of a sturdy paper filter that sits on a cup. To brew, you pour hot water into the filter, similar to a Hario-style dripper. It includes locally roasted coffee, finely ground for the paper filter.

I brought a pack home and brewed a cup yesterday to stave off jet lag.

The Humble Cup Comes

Brewing a cup is the same as a pour-over, except that you need to constantly keep pouring due to the filter’s small capacity. Because you’re not weighing and grinding coffee beans, the process is considerably quicker. However, because your coffee is already ground, you’re sacrificing freshness. The instructions recommend starting with a small amount of water, presumably to allow the coffee to bloom, and then pouring about another six-to-eight ounces of hot water. I didn’t measure the water like I do with the Chemex, but I eyeballed it to a little less than the volume of my usual cup.

The coffee was a tad stale, undoubtedly due to the coffee being pre-ground, but it held up well. The Humble Cup’s developer, Leon Li, insists he wanted to use good coffee, and it shows. The coffee was a pleasant departure from burnt, dark roast coffee that one endures with Starbucks VIA. The Humble Cup five-pack I bought came with three different single-origin coffees: El Salvador, Colombia, and Ethiopia. I drew the latter in my first brew and found it having a pleasant chocolate flavor to it with hints of citrus. (And here are the official cupping notes.)

Along with a pack of mixed nuts and a hand-sanitizer bottle, I’m adding a Humble Cup to my travel backpack.

Also, let me know when it comes to New York, as it is currently available only in Los Angeles.

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He Would Have Gotten My Vote

Earlier today, Larry Harnisch posted some clippings from the Los Angeles Times published sixty years ago today. As a transportation wonk, the headline “L.A. Welcomes Harbor Freeway Extension With Four-Block Traffic Jam” caught my eye as it succinctly summarizes the cycle of freeway expansion–congestion–more expansion—more congestion.

Accompanying that article, however, is a brief wire report of an assemblyman, Charles Chapel, questioning the wisdom of using money for freeway construction.[1]

Chapel on Freeways 1953

Chapel says, “Freeways, instead of solving our problem, are contributing to it.” He even advocates for mass transit options, “I don’t care what kind– elevated or surface or subway or what.” As cities, including Los Angeles, consider multimodal transportation solutions, his views seem prescient today.

  1. “Assemblyman Chapel Asks for Freeway Probe.” Los Angeles Times. August 8, 1953: 1.  ↩

Drive Free…or Pay

At last there will be a toll road in Los Angeles. But it’s not like the freeways will stop being free.

In today’s New York Times, an article implies that Los Angelenos will have to give up their freeways. But that’s not the case at all. People who don’t want to pay for driving on a public road can still drive toll-free. The new toll lanes actually benefit solo drivers, at the expense of those who car pool.

The new toll only applies to drivers using the Express lanes. These lanes were previously only for high-occupancy vehicles (a.k.a. carpools), which solo drivers could never use without a pretty hefty fine. The new Fastrack lanes will now allow solo drivers to use these less-congested lanes, but they will have to pay for the privilege. High occupancy vehicles, such as carpools and busses, still get to use the lanes for free. Except now, single-occupancy vehicles can buy their way into these lanes. If such drivers don’t want to use them, they will have to use the general-use lanes or find their way into high-occupancy vehichle.

The only mandatory charge is for the FasTrak transponder. No matter how many people are in the car, all drivers using the Express lane must have a FasTrak transponder, which costs $40, and a billing account. It impacts car pool drivers more than solo drivers in general because they must now opt-in to the FasTrak program, where they did not before. Solo drivers can still opt-out by using the general-use lanes.

The new Express lanes do in fact take the free out of the freeway, but not for the single-occupancy vehicles that are the biggest cause of urban congestion. Those cars are still free to clog up the roads or, if they wish, buy their way on to roads reserved for vehicles that actually move people more efficiently and deserve refuge from the solo driver.

Cinerama 60th Anniversary with Original Three-Strip Projection at Hollywood Cinerama Dome

The Arclight Cinema in Hollywood is going to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Cinerama widescreen process by screening a bunch of films in the three-strip process. While this process could envelop the audience, it was also very expensive to produce and project. The process would be surpassed by anamorphic processes, such as Cinemascope or Vista Vision, that used only one camera and the same 35mm film stock and projection systems as before.

Cinerama ... how it works ...

My cousin is getting married that weekend in Los Angeles so if I can go, I might head to Hollywood for a screening or two. In fact, I am tempted to sneak out of the reception to go to the 11:00 PM screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey on Friday the 28th.

The Palace Theater in Downtown Los Angeles

A brief tour of Flickr today revealed that the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation took a tour of the recently renovated Palace Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

The Palace opened up just over 101 years ago as a part of the Orpheum vaudeville chain. In fact, that was its name until they opened a newer and larger theater at 842 S. Broadway, in 1926, where a newly remodeled Orpheum stands today. At the current Palace Theater, you can still find signs of the Orpheum affiliation. For example, in the painted sign indicating its part of the Opheum family in this photo from Flickr user “jericl”.

downtown Los Angeles

You can also see it in my photo from June 2011.

Palace Theater Centennial Show

Sarah and I visited the Palace last June, for the theater’s centennial. To commemorate the occasion, there was a screening of Sunset Boulevard that was part of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s “Last Remaining Seats” series.

Palace Theater Centennial Show

I’m thrilled to see that organizations dedicated to historic preservation, such as the Historic Theater Foundation and the Conservancy, have been breathing new life into this particular theater. There are not many theaters—that I know of—in the downtown Los Angeles area of this age. Most have been torn down by now or converted beyond recognition.

The Egyptian Theater and Why So Few Seats “Remain” in Downtown Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Conservancy kicked off its twenty-sixth annual Last Remaining Seats film festival this past week. Sarah and I went last year to watch Sunset Boulevard at the Palace Theater as that Broadway movie house turned 100. and my parents are going to three screenings this month. The festival celebrates the legacy of the picture palaces in downtown Los Angeles. LA’s Broadway was an important hub of movie exhibition, hosting many premieres, as the movie business was developing into a vertically integrated industry, where studios would control the production and the first-run exhibition of their films.


The Broadway theater district would fall on hard times over the years, as just about everything moved out of downtown. One of the first movie theaters to draw audiences outside of downtown was the Egyptian theater. It was the first movie palace in Hollywood.

Larry Harnisch, who publishes the always fascinating The Daily Mirror blog, chronicles the opening of the Egyptian. One of the curious aspects of the new theater was the reserved-seating policy and how they ticketed theater patrons nearly a hundred years ago.

Grauman inaugurated new policies before opening the theatre. He announced on October 7 that the Egyptian would be the first theatre on the West Coast to reserve seats for every performance. Patrons could buy tickets downtown at Barker Brothers’ music department two weeks in advance, or by calling the theatre at Hollywood 2131, 2132 or 2133. Two complete shows ran daily, a matinée at 2:15 pm and an evening screening at 8:15 pm. Afternoon prices ranged from 50 cents to $1, and evening shows cost 75 cents to $1.50.

While the theater’s design and construction are certainly remarkable, I find these mundane details to reveal a great deal about the role of the Egyptian in the history of movie exhibition.

If you wanted to see a show at the Egyptian, you could visit a furniture store, ten miles away from the theater, and buy tickets up to two weeks in advance. Or you could call the theater to order tickets. (I’ve seen ads where patrons could order tickets over the mail as late as the 1950s.) Undoubtedly, the Egyptian was marketed as part of special occasion. It was not a casual movie-going experience, as the case during the Nickelodeon era, 1905–1912, that the picture palaces had essentially killed in the mid 1910s. To draw movie audiences out of downtown, the Egyptian needed to act as a new flagship theater of the American film industry.

As the LA Conservancy celebrates the downtown movie theaters, it’s also important to remember the theater that helped end the golden age of the Broadway movie palace.