USC Bookfest

When we were down in LA for my birthday weekend (to camp on Channel Islands) it was the time for the annual USC Bookfest, one of the largest literary festivals anywhere. We decided to spend a day there, where we listened to an interview and some poetry, visited lots of booths, bought some books on sale, added our hand to some art and ate out of the food trucks.

usc bookfest

Making a Book

We went to a booth where we made our own little book. First we wrote a paragraph based on a prompt. Then several copies were made and added to a pile on a table. Then we were able to pick four other people’s on the table to create our story, which we pinned into a book. I had my boyfriend and sister help me with all the parts. It was fun :)

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Point Fermin Lighthouse

Yesterday I shared how my mom and I spent a day at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, California. That same day we also checked out another attraction just a short way away from there – Point Fermin Lighthouse.

Point Fermin Lighthouse History

Point Fermin Lighthouse was built in 1874. It was obviously built for the purpose of guiding boats into the San Pedro Bay. It operated until WWII when the lighthouses on the coast all went dark in order to prevent another attack like Pearl Harbor. The lighthouse was built The Stick Style, which is simpler, earlier version of Victorian architecture. The designer was Paul J. Pelz who also designed five other lighthouse within the same two year span; East Brother in San Francisco Bay and Hereford Light in New Jersey are the only other two still standing.

Point Fermin Lighthouse Visit

Visitors are allowed to come tour the Point Fermin Lighthouse. You can only go up into the lighthouse during a guided tour, which is scheduled a few times each day. Luckily my mom and I got there just in time to take the last tour of the day so we were able to walk through the floors of the home and up into the lighthouse tower where we could see a lovely view of the bay. The lighthouse tour is free with a request for donation.

Point Fermin House

The actual house consists of two different floors that effectively served as entirely separate homes from one another, with their own entrances and kitchens, etc. One floor was for the lighthouse keeper and his family. Fun fact: the first lighthouse keepers were actually women but that quickly changed. The other floor was the home of a second family living on the property although I can’t remember now what the job was of the man in that family.

The home is set up with period furniture and decor so that you can see what it would have looked like during the early nineteenth century when the lighthouse keepers lived there. There are a few displays of photos of the families that lived there and there is a room where you can actually see the light that used to be in the lighthouse when it was active. You can take pictures of the view from the tower room but you can’t take pictures throughout the rest of the house, which is why I don’t have any inside the home to share with you here.

Point Fermin Park

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is located on the grounds of a beautiful park called Point Fermin Park. We didn’t get a chance to look around too much because it was already late in the day when we got there but we did check out a few of the amazing large trees to be seen there.


Bradbury Building: Downtown Los Angeles History

On my recent Los Angeles vacation my mother, brother and I spent some time walking around downtown LA. One of the things that we saw while we were there was the interior and exterior architecture of the historic Bradbury Building.

During normal working hours you can stop into the Bradbury Building and look around at the architecture on the first floor only. The center of the building has an open design so you can see up to the other floors and check out the old elevators that rise up to them even though you can’t actually go upstairs. There is no tour guide available to tell you anything about the building but you can look at it and read the historic plaques and literature available to learn more.

From that and some online research I learned that the building is famous for two reasons: it is an old historic building with cool architecture and it has been featured in several movies and works of literature. The building was constructed in 1893 at the behest of millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury. The builder was George Wyman who was reported “influenced in constructing the building by the 1887 science fiction book Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, which described a utopian society in 2000.”

The building is done in Italian Renaissance style. What stands out is the richness of the design, with marble floors and ornate metal detailing. The other thing that stands out is the terrific light from the tall open space that reaches up to a glass ceiling five or six stories above.

The building has been used in many movies and TV shows. It is most known for its role in Blade Runner. I was interested to know it was also in popular 2011 silent movie The Artist.


Downtown LA Murals and Grand Central Market

During my recent stay in Los Angeles we spent a day wandering around downtown doing a variety of different things. There was a big mural on the side of the building next to where we parked so I took some photos.

I don’t know the story behind the artwork. However, having taken a tour of some of the murals here in San Francisco I know that there is almost always a story behind the artist who created the piece as well as the subject of the piece. I’m sure that’s the case here as well.

While we were downtown we went into The Grand Central Market, which also has some artwork on an interior wall:

To be honest, I didn’t really like the Grand Central Market. I’d much rather shop at a farmer’s market. And if I want prepared food I’d be more likely to get it from nearby Santee Alley. But it is a place with some history so I’m glad I at least saw it while I was in downtown LA. The market, which has both fresh and prepared foods for sale, opened in 1917. It occupies the first floor of the historic Homer Laughlin Building, which was constructed in 1896. It’s a large multi-cultural market and a downtown destination.



Santee Alley Shopping: Los Angeles Fashion District

Once upon a time I hated Los Angeles. Like many San Franciscans, I had little good to say about this city that is completely sprawled out, filled with air-polluting time-sucking traffic, swarmed with size 0 plastic surgery buffs and seemed to offer little in the way of cheap fun entertainment. But my brother has lived there for awhile now and loves it and I love my brother so I’ve gone to visit plenty of times … and I admit that I’ve been won over. I still don’t love LA. I’ll probably never choose to live there. But I’ve learned to see it for the interesting and magical place that it can also be.

A main thing that has helped me open my mind to Los Angeles is that on my past few trips there my brother and I have made a point to go down interesting, fun, affordable things. He loves the parks in Los Angeles and has now taken me to several of them. There are some amazing parks there with great trails, stairways and sometimes views. He’s also taken me to a series of random plaecs and events, from a Tofu Festival in Little Tokyo to a summer night concert on the beach at Santa Monica Pier. These things make me smile.

About a year ago he took me to Santee Alley in the fashion district for the first time. We went back again on this most recent trip that I just recently got back from. It’s a fun place to go do some people watching. Basically it’s like a swapmeet that takes place in corridors of alleyways. There is yummy street food, lots of noise and general chaos. There are also super cheap bargains on things, especially clothes and accessories, if you’re in a shopping mood. I’m more a watcher than a shopper generally although this time around my brother did buy me a dress I was eyeing. Here I am wearing it:

So the first time we went to Santee Alley it was me, my brother and my sister. This time it was me, my brother and my mom. Last time we got chili-covered fruit and then a cup of esquites (corn off the cob with cream, chili, toppings …) This time I just got a diet soda even though I eyed a few other things including the sno-cone my brother got. He also got corn on the cob this time. The food is a good reason to go here.

Most of the shopping is on street-level but the buildings are taller than that and I think there are a few things on the upper levels to see although all I’ve ever been to up there are the restrooms. Santee Alley is the main street and it stretches across many, many blocks, but the streets parallel to it are all part of the deal as well with discounted shops pretty much everywhere.

When I say discounted I mean that you can get five packs of new socks for $5 each. This time around I did get some tank tops (4 for $14) because that’s a basic staple I always wear and needed more of. I also got a pair of 99 cent earrings. That’s because my souvenir style thing I always get for myself on a trip is a piece of really cheap jewelry.

The crowds here can get a little overwhelming. The shop owners stand outside yelling (mostly in Spanish) to try to get you in their stores, which can also get overwhelming. I like the experience but only when I’m in the mental space to be amidst chaos.

I do have to say that there is one thing here that completely disturbs me and that’s the people who are selling small pets on the side of the street. So basically they’ve got birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other small animals and they’re trying to get people to buy them. Have you ever seen – if not in real life then in a movie or TV show – when the police come to a place where street vendors are and all of the unlicensed vendors quickly gather everything (which is usually already on wheels) and run off? Well that’s what happens here and so you can imagine that the animals really are not treated well. I’d be surprised if they live long when they do get purchased. Some of them didn’t even look alive as we walked by them. It was the height of a heat wave when I was there and it was about noon so these animals were definitely not in a happy space. It’s depressing.

I should also add that this place is notorious for counterfeiting of brand name items, which is certainly why some of the stores can offer such cheap prices. We had a classic experience this time around … we were walking back to our car, passing by a McDonalds when a man literally jumped out from behind a bush and asked, “Coach? Louis Vuitton?” trying to get us to buy some knock-offs. We did not …

I don’t want to end on a negative note. Santee Alley is a great shopping destination and people-watching spot in LA as long as you take it for what it is. It’s been open since the 1970s and is open every single day of the year. And this is only one part of the Fashion District which, according to Wikipedia, spans 90 full blocks. There are cheap fabric spots where all of the fashion school kids apparently shop. There are name brand stores and boutique stores and thrift stores and ethnic stores. There is lots to see and lots of characters that populate the story of this place.


Vacation is Amazing

I’m in the middle of my vacation … spent a week in Tucson with my family and am now in LA for another week. I had hoped to blog daily about all that’s happening but I’m just so super busy that it’s not happening. I am, however, taking a ton of pictures and will blog lots and lots about the journey when I return!

Some of the things I’ll be able to share when I get the downtime to write next week:

  • My day at Tohono Chul Desert State Park … best part: bazillions of butterflies!
  • DeGrazia art gallery and amazing portraiture show there
  • The miniature museum
  • Checking out the old improv comedy show I used to go to in my college days
  • Dad’s surprise birthday, which went even better than any of us could have ever imagined!
  • Historic downtown LA stuff
  • Little Ethiopia with lunch and coffee ritual
  • Shopping in the swapmeet-style garment district in LA (and not being able to shop at the actual Swapmeet in Tucson)
  • Kayaking in the ocean
  • Horseback riding in Topanga Canyon

And more and more and more. Really, I’m so eager to get these pictures ready to share with everyone!!!


Southern California Trip

I spent the beginning of this week down in the LA area with my two siblings. It was wonderful. The weather was mostly sunny and good. We took some no-computer time camping out at Channel Islands. We laughed a lot, because that’s what we do when we’re together.

On the first day that I arrived my brother was working so my sister and I mostly hung out at Venice Beach/ Santa Monica. A friend of hers was with us and we took lots of pictures and he filmed a music video and we soaked up the sun.

The next day we got up and drove down to the boat dock. We went to Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands. The boat ride took about an hour and was pretty nice with the best part being when we saw a pod of orca whales which are apparently rare in the area. When we got to the island, we immediately saw a fox. There’s a certain type of fox unique to the island and there are no predators there so they are very bold. We ended up seeing quite a few during our trip. We set up camp and then we went for an eight mile hike to the top of the inner ridge where we could see most of the way around the island. The first stretch of the hike was tough but the rest was moderate.

When we got back to camp it was still kind of early but it was also starting to get cold and no fires are allowed there so we ended up getting into our sleeping bags and getting into the tent. The tent was a new three person tent that I’d just purchased from REI and turned out to be a good one – easy to set up, kept us pretty warm. We talked for awhile, fell asleep and then got up at different times throughout the morning. After eating breakfast and taking down the camp, we went for another hike, this time along the coast. It was really pretty out there.

After that we went down to where we’d have to get the boat again. I napped while they went swimming in the cold water. Then I read a book while they napped. Then we took the boat back to the mainland. There was a group of dozens of school kids on the boat with us so it was crowded but we got seats inside this time (before we were on top) and it was a smooth ride. When we got back to the mainland we picked up a few cheesy souvenirs. Then we headed back to LA where we got Vietnamese food then went back to my brother’s place and watched TV.

My brother had to go back to work in the morning. My sister and I ended up shopping around Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade and got lunch before she had to take me to the airport. We left really early because I wasn’t sure what LA traffic would be like. We hit some slow parts but I still got to the airport early which was lucky because my flight had been delayed til about 2 am but I was able to hop on the flight before mine and get home. I usually have terrible luck with planes so that was a happy change.

The best part of the trip was just getting to spend that time with my brother and sister. I was able to really appreciate in the moment what a wonderful time this is in our lives. We are all adults with enough money to go on little trips together. We are all doing pretty well in our lives, all on the cusp of bigger things but content enough where we are. None of us has kids or partners right now so it’s just us. It’s lovely and wonderful and I treasure it.