Friday, August 29, 2008

Day Trip #2 to the Huntington Library

The day after going to Angelino Heights, my aunt and I met in Long Beach and carpooled to the Huntington Library in San Marino, which is near Pasadena. The Huntington is much more than a library - it's a art collection and archive set admist spectacular gardens of many different themes. The Library was founded in 1919 by railroad baron Henry Huntington (there are a lot of things in Los Angeles named after Huntington) who spared nothing in developing this place.

Before I went to the Huntington for the first time about a year ago, I always equated the Huntington as "just an archive" - although what a spectacular archive it is. These have an Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (c.1410), a Gutenberg Bible (c.1455),several original manuscripts dating back to the 1400s, and a extensive collection of other works for each century dating up to today. And then there's the art gallery, which includes Blue Boy. The Art Gallery was remodeled and reopened this spring.

There is a rose garden, an herb garden, a Shakespeare garden, an Asian garden, a camellia garden, and on and on. there's no way you can see all of it in one day. And then there's the Tea House, which is the building in the photo at the beginning of this post. What a tea: for around $25 a person, you get wonderful atmosphere and a buffet of all you can eat, including the traditional finger sandwiches but also other goodies like salads, caviar, strawberries and cream. That's the good thing about this place: even though it's "tea" it shouldn't scare off those with big appetites's all you can eat. You should have reservations - even in the middle of the week, it gets crowded.

Do I sound like a brochure yet? I guess I can't help but show how much I love this place. There are a few things that I think should be noted. One thing is the hours. The place doesn't open until 10:30 and closes at 4:30. For those of you wanting to take photographs there, this is a drag. If you're one of those photographers that believes in early morning or late afternoon light, you're not going to get it here. It's been a source of frustration for me to go there and want to capture the great gardens and the plants, but there's that awful noontime glare. The only way to get around it is if you go on a cloudy day, or if you don't mind spending a lot of time with Photoshop.

The Huntington gets very crowded on the weekends, especially during the summer. it's also blazing hot in Pasadena during the summer so that's another consideration.

One more thing that was disappointing for me this time was the placement of the special exhibits. I was looking forward to seeing the photography exhibit "This Side of Paradise," and we saved it for the end of the day. We didn't know until we were in there that part of the exhibit is located in another building....waaaaaay on the other end of the property. After walking for a few hours already in the heat, we certainly didn't want to go for another hike. A good portion of the photographs I wanted to see were in the other building. So that was a disappointment for me, and the exhibit closes on the 15th of September.

But I think those things are minor. For the most part, this is one of those places that I will probably never tire of.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vacation! Day Trip #1 to Angelino Heights

I'm on vacation this week, and it's a strange week for me, but in a good way. For one thing, Monday was my birthday, and this is the first time in I don't know how long that I've taken my birthday off. I've never even taken just the day off, much less a whole week. But I needed some time off from work - not to do anything in particular, but to spend the week poking around the house and seeing some things around Los Angeles that I've been dying to do.

Yesterday I spent some time in Angelino Heights, which is a small neighborhood just north of downtown, right off of the 101 Freeway, that has the highest concentration of Victorian Homes in the city. Some of you that live in other states, that may not seem like such a big deal, but in los Angeles to have one Victorian in your neighborhood is a treat, much less an entire street. The street that my friend Karen and I focused on was Carroll Street which is without argument the most famous of the streets. The other streets around have some Victorians, some Craftsman homes, a smattering of houses with questionable architecture. There are even some houses for sale, like this one.

It was blazing hot, even at 10:30 in the morning, which was when we agreed to meet (Karen lives in the San Fernando Valley) and by the time we hit the street, it was one of those times that you immediately start looking for the shade. Too much sun for really good photographs, but I made do. You can hear the 101 Freeway, thats how close the neighborhood is to the freeway, and in these shots of the house at 1300 Carroll you can see the downtown skyline so you can get an idea of where the houses are situated in proximity to the rest of the city. But for the most part the street is quiet, but then you have to remember that we were there on a Tuesday morning. By the time we were leaving, there were other people there taking photos as well. I have a feeling that these residents are used to people taking pictures of their homes. .

Here is some history on Angelino Heights. The Wikipedia page is pretty good. This page from is a good site as well. the Los Angeles Conservancy also does historical walking tours of Angelino Heights.

After about an hour, Karen and I surrendered to the heat and said "let's eat!" and we headed to The Original Pantry Cafe on 7th and Figueroa in downtown L.A. A traditional late morning breakfast was the perfect ending to a wonderful day trip, and I was home by 2. Next time, I'll hit Carroll Street earlier in the morning when there are more interesting light and shadow contrasts to work with.

Next day trip: The Huntington Library.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A New List - History Web Sites and Blogs

Okay, I'm going to start another list here - this one of web sites and blogs having to do with history - not specifically pulp fiction or Westerns, but history in general. Most of you know of my love for the history of pulp fiction and of American History, but many of you don't know that I am an anglophile and love to read anything having to do with the history of England. That's just for starters.

I don't have a lot of time right now - getting ready for my talk tomorrow AND trying to watch the Dodgers/Giants game (I'm also a Dodgers fan - go Manny, Russell, James, Andre, Matt and the rest of them!). But I wanted to start something at least. So on the left is the beginning - one web site. But it's a whopper. The Virtual Library Web Site, and the specific page they have for history of the American West. Go to this page and you will find dozens, if not hundreds, of topics on the West, with links to resources.

Have fun!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

California Writer's Club

Hi there - just a quick note to remind everybody that I'll be speaking at the California Writer's Club in Orange, California this Saturday. I'm looking forward to this presentation. For one thing, they sound like a great group, and I'm interested in learning more about them. In addition, because I'll be speaking to a group that will probably consist primarily of writers, I can delve a little bit more into the struggles that my grandfather went through to get published and more detail into what the pulp fiction writers of the 30s and 40s experienced as writers.

Plus it doesn't hurt that Orange is one of my favorite towns. My granfather lived there as well, from the late 1930s until the very early 1950s. They lived in a wonderful craftsman on Grand Avenue (while the pulps were still humming along and he was still making the bucks) and later in a much smaller house on LaVeta. The house on Grand is still there, and my aunt and I occasionally drive by and salivate over it - it's about 100 years old now and still magnificent. The house on LaVeta is gone, and probably a good thing. I don't think that was a good time for the Powers family.

Back to the California Writer's Club: here's their website:

That's it for now!